Things to do in Sacramento and Beyond

The Bee's guide to events, activities, arts and entertainment


February 27, 2009
B Street's Two New Shows

B Street Producing artistic director Buck Busfield has announced the next two productions at his busy theater. On the B-1 Main Stage, Canadian playwright Michele Rini's two-person, romantic comedy "Sexy Laundry," opens on March 8, following the currently playing "Mending Fences."
"Sexy Laundry" will feature B Street Company member Kathy Morison, most recently in "The Little Dog Laughed," and Bay Area veteran Rod Gnapp, making his B Street debut. Busfield will direct.

For the B-3 series, Busfield has replaced Arthur Miller's classic large-scale drama "A View From the Bridge," with a smaller quirky romantic comedy, "Love Song" by John Kolvenbach.
The four-person play, which premiered at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, hasn't been cast, yet, but opens April 4.

February 27, 2009
'American Idol': A chat with the next three to crack the Top 12


MICHAEL BECKER/Fox

Nick Mitchell (aka "Norman Gentle") is still looking for gainful employment, and Votefortheworst.com will have to find another contestant to pick on.

Last night's "American Idol" results show put through three more contestants to the Top 12, and Nick wasn't one of them. Even though it looked crazy to see him up against the heavily favored Adam Lambert as the final two to hear their fate.

More than 25 million votes were cast this week (up a million from the first Top 12 competition). Marching, er singing, on will be Adam, Allison Iraheta and Kris Allen (pictured).

"Idol" reporters got a chance to chat with each of them individually, and here's what they had to say about their experiences so far - and the long road ahead!

Allison, 16, Los Angeles:

Q: How did you come to pick "Alone" as the song that introduced you to "Idol" voters, especially since it's been performed on past shows?
A: I love the song. I love the band Heart, and I thought about it beforehand. Carrie Underwood sang it, and it was amazing! But I focused on how I would perform it, not change it.

Q: Judge Simon Cowell touched on your pre-performance interview with Ryan Seacrest, saying it was "boring." How will you approach his comments about your personality?
A: I was sooo nervous before I sang. I'll definitely chill a little bit more before my next performance. I just need to relax.

Q: There have been quite a few Latino singers on the show. What would it mean to be the first to win?
A: That would be really cool! My parents are from El Salvador. All my life I've been singing in both Spanish and English.

Q: You're one of the younger contestants. Do you think about waiting a couple years to audition, and are there any advantages or disadvantages to being 16?
A: I've been wanting to audition since I was 9 and watching the show. I don't think my age matters. What it comes down to is that we're all here for the same thing.

Q: Are you a natural redhead?
A: I wish! Then I wouldn't have to worry about dyeing my roots every five weeks. My natural hair color is black. I think I'll be red the next couple of months and then maybe change to purple.

Adam, 27, Hollywood:

Q: Simon had mixed comments about your performance on Wednesday. How do you interpret that?
A: I'm a risk taker. I'm not easy listening, and I won't be digested well by everybody. The judges are professionals. I'll listen, but it's important to maintain your integrity. I won't be wailing at the top of my lungs every week. People would get tired of that.

Q: What was it like being the last to perform?
A: I was very happy to close the show because it made me fresh in everyone's minds when they voted.

Q: Is there any song/genre you'd be terrified to sing? And whose musical career do you admire?
A: I like challenges, and I don't think range wise I'd be scared of any song. Styles, maybe. Country week might be a stretch for me if that comes up. As for artists, David Bowie has been really cool. He takes risks both lyrically and vocally.

Q: Are you getting tired of all the musical theater questions? And, speaking of which, what was your first stage role?
A: Well, I don't listen to show tunes in my spare time. And now I get to sing what I like. At age 10 I was cast in a production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown." I was Linus, the kid with the blanket.

Q: The judges definitely are being picky. Are you strategizing? And has your strong presence on the Internet provided any tips?
A: I think strategy is half the competition. Picking a song and working on the arrangement, you use your brain. When you perform, you turn off the brain and work it. I'm aware of the YouTube presence, but I try not to dwell on the comments too much. It's like market research. You find out what the fans like.

Kris, 23, Conway, Ark.:

Q: What's been the biggest challenge for you since Hollywood Week, and were last night's results a surprise, especially with Megan Joy Corkrey next to you?
A: I've had to learn to perform without my guitar! I was really, really shocked last night.This group had a lot of talent. Anyone could have made it through. Megan did a great job, and she's a lovely person who will go far in the music industry. I feel very lucky.

Q: We haven't seen as much of you as some of the other contestants. So do you think Simon's comments about "chicks will dig you" helped?
A: It (lack of exposure) went through my head a little bit, and I hoped it wouldn't matter because more people watch the live show. Simon's comment probably helped. I kind of like being the guy in the background. But I've been with the same woman for seven years!

Q: What theme week would be strong for you?
A: I would love the Beatles. They have so many songs. It would be the coolest thing to have Paul McCartney as a mentor.

Q: You were standing next to Nick Mitchell last night at the end. Did his act irritate the members of your group?
A: Nick wasn't mocking the show. He's just an entertainer, and he's really good at it. We liked him so much.

It will be a busy week next week for "American Idol." The final 12 contestants perform Tuesday with live results and three more getting through on Wednesday. Then, on Thursday, it's the return of the "Idol" wild card to determine the final three spots. All shows are at 8 p.m. on FOX40.


February 27, 2009
Weekend warriors: Jazz, garage and pop rock

If you're still on the prowl for things to do this weekend (and ever-so-slightly beyond), here are a couple of good possibilities.

Tonight at Luigi's Fun Garden (1050 20th St), it's Detroit garage rock band Tyvjk with Sacramento pop band Desario and, straight outta Davis, some country via San Kazakgascar. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. and is $6 at the door.

Saturday night there's a great hip-hop show at Harlow's (2708 J St) with Lyrics Born. A little pricey - $25 a ticket - but worth it if you've got the cold, hard cash. Starts at 9 p.m., 21-and-over.

Finally, skipping over Sunday, there are not one but two good shows on Monday night. For jazz fans there's the Mitch Marcus Quintet, an SF ensemble whose live shows are equal parts improvisation and crafted composition. Also on that bill, Sacramento's delightful electro-pop duo Hearts + Horses. The all-ages show is at the Java Lounge (16th & Broadway), costs $5 and starts at 8 p.m.

Finally, also on Monday night, L.A. rock band Everest returns to Old Ironsides (1901 10th St.) The band, which makes pretty 70s-era pop rock, just finished a tour opening for Neil Young. The Cowboy Killers are also on that bill. The $8 show is 21-and-over and starts at 8 p.m.

February 27, 2009
Food bank grant

The Sacramento Food Bank has received a $5,000 grant from the CarMax Foundation's regional giving program, CarMax has announced.

The grant, which will go toward funding an after-school educational software project, will help young people study in a safe environment and improve their educational skills.

"The support and educational programs offered to our young people are beneficial as these children grow to be the leaders in the community," says John Stokes, a CarMax manager in Roseville who was part of the committee awarding the grant.

February 27, 2009
Stitch 'n Ride ticket sales closed

Organizers have announced that sales are closed for tickets on the annual Stitch 'n Ride train ride from Sacramento to the Stitches West convention at the Santa Clara Convention Center. The event, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, amounts to one long knitfest, with knitters and crocheters creating warm hats for people receiving chemotherapy.

The special Capitol Corridor ride is scheduled to leave Sacramento at 7:50 a.m. tomorrow and Davis at 8:05 a.m.

February 27, 2009
Youth Symphony performs world premiere....

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The Sacramento Youth Symphony will perform the world premiere of George Roumanis' "Symphonic Meditations" tonight at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis.

Roumanis fell in love with jazz at age 12 and soon became a jazz bassist. At age 18 he began playing with the big bands of Benny Goodman, Charlie Spivak, Les Brown, and Tommy Dorsey.

He has arranged music for television shows like the Twilight Zone, Mission Impossible, and Star Trek: the Next Generation. He has also conducted and arranged for Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Sammy Davis, Jr.

After years on the jazz scene he moved from New York to Hollywood to compose and conduct scores for television and motion pictures. Since then, his focus has expanded to classical music and opera composition. He lives in Half Moon Bay.

Also to be performed is Brahms' Symphony No. 1, and a work by Borodin.The performance begins at 7:30pm.

TICKETS: $25; $15 Students and seniors.

Information: (916) 731-5777 or:
www.sacys.org
www.mondaviarts.org

February 26, 2009
Small role, big shoes...

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Sprinkled among the major roles in Mozart's comic opera "The Marriage of Figaro" are some juicy and broadly-sketched comic roles.

One of those is the role of Bartolo - the doctor. And in the Sacramento Opera's upcoming production of "The Marriage of Figaro", bass baritone Burr Phillips has been tapped to sing the small role.

Phillips, a Stockton resident, has some interesting things to say about the role and Mozart's beloved opera.

Q: How many times have you played/sung Bartolo?
A: This is my first time to sing Bartolo, although I have helped two students prepare the role in recent years.

Q: On an artistic level what do you like best about this role?
A: I like Bartolo because he has an aria merely 10 minutes into Act I and then the heaviest load of his singing is complete!

Q: Generally, how do you prepare for a role?
A: I prepare an operatic role by beginning with the score in the same fashion I learn any piece of music - without the text on a single vowel as though I am an instrumentalist. I then translate and speak the text alongside the musical preparation prior to putting the twin elements together.

Q; Do you listen to recordings of the opera?
A: I listen ardently to recordings of the work, as well as try to watch available DVD documents of performances. .

Q: How does Bartolo fit in to an opera where sex and love are synonymous with power?
A: For one thing, Marcellina, Basilio and Bartolo fit into the context of Figaro because they provide the crux of the "buffo" element essential to comic opera. and especially to the classical era of which Mozart played a central role.

Q: How do these roles enhance the opera?
A: These three characters, along with Antonio, the gardener, bring broad characterizations to the general mayhem in the life of all these creatures who inhabit Seville.

Q: What opera houses have you performed in recently?
A: I have performed with Santa Fe Opera, Dallas Opera, Fort Worth Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Chautauqua Opera and Tulsa Opera, to name a few companies around the country.

Q: This opera deals with a corrupt class getting its just desserts. Any correlation between Count Almaviva and a corrupt Wall Street CEO?
A: The Wall Street comparison is at once apt and compelling. The correlation between Count Almaviva, the lord of the manor that provides the backdrop for the action, and the "fat-cat" CEO' s who have made their own beds of luxury usurping from the lower rungs of civilization, is palpable.

The Sacramento Opera's will perform Mozarts four-act masterpiece starting this Friday at the Community Center Theater (the opera runs through Tuesday).

Information: www.sacopera.org


February 26, 2009
Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick to play Sept. 3 in Sacramento.

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Rock, rock til you drop: Def Leppard, Poison and Cheap Trick are embarking on a 40-city tour this summer and the show stops here, Sept. 3. The venue's yet to be named, but I'm guessing it lands at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre.

Wherever it's at, tickets go on sale next Friday, March 6 via LiveNation.com. Or, if you're a Citi credit card member, you can get special pre-sale access beginning at 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 4. Visit privatepass.citi.com for more information.

February 26, 2009
'Idol' round two: I'd pay to help pick their songs!


FOX

The Billboard Hot 100 songs is an amazing vault of music that any of the Top 36 "American Idol" contestants could choose from. And yet ...

Last night's round two of the competition featured 12 performances, most of which were forgettable, terrible, horrible - you provide an appropriate description. And this was a relatively talented group. Song choice slayed most of them with all four judges - including Paula Abdul - slicing and dicing them for picking the wrong tunes.

One good thing: The "Idol" producers figured out that having parents/family/friends waiting upstairs to comment on the judges' comments was awkward and uncomfortable. Friends and family were allowed to sit in the audience last night.

Here are some of the lowlights and highlights:

I was very disappointed in Jasmine Murray, 17, whose rendition of "Love Song" was so pitchy my dog covered her ears. And she was a contender! Then, Matt Giraud, 23, stunned the world by taking on Coldplay's mega-hit "Viva la Vida," which Simon Cowell said was "verging on horrible."

The competition continued its downward spiral with Jeanine Vailes, 28, (her last shot) dressed in hot pants with mile-long legs. No one even noticed that she butchered Maroon 5's "This Love."

Then came Nick Mitchell, 27, who has become the darling of Votefortheworst.com. (natch). I wrote earlier this week that Nick (aka "Norman Gentle") would either be silly or sincere. And it was sort of a combo effort. He blasted "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - again. Dressed in his tuxedo jacket, silver lame shirt, cargo shorts, brown socks and shoes and the requisite red headband/wristbands, Nick injected his own lyrics, begging America not to kick him off: "I'm not waking up tomorrow and finding out there's no 'Idol!' "

Simon, who normally who would be totally offended by such antics, laughed and said, "I hope I'm speaking on behalf of America when I pray you don't go through to the next round." Randy Jackson called it the most "entertaining performance ever."

Others who biffed it? Matt Breitzke, 28, bumbled and stumbled through a Tonic tune. I can't remember the name, but Simon said he would have talked him out of singing it. Jesse Langseth, 26, was just OK with the Kim Carnes' hit "Bette Davis Eyes," and 27-year-old nice guy Kai Kalama went old school and flunked out with "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted." Mishavonna Henson, 18, also opted to perform a band song, Train's "Drops of Jupiter," and got blasted for coming off like a 50-year-old.

So where do we get three finalists? No question teen sensation Allison Iraheta (pictured0, who is only 16, nailed Heart's "Alone." Judge Kara DioGuardi praised her saying, "You don't know how good you are. You've got some serious chops!" Randy said it was the hottest performance of the night.

Rocker favorite Adam Lambert, 27, gave us Elvis (Presley and Costello), Mick Jagger and Billy Idol all rolled into one version of "Satisfaction." Paula was ready to send him on tour, but Simon was a little more cautious: "Parts of it were excruciatingly bad, and others were brilliant."

America's votes likely will come down to a choice between Megan Joy Corkrey and Kris Allen, both 23. He went before her and went after big, bad Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror." I thought it would be a death knell, but Simon thought he showed confidence and personality. Paula thought it was "charming," whatever that means. Megan most definitely picked the right song, Corinne Bailey Ray's "Put Your Records On." Most of my "Idol" buds at The Bee loved her little white eyelet dress with her hair in ringlets, but I thought the outfit looked too sweet, especially paired with the signature swishy dance Megan dubbed the "Corkrey." I want to "dirty her up" like Alexis Grace. Simon hoped America would vote her through.

So I think it's Allison, Adam and either Megan or Kris. Or Nick Mitchell!!! AHHH! Tonight's live results show is at 8 on FOX40. Check back here tomorrow for interviews with the three who make it through.

February 25, 2009
Artist paints a little of California each day

Prakash Chandras, an Indian immigrant who lives in the Bay Area, keeps a most unusual diary: Every day he paints a small picture of something he's seen.

Recently, it's been San Francisco's Coit Tower, a strawberry field, a crane, a seagull and Big Sur at sunset.

"These little cards are the essence of my California experience," he says.

To see examples of Chandras' California Daily Art, go to >www.californiadailyart.com/

He sells the postcard-size pictures for $100, plus shipping and handling.

They're little reminders of why people the world over find California so appealing.

- Dixie Reid
February 25, 2009
Progressive local TV program to mark 200th show

Media Edge, a locally produced public access program plans to air its 200th show March 8.

Media Edge features progressive programming. The 200th program will include one segment on an Israeli activist against the Israeli-built partition wall and another on destruction in Israel and Lebanon as a result of the 2006 war.

The weekly show came about in 2005 in reaction to frustrations about conservative programming on local network television and the absence of reporting on local progressive events, said Randy VanDalsen, on of the originators of the show.

Approximately one-third to one-half of the 2-hour shows is locally produced, including local videos or recordings of local appearances by noted figures like Daniel Ellsberg or Oliver Stone.

The shows air on local access stations in Sacramento, West Sacramento, Davis, Grass Valley and even stations in Massachussetts, Missouri and New Hampshire. VanDalsen predicted the show would continue to grow and air regularly. "There's no stopping us," he said.

For more information on programming times, stations and shows see www.wethemedia.tv

February 25, 2009
Chris Brown out at The Bomb radio

Sacramento radio station The Bomb KBMB 103.5 announced that it was taking R&B singer Chris Brown out of their rotation of musicians due to his recent arrest.

"This decision is being made due to the recent highly publicized domestic incident between Chris Brown and artist Rihanna," according to a statement put out by Jimmy Valoria, marketing director for the station's parent company, Entravision Communications.

Brown is alleged to have attacked Rihanna, his girlfriend, and was recently reported to have started anger management classes.

February 25, 2009
High school students fill Bowls

In preparation for River City Community Services' annual Empty Bowls fundraising event, students from three Sacramento high schools have been throwing, glazing and decorating pottery bowls during a Bowl-a-Thon this week.

The bowl-making efforts at Christian Brothers High School, Encina Preparatory High School and Loretto High School will contribute 330 handmade bowls to the March 10 event.

Empty Bowls came to Sacramento in 2004, but the fundraising concept had spread far and wide across the country (and to other local communities) long before that. Founded in Michigan in 1990 by a high school art teacher, the Empty Bowls events raise money for organizations that feed the hungry. River City Community Services provides emergency food and housing for the needy.

