Wide Open Walls: Art in the Street
Mural festival turns the streets of Sacramento into an open-air fine-art museum
David Sobon, the local-arts-impresario-slash-nonprofit-auctioneer, is on a quest to brighten the urban landscape—and bring cutting-edge contemporary art to everyone in Sacramento.
The Wide Open Walls mural festival, which Sobon founded and directs, will see 50 muralists, including homegrown artists and international talent, creating 40 huge pieces in every corner of the city. In sheer square footage, this will be the largest mural festival ever mounted on the West Coast.
Sobon says the festival was created to give every resident direct access to the depth of styles and unique perspectives of artists who are just as diverse as the city’s residents.
“Everybody’s not going to go walk into a museum; everybody’s not going to walk into a gallery,” Sobon says. “But anybody can walk or drive or bike down the street and look at beautiful art. My goal is to paint every single district in the city, and that will happen in due time.”
While he was working with the owners of local buildings to secure the walls, Sobon brought in Warren Brand of Branded Arts, an LA-based art company that creates large-scale installations for municipalities, corporations and nonprofits. Brand then worked with the building-owners to pair them with leading wall-artists from around the country and the world, including 23 local painters (seven of whom of whom are profiled here).
“It was exciting to learn about each owner’s vision and aesthetics, and to select artists based on that criteria,” he says.
Brand sees the WOW festival, and his company’s mission, as part of a hallowed history.
“People have been organizing to create public art for centuries,” he says. “Think of the sculptural installations and statues in cities around the world—somebody had to organize that. We’re doing the same thing, but on the cutting edge of contemporary art.”
The contemporary mural movement is rooted somewhat in the graffiti scene that erupted in New York in the early 1980s, and evolved alongside the birth of hip-hop. That scene gave the world artists including Keith Haring and Jean Michel Basquiat, both of whom later moved into the studio with huge success, and somewhat less well-known but no-less brilliant artists such as Dondi, Futura 2000 and Lady Pink.
Brand is clearly happy that the street art movement is now being recognized by the smart people in the legitimate art world, and thrilled to be part of WOW fest.
“This is a really important thing,” he says. “Some of the best muralists in the world are coming to Sacramento. I’m so proud. It’s insane.”
For Sabon, this festival, the second in what he hopes will be an ongoing event, continues an effort to make Sacramento a destination for lovers of outdoor art. Since conceiving of this idea, and before and after last year’s mural festival, Sobon and his wife, Anna, have traveled to various countries to check out outdoor art.
“We went to Mexico City and saw some of the most famous murals in the world.” he says. “We went to Los Angeles and did the same thing. Last year we took mural tours in Barcelona, Rome and Venice.”
Five years from now, will there be mural tours of Sacramento?
“There will be mural tours of Sacramento starting August 10.”
—Eric Johnson and Steph Rodriguez
READ THE ENTIRE COVER STORY: WIDE OPEN WALLS: ART IN THE STREET.
Published in the Sacramento News & Review on July 31, 2017.
The Masked Musician
Anonymous artist El Gato shrouds his alter ego in the guise of a villainous cat
My instructions were: “Meet at the Pre-Flite Lounge at 8 p.m. Tell the bartender, ‘Eight lives down, one to go.’ He’ll know what to do.”
I entered the back-alley bar prepared for a rare, face-to-face interview with an elusive Sacramento musician known as El Gato, who refuses to share his real name. I recite the strange message to the bartender who lightly taps the bar in approval before he texts someone to signal that I’ve arrived.
After a few moments of silence, the bartender leads me to a back door labeled “employees only” and into a dimly lit parking garage. He departs, but I’m not alone.
Instead I’m joined by a headless mannequin that hangs by a rope and the aroma of exhaust fumes. Sitting behind a fold-out table is El Gato, his face concealed by a tight, black mask …
READ: THE MASKED MUSICIAN. Published in the Sacramento News & Review on
July 13, 2017.
