The Best of Silicon Valley 2014

Arts | Editors' Picks

Kaleid Best Interdisciplinary Art Powwow: Two Buck Tuesdays at Kaleid

Best Interdisciplinary Art Powwow

Two Buck Tuesdays at KALEID

Third Tuesday of the month, 7-10pm, KALEID Gallery, 88 S. Fourth St,
San Jose

Operated by artist/designers and located at a high-profile urban crossroads, KALEID already stages monthly art exhibits that rival anything else in town. The gallery also provides many spaces and areas for artists to display their work on a daily basis, for which there's usually a waiting list. Even better, people regularly come in and buy the art. What's more, the monthly powwow, Two-Buck Tuesdays, usually features music, live demos, local painters setting up easels on the sidewalk, caricature portraitists and more. There are all sorts of activities on the third Tuesday of each month at one of the most eclectic monthly gatherings in downtown San Jose. (GS)

Best Place to Appreciate the Evolution of Your Laptop

Computer History Museum

1401 N. Shoreline Blvd, Mountain View

Housed in server company SGI's former headquarters (how meta is that?), the Computer History Museum is home to many objects that, if not on display in a computer history museum, might now prove pretty hard to identify as computers. The museum's replica Babbage Engine, a shiny array of symmetrically arranged gears and levers, is a Victorian-era mechanical calculator that could be easily mistaken for a kinetic sculpture. And 1940s computers that would fill a small room seem the antithesis of an iPhone, and unlikely to be able to process a fraction of the tasks a phone can. However alien, though, such machines had roles in developing the technology that allows us to play Flappy Bird wherever we go. (HZ)

Best Place to Sit In on an Orchestra Rehearsal

Lunchtime@Trianon series

First Friday of the month, 12:10-12:50pm, Le Petit Trianon, 72 N. Fifth St, San Jose

Lunching at one's desk is a Silicon Valley art form, but one weekday a month Le Petit Trianon theater's resident arts groups offer a respite from answering emails between bites of Snickers swiped from the candy jar in the common area. Lunchtime@Trianon features free lunchtime performances by small music and arts groups. For the event's March edition, the San Jose Chamber Orchestra held an open rehearsal for its spring concert, which previewed a program that included two premieres—and those works' composers dropped by, as well. Coming up April 4, the South Bay Guitar Society presents jazz, classical and Brazilian music by guitarist Samantha Wells and May's program features readings from Poetry Center San Jose. Audiences are invited to bring their lunches to the theater, and because lunch "hour" rarely works out to a whole 60 minutes, the entire program is always 40 minutes long. (HZ)

Best Comedian

Brendan Lynch

Brendan Lynch's ability to win over even the most belligerent hecklers in the diviest dives has earned him a cult following in Bay Area comedy, from peers and fans alike. Somehow, wielding a combination of deadpan delivery, awkward pause and acid wit, he manages to woo the crowd while making them the butt of his unrelenting observational humor. For a sample of his style, peruse his Twitter quips (@brendanzig), e.g. "Thanks to Obamacare, thousands of Christian Scientists have been dropped by God" or "Just saw four white guys with different colored gelled hair having drinks together—it was like 'Non-Consensual Sex in the City.'" But to really get a feel for his standup chops, catch one of his shows, preferably one intimate enough for him to break the fourth wall and hilariously intimidate the audience into laughing out loud against their will. When he's not entertaining awe-struck comedic underlings and ornery drunks in dingy watering holes, the South Bay native regularly performs at the San Jose Improv (where he headlines June 1), the San Francisco Punchline and Cobb's Comedy Club. He's performed at SketchFest, The Great American Comedy Festival and the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival, and was runner-up in the San Francisco International Comedy Competition. (JW)

Best Euro-Revitalization of a Riverside Wasteland

Little Italy San Jose

N. Almaden Ave, between Julian and W. St. John streets, San Jose

Italians have played a role in the growth of San Jose for at least 100 years now, so it makes sense that a suitable neighborhood emerge and be designated Little Italy. Just up the block from Henry's Hi-Life, which used to be an Italian hotel 100 years ago, a spectacular urban renewal project is making visible progress. One house is being renovated for use as an Italian cultural center. A huge gateway arch is currently being fabricated off-site. New businesses are about to sign leases, if all goes well. A variety of collaborative projects are also in the works, making this a very welcome urban project that offers a textbook lesson in how to raise funds, pool resources, network and collaborate to get stuff done. Viva la Azzurri! (GS)

Best Seats in the House

Cabaret Seating at Tabard Theatre Company

Theatre on San Pedro Square, 29 N. San Pedro St, San Jose

There are good seats, front-row seats—and then there are almost-in-the-middle-of-the-play seats. Cabaret seating at many of Tabard Theatre Company's productions offers a view of the stage just a couple feet away from the actors—and occasionally, for musical productions, a chance to get up and dance with the cast. And unlike some creaky, stiff theater seats that will test anyone's will to sit for three hours no matter how good the play, cabaret seating affords audiences comfy chairs and a table, which make it easy to take advantage of the bar and well-stocked concession stand (eating during the show is allowed). Of course, with the theater's intimate size, no view of the stage is really a bad one and all the seats are cushy. (HZ)

Best New Insight into the Scope of Government Spying

Stanford University's Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler

Some unsettling news on the NSA surveillance front came from researchers at Stanford University this spring. Last summer, President Obama assured us that the government wasn't listening in on our phone calls but simply analyzing the metadata. The comment meant to downplay the extent of information gleaned, to appease a worried populace not to worry about their spoken conversations. But Stanford computer science students Jonathan Mayer and Patrick Mutchler showed just how much information one can glean from metadata—the time, location and recipient of a call. The results were chilling. Mayer says he didn't expect to find that much information one way or another. "We were wrong," the pair wrote in conclusion. "We found that phone metadata is unambiguously sensitive, even in a small population and over a short time window." Surveying call metadata from 546 volunteers, researchers were able to piece together virtually every significant move, including medical calls and Planned Parent appointments and, over the span of a few weeks, another volunteer's calls to a home improvement store, a locksmith and a hydroponics dealer. Creepy. So yeah, if you're smart, you might want to get a dumb phone, like maybe a landline from your local thrift shop. (JW)