Eat Your Words

This is an audio slideshow I created as a supplement to an article on SBCC’s Edible Book Festival. As an economically-challenged journalist, most of my multimedia content is produced on a PC (through curses, tears, and prayers to the secular Mac gods for brighter tech days ahead).

The article was, unfortunately, killed. Still, bon appetit!


Chomping at the Bits

A cavalcade of tastes collided at the Third Annual Edible Book Festival held at Santa Barbara City College’s Luria Library.

The Edible Book Festival is an international event that celebrates Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, the father of modern gastronomy and famed French author of Physiologie du gout.

The event was founded in 2000 by Béatrice Coron and Judith Hoffberg, an art librarian and curator whose collection of books resides, in part, at UCSB.

The competition at City College was born a grassroots effort. “The festival is a celebration of culture, food, books and creativity,” librarian Elizabeth Bowman told Channels Newspaper. “The purpose is to get people interested in books, to bring people into the library, and to just have some fun.”

Fun and frenzy laced this year’s competition, with poor weather, last-minute arrivals, and a dental condition afflicting one of the judges stampeding their way through Bowman’s office.

“We have somebody who was making a sugar sculpture and it fell apart because the humidity is terrible,” Bowman recounted after a series of visitors calmed to a trickle. “One woman has been here with her cake for four hours. I hope she had lunch.”

“In the first year, no one knew what to expect…now they know and the expectations are high,” Bowman recounted. “Last year we forgot the plates and forks…this year we’re a little bit more organized. It’s still seat of the pants because it’s just fun,” she chuckled. “[But] it’s still a very low key, fun, encouraging, no pressure event.”

Then, suddenly: “Oh, Catch-22 just had a little accident,” Bowman charged exasperatedly, sweeping from her half-seated position to attend to a drooping piece of pastry.

Enthusiasm surrounding this year’s competition was palpable. Though it only boasted a roster of 43 entrants, the contest saw many students, staff, faculty, and retired faculty submissions in the final, water-logged hours.

Despite the last minute entries, Bowman assured us that contestants have been planning tirelessly over the past year. “People who were here last year have been thinking about it. They’ll go to the front desk and ask for suggestions of books or say, ‘Here’s my book can you think of how I can do it?’”

“I was going to do something by myself, but I figured as a team effort we could get a lot more accomplished. It was still a long process,” detailed Sybille Kroemer, a culinary arts student. “We started on Saturday and we worked pretty much continuously every night. We were up until about 1am last night. And then I got up at 3:30am to finish it.”

Kroemer and partner Jackie Woo went through several iterations before submitted their ornate cake clothed in water-colored fondant (based on Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). “I’m exhausted, but it was worth it. It was a lot of fun…I’ve learned a lot from this process. Jackie and I are already planning next year.”

“I made John drive to Albertsons last night to buy shredded wheat,” said Pegeen Soutar, artist behindJack and the Beanstalk, to a friend, as husband John stood in tow. “The little ones [weren’t] going to cut it.” Soutar and her son Josh created quite a stir with their installation of passion fruit-flavored marshmallow clouds and almond cake, which stood nearly two-feet in height.

“It’s cool what they can do,” said SBCC student, Ashley Medina, dazed by the flurry of activity whirling around her. “I liked the train [Murder on the Orient Express], it looks pretty cool.”

“The reason I pick a teacher, a student, and an alumni,” said Bowman on her selection of contest judges, “is because they all bring a different perspective. But they have to come to consensus. Sometimes it’s very hard.”

Sometimes the judges don’t come to a consensus at all, opting to create new categories to reward contestants for their innovation and creativity.

This year’s stock, largely vying for the ‘punniest’ award, were not as fortunate.