Shade from the Audience
Local musicians share the sometimes uncomfortable lessons of performing in Sacramento as nondudes
Women and nonbinary-identifying musicians in Sacramento have noticed that the way audiences treat them before and after they perform can feel like the difference between night and day. Oftentimes, an air of acceptance comes only after sharing their kickass musical talents, they say. SN&R asked five artists about their experiences in the local music scene, and their responses just might raise some eyebrows.
Even so, the musicians pay it forward to their community: As a bonus, they also shared with us their favorite local albums or musicians of 2016.
READ: SHADE FROM THE AUDIENCE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Music” Issue June 8, 2017.
Devil May Care Ice Cream owner Jess Milbourn scoops up nostalgia and other delicious childhood treats
Across the I Street Bridge in West Sacramento is Devil May Care Ice Cream, a little red parlor that aims to rekindle a time where a scoop of the frozen confection was the ultimate childhood treat. Inside, ingredients from local companies like the Allspicery and Burly Beverages line the shelves. Canisters of cardamom, cinnamon and vanilla bean pods sit near bottles of root beer, ginger beer and orange soda syrups used as twist on the classic float. Much like the name of his business, owner Jess Milbourn says he approaches his recipes with a fun and reckless attitude because at the end of the day—it’s ice cream. But, don’t diss vanilla. For Milbourn, it’s not only his favorite flavor, but also the most misunderstood.
“It’s such an underrated flavor, but why is it any more plain than chocolate? I put more flavor into my vanilla than my chocolate,” he says. “Vanilla uses two different vanilla beans with some extract, and it just accents everything so well.”
With more than 30 years of experience as a chef and graduate from the Culinary Institute of New York, Milbourn opened the small shop last November and introduced ice cream combinations like coffee and donuts made from Camellia Coffee Roasters and old-fashioned glazed donuts from City Donuts just up the street.
Classic flavors like vanilla and chocolate, cookies and cream, and peanut butter and fudge also make regular appearances on the menu, but his latest creation made with chamomile and kumquat is truly unique. Floral aromas are met with slightly tart pieces of kumquat. The combination tastes of honey, but with a light and sweet finish. A native of West Sac, Milbourn recalls picking chamomile with his grandmother along the river as a child. It’s also where he returns to source the wildflower.
It’s not just a nostalgia trip though, Milbourn says. The greatest feeling he says is seeing his customers smile.
“I get to have kids come in and eat their first ice cream cone and look like that,” To demonstrate, Milbourn shares an Instagram photo of a boy holding a cone with a huge smile on his face.
“It’s the coolest thing. Kids are happy and families come in for celebrations. People come here to celebrate and enjoy life,” he says. “That’s the most soul-satisfying thing is to see happy people, especially the kids.”
READ: WICKED GOOD. Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Summer Guide” Issue May 25, 2017.
Every year Davis becomes a mecca for clay fanatics
There comes a time each year when hundreds of professional and budding artists visit downtown Davis to transform retail spaces and offices—even a historic mansion and log cabin—into dozens of pop-up galleries for an entire weekend. All of this hustle and bustle celebrates the boundless possibilities of one medium: clay.
Twenty-nine years ago, gallery owner John Natsoulas founded the California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art. Since then, the annual symposium has grown to host more than 50 colleges and universities from Southern California to Southern Oregon. It’s fitting, as ceramic art went from a primarly crafty medium to a well-respected and sought-after form of expression right in the heart of this active college town.
READ: CERAMIC CITY. Published in the Sacramento News & Review April 27, 2017.
Olla Swanson cooks up family traditions
Home cooks bring a certain finesse and authenticity to the dishes they know well. In many homes, you’ll find no recipe books sitting on the kitchen counter, no second-guessing of measurements, and often the simmering and spicing of home-cooked meals solely depend on the cook’s palate, which continuously assesses all the familiar flavors lightly bubbling on the stovetop until they’re just right.
All of these methods ring true for Olla Swanson, a seasoned home cook who was taught how to make rice properly by her mother at age 4. Her advice: Wash it three times.
Growing up in a large Filipino household, Swanson inherited the natural ability to cook traditional-style Filipino dishes from her mother, Olivia, and her Aunt Lupe.
