To The Woman Who Saved My Velvet Coat

A few years ago, a certain reporter was in a freak parking accident while wearing his favorite black velvet coat. After being dragged downhill for a bit by a runaway vehicle he and his beloved coat were in shreds. Doctors repaired the reporter, but more importantly, Sonoma costume designer Linda Rawls was able to save the coat and the reporter remains in awe. Also in awe of Rawls is the Cultural and Fine Arts Commission of Sonoma, which named Rawls its 2008 Sonoma Treasure Artist of the Year.? A reception in Rawls? honor will be hosted at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art later this month.

?You need to have the aesthetics and if you?re going to do it well, you?ve got to do your research,? said Rawls of her passion. A former financial aid advisor, is perhaps best known for her work designing costumes for the Sonoma City Opera, Community Center productions, Sonoma Ballet Conservatory, Vintage House, several plays for Hootchie Doo Productions and 42nd Street Moon in San Francisco. ?You can?t ever let the history get ahead of the play, but you?re still working to express the director?s vision for the piece of work that he?s doing. So it?s one of those things where you take somebody else?s work, somebody else?s ideas, and you make it fit.?

Making a costume fit ? literally ? is the easiest part of Rawls? process. The real challenge, according to Rawls, is the seamless integration of a costume into the visual landscape of a production and aiding the narrative.

?What you?re really doing when you?re a good costumer is you?re painting a picture on stage that?s helping tell the story. The costume you design, but it?s the whole picture you design, too,? she explained.

Beyond the creative challenges Rawls enjoys, she often faces issues of shear volume as when a recent production of ?Miss Saigon? at a Napa high school required 75 Viet Cong costumes. Another challenge is the occasional wardrobe malfunction. During a production of the 40s-era musical ?By Jupiter,? Rawls created armor for both Greek soldiers and the Amazon women they encounter, the queen of whom, as legend suggests, was missing a breast.

?The actress had both breasts, but the armor only had one breast. After she embraced the Greek solider in a kind of a wrestling match, his armor had caved in against her armor. Then, as he continued to sing, it popped out. I said, ?Oh my God! What have I done?” I actually fell out of the seat I was in and I turned to the director and said, ?I?m so sorry!? He said, ?That was a laugh, Linda. We needed a laugh.? That was pure gold.?

The Cultural and Fine Arts Commission of Sonoma Treasure Artist of the Year reception is open to the public and will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 19 at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, located at 551 Broadway in Sonoma. Tickets to the wine and hors d?oeuvres reception are $20 per person and reservations the will be accepted until 5 p.m., Nov. 12. Drop off or mail payment to: City of Sonoma, Attn: City Clerk, No. 1 The Plaza, Sonoma CA 95476.? For additional information, call 707.933.2216.

Plug-n-Play Dessert Wine

Eject cork.Apparently, if it?s not from Portugal, it?s not port ? it?s dessert wine. This is a new mutation of the name game the Champagne region of France plays with ?sparkling wine? made anywhere but there, or Kobe beef, versus ?Kobe-style,? when outside of Japan. The fine minds at Peltier Station Winery, however have found a work-around the venerable EU. The winery?s 2004 zinfandel dessert wine is cleverly dubbed ?USB Port? and features the iconic digital device plug design on its label. Designed by Jeremy Trettevik of Lodi-based 6 West Design, the bottle?s front label depicts an old vine made of binary code, which translates as the winery?s name.

?It?s evoking a weird reaction from people,? says Trettevik, who says that the label has been ?polarizing? in terms of how it sidesteps the EU convention. In the tech-savvy blogosphere, however, it?s clearly a hit. ?God, I love semantics, don’t you?? blogged Brian X. Chen at Andrew Boatti at blogs ?So cheers to ?Peltier Stanton? for sticking it to the EU in the geekiest way possible while still getting us drunk with our cigars.?

?It?s had a reaction that has just floored me,? says Trettevik. Peltier Station Winery owner Rodney Schatz has likewise been surprised by the kudos, especially when he submitted the label to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau.

?We usually get them back in a week. This one took a while. We called them and they said ?We?ve been looking at it and we?re infatuated with it,?? recalls. ?They asked for a couple small changes, but they loved the back story.?

Gary Vaynerchuk: Wine’s Brand Man

Despite the media credentials I was granted, I somehow I managed to miss the Wine Bloggers Conference 08, hosted this October in Sonoma County?s Santa Rosa, California. No worries, the conference?s main attraction was video wine blogger and marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk of with whom I recently had a chat for FineLife Sonoma Magazine.

