Ted Mills
January 11, 2008 11:04 AM

These have been hard times for the mixology crew — the cold/flu illness won’t go away, one of our drinking partners is on holiday, the rain and the freezing weather . . .
So it’s nice to know, in these hard times, that two things stay constant: The delicious taste of a sweet, sweet cocktail and the cozy warmth of Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant.
Bartender Yvonne Owens puts in the kind of energy and speed to serve customers that would shame another person twice her size. Being Irish, she’s in her element pulling Guinness here in the back room bar (Dargan’s has two bars), which she’s been doing most nights for over two years.
Dargan’s indeed has a drinks menu and offers some strong martinis. But we’re in Owens’ hands now and her gears are turning. She first sets us up with an Irish Soda, a mad mix of Guinness, Coca-Cola, Kahlua and vanilla vodka. The key to the cocktail comes in getting enough Guinness to float and form its trademark creamy head, while underneath, the sweet liquors mix into something strong and refreshing.
“Is that enough Guinness?” Owens asks us, clearly concerned about making the drink just right, even as she juggles a bar becoming busier by degrees.
The most famous Irish shot is undoubtedly found at the bottom of a pint glass — the remnants of an Irish Car Bomb (a shooter of Bailey’s dropped into a half-pint of Guinness) — but Owens wanted to show us more. So we wound up with something called The Reacharound, a drink surely designed to embarrass us.
In a shot glass, Owen mixed Stoli Blueberry, Stoli Vanilla, Chambord, soda water and fresh cream, then topped it with whipped cream. The “Reacharound” entails the friendly interlocking of arms and the simultaneous downing of the drink.
Seeing we could take the drink, Owens sent us out into the night with a cocktail created on the spot. We even got to name it, a first for this column. Next time you’re at Dargan’s, ask for a Dargan Dangler. Its creamy texture finishes off an evening meal and tastes like a chocolate covered orange. It has our blessing.

2 parts Chambord
2 parts Bailey’s Irish Cream
1 part Godiva Chocolate Liqueur
1 part Stoli Orange
1 part fresh whipped cream

Combine all in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into martini glass.

Dargan’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
18 East Ortega St.
568-0702, www.dargans.com
Hours: 4:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. weekdays, 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. weekends

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

A frog chorus of approval – Local woman makes final of international wildlife photography competition

Frogs huddle together in the frame of Ines Roberts’ award-winning shot “Frog Assembly,” above. Roberts, a longtime Santa Barbara resident, beat out 32,000 other contestants to land in the winner’s circle for the 2007 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year. Roberts also was a finalist in 2003 with her piece “Waterfall Milford Sound Co.,” below.

By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
January 11, 2008 10:49 AM

Ines Labunski Roberts’ first camera was a Zeiss Ikon, a small 35 mm camera that began this Polish-born woman’s trip into photography, a life-long obsession that recently landed her in the winner’s circle for the 2007 Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year.
“I started in painting,” Roberts says, “but it seemed to me that photography was all about seeing — it was about constantly discovering. Wherever I go, I am an explorer.”
Those years of exploring included a trip to the Sierra mountains, where walking back down to their car, Roberts and her husband passed a hot springs pool steaming in the middle of the snowy landscape. The water was boiling hot, too much for anybody to sit in, and the snow was freezing cold, but in a drainage pipe the water was just right. Not for humans, of course, but for a knot of small frogs.
Camera at the ready, Roberts tried not to disturb the frog party as she closed in on them. The final photograph, which seems to picture the amphibians in a watery, floating space away from nature, made the final list, where Roberts went up against 32,000 photographers who didn’t have her eye or luck.
“It’s very tough for a woman of my age to go up against professionals whose job it is to travel around the world,” Roberts said.
Roberts, who is in her seventies, prefers to discuss the status of women photographers in general.
“It’s only in this year’s competition that there are more photos by women,” she says, referring to the 2.2 percent increase in female entrants from last year to this year.
Sure, a handful of women have broken through to the mainstream (Diane Arbus and Annie Liebovitz for a start), but women remain unrepresented in the photography field, Roberts notes.

