Report on San Francisco Sketchfest, Weekend Two!

The 19th Annual SF Sketchfest lineup tempted me mightily, and last weekend I decided to check out a few shows. Saturday night brought me to Cafe du Nord, where Jonah Ray was set to perform “Weird Al” Yankovic covers with a full band. As a lifelong “Weird Al” fan I was pretty excited, but had no idea what to expect. When the (excellent) backing band lurched into “Eat It,” Ray turned the tale of mealtime fussiness into a surprisingly affecting screamo dirge. Yankovic’s songs worked well as hardcore punk, especially “Happy Birthday” from his self-titled debut. I plan to nab a copy of Ray’s You Can’t Call Me Al, but I admit I liked the set’s bonus songs best. The deconstructed version of Mel Brooks’ “High Anxiety” sounded great, and I adored the “Fox On The Run” nods in the glam-rock version of Yankovic’s “Yoda.” Since those aren’t posted anywhere, try “Welcome To (Amish) Paradise”:

On Sunday I headed next door to the Swedish American Hall (home of a few beloved past shows) to watch Old 97’s singer-songwriter Rhett Miller present his Wheels Off variety show. The evening overflowed with unexpected delights. I knew comedian Dave Hill could play guitar, but I was quite unprepared for his virtuosic shredding as he accompanied Miller’s alt-country cover of the Cars’ “My Best Friend’s Girl.” Likewise, Sketchfest co-founder Janet Varney knocked me out during her beautiful duet with Miller. (She evoked the best of Neko Case and Maria McKee at once, I’m not kidding!) Not to be outdone, self-proclaimed Sketchfest fanatic Miller has plenty of witty material himself. This version of the Old 97’s song “Jesus Loves You” may be more reserved than Sunday’s, but you’ll get the picture…

Miranda Popkey and Duarte’s Tavern featured in Winter 2019 SANTA CRUZ STYLE

While Miranda Popkey’s debut novel Topics of Conversation won’t be published until January, it’s garnering plenty of buzz already! Meet the Santa Cruz-born author in my profile “Publishing Beckoned,” featured on page 10 of the Winter 2019 Santa Cruz Style. You’ll learn about the author’s uneasy path to the writing life, her switch of genres for her first book, and how #MeToo anchored the story. Then, turn to page 40 for “A Cherished Tradition For More Than A Century,” where I interview Tim Duarte, Duarte’s Tavern general manager and fourth-generation family member. Located in tiny Pescadero, the restaurant boasts devoted fans up and down the coast (not to mention a 2013 award from the James Beard Foundation). In Santa Cruz County, find free print copies here. The online version appears here.

Why wait for Black Friday?

If you’re anything like me, you appreciate a bargain. Also, the thought of braving Black Friday crowds makes you queasy. You’re willing to hold out for Cyber Monday, but site crashes, fleeting flash deals, and other computer complications make you dread the prospect. All the while, your shopping list lengthens, and you haven’t yet set foot in a store. I know this dilemma well, and have the solution! currently offers 10% off my book Going Coastal (and every other book you order there!) with discount code 10PercentOff at checkout. Enjoy lightning-fast shipping and the fact that you’re helping indie authors (since higher royalties come from sales directly made at the publisher site). Then sit back smugly on Black Friday eating leftovers in your bathrobe, secure in the knowledge that you’ve saved your holiday of choice with weeks to spare.

You may prefer shopping in person, I often do. Never fear! My newly updated Where To Buy The Book page lists many options, from local bookstores to megamarts offering in-store pickup. (It does not, however, include Amazon at this time, since that site’s stocking issues guarantee headaches for everyone involved. Who needs those this time of year, or indeed ever?)

Thanks, everybody! Back to your irregularly scheduled programming…

Song In My Head #110: “Ready To Rock” by Pianosaurus

The New York-based band Pianosaurus gained a fair bit of notoriety in the ’80s, not least for playing toy instruments. (I recall an MTV News segment where drummer Stephen Dansiger waxed rhapsodic about his Muppet Babies drumkit, followed by a sequence where the band destroyed their instruments post-show in classic Who fashion.) Nevertheless, their 1987 album Groovy Neighborhood boasts delightful songs, this one being my favorite. Word has it that a long-shelved sequel exists…

(Sadly, Psychotic Reaction was the name of the show from which this performance was taken. I, too, had hoped that “Ready To Rock” would segue into the San Jose garage-rock classic by the Count Five.)

At last, a teal lining!

I present you all with cause for celebration. Sure, the nightly news still has me wringing my hands. Writing deadlines loom before me, and a threatened Northern California power outage has me typing frantically. Yet tonight, I cheer. Why?

Patrick Marleau is a San Jose Shark again.

Of course, to most devotees of Team Teal, he never stopped being one. Nevertheless, if my mom’s tears and hugs following the announcement were any indication, this is a happy development indeed. Welcome back, Patty!


Welcome to San Jose, Kendall Coyne Schofield!

It’s been an up-and-down summer for San Jose Sharks fans, but there have been some welcome bits of good news here and there. Most of the enthusiasm has focused on Logan Couture taking over the captaincy following the loss of Joe Pavelski to free agency. (It seemed like a natural choice to me, given that Couture is equally adept at scoring and painfully honest postgame media interviews.) I’m surprised that more people aren’t excited about this recent announcement:

Kendall Coyne Schofield joins San Jose Sharks TV broadcast team

If you watched the 2019 NHL All-Star Skills Competition, you may have seen Coyne Schofield blazing down the ice as the first-ever female participant in the Fastest Skater Competition. As part of Team USA, she won gold in the 2018 Olympics, and helped to secure the 2017 IIHF championship during one of the most exciting games ever televised. At Sharks FanFest this Sunday, she’ll compete with fellow members of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) against Sharks alumni in the Legends game. I’m definitely intrigued, and eager to hear her perspective this coming season!