Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “Arsenal”

Open Letter to Hillel Students and Alumni

Dear Students & Alumni,

As you have probably heard by now, I have left my position as executive director of San Francisco Hillel. After nine amazing and challenging years, I am moving on to new challenges, heading the Western Region of the American Jewish World Service, an organization that, inspired by Jewish commitment to social justice, works to realize human rights and end poverty in the developing world.

I want to take the opportunity to share a few thoughts. For many of you, I was a familiar face at Hillel, working behind the scenes to raise the funds necessary to run the organization, and often dealing with managerial issues and politics, whether on campus or in the Bay Area Jewish community.

For some, I had the honor to lead you on birthright trips, alternative breaks, and to conferences such as AIPAC Regional and Policy Conference. These were the times when I had an opportunity to cultivate a deep relationship with many of you, one that stretched over several formative years for each of us.

I treasure the conversations we had as we grappled with our Jewish journeys, our relationship to Israel, and our shared desire to strive for a more just world for all. You helped me form and change my opinions, and create a personal values-based platform with which to lead my life. I thank you for this and hope that I was there to help you grow as well.

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For many we bantered about the Warriors .v. Lakers/Clippers, or my beloved Arsenal (English soccer team), and I hope I enriched your language levels with my British English.

For others, I was that crazy bloke who rapped his speech at the Final Shabbat dinner, the guy who joined conversations about politics, campus life, relationships, or whatever you wanted to share around the coffee machine. I truly treasured those moments and will hold them forever in my heart.

 

I wish you the best as you continue along your chosen life path. Last month I turned fifty, and want to share that we never stop exploring our values, beliefs and life dreams. I hope you grow, seeing Hillel as a positive and integral part of your life. I hope you will continue to explore your connection to Judaism and the Jewish people, to the State of Israel, and to strive to create a more just society in the US and the world.

If you are still a student, please continue to take advantage of the opportunities that Hillel provides, to help create a vibrant Jewish campus community, to stand up for Israel, and enjoy the alternative breaks, conferences, and birthright, with the wonderful staff that continue to work at Hillel.

If you are an alum/na, I hope you find your place in the Jewish community and continue to be an activist in whatever cause/s resonate with you. I hope you can take the values you honed at Hillel and integrate them into your own life. Please join and support the alumni network so that those who come after you will be able to enjoy the same benefits that you had. No one appreciates the value of a Hillel more than alumni. Become a mentor for a current student, help them to negotiate college life and prepare for graduation. Stay involved, even if it is only a $5 monthly gift, it is important.

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I want to thank the wonderful staff that made my time at Hillel so special. In particular, Rachel, Shushannah, Sima, Charlotte, Heather, and Yochai, all of whom helped make Hillel a family, not a place of work. Please welcome Ollie, my replacement (also a Brit, sorry!), and Omer, the amazing new Israel Fellow, and help them grasp the complexities and the vision we share for Jewish campus life.

Finally, thank you for being such an exciting part of my life. Please feel free to stay in touch via email (alshalev@yahoo.com) or look for me on Facebook and Twitter. I am sure our paths will cross again.

Good luck in all you pursue for a happy and meaningful life.

L’shalom (to peace),

Alon

Masada 2014

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and three more Wycaan Master books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com.

 

When Blogging Becomes A Way Of Life

Three years ago, when I signed with Three Clover Press to release The Accidental Activist, I made a commitment to reach 1,000 blog posts in three years. This was based upon the belief that the blog creates a live and interactive platform with ever-changing content and feeds the more static website. Left Coast Voices was born.

 “The richest people in the world build networks. Everyone else looks for work.” Robert Kiyosaki

I will get there by the end of the year, but I never expected to be as enthused today as I was when I wrote those first posts. At the time, I wanted to build a platform, to get my name out and direct people to my books. I wrote extensively about multinationals when The Accidental Activist was released – this being my favorite, and about war veterans after the release of Unwanted Heroes.

Heroes Low Res Finished Cover 11.18

At the time, I felt like one of a few who were consistently blogging and it wasn’t long before Lloyd Lofthouse, author and mentor to me, and I were being invited to speak about blogging.

