Monday, January 31, 2005

Not Much Ado About Not Quite Nothing

Not thinking very many deep thoughts these days. Well, nothing suitable for the blog, anyhow.

Watched 'Ladykillers' on DVD the other night, even after D. told us that it was 'terrible.' I didn't find it so terrible after all, although I have to say it was the first film I'd seen in a while in which the proverbial 'black guy' dies first. Surprise, surprise, eh? The surprise really was that I hadn't seen that in a flim for at least six months.

Took my mom out for dinner on Friday night for her 60th birthday, to Roy's in downtown San Francisco--'Hawaiian fusion cuisine', which means a lot of fresh seafood, some Hawaiian and Asian ingredients and dishes like macadamia nuts, kim chee and gyoza. Moms actually enjoyed it a lot, which I was surprised about. I thought she would think the $25 and up entrees too extravagant for my budget (which they were, but good food is my big weakness). But now I know where I get my somewhat expensive tastes from, because she loved it, and offered to bring us back there in a couple months, her treat. God, if only I could eat at nice restaurants like that at least once every couple weeks, I think I would be so overjoyed by both the anticipation leading up to and the happy memories after the meal that the rest of my life could strike that precious balance between bliss and burden that can be so elusive at times.

Spent part of my Saturday filing papers away at work, which felt good because we purged so many old and outdated foundation publications and guidelines that were taking up so much space. Now that we've cleared out the old, we can make way for the new: prospecting for new funders is up next.

Went shopping yesterday at Nordstrom Rack and bought some nice new pieces from good designers at cheap cheap prices. That's what I'm talking about. I balk at spending more than $50 on any one piece of clothing--with the exception of coats and maybe really nice sweaters, so my finds pleased me: a pair of Eileen Fisher cargo jeans that look way more hip-hop than anything I thought she would design, a bright red t-shirt with a pink 'R' emblazoned on its front, and a pale pink camp shirt--I don't know why I'm into pink and red lately, I think it's the insidious influence of all the Valentine's Day stuff all around the stores.

H. and I took a leisurely walk around the scenic Crystal Springs Reservoir. The trail is right next to the 280 freeway for a good stretch, but once we got down the hill and away from it, it felt like we were far away in the country. We even saw a group of about eight deer feeding on the grassy slopes beside the trail.

Yup, that was my weekend, in a nutshell. Not much to hoot and holler about, but that's really all right by me. It pleased me. And that is precious.

Hope your weekend was just as pleasing,

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

And You Think the Hip Hop Generation Doesn't Care?

Well, check out Pinay DJ Kuttin Kandi's response to Hot 97's airing of their pathetically racist and awful 'Tsunami Song'.

Monday, January 24, 2005

There's No Place Like Home

And there's nothing like traveling to give you some perspective on life, on your hometown, and on the good things you've got that you take for granted everyday. After my less-than-cheerful previous post, I've gotten some light and fresh clean air and have once again remembered that life is pretty fuckin' good.

I just got back last night from Denver, where I attended a 3-day training for trainers offered by GIFT, an amazing organization that has dedicated itself to training the next generation of fundraisers of color who want to build social justice community groups by raising money from everyday folks--poor people, people of color, immigrants, youth, etc. These folks actually give most of the money that's given to non-profits in this country (upwards of 75%), but for various classist and racist reasons are not prioritized as donors or fundraisers by many progressive groups.

The training was fantastic, definitely the best training I've been to in many years (and I've been to lots of workshops and seminars on various fundraising and non-profit management topics in recent history), and I met some cool people who are doing extraordinary work in their communities. From organizing young women of color in Albuquerque (Young Women United) to building a coalition of Latino organizations in North Carolina, from running environmental justice campaigns in API communities to providing crucial support to grassroots groups in New York City, the groups represented by the participants at the GIFT training are engaged in meaningful and necessary work to make this country a real democracy that includes everyone that lives and works here, not just the folks who are 'citizens' and 'voters'. And my comrades from these groups reminded me once again how much great organizing work and movement-building is going on, slowly but surely, day by day, even in the US, the belly of the imperialist beast.

Denver was interesting. It's in a spectacular natural environment, with th snow-capped Rocky Mountains on the horizon, stretching as far as the eye can see, almost seeming to surround you. But Denver's not a very integrated city, you could say. Definitely saw Black folks and Latinos, but the downtown scene in the bars and restaurants was pretty white. I didn't observe any overtly racist discrimination; people were pretty friendly if not overly-curious about our group--a multi-racial people of color crew that roamed the somewhat desolate streets of downtown Denver every night. The last night I was there I realized with a shudder that Littleton, Colorado--where Columbine High School is located--is only 20 minutes away.

Although I had a great time at the training and in Denver, I do get homesick quite easily when I travel, and I was so happy to come home last night, especially after a long day of airport waiting and delays. Seeing H. was, of course, sweet and nourishing to my soul. As M., my hotel roomie in Denver, said after overhearing some of our phone conversations, H. softens me and 'makes me all melty'. He is the true blessing of my life.

Today, I welcome myself home with a nice Frisco-style brunch, with good coffee and grub, the Bay Guardian on my lap, and some phat beats playing in the background. There really is no place like home.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Looking for Sunshine

Not literally--although it has been overcast and rainy more often than not these days--but figuratively, I am in need of some light in my life. Don't get me wrong--my relationship is going well, I have good friends in my life, I have a meaningful and interesting job and a pretty beautiful life overall, but at the same time, there are just too many horrible things happening in this world, and sometimes it's a bit much for me to deal with. From the verbal altercation between some youth of color and a white man that I witnessed on the bus today (which ended, of course, in the white man calling the police, prompting the youth to get off the bus prematurely), to the horrors of the war in Iraq and the horrors of the tsunami aftermath in South Asia, there are always an endless number of things to be angry, depressed, sad or disgusted with in this world.

Where is the hope? Usually, being around younger people helps me have hope, but despite the fact that there are plenty of smart, funny and conscious teenagers in my office everyday, I feel that I'm somehow pimping them emotionally by 'using' them to make me feel hopeful for the future. Reading good literature often helps, but I've hit a bit of a lull in the middle of Garcia Marquez' Love in the Time of Cholera. Part of me just wants to burrow into a dark hole somewhere with my pens and notebook and fantasy books and favorite gourmet food and wine (quite Hobbit-like of me, no?) so that I can just think for a minute, pray a little, get my bearings, have visionary dreams, and come back to my knowledge of what is green and good in the world again.

I'm probably PMSing--inexplicable depression is usually one of my symptoms--and I could most likely use a nice long walk in the woods or by the ocean to give me the perspective I need. There's nothing like standing on the edge of the continent, staring out over the endless Pacific as her waves wash ashore over and over, never stopping, their rhythm universal and ceaseless, to make me realize that all things --even these blues--are temporary, that all life indeed is impermanent, that all things grow and change and die in their turn, and that the ephemerality (is that a word?) of all we know, in and of itself, holds a beauty so fragile that we must treasure it each moment, with each breath, because it will never exist after this.

But until I make it out to the ocean--which isn't very far from my house but which I never seem to get to often enough--I'll have to settle for revising my novel, which is still in its rough stage. Not surprising that creating my fantasy world (not an ideal world, mind you, but in some ways a much better one than the one we live in today) on paper, with words, is soothing to my spirit and my mind. I also just read an essay by Jane Smiley about revision, which has given me some big ideas that are quite surprising. One character (Koii-Ma, a warrior woman that protects my main character, Tala, from some dangers of the intra-galactic 'road') that I had considered a relatively minor one up until now is getting a bump up, as it were, to major character status.

Revising my novel does make me happy in a strange way; not in a smiley (pun intended), happy-go-lucky way, but in a thoughtful, content way that sometimes is more satisfying than a good laugh.

But a good laugh would be quite welcome right if you have any good jokes to share, gimme a holla.


