Terrific thriller strands an astronaut on Mars
"The Martian," by Andy Weir, is the most fun we've had between hardcovers for a while, an excellent thriller about an astronaut stranded on Mars and his onegoing struggle to stay alive and hope for rescue. It's a fascinating read, filled with palatable science, charm and humor. Read John Orr's review.
Shuffling off this mortal coil
"Changing the Way We Die" is an excellent book about the hospice movement, covering it from its beginnings centuries ago on the trail to the Holy Land to the United States today, where it has begun big business and has big bureaucracy hanging around its neck. It's a better way to shuffle off this mortal coil, and writers Fran Smith and Sheila Himmel have produced an excellent book about it. Read John Orr's review.
A terrific Pendergast thriller
"White Fire" is a return to high form for Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child in their mostly excellent series about FBI very Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast. In this one, his protégé, Corrie Swanson, gets in trouble when she visits a Colorado town for rich people to do forensics on some very old bones. A fun read, with plenty of thrills. Read the review by John Orr.
A surprising turn in a Jack Reacher story
"Never Go Back" is another fun read from novelist Lee Child, but it's kind of a departure from Reacher's usual kick-ass ways. In this one, he meets a woman who is his match. Read the review.
Creating a fantasy world in Palo Alto
"Someone Dark Has Found Me" has witches, wizards, geniuses, homeless people and a lot of kissing. Mark Johnson reviews. Read his review.
A fun outtake from 'Someone Dark Has Found Me'
A Maximilian's Window plays in an important part in the book, toward the end, when the evil is really hitting the fan. We're running a healthy chunk of charming words that didn't get in the final book. Read it here.
The trip from Jamaican cane fields to San Francisco
"From Rum to Roots" is an excellent first novel by photo journalist Lloyd Francis. It touches on the history of Jamaica and its people, but mostly is a well-told tale of people born on the island who want more for their families, in Jamaica and in the United States. Read John Orr's review.
Walter Mosley brings Easy Rawlins back from the dead
"Little Green" is a great story that finds our hero back from a two-month deep sleep to find hippies, peace and free love on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. And, some very nasty drug dealers. Read John Orr's review.
See more reviews and interviews in Books.
Testing a KontrolFreeks Phantom.
KontrolFreeks are doodads that attach to the tops of game-controller joysticks, for the purpose of increasing speed, control and comfort. We were doubtful, but tried 'em and liked 'em. Read all about it.
THEATER & DANCE
Tracy Martin photo
Jeffrey Lo is producing Neil LaBute's "Some Girl(s)" at Dragon Theatre in Redwood City, March 7-16, 2014.
Jeffrey Lo likes to stay busy, and accomplish things in the theater world. That's why he works at TheatreWorks, is producing and directing a play at Dragon Theatre and does about a gazillion other things. Sleep? Not so much. Read John Orr's interview with Jeffrey Lo.
Foothill Music Theatre
David Allen / Foothill Music Theatre
Lyn Mehe'ula, Melissa Baxter and Megan Coomans, from left, as the urchins, and Adam Cotugno as Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors," playing February 20 thorugh March 9, 2014 at Foothill Music Theatre.
"Little Shop of Horrors" is one of the goofiest and most fun musicals ever produced. Foothill Music Theatre gathered an excellent cast for a production of the show that is a little ragged around the edges, but is still delightful. Read John Orr's review.
kevinberne.com / Berkeley Rep
Ray Reinhardt as Lazare, left, and Lizan Mitchell as Beartrice in Berkeley Rep’s world premiere of Marcus Gardley’s "The House That Will Not Stand."
"The House That Will Not Stand" proves an engaging time at the theater, as Berkeley Rep gives the Marcus Gardley play its world premiere. John Orr reviews.
Cheshire Isaacs / Berkeley Rep
Berkeley Rep presents the world premiere of "The House That Will Not Stand," a new play developed through The Ground Floor: Berkeley Rep’s Center for the Creation and Development of New Work. The cast includes, from left, Petronia Paley as La Veuve / Marie Josephine, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Agnès, Lizan Mitchell as Beartrice, Flor De Liz Perez as Maude Lynn, Joniece Abbott-Pratt as Odette, and Harriett D. Foy as Makeda. Not pictured is Ray Reinhardt, who plays Lazare.
