Geneva Anderson digs into art

Natalia Smirnoff’s feature debut “Puzzle” showcases María Onetto as a 50 year old wife who finds herself in jigsaw puzzles, open September 9

Director(s): Natalia Smirnoff, Screenplay: Natalia Smirnoff

Cast: María Onetto, Gabriel Goity, Arturo Goetz, Henny Trailes, Felipe Villanueva, Julian Doregger, Nora Zinsky

Runtime: 89 min., 2009

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Film | , | Leave a comment

Dish: ARThound makes Pizza, crust and all, with Wild Goat Bistro’s Nancy DeLorenzo

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With the 6th Annual Taste of Petaluma coming up on Saturday, I wanted to share the pizza-making session I had with Wild Goat Bistro’s owner Nancy DeLorenzo earlier this year.  I met Nancy at last year’s Taste and was  impressed with her trio of artisan pizzas, piled high with our local bounty.  Whenever I mentioned Taste to people, they too fondly recalled Wild Goat Bistro’s pizzas.  Not only is Nancy an amazing chef but her ability to create a warm and inviting European-style bistro ambiance has made Wild Goat Bistro wildly popular, earning it the Petaluma People’s Choice Award for Best New Restaurant in 2010.   Noting my enthusiasm for baking and eating, Taste of Petaluma organizer Laura Sunday coordinated our lesson and food blogger Houston Porter joined us, along with Nancy’s partner Robin Robinson, as we started from scratch–prepared the dough for the crust, selected and prepped the toppings and baked several 10 inch Neapolitan style pizzas.   A lesson like this is best captured in pictures.  Nancy’s skill and joy in preparing food–simple, fresh, and elegant– is also noted.  Now, months later, I am happily baking away at home and we are planning an outdoor oven.  Nancy, with great nonchalance, also happens to make the best salads in town…so that’s next.

Wild Goat Bistro  is located at 6 Petaluma Boulevard North, Suite A5, in the Great Petaluma Mill.  Phone 707.658.1156

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , | Leave a comment

This Saturday’s 6th Annual Taste of Petaluma is a culinary journey you won’t want to miss

Pie-maker and filmmaker Lina Hoshino, of Petaluma's famed Petaluma Pie Company will be serving chocolate creme pie and cheeseburger pie at Saturday's 6th annual Taste of Petaluma. Photo: Geneva Anderson

It’s no secret to those of us who live in Petaluma that our town is bursting with fabulous eateries—we now have over 140 restaurants─ and Petaluma is now recognized as the gourmet dining destination for Sonoma County and the Wine Country.  This Saturday, the 6th annual Taste of Petaluma will offer samplings from over 60 of our town’s finest chefs, food purveyors, wineries and breweries.  “Taste” is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with Petaluma’s culinary offerings by spending a leisurely afternoon visiting the eateries, hosting galleries and stores, (many of which are in Petaluma’s lovely Historic Downtown area) which will be serving generous tastes of signature dishes.  The festive afternoon will also include live musical entertainment (schedule)—classical, jazz, folk, acoustic, rock─and belly dancers, an aspiring Elvis, a magician and more!  

Over the past two weeks, I accompanied Taste of Petaluma’s coordinator Laura Sunday and a gung-ho group of local food writers to pre-tastes all around town and ate (and ate and ate).  I have been asked to focus on a few tantalizing vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free offerings, along with my personal favorites.

Elly Lichtenstein, Cinnabar Theater’s Artistic Director, and Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s coordinator, share a hug at Cordoza’s Deli and Café. They have worked for months to organize Taste of Petaluma, one of Cinnabar Theater’s most important fundraisers. Photo: Geneva Anderson

“Taste of Petaluma” is truly unique in the roll-out of gourmet events in Northern CA,” explained Laura Sunday.  “You get to experience the ambience of the restaurant or venue itself, chat with the owners, and the food is all prepared right on the spot─it hasn’t been sitting around waiting to be served in a booth.”  

All of the purveyors generously donate their food to Taste, knowing that a sample is the best advertising that money can buy.  And because the proceeds go directly to Cinnabar Theater, which so enriches our community, the entire event has a feel-good vibe to it, whether you’re on the supply or demand end of the equation. 

Sunday is quick to point out that Cinnabar Theater is struggling to make up the funding it lost when the City of Petaluma’s TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) subcommittee cut Cinnabar’s annual TOT funding from $70,000 to zero over the course of two years. “That was a tremendous blow.  Now, Cinnabar is even more dependent on its two main fund-raising events─the Great Petaluma Chili Cookoff, Salsa and Beer Tasting (every May) and Taste of Petaluma (every 

Nancy DeLorenzo of Wild Goat Bistro, located in the Great Petaluma Mill, has a reputation for serving the best artisan pizzas in town, along with tantalizing salads, all made from local organic produce. Photo: Geneva Anderson

September).  I moved to Petaluma because of Cinnabar Theatre and its tremendous youth programming.  Both of my children have careers in the arts that are a direct result of the training they received at Cinnabar. Cinnabar’s productions are an integral part of our community’s rich offerings.”   

Now, on to the food!

Wild Goat Bistro (6 Petaluma Boulevard North, Suite A5) in the Great Petaluma Mill, wowed me last year with its offerings of rustic artisan pizzas and, once again, owner Nancy DeLorenzo bowled me over by presenting an array of foods that looked and tasted so good, I literally got lost in taking photos of these magnificent gourmet artworks.    This year, Nancy’s sisters are flying in to help out for Taste, and Wild Goat is offering three of it most demanded artisanal pizzas: Perfect Pair–pear, fontina cheese, smoked ham, topped with gorgonzola; Mediterranean Pizza—pesto base with purple onions, tomatoes, fresh mushrooms, artichokes, mozzarella cheese; and That’s a Meatball—tomato sauce, pesto, mozzarella and Niman Ranch Angus meatballs.  Wild Goat is not offering any gluten-free selections for Taste but their regular menu does include several gluten free options, including gluten-free Neapolitan-style thin crust pizzas and several desserts.