“When I was growing up, my mom and my Aunt Lupe between them had eight children, and we all grew up together in this big house, and there would be so much food,” Swanson says. “I like how Filipino food makes me think of community and all of us eating together, especially if there’s a big party. Also, it’s hard to find. The only way you can get it is if you make it.”
Under the moniker The Olla Factory, Swanson now serves the Filipino dishes of her childhood during a rotating Monday popup dinner series at Sacramento’s Old Ironsides restaurant, to crowds she hopes will discover a love for these foods that meant so much to her and her family.
READ: FILIPINO FLAVOR. Published in Edible Sacramento’s “Cooks!” May/June 2017 Issue.
Carving a Niche
The Proletariat will offer a taste of Jersey
The historic Sacramento Tofu Co. building at 1915 6th St. is taking on a new role thanks to the owners of the Southern-inspired restaurant South, located in Sacramento’s Southside Park. New Jersey native Ian Kavookjian and his wife, N’Gina, plan to launch their Garden State-inspired deli, The Proletariat, in August.
“One of his biggest complaints about California is there’s not really a lot of delis that are reminiscent of the delis that Ian grew up [with] on the East Coast,” N’Gina says. “That’s something that he definitely wants to recreate in Sacramento, so he has a little piece of home here.”
The Proletariat predominantly will be a breakfast and lunch spot, and the menu still is in the development stage, but customers will be able to stop by and grab freshly prepared sandwiches and salads, an assortment of deli-sliced meats and cheeses, as well as house-made pastries and desserts. The more-than-3,000-square-foot space also will house a bottle shop serving beer and wine during happy hour for guests to enjoy in house or to purchase bottles to take home after a long day’s work.
The downtown eatery also will sell some of South’s tasty menu staples behind the deli counter, such as its popular meatloaf.
“What I like about a good deli is variety,” N’Gina says, “especially when you look in the case and you see so many beautiful, house-made items. I like being able to get a sandwich and taste the quality in the bread, the meat, and the cheese. It’s the simplicity of really great ingredients speaking for the food, as opposed to piling a bunch of stuff on and giving it a crazy name.”
READ: CARVING A NICHE. Published in Edible Sacramento’s “Fresh Start” March/April 2017 Issue.
The Oak Café preps the new bevy of top chefs
On the culinary television show Top Chef, a recurring challenge for the competing chefs is to group into teams to open a new restaurant with a cohesive theme and vision in just a matter of days. Sacramento’s American River College Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program does something similar each semester with its four-star restaurant, The Oak Café, except every week the menu is refreshed.
Each week, the new menu of appetizers, entrées, and desserts is made from scratch with locally sourced ingredients from Del Rio Botanical in West Sacramento, Soil Born Farms in Rancho Cordova, and ARC’s horticulture department gardens. The variety of cuisines served at the restaurant includes anything from classic French to Cuban or American Southern food, according to program department chair Brian Knirk.
“One of the most important things that our students learn is attitude and respect for the kitchen and the ingredients,” Knirk says. “But what we also try to instill in them is an understanding of the details required to make food great and the process by which you achieve those outcomes.”
READ: TRAINING GROUND. Published in Edible Sacramento’s “Fresh Start” March/April 2017 Issue.
The versatile group behind Kill the Precedent puts the ‘or’ in hardcore
As one of Sacramento’s most versatile bands, Kill the Precedent does not define itself by a specific genre. Nor does any label dictate which sound the group will confront next—and they like it that way.
The seven-member-strong crew attributes its diverse sound to an abnormal writing process: It begins with one member named Tapeworm. Members of the group also refer to the septic invertebrate as the “man behind the curtain.” Like some twisted Wizard of Oz, Tapeworm creates the skeletons of what will gradually evolve into music that’s both magnetic and complex.
After recording distorted guitar riffs, electronic effects and even some experimental noise, he emails the bare-bones track off to drummer Sgt. Pepper, who then adds a layer of hard-hitting percussion. This method continues until two guitarists, one bassist and two vocalists finish the song before the band even steps into the same room together. This has been their process for 10 years—and it works.
READ: HARD-HITTING SPECTACLE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review February 16, 2017.