The Empty Bowls premise: For a $25 donation, you get to select your own bowl crafted by a local artist -- plus you'll eat a light lunch of soup and bread.

The event begins at 11 a.m. March 10 at the Sacramento Masonic Temple, 1123 J St.

For more information, go to http://www.rivercitycommunityservices.org/eb/index.htm

February 25, 2009
Sacramento Zoo to offer half-price Fridays in March

March on over to the Sacramento Zoo any Friday next month, and get in for half price.

The discounted admission - $4.50 general, $3.25 for ages 3-12 - is good on March 6, 13, 20 and 27. The zoo is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

The offer is being made to thank Sacramentans for their longtime devotion to the animals at the zoological park and to give folks a break during these hard economic times.

Sacramento Zoo is at 3930 W. Land Park Drive, near Sutterville Road.

For more info: (916) 808-5888, www.saczoo.com

- Dixie Reid
February 24, 2009
Lil' Wayne, T-Pain and Gym Class Heroes, March 30 at Arco Arena

Hip-hop star Lil' Wayne will bring his "I Am Music" tour to town, March 30 at Arco Arena. The rapper, perhaps best known for his smash "Lollipop" single, will be joined by T-Pain, Gym Class Heroes and Keri Hilson.

Tickets ($39.75-$79.50) go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday, March 2 via LiveNation.com


February 24, 2009
A.C. Newman and Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele tonight at Harlow's

Just a reminder, tonight is that A.C. Newman show at Harlow's (2708 J St, Sacramento). The New Pornographers singer is playing songs off his two solo albums including the most recent, "Get Guilty."

Also on that bill, Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele, The Mississippi-based singer-songwriter plays quirky, sophisticated pop and is signed to the Animal Collective-founded label Paw Tracks - if that's not enough to get your music geek-loving heart out of the house, I don't know what is.

The 21-and-over show starts at 8:30 p.m. and costs $14 at the door.

February 24, 2009
Bay Area children's literature festival in April

Time to think about booking it to Berkeley, but don't leave yet. The 15th Celebration of Children's Literature isn't until April 18.

The free, multi-ethnic event is part of Cal Day, the annual open house at the University of California, Berkeley.

Among the several Bay area-based children's writers and illustrators slated to be on hand are:

Ying Chang Compestine, author of "Revolution is Not a Dinner Party," an autobiographical novel set during China's Cultural Revolution.
Robert San Souci, "Mulan" screenwriter and author of 85 books for young readers.
Yuyi Morales, Latina author of "Just In Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book."
Todd Parr, best-selling author and illustrator of 33 children's books, including "The I Love You Book."
Lisa Brown, designer/illustrator of the best-selling "The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming."

Storytelling, music and a drop-in art activity will be part of the event. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at Tolman Hall.

For more info: http://gse.berkeley.edu/childlit.html


- Dixie Reid

February 24, 2009
Brain injury fundraising walk set

A three-mile fundraising walk in Sacramento's William Land Park is planned as the centerpiece of local events commemorating Brain Injury Awareness Month, according to the California Brain Injury Association. Other events are planned across the state during March, as well.

Brain injuries affect more than 1.4 million people each year, including 22,000 Californians. So prevalent is traumatic brain injury among current military personnel that TBI has been called the signature wound of the war in Iraq. Yet brain injury research and treatment receive little attention, says CALBIA executive director Manfred Tatzmann.

The Sacramento walk begins at 8:30 a.m., March 14. Registration for adults is $25 and for children ages 5 to 16, $15. For more information, go to www.calbia.org.

February 24, 2009
Jonas Brothers fans: Get ready to squeal

Those skinny-jeaned sensations Kevin, Joe and Nick Jonas will embark on a "surprise theater invasion" of select movie houses showing their rockumentary "Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience."

The personal appearances start Friday, the same day the movie officially opens (there are midnight screenings Thursday).

There's no word on whether the Jonases will be coming to Northern California. I guess that's why they call it a "surprise tour."

Speaking of surprises, parents should be aware, before piling the kids into the car on Friday, that tickets are $15 for everyone -- or about $5.50 more than the typical adult movie ticket.


February 23, 2009
Panel for would-be writers

Authors, an agent and a bookseller are among the panelists who will discuss "The Future of Writing" March 10 at the UC Davis Galleria in Sacramento.

The panel of professionals will discuss what writers need to do to adapt to difficult economic times in conjunction with an informational session on UC Davis Extension's writing programs.

The panelists include agent Matt Wagner, newswriter and radio host David Watts Barton, Jim Naify, owner of Beers Books, and others.

The information session, covering nonfiction and creative writing class offerings, will be held at 6 p.m. with the panel discussion at 7:15 p.m.

Both programs are free, but online enrollment is recommended to reserve a seat. See extension.ucdavis.edu/ah for more information.

February 23, 2009
Lemony Snicket goes orchestral...

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It's an orchestral whodunit...

That best describes the picture book adaptation of Lemony Snicket's "The Composer is Dead".

That book, which will be released by HarperCollins on March 3, includes an accompanying recording by the San Francisco Symphony. The recording is narrated by Lemony Snicket himself and conducted by SFS resident conductor Edwin Outwater, with music by composer Nathaniel Stookey.

The pairing of the SFS and Lemony Snicket, the 13-part children's book series known as "A Series of Unfortunate Events" authored by Daniel Handler, is a refreshing take on making classical music come alive to young audiences. It originates from a SFS commission that resulted in the 2006 world premiere of "The Composer is Dead".

And it's a fitting pairing since both Handler and Stookey live in San Francisco.

"The Composer is Dead" makes it possible for young readers to listen as the Inspector interrogates the instruments, section by section, to uncover a murderous culprit.

A video interview with Lemony Snicket about "The Composer is Dead" is posted on YouTube at www.youtube.com/sfsymphony.

And for those that want to see Lemony Snicket in the flesh, the Inspector will appear as narrator of "The Composer is Dead" with the San Francisco Symphony on March 29 at 2:00 p.m. at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

Information: www.sfsymphony.org

February 23, 2009
Camellia Symphony offers two free family concerts

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Parents interested in introducing their children to classical music will have two opportunities to do so when the Camellia Symphony's offers two free family concerts on March 8 and 15.

The concerts are designed as an introduction to the world of classical music in a fun and casual setting. This season, guest conductor Pete Nowlen teams up with Richard Bay and his Puppet Theatre to present a puppet performance of "Peter and the Wolf".

The March 8 performance will take place at Sacramento's Central Library, Tsakopoulos Library Galleria. The March 15 performance will be held at Buljan Middle School in Roseville. Doors open for both at 1 p.m. with an instrument "petting zoo" followed by an hourlong concert starting at 2 p.m. (that concert includes the puppet presentation).

The program will include Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain", Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf" (with Richard Bay's Puppet Theatre) and Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty Waltz."

Information: www.camelliasymphony.org

February 23, 2009
Sacramento Single: DJ Oasis' "Well Connected (Introduction)"

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Nick Shoman - aka DJ Oasis - bought his first turntable when he was 10; retired from deejaying at the tender age of 13 and then, finally, as he reached adulthood decided to stage a comeback.

"When I started I was inspired by DJ Premier and DJ Kool Herc - the real pioneers (who) could play old James Brown records and old groove jazz records and get people breakdancing," he says.

Once in high school, however, the budding turntablist decided to take a break - discouraged by what he described as a lack of "spirit."

"I could just see things were changing - hip-hop was going in a different direction," he says.

"I just let everything collect dust."

The spark reignited years later when a friend asked Shoman to show him the basics of deejaying.

Happy to be making music again, Shoman also realized he could, perhaps, make some money at this as well.

It wasn't easy, however.

"You could be the best DJ ever but some (clubs) won't give you a chance," he says.

After a few fruitless attempts at getting his set into various Sacramento clubs, Shoman teamed with the Neighborhood Watch, a local coalition of deejays, musicians and artists.

Now, with a little help from his friends, the 22-year-old has performed at Harlow's, the Press Club, Empire and Capitol Garge.

"We're just a group of people who work together - we're friends who give each other a push."

DJ Oasis

Song: "Well Connected (Introduction)"

Style: Jazzed-out noises and pop samples

Behind the song: "This is the first track I did after I started deejaying again," he says. "I wanted to make something that served as introduction to me, expressing who I am."

Shoman mixed the melody from the old '70s pop tune "Baby Come Back" ("I just thought the beat was so crazy") with riffs created on a computer. All those bits and pieces, he says, add up to one voice.

"I speak with my hands because I'm deejay," Oasis says. "I cut up a bunch of different (sounds) to make myself heard.

See him: Wednesday, March 4 at Capitol Garage (1505 K St, Sacramento) with DJ Matt Kelly. The all-ages show starts at 10 p.m. and is $5 at the door. For more information: (916) 444-3633

On the Web: www.myspace.com/djoasis

Listen to "Well Connected (Introduction) here:




February 22, 2009
Penn: A crusader for compelling television

Thank goodness for Sean Penn. Though his acceptance speech probably wasn't as exciting as Mickey Rourke's would have been, it was full of humor, fire and politics, and it enlivened a sluggish final hour and a half of the Academy Awards.

It started with Penn, named best actor for playing late gay rights activist Harvey Milk, greeting the Kodak audience with, "You Commie, homo-loving sons of guns."

But he was serious in chastising people who voted for the anti-gay marriage Prop. 8. That's a risky move even for the ultra-political Penn. A lot of people voted for Prop. 8, including people who might want to go Penn's films.

The wins for Danny Boyle (best director) and "Slumdog Millionaire" (best picture) were lovely, but also completely predictable, and the show sagged from too many songs (this isn't the Grammys!).

The Oscars' eventual bloat was even more frustrating given how well the show started. But the Academy indulged itself and dared viewers to keep watching. In the process, it might have alienated forever those viewers who haven't warmed much to the mostly arthouse films being honored, anyway.

February 22, 2009
Battle of the 'goddesses'

Darn that Kate Winslet for being so terrific at such a young age. In the "Who's Overdue" stakes that was the best actress race, Winslet, 33, nominated five times previously without winning, triumphed over Meryl Streep , 59, who received her 15th total nomination for "Doubt," and has won twice in the past, once in the lead and once in the supporting category.

In accepting her Oscar for "The Reader," Winslet acknowledged Streep and the other "goddesses" in her category, and by extension, Sophia Loren , Shirley MacLaine and the other past acting winners who introduced the nominees.

Winslet so sincerely excited in delivering her acceptance speech that you had to be glad for her. Still, it doesn't seem fair that Winslet and Streep, 26 years apart in age, now stand exactly the same chance of overtaking Katharine Hepburn 's record four best-actress Oscars.

February 22, 2009
A moving tribute to Ledger

Top Entertainment Stories.jpgEven though the win was expected, the Ledger family's tribute to Heath Ledger still brought tears to the eyes of Ledger fans in the Kodak Theatre and everywhere else.

Talk of Ledger winning the supporting-actor statue this year so dominated the pre-Oscar conversation that I almost overlooked Philip Seymour Hoffman's presence in the same category. And that's strange, given the grudge I've held against Hoffman since he beat out Ledger, nominated for "Brokeback Mountain," with his performance in "Capote."

It wasn't Hoffman's fault, of course, but my attachment to Ledger's taciturn, emotionally wrecked Ennis Del Mar is so great that I couldn't help but blame Hoffman a little. Opinions about film are as emotional as they are intellectual, after all, and when it comes to certain performances, they even can be a touch irrational.

But seeing Ledger's work finally recognized over Hoffman's redefines "hollow victory." I'd much rather see Ledger alive and losing to Hoffman every year.

February 22, 2009
Just a question ...

Does Beyonce have to be on everything?

February 22, 2009
Scratch that ...


They do seem to be dragging things out once again.

Otherwise, why the romantic-coupling montage that included films more Razzie- than Oscar-worthy? Don't we deserve a warning before they show a clip of "The Other Boleyn Girl"?

Clearly, the Academy included this whole montage to give "Twilight" dreamboat Robert Pattinson something to introduce.

At least the cinematography award was a bone, though, and certainly a well-deserved win for Anthony Dod Mantle. His vibrant cinematography is one of the reasons "Slumdog Millionaire" transfixes nearly everyone who sees it.

February 22, 2009
Yay movie stars!


This new Oscar look is great! What with the blue, nightclubby set design, the multitalented Hugh Jackman singing, dancing and even bringing up the recession, it's as if the Oscars have figured out how to be relevant again.

It all seems so intimate and communal, with movie stars right at Jackman's feet, ready to be ribbed (even a suddenly de-iced Angelina Jolie!).

Also loved seeing all those past supporting-actress winners present the award to Penelope Cruz . And Cruz was so gracious and looked so
Audrey Hepburn-esque while accepting.

Dare I say it? I am very excited about this year's Oscars. Let's just hope they don't drag things out like they usually do, practically daring the audience to keep watching in between major awards.


February 22, 2009
We're winding up!


GETTY IMAGES

By Leigh Grogan

"Oh my God, Penelope Cruz, stunning," Richard says. "By far, my favorite
dresses are Angelina Jolie's and Heidi Klum's - and Anne Hathaway."

All of the embroidery on Beyonce's dress doesn't leave much room for bling.
She stands out, even though she looks like she should be "dating" the Oscar
statuette. They're a little matchey-matchey. I'm not even sure why she's at
the Academy Awards.

Best actress nomineee Kate Winslet's steel gray, one-shoulder dress with
black embellishments and a retro hairdo set her apart. If she doesn't win an
award, I'll have her on the fashion page tomorrow. "She's killing everyone
tonight in that gown," Richard says.

Of the men, Richard and I agree Seal, Brad Pitt and Sean Penn are the
best-dressed. In other words, they stood out from the guys in ties.

Of actress Tilda Swinton, Richard asks: "Who is this corpse? She looks like
the robot in that Will Smith movie. An extra, but not a human!" In contrast,
singer Alicia Keys looks totally great in a raspberry strapless gown.

Final thoughts? From Richard: "I'm rooting for 'Milk' to win best picture."

The E! prediction poll has "Slumdog Millionaire" winning with 65 percent of
the votes cast by viewers.

Check out the full fashion package in tomorrow's Bee, plus coverage from Bee
movie critic Carla Meyer.

I'm out!

February 22, 2009
Brangelina sighting!

By Leigh Grogan

Designer Jean Paul Gaultier puts together Mickey Rourke's look, with a
necklace featuring a pic of his now-deceased chihauhua. "I don't remember
what I had for breakfast today," he says. "If Sean Penn wins, I'll clap my
a.. off!

Diane Lane, with nominee/husband Josh Brolin, might be the best-looking
couple. Josh says he'd like to play "Ryan" in a real-life movie. Believe it
or not, Richard doesn't like Beyonce's black and gold dress. Jessica Biel is
caught on the red carpet talking on her cell phone: "She's probably calling
her stylist, saying my hair is falling apart!" Looks like a MySpace photo.
"She had serious evening wear on. It's called a satin sheet with low thread
count!"

Young actress Evan Rachel Wood from "The Wrestler" is gorgeous in a
strapless gown. On Anne Hathaway: "The beading on Anne's dress is
outrageous. She's letting you have it with those layers of paillettes
(beading)," Richard says.

OK, the first shot of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie arriving. "He could have
worn thermal underwear to the event and looked amazing, right," says
Richard. Angelina is waving to the crowd and totally oblivious that Brad's
ex, Jennifer Aniston, might be lurking.

But both Richard and I are asking the big question? "Where is Bobby Trendy?"

February 22, 2009
What's up with Ron Howard?

By Leigh Grogan

"I would call this (my gown) barely mint," says Sarah Jessica Parker of her
Dior Haute Couture gown. Richard thinks hubby Matthew Broderick looks
terrific. "Marisa Tomei's dress is stunning, amazing," Richard says. "But
her hair is a disaster."

We both like nominee (and Bee movie critic Carla Meyer's favorite) Sean Penn
in all black; "but Natalie Portman looks like she should be on top of a
birthday cake." E! Loves it, but we both wonder if they're looking at last
year's footage. Director Ron Howard looks like a Confederate/Union soldier.

February 22, 2009
Do we know who these people are?

By Leigh Grogan

Michael Sheen of "Frost/Nixon" has that rockabilly look: didn't shave, big
pompadour - and a tux.

Mickey Rourke, nominated for best actor for "The Wrestler," shows up in a
white jacket, greasy hair and smoking a cigarette. Hey, the guy's chihuahua
just died.

Anne Hathaway, also nominated for "Rachel Getting Married," alights from her
limo looking absolutely porcelain and goddess-like in a silvery strapless
gown.

February 22, 2009
Who are these actors?

By Leigh Grogan

Leslie Mann shows up, and we have absolutely no idea who she is. OK, so we don't get out much.

Richard and I both wish the camera would back out of the camera shots so we can see the stars - not so much their companions.

Richard beats Jay Manuel of E! with the origami reference to Heidi's gown. She's letting you have it in this dress," he says. She says she's been sitting on one butt cheek during the whole ride over to the awards venue.

Another lady in red? Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!"

Taraji P. Henson of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" looks amazing - love the gown and a quick pick at her Spanx when she hiked her gown to show off what I believe was a tattoo in honor of her late father.