(Be sure to check out ARThound’s slide show of an afternoon of pizza-making with Nancy, Laura Sunday and Houston Porter.  We mastered the thin crust.)

Everest Indian Restaurant, (56 East Washington Street) in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center, owned and managed by Gopal and Shanti Gauchan and their daughter, Sunita, offers a tantalizing mix of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan dishes with sauces of sheer perfection.  For Taste, Everest will offer a choice of Vegetable Tikka Masala or Prawns in Apricot Sauce.  The Vegetable Tikka Masala is a perfect choice for vegetarians as it contains locally-sourced carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, Italian squash and a smattering of white turnip —all slowly cooked to

Gopal (right) and Shanti (left) Gauchan and their daughter Sunita (center) own Everest Indian Restaurant in the Golden Eagle Shopping Center. Vegetable Tikka Masala (left front) is a delicious vegetarian dish and their Apricot Prawns (back right) features Gopal’s signature succulent apricot-coconut sauce. Photo: Geneva Anderson

release maximum flavor in a sauce whose base ingredients include sautéed onions, tomato paste, garlic, and light cream simmered with a special blend of spices (including ancient fenugreek, cardamom, and ginger), and slices of dried Granny Smith apples. The result─a rich, sweet golden medley. 

And in case you haven’t tried Everest’s signature Apricot Chicken or Apricot Prawns yet, the secret is in Gopal’s succulent apricot-coconut sauce─it’s sweet and creamy, but not too sweet.  After living in California, Gopal noticed that people here love sauces but are weary of cumin-dominated flavoring.  When he added the apricots, a beautiful orange fruit just loaded with  that most people find delicious (that is actually categorized as a plum species), he had a winner.  Everest will offer a lightly fried jumbo prawn simmered in this succulent sauce, garnished with dried apricot and lightly steamed broccoli.  

And when you decide to come back for lunch or dinner, Everest’s Chicken Tikka Masala is consistently ranked by customers as the best they have had, ever.  There are also several variations of freshly cooked naan, that sumptuous traditional Indian bread, ranging from unembellished Plain Naan to Garlic Basil Naan, which is topped with garlic and fresh basil—a staple when it comes to sopping up every drop of sauce on your plate.   And, one of the best aspects of dining at Everest, is the chance to take in the artworks that grace the dining area.  Right now, there are several charcoal works by Miguel Gonzales on display,  and his portraits are very skillfully executed.

Everest Indian Restaurant’s Vegetable Tikka Masala is a slow simmered richly-hued masterpiece made from locally grown produce which is perfect with naan or rice. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods, a newcomer to Taste of Petaluma, will be hosted at Pelican Art Gallery (143 Petaluma Blvd. North).  Based in Fairfax, Lydia’s has three branches─Lydia’s Organics, Lydia’s Kitchen and Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods─and was founded by Lydia Kindheart.  Kindheart was raised in France and lived in Petaluma “many moons ago,” before she started her highly successful companies some 15 years ago which specialize in high-end all organic and gluten free foods, and several raw food items. You may have seen a few of Lydia’s products in Petaluma Whole Foods, where they are sold in the refrigerated deli section.  The big news is, within the next couple of months, Lydia is relocating much of her operations to Petaluma and will open Sunflower Center, an 8,000 square feet space on North McDowell with a café, gluten-free bakery and educational center which will host speakers and hold seminars, screenings and events geared toward teaching people about healthful foods and living.  Stay tuned.

Go green! After trying Lydia’s Green Soup, a raw, organic, vegan, and gluten-free revitalizing super soup your body will thank you. Green Soup is Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods’ best seller and is a healthful blend of kale, cucumber, celery, parsley, cilantro, basil, avocado, dulse seaweed, lemon, ginger and salt. Photo: courtesy Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods.

Go green! After trying Lydia’s Green Soup, a raw, organic, vegan, and gluten-free revitalizing super soup, your body will thank you. Green Soup is Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods’ best seller and is a healthful blend of kale, cucumber, celery, parsley, cilantro, basil, avocado, dulse seaweed, lemon, ginger and salt. Photo: courtesy Lydia’s Lovin’ Foods.

 If you know me reasonably well, I may have sent you emails extolling the virtues of Lydia’s elegant and delicious Purple Goddess Salad. It encapsulates what I, a former Balkan journalist, stand for—namely cabbage, beets, kalamata olives and judicious use of the word “goddess.”   This gorgeous, deep purple, hearty salad is dressed with a slightly tangy olive oil vinaigrette, and just bursting with beneficial flavonoids.  

For Taste, Lydia will be serving several of her best-sellers: Raw Green Soup (an alkalizing soup with avocado, cucumber and seaweed), Kale-Seaweed Salad (with carrots, sesame seeds and a tamari-ginger dressing), Purple Goddess Salad (with beets, cabbage and Kalamata olives).  She will also offer mini raw pizzas made with Cashew “Cheez” ( a delicious dairy alternative spread made from cashews, sesame seeds, tomato, olive oil) and marinated vegetables atop Lydia’s crackers.  For dessert, there will be “Cheez” Cake, a light creamy healthy alternative to the traditional favorite made with fresh apples and served on a nut crust.

Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant will be serving its popular California Roll at the 6th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Established in 2002, Hiro’s is one of Petaluma’s first high-end sushi bars and its features traditional sushi using the finest ingredients. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Hiro Yamamoto’s Hiro’s Japanese Restaurant (107 Petaluma Blvd. North) will be serving its signature California Roll—rice, vinaigrette-marinated seaweed, crab mix, avocado, diced cucumber, mayonaise─prepared on the spot by chef Shige Mori.  Hiro’s house salad of organic greens topped with its amazing sesame-miso vinaigrette has such a following that they are asked over and over again to bottle it.  For now, it’s only available on the house salad.  When you enter, check out Hiro’s marvelous centerpiece—a stunning 7’ x 21’ woodblock print of a giant fish engulfing a crowd of people, which delighted this Pisces to no end.  This epic artwork was created especially for the sushi bar by artist Naoki Tekenouchi, who also created the large abstract wood sculpture behind the bar for the restaurant and hand carved its lovely tables from exotic natural woods.

