Art of War 

Inside Steve Mumford's Iraq

TUE 10/11

Many of us who have never been to Iraq think we already know the country -- or at least everything we need to know -- from the daily photojournalism of various news orgs and from such documentaries as Gunner Palace. But there are other ways to graphically cover a war, and other ways to get to know a people. In the buildup to the Iraq conflict in 2003, New York artist Steve Mumford wanted to be there so badly he glommed press credentials from the online magazine Artnet (, sneaked across the Iraqi border from Kuwait in an SUV with two French reporters, and got himself embedded with a US Army unit from the 3rd Infantry Division, part of the force that took Baghdad. Sketchbook and pen in hand, he rode in a Bradley alongside the soldiers through places like Tikrit, Samarra, and Baqubah -- posting his watercolors, drawings, and 75,000-word commentary online through the end of 2004. Now Mumford's war coverage is collected in a thoughtful and rewarding new art book, Baghdad Journal: An Artist in Occupied Iraq (Drawn & Quarterly, $34.95), in which we learn that the artist was often greeted with gentle curiosity by Iraqis when he began to simply sit and draw, rather than point-and-shoot, what he observed. Scenes of wartime street life, firebase action, and a visit by the Miller Lite Catfight Girls run through the book, as well as studies of a boy at a kebab stand or a Shiite protest march. Says Mumford: "I didn't see a lot of combat. I didn't see many bodies. ... But I believe I captured some of the reality of Iraq for many soldiers who were there when I was and for the Iraqis I got to know."

Mumford appears in person next Tuesday (7:30 p.m.) at Cody's Books, 2454 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley. You can also catch him the next day at Cody's new San Francisco store. -- Kelly Vance




Stoke a New York state of mind with Big Apple poet Vincent Katz, sharing the podium in Wheeler Hall's Maude Fife Room with local bard David Larsen at UC Berkeley (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Can't stand the altitude in Lhasa? Get enlightened at Diesel instead, where Erik Pema Kunsange, Binder Schmidt, and Emotional Intelligence author Daniel Goleman discuss their new book Blazing Splendor: The Memoirs of Tulka Urgyen Rinpoche (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... He writes about WMDs and cosmetic surgery, not necessarily in that order: Iowa poet Graham Foust reads with Spinoza in Her Youth author Norma Cole in 201 Galileo Hall at Saint Mary's College (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Stanzas ... at midday? UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems series continues with Greatest Hits: 1979-2001 author Zack Rogow in Morrison Library (Thu., 12:10 p.m.). ... Break through the carapace of your conscious mind and get it out in a workshop at Changemakers with Stirring the Waters author Janell Moon, who teaches writing techniques to strengthen and intensify your access to subconscious material. $25; for details, call 510-594-8222 (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... Seeking refuge after 9/11, Manhattan columnist Gwendolyn Bounds found a tiny town on the Hudson, where folks in an Irish bar rebuilt her faith in humankind; she reads from Little Chapel on the River at Barnes & Noble Oakland (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Not everyone can be Paul Bunyan, as suburban-bred Ana Maria Spagna learned after becoming an itinerant trail-crew worker. She reads from her broken-dreams-in-the-great-outdoors memoir, Now Go Home: Wilderness, Belonging, and the Crosscut Saw at Pegasus Downtown (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Exploring multiracial frontiers with such books as Turning Japanese and Song for Uncle Tom, Tonto, & Mr. Moto, David Mura reads with Ruth Forman at Mills College (Fri., 7 p.m.). ... Be afraid. Be very afraid as contributors to Morbid Curiosity magazine read at Spellbinding Tales (Sat., 7 p.m.). ... He didn't make it to 64, but at Cody's Telegraph on the eve of John Lennon's 65th birthday, Elizabeth Partridge reads from All I Want Is the Truth, her biography of the murdered star (Sat., 7:30 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus

SUN 10/9

Boogie Night Benefit

The White Horse Inn is normally a peaceful neighborhood watering hole where you can shoot pool and drink martinis with extra olives while listening to a wall-to-wall backdrop of "energy" beats. The bar gets its benefit on this Sunday with a massive twelve-hour Gulf Coast Hurricane Survivors Relief Party. Sponsored by and G.R.I.T.S., this event features DJs Tony-T, Allen, Rev. Leslie, and Molly, plus go-go dancers, $4 cosmos, an auction, raffles, and a drag cabaret hosted by Diva Dan. The bewitching DD says that it won't be a real decorous affair -- just four queens (Dan and his cohorts Holotta Tymes, Suppositori, and Sondra) lip-synching to pop numbers. "It might be a little Halloween-y," he adds. The party kicks off at 2 p.m. at 6551 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, and costs $10. Proceeds go to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, which is collaborating with and the Red Cross to raise money for victims of Hurricane Katrina. -- Rachel Swan

SAT 10/8

Make It Real

MTV seeks personalities at UCB

Psst ... wanna be famous? Here's your chance. Seriously. One of the granddaddies of the reality TV craze, MTV's The Real World has been throwing a bunch of wildly different strangers together in a house and capturing their most intimate, dramatic, and poignant moments for eighteen years now -- it's the cable network's longest-running show -- which means that if you were between the ages of zero and six when the show started, you're now eligible to be a cast member. Don't laugh; it could happen sooner than you think. The show that brought you such unforgettable characters as Puck, Pedro, and Melissa is holding an open casting call for prospective personalities this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Bear's Lair (Bancroft Way at Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley); the only requirements are that you be between the ages of 18-24, and bring ID and a recent photo. So what are the producers looking for in a potential Real Worlder? "People with strong personalities who are unafraid to speak their minds," according to executive producer Jonathan Murray. -- Eric K. Arnold


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