Archive for October, 2010

Hensley historic district walking tour

Bonnie Montgomery, leading the Hensley district walking tour.

The recent series of walking tours of downtown area neighborhoods came around to the Hensley historic district yesterday. I joined tour guide Bonnie Montgomery and about a half dozen neighbors for a walk around the Hensley.

Bonnie Montgomery has done research to establish various homes as city landmarks, and worked with George Espinola on the book Cottages, Flats, Buildings and Bungalows, which details 102 works by San Jose’s iconic early-20th-century architectural partnership of Wolfe and McKenzie. With that background, she was able to point out several Wolfe & McKenzie houses in the Hensley district, and also presented photos of them in their original state as we walked. Some of these houses still retain most of their historic appearance, like the row of houses across 5th Street from Mi Pueblo Market on Julian, or the row of prominent buildings on Julian Street between First and Second, now being used as law offices. Others have been rather brutally remodeled, to the point you’d hardly guess at their ornate origins (see below, right).

Due to the upcoming holidays, the next downtown area neighborhood walking tour will be held on the final Saturday morning of January, 2011.


An amazing cast brings MARY STUART to life in Berkeley

Stephanie Gularte & Ryan Tasker as Mary and Mortimer. Photo: Jessica Palopoli

On Thursday a friend and I drove to Berkeley to try a new (to us) theater.  The Shotgun Players are an award winning theater company currently housed at The Ashby Stage in South Berkeley.  Mary Stuart is playing now — about Mary, Queen of Scots — and since my guest and I had studied the history of the characters in this play we were quite interested to see the show.

In a nutshell: We had a great experience, and loved the company enough to consider driving to Berkeley for other shows in the future.  If the actors in this show are any indication, there is some extraordinary talent in this tiny theater.  The entire cast were standouts in their own way, but Stephanie Gularte as Mary and Scott Coopwood as Leicester were extremely impressive.  The show itself appears to be taken directly from historical documents and Queen Elizabeth’s letters, so it is quite historically accurate, but it is set in present times and gives you a new way to think about the political events that let up to Mary’s execution.

The theater was awesome.  A fairly tiny venue, the seats are staggered pews that give every ticket a perfect view. And with prices ranging from $17 to $30 (according to day of the week) it’s very difficult to go wrong.  Theater workers were all very friendly and helpful and there was a fun little raffle at intermission.  And let’s not forget the full bar at their tiny concessions!  Also available were homemade cookies and delicious brownies, a variety of candy, and the coffee was quite refreshing.  Food and drink from the concessions are allowed in the theater.  There is street parking and a large pay lot right across the street.

My guest and I were a little too familiar with the material from which Mary Stuart was derived, so there was not much to surprise us.  But the quality of the acting was such that we would be very happy to see what they do with future shows.  This isn’t to say that Mary Stuart is not a good show – it was just not a perfect fit for us.  Personally I’m hoping to be back for their next show Of the Earth, based on Homer’s The Odyssey.  And if you happen to be headed towards Berkeley you might want to check out what is playing at this darling but very impressive little venue.

Jesse Caldwell & Beth Wilmurt as Paulet and Elizabeth. Photo: Jessica Palopoli


adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s Maria Stuart
and directed by MARK JACKSON
The Shotgun Players
The Ashby Stage
1901 Ashby Avenue
Berkeley, CA
(Ashby Ave. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Way)
Wheelchair Accessible
Now extended through 11/14!

New Frontier Village Halloween 2010

Main Street

New Frontier Village Main Street

This Halloween weekend, October 30 & 31, journey back in time to the days of the Frontier Village amusement park.

Frontier Village was a Western themed amusement park at the intersection of Monterey Road and Branham Lane in San Jose that operated in the 60’s and 70’s.

Campbell resident Shaughnessy McGehee opens his backyard for Halloween that has an old western town modeled after buildings that were at Frontier Village. Included are authentic Antique Autos, signage, photos, and other memorabilia from the old amusement park. You will see gunfighters and western re-enactors in costume. Hot dogs for the first 100 guest both evenings and of course, Trick-or-Treating for the kids. This is a free event.

You youngins and those wanting to reminisce may want to visit the Remembering Frontier Village website.