2011 Winners:

Highest Literary Merit: Murder on the Orient Express

Best Visual Presentation: Jack and the Beanstalk

Most Appetizing: Treasure Island

Most Nutritious: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

Most Easy: Alice in Wonderbreadland

Funniest/Punniest: If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Great Books: Catcher in the Rye

Best Collaborative Creation: Middle March

Inspired by the 2011 SBCC Reads BookThe Immortal Mitosis

Least Appetizing (category addition): Naked Lunch

Best in Show: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Herbert Bayer’s Chromatic Gate

Photo licensed under creative commons by Christa

A Colorful Debate

By Jessica Hilo

Across the street from Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort rests a sallow, geometric monument to disregard. The steel, once rainbow-colored sculpture, Herbert Bayer’s Chromatic Gate, stands 21 feet high and weighs a hefty 12.5 tons.

With Santa Barbara’s continuous flow of collegiate and sun-lusty tourists, it’s easy to forget that this town has remarkable and passionate history. While the city is very much a modern work in progress, the graying beast of Bayer’s Gate is an ever-present reminder that our legacy, at times, is left in the shadows.

Herbert Bayer

The Chromatic Gate represents a modern and abstract period for its famed creator, Herbert Bayer. Bayer was an industrial, environmental, and graphic designer who dabbled in architecture, painting, sculpting, and photography. He, however, is best known as the last surviving master of Germany’s renowned Bauhaus school. There, Bayer studied mural painting and typography under the likes of legendary artists, like Wassily Kandinsky and László Moholy-Nagy.

Bayer eventually taught advertising layout and typography at Bauhaus. He is responsible for much of the school’s iconic pieces of text—later to influence the creation the Helvetica font. In 1928, Bayer left Bauhaus to become the Art Director of Vogue magazine’s Berlin office.

A decade later, motivated by the war, Bayer immigrated to the United States where he worked in Aspen, Colorado. He eventually moved to Montecito in 1975 to live out the remaining years of his life.

Bayer’s work steeped with a utopian vision. He embraced interdisciplinary art, gathering inspiration from an assortment of sources—even furniture or stage design. He believed art should be stripped to its barest essentials, but that it needed to enrich the modern world by daring to push aesthetics.

History of the Gate

Bayer’s Chromatic Gate was brought to Santa Barbara’s East Beach in 1991. It was constructed as a memorial to both Bayer and his wife Joella, by Paul Mills, the longest-serving Art Director at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

“There was a certain amount of frustration when Paul Mills and I went before city council to get approval for the installation of the sculpture,” said Paul Hobson, the technical coordinator and curatorial assistant of the sculpture at the time of installation. “Mayor Lodge made the statement that there was no need for public art in Santa Barbara…that the art is in the gardens and red tile roofs.”

The monument was funded privately, the largest portion of money donated from the ARCO company, for whom Bayer had worked as a design consultant in the 1960s. The area in which the monument stands is dubbed ‘the Arco Circle.’

To many residents, the Gate was an aesthetic failure. The city and county fielded complaints that its colors ran too bright. “I used to joke that you had to put a red tile roof on top of a sculpture to get something accepted in Santa Barbara,” joked Rita Ferri, Visual Arts Coordinator and Curator of Collections at the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission.

“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about it,” said Ginny Brush, Executive Director at the County Arts Commission. “I’ve heard everything from, ‘it’s a Chumash rainbow,’ to ‘it’s a gay symbol,’ to I don’t know what all.”


Regardless of its aesthetic appeal, the Chromatic Gate has suffered from extreme exposure to its marine environment. The salt air and bright sun of its ocean-side view has oxidized its metal and blanched its color. Restoration requires much work. “Paint chips were kept in a vault inside the museum,” Brush explained. “Because there was a standard to be matched [in restoration]; which, now, doesn’t meet environmental standards.”

“I would say the challenges are the same as any other piece of public art,” said Ferri. “Anything that’s out in the public, whatever material, starts decomposing the moment you put it up. That is a big issue: all public art requires maintenance.”

At the time of its construction, the Chromatic Gate set aside money for maintenance and restoration, which was used for over a decade. “This is a nationwide problem,” said Brush. “The people who put public art [together] never thought about sustainability or on how to maintain it over the long haul. There’s [no] funding vehicle in place to do that.”

