Monday, August 30, 2004

RNC News

Do check out Oscarchoy's reports from the midst of throngs of protesters in NYC exercising their First Amendment rights (do we still have those? Not sure sometimes). Good stuff, O-dog. Maybe it's just 'cuz Oscar and I go way back--and have spent many hours outside UC Regents' meetings (and homes and hotels) and at marches and demos shouting and giving the Man hell (or trying to anyway)--but O really made me feel like I was right there marching alongside her in mid-town Manhattan, amongst the chaos and excitement and the not-knowing-what's-gonna-happen-next vibe.

In any case, please please please folks don't just watch the evening TV or read your local city paper for news about the RNC. Do your brains and your civil liberties some good and check out the many good, solid non-sold out media outlets still left in this country (see my sidebar to the left for more details).

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Oscarchoy Enters

Those in the know will know Oscarchoy's real identity, and those who don't won't care after they read O's splendid writings at Rods & Cones. Oscar caught the blog-bug in time to give us on-the-ground reports from New York City, where protests against the RNC (Republican National Convention for the less acronym-savvy) are getting underway. It's going to be a momentous battle, I'm sure--or at least, I hope, or else it'll be a helluva let-down for all us radicals who wish we were out there in the streets but are back here keepin' the homefires burning.

Welcome to Blogworld, O! Good to have you with us.


Thursday, August 26, 2004

Good article on Hugo Chavez y Venezuela

Check it out onCommon Dreams. It's by Dr. Rosa Maria Pegueros, a Professor of Women's Studies at the University of Rhode Island.

I'm a bit obsessed with news about Chavez because I've heard from a few of my progressive/radical friends (none of whom have been to Venezuela) that they are skeptical about him, or that he is corrupt, or that they wonder if he is truly democratic, but I have yet to find a compelling, well-researched argument or news article that gives me any reason to question Chavez' claims.

So unless any of y'all out there give me something I should read that could convince me otherwise, I'm going to continue to give big-ups to the big man down in Caracas and support his Bolivarian Revolution in spirit, words and action.

In Peace & Justice,

Get Your Revolutionary Notebook Out...

You know, the one you're hiding with the pictures of Che, Ho Chi Minh, Frida, Huey Newton and Angela Davis on the cover (I would put others on there, especially revolutionaries from my homeland of the Philippines, but I'm too paranoid about the PATRIOT Act to risk it--really, check out the list of 'terrorist' organizations, folks). Bust out your pens and thinking caps, peoples, 'cuz there is some serious revolutionary knowledge spinnin' 'round the world these days. A few places to look:

1. Max Elbaum's new Revolution in the Air web site, loaded with syllabi from his popular classes on left strategy, reviews of his book, readings on left history, and other good stuff for revolutionaries of all stripes (except the right-wing variety, of course). And if you haven't yet bought a copy of Max's book (published by Verso), please do so. A detailed history of the Marxist-Leninist-inspired young radicals of the post-1968 era, it's essential reading for anyone who considers themselves progressive in the U.S, especially those who think that progressive politics and radical communist movements have nothing to do with each other.

2. Anything written or spoken by Vandana Shiva or Arundhati Roy. These women are brilliant, compassionate and truly revolutionary.

3. Walden's Bello's writings on globalization and free trade madness. His writing is sharp, accessible and relevant. He's the kind of intellectual I most admire. And he's a nice guy too.

4. Any Indymedia site, and there are dozens all over the world, on every continent on the planet. If you don't know already, Indymedia provides a truly democratic medium for grassroots activists and others to post their own stories, images and news about protests, social movements and politics in their local areas. No doubt there will be plenty of coverage in the coming week of my next pick....

5. News about the Republican National Convention, being held in New York City next week. The City is virtually on lock-down in preparation for the massive protests against the Bush regime and the Republican party's spectacle aimed at keeping Bush in office. More than 20,000 'law enforcement' officials, cops, what have you, trained in 'anti-terrorist' tactics and ready to rumble are stationed in the Big Apple. And there are reports of FBI agents trailing activists, etc. Oh where, oh where, has our democracy gone? (Oh yeah, we never really had one, did we?)

6. Democracy Now!, on your local Pacifica station or affiliate station. Especially good when the morning newspaper or the nightly news on TV has you ready to vomit or sink into a ten-day-long depression. DN! will pick you right back up.