New Frontier Village Halloween
871 Virginia Ave. Campbell

October 30-31, 2010
6:00 pm to 9:00 pm


Sad news from

I managed to miss the new hyperlocal news blog for the near peninsula in my last blog roundup, so I unfortunately have to introduce Metblogs readers to InMenlo with the news that its founder, Chris Gulker, passed away yesterday. The blog has been in business for a little over a year, and I’ve been following it for a month or two now. They are doing a great job of covering their two zip codes in Menlo Park and Atherton.

Gulker was apparently an interesting example of a serious, major-market, photojournalist who entered the world of newsblogging. After a long journalism career he had worked for years in the publishing divisions of Apple and Adobe, and was also known as a pioneering blogger for his personal blog, started in 1995.

San Jose Metblogs offers its condolences to the Gulker family, and hopes for InMenlo to continue its great work as Chris Gulker’s legacy.

Politics is ugly

Politics can be so ugly, it would just about make you cry. In this video, found on San Jose Inside, both sides of the Measure V & W debate push the limits of stupidity.


Political consultant Tom Saggau, behind the camera, threatens Pierluigi Oliverio with arrest for removing signs from the public roadway. Petty theft is one thing (if Oliverio isn’t justified in removing signs from the public right of way, as provided for in city code), but false arrest is something else altogether. Probably not something Saggau really wants to try.

And Oliverio, even if he was technically justified in removing the signs, ought to have realized how petty it looks for an elected official to be seen trying to suppress his opponents political message. That’s just not smart, Pierluigi.

The only people who look good here are the SJPD. They kept the parties apart, and stopped this from developing into something uglier. They brokered a compromise that avoided either side being allowed to do anything any more stupid than they were already doing, and they got Saggau his signs back.

Pathetic displays of political blustering like we see in the video make me wish I could hide in a cave until November 3. But unfortunately this issue is too big and important to ignore. The City of San Jose has dug itself a big financial hole, and everybody has to join in to dig the city out. City employees have faced layoffs, and city residents will endure service cuts to help balance the budget. But police and fire unions have protected their members from contributing substantially to the solution to the city’s financial problems, and that’s just not right. Measures V & W give the city the ability to get help from all of its employees to fix its problems.

It would be fantastic if San Jose could afford to pay its police officers, firefighters, and all its other employees every penny they deserve and more. But that’s just not possible. Public safety is critical for the city’s future, but so are gang prevention, libraries, schools, parks, building inspectors, and all of the other functions that keep the city livable. If you agree, please come out of that cave, ignore the political stupidity, and join me in voting for Measures V and W.

RAIN, a Tribute to the Beatles at the CPA, San Jose

Rain: The Beatles Experience

If you’re looking for something non-Halloween to do this week, Broadway San Jose has another great show playing.  Rain, A Tribute to the Beatles is putting smiles on the faces of a pretty packed audience at the Center for Performing Arts.  If you love the Beatles, are a fan of the 60s, or just enjoy an evening of great music, this is the show for you.

Not just a bunch of Beatles impersonators, this was a fun, interactive show that gets everyone involved.  There are three large screens playing old newsreels, hilarious commercials from the 60s, animations, and lots of film of screaming girls interspersed with footage of the CPA audience as well.  Like it or not, there’s a good chance you’ll be up on that screen!  There are several great costume changes (with the Sgt. Pepper period my favorite), and the show moves chronologically from the Ed Sullivan Show through Abbey Road.

I was a big Beatles fan in my younger days but have never really sat down and listened to their music in chronological order.  I really enjoyed seeing and hearing the growth and changes in their sound and messages, and it made me appreciate their music even more.  The show starts out a little slow but quickly picks up steam and by intermission the audience is up on their feet clapping and dancing along.  As everyone streamed out of the CPA when it was over I heard several very happy and pleased comments from the audience.

The Sgt. Pepper period

I took my 18 year old daughter, usually the toughest critic in San Jose, and she loved it.  She said it wasn’t what she expected and that she really wanted to see it again.  That is just about the strongest piece of praise you can get from this child.

But time is running out to get your tickets.  Don’t miss out on this super fun show.  Give up the tricks for one night and give yourself a treat instead.

Broadway San Jose

Center for Performing Arts
October 26 – 31
Tuesday – Thursday – 7:30 p.m.
Friday – 8 p.m.
Saturday – 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Dial M for Murder kills at Hillbarn Theatre… But who kills whom?

Whatever you do, don't answer the phone!

Friday I attended opening night for Dial M for Murder, the third production in a row that I’ve seen at Hillbarn Theatre, and the third time I left the theater with a smile on my face.