"Am I out of the loop, or do I just don't know any of these actors," Richard says. He's not alone. I definitely feel like I'm watching an independent film red carpet. Guess we're both waiting for the DVDs.

February 22, 2009
Just spotted: John Legend, Heidi Klum and Seal

By Leigh Grogan

On Ryan interviewing the kid cast of "Slumdog Millionaire": "They're cute, but Ryan Seacrest shouldn't be doing this job!"

There was a slight language problem.

Richard thinks singer John Legend's face is "painted for the gods. It was so matte."

Informal tux vs. traditional tux? I'm liking the traditional bow tie.

Nominee Melissa Leo of "Frozen River" shows up. "Her stylist needs to be contacted because she looks like honey mustard," says Richard.

"She looks like a complete catastrophe," Richard says. Her hair woman kept, and left.

On a good note, we both love Viola Davis ("Doubt") in her golden goddess gown. The E! Glamastrator spotlights the stars as they walk the red carpet.

Richard just informs me that all the makeup he just bought in San Francisco will have him looking like Jay Manuel of E! come Monday morning.

Designer John Galliano did actress Freida Pinto's elegant blue gown. But forget the gown, Ryan keeps asking who she's dating. "Ryan has no interest in her whatsover!," says my co-host.

A quick shot of Heidi Klum and husband Seal. Even though her red dress has a slight "origami" look to it, she still is amazing.

February 22, 2009
Madonna's arrived - with a new man

By Leigh Grogan

My friend and local fashion designer Richard Hallmarq just joined me and, so far, he thinks Kevin Kline's "old" hairdo makes him look sooo much older than his wife, Phoebe Cates.

Ryan had to toss out an "American Idol" plug. Phoebe didn't vote, but she likes Danny Gokeym, who made the Top 12.

Richard says he hasn't seen one dress that he likes so far.

Ken Baker of E! reports that there will be stars at the show who haven't been announced and won't walk the red carpet. Some big curtain with past winners presenting. It's supposed to be a break with tradition. Snoooze!!!!

Madonna arrives, and Richard and I think she looks great. Who's she with? "Another new man. She goes through them (men) like a pack of cigarettes," he says.

February 22, 2009
'Star-stalking' at the 81st annual Academy Awards

By Leigh Grogan

OK, so it's the 81st annual Academy Awards. I still don't know why E! starts its coverage of the red carpet (with host Ryan Seacrest) at 3 p.m. - two plus hours before the broadcast - because pretty much all we got was Miley Cyrus in a gown that weighs more than her, asking to be adopted by Angelina Jolie!

"I'm just here star-stalking," the teen quipped, as her mom "date" stood by - wearing her first pair of "borrowed" earrings.

Entertainment news: E! gets the scoop that Nicole Richie is pregnant with her second child.

The guess was it was either Angelina or her nemesis, Jennifer Aniston, who is scheduled to present tonight.

February 20, 2009
'Future Visionaries' film showcase Saturday

Sunday's Academy Awards will offer ample opportunity to see people who make millions of dollars per picture patting themselves on the back. But if you're looking for something a little purer, there's the "Future Visionaries" showcase at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Artisan Building, 1901 Del Paso Blvd. in Sacramento.

Presented by the Sacramento International Film Festival and the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission, this free event will feature 12 short films by local high school and junior high students.

February 20, 2009
Crocker Art Museum offers discounts

The Crocker Art Museum has launched an "arts stimulus package" to lure more folks through its grand wooden portal this year.

State, county and city employees get $2 off admission for themselves and three accompanying friends or family members every Friday in 2009. Show a business card or company ID for the discount.

In addition, membership fees have been reduced $5, to $40 for individuals and $50 for families. Membership has its privileges: free admission for a year, and invitations to exhibition openings, family programs and Third Thursday jazz concerts.

Finally, a coupon at www.crockerartmuseum.org/specials is good for 10 percent off a purchase of $10 or more in the museum store.

"Historically, museums are very well attended during times of national strife and economic decline," Crocker Art Museum director Lial Jones said in news release. "Our goal is to keep the Crocker easily accessible during this difficult time."

Crocker Art Museum is at 216 O St. in Sacramento. It's open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and until 9 p.m. the first and third Thursdays of the month. Regular admission is $6 general, $4 for seniors, and $3 for students. Admission is free 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Sundays.

For more information: (916) 808-7000, www.crockerartmuseum.org

- Dixie Reid

February 20, 2009
'Strangers' and the East German transsexual next door

hedwig.jpg

Two great movie-related events that cost little to no money to attend are happening in Davis Monday, Feb. 23. The only hitch is, they're happening at virtually the same time.

At 6:30 p.m., the Mondavi Center's Focus on Film Series will show the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock film "Strangers on a Train" ($10/$5). At 7 p.m., John Cameron Mitchell, writer and star of the stage show and film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," will speak on campus at the Technocultural Studies Building (formerly the Art Annex) in a free event open to the public (or at least those members of the public who are 18 or older).

Mitchell recently completed a three-day run at San Francisco's Victoria Theatre, where he sang songs from "Hedwig," a rock musical in which he starred as 1980s East German transsexual with relationship issues. If you haven't seen the 2001 film -- also directed by Mitchell -- go rent it. It's heartbreaking and hilarious, and features some great glitter rock-esque songs by composer Stephen Trask.

It also contains a wonderful running gag in which Hedwig, now in the United States and fronting a band, plays a series of gigs at a chain of seafood restaurants called "Bilgewater's." I've always found that Freecreditreport.com commercial where the guy sings about being stuck working in a pirate-themed restaurant to be a bit too reminiscent of the Bilgewater's bits.

For information about the "Strangers" screening, visit the Mondavi site.

To find out more about the Mitchell event, call (530) 752-9674.

February 20, 2009
Sacramento on Oprah Wednesday

A segment on Sacramento will air on The Oprah Winfrey Show Wednesday, a publicist for the show confirmed today.

A production crew including Carmichael native Lisa Ling was in town last week taping material related to the recession and its effects on people.

The taping focused on a family which lost its home as a result of the housing crises and looked at the situation of the homeless in Sacramento.

The show airs locally on KCRA 3 at 4 p.m.

February 20, 2009
Yes, Yan can!

Do you have a healthy appetite and a couple of hours to spare this weekend?

Celebrity chef Martin Yan of "Yan Can Cook" fame is spicing up Sacramento this Sunday, February 22 at 2 p.m. The man who made America (and the world, for that matter) fall more deeply in love with Asian cuisine is celebrating the Chinese New Year with a live cooking demonstration in the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria (Central Library, 828 I Street, Sacramento).

Yan's latest book, Martin Yan's China, is chock full of fascinating information about the food, history, and culture of China. It includes over 100 recipes, along with the tried and true, unwritten guarantee that "If Yan can cook, so can you!".

The event is free, and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Arrive early and hungry and prepare to be dazzled with Yan's knives, technique and sparkling personality.

For more information, contact the Sacramento Public Library at (916) 264-2920 or visit www.saclibrary.org.

February 20, 2009
Seniors may qualify for free eye exams

Through the end of February, EyeCare America wants seniors to to see if they qualify for free eye exams.

The public service program, run by the American Academy of Ophthalmalogy, is one of the largest eye programs in the country. If you're eligible, you'll be referred to a volunteer ophthalmologist for a comprehensive exam -- and if an eye disease is detected, you'll receive free care for up to a year.

"Blindness and vision impairment have enormous personal, social and economic costs, limiting the activities of otherwise healthy and active people," says the association's Dr. Richard C. Mills.

Founded in 1985, EyeCare America has served more than 1 million people.

To see if you're qualified for the free screening, call (800) 222-3937 or go to www.eyecareamerica.org.

February 20, 2009
Paula Abdul and her bling on HSN

She's a judge on "American Idol", but even Paula Abdul couldn't have gotten better hype for her Forever Your Girl jewelry collection than she did when contestant (and known "drama queen") Tatiana Del Toro showed up at the end of Hollywood Week wearing the Reach for the Stars bracelet (pictured) from the line.

If I recall correctly, Paula was so taken that she gave Tatiana a matching ring - right off her finger! Did that gesture help get Tatiana through? Probably not. But it certainly worked wonders to get the pub out for the jewelry, which Paula has been wearing on the show ever since.

I actually took a shine to the star bracelets. If you'd like a little Paula bling for yourself, she'll be appearing for numerous shows this Sunday on Home Shopping Network to sell Forever Your Girl, featuring new pieces and some of the original jewelry that debuted back in December.

It's Paula's first foray into fashion jewelry, and she designed the line herself. The best times to watch Sunday? Early morning at 7 and 8 a.m. and in the afternoon and early evening at 1, 6 and 7 p.m. on Channel 22.

If you want to see what the marked-down event prices will be for Paula's jewelry, click here

February 20, 2009
Kevin Johnson's National TV Blitz

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson will be making appearances on two national TV programs this weekend, city officials announced Friday.

Johnson's appearances on CNN tonight and on Fox Sunday will address the mayors' breakfast with President Obama today, as well as impacts of the federal stimulus package and passage of the California budget, according to Amy Williams, city spokeswoman.

Johnson's first appearance will be tonight at 5 p.m. on CNN's "Campbell Brown Show." Mayors of Lansing, Mich. and Dayton, Ohio are also scheduled to appear.

He will also appear on Fox News Sunday, which airs locally on KTXL Fox 40 at 8 a.m.. Johnson is scheduled to appear at about 9:10 a.m. Pacific time, according to Steve Maviglio, the mayor's volunteer spokesman.

February 20, 2009
Babies on the brain

Someone here was surfing the web - in the spirit of Furlough Friday - and stumbled across the makemebabies.com site.

This awesome little time-waster of a URL lets you see what your offspring would like if you paired up with some amazing genes - say those of Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie.

So, naturally, the entire office had to get in on the action. I mean, who wouldn't want to know what their precious Marilyn Manson spawn would look like?

It works like this: You upload a photo of yourself - just a headshot - and then pick a celebrity from the MakeMeBabies vault.

One of my editors did a cute little mash-up with "American Idol" superstar Carrie Underwood - adorable.

I went, naturally, with Justin Timberlake (and this is the part where that one guy calls or e-mails me to complain about my crush on JT and how it pervades everything I do, every minute of the day. And your point is?).

So, upload, click, pick the gender and voila! Oh, and you also get to name your new tot - I tried to go with something vaguely Hollywood appropriate, marrying my name with Justin's, so, thus: Rastin

And, so I give you:

rastin.jpg

So cute, I think she has my eyes.

February 20, 2009
Coldplay bring tour to Sleep Train on July 14

After skipping Sacramento on the last go-round, Coldplay is scheduled to bring its latest tour to town. The Grammy-winning band performs July 14 at the Sleep Train Amphitheatre.

Amadou & Miriam, Kitty Davis and Lewis will also perform.

Tickets ($35.50 lawn, $80-$98 reserved seats) go on sale at 10 a.m. Saturday via LiveNation.com

February 19, 2009
'American Idol': A chat with first three singers to crack Top 12


MICHAEL BECKER/Fox

Last night's results show on "American Idol" wasn't a crazy surprise: Alexis Grace and Danny Gokey are through. Tatiana Del Toro seemed poised to take her "act" to the next level. But then Michael Sarver won over fans' hearts -- and more importantly votes.

More than 24 million votes were cast -- 10 million more than last year at this time. (And that pretty much mirrors the average number of viewers.)

We got a little reunion with Season 7 contestants Michael Johns (always pleasant to look at) and Carly Smithson. They performed "The Letter."

But, by far, Tatiana and Danny as the final two left me stumped. When she realized she hadn't made it through, the impact got the best of her. The show went off the air with her visibly distraught. Keep in mind: The judges can put her back in as a wild card after nine contestants get through.

As for the lucky three, "Idol" reporters got to speak with them today -- individually. And the one question each of them was asked was: Of your group, who do you think deserves another shot at making the Top 12?

Gracious as only newly hatched contestants can be (the cynicism will come), they each thought all of the singers could have been Top 12. Really!! Casey Carlson? Stephen Fowler?

But there were other opportunities to find out more about Alexis, Michael and Danny. Here's a sampling of what they had to say:

Alexis, 21, is from Memphis, Tenn.
Q: With the three-week elimination process, do you think it's an advantage or disadvantage going first? And what will the three of you be doing while the rest of the Top 12 is determined?
A: It could go either way. Everyone knows there's a lot of pressure to get through. The most important thing is to have fun. During the next few weeks we'll keep busy. They ("Idol" producers) haven't said specifically what's happening, but I know you'll see more of us.

Q: Since your audition in Louisville, when the judges (in particular Randy Jackson) said to "dirty up your look," what have you changed style-wise? Would you say you identify with artists like Duffy or Amy Winehouse?
A: I like the '60s soul, cocktail kind of vibe. I have a lot of input on hair, makeup and clothes. And my girlfriends help me shop. I'm definitely trying to form my look because it's very important in this business. As for comparisons (to Duffy or Amy), I identify with their style of clothing, not necessarily their music.

Q: What did you think when Simon Cowell compared you to (Season 1 winner) Kelly Clarkson?
A: It's more than flattering. It shook my world - in a good way. It also pushes me to do better. I have to step up my game.

Q: Are there any mentors you'd love to work with this season?
A: Definitely. Aretha Franklin, Fleetwood Mac or Bruce Springsteen.

Michael, 27, is from Jasper, Texas
Q: You've watched previous "Idol" seasons. How do you think it's been having a fourth judge -- Kara DioGuardi? Were you intimidated?
A: Not at all. She adds more flavor and intellect. It benefits us as contestants. Kara brings an incredible mind for music to the table. And her comments are easy to understand.

Q: Were you told you were the top male vote-getter -- over Danny?
A: Ryan (Seacrest) said 20,000 votes separated me and Anoop (Desai), who stood next to me. I've heard some Fox outlets reporting it was me, but the important thing is we're both here. It's done. The three of us have a chance to sit back and watch the process and soak it in. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Q: What do you think of the wild card format?
A: The wild card means last night is not the end. I can't imagine the disappointment for the other nine in my group. But it gives them hope. Clay Aiken (Season 2) was a wild card. Good things come out of wild things!

Q: After you sang on Tuesday, Simon said he hoped America would give you another shot. Do you think that helped?
A: Him making a plea on my behalf I don't take lightly. Singing is nice, but so is character. I can acknowledge that the hard-working American thing is an appeal. Real-life people can relate to me, especially with the economy. My life isn't bad, but it's been tough.

Danny, 28, is from Milwaukee
Q: You're obviously an early fan favorite, even with the judges. How does that feel? And what do you think of the elimination process so far?
A: I'm honored that people want me to succeed. It's never been harder to get into the Top 12. Also never easier. We don't have to go from 24 to 12; it's 36, one shot and then to 12. But it makes it gut-wrenching. Some amazing talent is being sent home.

Q: Speaking of which, do you miss your friend Jamar Rogers, who didn't make it out of Hollywood Week? And, what was it like being up against Tatiana last night?
A: I was mad. I expected Jamar to go through because I was confident he showed his ability. He's received such recognition, I know he'll do well. Tatiana is a great person. You could see the desire and passion, which might have hurt her on TV. As for me, I felt like a wreck on the inside. I prepared myself mentally to go out gracefully.

Q: Going forward, are there aspects of your performance you believe you can improve?
A: I want to clean up my vocals. I notice I'm hitting a flat or sharp here and there. I like taking risks. But if I jump off a bridge, I want to land on my feet. I plan to loosen up a little bit and not be so nervous.

Q: How will you balance the background story about your wife's death and your journey on this show?
A: Some will think it's too much. It's only been seven months. But I don't think I've thrown it in people's faces. It weighs on my mind a lot, and it's shaping my life. But now I have a mission. There's a fun side to me that will come out. She's still in my heart. No one can take that away.

February 19, 2009
Last entry about the live blog, I promise


Mark S. Allen and I live-blogged about the Oscars today from noon-1 p.m. Those who missed it can catch it here:

February 19, 2009
Anna Nicole Smith - the opera?

Britain-Anna-Nicole-Opera.jpg

Well, it was bound to happen.

Someone, somewhere has finally realized that the life of the late Anna Nicole Smith, former Plaboy playmate turned oil tycoon's wife, is drama-worthy.

But we're not talking soap opera drama-worthy here - we're talking opera drama-worthy.

Or at least Britain's Royal Opera thinks so.

The company is planning a production based on the life on the Texas-born Smith,
and has tapped the highly respected British composer Mark-Anthony Turnage to write the music and Richard Thomas to write the libretto.

Smith came into the limelight in 1993 when she became Playboy's Playmate of the Year. She married oil tycoon J. Howard Marshall in 1994. At the time, she 26 and Marshall 89. Marshall died a year later.

Smith was constantly in the celebrity spotlight thereafter, and went on to star in her own reality TV show. She was also embroiled in a protracted legal battle with the Marshall family over Marshall's $500 million estate. She died of an accidental drug overdose in a Florida hotel in 2007.

The Smith opera is planned for the Royal Opera's 2011 season.

The opera was described by Royal Opera's director Elaine Padmore in The UK-based Guardian newspaper as "not just a documentary about her, but a parable about celebrity and what it does to people."