Let’s move on to dessert–

Bovine Bakery (23 Kentucky Street) has earned a special place in my heart for its inviting atmosphere, huge open kitchen where you watch the baking unfold, and their legendary hand-made baked goods—breads, French pastries, coffee cakes, muffins, scones, tarts, pies and cakes─and lunch items such as pizzas, soups, and fabulous salads.  And then there’s the sheer bravado of Bovine’s Petaluma Manager, Carolyn Williams, whose first day in business in Petaluma last year was planned to sync with Taste of Petaluma.  She was hit with “outrageous demand” all day long and emerged “exhausted but deeply jazzed” that Bovine was on the map.  And on the map it is, Bovine has fast become a local hangout and the inviting benches and tables outdoors are usually occupied. 

Bovine Bakery’s Carolyn Williams served us an entire tray of freshly baked aromatic scones, muffins, frittatas, cookies and cakes—all made with local and almost exclusively organic ingredients. The dark chocolate cherry cookie is gluten-free and as moist and chewy and chocolaty as any I have tasted. Photo: Geneva Anderson

This year, Taste participants visiting Bovine will have a choice of sampling any muffin, scone or stuffed croissant─including their best-selling morning buns.  And since “fresh, local and organic” is the Bovine mantra, every hearty and satisfying treat they make is top quality.

Bovine’s gluten-free Taste options this year will include a chewy dark chocolate cherry almond cookie, a coconut macaroon, or a muffin.  And for those of you who are not gluten intolerant, these items are so delicious, and have such a wonderful texture, that you won’t even know they are gluten free.  I sampled their sinful chewy dark chocolate cherry almond cookie, made with a minimal amount of rice flower, and then I tried their peach orange almond muffin, which was moist and bursting with fruit.  Their sugar-free oat bran date almond muffin is sweetened only with dates was delicious.  One of the best things about Bovine is their generosity—whether its dark organic chocolate, poppy seeds, nuts, or cheese─ they do NOT skimp on their fillings and that creates a lot of good will. And speak of poppy seeds, Bovine’s poppy seed pastry, a staple of my years in Eastern Europe, warms my heart every time I bite into one—rich (but not too sweet) and so satisfying with that glorious poppy taste.   Bovine also offers healthy hearty lunches including a gluten-free quiche option with a polenta crust.

Petaluma Pie Company(125 Petaluma Blvd. North, Suite D, at Putnam Plaza) It’s no secret that filmmakers and bakers Lina Hoshina and Angelo Sacerdote have captured ARThound’s heart on many occasions.  Their films are inspirational and their pies are heavenly.  Their little shop is just packed with evidence of their artistic flair—a “pie story” board, chalk boards with lists (of ingredients, pie quotes), pie plate mirrors─and it has the BEST aroma in town.  For taste, they will offer bites of their two most popular hand pies–chocolate crème and their cheeseburger pie.  The cheeseburger pie is made with locally-sourced grass-fed

Bovine Bakery's Poppy Seed Pastry, which evokes old world European pastries, is bursting with the rich natural flavor of poppy seeds. Photo: Geneva Anderson

beef and the cheese is from Spring Hill Jersey Cheese Company.  The chocolate cream pie is made with chocolate by San Francisco-based Tcho chocolate. Butter in the pie crusts is provided by Straus Family Creamery.

One of the secrets to Petaluma Pie Company’s fabulous pie crusts is that they are constantly tweaking the crust recipe to fit the filling and that means that that a pie that looks great in their shop will not sag once you get it home.  In addition to pie, your Taste ticket will also allow you to try Kona Brewing Company’s beer which pairs wonderfully with any of their savory pies.  And if you really want to test Petaluma Pie at their game, ask Angelo if he can assess your “pie face”—that is, accurately predict what type of pie you’ll order.  

(Be sure to read ARThound’s feature storyon Petaluma Pie Company’s opening last December.  It contains loads of information on the full scope of Lina and Angelo’s creative endeavors.)  

Petaluma Pie Company's Chocolate Creme Hand Pie is made with Tcho dark chocolate and is so popular that it always sells-out. You can try it at this Saturday's 6th Annual Taste of Petaluma. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Taste of Petaluma Details:  Saturday August 27, 2011, 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Pre-event ticket purchases: Packages of 10 tasting tickets are $35 in advance, available online and through Friday, August 26th, at Haus Fortuna (111 2nd Street in the Theater District) and Pelican Art Gallery  (143 Petaluma Boulevard North).

Day of Event tickets: On Saturday, August 27th, ticket packages will be $40 and available at
Putnam Plaza (on Petaluma Blvd. North) and Haus Fortuna (111 2nd Street in the Theater District).

A maximum of 1500 ticket packages will be sold for Taste of Petaluma, so buy your tickets early.

Ticket Package Includes:
• Book of 10 dine-around tickets – One sampling item per ticket. You can purchase more tickets throughout the day for $4 each at Putnam Plaza or Haus Fortuna.
• Street Map of sampling locations
• Menu of food and special events offered by participants
• Taste of Petaluma tote bag to first 500 guests

Cinnabar Theater:
Cinnabar Theatre’s fall season kicks off on September 9, 2011 with the musical, She Loves Me.  This delightful romantic comedy is based on the play of the same name and the popular film, The Shop Around the Corner, on which the more recent film You’ve Got Mail is also based.  (Book by Joe Masteroff/Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Based on Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo.)  Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920. 