Saturday, January 15, 2005

A Sneak Preview & Some Inspirations

From my novel-in-progress, still a very rought draft excerpt. A fantasy/speculative fiction work with a heavy journey motif. I've been watching different parts of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, reading Garcia Marquez' ornate yet precise prose, and thinking frequently about the aftermath of the tsunami in South Asia, and how it might affect the final version of my book.

This is just a brief glimpse of the book, an excerpt that's not too reliant on the reader knowing much about what's happened thusfar to understand. I hope you enjoy it.

The lush canopy of the Rainforest of Marala enveloped the traveling party in a humid, almost stifling embrace, the air heavy with the heady scents of lussa and jollom blossoms and the odor of multitudes of living things dwelling secretly in the crevices of the trees and plants and rocks. Each being in our motley crew had his or her own reaction to this vibrant lushness, the drapery of branch and leaf and bush that seemed to never end, that seemed to only thicken and grow more complex as they walked further towards the very heart of the forest.

Koii-Ma felt nearly smothered, felt the moist and heavy heat press against her skin like a tightly woven cloth. Such heat--especially now that she had not all her natural strengths and defenses about her--made her perspire as if she were running up the Cerulean Mount, even when she was standing quite still. Behzyl relished it after the bitter cold of the Brunne pass, and was soaking the welcome heat into his skin as if he were a sea sponge from Llyr, dropped into a warm bath. Gull and Corthys were virtually oblivious to it, and to its effects on the others—Gull because he was just happy to be standing next to Corthys again, to feel the solidity of his lover’s presence nearby, so real; Corthys because the climate was so like to his own homeland's that he felt like a fish in water again after his many long travels back and forth across the galaxy.

Tala, however, thought that every sight and sound and smell of their verdant surroundings was very wondrous and strange, but at turns she felt the heat like a prickly garment cloaking her increasingly sensitive skin, felt her body try to reject it and cast it off, felt the child within her languid and weighty as a granite block; then the next moment found her basking in its rich, supple warmth, the pores of her dampened skin opening to it like a lotus blossom opens in sunlight, and the child within her felt like a small but precious burden to bear.

At certain times, though, Tala found the rainforest a bit frightening—so many wild things tittering and squaking and crying out randomly in the night, their eyes bright as stars but much closer, all around their encampment, staring at their company as if they were on display for the beasts' amusement. But then Tala found the forest fascinating as well, as all new things were to her on this long journey of journeys.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Post-Tsunami Reflections on the Human Cost of Tourism

Had a late-night dinner the other night with two H.'s, Vkdir, and Setiakawan. S.--who is from Malaysia, but whose family and friends were spared by the tsunami--informed me that the Thai government decided to downplay dangers of a Tsunami so as not to disrupt the profit-making of the tourist industry. Now that is some sick shit.

I've know a few things about the rampant sex tourism industry in Thailand, the Philippines and elsewhere, and about the poverty and hunger that is inflicted on millions of people throughout the globe because Global South (the 21st century term for 'Third World') nations decide to push most of their resources into 'profit-making', Global-North- (read: white people) serving tourism instead of industry that could truly help feed and build the infrastructure to raise the quality of living for their own people. But this shit is truly disgusting. It made me want to vomit when I heard about it.

I hope and pray that those scientists and government officials who decided to keep their mouths shut so that American and European tourists could frolic and play on Thai beaches undisturbed are doing some serious reflection and soul-searching about the errors of their ways. I am trying to have compassion for these folks, but it is difficult. My Kali-warrior-Oya-inspired energy is rising up, and I want to lash out at these privileged, powerful yet disgustingly inept and irresponsible world leaders who continue to put the majority of our planet's living beings in jeopardy of losing our lives, our livelihoods, even our traditions and ways of living, in order to turn a short-sighted profit for themselves and their cronies.

In Cuba, as well, although the government is a little more well-intentioned and has a more long-term plan about how to deal with the ever-growing tourist industry that subsidizes much of that nation's social infrastructure, tourist is still a problematic issue. It help creates an economic, racial and gender stratification that reflects that of the wider world, such as a two-tier currency system (one based on more highly-valued US dollars, which Cubanos who work in the tourist industry have greater access to, and one based on the Cuban peso; this system is actually undergoing radical reforms due to heightened US pressure against the Cuban government). I also can't tell you how frequently I saw the familiar image of a white man seductively dancing with a young brown Cuban woman, who would spent an inordinate amount of time trying to 'please' him in order to win his affections, and, thus, his money.