Maybe it has to do with her history. After picking up the camera, her travels (and marriage) led her to Scotland, where she was the only female member of a photo enthusiasts’ club.
“At first I didn’t want to learn all the technical things,” she says. “All the men in the club wanted to talk about optics. I was more about aesthetics. But then somebody told me, if you don’t know your tools, you will never get better.”
Ever since then, her husband Gilbert Roberts has encouraged her. An engineer by profession — he helped design mechanisms for the Hubble telescope — he was an amateur photographer when he first met Ines.
“When he met me, he sold his camera,” she says. “He told me there would be no use for it.” She adds that recently he’s once again picked up a Minolta.
Her life in Santa Barbara since settling here has been full of photographic successes. Roberts has been the subject of one-woman shows, several other awards, and taught workshops at UCSB from 1978 to 1990.
Like many photographers who have straddled the changes of the last 50 years, Roberts has slowly joined the digital revolution.
“It took me a long time to accept color film too,” she says. “But digital gives you the most wonderful freedom.”

©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

ONSTAGE : Fuller’s guide to the universe – Rubicon revisits life of R. Buckminster Fuller in one-man show

By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
January 11, 2008 10:50 AM
When playwright Doug Jacobs was a UCSB freshman back in the late 1960s, his older brother told him one day to stop by the College of Creative Studies building to catch R. Buckminster Fuller holding court. The engineer, inventor and all-around Renaissance Man was “thinking out loud,” as Fuller used to say.
“I asked my brother when I should stop by,” says Jacobs. “He said to come whenever, Fuller was talking all day.” It turned out to be true. Jacobs listened, got hungry, went to dinner, and came back. Fuller was still there, as were the usual assemblage of Fuller groupies.
The sheer proliferation of Fuller’s works and thoughts are only a fraction of what Jacobs, many decades later, would have to draw from in condensing one man’s life into a one-man show at the Rubicon Theatre. Starring Joe Spano, “R. Buckminster Fuller: The History (And Mystery) of The Universe” opens Thursday.
“His idea that an individual can solve these big problems is very American,” says Jacobs, “It’s very ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.’ ”
Fuller’s star may have fallen a bit in the national consciousness in recent years. He is still best known for the geodesic dome or sphere, the utopian bubble structure that can be seen at places like Walt Disney World or in Toronto.
But for Jacobs and other fans of Fuller, he is best known for his futurism, his faith in humanity and man’s ability to evolve, change, think, and his science-turned-spiritual philosophy, which places him in a long line of Americans stretching back to the Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau.
Actor Joe Spano, a veteran of four Rubicon Theater productions and a film and television stalwart, with long stints on “Hill Street Blues” and “NYPD Blue.”
Spano says playing Fuller’s character — or “Bucky” as his fans call him — has been a journey into a complicated mind.
“It’s like going down the rabbit hole,” he says of trying to figure out Fuller. “I hope to come out with a picture of Bucky that people will be able to grasp. There’s a lot of truth in this play, but it’s important to keep the message broad. He was not dogmatic, and he was not paternalistic. He did not do anything that would take away another individual’s responsibility.”
Central to Fuller’s personality — and to the play’s autobiographical sections — was the death of his daughter when Fuller was only 32 years old, and relatively unknown.
Suicidal and alcoholic, Fuller underwent a crisis that led to an epiphany, a life-changing idea to become a human experiment in individual potential.
“I was working on this around the same time as (an adaptation of) ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ” Jacobs says. “And the two plays began to melt together. Bucky reinvents himself.” Unlike Scrooge, Fuller had decades to explore his new ideas.
Jacobs, who premiered the play back in 2000 at San Diego Repertory Theater, which he co-founded, sought out Spano for the role after their shared history at Berkeley Rep. “We always wanted to work with him,” says Jacobs.
For Spano, the one-man show is not a new challenge, but being Bucky is unlike anything he’s done before.
“He was dedicated to humanity, as cliché as it sounds,” he says. “He was in no sense an Eastern mystic. His ideas of transformation were very American in a very muscular way.”
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Feb. 10
Where: Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura
Cost: $29-$52
Information: 667-2900, www.rubicontheatre.org
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Transforming banking, ending poverty : Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus to speak at the Arlington