"The House That Will Not Stand," a new play by Marcus Gardley commissioned by Berkeley Rep, is a work of theatric poesy, where even the stage directions which the audience does not see are beautifully written. John Orr talked with Gardley about his art. Read the interview.
The Marsh San Francisco
Carla Befera / The Marsh
Brian Copeland tells a story of privilege, murder, and sausage in his new solo show "The Scion," receiving its world premiere January 9 through March 1, 2014, at The Marsh San Francisco. Extended through April 18, 2014.
"The Scion" is another excellent one-man show from Brian Copeland about privilege, discrimination, murder, and sausage. Lloyd Francis reviews.
Grupo Corpo danced into Memorial Auditorium over the weekend, and while the dancers were talented and athletic, they didn't seem to challenge themselves in what became a rather monotonous performance. Virginia Bock reviews.
Autumn de Wilde photo
Singer and actress Audra McDonald performed at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford University, on January 17, 2014. This is an undated file photo.
Audra McDonald has had an amazing career on Broadway and elsewhere, and we got to go hear and see her live in concert at the Bing Concert Hall, and can happily report she is as great as everybody says she is. Read John Orr's review of an excellent performance.
Courtesy of The Marsh
Louis Pearl, "The Amazing Bubble Man," is coming to The Marsh San Francisco, January 19-March 9, 2014. Visit www.themarsh.org or call 415-282-3055.
Live theater! It's the best. Check out what you can see on our Theater & Dance Calendar.
Jeff Dunas photo
Singer Janiva Magness
Janiva Magness is some kinda powerful blues singer. She's touring, in support of her latest album, "Stronger For It," and talked with us about the path that put her on the blues highway. Read the interview.
Caught it on Netflix Dept.
Al Pacino, Christopher Walken, Katheryn Winnick and Alan Arkin in "Stand Up Guys."
"Stand Up Guys" is a gem of a gritty crime comedy that really shines because of the performances of Al Pacino and Christopher Walken. Alan Arkin is fun to watch, too, and there are other good performances, but Pacino and Walken make this one special. Read John Orr's review.
For ears and eyes
Judy Garland was an amazing talent, unmatched in many ways. Want the proof? Lend eyes and ears to her singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in a poor quality recording from the ancient days of TV. Fabulous.
Some guys singing "Bad Romance." It's so much fun.
Molly Bell is amazing. We have a profile of her here in Triviana Arts & Entertainment, but here's a favorite video of her performing in Divas for Life. Find out more about Divas for Life.
Lake Street Dive is a band formed by Rachael Price, who is a wonderful vocalist. I love this tune, which I heard on A Prairie Home Companion. Then I found this video.
Johnny Swim. I heard this duo perform "Home" on "A Prairie Home Companion" and was knocked out.
"Laundry Room." Another from The Avett Brothers. Here is another tune that delves deep into emotion and yearning.
"While My Guitar Gently Weeps." Fabulous band performs in 2004 to honor George Harrison upon his posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Jeff Lynne, Steve Ferrone, Dhani Harrison and Prince. Mike Campbell of the Heartbreakers does the early solo stuff. Prince shows up and takes over.
"Deportee." The Kingston Trio version, posted July 14, 2012, in honor of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday. Thank you, Mr. Guthrie.
Tim O'Brien: "Hey, Joe," at Celtic Connections 2009, Glasgow Scotland.
Trucks & Tedeschi Band: "Midnight in Harlem," at the 2010 Guitar Festival.
Van Morrison: "Real Real Gone."
OK Go: "This Too Shall Pass." Incredible Rube Goldberg machine video.
Willie Dixon: "I'm Nervous." Funny and charming video of the great songwriter, singer and bassist.
Boxing Gandhis: "If You Love Me (Why Am I Dyin')" Hip, funky and hot in every way.
John Lee Sanders: Fabulous musician. Give a listen to "Midnight in New Orleans".