JR De Guzman Chases Laughs Through Song
The Sacramento comic sets sights on television and an international fanbase
There was a time when JR De Guzman felt like he wouldn’t get back onstage.
“I got off after two minutes and thought about maybe never doing it again,” he says.
Still, it was just the beginning of his musical comedy career. Bombing for comics is inevitable, but now, De Guzman is busy riding comedy highs after appearances on Kevin Hart’s Comedy Central show Hart of the City and MTV’s stand-up and sketch comedy series Acting Out.
“It was the best feeling in the world to see Kevin Hart laughing at my jokes,” De Guzman says. “That was so validating. I have this dirty Christmas song and he was like dying.”
READ: JR DE GUZMAN CHASES LAUGHS THROUGH SONG. Published in the Sacramento News & Review’s “Comedy Issue” December 14, 2016.
How to be Funny, According to Lance Woods
Lance Woods chases the next laugh like it owes him money. Over the last six years, the Sacramento comedian has performed alongside big names like Dave Chappelle and Tony T. Roberts, and even visited Okinawa, Japan, to perform for the U.S. Marine Corps. His ability to bring the audience into his world of hilarious and relatable stories seems effortless. Still, Woods admits it wasn’t always so easy to get five minutes on stage. Here, he gives advice on how a fresh face with a couple of clever punchlines should get started.
READ: HOW TO BE FUNNY, ACCORDING TO LANCE WOODS. COMEDY ISSUE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review December 15, 2016.
No Thanksgiving plans? These bars can be your family
Whether it’s lack of time, money or patience for Uncle Joe’s off-kilter remarks, sometimes it’s tough to make it out of town to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you’re a student stuck in the dorms or just taking a big pass on this year’s family festivities, consider these alternatives when it comes to Turkey Day. Here are four trusty watering holes staying open with a hot meal waiting with all trimmings and none of the family drama.
READ: NO THANKSGIVING PLANS? HOLIDAY GUIDE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 24, 2016.
Why four local men and women inked their 916 love with tattoos
There’s nowhere quite like Sacramento, because let’s face it—Sacramento is home. Home to late-night music venues that support the likes of local punk, garage-rock bands and more.
It’s where sports teams like the Kings, the River Cats and the Republic FC hang their uniforms. And this town really supports its teams whether it’s at a bar at 7 a.m. for an early soccer match or from the nosebleed section with no cup holders—fans are devoted.
And, thanks to its Mediterranean-style climate, Sacramentans can always eat seasonally with year-round leafy greens, summer’s sweet berries and fall’s abundance of apples and gourds.
Indeed, our love for the region is experienced in many ways, and for some, it’s a feeling to be expressed in a permanent fashion—by dedicating an entire tattoo as an homage to the 916.
From the more soft, watercolor-inspired ink that plays with negative space to the vivid lines and shades of traditional-style tattoo work, SN&R spoke to four men and women who share a common love for the region through these playful depictions that truly are for keeps.
READ: SACRAMENTO, FOREVER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 17, 2016.
Luis R. Campos-Garcia, Papier-Mâché Skeleton Artist
From Mexico City to Sacramento, Luis R. Campos-Garcia, known in the art community as Lurac, is the mixed-media artist behind the 6-foot-tall, multicolored skeleton structures that welcome hundreds of attendees each year to the Souls of the City event. Organized by Sol Collective and the Sacramento History Museum, the Día de los Muertos celebration is the culmination of interactive workshops that range from classes on crafting sugar skulls and print-making to art exhibitions. Campos-Garcia is also the art director and curator of the collective’s gallery and works in varied mediums like acrylic paint, graphic design, photography and drawing.
READ: 15 MINUTES WITH LUIS R. CAMPOS-GARCIA. Published in the Sacramento News & Review November 3, 2016.
The Bottom Feeders’ Old-Timey Groove
Members of Sacramento’s surf-pop band the Bottom Feeders write music reminiscent of a ’60s beach party, or a high school dance where “Come On, Let’s Go” by Ritchie Valens was the absolute jam. The four-piece group intertwines moments of doo-wop, soul, garage- and surf-rock to create songs with hip-swaying melodies and upbeat, catchy vocals that evoke feelings of what singer and guitarist Noah Campos describes as “the-lover-done-me-wrong kind of music.”