February 19, 2009
Talk Oscars with Carla Meyer and Mark S. Allen at noon today

In anticipation of Sunday's Academy Awards, Mark S. Allen of "Good Day Sacramento" and I will blog live from noon-1 p.m. today at www.sacbee.com/live.

We will discuss our picks in the lead Oscar categories and field your questions and comments.

My predictions will run in Friday's Ticket section, and I will be blogging here at 21Q as the show happens Sunday night.

February 18, 2009
Someday a Zagat "dating and dumping" guide for Sacramento?

Now that Sacramento has its own Zagat guidebook ("Zagat: Sacramento Restaurants," Zagat Survey, $5.95, 80 pages), published in January, can our own spin-off "Dating (and Dumping) Guide: Restaurants, Bars and Other Hot Spots" be far behind?

New York and Los Angeles just got theirs: Small volumes for pocket or purse in which locals recommend places to take a first date and, if things don't work out, where to deliver the "it's not you, it's me" speech.

The "dumping" part is a joke, Zagat's editors say. Participants in those cities simply rated locales you'll find more interesting than you do your current companion. A hookah lounge, perhaps.

Helpful dating tips are included, such as: Men are turned off by women who talk to cats, act like a princess, and wear "old lady" clothes and too much perfume. Women don't like guys who lie about their age, have "mommy" issues and don't open doors for them (men in turn expect women to let them open the door.)

Here are pick-up lines to avoid: "I dig older ladies like you" and "My mother would love you." Oh, and never, ever say, "I like your dress. It would look good on my floor."

The two 80-page "Dating (and Dumping) Guides," published by Zagat Survey, are $5.95 each. More info at www.zagat.com.

- Dixie Reid
February 18, 2009
Oprah Focuses on Sacramento

A production crew for The Oprah Winfrey Show in Sacramento last week, taping scenes at Loaves & Fishes and other agencies serving the homeless.

"We're going to be showing viewers the real face of the recession," said Michelle McIntyre, a publicist for Harpo, Winfrey's production company.

The crew was here Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week, said Joan Burke, director of advocacy for Loaves & Fishes.

A family left homeless after the short sale of their home was one of the centers of the Winfrey crew's attention, said Sister Libby Fernandez, director of Loaves & Fishes.

The crew also looked at the Mustard Seed School, Volunteers of American, the 100-tent homeless encampment and the St. John's Women's Shelter.

The crew was awestruck by the size of the encampment, said Burke.

Winfrey's program is not just on Sacramento, McIntyre said. Though Loaves & Fishes staff expect the show to air next week, the scheduling has not been set, the publicist said.

Check back at 21Q for the confirmed air date for the show.

February 18, 2009
Live Oscar chat on Thursday

On Thursday, Mark S. Allen of CW 31's "Good Day Sacramento" and I will offer our Oscar predictions and field your questions during a live chat at www.sacbee.com/live that will last from noon-1 p.m.

We would love to hear your opinions about who'll take home Oscars during the ceremony Sunday night.

In the meantime, here are trailers for the films vying for best picture:
"Milk", "The Reader", "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", "Slumdog Millionaire", "Frost/Nixon".

Those clips are not listed in order of where I think they might fall in the Oscar voting. I will discuss the real order with Mark on "Good Day Sacramento" at 8:10 a.m. and then, more extensively during the live chat.

My predictions in the lead categories also will appear in Friday's Ticket section, and I will also be blogging about the Oscars as they happen here on the 21Q blog Sunday night.

February 18, 2009
'American Idol': Who will be the first to crack the Top 12?


FRANK MICELOTTA/Fox

Last night's first round of live competition on "American Idol" featured 12 of the 36 finalists (six guys, six girls) singing for the first time for the fans' votes. On tonight's elimination show (8 p.m. on Channel 40), the top male vote-getter, the top female vote-getter and the next in line (either gender) will make up the first three of the elite Top 12.

Got that?

It sounds complicated but, as far as Tuesday night's performances went, nerves and (natch) bad song selection made for an easy vote - unless "Idol" fans are rebelling against good singing.

Alexis Grace, (pictured) 21, of Memphis is my top pick for the girl to make it through. Her rendition of "Never Loved a Man" was soulful and sultry and she's a natural with the camera.

New judge Kara DioGuardi said Alexis "released something inside. You're a new girl!"

Simon Cowell said she was the best contestant by a mile.

"You remind us of someone else who performed eight years ago by the name of Kelly Clarkson," he quipped. "You're definitely one to watch. The darkhorse."

Sentimental favorite guy Danny Gokey, 28, from Milwaukee, is my pick for the male to advance. His version of the Mariah Carey hit "Hero" was called "stellar" by Paula Abdul. And, because Danny sang last, Randy Jackson hailed him as the "redeemer of the night."

That's because the other 10 contestants were, well, pretty much a mediocre mess. In some cases a singing train wreck. Song choice slayed some singers who might otherwise have had a shot: Jackie Tohn ("A Little Less Conversation"- Elvis Presley). Stevie Wright ("You Belong With Me" - Taylor Swift), Casey Carlson ("Every Little Thing You Do" - the Police), Stephen Fowler ("Rock With You" - Michael Jackson) and even Anoop Desai ("Angel of Mine" - Monica) were blasted for their choice of songs and even arrangements.

Ricky Braddy, 26, of Elizabeth City, N.C., got very little face time during the auditions and Hollywood Week. Last night, he tackled Leon Russell's "Song For You." The judges liked the vocals but thought he lacked charisma. Guys like Brent Keith, 29, and Michael Sarver, 27, got stuck in the country music genre and failed to demonstrate versatility. And Ann Marie Boskovich, 22, got one of the first seasonal Simon jabs after singing "Natural Woman."

"It would work if we were searching for the best hotel singer in California," he said. "Your voice is not good enough for that song. It was irrelevant."

And then there was the laugh-track nightmare that is Tatiana Del Toro, 24, of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Either the show was doling out mood suppressors or Tatiana has a twin because the girl who sang last night was not the same "roller-coaster ride" we've all experienced. So said judge Kara.

When Tatiana said she was singing Whitney Houston's "Saving All My Love for You," (in a flowing caftan no less), I was sure the judges would eviscerate her. But they were more concerned that the long-lived drama queen had bitten the dust.

That said, we could be in for a shock and see Tatiana as the third winner tonight. Stay tuned!

February 17, 2009
Local Special Olympians return with medals

Returning from the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Idaho, two area athletes have brought home a bounty of medals, according to Special Olympics Northern California officials.

Philip Sturgeon, a 34-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, won gold medals in several alpine ski events, including the advanced giant slalom, slalom and Super G. And Holley Matlack, 32, of El Dorado Hills won second place in the 4x1K relay freestyle cross country skiing event and third place in the 3k race.

"Our athletes were so thankful to have this opportunity," says Matt Cohen, a regional Special Olympics vice president. "They performed at their best and were proud of their achievements, but meeting other athletes from all over the world definitely was a highlight."

The games, which lasted Feb. 7 through 13, included 300 American participants and another 2,500 Special Olympics athletes from 100 countries.

-- Anita Creamer
February 17, 2009
NEA to get $50 million for arts jobs under stimulus bill

The National Endowment for the Arts will receive a $50 million increase to its yearly budget as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, whose final version was signed by President Obama today.

The funding increase for the NEA is expected to create jobs in the arts. Much of that funding is expected to be funneled through arts agencies in all 50 states, said Lisa Caretto, board member of California Arts Advocates, a statewide arts advocacy organization.

"As I understand it, the NEA intends to make the new grants consistent with the goals of economic stimulus and job creation," said Caretto. "The increase of funds will be for used the arts workforce-for jobs."

Although it is still unclear how the funds will be handed out by arts agencies, Caretto said local arts organizations might be able to use the funds to help with payroll issues. Some of those funds are to be given first to the state's arts agency-the California Arts Council, she said.

The funds, which are part of the $787 billion stimulus package, may also be used for maintaining jobs, said Caretto.

"So the funds may go to a local organization, like the Sacramento Ballet, that has been assuring its dancers that they still have jobs," she said.

The Sacramento Ballet notified its subscribers Jan. 21 and the public at large Jan. 22 that it was canceling the remaining programs in its 2008-09 season because of financial reasons.

"But it's up to the arts organizations to apply for this money when they come out with the grant guidelines and requirements for proposals," she said.

It remains to be seen how the extra funds, once allocated, will affect local arts organizations.

But one thing is clear, the arts have a large economic impact on the region.

The estimated economic impact of arts and cultural activities in the Sacramento region totals approximately $350 million annually, according to the Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission.


February 17, 2009
Oscars live chat on Thursday

Who do you think will be named best actress at Sunday Academy Awards, Kate Winslet or Meryl Streep? And which is the best film of the year, "Slumdog Millionaire," "Milk" or "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"?

At noon on Thursday, Mark S. Allen of CW 31's "Good Day Sacramento" and I will offer our best guesses and field your questions and comments during a live chat. To participate, go to www.sacbee.com/live.

We also will discuss the Oscars at 8:10 a.m. Thursday on "Good Day Sacramento."

My Oscar predictions will appear in Friday's Ticket section.

February 17, 2009
Blush Boutique owner still has retail dreams


SACRAMENTO BEE FILE

One thing's for sure: Valerie Werder knows how to re-invent herself -- and her business. She's been the owner of Blush Boutique since first opening at N and 28th streets in March 2005 and, then, relocating to 2317 J St. almost two years ago.

Now her retail dream is taking another form. "I'm shifting with the economy," Werder says. "But I won't go away."

Her midtown lease expires at the end of April, and she's closing the physical store -- at least for now. She'll still be a part of her customers' lives, offering personal shopping and other services, including something she calls "the recession-proof closet."

"I'm not giving up," Werder says. "But I've been the only one running the show (read: store) for the last eight months. With two young children, I can't be here six days a week. But I'm hoping with this shift that I can stay alive and re-open a store in the future."

Her online shopping site - www.blushboutiqueshop.com - is still thriving, drawing customers from Seattle to the East Coast and even abroad. The Bee has featured Blush Boutique in several fashion shoots (pictured above).

"There's a woman in Turkey who shops online all the time," Werder says.

In fact, during last year's "American Idol" competition one of the dresses worn by contestant Carly Smithson was only available at Blush and its Web site. The dress sold out immediately, thanks partly to judge Simon Cowell's flattering comments about it.

"It was outrageous how many hits I got when she (Carly) wore that dress!" Werder says.

Werder hasn't stopped considering alternatives to keeping the physical boutique in place, even co-opting the space with other people or keeping it only on weekends.

"My wheels never stop spinning. It's why I took this risk in the first place," she says.

Customers have been receiving e-mails and letters about Blush's closure. So, if you haven't been, pay a visit. Online customers just click here.

February 17, 2009
Movies on the radio

Every Friday afternoon, I talk movies with with Kitty O'Neal and R.E. Graswich on KFBK (1530 AM).

Even when the movies are duds (as was the case with The International" and "Confessions of a Shopaholic"), the discussion still can be lively. If you want to take a listen, click here.

February 15, 2009
Sacramento Single: West of Next's "Something to Go On"

westofsmall.jpg

David Shapireau first picked up the guitar to play funky Southern-tinged R&B in high school. Now, several decades later, the 58-year-old musician, building on musical liaisonswith the likes of Norton Buffalo, is finally fronting his own rock'n'roll band, West of Next.

"I've had my own jazz bands before but never anything like this - it's the first time I've ever sung," he says. "I'm enjoying it very much."

The path to this point was long and musically winding. Shapireau moved from Europe (by way of Baltimore) to California in 1972 and quickly became immersed in the Northern California rock scene, playing with, among others, Norton Buffalo, Jerry Garcia and Maria Muldaur

Shapireau's personal set of songs arrived long before he had a band to call his own.

"I just got this songwriting fever in 2002 and had hundreds and hundreds of songs - I finally decided I should do something more with them than just sing them to myself."

And so, finally, after moving to Sacramento in 2008, Shapireau put together a band that reflected his musical aesthetic (everything from western swing and bluegrass to Zydeco), all cut with a diamond-like precision.

"I have a background in jazz composition ... and I needed someone who could play very well technically and read music."

Shapireau found like-minded musicians in guitarist Steve Randall, drummer Tony Dey and bassist Paul Knutson.

Now, West of Next's sound is an amalgation of eclectic sounds, melancholy observations and pop sensibilities.

It is, he says, an equation that adds up to the unexpected.

"The average rock band doesn't usually do it that way."

West of Next

Song: "Something to Go On"

Style: Off-kilter pop

Behind the song: "Most of my songs are about melancholy and loneliness but this is more positive," Shapireau says.

"I just thought that everyone needs something to get them through - we all have our belief system, be it religion or another person."

The song's structure, he adds, diverges from rock's usual verse-chorus-verse framework.

"Most of my songs are usually very Broadway or Beatles," Shapireau says.

"I'm not exactly sure why this one came out different but when you're writing you want the mood to fit the lyrics - I wanted something upbeat but, because of my personality, also a little eccentric."

See them: Thursday at the Java Lounge, 2416 16th St, Sacramento; the all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. and is $5 at the door.

On the Web: www.myspace.com/davidshapireauwestofnext


Listen to "Something to Go On" here:


February 14, 2009
Walking with Shakespeare and the Hulk on Valentine's Day

The poetry of Shakespeare will break out in on the streets of Davis today, courtesy of the Valentine's-themed Sonnet Walk beginning at 10 a.m., just in time for the Davis Farmers Market.

According to organizer Peter Lichtenfels, a UC Davis theater professor, the plan is for participants -- a man dressed as the Incredible Hulk, a punked-out Juliet, a bluegrass band and others -- to recite poetry to the unsuspecting along routes that have yet to be revealed even to the performers. All routes begin at the Hattie Weber Museum, 445 C St. near Central Park, home of the farmers' market.

Lichtenfels will also talk about Shakespeare's sonnets.

The innovative Sonnet Walk is sponsored by the UC Davis Department of Theatre and Dance, the Robert and Margrit Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts and the Davis Arboretum.

Visit www.dateline.ucdavis.edu for information.

-- Anita Creamer
February 13, 2009
Shop around for a Valentine's movie

Aiming for those couples who like to celebrate with dinner and a movie, Hollywood likes to release at least one romantic comedy right around Valentine's Day. This year, it's "Confessions of a Shopaholic."

But this would-be light-as-air movie, based on the best-selling novel by Sophie Kinsella. depresses more than it entertains. Its attempts at physical comedy are leaden, and its message, which holds that overspending, though unwise, also can be adorable, plays as very dated.

Having the clothes-crazy lead character (Isla Fisher) learn her lesson at the end doesn't compensate for all the moments where she's lying to debt collectors while continuing to charge, charge, charge.

To be fair, "Shopaholic" was shot before the nation's economic nose-dive rendered anything tied to frivolous spending instantly inappropriate. But that doesn't make it less awkward to watch.

A better Valentine's Day bet is "He's Just Not That Into You," which has more to say about romance and life and says it better.

February 13, 2009
Circle of 5th Valentine's Day Benefit show at Club Retro

The local Circle of 5ths entertainment / promotional group is hosting a Valentine's Day benefit tomorrow at Club Retro (6251 Hazel Ave., Orangevale).

The all-ages show benefits the UC Davis Children's Hospital Benefit and scheduled performers, among others, include Larisa Bryski, The Grumpy, Fair Game, Early States, Man Automatic and Save and Continue.

Admission is $8 at the door. For more information, visit Club Retro's MySpace page

February 13, 2009
Love hurts. Crab-walking? That's another story.

Valentine's Day got you feeling crabby? All of those factory-farmed roses and boxes chock full o' high fructose corn syrup can leave even the chubbiest cupid feeling empty. Lonely. Bloated.

But who doesn't love crabs? More specifically, who doesn't love to do the crab walk? In fact, I'd like you to ask yourself this: when was the last time you got down on all fours, turned your belly to the sky and mobilized?

Tomorrow is your chance to renew your crab-walking license. The Active 20/30 Club of Greater Sacramento is making a run (walk) for a Guinness World Record: the most people doing the crab walk at the same time. You ask "why"? I say why not? If enough able-bodied people show up, we'll have one more jellybean to add to Sacramento's jar of quirky, off-center feats of talent.

You could spend your morning breaking your back dripping pancake into the perfect heart shape. Or, you could show up to The California Museum (1020 O St., Sacramento) at 8:45 a.m. to register. The walk starts at 9:30 a.m., and you can even get a discount at the museum immediately following the event.

See you there, with crab legs on.

February 13, 2009
'American Idol' is indeed an experience


GARTH VAUGHAN/Associated Press

Jonathan Pinkerton, a former colleague at The Bee and an unabashed "American Idol" junkie, e-mailed me that in his capacity as a communications associate at Epcot in Orlando, Fla., he would be covering the opening of the "American Idol Experience" attraction yesterday at Walt Disney World.

What he didn't tell me (and maybe he didn't know) was that all seven previous winners would be on hand to raise the curtain on the attraction, which purports to replicate the reality singing show.

Well, they were all together: Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks and David Cook (pictured).

I'm sooo jealous!

Joining them were a slew of "Idol" finalists and then there was judge Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest. Jonathan says the celebs took part in a motorcade down Hollywood Boulevard to give fans a unique opportunity to see all of them together.