So fill up that notebook and don't forget to apply what you've learned in the big, bad world out there. We need you to be with us.


Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Saturday, August 21, 2004

How Suffering Can Be Our Greatest Joy

Yes, that's the title of the day-long, people of color meditation session I have signed up for today at Spirit Rock. I had signed up for this day a month or so ago, knowing that I needed to jump-start my meditatio practice--which, outside of my nearly-daily yoga practice, is sorely absent from my everday life.

But I didn't know then that suffering would be the theme of this retreat. And although I know enough about Buddhist philosophy to not take the words too seriously, I was still jarred and became a little anxious when I saw that title describing the retreat when I checked the Spirit Rock web site for directions last night.

Lord (Buddha) knows that I have had my share of suffering in this life, and have been slowly realizing over the past several months how suffering and abuse from my childhood is still (even after many years of therapy and self-healing work) affecting and impacting me in my daily interactions with myself and others. It has been a frightening, often overwhelming, but always worthwhile journey through my suffering into the light and fresh air of peace. And while I have had help along the way, I know that my spirit is strong enough to take on whatever challenges and fears arise for me as I sit and walk in mindfulness today.

I know that there is a reason I signed up for this particular retreat, which is about this particular subject. I know that fate and the spirits have lots of serendipitous surprises in store for us everyday, and that we must face them, accept them, and be thankful for them.

Wish me blessings and insights today. I hope your day is lovely.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

List: Things to Smile About and Be Thankful For

Hearing from my acupuncturist today that he is the proud new papa of a 9-week old baby boy. Congrats!

Knowing that I will be seeing my acupuncturist soon after almost six months without treatments. My ears are still bothering me and I'm hoping he can help me heal myself for good.

My Pilates class at my gym. I can feel my "Core" getting stronger every week. My posture is gorgeous and I can do a mean body-roll now--look out!

Dancing, dancing, dancing. Did I already say dancing? All kinds of music, all kinds of movement.

Eating scrumptious, beautifully prepared food. Hung out with my old friend A. today at Liberty Cafe on Cortland in Bernal Heights. Warm roasted figs with goat cheese and walnuts, a chicken pot pie, and fresh lemonade (we split the dishes, I'm not that much of a pig!)

Seeing movies by myself. Just saw "The Story of the Weeping Camel" today. It's a foreign film set amongst the nomadic people of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Subtle, moving and gorgeous to look at. And who knew camels could have such emotional depth? ;-)

Coddling my inner child and watching cartoon-movies like Brother Bear. I still haven't seen Finding Nemo yet though (I know, already!).

Round-faced babies and small children smiling, laughing and playing (or even crying).

Knowing that I will have a baby of my own someday soon (no, I'm not expecting yet).

Hugo Chavez winning the referendum vote again (see previous post).

Being able to raise money for an organization that does kick-ass work fighting for true educational justice for California's youth.

Hearing from friends and acquaintances that they like, love or at least read my blog. Just heard from Chavajero that he reads all my posts. (The cynic in me is still waiting for the critics to come out of the woodwork.)

Being in a healthy, loving and beautifully evolving relationship. (Awwww...;-)

My circle of friends--some of the most thoughtful, generous, supportive, radical, loving, interesting, talented and overall brilliant folks that I know. I am honored to have them in my life (you know who you are!).

The Forbidden Book

I bought this book, published by T'boli Publishing, at the library event this past weekend. This collection of historic images is at once overwhelming, brutally real and downright crucial reading in these times of empire-building and people's resistance. You can order it by downloading the order form pdf here. I'm guessing you can also find it at East Wind Books in Berkeley if you are in the Bay Area (support independent bookstores!. Ok, had to get that off my chest). This from the book's launch announcement:

THE FORBIDDEN BOOK: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons
by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, and Helen Toribio
Available August 14, 2004

A Chicago Chronicle cartoon in January 1900 showed President McKinley preventing Uncle Sam from reading the "Forbidden Book" about the "true history of the war in the Philippines."  Today, most Americans know nothing about a 15-year war with the Philippines that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos.

On February 4, 1899, the United States went to war based on a false claim that Filipinos began attacking American soldiers in Manila.  The first shots were actually fired by an American soldier as Filipinos crossed a bridge, and historians would later discover a "prearranged plan" by the U.S. military to precipitate a war as soon as an incident was provoked.  Misled by false reports, the Senate passed (by one vote) a treaty to annex the Philippines.  President McKinley would later justify the war by claiming that God had counseled him to take the Philippines in order to civilize and Christianize the Filipinos.  What was really behind the annexation was the need for overseas markets and raw materials for American industry.

