Wyoming-based writer Gretel Ehrlich laughs when her maintaining residence in Santa Barbara, where she was born, is mentioned. “I wouldn’t call it maintained,” she laughs. It’s a ranch, she says, and she’s rarely there. In Wyoming, she gets to live off the grid and close to nature, a lifestyle she’s had for most of her life as a nature writer.
Her first book in 1985 was “The Solace of Open Spaces,” a collection of essays, and she’s sought its namesake out in many areas of the world since. For her latest, “In the Empire of Ice: Encounters in a Changing Landscape,” she returns to one of the most open spaces on the earth: the Arctic Circle.
In the introduction to Mary Roach’s new book, she observes how ideally suited and evolved the human is to life on Earth, a match between man and environment that has lasted millennia. In space, however, nothing works for us: no water, no air, no gravity, not to mention the very, very long distances. But that’s why preparing humans for space — as revealed in humorous, wondrous and oftentimes gross detail in Ms. Roach’s “Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void” — has become a rich and growing industry but less talked about when compared to the science of booster rockets.
This is not the first time the writer has sought out weird science. In her books “Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers” (2003) and “Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife” (2005), she took on death and the people who study it. With “Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex” (2008), she found sex researchers in Cairo and wrote more about sow insemination than most would want to know except farmers. And she has written all this popular science with a cocked eye, a sense for the absurd, and a smart sense of humor.
By the time you read this, Alberto Pizano will have already been handed the resolution honoring Spanish Heritage Month from Santa Barbara County and had his photo taken as a thank you. For the council, Pizano represents the best in our community, and those in the arts will know that Pizano and his daughter Vibiana, co-founders of the Flamenco Arts Festival, represent the opportunity to see a culture that often seems so close to us, yet still a continent away. For 10 years, the Pizanos have brought the top stars of this flamenco to our city.
The Pizanos have marked the 11th year of the two-day festival by moving in a new direction, as far as traditional flamenco goes. David Peña Dorantes changed the flamenco world in his native Spain by choosing the piano — not the traditional guitar — to play, and now he is coming here.
Pity the wealthy upper class of the Northeastern United States, as typified by the family at the center of A.R. Gurney’s play “The Cocktail Hour.” In place of a quiet reunion upon prodigal son John’s return home, a family is rocked by the news that he intends to turn their foibles into a play. It’s title? “The Cocktail Hour.” Let the martinis and bickering commence.
Gurney’s comedy also toasts to the end of Circle Bar B’s theater season, and David and Susie Couch have called in their favorites to make the evening a proper sendoff to a year well done. Leesa Beck, Matt Cooper, Don Margolin and Kathy Marden star, and Jim Sirianni — a long-time favorite who most recently helmed DIJO’s “Frost/Nixon” — directs.
John Lengsfelder spent the earlier part of his filmmaking career working in a typical linear form, where stories had beginnings, middles and ends before being packaged up and sold. Apparently, that wasn’t enough for him.
“I reached a point in my life where I loved making films, but there was a letdown when it was done,” he says. “It’s no longer yours, and you have no relationship with it. I wanted to try staying in a relationship with my film, which meant being interactive with the film and the audience.”
From one Bowl to another: French band Phoenix stopped by our fair concert venue on Sunday after a sold-out, well-received concert at the Hollywood Bowl the day before, riding high on a career that has gone from cult attention to mass appeal. This is all the more amazing considering Phoenix’s pop-rock music — which settles into push-pull, loud-soft dynamics several times during each song, buoying melody lines that turn back in on themselves instead of stretching out into sing-along choruses — has an arrangement template that varied little each song. That is to say, Phoenix has risen with songs that don’t exactly knock one over with hooks.
So put it down to their style, their musicianship and being at the right place at the right time. And hey, think about it, these guys are French! And when was the last time a French rock band ever made it big in America?
Over the years, happy bar patrons have affixed signed dollar bills to the ceiling of the Maverick Saloon with thumbtacks. And that’s not all: Look around and you’ll see hats, bras, panties and other unmentionables. Now that’s our kind of bar.
This Santa Ynez landmark has been slinging beers, whiskey and cocktails since 1963, and no doubt a trip over the hill was long overdue for the Drink of the Week crew.
One can’t talk about Root 246 without mentioning celebrity chef Bradley Ogden. He’s the artist behind all the food and drinks here, this little bit of Los Angeles on Alisal Road in Solvang, looking totally out of place (in a good way) between the strudel shop and the sharp knives shop and the usual windmillscape of this Dutch enclave up north. Ogden’s restaurant features one of the largest open kitchens we’ve seen in the county, and those who love to glimpse behind the scenes can even reserve a table in the corner of said kitchen and watch plates go from stove to dining room.
Somewhere in the middle of our second cocktail, there’s the man himself, behind the bar, shaking our hands and asking about our drinks, letting us know the attention that goes into the food also goes into the cocktail menu. We were just thinking that ourselves, as the menu at Root 246 contains an enticing blend of herbs (and spices!), fruits and special liquors. Our two bartenders, Andre Boler and Nick Collins, have been here for about the length of the entire run of Root, which opened in April of 2009. They’re quick to whip up some cocktails for us.