Vaynerchuk makes some astute observations on the notion of personal-branding (which always sounds to me like some 1990s? body modification trend, after tattoos, piercing and scarification, but before amputation). The essential soundbites: “You are your own differentiator” and “Execute on your DNA” (to the untrained ear, this sounds less like marketing genius than eugenics-for-one, but trust me, it’s actionable advice).

Have a listen…


Tim Zahner of the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau (the gent who kindly dubbed me “Sonoma County Lifestyle Ambassador”), had FilmArt3 pop in for a quikie send-up Vaynerchuk’s schtick as part of a tribute dinner the SCTB hosted at the conference. The result is eerily compelling.

Boston Vlog Test

Thought I’d do a little camera test for the Flip Mino that was kindly sent over for review. This is my MIA message from Boston, Mass., where I’ve been on location making a doc. Fine time, though the chorus of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound” is presently ringing through my mind’s ear.

Flying High

Ah, the glories of business travel. Having marinated in the Wine Country for the better part of a year (sans the occasional sojourn to SoCal, or is that LowCal?), I am pleased to have run away this week while making a documentary (qua branded-entertainment for a “consumer packaged goods company in the natural foods sector”) on location at the Natural Products Expo East in Boston, Mass. JetBlue apparently had a flight attendant go MIA prior to my flight from the Oakland airport and had to scrape for a replacement, but they made up the hour-and-a-half delay with an extremely smooth flight across the great yawning expanse of the so-called fly-over states (Dear Fly-Over States – I personally believe each of you are citadels of a vibrant and worthy local culture – Did you know Wyoming was the first state to give women the right to vote?).

Flying has never been one of my superpowers, but, thanks to modern psychopharmaceuticals, I’m convinced there’s nothing we can’t accomplish together. That is, me and pills. At present writing, I’m waiting for the invisibility pills to kick in – at least that’s what I’m going to tell my editor who probably has noticed by now that I’m not at my desk (I’m, in fact, in Santa Barbara waiting for the “I took the wrong return flight back from Boston and am now at the beach pills” to wear off). I blame my doctor, or at least the customer service-bot on that Kanuck website. (Disclaimer: This is satire, not a suggested means of addressing one’s psychopharmacological needs. Woe be unto the sap on the same path as VinSpinPR’s Mick Robbins, who confused his prescriptions on a soul-searching trip to Joshua Tree and became, to coin a phrase, overly Viagravated.)

Anyway, at the airports I’ve visited of late, what I hadn’t expected is the sudden appearance of iPod vending machines. Is this the future of impulse-driven point-of-purchase sales? Luxury items (anything that doesn’t feed you, in my book) marketed as convenience? I should have been tipped off when driving into the Oakland airport, which greets visitors with a vast, rotating iPod sign featuring the ubiquitous silhouette of juxtaposed white earbuds. Am I the only one who perceives violent undertones in the Rorschach-like shadows of these ads? (Google our film “Orange” for the antidote.) Don’t tell me. I’ll get a prescription.

With my iPhone safely set on “Airplane Mode,” I’m already an Apple zombie, so I needn’t feed the machine. Moreover, I had loaded this pocket-sized communication-entertainment system with MP3s of “Mornings in Sonoma with Ken Brown,” on KSVY. Of course, I only downloaded the Friday edition of the show – the one I co-host – to have the pleasure of my own voice soothing me to sleep. Turns out it doesn’t work that way. What happens instead is akin to walking into an aural hall of mirrors wherein every annoying tick, stutter and stammer becomes amplified to the nth degree. I began to wonder whether I actually speak English or some horrid pidgin cobbled together from Dick Cavett reruns. I turned myself off (yeah, try that, Mick Robbins) and sought distraction by timing the exits of the apparently bladder-impaired couple next to me who tag teamed the rear restroom for the duration of the flight. When a steward rolled by peddling beverages, I hissed, “Don’t do it.” He did, and five minutes later they were tap-dancing again at the back of the jet. That’s when I realized I did have a superpower – an infinite bladder. I pledge to use it only for purposes of good, which I suppose means if I’m ever in front of you in the men’s room line at the Fig, you can ask for cuts.

The Hot Sauce Academy’s Ben Schwartz, Adam Pally and Gil Ozeri feel the same, as evidenced in their rather dark parody below.

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

To leaven your mood, check out our film “Orange,” Raymond Daigle and I made using similar techniques.