January 9, 2008 12:53 PM
“The intention was to fight the moneylenders, not become one.”
Muhammad Yunus, the man behind the Grameen bank
and the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, has helped fight poverty in his native Bangladesh, not through overturning an economic system, but by changing it from the inside. His idea was radical: a small loan of $20 to $100 to the poorest woman would not just be paid back on time, but would bring a desperate person out of a cycle of poverty by helping her become productive. While the major banks ignored and sometimes ridiculed him, over the course of 30 years, this faith in humanity and in doing a good turn beyond just that of charity has transformed his country. His ideas about microcredit, as it is called, have been adopted by many other developing countries as well as the first world. Mr. Yunus is scheduled to speak at UCSB on Jan. 16 to promote his new book, “Creating a World Without Poverty — Social Business and the Future of Capitalism.”
Mr. Yunus was interviewed by phone while he was in Shanghai. The conversation turned to the success of microcredit and his recent acceptance into the Global Elders, a group of public figures set up by Richard Branson that includes Kofi Annan, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter, and others, to serve as a moral think tank for world problems.
NEWS-PRESS: What are the concepts of microcredit that work in all countries? Are there any features that are different depending on the culture?
MUHAMMAD YUNUS: No, I would say the basic features remain the same. Conventional banks are based on collateral. We threw (that idea) out. Microcredit is based on trust with no collateral, no guarantee, and no lawyers. All microcredit has focused on the poorest people, particularly on women. The loans are all about helping you to generate your own income. The other constant is making a small installment payment mostly weekly, sometimes fortnightly. Right from the beginning the idea was that people should not go to the bank, banks should go to the people. Our bank staff go to the borrowers at their doorstep.
NP: You say a lot of the success of microcredit depends on trust and peer pressure.
MR. YUNUS: It’s not peer pressure as such — it’s more peer support. You help each other to succeed. Pressure is a negative, whereas we discuss with borrowers before (the loan) what they will you do when somebody cannot pay back. Some say, well, we’ll force her to pay it back. But that’s not what friends are for, friends help each other. Maybe her husband took the money and ran away, so what’s the use of getting angry with her. You should be focusing on a solution, rather then aggravating the problem.
NP: Have you seen the roles of women change in Bangladesh since this started?
MR. YUNUS: Yes, women are now in a better situation within family than they used to be. Now that they have the economic power and are contributing to the family income, her decision-making contribution to the family also goes up. Now her voice matters in the family, unlike when the husband was the only income earner.
NP: How else has that affected the society?
MR. YUNUS: In the 25-30 years since the empowerment of women, the population growth has declined very sharply. The average mother used to have 6.3 children–today it’s less than three. Despite Bangladesh being a Muslim country, its population growth is one of the lowest in the whole of Southeast Asia. In terms of children’s education, it has been very helpful. All children attend primary school, and that was quite an achievement for Bangladesh. Also in secondary school, our fear was that boys would stay in secondary school, and girls would drop out, but the reality is the other way around.
NP: Tell me a little about the Global Elders.
MR. YUNUS: The concept of elders is basically that of the African village. When there’s a crisis, they go and seek their advice and intervention, so they can protect themselves from the difficulties that they face. So now the world is a global village, maybe the world could do better by using world elders. They are a moral authority. They will be helpful in mobilizing public opinion, because people will look up to the elders and see that they have no axe to grind. So what they are saying probably is the right position. It is about bringing the trust back into the picture so people can take it seriously and move ahead.
NP: Is the problem of poverty more complex or simpler than we think?
MR. YUNUS: It’s simpler, because poverty is not created by people; it’s a creation of the system. So if we can fix the system, poverty will disappear. The banking system decided it cannot do business with more that one-half to two-thirds of world’s population, and so that became a cause of making people suffer. But if we can open up and create an inclusive financial system, maybe we can increase the chance of everybody getting out of poverty. Why do we assume all humans are moneymaking machines, while in reality we know very well they aren’t? So there should be two kinds of business: one to make money, and one to do good, without any personal benefit out of it. Those social businesses could then affect the profit-margin businesses and compete with them. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with human beings — they are as capable, creative and powerful as anybody else. Society never gave them the scope to unleash the potential inside of them.
NP: Do these solutions require a government that believes in the common good?
MR. YUNUS: No, all government has to do is create an enabling environment by making the appropriate legislation. It’s not a question of common good. All I’m doing is lending money to people I’d like to do business with. If in doing so the law stands up and says I can’t do that, the government response is to remove that law. Government shouldn’t lend money to poor — that is a bad policy. If poor people know it’s coming from government, and it’s your own money, so why should you pay it back?
NP: Do certain economic systems like capitalism or socialism result in more or less poverty?
MR. YUNUS: In the United States, you have 42 million people who don’t have medical insurance, who live in mortal terror when something happens. So in the very citadel of capitalism you cannot solve the problem of poverty. Today I’m talking to you from China, which is socialist. Their economic advance is the fastest in world, but it’s not happening to the people at the bottom. Once you agree that it’s the system, then we can go in and change that. The Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations say we can reduce poverty by half by 2015. We have to make sure we achieve that goal, for this will then give us the confidence to take the next step and reduce it to zero.
Muhammad Yunus speaks Jan. 16, 8 p.m. at the Arlington Theatre, 1317 State Street.
The event is free.
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

Deadly Bread!

This is such a stupid story, I have to share. Yesterday I was slicing a one-day old baguette from Trader Joe’s for dunking in soup–it was dinner time. I was sawing away at it–it was a bit hard as you might imagine–and my hand slipped and I actually broke skin on the edge of the bread. Thirty seconds later I was bleeding. What the hell??? I have had paper cuts in my time, but never a baguette cut.

Then tonight I was finishing off the same loaf and again sawing away (that final moment of separating base from loaf is the worst and again I slipped and I banged the edge of my thumb on the bread. It gave me a blood blister and before I could even think, even more blood was coming out, all over the knife and of the cutting board.

This has to be the deadliest bread I have ever come across. I’m glad it’s gone.

Decontructing Sgt. Pepper

All three tracks of Sgt Pepper isolated, then played together. (the fourth track I think was used for the crowd sounds.)

It’s also the only time that I’ve heard the track trail off into studio jamming and not segue into “With a Little Help”…

Where this comes from I don’t know. (Well, the link was found on boingboing, but who “Beatlepuzzle” is, I don’t know.

Joan Acocella on Kahlil Gibran

Here’s a good profile in the New Yorker on Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, a book that continues to sell well into its 8th decade. Gibran turns out to be an odd fellow indeed who luckily hooked up with the right kind of dependent relationship.

Mary Haskell, the headmistress of a girls’ school in Boston, was a New Woman. She believed in long hikes, cold showers, and progressive politics…She was not rich, but by careful thrift—the school’s cook, who also had some wealthy employers, sneaked dinners to her from their kitchens—she managed to put aside enough money to support a number of deserving causes: a Greek immigrant boy who needed boarding-school tuition, and another Greek boy, at Harvard. Then she met Gibran, who would be her most expensive project.

In the beginning, her major benefaction to him was simply financial—she gave him money, she paid his rent. In 1908, she sent him to Paris for a year, to study painting. Before he went abroad, they were “just friends,” but once they were apart the talk of friendship turned to letters of love, and when Gibran returned to Boston they became engaged. It was apparently agreed, though, that they would not marry until he felt he had established himself, and somehow this moment never came. Finally, Haskell offered to be his mistress. He wasn’t interested. In a painful passage in her diary, Haskell records how, one night, he said that she was looking thin. On the pretext of showing him that she was actually well fleshed, she took off her clothes and stood before him naked. He kissed one of her breasts, and that was all. She got dressed again. She knew that he had had affairs with other women, but he claimed that he was not “sexually minded,” and furthermore that what she missed in their relationship was actually there. When they were apart, he said, they were together. They didn’t need to have “intercourse”; their whole friendship was “a continued intercourse.” More than sex or marriage, it seems, what Haskell wanted from Gibran was simply to be acknowledged as the woman in his life. As she told her diary, she wanted people to “know he loved me because it was the greatest honor I had and I wanted credit for it—wanted the fame of his loving me.” But he would not introduce her to his friends. “Poor Mary!” Waterfield says. Amen to that.

Acocella links this way of interpersonal behavior to his writing:

Then, there is the pleasing ambiguity of Almustafa’s counsels. In the manner of horoscopes, the statements are so widely applicable (“your creativity,” “your family problems”) that almost anyone could think that they were addressed to him. At times, Almustafa’s vagueness is such that you can’t figure out what he means. If you look closely, though, you will see that much of the time he is saying something specific; namely, that everything is everything else. Freedom is slavery; waking is dreaming; belief is doubt; joy is pain; death is life. So, whatever you’re doing, you needn’t worry, because you’re also doing the opposite. Such paradoxes, which Gibran had used for years to keep Haskell out of his bed, now became his favorite literary device. They appeal not only by their seeming correction of conventional wisdom but also by their hypnotic power, their negation of rational processes.

It’s well worth a full read. Thanks to Mr. C for the link.