The "Idols" did the whole red carpet walk, and last night's gala featured a variety of performances, including one that apparently rocked everyone's (Disney) world: a duet by Cook and Carrie singing Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way."

Jonathan says the attraction is a blast, especially if you're an "Idol" fan because it's based on the show's set, with a 1000-seat indoor theater with all the appropriate bells and whistles. Participants can "audition" in front of other guests and then be rated - hopefully without the Simon Cowell cabaret references. Each day, a top singer is announced.

The attraction officially opens Saturday. Guess I'll have to make do with reality in Sacramento and next Tuesday's first semifinal round. That's at 8 p.m. on Channel 40!

February 12, 2009
Local Playwright Takes Lincoln Work To Ford's Theatre

Richard Hellesen, a locally based, nationally produced playwright, is taking this Abraham Lincoln stuff seriously.

At Ford's Theatre (yes, that Ford's Theatre) on Feb. 16, President's Day, there will be a staged reading of Hellesen's new one-act play, "The Road From Appomattox." The play chronicles the short meeting between Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee and Union Gen. Ulysses S. Grant the day after Lee's surrender at the Appomattox Courthouse.

In spring 2007, Hellesen's play about President Lincoln's assassination, "One Destiny," premiered at Ford's. It later was performed for students at the White House with then-first lady Laura Bush in attendance.

This year, "One Destiny" is being presented at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., today through Friday.

February 12, 2009
UC Davis prof appears on `Daily Show,' cracks up laughing

UC Davis Professor Daniel Sperling appeared on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" Wednesday, to talk about the book "Two Billion Cars," for which Sperling is co-author.

Sperling discussed how policy can accelerate the move to a better mix of vehicle power sources to avoid environmental disaster. Sperling predicts the number of cars on the planet to double to 2 billion within 15 years.

He identified the better sources of energy as electric, hybrid, fuel cell and "advanced biofuel," which is not ethanol.

Stewart picked up on the ethanol theme and pointed out that Sperling opposes corn ethanol in his book.

"You have a chapter titled, 'Corn Ethanol: (bleep) That,'" Stewart said. Shortly after that, Sperling has a hard time composing himself, chuckling at Stewart.

February 12, 2009
First lady Michelle Obama graces Vogue


ANNIE LEIBOVITZ / VOGUE

Michelle Obama is officially the first lady - and face - of fashion to all women, appearing on the cover of the March issue of Vogue.

It's nothing new for first ladies to be featured in the fashion magazine. It's been happening since Lou Hoover (except for poor Bess Truman). Obama, however, is only the second first lady to be featured on the cover. Hillary Rodham Clinton did so in 1998.

Obama (pictured) was photographed by none other than Annie Leibovitz. On the cover, she's wearing a magenta sheath dress by New York designer Jason Wu, who also created her one-shoulder inaugural gown.

Andre Leon Talley, Vogue's editor at large, conducted the interview, which, obviously because of press deadlines, took place before the actual swearing in. In his own one-on-one with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Talley says the cover - and eight-page spread inside - reflects "her warmth, which comes from within. It's not about her being a fashion icon. ... It's just the naturalness and the grace of Michelle Obama. It's who she is."

Traditionally, most cover shoots are "styled." In other words, someone else, usually a fashion editor, selects the clothing. Not in this case. Talley says Obama picked not only the Wu dress but the outfits inside. Some of them came from her own closet, including several pieces from one of her favorite retailers, J.Crew. (Her daughers, Sasha and Malia, wore J.Crew Crewcuts designs on Inauguration Day.)

Also featured is designer Narcisco Rodriguez, whose black and red dress Obama wore on Election Night. It was perhaps that dress with the panels topped with a cardigan that has drawn the most raised eyebrows among fashion watchers.

Of the criticism? "In the end, someone will always not like what you wear - people have different tastes," Obama says in the article.

The first lady also talks about her primary role as "mom in chief" to her daughters. Talley says she has specific goals for the White House regarding entertaining and welcoming children.

"She wants to use the kitchen as the classroom for young urban kids to come and see how a kitchen works," he says.

Blitzer asked Talley to offer up one thing about Obama readers and viewers might not know:

"When she was on the train coming from Philadelphia to Washington (for the inauguration), ... her daughters spent two hours in the children's train decorating it to give their mother a surprise birthday party because she was turning 45 that day. ... She was surprised and led all the kids in a stomp dance singing a cappella.

"The first thing she said to me after the party was, 'I just said to Barack, this is nice, but who is going to clean up this mess. We can't leave Amtrak this mess.' "

Talley and friends helped clean up the train.

Check news stands for the issue, which is sure to be sold out. Subscribers should receive their copies sometime next week.


February 12, 2009
'American Idol' down to 36 - with one replacement


FOX

If you thought last night's two-hour "American Idol" selection show moved painstakingly slow, prepare yourselves for three weeks of semifinal singing in which a dozen of the final 36 (pictured) will perform on a single show. America votes to send through one woman, one man and the next highest voter-getter of either gender. Nine will go home. And we'll end up with nine.

That's when the infamous "wild card" challenge comes into play. The four judges will name three additional contestants who will make up the Top 12.

Got all that?

Anyway, back to last night's show. The "Judges' Mansion" venue was an interesting departure from the usual hotel ballroom with the lone chair for the final selection process. The judges got nice, big fat red chairs to plop down in. And the "house" looked like something out of the French countryside. A little bit too much gilding. And, in another twist, several of the remaining 54 contestants had to, as Simon Cowell put it, "sing for their survival," going up against another contestant if both of them were on the ropes.

There were some obvious choices to send through: Anoop Desai (from Chapel Hill - go Tar Heels!), Adam Lambert and Lil Rounds are three.

But this "Idol" fan really doesn't care for the goofballs going past Hollywood Week, and that certainly includes "The Screecher." That would be the utterly obnoxious suck up Tatiana Del Toro, who entered the judges' room last night in a fashion disaster pale gold taffeta frock. She was sporting a clunky bracelet from Paula Abdul's QVC jewelry collection.

I can't figure out what the show is trying to prove with her. I'm sure Ryan Seacrest was hoping she would tumble down the staircase when he heard her squealing after getting through.

And Nick Mitchell, aka Norman Gentle, showed up in jeans and a normal shirt, so I don't know if he'll break bad during the semifinals and become the next Sanjaya.

You know these past weeks have been taped, so when "Idol" news breaks it's always after the finalists have been announced. This season, the fireworks involve Joanna Pacitti, who made the cut but has since been disqualified. According to the Los Angeles Times, Joanna was axed to "avoid the appearance of impropriety." She's had some previous professional experience, including close ties to execs at 19 Management, one of the companies that helps produce "American Idol" and also manages some of the winners.

Her replacement is Felicia Barton, and I have no idea who she is.

So the lineup for next Tuesday's competition includes these 12: Danny Gokey, Stephen Fowler, Brent Keith, Ricky Braddy, Michael Sarver and Anoop for the guys. The girls are Casey Carlson, Jackie Tohn, Anne Marie Boskovich, Alexis Grace, Stevie Wright and - who else - Tatiana. Remember: Only three make it through.

Shows are at 8 Tuesday and Wednesday nights on Channel 40.

February 12, 2009
Uh, when is Valentine's Day?

Dude, get a calendar!

Yahoo reports that at the beginning of this month its search engine saw a surge of inquiries asking, "When is Valentine's Day?" The number of people asking that question went up 26 percent from late January to early February.

Although the number of searches is not revealed by the company, Yahoo publicist Micha Thomas said it was in the millions.

By checking registered users, Yahoo estimates that nearly three-quarters of the questioners were men. Apparently women have a biological calendar as well as a biological clock.

Other searches went up even more, Thomas said: Romantic ideas for Valentine's Day, up 544 percent; Valentine's Day poems, up 1090 percent; and Valentine's Day quotes, up 1176 percent.

In case you are still wondering, Valentine's Day is Feb. 14, the same day it is every year.

Let us know if you have questions about New Year's Day.

February 11, 2009
Cash reward for ordinary greatness

Think you're great?

Maybe you ran a marathon or helped raise money for a good cause or taught a kid to swim: Greatness comes in many, many forms. And now the Nature Made Vitamin Company wants to collect stories of ordinary people's greatness to feature in an upcoming documentary called "Fuel Your Greatness."

Through April 25, you can go to www.naturemade.com and type in your story of achievement to help motivate and inspire others. A panel led by exercise expert Denise Austin will select 10 stories each month for a $1,000 award, the company says. And in May, the documentary will feature five partipants.

And how great is that?

-- Anita Creamer
February 11, 2009
Railtown 1897 to show off work on "movie star" locomotive

Sierra No. 3, the "movie star locomotive" undergoing extensive restoration in Jamestown, is finally ready for a close-up.

The staff at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, the Jamestown branch of the California State Railroad Museum, will hold special tours Feb. 18 and March 18 to reveal the progress that has been made.

A 90-minute program, which starts at 11 a.m. both days, includes a tour of the historic railroad shops. Tickets are $5. Call (209) 984-3953 for reservations.

Sierra No. 3, built in New Jersey in 1891, "starred" in a number of Westerns, including the classic "High Noon," and such TV shows as "Bonanza," "Gunsmoke" and "Petticoat Junction." It is expected to return to work at Railtown 1897 next year.

For more information on Railtown 1897 State Historic Park: www.csrmf.org/railtown

-- Dixie Reid

February 11, 2009
Teens: Get smart with Alex Trebek

If you have one of those kids who is scary smart, find out whether they're Jeopardy smart by signing them up for the Feb. 24 online test for the Jeopardy Teen Tournament.

The test is a first step in the Jeopardy screening process and is held online at 6 p.m.,Feb. 24. Passing does not guarantee a TV appearance.

For more information, or to register your child (an adult must complete the registration), go to the Jeopardy test site.

February 10, 2009
Flame still burning at Burger King


BUSINESS WIRE

Yuck! When I heard back in December that fast-food chain Burger King was coming out with - dare I spray it - a fragrance dubbed Flame, I thought it would be char-broiled (with onions) in a flip second.

I was wrong. Apparently sales of the body spray were so popular that Burger King is "rekindling" Flame in time for Valentine's Day. This according to the Boston Herald. The company had advertised the body spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."

Well, nothing says romance like a guy who smells like your car the day after you've brought home bags of Burger King for dinner.

Sales of the scent, which at $4 a bottle is probably less than a combo meal, might be just the spark the company needs. Burger King announced last week that its profit dropped 10 percent in the second quarter. So, the company says it is also cutting its full-year earnings forecast.

Perhaps a woman's fragrance would be a nice to-go addition. How about one called "Shake," so you'll smell like milk and (chocolate, strawberry or vanilla)?

February 10, 2009
Volunteer at Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park

Volunteers are being sought for 135-acre Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, in Pine Grove, the site of 1,185 limestone-bedrock mortar holes - the most in North America.

The park also is home to a reconstructed Miwok village and roundhouse, and the Chaw'se Regional Indian Museum.

Volunteers work on the hiking trails and in the native-plant garden, lead children's activities, perform traditional Miwok crafts, and meet and greet park visitors.

An open house for would-be volunteers is 10:30 a.m.-noon March 7 in the museum. A training session follows and will be repeated 9 a.m.-noon March 11. Volunteers only need to attend one training class.

For more information, call Wendy Harrison at (209) 795-7980 or e-mail her at wharrison@parks.ca.gov

Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is at 14881 Pine Grove-Volcano Road in Pine Grove.

Visit www.parks.ca.gov/ for information.


- Dixie Reid

February 10, 2009
The Metropolitan Opera returns to local cinemas in 2009-10

The Metropolitan Opera is bringing back its popular live simulcasts for the 2009-10 season. The new season, announced amid severe financial uncertainty for the company, offers eight new productions, four of which are company premieres. Eighteen revivals from the company's repertory will also be produced.

The simulcasts have proven intensely popular in the Sacramento region, with five cinema houses participating (listed below). Some of the opera screenings have been soldout affairs, and those that are not have been mostly well attended.

For its live HD simulcasts, the Met has picked nine operas to be broadcast live nationally and internationally. They include the following:

"Tosca," Oct. 10

"Aida," Oct. 24

"Turandot," Nov. 7

"Les Contes d'Hoffmann," Dec. 19

"Der Rosenkavalier," Jan. 9, 2010

"Carmen," Jan. 16

"Simon Boccanegra," Feb. 6

"Hamlet," March 27

"Armida," May 1

Specific theaters that will show the live operas in the Sacramento area have not been announced, although it is expected that they will be shown in the same theaters as participated this year. Those theaters include: Cinemark Sacramento Downtown Plaza 7, Cinemark Sacramento Greenback Lane 16, Cinemark Sacramento Stadium 14, Regal Natomas Marketplace, Sacramento, Cinemark Laguna 16, Elk Grove,
Cinemark Roseville 14, Roseville.

There are three remaining operas to be broadcast this season: "Madama Butterfly" on March 7, "La Sonnambula" on March 21, and "La Cenerentola" May 9.

More information on the Metropolitan Opera's new season can be found at:
www.metopera org

February 10, 2009
New time for museum's Lincoln birthday event on Thursday

Thursday's celebration of Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday at the California Museum for History, Women & the Arts, 1020 O St. in Sacramento, is at 10:30 a.m. (Originally, it was to be an afternoon event.)

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Mayor Kevin Johnson are scheduled to speak. California's first lady, Maria Shriver, also has been invited.

Members of the 2nd Division California Calvary and 5th California Volunteer Infantry Brass Band will perform, and an actor portraying Lincoln will recite the Gettysburg Address. Also on hand will be students from Creative Connections Arts Academy.

The Lincoln party is in anticipation of a major exhibit coming to town. The Library of Congress' "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition" opens June 24 at the California Museum.

For more information: (916) 653-7524, www.californiamuseum.org.


-- Dixie Reid

February 10, 2009
Free film for state workers

Good news for beleaguered state workers: On Friday, Feb. 27, the Movies on a Big Screen series in West Sacramento will show the comedy "Adventures of Power" (trailer above) free of charge to state workers and other viewers who flash their union cards.

"Adventures in Power" involves a mine worker named Power (Ari Gold, who also wrote and directed) who moonlights as an "air drummer" (as in, air guitar). When Power's union-leader father (Michael McKean) calls a strike at the mine, Power discovers a (figuratively) underground group of stickless compatriots.

McKean ("This Is Spinal Tap") is of course no stranger to musical parodies, and Jane Lynch, who plays Power's aunt, is, like McKean, a veteran of Christopher Guest's mockumentaries.

The wild card is Adrian Grenier, who appears to play an actual character -- a sleazy rock drummer -- instead of just standing around looking pretty, as he does on HBO's "Entourage."

Funny, but Ari Gold also is the name of Jeremy Piven's agent character on "Entourage." That coincidence probably provided seconds of laughter on the "Adventures of Power" set.

Non-union workers have to pay $5 to see the film, which will be show at 7 and 9:30 p.m. at 600 4th St, West Sacramento. But students get in for $2.50. Visit www.shiny-object.com for information.

February 10, 2009
Pinups or Police Lineups?

Lemondrop.com is AOL's edgy female lifestyle Web site, but they got a little more edge than they intended when they released a list of favorite pinup guys as a counterpoint to Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue.

"The editors at Lemondrop.com have compiled a list of past and present beefcakes that make our hearts swoon," the release said.

However, the emailed list included Chris Brown, recently arrested on suspicion of domestic abuse. That's not the kind of swoon most women are looking for.

Oops, said the PR manager. "We did have him on there originally," wrote Diedre Ayers of AOL, "but he has since been replaced with 98 Degrees."

That's more our temperature. See the beefcake list here.


February 10, 2009
Funniest College Student - Part II

RooftopComedy - mentioned in the blog yesterday - is not the only organization trying to sponsor a funniest college student contest.

Twix, the candy brand, is sponsoring an online "Funniest College Student on Campus" contest to give college kids an opportunity for a break in the comedy biz. (Although we thought the "break" slogan was Kit-Kat, not Twix.)

Students can go online to www.funnieststudent.twix.com to enter the contest, which offers a $3,000 prize and a week-long TV comedy internship.

Oddly, Twix's emailed press release about the comedy competition turns serious with a reminder that "food safety is of paramount importance to Mars." The release states that Mars has been unaffected by the peanut butter recall, because it makes most of its own peanut butter. Twix are from Mars.

Razors are from Venus.


February 9, 2009
Layoffs hit Sacramento theaters


The Bee has learned that Sacramento Theatre Company has laid off eight employees over the last 1 1/2 weeks. Managing director Mark Standriff confirmed the staff cuts this afternoon. "Hopefully this will save us roughly $100,000 through the end of the year," Standriff said. He didn't specify which positions had been cut, though he did say the business office, box office and production personnel were affected.

Standriff also indicated he didn't anticipate bringing back anyone who was let go.
"We might not be finished yet. We just have to take it day by day right now," he added.
"We're trying to do it so it doesn't affect us from an artistic product standpoint."

In a similar cost-cutting action, B Street Theatre has just laid off marketing director Brian Kameoka and eliminated his position. B Street has also decided not to fill two positions that had been open.
B Street managing director Bill Blake said, "We're in a cost-cutting mode trying to reduce overhead as much as we can. We're not cutting fat now, we're cutting muscle."
Blake added that B Street had been interviewing for a development director, but won't pursue filling that position right now.
"Every cost-cutting measure we can make, we're making right now," Blake said.