The V Concert” is September 10, 2011, and features works exclusively by composers whose last names begin with the letter V, including Vivaldi, and featuring Villa Lobos’ lush “Bachianas Brasileiras” No. 5 for eight cellos and solo soprano and other “V” treats.  Soprano Carrie Hennessey, of Cinnabar’s Emmeline fame, will sing the Villa Lobos solo. (listen here for Villa Lobos).  The concert is a fundraiser for Cinnabar’s Opera Theater Program and will take place in the lovely West Petaluma gardens at 200 Queens Lane, Petaluma, CA.  Tickets: $15 to 20 (purchase here)

Cinnabar Theater, 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma, CA  94952, 707.763.8929.

August 25, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Petaluma The Musical” is Sold Out BUT here’s a way to get tickets

When people heard that “Petaluma The Musical” was opening in town for just four performances this Thursday through Sunday (August 25-28, 2011), the shows, at Clear Heart Gallery, sold-out immediately.   A Sunday matinee was then added and that sold-out too.  Produced and directed by Colette McMullen, the 90 minute show is billed as an original music theatre performance combining narration, theatre, original music and lots of Petaluma history–all against the backdrop of a love story.    

I just learned that there are still a handful of seats available for this evening’s 7 p.m. dress rehearsal.   For general information, visit  and for $10.00 tickets for tonight’s performance, contact Clear Heart Gallery, 368B Petaluma Blvd. North, Petaluma.   707.322-0009

The problem:  According to Colette McMullen, the show’s producer and creator, Clear Heart Gallery thought they could accommodate 100 persons but the fire inspector said 40 and, of course, they had to comply.

Next logical step: more performances of “Petaluma The Musical” and getting started on “Petaluma The Opera.”

August 24, 2011 Posted by | Theatre | , , | Leave a comment

6th Annual Taste of Petaluma is a culinary journey you won’t want to miss, this Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pie-maker and filmmaker Lina Hoshino, of Petaluma's famed Petaluma Pie Company will be serving chocolate creme pie and cheeseburger pie at Saturday's 6th annual Taste of Petaluma. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Petaluma now has over 140 restaurants and this Saturday, the 6th annual Taste of Petaluma will offer delectables served up by more than 60 of our town’s finest chefs, food purveyors, wineries and breweries.  “Taste” is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with Petaluma’s upscale culinary offerings in blissful generously-portioned tastes.  Tickets are sold in lots of ten and a single ticket allows you a taste from a large group of  participants, growing by the day.  This year, there are more vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free offerings than ever.   All of the purveyors ARThound will be recommending use fresh locally-grown or sourced ingredients, so stay tuned for a full review later this week.   Also included in the ticket package is live entertainment, from music to belly dancing to a magician and more. 

All of the purveyors generously donate their food to Taste, knowing that a sample is the best advertising that money can buy and because they recognize the importance of supporting Cinnabar  Theater.   Located in the old school house on the hill at corner of Skillman Lane and Petaluma Blvd. North, Cinnabar Theatre is a professional non-profit 501(c)(3) regional theatre that serves an annual audience of over 15,000.  It is the only venue in Sonoma County that produces opera and musical theater, dramatic theater, chamber series, dance and special festivals and it is entirely dependent on private funding to provide its exceptional programming.  Taste of Petaluma, along with the Great Chile Cookoff (held each May), Salsa and Beer Tasting (held each May) are the theatre’s two fundraisers.

Details:  Saturday August 27, 2011, 11:30 AM to 4:00 PM.

Tickets are sold in packages of 10 tickets and are available for $35 before  Saturday, August 27th, on Saturday for $40, starting at 10:30 a.m. at Putnam Plaza on Petaluma Blvd., or at Haus Fortuna at 111 2nd Street.

A maximum of 1500 ticket packages will be sold for Taste of Petaluma, so buy your tickets early.

Your Ticket Package Includes:
• Book of 10 dine-around tickets – One sampling item per ticket. You can purchase more tickets throughout the day if you like for $4 each.
• Street Map of sampling locations
• Menu of food and special events offered by participants
• Taste of Petaluma tote bag to first 500 guests

The event supports Cinnabar Theater’s programming.  Cinnabar ushers in its fall season on September 9, 2011, with the romantic musical, She Loves Me.  This delightful performance is based on the based on the play of the same name and the popular films, You’ve Got Mail and The Shop Around the Corner.  (Book by Joe Masteroff/Music by Jerry Bock; Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick; Based on Parfumerie by Miklos Laszlo.)  Get your tickets here or call 707.763.8920.  Click here for more info, including full dates and music samples.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Filmmaker Michael Wiese talks about his new Bali doc “Talking with Spirits,” screening at Asian Art Museum this Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Filmmaker Michael Wiese visited Bali in the 1970’s and was led to a remote village by a Balinese salesman.  As he participated in elaborate ceremonies, he realized he did not really see the world as the Balinese saw it.  Now, 40 years later and many visits between, his new documentary, Talking with Spirits, shows sequences that make us question everything we know about the nature of reality, consciousness, and the very sources of creativity and inspiration.  Wiese’s film will be screening this Tuesday, at 2 p.m., at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as part of their programming for Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance which runs through September 11, 2011.  This weekend, I interviewed Michael Wiese who was at the Albuquerque Film Festival, where his film had its West Coast premiere.

Talking with Sprits is billed as a documentary, which is a fairly broad category these days.  What is it exactly? 

Michael Wiese:  When I think of documentaries, I think most are intellectual ─ you know, a narrator talking over experiences ─ which this is not.  This film guides you and lets you have your own experience.  The unseen world by its very nature is very is hard to capture.  I am making a film about things that cannot be filmed.

What is the emphasis of the film? From the trailer it appears to delve into trance and possession.  Is this a story of communication between a medium and a single person or a community experience? 

Michael Wiese:   Trance can be very much a community experience.  What impressed me when I was there in my 20s was the Balinese connection to the divine.  Bali is a culture where people spend 50 percent of their time in temple ceremonies communicating with the gods.  In the film, they are in direct communication with the gods.  The film explores a man healing somebody as his hands are being guided by a god.  Another man is a farmer and he channels Hanuman, one of the Hindu Gods.  This is the way it is in Bali—trance is just a way to delve into other states of consciousness.  It’s very hard to talk about this because it is so far out of our range of expression and that’s why, instead of writing a book, I made the film. I am capturing what’s happening on the outside, and had to use other techniques to give an impression of what’s going on internally.