I'm hoping that one or more of the progressive/alternative media outlets start getting more serious about covering the aftermath of the tsunami and its long-term political, economic and social implications. There are a few good articles, like these, found via Alternet. My guess is that the ethnic press in the US, especially the Indian-American, Chinese-American, and Southeast Asian-American press, will do a much better job of covering this than other outlets. If anyone has any good leads, please let me know.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Where My Head Is At

"Reading had become his insatiable vice."--from Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez (translated by Edith Grossman)

On this rainy (again) day in Frisco, I wish to spend half the day wandering the aisles and flipping through pages in Green Apple Books and City Lights, then the other half writing in a cafe.

On current rotation:

Creating Fiction, Julie Checkoway, ed./Associated Writing Programs
The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching, Thich Nhat Hanh
Love in the Time of Cholera, Garcia Marquez
Menage a Trois with the 21st Century, Eileen Tabios
The Nation magazine, most recent issue
Speak, So You Can Speak Again, Lucy Anne Hurston (a family-authorized biography of Zora Neale Hurston)

Also thinking of taking the Kulintang classes coming up at Pusod, but also just heard about a new Rondalla class that Kularts is offering at the Mint Mall. Finally made it back Kali class at Pusod with Gura M., which felt really good (despite my right shoulder aching the next day).

My tinnitus is acting up again, which meant I had to miss a fundraiser last night for a Bay Area youth delegation to this year's World Social Forum in Brasil. I'm sure the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami will be on the agenda, among other pressing social issues that affect the working people of our planet.


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Funkay Tsunami Relief Fundraisers in Da Bay

Check these out... Should be good parties & good music for a crucial cause...

While we are still struggling to understand the human, spiritual, and political ramifications of the current disaster in Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa, it is historically critical that we unite locally to raise funds in SOLIDARITY with the affected peoples.

Bay Area Promoters, DJs & Artists United present
1 Night - 2 Events - 2 Cities - 1 Tremendous Cause

A Benefit for the Victims & Families
of the South Asia Tsunami Tragedy

Wednesday January 5, 2005
Club 6 San Francisco & Club GLO San Jose

San Francisco Event Detail
Club Six 60 6th Street San Francisco (b/t Mission St. & Market St.)
21+ event / wearwatchalike / 9pm-2am / info

-Vinroc (Triple Threat)
-Mr. E (Da Joint)
-Ross Hogg (Ital Hi-Fi)
-DJ Neta (Ital Hi-Fi)
-Royce (Blufizz)
-DJ De' (Lion Paw)
-Mpenzi (Knowmadic DJs)

Hosted by Fran Boogie & Co.

$5 Admission / Donation
Anything will be appreciated

San Jose Event Detail
Club GLO 396 South First Street, San Jose
21+ event / wearwatchalike / 9:30pm-2:00am
no guest list / info

-Golden Chyld (fingerbangerz)
-DJ Soulo (
-DJ Illtraxx (evolution djs)
-Rayzarkus (loud mouth)
-Hostyle (loud mouth)
-PG-13 & J-Spin (mass21)
-Remy Reminisce (mass21)

$5 Admission / Donation
Anything will be appreciated

Spinning hip hop, r&b, and old skool in the Main Room!
80s, hip hop, breaks, soul, and dancehall on the Upper Floor!