February 9, 2009
Whatever happened to bronze baseballers?

Bee reader Kim Miller wondered what became of the bronze pitcher and batter that once played a game of make-believe baseball at Crocker Park downtown.

The two bronzes, by Davis artist Lisa Reinertson, were commissioned by Gregg Lukenbill many years ago for a baseball stadium never built at Arco Arena.

The twosome was given to the Crocker Art Museum and installed at the park, at Second and N streets, in 2005, a very long line drive from Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats. And there they stood, in their respective wind-up and crouch, until 2007, when both were removed.

"The pitcher's foot got bent," said Crocker Art Museum spokeswoman Kathleen Richards. "We think people were hanging on his leg."

The statues, both structurally stronger than when last we saw them, will return to Crocker Park eventually, Richards says.

"They were well-loved. Kids would go over there and mimic them and run the bases."

- Dixie Reid
February 9, 2009
Sacramento Student is Funny -- Officially!

Scott Ferreter, a CK McClatchy High School graduate now a sophomore at UC Santa Cruz, was named to his school's 8-member comedy team after competing in RooftopComedy's 2nd Annual National College Comedy Competition last week in Santa Cruz.

Having seen Ferreter's cheeky 8-grade graduation speech at Sutter Middle School several years ago, I'm not surprised.

Ferreter's having his second go at the competition. He was named to the team last year, but was knocked out in the second round against UC Berkeley, which had a home-team advantage.

This year, he has experience going for him. Not to mention that he manages the university's on-campus comedy venue, The Barn.

The Santa Cruz team will next go up against San Francisco State University, hoping to send a team to Aspen in June, where the funniest U.S. college students will be selected.

Santa Cruz will play the part of visiting team, again, as the competition will be held in San Francisco, possibly at the history Purple Onion, Ferreter said.

For more information, see www.RooftopComedy.com/college

February 9, 2009
Giraffe barn-raising ceremony on Wednesday

This is the last winter the Sacramento Zoo's giraffes will live in drafty quarters.

The Sacramento Zoological Association has spent three years raising money to build a new, warm barn for the three reticulated giraffes. And great news for folks who've always wanted to look a giraffe in the eye: The new habitat will have an elevated walkway for sight-seers.

The groundbreaking ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, with zookeepers and docents talking about the giraffes. At noon, remarks will be offered by Mayor Kevin Johnson, city council member Robert King Fong, zoo director Mary Healy and Zoological Society president Terry Kastanis. Children and dignitaries will turn the ceremonial shovelsful of dirt for the $1.75 million project.

Sacramento Zoo, at Land Park Drive and Sutterville Road in William Land Park, opened in 1927. It's home to 140 species.

For more information: (916) 808-5888, saczoo.com

-- Dixie Reid

February 9, 2009
Arts bailout funding in peril...

For a few days at the end of January things were looking up for the National Endowment for the Arts... and also for struggling theaters, museums and arts centers.

It was Jan. 28 when the House of Representatives passed its version of the economic recovery package. That bill included $50 million in supplemental grants funding for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). It passed by a vote of 244 to 188.

The implication of such funding is that financially beleaguered theaters and arts centers may have become eligible for bailout funds granted through the NEA.

But that was then. This is now.

Last Friday afternoon, an amendment, authored by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), was included in the Senate's version of the economic stimulus passage. The language in the the Coburn amendment prohibits stimulus funds from going to "any aquarium, zoo, golf course, swimming pool, stadium, community park, museum, theater, art center, and highway beautification project."

The bill, and its attached amendment, passed by a wide vote of 73 to 24. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) opposed the amendment, while Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voted in favor of it..

The NEA is no stranger to budget controversy. For the fiscal year 2008, the NEA was appropriated $144 million, according to NEA figures. That amount is markedly below the $176 million that was budgeted for it back in 1992. Its budget has been mostly growing since fiscal year 1996 when it was budgeted $99 million -- it's biggest drop in funding --more than $60 million in appropriations from what it received the year prior.

In 2007, the NEA awarded approximately $60 million in 2,158 direct grants in 435 congressional districts through its program funds.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the Senate's stimulus package, and the Coburn amendment attached to it, will be included in the final conference version of this legislation.

Regardless of the outcome -- the amendment raises an important question: Should organizations like arts centers, museums and theaters be in the bailout pipeline at all, either now or in the near future?

February 9, 2009
UC Davis Professor to be on Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Jon Stewart is scheduled to interview UC Davis transportation expert Dan Sperling on the Daily Show Wednesday.

If you think things are bad with 1 billion cars on the planet now, Sperling estimates that number will about double within about 20 years.

He and co-author Deborah Gordon have written a new book, "Two Billion Cars," to explore the ramifications of countries like China and India joining the United States as car-centric cultures.

Stewart and Sperling are slated to tape the interview Wednesday, which will be broadcast on the same day's show.

For more information, see the university's Web site at www.ucdavis.edu or the Daily Show site at this link.

February 9, 2009
Bicycle Safety class tonight at Sac Bike Kitchen!

Sure, you look really awesome on your new bike, but those fancy wheels are only as impressive as your ability to deftly navigate them through traffic without kissing the pavement.

Tonight, the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen is offering a free (although donations are welcome) Bike Safety Class for all of us out there who need a little refresher course on the rules of the two-wheeled road.

Perhaps you're torn between whether or not you're too cool to use hand signals. Or maybe you are a first-time rider in need of a confidence boost. Either way, the vibe at Midtown's fantastic new Bike Kitchen is non-intimidating, unpretentious and geared to complement your empty wallet.

In addition to providing community bike tools and professional assistance to individuals wishing to teach themselves to fish (proverbially, of course), the Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen is now offering regular classes, including beginner's-level and intermediate Bike Mechanic courses. I took the beginner's class a few weeks ago and I'm proud to say I can now change my own flat tire, a repair that can cost 20 dollars or more at a bike shop.

Check out the bike safety class from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tonight; bring your bike, plus a little pocket change, and walk away with the DIY attitude necessary to ride strong and ride long.

Sacramento Bicycle Kitchen
915 I St., Sacramento
(916) 442-3177
sacbikekitchen.org


February 9, 2009
Grammys more about the music than the looks


GETTY IMAGES and ASSOCIATED PRESS

Last night's red carpet at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in L.A. was, dare I say, dowright subdued. Which isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering all the folks more worried about paying rent/mortgages and baling on the bling.

Traditionally, the Grammys are dressed in a different fashion light than the other awards shows, i.e., SAGs, Globes and Oscars, because the performers, presenters, etc. almost always change from whatever they wore on the red carpet to more stage-worthy outfits (read: costumes) for the actual show. And they'll change again if they actually win!

Even the rappers took a cue from the tough times and toned it down.

"They (musicians) could have risked being too ostentatious in this time, rubbing it in people's faces when people are sitting around the table figuring how they're going to put dinner on the table," said Memsor Kamarake, fashion editor at Vibe magazine to the Associated Press.

Unfortunately, because of our local CBS affiliate's early prime time, E!'s red carpet coverage overlapped the show's broadcast over on Channel 13. So I had to switch back and forth because I don't have fancy TV equipment.

Eventually, I stuck with the actual Grammys show. Why? There was just something uplifting about the performances. I found myself singing along with Al Green and Justin Timberlake and clapping to Coldplay and Paul McCartney. I teared up when Jennifer Hudson won for best R&B album, thanking her family "in heaven and those who are with me today."

So, for me, the music and the energy offered a welcome diversion from the consistent barrage of bad news.

That said, here are my picks for best dressed and let's just call them most unusually outfitted:

* Carrie Underwood: I saw this country phenom in at least three versions of gold last night, including her gold and crystal gown by designer Kuhair Murad. She wowed.

* Lebanese designer Basil Soda came through for Katy Perry (pictured), who wore a soft pink, ruffly dress. According to AP, Katy's original dress arrived in the mail on Saturday and, after trying it on, the singer had her stylist find another outfit to avoid being dumped on the "worst dressed list."

* Another "Amercan Idol" winner, Jordin Sparks, opted for a homegrown original gown by Arizona-based designer Debra Davenport. The black and silver frock gave Jordin a more grown-up look than some of the previous outfits she's worn to awards shows.

* And on one more "Idol" peg, I've had the feeling that judge Paula Abdul has been on her best behavior ever on Season 8 of the competition. But her outfit last night might have tongues wagging today - and not like they were nine years ago when Jennifer Lopez wore that infamous plunging, hiked-up Versace seen around the world. Paula's cloying yellow gown was trimmed to the hilt, but it was her Marge Simpson coif that had me scratching my head. Her red carpet interview with host Ryan Seacrest (appropriately unshaven) was borderline unintelligible.

* Estelle's "Star Trek"-inspired silver dress and matching skinny boots was about as outrageous as it got.

* Perhaps in a fashion homage to former Beatle McCartney, the Coldplay guys (pictured) - who walked away with three Grammys - acknowledged their multi-colored jackets as "Sgt. Pepper"-esque. (FYI: The "60 Minutes" interview with lead singer Chris Martin and the band before the Grammys was definitely must-see TV. And Chris's wife, actress Gwyneth Paltrow, looked fabulous in a sequin dress as she presented last night.)

Next up? The Academy Awards on Feb. 22. It will be interesting to see what tone the biggest fashion parade of all will set.

February 9, 2009
Sacramento Single: The Regulars' "Songs About You"

regularssmallcd.jpg

It began as a simple idea: A classic bar band that married rock music with a twist of twang.

Brian Guido, on break from his guitar duties in Grub Dog & the Amazing Sweethearts, decided the time was right to start his own band.

"I'd been writing music but I really didn't know how people would respond," Guido says.

The Regulars, CA's first incarnation fit that rock-meets-country vibe but as members came and went, the music evolved.

The band's current line up, rounded out by Jay Shaner (guitar), Mason DeMusey (bass) and Ross Levine (drums,) has pushed the band in a different direction - the band'ssecond album, "Songs About Love & Depression," is a mix of no-frills rock and hooky pop.

"The songs have progressively been getting more pop-oriented," Guido says.

"There's still some rock involved but not as much of that country twang."

Their name, a nod to the Replacements tune, "Here Comes a Regular," epitomizes the local music scene and the band's place in it.

"Everyone in Sacramento plays in three bands and everyone knows everyone," he says

"We are the regulars. Whether we're playing or not, we go out all the time and see (our friends) play."

The Regulars, CA

Song: "Songs About You"

Style
: Melancholy rock

Behind the song
: "The album is about a certain period in my life - I guess the only good thing that comes out of depression is that it inspires you to write and be creative," Guido says.

"This song is about trying to kill the thing inside of me that makes me feel down."

Guido says he relies on his band mates to take his ideas and make them better.

"I come in with a song and everyone is involved in the process," he says. "Ross adds a lot of music theory to the process. Mason and Jay can really change it up too, (suggesting) we make a part shorter or longer.

"I trust them and just let them do their thing," he says. "It makes me a better songwriter."

See them: Friday at Old Ironsides (1901 10th St, Sacramento). The Tattooed Love Dogs and Kate Gaffney are also on the bill. The 21-and-over show starts at 9 p.m. and is $7 at the door.

On the Web: www.myspace.com/regularsband

Listen to "Songs About You" here:


February 8, 2009
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss win Album of the Year

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss cleaned up at the Grammys, winning a total of five trophies - including the big one for Album of the Year.

Yes, this means they won out over Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentleman" which, in turn, means the Stereotypes crew lost out on their second bid for a Grammy.

Jeremy Reeves reaction (via text) "We lost! It's rigged"

and then

"Ha ha"

Seriously, you can't complain too much, losing out to the likes of Plant and Krauss and it's a good call on the part of the Grammys. "Raising Sand" is a complex and sophisticated record that's also immensely emotional and catchy.

It's the kind of record that'll make your year-end favorite list and your mom's. And I mean this in the best way possible.

As for the Stereotypes' double-loss. These guys are still at the beginning of their career. My guess is these won't be their only career nominations.

February 8, 2009
The Reverand Al Green finally gets some respect

I'll admit I didn't realize that the great Rev. Al Green finally won an R&B Grammy. He's previously won some in the gospel category but - and this is no slight to the gospel category - never in the higher-profile R&B category.

That's finally changed, Green took home the R&B performance by a duo or group for his work with John Legend on "Stay With Me (By the Sea."

And, his stagework with Justin Timberlake wasn't too shabby, either.

February 8, 2009
Trust your eyes: The revolution will be televised - in black and white

Ok, so seriously - we thought something was wrong with our work TV set during that M.I.A. performance with T.I., Jay-Z and Lil Wayne on "Swagga Like Us."

As soon as Queen Latifah introduced them and the camera cut away - poof! black and white!

For real, I almost got up and hit the TV, Fonzi-style but then I became so entranced with M.I.A's maternity outfit.

My guess is you won't find that lil' frock over in the Target Liz Lange section.

It was - how do I put this delicately? - wrong, wrong, wrong.

Also, although the British singer was wearing sensible sneakers but I was still worried that all the weird squatting dance moves would induce labor.

But back to the color, or lack thereof. Apparently this was intentional on the part of the Grammy producers - it was a "black-and-white throwback performance."

Throwback to what? To a time when our sets transmitted shoddy images and/or our parents were too thrifty to upgrade to color (hi mom!).

Weird and not particularly effective.

February 8, 2009
John Mayer wins pop male vocal

I have a love-hate relationship with John Mayer. I think he's an immensely personable, funny and smart guy but too often his music doesn't reflect that. In short, most of his music is boring and predictable. (Live, it's a slightly different story if you've got an appetite for endless blues riffs.)

That said, it makes sense that he won for pop male vocal. Even if there were arguably more deserving artists who should've been nominated, Mayer was sort of a shoe-in in this category.

The reasoning:

James Taylor and Paul McCartney skew a little too old and many of the Grammy voters may not really know who Jason Mraz and Ne-Yo are - despite the latter's huge success with his "Year of the Gentleman" album. Thus, Mayer gets the majority of the votes because he's younger, hipper and safe enough.

Now, don't send me hate e-mails defending Mayer - this is a case of hate the game, not the player, folks.


February 8, 2009
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss win for Record of the Year

I'll admit that the whole Grammy eligibility consideration thing confuses me - it seems as if an album has extraordinarily long window in which to be considered.

Take, for example, the Robert Plant and Alison Krauss album, "Raising Sand."

It was released in October 2007 yet was nominated for a bunch of 2008 Grammys.

Huh?

That quibble aside, this marriage of the Led Zeppelin front man Plant and bluegrass goddess Krauss has made for an amazing album that's completely deserving of its nominations. Thrilled to Plant and Krauss "Please Read the Letter' win for Record of the Year. I didn't know, until today, that this was actually an old song that Plant wrote with his old Zeppelin pal Jimmy Page. Plant and Krauss gave a decidedly sad, folksy twang.

February 8, 2009
Stereotypes lose out on first Grammy

So, unfortunately, Stereotypes - Jeremy Reeves, Jon Yip and Ray Romulus - lost out on their first Grammy nod for the work they did on Ne-Yo's "Year of the Gentleman."

Instead, Mary J. Blige picked up the trophy for best contemporary R&B album.

Reeves, texted me right after the award was announced:

Jeremy: We lost to Mary J. Blige

Me: Too bad, but at least you're in good company

Jeremy: True, true

Read the Stereotypes story here.

Still on the horizon

February 8, 2009
Adele wins Best New Artist

I breathed a sigh of relief when Adele won best new artist over the Jonas Brothers.

Actually, I would've been fine with anyone else taking the trophy - Duffy, Jazmine Sullivan, etc - but the Jonas Brothers are just a flash in the pan.

Now, that's not saying one (or more) of the JoBro won't go on to bigger and better things - Nick Jonas is a huge Elvis Costello fan and it would be interesting to hear that manifest in some more mature solo work.

Back to Adele - it kind of makes sense that she won although I'm maybe a little surprised that she and Duffy didn't split the vote - they're both Neo Soul artists a la Amy Winehouse, after all.

Hopefully this doesn't inflict her with the best new artist curse though - see Cyndi Lauper, Shelby Lynne, etc. Time (and her sophomore album) will tell.

February 8, 2009
Katy Perry performs "I Kissed a Girl" for the one millionth time

...Well it felt like the 1,000,000 time anyway. Seriously, I know that was THE song of summer but it's now February and they're still trotting her out to sing that tune?

She does have other singles, ya know.

Perry's a cute girl - love the gittery fruit salad romper - and she's got some pop-punk chops. She reminds me a bit of a cross between Cyndi Lauper and Madonna.

My guess is that her career will end up more like the former's than the latter's though.

But I've been wrong before.

February 8, 2009
Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus "dying" a duet

Text exchange I just had with Jeremy Reeves

Jeremy: Miley and Taylor are dying a duet


Me: Dying??? As in, they're awful?

Jeremy: Taylor's dope, I'd produce her.

Yeah, it's a little weird to see a produced pop-tart-in-the-making up there with a country teen star who writes her own music.