Opposition to the war was led by the Anti-Imperialist League whose members included many prominent Americans including presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, suffragist Jane Addams, labor leader Samuel Gompers, African American activist Ida Wells Barnett, and writer Mark Twain.  The "anti-imperialists" were branded as traitors by "pro-expansionists" and Filipinos were depicted as savages in order to de-legitimize their resistance to American occupation.  American opposition to the war grew as more and more American soldiers died and as revelations of military atrocities, torture of prisoners, killing of Filipino children, and concentration camps surfaced in media reports, military trials, and a senate hearing.  President Roosevelt prematurely declared the war over on July 4, 1902 but the last major battle was fought in 1913 and hostilities did not ceased until 1914.  Some readers may find interesting parallels between the Philippine-American War and events of today.

The book features eighty-eight colored cartoons taken from the pages of popular magazines, along with 133 black-and-white political cartoons reprinted from newspapers including San Francisco Evening Post, New York World, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, New Orleans Times-Democrat, Minnesota Journal, St. Louis Republic, Detroit News, Denver Evening Post, Los Angeles Times, etc. as well as Life, Harper's and Collier's Weekly. Twenty-seven historical photographs are added to compare with the cartoons' stereotypical depictions.

The Introduction discusses America's economic transformation after the Civil War, the conditions facing the "other" America (immigrant labor, native Americans, Blacks, and Chinese), the Philippine Revolution for independence from Spain, Cuba and the Spanish American War, the decision to annex the Philippines, the start of the war, and the opposition to the war led by the Anti-Imperialist League. The Epilogue describes how the Philippine American War came to be forgotten and the aftermath of the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. The cartoons are divided into major themes and introduced by essays at the beginning of each chapter:

- Manifest Destiny and the White Man's Burden
- Government by Consent or Conquest
- He's One of the Big Boys Now
- Conquest and Commerce
- Civilizing the Savages
- The Filipino as a Racialized Other
  Experiences of the African American Soldier
  Hayop (Animal)
- Killing "Niggers" and Rabbits
  War Against the Moro People
- Mac and Aggy
- The Aunties are Coming

From the back cover reviews:

"The brutal war waged by the United States against the Filipino people at the turn of the century has been shrouded in darkness for a long time, the truth concealed from generations of Americans. THE FORBIDDEN BOOK brings that shameful episode in our history out in the open, with a wonderful combination of crystal-clear text and extraordinary cartoons. The book deserves wide circulation."
- Howard Zinn
Professor Emeritus, Boston University
Author of A People's History of the United States

"Brimming with insights into the beginnings of American imperial policy overseas, this book reconstructs an era that was to shape and refine U.S. intervention in the modern world. Through political cartoons in an era when the colonizer itself worked to hide the truth from the American people about the forgotten war a century ago, this book restores for the present generation a past marred by misinformation, racism, blind patriotism and outright lies. A thought-provoking education about the miseducation of the American people by arrogant imperial leaders whose successors never seem to learn the lessons of history. A particularly relevant book which makes it essential reading for the present generation of Filipinos and other colonial subjects of the modern PAX AMERICANA."
- Roland G. Simbulan
Professor of Development Studies & Public Management, and
Vice Chancellor, University of the Philippines

"In this extraordinary collection of political cartoons from the period of the Philippine-American War and subsequent colonization, frank visual satire and caricature vibrate with 'forgotten' histories from the turn of the 19th century: they link U.S. imperial conquests in the Pacific to those in the Caribbean, refract American perceptions of Filipinos through its devastating treatments of blacks and native peoples, explicitly admit U.S. ambitions to employ not only war, but education and culture, to surpass the reach and power of the European empires by the end of the 20th century. These 'forbidden' images are windows onto an earlier moment in the history of American empire, a history in which we still live and struggle today."
-Lisa Lowe
University of California, San Diego

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Will They Leave Chavez Alone Now?