It’s also a very personal journey as part of my quest for a cure for Parkinson’s, which I have, which has taken me into a lot of healing modalities, non-Western as well as Western, to find whatever works. 

Filmmaker Michael Wiese is screening his new documentary “Talking with Spirits” about Balinese trance state and spirituality at the Asian Art Museum this Tuesday. His publishing company, MWP, founded in 1981, has become the leading independent publisher of books on screenwriting and filmmaking, with a current line of more than 130 titles. Photo: courtesy Divine Arts Media

Is this new footage then, or is there some footage from the 1970’s? 

Michael Wiese:   There’s an introductory clip in the beginning with some archival footage from that first encounter in 1970—maybe 8 min– to bring in the gravity of time, the set and setting, and show what Bali was like when I was a young man, in my early twenties.  At that time, we just shot the surface.  We did not know what was going on.  Stuff was happening but we did not grasp the depth of it or the methods of entry into the unseen worlds.  Had we even understood what we were seeing, I doubt that we would have gotten permission to film it.  We simply weren’t mature enough or ready to see it. 

Is the footage all from the same village?

Michael Wiese:   No, we’ve been going back there for the past 40 years.  The film was made in many villages in Bali and takes place across the whole island. We have a long-term relationship with a lot of people in Pengosaken village in particular though this village is not at all the focal point. 

There have been so many films made on Bali that address trance state, so what’s the unique underlying message in yours? 

Michael Wiese:  I am not an anthropologist or an expert from a university but I am encouraging people to participate.  As a filmmaker you shouldn’t stand back and point the camera in some direction and think that will bring deep understanding of what’s going on.  I think one needs to be courageous and jump in the fray, especially when we don’t understand.  If a filmmaker can do this and take the audience along then that’s great.  If the audience wants to pursue it further in some remote place in Bali, or Tibet, then that’s fine.  The wisdom cultures of the world are opening up to the West more and more because it’s vital that the Western world get in touch with the sacred side of things and restore and nurture our home planet.  I think that ancient cultures realize this and are reaching outside; whereas, in the past, these teachings have been secret.  They are stepping up the game and people will meet this seriously or superficially but, at last, it’s being addressed.

How do you feel about the issue of filmmakers who go to relatively untainted cultures and make films and popularize that area, put it on the map, and thereby accelerate the destruction of the cultures and traditions they are filming?  Is there a balance you try to preserve in the face of the blatant spiritual tourism that results from films like “Eat, Pray, Love” (2010)?

Michael Wiese:  That is a very real concern for me.  I’ve certainly made films where that has come up.  Dolphin Adventures (2009) is a film about communication with dolphins.  After I made that, people discovered these dolphins and then figured out where they were and went and exploited those dolphins and so I am very sensitive to those issues.   On the other hand, people are going to do what they are going to do.  As a filmmaker, if you bring awareness that these  sacred practices are a sensitive thing and can generate some reverance and respect so that people can approach this with a sense of reverence, this is good.  The films I am making now are very niche-oriented and are probably for people already on spiritual quests.  I am less concerned with what’s going to happen.  The Balinese will open up, or not, depending on the situation and the Balinese understand how superficial a film like “Eat, Pray, Love” is.  Ketut Liyer, the actual shaman, or balian, depicted in that film is a friend of mine.   Today he does the same palm reading on every divorcee who shows up by the busload at his doorstep and he is laughing all the way to the bank.  He’s not being treated seriously and is not treating them seriously.  Actually, false shamans in Bali using his name have risen to pick up the business he cannot handle!

What’s the breakthrough moment mentioned in the trailer?

Michael Wiese:  There were many.  The whole film is a breakthrough. I needed to be in the film because if I am filming something like trance, I need to participate to integrate it within myself.  When shamanic musician Alberto Roman and I were invited to enter the sacred space, we did.   His trance was much more powerful than mine but I did have an experience of my consciousness being dramatically shifted.  If you look at it from the outside, it looks like a bunch of people thrashing about─ and that doesn’t accurately convey the inner experience.  The film, I hope, delivers an inner experience. 

Bali just kept opening up like a lotus flower.   I was very grateful when She (Bali) would offer more and more and this has only deepened over time.  I felt that the Balinese had figured out what it means to be human as they know how to bring harmony into so many dimensions of their lives.  We have a lot to learn from them.

Who’s in the film with you?

Michael Wiese:  Larry Reed is not in the film but shared the experience of that first trip in 1970.  He is one of the very few Americans to be trained in wayang kulit, Balinese shadow puppetry, and he performs all over world and has been doing this for years.   He has been giving some shadow puppet performances at the Asian Art Museum during the Bali exhibition. (click here to read about shadow puppet events associated with the exhibition “Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance” at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, through September 11, 2011)

Michael Wiese's new documentary explores Balinese trance and spirituality.

What challenges did you face in making this film?

Michael Wiese:  None.

No one has ever said that to me before.

Michael Wiese:  When you are in the zone and you are aligned with a purpose and everybody participates in supporting that purpose it’s easy.  The last three films I’ve made have been easy in that regard.  They are only difficult when you are pushing an agenda.  When you come with innocence and ask to be shown, you are not ‘making’ the film; you are part of its co-creation with others and other energies.  It’s more the case that I happened to be witness to this and was given this material and the responsibility of shepherding it into the world.

How is this transforming you? 