The County Arts Commission is working in conjunction with the city’s Committee for Visual Art in Public Places to find resources for restoration on all its public art.

“I think we, like everyone else, are looking more to the private sector,” said Brush.

“I’m raising private funds,” said Ferri. “I’m having to go to Los Angeles or Colorado—going to art dealers—and I have been appealing to all those people to come up with funds.”

“There really is very little public money out there that saves public art,” Ferri continued. “We rely on passionate individuals who [want to] try to protect and save art.”

Beyond relying on private foundations and the generosity of individuals, the county and city are working together on institutionalizing procedures regarding public art.

The County Arts Commission is working with the City Arts Advisory Committee on a cultural arts advancement plan that will designate how to make public art self-sustaining and how to develop funds for its maintenance.

In the last several years, there has been a concentrated effort on developing maintenance manuals and schedules for every piece of public art displayed.

Regardless of innovative modes in collaboration, public art, and especially the Chromatic Gate, fields its share of public criticism.

At a recent meeting of the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission, the Gate saw pushback in conjunction with redevelopment to its neighboring Cabrillo Ball Field.

“I would like to…add something [of] a little more historical value to actually encourage tourism,” suggested Matt La Vine, general manager at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort. “Maybe something that reflects the old Santa Barbara, so we get some more value out of that than just some rainbow arch that really no one understands… I’m all about art but let’s get something out there.”

“Take out the rainbow Chromatic Gate and relocate it somewhere else,” said Theresa Pena. “I’ve lived in Santa Barbara all my life and when that went up…so many people, friends and family, were like, ‘What? A rainbow gate? Ok, well, how does that represent Santa Barbara?”

How It Represents Santa Barbara

“Public art, in some instances, defines [cities] as destinations,” said Brush. “Art adds a certain ambience; it helps to define the region.”

Though people were not enthusiastic about the Chromatic Gate at its inception, Brush contends that overtime it has come to define the waterfront. “It’s a part of what people expect,” she said, “and what they’re used to seeing.”

Beyond defining the landscape of Santa Barbara, public art, Brush argued, has added to its local economy. Materials used for public art are purchased in the city and its artists continue to spend revenue downtown.

In 2007, nonprofit arts and culture in Santa Barbara County was a $77.6 million industry and one that supported 2,288 full-time jobs (one of which was held by this fledgling reporter). The arts generated $7.62 million in local and state government revenue and built audiences at local restaurants, hotels, retail stores, parking garages, and other local businesses.

The County Arts Commission has recently announced that it will participate in an economic impact study to evaluate this revenue stream in the current fiscal climate.

Gateway to the Future

“When you think about all the famous people that have lived in Santa Barbara—” said Ferri. “there’s a picture of Albert Einstein on the beach; we read about famous authors [like] T.C. Boyle—Santa Barbara is really in some ways a Mecca for very creative, talented, brilliant people.”

Ferri had the honor of meeting Bayer in the early 1980s. “I always remember this story: he and his wife Joella lived in Montecito, but they also lived in Morocco in the 1950s. He was always impressed by the bright colors and strong contrasts of the sun and the shadows [there]. And that started him using those progressive pigments.

But he also loved the fact that when he would travel in Morocco, sometimes he would come to a place where there would be gates out in the desert…there would be no people living there. There would be an archway and nothing else.

He saw that as a beautiful symbol. A lonely symbol. That man leaves everything behind. A life once lived there. But an archway was a dimension. A romantic gesture.

If I had my druthers, the Gate would be in the sand where it’s supposed to be.”

Bayer always felt that a modern city needed a symbol of human thought. And indeed, in the great cities of the nation, from St. Louis to New York, you do find iconic arches.

“It has become a little bit more of our culture,” Ferri said wistfully. “I think it would be rather sad to lose something like that simply because nobody cared. He left a piece of art in Santa Barbara and hoped that we would take care of it.”

Herbert Bayer’s Chromatic Gate is located on the corner of East Cabrillo Blvd. and Calle Puerto Vallarta

Fringe Concerts a Marked Success

“They start at the morning, then go on through noon, and end at night,” a San Francisco Early Music Society volunteer usher recounted of this year’s devoted Fringe concert audience. “Really they do! They’re exhausted!”