Probably not. If you haven't heard already, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has survived three, count 'em, THREE, referendum votes (that's 'recall' votes for the Californians out there). Can you imagine if former Governor Gray Davis had survived three recall votes and the Republicans still cried foul play? Well, that's what's happening in Venezuela, as the elite right-wing opposition to Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution, headed by Chavez, claims massive election fraud. This despite independent elections monitors including ex-U.S. President Jimmy Carter declaring that the election was fair and that Chavez is still the valid democratically-elected President of the country. Oh, did I mention that the right-wingers also own just about all of Venezuela's big media? And they STILL lost! Damn, that makes me happy! And it gives me hope that all is not lost in the world. Read more here.

And if you haven't seen "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" already, step to it! And let's pray that U.S. 'democracy' can one day be as engaging and vibrant and pluralistic as Venezuela's, where folks across race and class barriers have united to rebuild their society from the bottom up, using the massive profits of their nationalized oil industry to build schools, start clinics, create urban organic gardens and provide free health care and education.

If you're interested in checking out Venezuela's revolution yourself, email the Venezuela Solidarity Group, which organizes trips for North Americans. It's probably the only real way to know what's going on down there, since media coverage is not always reliable (I just went to a VSG reportback last week and it was truly inspiring).

Monday, August 16, 2004

Championing the Intellectual

I stole the phrase above from my friend J., an old college homie who stayed at me and H.'s place this weekend while he attended a big sociologists' conference downtown. An ABD sociology Ph.D candidate at USC who grew up working class, J.'s an interesting and funny character. The term "championing the intelletual" came up when while we were politickin' late last night, talking about his life as an academic, the isolation of the left, and the right-wing origins of the term 'politically correct', among other topics.

I told J. I was thinking about going into an MFA program in creative writing. He started laughing hysterically, expressing shock and amusement that I would even consider graduate school. "You are the most anti-academic intellectual I know," he stated between laughs, reminding me how I always ranted about hating school when we were at Cal.

That had to be one of the best compliments I've ever gotten. Really.

I used to be a much more vitriolic anti-academic intellectual; I've always loved reading, writing and debating about politics and society but hated the snobbish conformity of the ivory tower. My introduction to community and labor organizing in the mid-1990's only strengthened my dislike for higher education--as it exists in the U.S., anyway--by exposing me to brilliant grassroots leaders, mostly poor people of color who may not have even graduated high school let alone college. Many of these folks blew my college-educated peers out of the water when it came to critical analyses of society; they weren't just parroting back social change theory they'd read about in some book, but had formed their analyses based on their own experiences as oppressed people.

And these folks weren't snobbish about their knowledge. I've always been disgusted by the elite attitudes of college-educated folks, especially people of color, who should know better. Years ago I went to dinner with a (highly educated) couple I know well, accompanied by a man I was dating who happened to lay tile for a living. I marveled at the utter condescension that the couple displayed towards my date--gossiping about friends from college and discussing politics in a name-dropping, exclusionary way. And these are folks that consider themselves liberal if not progressive.

I've always prided myself on the fact that, although I am an intellectual, I strive to value and vaildate different kinds of intelligence, from street-smarts to artistic skills to scholarly logic. I wish other folks who have had the privilege of a college education would learn that that's exactly what it was: a privilege that comes part-and-parcel with a responsibility to use it in a way that's not just self-congratulatory, but beneficial to the greater community--including those not lucky enough to get to college.

J. and I agreed that folks on the left need to reclaim the term "intellectual" in a way that isn't elitist or exclusionary, but in a way that values critical thinking as a cornerstone of a vibrant and inclusionary democracy.

And these days, with legacy-Yalie Bush Jr. as "President" and a media that panders to the market more than to the mind, we need to reclaim our smarts often and with pride.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Breathing and Dreaming

Been having a lot of vivid, crazy dreams lately, almost every night. And while at first it worried me that my dreams left me feeling less rested when I woke up in the morning than when I went to bed, I've realized that they have been trying to tell me some important things that I needed to be reminded of.

I dreamt last night that I was living in an artists' community--a multi-purpose, live-work-play space that included a black-box theater, communal kitchen, and big, drafty bathrooms. I was getting ready for my first-ever one-woman show, and it was opening night. But I didn't even have any lines written, didn't have any movement prepared, didn't have any music picked out. But I had my costumes. I had a stage crew. I had my sweetie helping me out with props and tech stuff.

I was freaking out because I realized that I had announced that I was doing my first-ever one-woman show, and people were coming to see it that very night, and I was totally unprepared. I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off for a while, worrying and stressing and wondering what the hell I was going to do.