To be fair, Miley didn't sound that bad

February 8, 2009
Coldplay gets a little help from Jay Z

Coldplay performed - with Chris Martin seated at the piano for a few minutes before launching into his Bono impression - and then got a little shot of hipness via Jay Z. Seriously, Coldplay might want to consider hiring Jay Z to tour with them. Might toughen up the reputation a bit. U2 was around more than a decade before it adopted its rock god attitude.

Just sayin'

February 8, 2009
Jennifer Hudson wins the first award of the night

After Coldplay, er U2's performance, Whitney Houston gave the award for best R&B album.

Jennifer Hudson gets the award and I don't think it's just a sympathy nod. Hudson's truly (see: best supporting actress Oscar) talented - one of the best "American Idol" alums.

Hudson thanked her family - "those in heaven and those who are here today - and was, as always, classy.

Nice start to the show.

February 8, 2009
Live blogging the Grammys

The Grammys are already under way but don't start their broadcast here until 7 p m.

I'll be live-blogging here and you can also read tweets at twitter.com/sacbee_music.

Jeremy Reeves, the local guy I profiled a week ago - and his Stereotypes producer pal Jon Yip are up for two Grammys for work they did with Ne-Yo - sent me this star-sighting text: "I practically ran over Paris Hilton ha ha"

Stay tuned for more

February 6, 2009
Deftones to perform first show without bassist Chi Cheng

deftones_small.JPG
The Deftones will perform their first show since the November car accident that left bassist Chi Cheng in a coma.

Rick Gershon, a Warner Brothers publicist for the band, confirms the Sacramento hard rock band is scheduled to perform April 5 at the Bamboozle Left Festival in Irvine, Calif.

Former Quicksand bassist Sergio Vega will perform in Cheng's place.

The 38-year-old musician, seriously injured in a Nov. 3 car accident near San Jose, remains in a coma.

The band explained its decision to regroup on stage in a recent blog entry:

For everyone that knows Chi, knows that he never wanted down time. Chialways wanted to keep working and never slow down, which is why we feel confident in returning to the stage at Bamboozle in April. Chi would want it, and we want to make sure we're keeping his legacy alive.


It won't be Vega's first time with the band. He temporarily replaced Cheng when the bassist took a brief break from the Deftones in 1998.

The band is also still at work on a new album, "Eros." It's the same disc the Deftones were recording before Cheng's accident. Once slated to hit record stores this month, Gershon says its release timetable is now indefinite.

February 6, 2009
At theater simulcast, you can judge whether opera's "it girl" nails it

Netrebko.jpg

If you're in one of five area cinemas tomorrow, you will be able to judge whether the standout soprano Anna Netrebko aces the madwoman role of Lucia in Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor."

The Metropolitan Opera will simulcast the performance live in HD from New York's Lincoln Center at 10 a.m.

Netrebko, one the most sought after sopranos in opera, will sing the role at the Met for the first time. Her rich voice and wonderful acting skills can certainly sell the demanding role of the fragile Lucia. But can her voice offer the agility necessary to ace the fluid vocal singing demanded?

"Lucia di Lammermoor" is the eighth opera in a series of 11 performances from the Metropolitan Opera to be transmitted live from New York. The hugely successful simulcasts use 10 HD cameras to capture the opera. Experiencing an opera in this HD format is, by far, the most intimate and enjoyable way to do so from outside the concert hall.

For this production, Netrebko will share the stage with tenor Piotr Beczala as her lover, Edgardo. Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien sings the role of her tyrannical brother. Marco Armiliato conducts, and the simulcast host is Natalie Dessay, who sang the role with the San Francisco Opera recently, to wide acclaim.

Note: The Sacramento Opera will be hosting its "Coffee and Conversation" event before the screening at Regal Natomas Marketplace. Executive Director Rod Gideons and conductor Timm Rolek will speak at the pre-screening event, which offers free coffee and pastry. The event begins at 9:30 a.m.
www.sacopera.org

WHAT: Lucia di Lammermoor
WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday (Running time: 3 hours, 20 minutes, with 2 intermissions).
WHERE: Cinemark Sacramento Downtown Plaza 7; Cinemark Sacramento Greenback Lane 16; Cinemark Sacramento Stadium 14; Regal Natomas Marketplace, Sacramento; Cinemark Laguna 16, Elk Grove; Cinemark Roseville 14, Roseville
COST: $22
INFORMATION: www.FathomEvents.com and http://www.metoperafamily.org/hdlive

Call art critic Edward Ortiz at (916) 321-1071


February 6, 2009
Daniel Handler's Ultimate Insult, and Updike Hints at Death

Daniel Handler appeared at the Crest Thursday as part of the California Lectures series.

The author of Lemony Snicket's "A Series of Unfortunate Events" book series was hilarious throughout as he discussed literature, story morals, fans and, yes, the difference between the Sacramento Bee and the San Francisco Chronicle.

However, he revealed one of his pet peeves: People who wait in lines at his appearances, only to complain about his writing, "to insult me," he said.

He told of one woman, however, who got her comeuppance. After waiting in line, she told Handler she disliked how he appeared to justify lying in one of his books. She challenged him to give her just one instance where lying was acceptable.

He told her he liked her sweater.

By the way, the California Lectures are rebroadcast on public radio. Handler's talk is not yet scheduled for radio, but you can hear John Updike's late 2008 appearance - one of his last - on Feb. 16th at 2pm on 90.0 KXJZ Sacramento, 90.5 KKTO Reno/Tahoe, 91.3 KUOP Stockton/Modesto, and 88.1 KQNC Quincy.

If you listen closely, you can hear " the little cues that spoke of his impending death," said Mark Jones, production manager for Capital Public Radio.

Among those is Updike's mention of packing his bags in the knowledge that his train would be leaving the station.

His train departed Jan. 27.


February 6, 2009
Former Phantom performs in Davis

Franc D'Ambrosio, the Broadway performer best known for his long-running role as the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera, appears in Davis tonight at a fundraiser for the fledgling Sense Theatre, a nonprofit that hopes to unlock the future for local autistic children through what its organizers call "theatrical intervention."

Co-founded by UC Davis MIND Institute neuropsychologist Blythe Corbett and board member Christine Totah, the Sense Theatre aims to use performance as a way to teach the social skills, movement and communication that autistic children characteristically lack.

"We're just beginning the process," says Corbett, a former performer herself. "Our formal auditions will be in March for Disney's Jungle Book. We'll have 10 children with autism co-cast with typically developing peers. They'll work on the same role together."

Future productions will include shows of different lengths and genres, she says. As a researcher, she plans to assess the progress of the autistic children who participate.

"We'll collect neurological and biological data, because we want to be able to show that we're making a difference," she says. "We want to demonstrate tangible changes."

Tonight's event begins at 7 p.m. at the Davis Musical Theatre Company, 607 Pena Dr. in Davis. Tickets cost $50. For more information, go to www.sensetheatre.com.

-- Anita Creamer
February 5, 2009
California Museum to honor Honest Abe

The California Museum for History, Women & the Arts, in anticipation of this summer's arrival of the Library of Congress' "With Malice Toward None: The Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Exhibition," on Thursday will throw a 200th birthday party for the nation's 16th president.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has accepted an invitation to speak. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and first lady Maria Shriver also may attend. Members of the 2nd Division California Calvary and 5th California Volunteer Infantry Brass Band will be on hand, and an actor portraying Lincoln will recite the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln's birthday celebration begins at 1:15 p.m. at the museum, 1020 O St., Sacramento. "With Malice Toward None," now on exhibit in Washington, D.C., opens June 24.

For more information: (916) 653-7524, www.californiamuseum.org.

- Dixie Reid
February 5, 2009
Opera star Jane Eaglen and Wagnerian cuisine...

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Do you like a little roast loin of pork with your big time opera?

Then the Sacramento Opera's upcoming "Grand Opera in the Grand Ballroom" gala might interest you.

That fund-raising event will see noted British soprano Jane Eaglen as the honoree in an evening that pairs opera with Wagner-inspired cuisine.

The event, which takes place on Feb. 13, will see Eaglen talk about her storied opera career and will include a video retrospective of Eaglen's career by the Wagner Society of Southern California.

Eaglen is well known for her work in Wagnerian roles and with Bellini operas. She has performed such roles to critical acclaim with the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and at Milan's La Scala. She also owns an equally impressive reputation as a concert singer, having performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, and the New York Philharmonic.

The five course "Wagner" meal was crafted by chef Charlie Billo at Event Architects, and is meant to capture the spirit of the composer and his operas.

The event also offers jazz music, live and silent auctions, and entertainment by the stars of the Sacramento Opera's upcoming production of "The Marriage of Figaro", including soprano Emily Pulley and baritone Malcolm MacKenzie.

WHAT: Grand Opera in the Grand Ballroom
WHERE: Sacramento Grand Ballroom, 629 J St., Sacramento
WHEN: 6:30 p.m. - 10 p.m. Feb. 13
COST: $125 per person (includes valet parking).
INFORMATION: (916) 737-1000 or www.sacopera.org

February 5, 2009
Laguna Creek brothers earn Grammy nomination for CD packaging

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Will the fourth time be the charm for brothers Don and Ryan Clark? The siblings, who grew up in Laguna Creek and now live in Seattle, were recently nominated for a Best Recording Package Grammy for their work on the Hawk Nelson CD, "Hawk Nelson ... Is My Friend"

The nomination is technically only in Don Clark's name but, says the 33-year-old artist, he and his 29-year-old brother share an even split of duties in their Seattle-based graphic design firm, Invisible Creature.

"We pretty much have the same skill set and work in the same style," Don Clark says, on the phone from Seattle.

Indeed, it was Ryan Clark's name on the nomination for last year's Grammy bid for Norma Jean's "O God, the Aftermath" disc. (The brothers' other two noms were for packages designed for the post-punk band the Fold and Christian punk band Fair).

The Clark brothers' resume is even more impressive - the two have designed album art and posters for the likes of Will.I.Am, Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, Kanye West, Tool and Pennywise.

The Hawk Nelson album artwork is a colorful '60s-style illustrated cover that folds out into a full board game. The actual CD disc doubles as the spin wheel that keeps the action moving.

"The band came up with the idea for a board game but they didn't really think it would be playable," Clark says.

The brothers took that idea a step further, creating a four-player and researching and referencing old '60s and '70s board games for inspiration.

"The goal is to see who can get to the show first and, during the game, the band drops in to help you get there quicker," he says.

The pair will attend the Grammys - their category will be awarded during the daytime ceremony - but don't really expect to win against a group that includes the Thievery Corporation and Metallica.

But, Clark says, no worries - they enjoy just getting the chance to hang out

"The night before the Grammys there's a merit award ceremony and that's way cooler than the (televised) Grammy awards because it honors lifetime achievement,' he says.

"It's like this cool little club that we snuck into."

To check out more of the Clark brothers' work, visit InvisibleCreature.com

February 5, 2009
New team joins Lake Tahoe Shakes

When the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival begins it's 37th season on July 11 it will have undergone an artistic makeover. A new creative team replaces last year's creative team who replaced the Foothill Theatre Company who put up the plays the year before that.

Henry Woronicz a former artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (from 1991 to 1995) is the new executive producer and John Grüber is the new production manager. Woronicz followed the legendary Jerry Turner and preceded the recently retired Libby Appel at OSF. He recently has been acting and directing throughout the country and appeared on Broadway in Julius Caesar.

He has directed at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival and the Utah Shakespearean Festival while also performing with the American Repertory Theatre, the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville and the American Players Theatre.

Woronicz also was recently appointed as the Head of Graduate Acting for the School of Theatre at Illinois State University.

The shows announced for the season, which runs until Aug. 23, are Measure for Measure and Much Ado About Nothing which will rotate nightly Tuesday through Sunday at stunning Sand Harbor State Park amphitheater on the shore of the lake.

Tickets are available at www.LakeTahoeShakespeare.com or by calling (800) 747-4697.

The festival will be holding local auditions for the season on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the University of Nevada, Reno's Redfield Proscenium Theatre, 1664 N. Virginia St., Reno. The time is from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.

A festival press release states: "Headshots will be processed and audition slots assigned beginning at 12:30 p.m. Actors may send resumes and headshots in advance to: Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Attention: Casting, 948 Incline Village Way, Incline Village, NV 89451. All auditioning actors must prepare two contrasting Shakespearean monologues no longer than one minute each in length. Due to space and time limitations, the Festival screens for all non-Equity resumes before scheduling audition times."

There will be national auditions on March 9 and 10 at the Colony Theatre, 555 N. Third St. in Burbank. The hours will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Actors may send resumes and headshots in advance to:  Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival, Attention: Casting, 948 Incline Village Way, Incline Village, NV 89451

For either audition, actors must prepare two contrasting Shakespearean monologues no longer than one minute each in length.

For information concerning auditions contact production Manager John Grüber at jgruber@tahoebard.com or (775) 298-0150.

-- Marcus Crowder
February 5, 2009
Dominguez named to national committee

Sacramento resident Dorene C. Dominguez (above) is the only Californian on an exploratory committee for a National Museum of the American Latino.

The six committee members, from throughout the country, were appointed in December by former Pres. George W. Bush. They are charged with identifying a location for and the scope of such a museum.

"I am very humbled to have been selected for this tremendous honor," Dominguez said in a news release. "I am very passionate about our Latino heritage and excited about this opportunity to serve in this capacity."

She is chairman of the board of Vanir Group of Companies, headquartered in Sacramento. She lives here part-time, as well as in Los Angeles, according to a company spokeswoman.

Dominguez, 46, is a former member of the Los Angeles Planning Commission and served on California's state medical board. She has a degree in business finance from the University of Notre Dame.

-- Dixie Reid
February 5, 2009
'American Idol': Group hugs and hits


FOX

Last night's "American Idol" group competition proved one thing: It's every singer for himself/herself - certainly among the least talented performers.

I've been watching this show too long not to appreciate that part of the drama of the group sing-a-long is to have people fight about who they're singing with and who isn't practicing enough and who's trying to sabotage the person next to them. All the tears and trauma make for better TV than four singers who actually get along.

That didn't stop me from wanting to reach through the tube and throttle Tatiana Nicole Del Toro and "Bikini Girl" Katrina Darrell. Disruptive? Yes!! Whiney? YES!! Talented? NO!

There was a Team Compromise, a Team Diva (pictured), the Action Squad and - my personal favorite - White Chocolate. All four of its members made it through to the next round.

Last night's judges' admonition? "Forget the words, you're out." The good singers were soooo much better than the bad singers, prompting Simon Cowell to mutter, "Has anyone got any Advil. We're going to need a case."

It was tough following exactly who got through because entire groups (of three or four) made it through or got cut altogether, and individual group members were either ousted or sent through.

I know it's the last we'll see of Katrina (at least on this show), and it was the end for David Osmond of the Osmond family singers. On the plus side, we'll be hearing more from Adam Lambert and Jasmine Murray.

In the end, 75 singers will compete next Tuesday and Wednesday (8 p.m. on Channel 40) for the coveted Top 36 spots. A certainty is that bikinis won't be a clothing staple anymore.


February 4, 2009
Your Produce Man -- Still ripe after 20 years

Michael Marks, "Your Produce Man" on CBS TV-13 (KOVR), will do his 20th anniversary segment on the noon news Monday.

Marks started at the invitation of Dewey Hopper on Feb. 9, 1989, talking about Florida tangerines.

Since then he's talked about how to buy a watermelon and other goods and watched produce trends, like the explosion in the popularity of the Satsuma mandarin. When he first started, they were only sent to San Francisco, New York and overseas, he said.

He also entertained viewers with produce trivia. An example: "There are around 200 (seeds) on every strawberry," Marks said.

Marks also does morning segments on CW 31's Good Day Sacramento Wednesdays and Saturdays.

The 30-year veteran of the produce industry has no plans to stop. "I haven't run out of topics yet," he said.

February 4, 2009
Cramps singer Lux Interior dies at 60

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Lux Interior, front man for the groundbreaking punk band The Cramps, died today in a Glendale, Calif., hospital due to complications from a pre-existing heart condition, according to a news release issued by the band's publicist. There are conflicting reports about the singer's real age but IMDB.com lists it as 60.

Lux Interior, born Erick Lee Purkhiser, formed The Cramps in 1972 after meeting Kristy Wallace in Sacramento. The two, who lived in Midtown, shared a love for surf rock, rockabilly, B-movies and other bits of so-called "trash culture."

Interior took his name from an old car commercial, and Wallace, who changed her name to Poison Ivy, attributed her new music moniker to a vision she received in a dream. The couple dubbed its music as "pyschobilly" - taking the term from an old Johnny Cash tune.

The Cramps moved to Ohio in 1973 and, in 1976, migrated to downtown Manhattan where they joined a burgeoning punk scene populated by the likes of the Ramones, Blondie and Television.

The band's 30-plus years on the punk scene spawned 14 albums, a seemingly endless tour schedule and an indelible influence on artists such as the Black Lips, the Reverend Horton Heat and Sacramento's own (now-defunct) Groovie Ghoulies.

February 4, 2009
News director leaving KXTV's News 10 (updated)

Stacy Owen, the Emmy-winning news director at KXTV (Channel 10) for the past three years, is leaving the station, News 10's president and general manager Russell Postell has confirmed.

"She'll be here a couple of more weeks," he says. "But we don't discuss personnel issues."

A commendable policy. But is the departure amicable?

"Yes," Postell says.

