.Arts & Culture | Editors’ Picks

Best Interdisciplinary Art Powwow: Two Buck Tuesdays at Kaleid

Best Wild Boar Hunt

Almaden Valley

Southeastern San Jose

Feral hogs have roamed the South Bay for centuries, usually skittish enough to keep a wide berth of civilization. That changed in 2013 for reasons still unclear, when passels of pigs from the east hills bombarded past whatever invisible barrier that once kept them in the wild and into one of San Jose’s most affluent enclaves. The hulking 200-pound boars ripped and rooted through the manicured lawns of Almaden Valley looking for food, inflicting thousands of dollars in property damage. The district’s councilman, Johnny Khamis, declared war—not a “pig genocide,” he clarified—on the offending animals, leading to one of the most incongruous laws for a city that bills itself the “Capital of Silicon Valley.” With Khamis leading the charge, San Jose now allows the trapping and shooting of the hoofed pillagers. (JW)

Best Place to Cultivate Your Inner Donatello

School of Visual Philosophy

425 Auzerais Ave., San Jose

Husband-and-wife artists Yori Seeger and Dana Harris Seeger founded the School of Visual Philosophy in 2013 as a way to teach their chosen professions of sculpting, painting and printmaking. The school, situated near a corner cafe and an auto mechanic in San Jose’s offbeat Delmas Park neighborhood, offers workshops, courses or drop-in studio sessions in blacksmithing, home-brewing, screen-printing, stone carving, metal spinning, linocuts, bronze casting, jewelry making, joinery and so much more. The sunny, garage-like facility also functions as a co-op, with 13 separate rooms to rent as private studios. Ultimately, the Seegers want to forge their own accredited MFA program. (JW)

Best Free-for-All Hackathon

VTA Innovation Center

3331 N. First St., San Jose

Silicon Valley’s regional transit authority has taken a clever tack in harnessing the region’s patent ingenuity. The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority—VTA, for short—set aside a small cut of office space in its San Jose headquarters for the public to use as a “living laboratory” to drum up ideas and test new technologies that improve public transit. The VTA Innovation Center opened with all the fanfare of a startup launch in February, inviting the community to use the space as an open coworking hub. The space includes several workstations where the public can develop, test and display their ideas. Already, several projects are underway, including an open-source trip planner and ridership analysis tools. (JW)

Girafa

Best Convicted Felon Paying His Restitution in Keychains

Girafa

In 2009, San Jose resident Steven Free—better known by his graffiti name, Girafa—was busted and slapped with more than $60,000 in fines for emblazoning walls, train cars and other surfaces all over the Bay Area with his signature giraffe character. Girafa’s yellow-and-black icon can still be seen everywhere from the Caltrain tracks just north of Diridon Station to the streets of San Francisco. Free no longer paints illegally, but he never gave up his art, either. In fact, he now makes money painting murals and selling original works of art—such as paintings on canvas or tiny Girafa keychains. He uses the money to pay his bills, which include monthly restitution installments. “It still boggles my mind,” Free told Metro this past summer. “It was never my intention to have to flip what got me in trouble to get me out of trouble.” We call that poetic justice. (NV)

Frenchman’s Tower

Best Gothic Landmark

Frenchman’s Tower

A few minutes’ drive from Stanford, just off of Old Page Mill Road in Palo Alto, sits a medieval-looking citadel with crumbling crenels and bricked-up windows—an unusual Old World monument shrouded by California oaks. Since a French aristocrat erected the tower in 1875, it has remained cloaked in rumor, cast over the years as an unsolved mystery. Historians say self-exiled French aristocrat Peter Coutts built the two-story structure as an unusual combination of water tower and library. In 1969, Frenchman’s Tower, as it came to be called, was registered as a California Point of Historical Interest. Locals consider the tower one of Peninsula’s most striking landmarks. (JW)

Best View of the Valley

Joseph D. Grant Park

18405 Mt. Hamilton Road, San Jose

Yes, the pinnacles of Mission Peak and Communications Hill offer stunning views of the region. But they’re also bombarded by visitors who take up all the parking, carve their initials into rocks, chuck empty water bottles along the trail and, generally, take away from the sense that you’re getting away from the hustle-and-bustle of the city. For some reason, Joseph D. Grant Park has managed to retain its bucolic calm, despite its convenient proximity to civilization. The 10,000-acre expanse of Santa Clara County parkland, a quick drive into San Jose’s east hills near Mt. Hamilton, boasts a 52-mile trail system, picnic spots, campgrounds and several small ponds for warm-water fishing. Trek about an hour upward and eastward for a vantage point that, on a clear day, extends across several counties and out to the ocean. (JW)