Michael Wiese:  Taking the film out into the world is a chore but I have been transformed in considerable ways on a daily basis. Today, we got up at 4:40 a.m. and a Mexican curandera (traditional healer using a Mestizo or syncretic system of healing) came by and took us out into the desert to welcome the sun and held a traditional ceremony for us.  That came about because I showed my film about shamanism, The Shaman and Ayahuasca, here in Albuquerque last year.  That film was shot in the Amazon and Peru and delves into the healing and vision ceremonies (using ayahuasca, a psychoactive healing brew using vines and leaves) of Don José Campos and Pablo Amaringo, a painter and former shaman.  I could give you several more examples of things, big and small, occurring over years.  Spirituality has always been a part of my work too but I’ve taken a stronger stand in creating more work in that genre. I’ve dipped in and out of making consciousness films, human potential, and spiritual films my whole career. Divine Arts, our new company is about drawing a circle in the sand and saying let’s call it what it is and create spiritual films and books.

Tell me about your company DIVINE ARTS.

I have a company (Michael Wiese Productions (, that publishes film books—how to write films, screenplays, all of that—and over the past thirty years, have become the leading publisher in that field of “how to.”  Now, years later, we see a real need for “why to” books, about what filmmakers can do with these tools in the field of conscious media.  About a year and half ago, my wife and I decided to start DIVINE ARTS, a spiritual book line—arts, culture, spirit.  We’ve published about 5 or 6 books in our first year.

Having explored Balinese and South American spiritual practices, is there another region that holds a particular interest for you?

Tibet and Buddhism have always interested me.  A few years ago I made the film The Sacred Sites of the Dali Lamas (2007) and, this October, a companion book will come out from DIVINE ARTS.  I am interested in all spiritual practices which move the practitioner to the same cosmic awareness, recognizing that these practices they may be expressed differently in different cultures.  I draw inspiration through my experiences and relationships with people in these different spiritual cultures.  It is a very rich, magnificent and abundant world we live in.

Talking with Spirits, directed and produced by Michael Wiese (90 min, 2011) screens at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, on Tuesday, August 23, 2011 at 2 p.m.  There will be a Q&A session with Michael Wiese after the screening.

Details: The Asian Art Museum is located 200 Larkin Street, at Civic Center in San Francisco.  Hours:  Tuesday- Wednesday and Friday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Mondays. or (415) 581-3500.  Tickets:  $12.00 Adult General Admission.  $5.00 surcharge for  “Bali: Art, Ritual, Performance” which ends September 11, 2011.  Parking:  Civic Center Garage is just steps away from the museum entrance.

August 21, 2011 Posted by | Asian Art Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ARThound talks with the van Otterloo’s about their collection of Dutch and Flemish Old Masters at the Legion of Honor through October 2, 2011

Gerrit Dou’s still life “Sleeping Dog” (1650), oil on panel, is just one of the van Otterloo treasures on display at the Legion of Honor through October 2, 2011. Measuring just 6½ x 8½ in. (16.5 x 21.6 cm), it exhibits such life-like brush strokes that you can see every hair along the dog’s back, hind quarters. This tender depiction of a sleeping mutt is clearly inspired by a Rembrandt etching, also on display at the Legion. Image Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

“Crème de la crème” best describes the exquisite private collection of over 60 Old Master paintings now on display at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor through October 2, 2011.  Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection includes Rembrandt’s important Portrait of Aeltje Uylenburgh, Aged 62, and works by Jan Brueghal the Elder, Gerrit Dou, Franz Hals, Jacob van Rusidal, Hendrick Avercamp, and Jan Steen to name few.   What? You’ve never heard of the van Otterloos?    Rose-Marie and Eijk, originally from Belgium and the Netherlands respectively, and long term residents of Marblehead, Mass., are a rarity in flashy and boastful art world and have for the past 20 years been quietly amassing a collection of the finest exemplars of the Dutch Golden Age—paintings that are exceptional for their quality, condition, historical interest—and that speaks for itself.   The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo collection excels in every genre: portraits, still life, historical paintings, city, land and seascapes, and important works by female artists.  The collection comes to San Francisco from a tour that originated in Holland at the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis (Het Koninklijk Kabinet van Schilderijen, in The Hague, and continued nationally at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts and will conclude in November, 2011, at the Fine Arts Museum of Houston.

August 20, 2011 Posted by | Legion of Honor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sonoma County Book Festival’s Windrush Farm benefit features columnist Michele Anna Jordan in conversation with author Anne Zimmerman on writer M.F.K Fisher, Sunday, August 21, 2011

Anne Zimmerman’s biography “An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher” (Counterpoint, 2010, 261 pages, $26) is a very personal account of the celebrated writer’s life. Photo: courtesy Counterpoint Press.

Every August, in preparation for the Sonoma County Book Festival in September, now in its 12th year, there is a delightful benefit at Mimi Luebbermann’s rustic Windrush Farm in West Petaluma.  This Sunday, August 21, 2011, from 2 pm to 5 pm, local author and columnist Michele Anna Jordan will be in conversation with Anne Zimmerman, author of An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher (Counterpoint, 2010, 261 pages, $26).  In addition to lively conversation, the afternoon will feature gourmet wood-fired pizza served straight from Mimi’s outdoor oven, an oyster bar, Sonoma County wines and an “Everybody Wins” raffle where everyone will take home a great book. 

“I love the opportunity to talk about Mary Frances,” said Michele Anna Jordan. “A lot of people don’t know her any more, which is a shame.  She’s tremendously misunderstood in today’s world, where food has become passive entertainment.  I was happy to discover Zimmerman.  She takes a look at M.F.K. Fisher’s first five books and does a fairly close reading of them. She adds her own very personal story, which shows why M.F.K. Fisher had such an appeal to her at the time.”

 “Fisher always bristled at being called a food writer─she was a writer,” added Jordan.  “In those first five books, you see her at the height of her powers—her passion for life and for writing.  She was driven to write by her own muse, not by economic need.  There was a lot of heartbreak, too, which was the unspoken foundation for all of these first books, and our conversation will explore that.” 

For those who aren’t aware, M.F.K. Fisher also had close ties to Northern, California.  In 1972, at the age of sixty-three, after decades of extensive travel that took her all over the world, she moved into a home designed by architect David Bouverie that was situated on his 535-acre Glen Ellen ranch (today’s Bouverie Preserve). She lived there for the next two decades, writing prolifically from a cabin that she called “Last House.”  She welcomed frequent guests—famous and not famous– whom she loved entertaining in a low-key, pitch-in-and-help style.  Julia Child, James Beard, Alice Waters, Anne Lamott, Herb Caen, and Maya Angelou all visited and Bill Moyers filmed his PBS interview with her there.

Santa Rosa author and columnist, Michele Anna Jordan, will be in conversation with author Anne Zimmerman on writer M.F.K Fisher, this Sunday, August 21, 2011, at a benefit for the Sonoma County Book Festival at Windrush Farm in West Petaluma. Image: courtesy of Michele Anna Jordan.

It is the early years and Fisher’s love and knowledge of food and passion that Ann Zimmerman focuses on in An Extravagant Hunger.  “No matter her location or level of emotional anguish, she always noticed the meal in front of her,” Zimmerman writes. From her first salad on the rumbling train into Paris, to the inky wines that swayed in her glass on [a ship called] the Cellina, the colors and flavors of great food and wine brought her incomparable pleasure.” 

“This event at Mimi’s is always a special treat,” said JJ Wilson, one of the co-founders of the festival, a co-founder of The Sitting Room: A Community Library, a retired Sonoma State University Professor Emeritus, and a literary tour de force.  “There’s amazing food and there’s always a discussion about a great new book. People have stopped reading M.F.K. Fisher and that’s too bad because she’s not dated. She is a wonderful stylist and writer and she so is quotable and that’s one of the joys of reading Anne Zimmerman’s book.  She takes so much from Fisher and she had access to a lot of materials—her letters and so forth– that weren’t available to others. This resulted in a fascinating book─it’s like the very best gossip.  That’s not a very high-minded way to put it, but this is very good and totally fascinating inside information.”     

The “Everybody Wins” Raffle, a fundraiser for the festival, is expected to be quite popular.  $10 automatically gets an entrant any book from an outstanding selection of new or gently used books.  Culled from the personal collections of avid readers on the Book Festival Steering committee, these books include best sellers from Lorrie Moore, Abraham Verghese, Yiyun Li, Stieg Larsson and others.  In addition to the book, the $10 gets the entrant a raffle ticket to win one of these terrific prizes:

— A copy of guest speaker Anne Zimmerman’s book, An Extravagant Hunger
— Lunch for two at the popular Dierk’s Parkside Cafe in Santa Rosa
— A bucket of seeds from the Petaluma Seed Bank supplied by Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company
Raffle tickets are $10 each or 3 for $20.

Anne Zimmerman, author of An Extravagant Hunger: The Passionate Years of M.F.K. Fisher, is in conversation this Sunday, August 21, 2011, at a benefit at Windrush Farm, for the Sonoma County Book Festival.

The Windrush fundraiser menu seems to get better every year.  Wood-fired pizzas made with farm-fresh local organic produce will be assembled and baked by Mimi Luebbermann and her team of volunteers.  There will be an oyster bar, with oysters from Tamales Bay Oyster Company, and champagne.  A cheese board will feature Joe Matos’ famous St. George Azores-style cheese made on his Santa Rosa farm.  Windsor Vineyards has provided two cases of wines for the event and Lagunitas Brewery, of Petaluma, has donated its popular beer.  Dessert is Michele Anna Jordan’s own elegant creation, “Honeydew in Absinthe, with Fresh Mint.” (recipe provided below for ARThound readers)

 Sonoma County Book Festival:  This year’s Sonoma County Book Festival is September 24, 2011 and it sponsored by The Literary Arts Guild, a Sonoma County non-profit dedicated to the arts.  The book festival is the main literary event in Sonoma County and, every September, for one glorious afternoon, it transforms Santa Rosa’s sleepy downtown square into a glorious hub for readers.  “What it really is, is a fashion show for books,” explained of JJ Wilson. “It’s a way of drawing attention to the joys of literacy and, while it’s not in our mission statement, we want to keep these few remaining independent book stores in Sonoma County alive.  This gives them a platform from which to meet readers, to sell books and to remind people that they are there.  The goal is to get people to read.  Sadly, we are the only book festival left in Northern, CA.”  

This year’s festival will feature a mix of local writers and big-name draws like Ann Packer, Belva Davis, Maxine Hong Kingston, Jane Hirshfield.  There are readings, presentations, book-signings, and panel discussions—including the ever popular panel discussions for mystery book writing and writing for film and stage.  Megan McDonald, author of the Judy moody books, is the headliner for an amazing line-up of children’s programming that includes storytellers, marionettes, and a Secret Agent Jack Stalwart Treasure Hunt. There will be over 100 booths and exhibits focused on small and independent booksellers and publishers too.   Visit for a schedule of the days’ events and more information.  

Hungry to start reading?  If you haven’t read Fisher yet, Jordan recommends starting with The Gastronomical Me.  “It’s Fisher at her height and the essence of who she was as a writer, said Jordan. “It covers her early experiences in California and life in France in the 1930’s and all her exploits─passionate and powerful.”  Readers’ Books, of Sonoma, will be selling copies of Zimmerman’s book, An Extravagant Hunger, and an assortment of books by M.F.K. Fisher at the event on Sunday.

Details:   Mimi Luebbermann’s Windrush Farm, 2263 Chileno Valley Rd., Petaluma
Sunday, August 21, 2011, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Tickets: $40; children 12 and under are free.
Tickets are available at Brown Paper Tickets and can be purchased (cash or check only) on Sunday at Windrush Farm.