And then I just stopped freaking out and started breathing and working. I turned on some music ("Like Cockatoos" by the Cure, a song I danced too way back in high school once) and started moving to it, letting the reverbed, echoing guitar riffs and rhythmic percussion guide me. I danced around the theater and went down into full splits (I can always do stuff in dreams that I can't really do in real life), and suddenly realized, "Hey, this is going to be okay."

I've been experiencing a low-grade identity crisis--caught somewhere between writer, dancer, activist, non-profit fundraiser, partner and daughter, with none of those things providing me with the heavy anchor of discipline that my organizational work used to provide on a day-to-day basis. I've wondered if I'm doing the right thing, if this whole writing thing is really where my destiny lies, or whether I'm just daydreaming and squandering my precious time on selfish and foolish pursuits while the real world's tumults and traumas taunt and haunt me, speak to that nagging voice inside me that says I should just get serious and do some real work.

Dreams provide me with a lot of insight. Even when they are violent, scary or anxiety-ridden, I learn something about myself from them that helps me in my waking life, in my relationships, in my work. This dream has reminded me that I am doing just fine, I just need to breathe, play some music, dance and keep on keepin' on.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Conscious Self, Unconscious Self

I took this personality test and here's what they told me.

Enneagram Test Results
Type 1 Perfectionism |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Type 2 Helpfulness |||||||||||||| 53%
Type 3 Image Awareness |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Type 4 Sensitivity |||||||||| 40%
Type 5 Detachment |||||||||| 36%
Type 6 Anxiety |||||||||||||||| 66%
Type 7 Adventurousness |||||||||||| 46%
Type 8 Aggressiveness |||||||||||||||| 70%
Type 9 Calmness |||||||||||| 46%
Your Conscious-Surface type is 1w2
Your Unconscious-Overall type is 1w9
Take Free Enneagram Personality Test
personality tests by

I also took their "Which Famous Leader Are You Most Like?" gag-test. And let's say that the results were, uh, a little unexpected: The famous leader I'm supposedly most like has been recently overthrown by a big U.S. invasion and is locked up in some prison somewhere. Go figure! ;-)


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Open Your Eyes

Race has always been a central contradiction in American society, and "Colored: Black n' White" gives us crystal clear examples of how the construction of "Whiteness" and "Blackness" did not exclude Filipinos in the U.S. and back home. Having seen this collection of late 19th century political cartoons and magazine covers at Pusod back in the day, I am so glad that veteran activists and scholars Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, Abe Ignacio and Helen Toribio have pulled together their new book based on the exhibit, The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons. Check out the reception and the exhibit this weekend at the SF Main Library.

COLORED:  Black n' White, The Philippine-American War in American Popular Media, 1896-1907

Saturday, August 14th / 2:00 - 3:00 p.m.
Opening Lecture with Exhibition Curators:  Main Library, Lower Level, Koret Auditorium, SF Main Library, 100 Larkin Street at Grove

Reception:  Following the program, Main Library, Sixth Floor, Skylight Gallery

The exhibit itself will be on display from August 14 through October 21, 2004 in the Skylight Gallery

Monday, August 09, 2004

Spirituality for Sale? Part I

I am writing this because I'm pissed about the fact that I wanted to attend this big yoga conference that's coming to San Francisco soon (I'll refrain from saying what group is organizing it). I've always wanted to invest a more intensive amount of my time and money (I'm a realist, I know these things cost money to organize) into my yoga study and practice, but when I went to the conference web site to get the info, I was shocked to find that the cheapest fee for only one day of the multi-day conference was $150! I had wanted to attend the whole conference in addition to the one-day intensive, which would put me out another $350--and those were the discounted fees!

I am at turns amused and outraged by the rampant commodification of spirituality that I witness all over the place these days. As a subscriber to both Yoga Journal and the New Age book club OneSpirit, I have received offers for products ranging from Thich Nhat Hanh stationery (I'm not kidding) to yoga kits for dummies (OK I'm stretching a bit here), and I've read about places like the Tao Bar in New York City or the Buddha Bar in Paris (surreal but real). Some folks, I'm sure, use images of the Buddha in a tongue-in-cheek fashion and I don't have a problem with that as long as that's clear--I think the Buddha himself would've reminded us not to take symbols and icons too seriously and to laugh at ourselves more often.