Concert attendees flocked to the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition’s 60 Fringe events in droves—a welcomed development for SFEMS, whose latter-day struggle with festival organization and depleted funding motivated the organization’s turn toward community-based programming. Though attendance statistics have yet to be tabulated while the festival continues, Harvey Malloy, SFEMS Executive Director, claimed that most Fringe concerts had been at almost full capacity: “They have been extremely well-received…they’ve been filling the house every night.”

“The concept of the festival as we conceived it,” Malloy explained, “[encouraged] a lot of equal participation from the community.” While SFEMS served as this year’s clearinghouse for festival promotion, most Fringe concerts were self-produced. Artists provided their own box office, ticket pricing, program books, and venue space.

Despite the collaboration with partner arts ensembles formed the cornerstone for Fringe concert success, Malloy avoided comment on the scope and strategy of future festivals. “I think it’s premature to say at the moment. Every festival we have brings early music up;” he explained, “[but] there will be a festival in 2012.”

Ralph Berberch, a SFEMS member and long-time patron of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, circled the festival’s exhibition room. Dazed from his two-week post as an on-call volunteer, one of the 80 members whose responsibilities ran the gamut from feeding musicians to moving instruments, Berberch regrets he could not attend most of the festival’s Fringe events. Of the sole festival event he had attended, last week’s Galax Quartet concert Bach’s Art of Fugue, Berberch unfalteringly quipped, “it’s great to hear such devoted musicians playing [this] incredible music.” “I’ll make it up!” Berberch promised as he continued his on-call duties—winking knowingly.

Hawaii Tsunami Warning

Here are some helpful sites for today’s tsunami warning:

Live Feed:

Evacuation Maps:



More resources:

The Divine Adam Lambert

I don’t follow Adam Lambert. But while brushing up on the latest in what journalism calls music news, I found this video:

Okay, I thought. This is a male archetype that’s been absent for awhile. Let’s see where this goes. But then I saw this video.

Look, Lambert, your foot size might be the same as Bowie, Freddie, or Warhol; but that doesn’t give you right to parade yourself as the second coming of gay, artistic pretention- you aren’t filling anyone’s shoes. You’re making a mockery of yourself and them by proxy. Provocation and sex is not a serviceable replacement for talent, lyrics, or melody. Stop, please, for all of us.

Settling the Score

I’m wrapping up, as those in show biz say, my documentary on film composers for the School of Cinematic Arts’ CTPR 474 course. I’ve hit a few snags here and there- to be expected for a first-time cinematographer- but haven’t experienced too much grief. That is, until today. Enter Brian King, Director of USC’s Scoring for Motion Picture and Television program: Lucy Van Pelt to my Charlie Brown. King is a warm, friendly, and dedicated member of the Thornton School of Music. He is well-connected, well-educated, and has deservedly run the SMPTV program for the past 12 years.

Choosing the subject of a documentary was an easy endeavor given my partner and my shared interest in music and fortune in taking a class in the School for Cinematic Arts (a luxury given to us through our master’s program in journalism.) Naturally, we were interested in working with King in showcasing the SMPTV program for its unique opportunities and invaluable education for composers in a city and industry ripe for failure.

I sent the following email to King on September 12:

Dear Brian,

Hello there. We are Jessica Hilo and [name omitted], two students in the Specialized Arts Journalism program at USC. Your contact information was given to us by Jon Burlingame.

We are filming a 15-minute documentary about film composers in Los Angeles; with particularly interest in understanding the “nitty gritty” of how one makes a career of music composition for film, and the day-to-day responsibilities, inspirations, hardships, and successes of a composer’s work.

To this end, we’d like to sit down with you to discuss the film composition program at USC’s School of Cinematic Art/Thornton School of Music- with the possibility of incorporating that discussion into an on camera interview featured in our documentary.