Do you have a replacement lined up?

"We don't," he says. "You have anybody in mind? Send them over."

Owen, who came to KXTV from KRON in San Francisco, helped Channel 10 cut the longtime ratings hold that KCRA (Channel 3) has had on parts of the Sacramento market.

[updated information Feb. 5]

Owen checked in after Wednesday's evening newscasts to comment on her upcoming departure from the station.

"When I came to Sacramento, I had the goal of taking News 10 to No. 1," she said. "I came, and I did that and transformed it to a multimedia news organization. I've accomplished what I set out to do.

"I'm just looking forward to my next adventure. That's the story."

Owen came to the station in August 2005 after 13 years with KRON in San Francisco, where she served variously as producer, managing editor and news director.

February 4, 2009
David Cook set to tour as album sales soar

"American Idol" Season 7 winner David Cook is wasting no time making good on his title. No waiting a couple years to release an album and no waiting to hit the road on tour.

David's self-titled debut album, "David Cook" was released Nov. 18 and has officially been certified platium by the Recording Industry Association of America for sales topping 1 million. His "The Declaration Tour" kicks off Feb. 13 in Tallahassee, Fla. It's mostly making stops at smaller cities and colleges. And it won't make it as far West as Sactown. That's unfortunate for those of us who snapped up the album and downloaded most of his songs from last season's show.

His "Idol" coronation song, "The Time of My Life," also went platinum. Sony Music announced that Cook is the 34th "Idol" contestant to appear on a Billboard chart.

And now for Season 8.

What can I say about last night's first night of Hollywood Week?

The number of contestants was more than I thought - 147 to be exact. Judge Simon Cowell was blunt in his marching orders: "All we're looking for is a star."

That said, the contestants were split into two groups: The first got hair, makeup and vocal coaching while the others toured the town. Former mentor Barry Manilow even addressed the singers, encouraging them to "think about the songs, and make them your own." Where have we heard those admonitions before?

The eliminations were swift - and with a couple of exceptions (Dennis Brigham and his ridiculous flip-out) - everyone either just packed up or shed a few tears and left. The contestants got one shot at impressing the judges and then passed the mike to the next hopeful.

Jesus Valenzuela of North Highlands didn't survive. And "Bikini Girl" Katrina Darrell sounded worse to me with clothes! But, she's got some sort of spell going, so she's through. Maybe she'll tackle a Celine Dion song and finally get what's coming to her. (Sorry, I think she's tacky.)

Loved Lil Rounds, who was brave enough to sing a big 'ol Whitney Houston song. And Anoop Desai and Jamar Rogers.

That said, only 43 contestants were cut. So we're a long way from the Top 36. Group competition starts at 8 tonight on Channel 40.

February 4, 2009
Noise Pop Festival 2009: Lou Barlow, Bob Mould, Martha Wainright ... and Johnny Cash

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The 2009 Noise Pop schedule is now up and it's a winner. While the San Francisco music festival, which runs Feb. 24-March 1, doesn't have quite the same industry recognition as, say, South By Southwest, it's nonetheless a pretty awesome way to check out great new bands, established indie acts and certifiable rock gems.

How's this for starters: Lou Barlow (Dinosaur Jr, Sebadoh) and Bob Mould (Husker Du, Sugar) will give the keynote address for this year's conference. The one-day event will examine the state of independent music and how it intersects with new technologies, touring and industry trends. Confirmed panelists include singer-songwriter Penelope Houston; Live 105 music director Aaron Axelson and Wired magazine's writer Nancy Miller.

Mould also headlines the February 28 show at the Swedish American Music Hall (a tiny little place above Cafe DuNord at 2170 Market St., SF),

Other scheduled acts include the French Kicks, Martha Wainright, Stephen Malkmus, A.C. Newman. Matt Costa, Kool Keith and Ra Ra Riot.

The festival, now in its 17th year, also highlights art and film and this year's line-up includes a screening of the 2008 documentary "Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison."

The 2008 Bestor Cram film chronicles Cash's (pictured, right, outside Folsom Prison with then-girfriend June Carter Cash) 1968 Folsom Prison concert (and its subsequent concert album). It also touches on the political and cultural events that shaped the event and includes archival footage and interviews with people who witnessed the show.

"Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison" will screen Wednesday, February 25 at the Roxie (3117 16th St.)

For a complete list of performers, films, exhibits and ticket prices visit the Noise Pop web site.

February 4, 2009
Another opera production bites the dust...

So far the last six months have been most unkind to opera companies.

The operative word? Cancellation or curtailment of seasons.

The latest opera company to have its season deeply affected by the economy is the Nevada Opera, which recently announced the cancellation of two upcoming performances of its 2008-09 season.

A drastic reduction in income was cited by the Nevada Opera Association as the reason it chose to cancel two productions of "Die Zirkusprinzessin" (The Circus Princess) scheduled for Feb. 20 and 22, at the Pioneer Center Theater in Reno.

"The Circus Princess" is the second of three main stage operas presented by the Association as part of its regular season. The company, Nevada's oldest professional presenting arts organization, said its spring production of "La Bòheme" will likely be unaffected.

In a written release, General Director Michael Borowitz said that the company's mid-season ticket sales have slowed substantially due to the state of the economy. Ticket sales there are off by 30 percent compared to past seasons. Donations are also lagging.

In the release, Borowitz stated the he has pledged to take no salary for the 2009-2010 season as part of an aggressive plan to dramatically reduce spending.

Season curtailment and cancellations have been sweeping through the country ever since the mortgage crisis took hold last fall.

Since then, Orange County's Opera Pacific has closed, and the Connecticut Opera and Opera Orchestra of New York have cancelled the remainder of their seasons. The Baltimore Opera recently announced it was filing for bankruptcy and also canceling the balance of its season.

Closer to home, the San Francisco Opera recently announced its 2009-10 season, which offers a smaller season than this year (by two productions), including the absence of the much-awaited Benjamin Britten opera "Peter Grimes".


February 4, 2009
A Powerful Noise

A special film/political event will take over several Sacramento theaters March 5 at 8 p.m. for a screening and discussion that, its presenters hope, will change the world.

"A Powerful Noise," according to its advocates, is more than a film. It's the catalyst for a movement to fight global poverty by giving women the ability to change their world.

The film focuses on women in Bosnia, Mali and Vietnam. The special March 5 screening will be followed by a panel discussion in New York that will be aired throughout the country, live everywhere but the West Coast. No local discussions are planned.

For tickets and more information, go to www.FathomEvents.com.

February 4, 2009
Snoopy's ice hosts junior hockey tourney

By Dixie Reid

The rink that Sparky built is the site of the 13th annual Wine Country Face-Off Junior Hockey Tournament, which runs Feb. 12-16 at Redwood Empire Ice Arena, 1667 W. Steele Lane in Santa Rosa.

The rink was built 30 years ago by Charles M. Schulz, creator of the "Peanuts" comic strip and an avid hockey player until his death in 2000. Sparky was his nickname from childhood.

The Santa Rosa Flyers will host teams from Oregon, Arizona and California, including Capital Thunder from Roseville and the Vacaville Jets. Tournament admission is free. For a schedule, call (707) 546-7147 or go to www.snoopyshomeice.com.

The endlessly entertaining Charles M. Schulz Museum is a short walk away at 2301 Hardies Lane. Among the new exhibits are "To the Moon: Snoopy Soars with NASA" and "Sebastopol to St. Paul." For museum information: (707) 579-4452, www.schulzmuseum.org.

February 4, 2009
Pat & Tom's KNCI morning show to air from family coffee shop

In a show of community business and school support, the Pat & Tom Morning Show from KNCI New Country Radio (105.1 FM) will broadcast live from Caffe Santoro in Cameron Park on Friday, Feb. 13, 5-10 a.m.

The event will benefit Ponderosa High School's Sober Grad Night, which will get the proceeds from the coffee shop's special that morning -- a bagel and coffee for $1.05.

The shop is a family effort, with father and son, Ken and T.J. Santoro, handling much of the operation, explained sister Janna Santoro, who handles publicity.

Her mother, Linda, helps open the shop and supervise the books. Two other siblings have lesser roles, including production of special T-shirts for Friday's event.

Caffe Santoro is at 2531 Merrychase Dr. in Cameron Park.

February 3, 2009
Sacramentan wins $25,000 makeover - for her house

Janet Mosher of Sacramento became the fourth winner in a series of room makeovers given away on the daytime discussion show "The View."

Mosher's win in the Room-a-Day Giveaway was announced on "The View" today. One room in her home will get a $25,000 makeover.

A total of 16 prizes will be awarded in February in the sweepstakes, which is sponsored by Kimberly-Clark.

The contest is still open for entries and consumers can enter at www.RoomaDayGiveaway.com.

February 3, 2009
Sacramento Theatre Company shakes up spring schedule

If you're wondering who, if anyone, might be benefiting from the recession, early returns suggest the Reduced Shakespeare Company will do some great business. On the heels of Capital Stage announcing a reconfigured season due to economic considerations with a staging of the RSC's "The Complete History of America(Abridged)" (May 9 - June 21), the Sacramento Theatre Company has made a similar move.

STC will drop the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata" (likely a tough sell in any market) for their own Reduced Shakespeare title, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" (March 11 - April 5). The two theaters plan to cross promote the productions with - wouldn't you know - "reduced" ticket incentives for attending both shows.

Visit www.sactheatre.org for information.

February 3, 2009
Raging Waters hiring for summer season

By Dixie Reid

This bit of news is sure to make a splash: Raging Waters Sacramento, the water park at Cal Expo, is hiring 300 people for the summer.

"Anything anybody is looking for, we probably have it - lifeguards, admissions, groundskeepers, food and beverage, marketing coordinators," says spokesman Joe Pinell. "We're seasonal, so we have to hire for everything."

Job applications filled out online at www.ragingwaters.com will be considered right away. A job fair for folks without computer access is planned for 10 a.m.-5 p.m. March 28 in Building A at Cal Expo.

Raging Waters Sacramento is open May 16 through Sept. 20. It will operate weekends in May and September, and daily June through August.

And in other good news: The water park is offering a season pass for the price of one day's admission: $27.99 for adults, $19.99 for kids (with some restrictions).

"We understand what people are going through with the economy," says Pinell, "so here you buy a day and get the summer free. We're going to give value to the point that it's a no-brainer. Come one time, and get the rest of the summer free."

Raging Waters Sacramento is owned by Palace Entertainment, which is based in Newport Beach and owns water parks around the country. The company made $1 million in improvements when it took over Water World two years ago, says Pinell.

February 3, 2009
'American Idol' update


AMAZON.COM

"American Idol" watchers - we're 22 million-plus strong and growing - have to be eager for tonight's opening round of what's predicted to be one of the toughest Hollywood Weeks ever.

I finally got an accounting of the number of contestants who made it through, and we're looking at 138. A map of the United States and Puerto Rico shows that hefty chunks of singers will arrive from Southern California and areas in the Northeast.

It's a two-night show this week (8 tonight and Wednesday on Channel 40), and we've been promised by the judges and producers that this year's extended round will be worth the wait. From the previews, it looks like "Bikini Girl", aka Katrina Darrell, 20, is wearing clothes - for a change. If you're a betting person, don't take the over-under on her.

In other "Idol" news:

* Season 6 third-place finisher Melinda Doolittle's CD, "Coming Back To You," (pictured) is on sale today. It probably took longer to release than she would have liked, but Melinda fans will certainly appreciate the soul/blues/R&B feel to the 12 tracks on the album. Again, worth the wait.

* Kellie Pickler (Season 5) and her BFF, country sensation Taylor Swift, will join forces on Taylor's Fearless Tour 2009 starting April 23. Unfortunately, the tour dates don't include any city remotely near Sacramento - unless you're willing to go to Portland or L.A.

* Props to Jennifer Hudson (Season 3) for an amazing rendition of the National Anthem at Sunday's Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla. Yes, I know it was pre-recorded (per "Idol" music director Ricky Minor's instructions), but the emotion she put in to even lip-synching the anthem was admirable.

* Bucky Covington (Season 5) is heading out as part of a weeklong USO/Armed Forces Entertainment tour starting Feb. 17. First stop? Kosovo and Camp Bondsteel.


February 2, 2009
Garbeau's Dinner Theatre facing closure

Garbeau's Dinner Theatre in Rancho Cordova is facing possible closure next month. Mark Ferreira, CEO and co-owner of Garbeau's since June 2007, says he needs to raise $100,000 by the end of this month to satisfy his landlord, Lakha Investment Group.

Ferreira's for-profit theater had strong revenues the first nine months of his ownership and artistic direction of the theater business. But he ties his theater's problems to last year's crumbling economy - specifically gasoline prices.

"The last six months have been tough. Once gas hit $3.50 in just about a week we saw our averages drop in half," Ferreira says. "We were getting about 145 people a night and when gas spiked that dropped to about 60 to 70 patrons per show.

"For nine months, every month saw a revenue increase and we were dwarfing past revenue records. The only change between then and when we dropped to half-houses is the economy."

Ferreria says he hopes to raise money through the sales of either gift cards or season passes. Should Garbeau's have to close, many other area theaters are supporting the effort by saying they'll honor the season passes. Garbeau's Web site is listing the B Street Theater, California Musical Theatre and Stage Nine in Folsom as theaters that will in some way accommodate Garbeau's season ticket holders.

For more information go to www.garbeaus.com or call Garbeau's box office at (916) 985-6361.

February 2, 2009
End approaches for SF Garden Show

By Debbie Arrington
darrington@sacbee.com

A long-running San Francisco treat may be coming to an end. But there's still room on one more bus from Sacramento headed to this last floral roundup.

The San Francisco Flower and Garden Show, the nation's third largest event of its kind, likely will be shuttered after its upcoming March show if the owner cannot find a buyer for his production company.

Duane Kelly, owner of Salmon Bay Events, announced Friday that he would produce only one more edition of the San Francisco flower show and its sister show in Seattle, the Northwest Flower and Garden Show. The Seattle show, to be held later this month, ranks as the nation's No. 2 show behind Philadelphia. The Seattle and San Francisco shows each have attracted more than 1 million visitors.

"We're pulling out all the stops to make sure this year's show is the best yet," Kelly said in a press release announcing San Franciso's finale. "This has been a labor of love for me, but I have plays to write and numerous other projects that have been begging for my attention, and short of finding someone who'd like to take the show to a new level, it's time to bring the curtain down."

In its 24th year, the San Francisco show will be held March 18 through 24 at the San Mateo Event Center. Advance discount tickets ($16) are available now online at www.gardenshow.com.

This year's theme is "Sustainable Spaces; Beautiful Places," featuring 25 display gardens.

City of Sacramento's Safari Tours is offering a trip Thursday, March 19, to the show. The tour includes transportation, admission to the garden show and late lunch at the Beach Chalet restaurant. Deadline for reservations is Feb. 25. Trip cost is $105 per person. Call (916) 808-8687 for reservations.

February 2, 2009
Movies on the radio

Every Friday at 4:40 p.m., I discuss movies with Kitty O'Neal and R.E. Graswich on KFBK 1530-AM.

Last Friday, we discussed my review
of "New in Town" along with the DVD release of Woody Allen's "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," for which Penélope Cruz nabbed a supporting-actress Oscar nomination.

If you want to hear what I had to say, click here.


February 1, 2009
Sacramento Single: Live Manikins' "Malfunktion"

manikins.jpg

It's been nearly two months since DJ Rated R was injured in a Philippines car crash. Now, the Sacramento-based musician born Ronald Florente is undergoing physical therapy in Visalia and, friends say, is on his way to a full recovery.

"He's doing really good at the moment," says Justin "Self" Brown, Florente's band mate in the Sacramento hip-hop group Live Manikins.

Florente, who was performing in the Philippines with his other group Live Audible Soul, was seriously hurt in a Dec. 11 crash near Baguio City.

The accident occurred when the brakes gave out while the van in which Florente was riding crashed after its brakes gave out. Florente, 26, was in the van's back row of seats and went through a window upon impact, sustaining major head and spinal injuries as well as a broken collarbone and clavicle.

Another member of the group, Runt Rock (real name: Gabriel Pizarro - he also performs in Live Manikins), was also injured but only suffered scrapes and bruises.

Florente, who underwent several major surgeries in the Philippines, was finally allowed to return home in mid-January..

Live Manikins will briefly regroup for a "Rock 4 Ron" show to benefit Florente but, Brown says, he hopes the whole crew will be back on stage by March.

"We don't want to really play again until Ron's back," Brown says.

"He's the backbone of our sound and it doesn't feel right without him."

Live Manikins

Song: "Malfunktion"

Style: Rock meets hip-hop

Behind the song: "We were hanging out one day, playing with music and Ron was scratching this guitar riff and when he started riffing Gabe started putting down drum beats and freestyling," Brown says.

The track, Brown says, epitomizes Brown's energy.

"Most of the sounds on this track are just Ron scratching," he says. "The vibe is "like Run DMC and Aerosmith on 'Walk this Way' - it's not crazy or dangerous angry it's just us rocking out."

See them: Thursday at the Image VIP Lounge (705 J St). Addict Merchants and Righteous Movement are also on the bill. Admission is $10.

On the Web: www.myspace.com/livemanikins

Listen to "Malfunktion" here:




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