I have never seen the 1954 film by Alfred Hitchcock, which was based on the 1952 play by Frederick Knott.  I felt somewhat ashamed by this slip, but it seemed that no one I spoke to had seen the film either!  Shame on us, but luckily we had the incredible fortune to see it played out on stage as it had been written.

The play is about Tony Wendice, a villain of mustache twirling proportions, who has come up with the perfect plan to murder his wife.  We see him plan every single detail of his nefarious scheme and it appears obvious there is no way for it to fail.  However, television murder-mystery writer (and former lover of Tony’s wife) Max Halliday explains to Tony that in real life something always goes wrong. Cue the first intermission (there are two).

Dial M for Murder

My guest and I were already enthralled by the first intermission, and went out to the lobby to discuss what we thought would happen.  Would the wife actually be murdered? Would he get away with it? Would Max be the wrench in the plan?  Would the plan go awry before Margot Wendice is murdered?  We both had our own ideas about the plot, and we both gleefully went back to our seats to see what would happen.

Of course, we were both wrong.  What actually happens was quite surprising to us both, and that’s when the play really started going.  A crime is committed, although I won’t tell you who did what, but soon Inspector Hubbard is on the case.  And this is when I became quite impressed with the play itself.

We already know what the crime was and who did it.  And yet the audience is on the edge of its seats following along with Inspector Hubbard as he takes clue after clue and pieces it all together.  Will the culprit be caught?  Will the right person go to jail?  Will there be a confession?  Will Tony Wendice ever get what he’s got coming to him???

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I absolutely loved this play.  My guest and I had SO MUCH FUN.  It has a fantastic, imaginative plot that kept us all on our toes.  The set design was luxurious and interesting, with full use of the entire stage.  And especially I loved the fantastic music that was occasionally played which gave the feeling of an old time radio show or a film from the 1950s.  Combined with some great lighting it gave an incredible murder-mystery mood.

Fred Pitts as Max Halliday

Acting, as always at Hillbarn, was fantastic.  Kelly Rinehart (Margot Wendice) did a great job making sure that even though Margot was in a fairly helpless position she did not really come off as a simpering, brainless fool.  Max Halliday was played by ultra handsome Fred Pitts, and we could certainly see why Margot might have decided to have a fling with him.  Steve Schwartz was both hilarious and riveting as the Inspector.  And finally, Frederik Goris played villainous Tony Wendice so brilliantly that he received a resounding BOOO from the audience when the actors took their bows.  I hope he took the boos as a compliment, because they were just that – he had given a great performance of a truly despicable man who we all LOVED to hate.

I was a little troubled by all the empty seats on Friday, something I have never seen at Hillbarn before, but which seems to be the case at shows elsewhere this week as well.  Is it because Dial M is not as well known as the previous two shows, Gypsy and Chicago?  If this is the case, I assure you this is one fantastic, riveting, and fun performance, and I felt it was done almost to perfection.  Once again the trip to Foster City was absolutely worth it (and virtually traffic free in that direction!) and I urge you to see this show while you have the chance.

Hillbarn Theatre
1285 East Hillsdale Blvd.
Foster City, CA
Dial M for Murder
October 21 – November 7
Box Office
(650) 349-6411
Tuesday through Friday
Online Tickets

SECRET ORDER is worthy of research at the SJ Rep

James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

Thursday evening I saw Secret Order at the San Jose Repertory.  My guest and I were really interested to see just exactly how a “biomedical thriller” would play out on stage.  After finding out that playwright Bob Clyman is also a clinical psychologist, we’ve been looking forward to this show for a few months now.

When Dr. Shumway, a relatively obscure and naïve cancer researcher, is thrust into the high-stakes world of science, the notion of noble “truth-seeking” is dissected with a scalpel’s precision.  Shumway is in over his head when he and a young student researcher get swept up in the dangerous world of political maneuvering, corporate loyalty and scientific ethics…

I am not sure I would really use the word “thriller” or even “dangerous” to describe this show, but it definitely delves into the politics of scientific research and fundraising, and the moral implications that follow when research depends on funding, and funding requires results.  The play shows that the relationship between funding and research is a symbiotic one, yet also quite dysfunctional when the elements of time and results are thrown in.

There are no real “bad guys” in this play, just characters who make wrong choices, sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes with questionable motives.  “Altruism vs. Capitalism,” state the dramaturgy notes in the program, but this does not mean that Capitalism is the bad guy either – these days the altruism of research does not exist without capitalism.  And this is what makes for a great morality tale.

