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House of Tudor 

Bossa nova homage, rolling residences, guileless political discussion, and crop circles

Wednesday, Sep 4 2002
Antonio Carlos Jobim always generously credited João Gilberto with starting bossa nova -- elegant Brazilian jazz that combines the hypnotic accents of samba with the soft, gliding melodies of European classical music -- and the cool sway of American jazz, but it was Jobim's own compositions that the unknown Gilberto recorded in 1958, and it was Jobim's score for Black Orpheus that brought the movement worldwide attention in 1959. Of course, by the time of his death in 1994 Jobim had long since recorded hits with Stan Getz and Frank Sinatra, and was recognized as a national hero in Brazil and as one of the greatest songwriters worldwide, so perhaps he could afford to be magnanimous. Even in death, though, Jobim's grace seems to have a deep effect on his fellow musicians. Last year, longtime Jobim confederates cellist Jaques Morelenbaum and singer Paula Morelenbaum joined award-winning composer and celebrated pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto at Jobim's former home in Rio de Janeiro. Under the watchful eye and discriminating ear of Jobim's friends and family, Morelenbaum2/Sakamoto set to re-creating 17 rare gems from Jobim's sheet music, including work that had never before been recorded. During the sessions, Sakamoto sat down at Jobim's own piano. At the end of the first piano solo, Sakamoto claims the sharp whistle of a bird demanded his attention. "It was as if Jobim was laughingly saying to me, 'Hey, Sakamoto, that's my piano. Play it tenderly,'" he says. Apparently, he took heed. According to Luciana de Moraes -- who spent much of her childhood in the maestro's house, listening to him play -- there has never been such a close translation of Jobim's melodies. For the gorgeous piano work on Casa, Sakamoto received the Ordem de Rio Branco, Cavaleiro, a decoration of merit from the government of Brazil. By way of homage to Jobim, Jaques Morelenbaum's cello work is dark and achingly graceful, while his sister's voice is warm and languid, bestowing on Casa that crucial hint of saudade, the sense of sweet yearning that so saturated Jobim's work. Morelenbaum2/ Sakamoto performs on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5-6, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 9 p.m. Tickets are $32; call 474-0365.

The thrill of the open road with all the comforts of home. It's not an ad for the new Skyline RV; it's the reality for thousands of artists, activists, nonconformists, and, of course, hippies and derelicts who convert their buses and trucks into rolling residences. Max Koetter's new documentary Rubber Tramps takes a look at the radical inhabitants of the temporary neighborhoods that crop up on outlying city streets, such as the Vehicularly Housed Residents Association, which used to settle at China Basin before the stadium required parking lots. Ample commentary is contributed to the film by the original rubber tramp, Ken Kesey. The San Francisco premiere of Rubber Tramps takes place on Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Red Vic Movie House (1727 Haight at Cole) at 7:15 and 9:15 p.m. Tickets are $6.50; call 668-3994.

Did you ever sit around thinking, "Gee, Politically Incorrect would be a hell of a lot more fun if Bill Maher were a dadaist playwright?" Well, for once all the significant thinking you do is not entirely in vain. "First Frickin' Fridays" is a live monthly talk show featuring local artists and writers shooting the shit in a round-table format. The moderator is poet, playwright, and "Tentacle Sessions" co-producer mikl-em; anyone who has examined the underground artists spotlighted by "Tentacle Sessions" can anticipate "Frickin'" guests being similarly opinionated, fascinating, and just a little bit cracked. The first installment features a guileless discussion of the lasting effects of 9/11, with special emphasis (use sonorous CNN voice) on the humor following the heartbreak. We'll revisit silly moments with David Letterman and The Onion; we'll ponder the unholy alliance of Osama and Bert; and we'll consider whether irony is really dead. mikl-em's "First Frickin' Fridays" begins Friday, Sept. 6, at 21 Grand in Oakland at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $5-10; call (510) 444-7263.

I've never had an interest in crop circles, but William Gazecki is an entirely different matter. Gazecki is the Emmy Award-winning sound mixer who turned his back on a TV bankroll to scrutinize events that are often misconstrued, mishandled, and manipulated. His film projects include the upcoming Orphans of Duplessis -- the story of hundreds of Quebec orphans who suffered great seclusion and abuse after being classified "mentally disturbed" -- and another little documentary called Waco: The Rules of Engagement, a chilling examination of the FBI and ATF attack on the Branch Davidians, which was robbed of an Academy Award in 1997. Gazecki's current offering is Crop Circles: Quest for Truth, a thought-provoking look at the real-life phenomenon being sensationalized by Mel Gibson. Gazecki presents authentic crop circle footage (both archival and his own) along with dozens of interviews that attempt to analyze or explain the figures from scientific, philosophical, and artistic points of view. Aside from the breathtaking visuals of the circles themselves, expert details given by Gazecki's subjects are, to make an understatement, quite titillating. One researcher takes us into the center of a formation to explain the perfect symmetry of under-and-over weaving, which could be achieved only by manipulating plants over thousands of feet almost simultaneously; another explains the precise measurements necessary to create figures that incorporate the Golden Ratio, or Phi, a mathematical relationship that appears in sacred geometry, human biology, and most crop circles; yet another offers evidence of changes in the plants and soil on a molecular level. And that's just the beginning. By the end, it's the simple questions posed by a farmer's wife in northern England that you can't get out of your head: If it's supposed to be people making these -- hundreds of formations, every summer, for more than 30 years -- where do they practice? Where are all the mistakes? Crop Circles: Quest for Truth screens Friday through Thursday, Sept. 6-12, at Landmark's Opera Plaza and Shattuck cinemas. Filmmaker William Gazecki speaks on opening night at the Opera Plaza (601 Van Ness at Golden Gate), where tickets are $8.75; call 352-0810. He also speaks the following night at the Shattuck (2230 Shattuck at Kittredge, Berkeley), where tickets are $9; call (510) 843- 3456. See Page 60 for show times.

About The Author

Silke Tudor


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