Girafa

Best Hikes That Social Media Ruined

Mission Peak/Communications Hill

Fremont and South San Jose, respectively

Fremont’s Mission Peak and San Jose’s Communications Hill used to be havens for locals—tiny pockets of isolation in the suburban sprawl of the South Bay where you could get away from it all, collect your thoughts and take in a great view. Then social media ruined everything. Daytripping tech yuppies from San Francisco followed the geotagged Instagram pictures of their East Bay friends to Warm Springs and the crossfit set off for South San Jose after seeing all those magnificent stairs on Facebook. Now you can barely go a single day without seeing a picture taken at one of these picturesque locales. What’s worse, these once-sparsely visited destinations are now crowded IRL. Yet another perfectly good thing ruined by social media. (NV)

Best Internationally Acclaimed Math Genius

Maryam Mirzakhani

Stanford University

While some mathematicians solve problems at a breakneck pace, Maryam Mirzakhani admits she works slowly, diving deep rather than racing forward. Her willingness to ruminate for years on some of the most confounding questions in her field has led to breakthrough analyses, “the kind of mathematics,” a colleague said, “you immediately recognize belongs in a textbook.” The 37-year-old Stanford University professor’s sophisticated and highly original contributions to geometry earned her the 2014 Field Medal, making her the first woman in history to win what’s widely regarded as the Nobel Prize of math. (JW)

Yosimar Reyes

Best Spoken Word Activist

Yosimar Reyes

Yosimar Reyes first felt the indelible power of words when people used them against him. Reflecting on their force as an expression of spirit, he realized that he could use words instead as agents of healing. The 26-year-old Guerrero, Mexico-born, East Side San Jose-raised queer poet-activist has since built a life around language, both spoken and penned. In 2009, his first self-published chapbook For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly gained a national audience. Reyes’ spoken word calls attention the plight of queer immigrant youth and has been featured in documentaries, including 2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry and The Legalities of Being. His written work has been anthologized, while he lends his spoken word to galvanize conversations about politics, culture and the struggles of gay, working class and immigrant people. (JW)

Best Private Art Collection Open to the Public

Anderson Collection

314 Lomita Drive, Stanford

It’s safe to say that Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson, or “Hunk” and “Moo” as the couple are often called, have a more extensive art collection than you. Hunk, who made millions as a co-founder of the food-service company Saga, and Moo, started buying art in the 1960s, ultimately amassing a huge collection. Lucky for us, the couple has generously donated 121 sculptures and paintings from their collection—all works by American post-WWII artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Frank Stella—to Stanford University. All of it can be viewed, admission free, at the recently constructed Anderson Collection building on the Stanford campus. (NV)

Best Community College Radio Station Broadcasting Live From Overseas

KFJC

KFJC

89.7 FM

KFJC’s low-wattage frequency (89.7 FM) can be hard to get a fix on—especially for those outside of the South Bay. But with it is definitely worth wrapping your antenna in foil, as the station delivers eclectic programming that you can’t get anywhere else on the terrestrial radio dial. Last September, KFJC sent a crew to the United Kingdom to broadcast live from the Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia. Eric Johnson, KFJC’s general manager, has been with the station since 1991. “I think it’s kind of been a mission of college radio to be an alternative to mainstream,” he told Metro. “We’re looking to draw attention to bands that may not otherwise get attention.” (NV)

Best Fighter Taking on UFC’s Corporate Overlords

Cung Le

Like Curt Flood in his historic legal bout with Major League Baseball, MMA fighter Cung Le is suing the Ultimate Fighting Championship for name image and likeness rights in a case that industry insiders say could unravel the multibillion-dollar league. The San Jose mixed-martial artist and a cohort of plaintiffs argue that the UFC has made its meteoric rise from a $2 million enterprise to a $3.5 billion empire at the expense of fighters who work, effectively, as indentured servants with little to no bargaining power. Antitrust lawsuits often take years to play out, but this one will be interesting to watch. Even if Le loses, his complaint could force UFC to disclose sensitive information about fighters’ salaries that could give them leverage to negotiate better pay. (JW)

Best Grammar Scold

Bryan Henderson

A 51-year-old software engineer on an obsessive quest to rid the world—or at least one of the most trafficked websites in the English language—of his grammatical pet peeve has become something of a legend among WikiGnomes. Bryan Henderson, who lives in San Jose and goes by the username Giraffedata, has made more than 47,000 Wikipedia edits in the past eight years to rid the online encyclopedia of the phrase “comprised of.” He’s worked the practice into his daily routine: bike to work at 7:30am, lunch in the cafeteria, bike home at 5:30pm and then spend an hour waging all-out war against an obscure quirk of the English language. While Merriam-Webster and a few centuries of serious writers vet the phrase, Giraffedata wrote a 6,000-word screed explaining why he thinks that those two words combined are such an egregious mistake. Whether he’s correct or not is a matter of debate. What’s impressive, and somewhat amusing, is his resolve. (JW)

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