*Bay Area Promoters, DJs & Artists United*
BLUFIZZ, Da Joint, Mass21, Local 1200's, Ital Hi-Fi, Loud Mouth Media, 3-Style, Triple Threat DJs, OneCypher, DeeCee, Canned Beats, Massive Selector, Xclusiv Events, Nytebreed Ent, 600 Inc, Stage One, Club Works, Club 6, Club Glo, Speak Easy,, Papalote, Distortion 2 Static, Fran Boogie, Symple Pleasurez, Motiv8 Movement, Buddahpparel, Kaotic Chemistry, Audio Reverse, Erik Otto, Doin3, M6, Heat Seekahz, Thud Rumble, Ultra Sounds, Lion Paw, Knowmadic DJs, Native Elements, Soul Searchers, 360 Video, Dub Mission SF, Sole Division, Empress Sounds, Groove Industry, Evolution DJs, Fingerbangerz, The American Red Cross

DJs: B-LOVE (Crucial/Blessed) - DON BUSTAMANTE (Coco Rico) - HAKOBO (Fresco) - ROMANOWSKI (Future Primitive) - TOM THUMP (Budonkadonk) - VANKA (Worldwide) - TOPH ONE (Red Wine) - ROSS HOGG (Ital Selection) - NETA (Ital Selection) - VINNIE ESPARZA (Dis-Joint) - TOMAS (Voltage Music) - SAKE1 (Soul Deluxxe) - RASCUE (Various Blends) - MARCELLA (Lady Lu) - PROFESSOR STONE (Zion's Gate Rec.) - WISDOM (Worldwide)


Monday, January 03, 2005

The Interconnectedness of Things

Check out El Serenito's insightful blog about Phuket, Thailand, one of the areas hardest-hit by the recent tsunami. I've heard about Phuket for years now, too, as a white man's paradise playground. I remember in college, when one particularly rich white boy that I knew (who I actually had a twisted crush on at the time because he reminded me of Nicholas Cage) bragged about going to a different Club Med every year with his father, and maybe they'd try Phuket this year. "Fuck it, Dad, let's go to Phuket!" He said with characteristic college-boy sarcasm, his face glowing as he made his crude and not-very-funny joke.

El Serenito also writes that 2005 will be the year that everything is 'global.' Which makes me wonder: Isn't everything already Global? Maybe in the US we are largely unaware of the pain, suffering, beauty, joy and wonder that swirls around us in all the other places on the globe, but 'global' has been IT for quite a while now for the rest of the people we share this planet with.

The economic necessity of migration to the Global North for many poor people in the Global South, spurred on by US-backed policies such as NAFTA, the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, and the upcoming CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreeement), has made most people's lives on this planet very, very global in the last century.

Filipinos know this phenomenon well. Even I, a U.S.-born, never-been-to-the-Philippines, true-red Fil-Am, send money 'back home' so that my Lola can have some physical comforts and decent medical treatment in the province. Foreign (read: family) remittances are a cornerstone of the Philippine economy. Even when we are Stateside, we never lose the connection to the family back home, and many of us spend much time trying to figure out how to bring them over here, or at least how to support them in their poverty-stricken homeland.

But of course, their poverty is not 'separate' from our privilege. Like all things, they are connected. We would not be able to live the way many of us (although not all of us) do in the US without ensuring that the people in the Third World who manufacture our privilege were not in place. With our fancy cars and electricity all day and all night, with cheap clothes made in sweatshops in Chinatown or Malaysia or the Philippines, with kitchen gagdets made in China by badly-paid laborers struggling to eat, etc. etc. Yes, our privilege has a cost.

And how many of us are willing to give that up? I, for one, am ready and willing. I know I don't need Sopranos DVDs or a million CDs or clothes freshly bought from Macy's that cost me a hundred times more than a worker--probably someone that looks a lot like me--got paid to make it. I'd give all this up in a minute if I knew it meant bankrupting the system of imperialist capital that is driving our planet into death and destruction.

Yes, Leny and Jean and Bino, everything is interconnected, and we as humans with a great deal of privilege and power in this world need to use them responsibly, to build a better world. But what the tsunamis and their aftermath tell us, again, is that, as Gura states so simply, Mother Earth is in charge here, and we are at her mercy. Another poet, Ron Silliman, posts some examples of this other than the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster; events that we don't hear about but that are still affecting people's lives all over the globe each day.

And, yes, as Bino says, we must remember to smile. Especially now.