August 19, 2011 Posted by | Book | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Peter Sellars’s new “Griselda” collaboration with L.A. artist Gronk hits a new level of bold, but never without cause

Los Angeles artist Gronk created a 110 ft x18 ft mural─bold, colorful and abstract─which is the set for Peter Sellars’ new production of Vivaldi’s “Griselda,” at Santa Fe Opera. People either love or hate it. Photo: courtesy Bob Godwin, Santa Fe Opera

Ask anyone who’s been to the Santa Fe Opera this summer and no one is neutral about Peter Sellars’s new production of Vivaldi’s Griselda.  At the heart of the production and the spirited debate is the set, a huge —110’ x 18’— abstract mural painted by Los Angeles artist Gronk which has such a powerful dramatic presence that it literally defines the drama occurring in front of it.  There are several things that are unique about this innovative set that I, a newcomer to opera but long-time visual arts writer, found interesting and appealing.  Most fascinating was that  the end product perfectly meshed with Peter Sellars’s idea that the set design should provide the strong dramatic framework lacking in the Vivaldi opera itself.  And while lots of artists have “created” opera sets —David Hockney among the most famous—Gronk’s level of involvement is unprecedented as he painted everything himself, without assistance.  I attended the July 20th performance and spoke with Peter Sellars, Gronk, and some of the performers in the production about the role of this stunning mural.  (Stay tuned for the interviews)

Los Angeles artist Gronk has collaborated with Peter Sellars on 5 productions. Sellars believes that Gronk’s abstract mural for “Griselda” at Santa Fe Opera transcends tradition in set design and provides the dramatic framework lacking in Vivaldi's opera itself. Photo: courtesy Bob Godwin, Santa Fe Opera

August 16, 2011 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SFMOMA presents “Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera Installation,” at YBCA’s Novellus Theater, August 18 through 21, 2011

Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein looking over the score for Four Saints in Three Acts, ca. 1929; Yale Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library, Yale University; photo: Mabel Thérèse Bonney

Among the outtakes from Woody Allen’s recent hit film Midnight in Paris might well have been a scene showing Gertrude Stein being asked by the obscure young American composer Virgil Thomson to create an opera libretto for him.  There, in Paris in 1927, began one of America’s quirkiest creative partnerships, yielding not only the unique, wacky, and strangely moving operas Four Saints in Three Acts (1934) and The Mother of Us All (1947), but opening the floodgates for new modernist thought in music, literature, and art in America.

Stein’s typically nonlinear libretto for Four Saints, more focused on the sounds of words than on plot, is a sort of fractured fairy tale starring two 16th-century Spanish saints—the theologian Ignatius of Loyola and the mystic Teresa of Avila—and a gaggle of imaginary cohorts (St. Plan, St. Settlement, St. Plot, St. Chavez, etc.) who have visions of a heavenly mansion, enjoy a celestial picnic, and dance a tango-inflected ballet.  Thomson’s accessible music draws upon the snappy rhythms of American speech and the warm melodic shapes of American folksongs and hymns. 

On the occasion of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s major exhibition The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Bay Area Now 6 (BAN6), SFMOMA in association with YBCA will present a new production of Stein and Thomson’s opera. The new version, titled Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera Installation, will play at YBCA’s Novellus Theater this Thursday, August 18, through Sunday, August 21, 2011.  The 50 minute performance will be preceded by a “A Heavenly Act” (2011), a brand new stand-alone curtain-raiser with an original score by Luciano Chessa and new video and performance elements by Kalup Linzy, inspired by a streamlined 1950s version of Thomson and Stein’s opera.  Four Saints, which follows it, will be augmented by video projections from Chessa and Linzy’s opening piece.

Four Saints is vintage Thomson/Stein, simultaneously All-American and countercultural,” said New York opera dramaturg Cori Ellison.  “Avant-garde yet sweetly ingenuous, it’s always been a magnet for the most imaginative theatre and visual artists, from Robert Wilson and Mark Morris on down.  I’d say any performance of this rare and charming opera is a must-see.”

SFMOMA in Association with YBCA Presents:  Four Saints in Three Acts: An Opera Installation

An Ensemble Parallèle production

     Nicole Paiement, conductor/artistic director

     Brian Staufenbiel, director

Music by Virgil Thomson and Luciano Chessa, with libretto by Gertrude Stein

Featuring Kalup Linzy

Novellus Theater at YBCA

Preview: Thursday, August 18, 7:30 p.m.

Friday and Saturday, August 19 and 20, 8 p.m.

Sunday, August 21, 2 p.m.

For tickets ($10–$85) visit or call 415.978.2787

The Art of Four Saints in Three Acts, gallery talk

Thursday, August 18, 6:30 p.m. • Contemporary Jewish Museum, Free with museum admission

See original music, art, and ephemera connected with the Gertrude Stein-Virgil Thompson collaboration Four Saints in Three Acts in a gallery talk directly preceding the preview performance of SFMOMA’s new staging of the opera at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories exhibition at Contemporary Jewish Museum, May 12, 2011 – September 6, 2011:

Drawing upon a wealth of rarely seen artistic and archival materials, Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories illuminates Stein’s life and pivotal role in art during the 20th century.

SFMOMA exhibition: The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde, through September 6, 2011

American expatriates in bohemian Paris when the 20th century was young, the Steins — writer Gertrude, her brothers Leo and Michael, and Michael’s wife, Sarah — were among the first to recognize the talents of avant-garde painters like Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. Through their friendship and patronage, they helped spark an artistic revolution. This landmark exhibition draws on collections around the world to reunite the Steins’ unparalleled holdings of modern art, bringing together, for the first time in a generation, dozens of works by Matisse, Picasso, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and many others. Artworks on view include Matisse’s Blue Nude (Baltimore Museum of Art) and Self-Portrait (Statens Museum, Copenhagen), and Picasso’s famous portrait Gertrude Stein (Metropolitan Museum of Art).
Yerba Buena Neighborhood Celebrates Gertrude Stein, May–September, 2011

Join the Yerba Buena neighborhood this summer in celebrating the life of writer Gertrude Stein and her influence on modern art, literature, and culture. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival will each host related programming: from art exhibitions to opera, poetry readings to salons, there’s definitely a there there. Visit   for a complete list of programs, discounts, and members-only specials throughout the neighborhood.

August 15, 2011 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment