In the Muse

Greatest Opening Line In Fiction, Ever

Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2014 by coffeecritic

Gabriel Garcia Marquez "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." I was in New York when I heard of the death of one of my favorite authors, Gabriel García Márquez. When I saw that line quoted in the obituary in the New York Times, it sent chills up my . . . more »

Mystery Woman Plucked From Obscurity

Posted on Saturday, March 29, 2014 by coffeecritic

Vivienne Maier After her death in 2009, the never-before-seen photographs of this unknown street photographer were displayed online, and the photography world went crazy. Who was this extremely private woman whose photographs rivaled those of the masters? Vivian Maier was a professional nanny, who from the 1950s until the 1990s took over 100,000 stunning black and white photographs worldwide—from France to New York City to Chicago and . . . more »

Is Privacy Dead?

Posted on Monday, March 17, 2014 by coffeecritic

Delete cookies? "There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment... It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug into your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live - did live, from habit that became instinct - in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, . . . more »

Keep Calm and Listen to Irish Music

Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by coffeecritic

Keep Calm and Listen to Irish Music Now that St. Paddy's day is approaching, it's time for some fairy music. This is a piece by the great blind harpist of old, Turlough O'Carolan. I love O'Carolan's music so much, I once built an Irish harp from a kit, and tried to play a few of his tunes. It's also time for a ceili (traditional Irish social gathering, with music and dancing). Here's . . . more »

Countdown to the 2014 Academy Awards: You Couldn't Make This Stuff Up

Posted on Saturday, March 1, 2014 by coffeecritic

The Act of Killing movie still 2014 proved another strong year for documentaries. The five Oscar-nominated films for best documentary feature are a diverse bunch: disturbing, entertaining, horrifying. Of the five, my pick for the Oscar would be "The Act of Killing," an audacious, mind-boggling and ultimately chilling film that has to be seen to be believed. Most of these, as well as many of the other ten docs on the . . . more »

The Mighty Russians

Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 by coffeecritic

Russian orthodox church onion domes Forget about figure skating and ice hockey. I'm talking about music. Did you see the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics? If so, you got a taste of some beautiful classical music. Russia has produced some of the best loved and most important classical works in the world. Who hasn't heard Swan Lake, Night on Bald Mountain, the 1812 Overture? Nutcracker, anyone? Then there . . . more »

Goodnight, Pete

Posted on Tuesday, February 4, 2014 by coffeecritic

pete  Seeger's banjo American national treasure, folk music legend, and my personal hero, Pete Seeger passed away on January 27 at the age of 94. I first heard his music on my parents' 78 rpm record (the kind that shattered into pieces if you dropped it). It was The Weavers singing "Tzena, Tzena" on one side, and "Goodnight, Irene" on the other. Pete Seeger was so many things . . . more »

Gung Hay Fat Choy! Chuc Mu'ng Nam Mo'i!

Posted on Friday, January 31, 2014 by coffeecritic

chinese new year dragon Gung Hay Fat Choy, Gong Xi Fa Cai, Chúc Mù'ng Nam Mó‛i! Happy Lunar New Year, everyone! However you spell it, Lunar New Year is the longest and most important celebration in much of Asia. The Chinese year 4712 ushers in the Year of the Horse, and begins on Jan. 31, 2014. The festivities last for fifteen days, culminating with the Lantern Festival. In Vietnam, . . . more »

Roomful of Teeth?

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 by coffeecritic

Roomful of Teeth What is a roomful of teeth? It is an exciting young vocal ensemble that just won a Grammy for best chamber music/small ensemble performance. The members are classically-trained singers, but they are dedicated to exploring every expressive potential of the human voice. To this end, they've gone to great lengths to study various global vocal techniques, such as Tuvan and Inuit throat singing, Korean p'ansori . . . more »

David Hockney at the De Young

Posted on Monday, January 13, 2014 by coffeecritic

It's not too late to catch David Hockney: A Bigger Exhibition at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. It will be there through January 20. This exhibit is unique in that it was assembled exclusively for the De Young Museum and showcases only his work from this century. The show includes large-scale, multi-canvas oil paintings, digital movies and landscapes created with the ipad, including . . . more »

The Curious Case of Benjamin Britten

Posted on Monday, December 23, 2013 by coffeecritic

Benjamin Britten Amid all the hoopla over the bicentennials of Verdi and Wagner, both born in 1813, it was easy to overlook the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten, born November 22, 1913. Although not nearly as well known, if you’ve seen Wes Anderson’s film Moonrise Kingdom, you’ve heard quite a bit of his music. You could say the entire film was built around his opera, Noye’s . . . more »

Not Seen in Theaters!

Posted on Friday, December 13, 2013 by coffeecritic

Ricky Jay Chances are you didn't get to see this entertaining documentary about mesmerizing master illusionist Ricky Jay, because it didn't come to neighborhood theaters. I was lucky enough to catch it during a brief run in San Francisco, and now you can see it too. Prepare to be amazed. Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries And Mentors Of Ricky Jay Ricky Jay is also an actor, historian, consultant . . . more »