Drink of the Week : The Study Hall’s Fresca

By Ted Mills
January 4, 2008 11:34 AM
This may sound like Freakonomics, but the busiest hour of The Study Hall on the 500 block of State Street is directly tied into the bus schedules. Between 10:30 and 11 p.m., the bar fills up with college kids coming in from Isla Vista on the last bus downtown. Perhaps some have already been in bars in I.V., and if so, they’ve probably been at the other Study Hall, which has been pouring drinks for 12 years.
But, okay, this was much earlier in the night, and the bar was quiet by comparison. Ten-year bartending vet Duane Jeter manned the bottles and shakers, and seemed thrilled to step aside from the usual chant of “jackandcoke” and whip up some concoctions for our adventurous palate. “Off the menu?” he asked when we suggested where to look. “We have no menu, so I guess everything’s off the menu.”
So, he whips up a Gaucho — a blue and yellow concoction designed to tap into fond feelings of current students and alumni of UCSB. School colors, represent! The yellow comes from a mix of Mandarin vodka, Triple sec and O.J., and the blue can be none other than Blue Curaçao. Very smooth and easy to down in one, which is the point, and the drink manages to keep its blue and yellow partition even when my partner sipped instead of chugged. The Gaucho, as Jeter pointed out, is a blue-added version of the Orange Crush, also known as the Midnight Mimosa. Just replace the blue with regular curaçao.
One of Jeter’s favorite opening cocktail gambits — those served to customers too rushed to decide but too thirsty to wait — was our favorite, the Fresca. Named after the soda, and served over a large amount of ice, the drink combines a vodka with sweet’n’sour mix and 7-Up.
Depending on the vodka used, Jeter tempers the flavor with another liquor — in our case some Bacardi Limon. Like the soda, the drink comes in many flavors, depending on the flavored vodka (Stoli or Absolut) Jeter chooses. For us, it was black cherry. Refreshing, strong but not sweet, this satisfying cocktail is our drink of the week.
FRESCA (one variation)
2 parts Stoli Black Cherry Vodka
2 parts Bacardi Limon
1 part sweet and sour mix
1 part 7-Up
Combine in shaker, agitate, serve over ice in lowball glass. Garnish with Maraschino cherry and orange slice.
The Study Hall
519 State St., 560-6550, www.thestudyhall.com
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press

In Concert: Perfect Tenn

Choirmaster Mark Simmons prepares his University of Tennessee choirs for Saturday concert
By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
January 4, 2008 11:12 AM
Something of a globetrotter in his younger days, choirmaster Mark Simmons has made a point of imparting the importance of traveling on his students.
“Last year they saw the Atlantic coast,” he says, “This year I thought they should see the Pacific.”
Both Simmons and the two choirs he brings to Trinity Episcopal Church this Saturday hail from the landlocked University of Tennessee at Martin. A little dose of Bach and a breath of sea air add up to something like a well-rounded education for the choir.
“I think choirs should tour,” Simmons says. “For one night we get to get the message out about our university.”
Simmons brings with him the 43-member University Singers and the smaller New Pacer Singers, the latter all members of the former.
“The smaller group deals with the more complicated and harmonically challenging works,” says Simmons, ” and the larger one with the more traditional and spiritual.”
Simmons, who counts minimalists like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, and especially John Adams as closest to his heart, leaves room to explore the choral works by Healey Willan (“An Apostrophe to the Heavenly Hosts” ) and John Rutter (“Hymn to the Creator of Light”).
Both of these modern composers raised the profile of choral music in the 20th century, and Simmons considers these two selections very important works.
“Willan was a Canadian and an Anglican by denomination and it’s a coincidence but appropriate we are performing in an Anglican church.” The coincidence extends to Simmons’ Anglican faith, but Trinity Episcopal was chosen primarily for its acoustics. The area where he teaches and performs counts itself primarily Bible-belt Baptist. “Of course that means there’s plenty of places to perform,” he notes.
Born into a musical family (both parents taught choir) in Indiana, Simmons spent his childhood traveling, living in Saudi Arabia at one point when his parents taught in English schools. Back in the States, his education took him to New York, Oregon, Iowa, and Michigan. He finally settled in Martin, where his wife teaches clarinet at the university.
With an expanded mind comes the expanded repertoire, but that doesn’t mean the choir skimps on the Bach — also on the program with Motet No. 6 “Lobet den herrn.” “I’m partial to Bach,” he says. “It’s intrinsically teaching (students) all the time. There’s so much musical experience in one piece that it’s a major step to get through it.” Bach wrote six motets, and Simmons plans to perform them all, one a year, working backwards. “They don’t get easier,” he laughs.
The students who Simmons and his wife take on tour will be put up by Trinity Episcopal and All Saints By-the-Sea Episcopal, and, as Simmons notes, the students underwrite most of the trip’s expenses themselves. The whole trip is broken down into traveling, performing, and exploring (the tour finishes in Las Vegas), and Simmons says that in four years of touring, there has been little drama.
“We’ve once or twice left someone behind on the first bus out of Martin,” he laughs, alluding to the inevitable late-sleeping student. “But that’s an education in itself — a hard lesson, but an education.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Trinity Episcopal Church,1500 State St.
Cost: Free
Information: 965-7419, www.utm.edu/choirs
©2008 Santa Barbara News-Press