READ: THE BOTTOM FEEDERS’ OLD-TIMEY GROOVE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review September 15, 2016.
Checking in on Common Core
With technology’s vast expansion over the last decade children swipe, type and independently research information on the web at younger and younger ages. This is also true within the classroom as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) initiative relies heavily on computer knowledge to effectively navigate and complete a new era of educational curriculum throughout California. …
For Wendy Aiello, a third grade teacher at Diamond Creek Elementary School in Roseville for the last 15 years, Common Core is kid-oriented, hands-on and also gives the kids multiple strategies for problem-solving.
“With these programs, they have kids draw things and part of my job is to walk around and say, ‘Oh my gosh! Look how so-and-so solved this problem.’ Then I bring them up in front of the classroom to show others what they did,” Aiello says. “It’s one of my favorite subjects to teach now. We’re teaching kids the ‘why?’ of it. Not just formulas or memorization. It’s not so bad.”
READ: CHECKING IN ON COMMON CORE. Published in Sacramento Parent Magazine August 1, 2016.
Help Children Prepare for a New School Year
When the school bell chimes on its last day before summer break, kids, teens and teachers alike all breathe a little easier. Summertime means ocean view vacations, late-night slumber parties, and video game marathons fueled by pizza and sugary snacks. Still, all good things must come to an end and what better way to prepare your child for the new school year than with these helpful back to school tips provided by educational experts? Whether it’s enforcing an earlier bedtime or simply keeping your child’s mind active, Sacramento Lifestyle’s tips will prepare children (and parents) for the upcoming school year.
READ: BACK TO SCHOOL TIPS. Published in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine August 1, 2016.
A Compassion for People
When your passion in life is people there are a few pivotal career choices that come to mind: doctor, professor, counselor. For Rebecca Sturges, her life as a licensed marriage and family therapist is laughter, tears, reward, but most of all, it’s about the physical and mental wellness of her clients, the people she truly values.
“I feel like I live in all these worlds. I’ve gone into these lives and people who don’t know me, know about me,” she says. “I love what I do. I really love it. A lot of times, there’s just as much laughter as tears—and there’s tears— but, when you help someone do better it’s such a beautiful thing to facilitate. We all do better when we’re supported.”
READ: REBECCA STURGES: A COMPASSIONATE COUNSELOR FOR PEOPLE WITH PROBLEMS. Published in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine July 1, 2016.
Meet Maritza Davis of Unseen Heroes
Written for Crain’s Sacramento’s “If I Knew Then…” series where executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy. Maritza Davis is the owner and creative director of Unseen Heroes, an award-winning events agency based in Sacramento. READ: IF I KNEW THEN. Published on Crain’s Sacramento June 20, 2016.
The Bottom Feeders
A vintage sound with a modern surf-like appeal sums up Sacramento’s Bottom Feeders in few words. Imagine the kind of band you’d expect to hear at a ’60s-era high school dance, what with its hip-swinging sound that blends moments of doo-wop and pop with a garage-rock attitude. READ: EIGHT GIGS: THE BOTTOM FEEDERS. Published in the Sacramento News & Review June 16, 2016.
Teen Band Focuses on the Music, Not Ideology
When a flier for a recent show labeled Destroy Boys as “feminist punk,” it inspired a serious discussion between the Sacramento band’s members about the direction of their music.
To be clear, Destroy Boys includes two girls who carry very strong feminist ideals throughout their day-to-day lives. Still, the three-piece garage-rock band says it’s not trying to take down the patriarchy through its music—and it’s not quite a punk band either. READ: GIRLS JUST WANNA ROCK IN DESTROY BOYS. Published in the Sacramento News & Review June 16, 2016.
Meet the Founders of Beers in Sac
The co-founders of the popular website and app, Beers in Sac, share their plans to make Sacramento the beer mecca of the United States. Read: 15 MINUTES WITH BEERS IN SAC. Published in the Sacramento News & Review June 9, 2016.
SN&R’s Summer Guide 2016
Nightlife & Entertainment feature for the Sacramento News & Review’s 2016 Summer Guide. This music feature is on longtime Sacramento DJ Larry Rodriguez a.k.a the Flower Vato and his Sunday Night Dance Party at the Press Club every Sunday night at 9 p.m. Read: GO TO CHURCH. Published in the Sacramento News & Review May 26, 2016.
Men’s Summer Fashion Trends
This summer, women won’t be the only ones who show a little skin, nor will they be the only ones with an appreciation for quality fabric, busy patterns and vintage-style apparel. Whether it’s a tailor-made suit, slim-fitting pants, or a pair of new wing-tipped Oxfords, move over stylish gals because guys, too, have a penchant for fashion, and some of the summer’s latest trends even include a taste for short-shorts. READ: MEN’S SUMMER FASHION TRENDS. Published in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine May 23, 2016.
Happy Mother’s Day!
A personal essay where I contemplate my journey from party girl to motherhood. Read: ON TINY HUMANS AND BIG LOVE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review May 5, 2016.
How She Rides: Meet Debra Banks
On average, Debra Banks rides 13,000 miles per year all on her trusty bicycle. She pedals so much, in fact, that Banks also earned a Mondial Award from Randonneurs USA, which means she’s circumnavigated the entire planet—all 40,000 kilometers of it—on her bicycle. Banks is also the owner of Rivet Cycle Works and crafts custom bike seats for when you need real support for a 1,200 kilometer ride. Read: DEBRA BANKS, LONG-DISTANCE BIKE RIDER, SEAT MAKER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, April 28, 2016.
In the world and in the nation, Rev. Shaw dedicates much of her time to help those periled by natural disasters. If a neighborhood is destroyed by hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods, Rev. Shaw and a team of volunteers will show up to provide help by means of a hammer, fresh coat of paint, or by leading prayer.
“I could go on with stories, and stories, and stories. We don’t know when we go, the stories we’ll hear. But every single time, it is a story where each of us has made a profound difference. Not just building a house, but sharing our hearts. That’s what we take away the most,” says Rev. Shaw. Read: PLANT. PRAY. BUILD. Published in Sacramento Lifestyle Magazine, April 26, 2016.
Art’s Utility Player
Gioia Fonda’s upcoming “Give a Fork” installation aims to start a conversation on food deserts, hunger and solutions.
Polish your grandma’s treasured silverware; straighten—or don’t—the contorted cutlery caught in the garbage disposal; whatever your approach, artist Gioia Fonda wants Sacramento to give a fork. Ten thousand forks, to be exact. Read: ART’S UTILITY PLAYER. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, March 24, 2016.
15 Years of mewithoutYou
Philadelphia post-hardcore five-piece mewithoutYou will celebrate its 15th year together this year, continuing to log thousands of miles touring across the United States. Vocalist Aaron Weiss, alongside brother and guitarist, Michael Weiss, started the band in 2001, signing with Tooth and Nail Records later that same year. The band—which also includes drummer Rickie Mazotta, bassist Greg Jehanian and guitarist Brandon Beaver—continues to craft dramatic, sometimes experimental, soundscapes that echo the singer’s trance-like vocal angst. The band’s recently released sixth album, Pale Horses, not only challenges mewithoutYou to revisit the band’s natural tendency toward the more theatrical, aggressive musical performance, but also revives the emotional honesty found in past albums. Submerge recently caught up with mewithoutYou vocalist and founding member Aaron Weiss to discuss how he developed his eccentric, spoken-word vocal style, what inspires the band’s performances night after night and mewithoutYou’s religious-based labels. Read: ON A PALE HORSE. Published in Submerge magazine, June 22, 2015.
Dog Party Comes of Age on their Fourth Release
With 25 states logged over the course of four U.S. tours, Gwendolyn and Lucy Giles of the rock ‘n’ roll duo Dog Party, say a typical evening for them on tour consists of two, sometimes three, sets per night. Still, this pair of die-hard musicians says tour is what they look forward to every year. From the debut, self-released album Dog Party in 2009 with its more innocent, yet catchy punk rock attitude, to their Asian Man Records-backed third album Lost Control, Gwen and Lucy continue to evolve their garage and punk rock styles. Now, the sisters look forward to their latest release, Vol. 4, due June 16, 2015, on cassette through Burger Records, and LP and CD through Asian Man. Read: THE MUSIC MATTERS. Published in Submerge magazine, June 8, 2015.
The 5th Annual Submerge Bicycle Mural Tour Reveals
New Pieces of Art Lurk Around Every Corner
Pump up those tires and grab a few homies because the annual Submerge Bicycle Mural Tour is back again. This time, we feature pieces so fresh the paint fumes still kick. Some murals stretch across entire alleyways, like the sideshow circus at 23rd and S streets that showcases the incredible tattooed lady and a pair of magnificent gray elephants dressed in red-and-gold garb. Whether a mural was scarred by tags, or simply begged for a new perspective, these walls do talk, and speak to the creative minds of Sacramento artists who answer with cans of paint. So, plan for a leisurely and artistically pedal-driven bike ride through the ins and outs of Midtown and its surrounding areas. Discover the latest, most eye-catching urban street art created by some of the best artists in the city and beyond. More importantly, May is Bike Month, so log some easy miles through the hidden alleyways and bustling streets that lead to more colorful destinations. Read: STREETS OF COLOR. Published in Submerge magazine, May 26, 2015.
Sacramento Chefs and Farmers Share Tips
on How to Use Every Last Bit of those Summer Vegetables
Farmers markets are popular with just about anyone looking for fresh, locally grown produce. So fresh, in fact, that many times the fruits and vegetables displayed in mounds at merchant tents are often picked from the field the previous day. … Even though many farmers market fiends challenge themselves to cook what they bring home each week, too often stems, leaves and rinds end up in the garbage. Chefs and farmers alike, however, say these overlooked pieces have tasty nutritional value. Executive chef Jon Clemons at The Porch Restaurant and Bar says he likes to think about creative ways to use the entire vegetable. He and his staff use a variety of techniques to transform rinds, cobs and even buckets of green tomato odds and ends into delicious fare. Read: WASTE NOT, ENJOY MORE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, July 23, 2015.
Sacramento artists Jesus Barela and Rob-O
craft Día de los Muertos traditions with intricately decorated sugar skulls
With its skull symbolism and other nods to death, some mistake Día de los Muertos as a means to witchcraft or merely an extension of Halloween. In reality, the holiday, also known as Day of the Dead, represents neither. Rather, the two-day festival, which can be traced back thousands of years to pre-Columbian Mexico, celebrates the quandaries of death by honoring the beauty of life. Specifically, people use the time to remember those who have died. … In Sacramento, master sugar-skull makers Rob-O and Jesus Barela both create works that draw in the curious as they aim to preserve the culture. Read: THE SWEET AFTERLIFE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, October 24, 2013.
Ax murderers, Charles Manson and ghost dogs—
is this historic Midtown mansion the scariest, creepiest haunted house in Sacramento?
A stone lion’s head hovers over a wide entryway, solemnly watching passersby, some of whom, catching sight of the house just beyond, slow their pace to examine the gothiclike structure that’s sat unoccupied for more than 20 years. But drooping palm trees and an iron gate edge the perimeter, keeping the curious away as it guards one of the largest, oldest mansions in the historic Boulevard Park neighborhood. Located on the corner of H and 22nd streets, it’s considered one of the most mysterious and perhaps the most haunted house in Sacramento. Indeed, this mansion conveys a spooky sense of intrigue thanks, at least in part, to its yawning emptiness. The home, now owned by a Northern California-based family trust, was built shortly after the turn of the century, and in the years since it has inspired countless stories—some grislier than others. Most have one thing in common: They are, at least according to the house’s current deed holder, decidedly untrue. Read: THIS OLD HOUSE. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, October 18, 2012.
Gioia Fonda transforms gutter garbage into art
Ordinary hurricane fence morphs into happy orange flowers, familiar green baskets that once held strawberries transform into whimsical city skylines and forks found abandoned in Sacramento’s gutters glisten brightly. These are Sacramento City College assistant art professor Gioia Fonda’s recycled treasures. And her art. “I feel that people aren’t being as creative as they could be with their trash,” Fonda says. “There are possibilities in objects. A lot of things could be repurposed.” Read: POSSIBILITY IN OBJECTS. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, April 22, 2010.
Dale Smallin, who recorded the wild cackle at the intro of the classic Surfari’s hit ‘Wipe Out,’ now enjoys a mellow life in downtown Sacramento
Resting underneath a green awning outside downtown’s Capitol Park Cafe, Dale Smallin inhales one last drag of his Pall Mall red cigarette as the hectic traffic of Ninth Street whizzes past. Partially relying on a wooden cane, Smallin slowly enters the cafe for his daily meal, greeting the waitress, Sally, by name. Determined, he heads straight to his usual spot, second table on the right, and politely waves away her offer of a menu. He has it memorized. To many customers in the cafe, Smallin is an ordinary man enjoying a ham grill with fries. And although his days may appear routine, Smallin’s memories of youthful endeavors are tales of rock ’n’ roll history—and one unforgettable laugh. Smallin was manager of the surf-rock band the Surfaris, known for their 1963 hit “Wipe Out.” And Smallin’s voice was responsible for the maniaclike cackle that taunts listeners in the song’s opening moment. Read: AN UNFORGETTABLE LAUGH. Published in the Sacramento News & Review, March 11, 2010.
Slate-Voting Games 2015 Hugo Awards
Whether it’s labeled ballot-stuffing, bloc voting, or gaming for an organized slate of authors, editors, and publishers, the 2015 Hugo Awards will not see an ordinary year, according to many authors in the science fiction and fantasy world.The Hugo Awards are an annual set of achievements presented by the World Science Fiction Society and held each year at the World Science Fiction Convention. Once this year’s Hugo nominees were announced on April 1, a flood of authors directly involved with the genres, and even fans alike, took to personal blogs, social media, or published columns in The Atlantic, Slate, The Guardian, et al., to claim victory or express utter disdain for the men behind the two parties that “gamed” the Hugo ballot. … I speak to award-winning science fiction authors John Scalzi, Kameron Hurley, and Brad Torgersen about the debacle rocking the sci-fi world. This story broke San Francisco Book Review’s website with floods of traffic. Read: WAR OF THE WORLDS. Published on San Francisco Book Review, April 21, 2015.
An Interview with Eric Klinenberg, Co-Author of Modern Love with Aziz Ansari
New York University sociologist and author, Eric Klinenberg, stood at a train station with two hands full of groceries when he received a phone call that stopped him from boarding altogether. The call was from his editor and publisher of Penguin Press, Scott Moyers, who asked Klinenberg if he’d ever heard of actor, comedian Aziz Ansari. “Yeah, Aziz is my hero,” he said. “I stopped, didn’t take the train, put the groceries in the fridge, and went down to meet them.” As a fan of comedy, Klinenberg followed Ansari’s standup career and enjoyed the “Parks and Recreation” television star’s performances. With the help of Klinenberg’s expertise, Ansari wanted to launch an investigation into the world of modern dating and relationships. Read: COMPUTER LOVE. Published on San Francisco Book Review, June 30, 2015.
In honor of Banned Books Week, 50 Titles that were Challenged Throughout Time
San Francisco Book Review compiled a major list of titles that were either banned or challenged again and again throughout time in schools, bookstores, and libraries. Some, still to this day. … According to the American Library Association, more than “11,300 books have been challenged since 1982” with 311 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2014 alone. Thankfully, organizations like the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom and the avid readers over at Banned Books Week, continue to fight literary censorship and to fight for everyone’s right to intellectual freedom. They have for more than 30 years. Celebrate another year of intellectual freedom in literature with these 50 titles that will strike any avid reader’s curiosity because if something’s banned, then it must be worth reading. Read: IF IT’S BANNED, IT’S WORTH READING. Published on San Francisco Book Review, September 30, 2015.