While I personally benefit from the shopping convenience that this commodification provides, and have found some true nuggets of insight and wisdom through both subscriptions, I can't help but be disturbed by this commodification trend. I'm not saying that we shouldn't have big yoga conferences or that spiritual healers and practitioners should not market or charge for their goods and services. That is the reality of living in our capitalist society--we have to sell ourselves, to an extent.

But some of this stuff is going way too far. I'm not just talking about the kitsch and tchotchkes inscribed with yin-yang symbols or Native American images, I'm talking about this spirituality-as-a-business craziness that perpetuates, without a smidgen of guilt or irony, exactly what dominant, corporate culture does: the exclusion of low-income and even many middle-class folks from being able to participate in the mainstream--in this case, all the (fairly expensive) soul-searching and kharma-cleaning going on. $500 to attend a yoga conference? Who can afford that?

Having grown up in the Roman Catholic Church (Mass at least every Sunday, Catholic school for 10 years) and currently working as a fundraiser for a living, I know that low- and middle-income people in the US account for the majority of the donations that are given in this country (see The Ten Most Important Things You Can Know About Fundraising' for some context). Most of these donations go to churches. Non-rich people can and do give money to things they care about.

At the same time, no one has to give money when they go to Mass (at least not anymore). It's no longer a prerequisite for confession or receiving the Holy Eucharist. Sure, you'll get a lot more attention from your pastor if you give large sums of money to your parish, but you'll get just as much attention if you show up to Mass every week and act like a good Christian. I won't get into the history of the Church as a haven for the rich (and the poor, at times), but I will acknowledge the Church's checkered past.

I find it ironic that one of today's more popoular spiritual fads is Buddhism, which emphasizes mindful consumption. If one reads the Yoga Sutras by Patanjali, there are also tenets that focus on the principle of non-attachment. So where do people get off charging so much money and making big bucks off others' spiritual practice? Where do the ethics come in? Where do we draw the line between ensuring our own physical security and profiting off of other people's spiritual needs? Why do we have celebrity gurus who live lives that ar anything but simple or austere? Check out Bikram Choudhury, who is trying to copyright his sequence of asana (yoga poses).

I know that in our consumerist, capitalist society, things cost money. But I also know that spiritual traditions have thrived and will continue to thrive without the gimmickry and niche-marketing of Madison Avenue advertising companies, or the inflated fees and prices that seem to be the norm today.

For example, the San Francisco Buddhist Center, where I’ve attended great classes on Buddhism and meditation, relies heavily on volunteer work and support--which in turn creates a friendly, accessible environment for those new to the tradition. I've never felt pressured to give more than I could to help pay for classes and keep the Center running. At the same time, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, of which the Center is a part, collectively runs its own business selling books on Buddhism--proof that business and spirituality can complement each other, as long as our priorities are straight: Spirit comes first, money second.

Part II coming soon.


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Who Says There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Well, maybe not a free lunch, but there are tons of free events happening this weekend--testament to the fact that not everyone is a greedy capitalistic freak trying to get they money on. And although I'm sure there'll be more than enough corporate sponsorship, advertising and giveaways at all these events there's still lots of stuff to see and do that won't cost you a damn thing but some gas / BART / Muni money and good ol' fashioned legwork.

I already mentioned the San Jose Jazz Festival, a two-plus-day musical extravaganza taking place in downtown San Jo' (and yes, I hear Dionne Warwick singing in my head too) that's totally FREE--even free parking!

Then there's the two-day Aloha Festival in the Presidio in Frisco, with Polynesian music, dance, food and even an Outrigger canoe race! I'm heading out there tomorrow after shakin' my groove thang at the jazz festival all day today.

Finally on Sunday is the Bang the Drum 20th anniversary showcase, a free hip-hop concert at Kezar Pavilion featuring locals and legends (and legendary locals) like Chuck D, Davey D, Rza from Wu-Tang, Paris, Heiroglyphics, Vin Roc, Apollo (Pin@ys in da house!) and many others.

So who says nuthin's free?

Blessings, enjoy your weekend of free-dom,

Friday, August 06, 2004

No, not Memorex

Just finished watching the second episode of Ken Burns' "Jazz" documentary, which is mostly about Satchmo and The Duke. And although I really appreciate and am learning a lot from the series, I crave the nourishment and energy of witnessing and dancing to live jazz, which is what it's all about--the improvisation, the spontaneity, the fresh, happy in-the-moment vibe that only live performances by real musicians can give me.