Please let us know when you might be available. If it’s possible to do it this coming week, that would be phenomenal.

A little bit about each of us: [my partner] comes from an administrative job at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, and Jessica comes from a similar position with the Santa Barbara Symphony. We are both music enthusiasts, journalists and (incidentally) dancers, and we look forward to meeting you and hearing your music!

Thanks again and all the best,

[partner name] & Jessica

H.O. Production [Hellion Orca Productions]

The email went unanswered. A week and half later, I resent the email with the following preface:

Dear Brian,

I wrote to you earlier regarding a documentary my partner and I are filming for Bill [name omitted]’s CTPR 474 film and tv documentary class. I would like to shoot exterior shots of Thornton Music Hall; and your name was passed along as the contact for clearance. I would love to work with you on this project and look forward to hearing from you.


Jessica Hilo

We received the following email that very day (September 24):

Dear Ms. Hilo,

I did receive your email. Unfortunately, due to a very demanding time schedule, I won’t be able to accommodate your request. Generally speaking, I like to make arrangements well in advance. And from the information in your email, it looks like you’re well into the process of producing your project.

As program director, and creator of this current version of the program, I would request any reference to the SMPTV program, including coursework, instructors, curricular and non-curricular activities, as well as any content linked to SMPTV student projects, be submitted for my review as well as my approval.


Brian King

The guy’s a director of a world-renowned scoring program. I appreciated his candor and respected his perspective, but this email signaled more hoop jumping and back scratching on our parts. In the weeks that followed, my partner and I were only privy to slices of information regarding the tone of King’s disdain for our documentary. Our subject, Alexis, said she had approached King on her own accord to ask if we could sit in on a scoring session. She was greeted with animosity. Bill wrote an email on our behalf with much the same return. Never one to coalesce (read: stubborn), I scheduled a meeting with Brian King to iron out what seemed to be a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings and leave King with a better sense of what we were trying to accomplish with our documentary.

That meeting, today’s meeting, resulted in a lot of headache. King outlined four major points:

1. Our initial email was incredibly informal and unprofessional

2. We should have contacted him earlier and for an earlier meeting to discuss use of the SMPTV program/permission for referential use of the program in our documentary.

3. He is incredibly put off by our behavior and seeming disrespect

4. He wants to see a full script, clips, and proposal if we intend to use SMPTV in any way (even mentioning it by name.)

Out of respect for King, the SMPTV program, and USC’s Thornton School of Music, I will omit certain admissions King made in confidence regarding the film- suffice it to say, that King, whose accusations of our informal and unprofessional manner, had a large stone in his hand for one residing in a glass house.

Moreover, it seemed that King wasn’t in touch with the mission of our CTPR class, let alone the investigative nature of our documentary. His suggestions for our film, were we to get his ok in mentioning SMPTV, merely theoretical now since our deadline is in a few weeks, were so micro-managerial and so dictated, that the resulting documentary would lack any creativity or objectivity whatsoever. It would, to put it plainly, be a press piece for the SMPTV program- which, in my opinion, has so many notable alumni carrying its weight that it could use some shutting up.

But it wasn’t King’s suggestions that harkens my frustration at the meeting, rather his overall tone during its undertaking. His hostility had a certain flavor of Manhattan entitlement (two parts classism, one part chauvinism) that makes me ask: would he use this tone if we were men? Taking film comp’s boys’ club atmosphere into consideration, this year’s SMPTV class still has only one female entrant. And rather than speaking with her, King suggested we interview Andrea [name omitted]. That’s only two women who have been associated with the program in a pool for our doc- one of which we cannot use and the other making her way up the food chain through the program’s connections (with all due respect, hardly a case study on the “nitty gritty.”) Is the veritable lack of female voices in the SMPTV program on purpose? Is the access given to us as students at USC limited because we are female?

It’s a shame for those associated with or who make their living from the SMPTV program to have a leader like Brian King; for, uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. Time shall unfold what plighted cunning hides. Until then, our film Score (working title) debuts Friday, December 4, 2009 7pm at Norris Theatre.