Great things come in small packages, my housemates and I proclaimed, as we devoured steaming hot bowls of wonton noodle soup on Saturday’s gray afternoon. We were all ringing in Chinese New Year the way I was brought up to: with food and company. There’s something special about coming together in the new year and the new semester, regardless of noodles. Another new start is me, Francesca, taking over as the Picks of the Week writer. I’ll be writing for you, dear Berkeley, each week with my recommendations, thoughts and whatever tidbits come to mind. So for the week ahead, I’ve hand-prepared a small list of big things that will hopefully make you find gratitude in our return. We’re back, Berkeley.
Begin your second week back with time spent at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive’s Art Lab on Monday evening, where you can tap into your inner child with tables laden with stamps, prints, colorful paper and all the art supplies your parents might have forbidden in fear of a mess. The lovely Art Lab volunteers encourage this very mess — simple materials are turned into masterpieces and can be left for future attendees to take home. The Art Lab makes for an accessible — as all students receive free BAMPFA entry with a UC Berkeley ID card — way to seek solace in stamping, gluing, pasting and painting on any typical weekday.
After your art adventures, head to any local AMC theater for Discount Tuesdays, where tickets usually go for as low as $5. If you’re looking for a story with emotive acting and larger, reverberating themes, Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women” is a personal favorite. While Louisa May Alcott’s March family has come to the silver screen many times since the original novel’s publication, Gerwig portrays an expansive version of the story as her initially domestic characters prove themselves worthy, forging their own stories separate from the ones assumed for them. As our very own film beat Anagha Komaragiri discusses in her review, Gerwig and her motley cast of Marches demand our attention and are certainly deserving of their steadily growing list of accolades.
Some mid-week Wednesday gratitude may be found in new music, both old and new special complications. Mac Miller’s posthumous album Circles, with its slower, stripped-back beats, shows appreciation for the late artist’s raw talent and sentimental lyrics. After listening, reflect with Luna Khalil as she discusses Miller’s work here. A flash from the past came to me through Kamasi Washington’s “Truth.” It stands as the first song on my finals week playlist, a soft introduction to a solid few hours of fast-paced passages of improvisations.
If Washington proves favorable, enjoy similar sounds the next day at The Musical Offering Café on Bancroft Way. A long-standing tradition of mine is to meet with friends over jazz and Musical Offering’s classic gingersnap cookies every Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Weekly pianist Morgan Maudière brings together a small ensemble, with Maudière inviting guest singers and highlighting different instruments each time. Musical Offering, with its older customer demographics, provides a pleasant reprieve from the sudden return of a packed student population. Its smaller location calls for an intimate afternoon of coffee and conversation, preparing for the weekend ahead.
And for the big weekend, head to the city — but be warned of possible single-track BART delays — for Chinese New Year celebrations. The San Francisco Symphony will perform a mélange of Eastern and Western music repertoires, highlighting the Loong Mah Sing See Wui dance company to celebrate long-standing traditions in the modern space of the Davies Symphony Hall. Student tickets may be acquired by calling the ticket office for a night out at the symphony on a realistic budget.
Chinese New Year always reminds me to find gratitude in the seemingly small and simple. A red envelope, a firecracker or a bowl of soup all possess more than catches the eye, and as we proceed into this new year and spring semester, may we all uncover the special in the day to day.
If you have any questions, comments, concerns or just want to chat, email me at [email protected].
At a glance
Jan. 27: The Art Lab at BAMPFA, 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., BAMPFA, Berkeley
Jan. 28: “Little Women,” at any AMC Theatres location
Jan. 30: Jazz music, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Musical Offering Café, Berkeley
Feb. 1: Chinese New Year celebration, 5:00 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected].