Archive for the ‘Spoken Word’ Category

Tell All (Preview)

May 16, 2010

Booksmith presents Chuck Palahniuk at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco on May 20th to read from his latest novel Tell All.

This American Life… perfect for rainy days

February 15, 2009


Rainy days are perfect for catching up on podcasts. Familiar voices can be like comfort food. Such is the case with Ira Glass, host of This American Life. Some rainy days I go back and re-listen to old favorites.

Today I went back a few years to Episode 281: My Big Break.

Skip to Act Three: Oedipus HexShalom Auslander reads his true story, “The Blessing Bee.” It’s like a spelling bee, but instead of words, kids compete reciting complicated Hebrew blessings said before eating certain foods.

Foreskin's LamentIt tickles me every time Auslandert gratuitously throws in quick admissions of all the sins he committed as a kid. Watch Auslander’s video – Foreskin’s Lament.

What are your favorite podcasts? Leave a comment

Henry Rollins — Provoked

November 6, 2007


Rollins at the Herbst Theater (SF)

Kathy Griffin rocks the Warfield (Again)

November 25, 2006

Kathy Griffin at the Warfield (November 2006)

Notes to follow

David Sedaris comes up short

October 30, 2006

David Sedaris

Genre:  Comedy / Spoken Word
Venue:  War-Memorial Opera House / San Francisco CA


  • In great company, seated right next to the Intern (JC)
  • Amazing building—the SF Opera House
  • 15 minutes of David Sedaris speaking off-the-cuff
  • Sedaris’s familiar and soothing voice

Things to remember

  • To avoid being seated in the 2nd-to-last row upper balcony corner, purchase tickets sooner
  • Don’t eat so much candy throughout the day and during the show
  • Remind yourself you can always listen to Sedaris audio books, which is basically the same as seeing him performing live

Performance notes

I like David Sedaris because of his unique wit. And whether I’m reading one of his books or listening to him read to me on a rebroadcast of This American Life, I find I usually connect with him and his stories—I get it. Experiencing him perform live at the SF Opera House was a let down. At least 80% of the time he read scripted material. He also spent 20% of his time reading someone else’s material. He spent very little time talking about his family, with the exception of Amy. And even then there was no charisma. He was onstage for no more than 70 minutes—which would be OK for a comedy club, but not a sold-out opera house. In addition, you’d expect he’d try to connect with the audience. He didn’t. Most importantly, this time—I didn’t get it.

I’m starting to realize I’m not that big of a fan. My favorite work of his was the first book I read—Me Talk Pretty Someday. I read his earlier books but didn’t enjoy them as much. Now seeing him live and being disappointed, I can’t see myself investing any more energy in him. If I were to send him an email, it would simply read—David, I’m not one of your fans. At least not anymore. No hard feelings.

Comparing this show with 2.5 hours of non-stop Kathy Griffin gossip, or 3 full hours of Henry Rollins rants, Sedaris comes up short.

Henry Rollins and Henry Miller

May 13, 2006


Genre:  Spoken Word
Venue:  The Henry Miller Library/ Big Sur CA

I started in San Francisco and picked up Jerri in Campbell near San Jose. Our journey to Big Sur was windy, the road narrow and twisted with spectacular views. We arrived at 6:30pm. We had time before the show, so we stopped at a restaurant nested on a cliff called Nepenthe for for a quick bite, some good wine and a breathtaking view—the perfect setting for two old friends to catch up. Jerri, aka Jerrilene, aka Mabel, is beautiful inside and out, and I’ve missed her so much. It’s been more than a year since we last saw each other, and five years before that. We used to work together back in losAngeles.

After dinner we headed back down the road to the Henry Miller Library, which is a small wood cabin surrounded by lawn, a short wooden fence and a family of tall redwoods. The place was set up for an intimate evening with Henry Rollins. There were rows of folding chairs on the lawn and blankets sprawled out in front of the makeshift stage. The stage was barely six inches tall, and was more like two wood pallets covered by an antique rug. We sat 10 feet away from the stage, so I warned Jerri—not only will we see the sweat of intensity rolling down the man’s face, we’ll be dodging his spit from time to time throughout the show. The sun had not quite set and people were making new friends over beer and wine. The library was open so we took a look around.

I’ll admit, I haven’t read any of Henry Miller’s work, but for the past 10 years I haven’t been the biggest reader, at least not novels. I do remember back in college my roommate Jen was reading Henry and June by Anais Nin. Turns out that Henry was Henry Miller. Some of Henry’s titles I recognized—Tropic of Caner and Tropic of Capricorn. But I couldn’t help but feel like the biggest poser driving three hours to watch a middle-aged punk rock icon rant and rave, while everyone else came to celebrate one of the greatest writers of our time. The show was actually a benefit for the Henry Miller Library. Jerri was not familiar with either Henry. She pulled me aside and said Henry looked so much younger in the email I sent her when I invited her to the show (see above). She didn’t realize Henry Rollins and Henry Miller were two different people. She lives in a bigger bubble than I do. Jerri loves Paris, so she was immediately drawn to Henry Miller’s books. I was reminded of Joni Mitchell’s song “California” — Sitting in a park in Paris, FranceI’ll even kiss a sunset pig

I’ve seen Henry Rollins perform live spoken word four times before, so I knew what to expect. The only thing Jerri knew about him was that he looks like one mean mad motherfucker. I knew Miss Goody-Goody from Silicon Valley was in for a bumpy ride, and I was happy riding shotgun. We were in the second row. It wasn’t quite dark when the show started, but it was eerily quiet, and there was a peaceful glow before it became dark. Magnus Toren, the library director, started by reading passages from what I think was either Black Spring or The Air-Conditioned Nightmare. From that reading, I learned that Miller too rants and raves, but in a very different way. Miller’s vocabulary is way beyond me, but his focus on detail after detail after detail intrigues me. The sun had set and small lights twinkled in the coastside tree-covered darkenss as Rollins took the stage. His voice didn’t echo but instead pierced right through us. Jerri’s shrieks and shrills were music to my ears. I smiled ear-to-ear and took mental pictures of her jaw dropping as Rollins let us have it. I love introducing new people to a Henry Rollins show. But this time, outdoors, that powerful distinct voice in the stillness of Big Sur, under mighty redwoods and a starry sky, it was something else, something very special. 

After the show I grabbed Jerri’s hand and took her past the wooden fence behind the stage. It was pitch black except for a man with a tiny flashlight, and there was a short line of people waiting for autographs. It was our turn at Henry. We shook his sweaty hand. He had his Sharpie ready to sign something and seemed surprised that we weren’t after an autograph. We just wanted to thank him for a good show and ended up talking with him for maybe five minutes. He ran his mouth, and I loved it. That, on top of reconnecting with a dear friend, made the night oh-so-fucking nice.

     I introduced Jerri to Henry Rollins.
     And Henry Rollins introduced me to Henry Miller.

On the drive home, I made some mental notes and promised myself to read at least one Henry Miller book this year. Any recommendations?

Henry Miller Library pictures | About the event | 2.13.61