Kathryn Tkel, James Wagner and Robert Krakovski. Photo: Kevin Berne

There are a few depressing points made in this show, one being that an actual cure for cancer is considered somewhat of a fairytale by “Old Science”.  Old Science vs. New Science is another theme of the show, and in this play Old Science wins that argument.  Old Science also wins the entire game in the end, and if we go back to Altruism vs. Capitalism, Altruism also comes out the loser.

When the play ends there is a feeling of helplessness.  The show makes clear the vicious circle of research needing funding needing results, and no results equals no funding equals no research.  And Time is the enemy of all.

The play is excellently acted, with my favorite being Julian López-Morillas as Saul Roth.  I last saw López-Morillas in the Spring production of Sonia Flew; he left quite an impression on me and is fantastic in this somewhat understated role as well.  But is Saul Roth a villain? Or just the voice of Reality?  Watch and you can decide for yourself.

James Wagner as William Shumway. Photo: Kevin Berne

The real star of this show (for me) is the set design and background projections.  Varying between art deco, 60s modern and ultra scientific, the constantly changing projections did a great job of quickly changing scenes from a scientific lab, to an office with a view, to an auditorium, and finally to a beautiful outdoor park.  Techno music sometimes accompanied the moving projections and your attention was always captured, wondering what formation of color blocks and pictures would show up next.  The complicated multi-level stage set up was also quite beautiful, and sitting near the front I wondered what kind of experience the audience in the balcony was having – I would bet their view of the entire set was even more amazing than mine.  The set sponsor was Billy Berk’s, and I’m going to make a point of eating dinner there soon to thank them for their generosity in making this possible.

(l to r) Robert Krakovski, James Wagner and Julian Lopez-Morillas. Photo: Kevin Berne

But there is another reason to see this show.  The San Jose Repertory is working with the Valley Medical Center Foundation to help provide free breast health screenings for underserved women at the Sobrato Cancer Center.  A portion of the proceeds from the October 14th performance were given to the foundation, and after every performance the actors accept donations at the doors to support this cause.  So bring some cash or your checkbook with you to help support this worthy cause.  Also, patrons who visit the Box Office wearing pink in support of breast cancer awareness will save $6 off the regular ticket price (one discount per person) to any Tuesday – Thursday evening performance.

Secret Order
October 14 – November 7, 2010

by Robert Clyman
directed by Chris Smith

San Jose Repertory Theatre
101 Paseo de San Antonio
Phone 408.367.7255
Tickets Online

Moo-Chu’s in the Parking Lot

One of the more unlikely diner locations is in the middle of the Nvidia parking lot in Santa Clara. That is where you will find

Moo-Chu’s American / Asian Restaurant
2772 San Tomas Expressway, Santa Clara, CA, 95050
(408) 919-2879

The food is good and the coffee is Peet’s! Moo-Chu’s started out for Nvidia staff but has doubled their business since opening to the public. At lunchtime, you can see employees from a variety of nearby high-tech companies cutting through the parking lots near San Tomas Expressway (Between Central and Walsh), headed for Moo-Chu’s.  Look for the big sign of the cow wearing an Asian hat.

IMG_4997 IMG_4998

Images by Katy Dickinson, Copyright 2010

Barefoot Coffee news

I picked up some news this morning along with my Cerro Paldo pour-over at Barefoot this morning:

  • Barefoot Coffee’s 7th anniversary in business is this Saturday. They will be offering free coffee at all of their locations (about which, more below). Possibly there will be even more bonus offerings if you bicycle to all three locations.
  • Also, they will be opening a new location tomorrow, October 21. The “roll-up bar” will let you get a cup of fresh-poured or espresso coffee right at their roasting facility at 76 Sunol Street near downtown San Jose. Parking is limitted and they recommend visiting on your bike.
  • Finally, on Friday they will be opening a third location inside Good Karma Vegan Cafe at 37 South First Street in downtown San Jose. One more reason I need to visit Good Karma again soon (the other being the rumors I hear about their beer selection — I might need to make two trips).

Correction (10/21/10): I stopped in at the roll-up bar this morning, and they told me they’d actually had it open for a few weeks already. It’s worth a stop — get your coffee fix while steeping in the scent of the roasters — but they really mean it about the parking.

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