My friend N.'s grandfather tells her that real music started to die--not with the birth of video and MTV, as you might suspect an elder might think--with the advent of the music recording industry. Although this statement shocked me when I heard it, I have to say that after watching the 2nd installment of "Jazz", I can see what he means. I mean, who goes to see live music anymore? And if people do go see live music, how many of the bands and musicians they are seeing really play music, instead of rapping over pre-recorded beats, or basically lip-syncing over canned music, or just going through the motions, singing and playing their songs exactly the way their 'Radio Edit' singles sound?

I'm not saying that electronically-generated music--house, techno, hip-hop beats, etc.--isnt' "real" (and if I did, Hen10 would give me a serious scolding), but I am saying that hearing live music played on tactile instruments is something that more people need to do. The pre-fab stuff just doesn't have the same kind of energy and impact.

One of the reasons I love to go salsa dancing is that at just about any decent salsa club in the Bay Area you will find a live band--some of whom are made up of incredible musicians who have clearly honed their craft for many years and understand the music on a deep level. This connection gets translated through the instruments, mics and amps to us dancers, who groove, shake, spin and smile because, well, the music makes us happy to be alive.

So it's great timing that the San Jose Jazz Festival is this weekend, featuring some seriously heavy hitters--from local salsa band Mazacote and Oakland native son Pete Escovedo to the legendary kunga master Ray Barretto. There will be seven, count 'em, seven stages of FREE music all day, and since it's South Bay you know the weather will be at least ten degrees warmer than in the northerly microclimates. I went to the festival last year, and it was a blast--who knew San Jose was so poppin'?

I can't wait to put my dancin' shoes on and groove on down to San Jo'. And for anyone who hasn't checked out a live (not pre-recorded!) music show in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to see how some real masters throw down. So if you see me shakin' my thang among the throngs of folks, gimme a holla and let me see you smile.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Heart of a Warrior

The genuine heart of sadness comes from feeling that your nonexistent heart is full. You would like to spill your heart's blood, give your heart to others. For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit them back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.--Chögyam Trungpa

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

It All Comes Together

I'm so psyched to have found Jean Vengua's blog on Fil-Am music and her article (in Our Own Voice) on Filipino-American musicians in the early 20th century. After writing about the various similarities I've observed between jazz and Kali in previous posts (see Part I and Part II), stumbling across Jean's research is like finding a cool, clear waterfall in the middle of a long hike.

She writes about the influence of Hawaiian slack-key guitar on American blues (which, in turn, influenced and shaped American jazz), for example, and about a touring band of Filipino-American musicians who entertained Midwestern audiences as part of the Redpath Chautauqua traveling tent circuit in the early 1900s. Musicians from other racial and ethnic groups also toured with the Chautauqua, and I bet they had some off-the-hook, cross-cultural jams after hours!

Fascinating stuff Jean's unearthed, folks. And proof that music is more universal and resistant to pigeon-holing and cultural 'ownership' than we can ever know.

Enjoy your Tuesday,

Monday, August 02, 2004


Just returned home from a four-day 'camp' near Clear Lake for women of color. Four days of not doing much of anything but eating delicious, healthy food, going fishing in Blue Lake (unfortunately we didn't catch anything), swimming in a refreshingly cool, non-chlorinated pool, getting brown under the hot Lake County sun, writing, napping, reading and chillin' with some wild women of color in our own private resort.

Sounds like heaven, doesn't it? Well, it wasn't exactly heaven but it was pretty close. I saw a deer when I took a hike down the entrance road to the resort, as well as a family of quail (I think that's what they were), some woodpeckers who woke me in the morning by tapping away on the wall outside my lodge room, and some huge bass jumping out of the water of Blue Lake to sun themselves.

I think everyone--and every stressed-out, overburdened woman of color in particular--should go on a retreat like this at least once a year. To relax, rejuvenate and recharge for the over-scheduled, jam-packed lives so many of us live. And maybe, just maybe, to help us realize that bringing some of those peaceful moments from nature to our everyday lives may be just what we need to be happy and content.

I've made a commitment to myself after this retreat to get away like this--away from my partner and my everyday City life and commitments and stresses--and just do whatever I want. It may sound indulgent, but I don't think it is. It's called bringing my life into balance.