But blogging has come a long way in these past few years and it is difficult to imagine how to get heard above the noise. There are a few who build a loyal following. I wake up every morning, make coffee and faithfully read the daily Arseblog post – which provides me with more than just the latest news of my favorite soccer team. A bloke in Ireland is pounding the keyboards every day. He has a podcast once a week and is now offering a Google Hangout where he brings other Arsenal bloggers on board. And I lap it up…every day without fail.

imagesAs I approach the 1,000th post, I am wondering where I want to take the blog. I love the contributions of Tom Rossi on Tuesdays and Roger Ingalls on Thursdays. Norm Weekes chips in every month or so with a powerful message, and it sometimes has a feeling of community.

So, if you have a minute, please answer the following three questions in the comments below:

1. What do you like about Left Coast Voices?

2. What would you like to see more of?

3. Are a variety of topics a good or frustrating thing?

If you are interested in joining the team and having a weekly post on the blog, please shoot me an email at alshalev at yahoo dot com.

Have a great weekend, everyone. Thank you for being part of this exciting journey.

This post was inspired by the great bloggers at Savvy Writers. Their post includes an excellent visual analysis of who is blogging and why. They also deserve the credit for the Robert Kiyosaki quote (as does Robert, of course for saying it!). Any author would be well-advised to follow their blog for really good social media articles.

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, Wycaan Master Book 1 and The First Decree, both released by Tourmaline Books. Ashbar – Book 3 – is due for release in October 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

When Does A Whistleblower Cross The Line?

I’m feeling rather confused about whistle blowing. The premise of The Accidental Activist was the abuse by large multinational corporations of individuals and their rights. My politics are generally left-wing – I’m sure you haven’t noticed from this blog – and I feel I should be siding with those who purport for freedom from surveillance, but when it comes to national security, my politics shift…sometimes dramatically.

The question for me with regards to the actions of both Bradley Manning and Edward Snowdon revolves around three questions:

1.  Was US national security breached?

2.  Were men and women risking their lives for our protection compromised?

3.  Will our ability to utilize various systems of intelligence be closed to us because those willing to help us cannot trust our government agencies to control the information and sources?

imgres-1If any of the above leads to the death of one innocent individual, much less the failure to prevent a terrorist attack, then the actions of Manning and Snowdon are inexcusable. It is, I believe, not clear whether Snowdon crossed this line.

The definition of whistleblower is a person who tells the public or someone in authority about alleged dishonest or illegal activities (misconduct) occurring in a government department or private company or organization. 

The image portrays a hero/ine who is willing to stand up when they see an injustice, knowing that they might face repercussions from that oft-powerful business or organization. In fact, the US Government put laws in place to protect whistleblowers, as early as 1863 to expose suppliers who were fraudulent during the Civil War. The Act even goes so far as to offer incentives such as a percentage of any money recovered or damages won in court. The act also protects them from wrongful dismissal. 

whistleblower-cliffIt all sounds great until we get to issues of national security. I suspect we will never know the extent of many of these secrets or the implications. I read that, after Mannings’ leaks, an entire ring of Afghan informers and their families were taken out of Afghanistan for their own safety. Beyond the upheaval of those families, US forces were left more exposed to potential and life-threatening ambushes. How desperate must someone be to step in as an informer under those circumstances?

I have no doubt that our intelligence agencies do a lot of bad stuff to protect our freedom. I am sure they bend the rules and sometimes cross the lines. But the reality is that it is a rough world out there and when you enter the realm of religious or political extremism, and face up against people willing to kill thousands of people in an indiscriminate fashion, then you have to decide what values you prioritize, and I put the lives of freedom-loving people first.

For several months I boarded public buses in Israel knowing that there were daily attempts to blow up these buses. I did it, not because I was a hero, but because I had no choice.

images-4I treasure freedom and democracy and I believe that all who choose to live in such a society have the right to do so, without fear. If the price is that someone occasionally taps my communications because I have a foreign name, I can live with it.

Note to NSA: 80% of the websites I go into refer to Arsenal – they are my soccer team back in the UK and have no connections to munitions. When I comment that we need someone who can shoot straight, I mean with an inflated round piece of leather. I hope I have saved you considerable time with this revelation.

A final question to Edward Snowdon: If you leaked all this information in the name of democracy and freedom, because you feared America was becoming a surveillance state, why did you flee to a Chinese colony, where security cameras abound and people regularly checked for what they read, surf and write?

If you have any free time while in China, perhaps you could speak out to help free Shi Tao – he was, I guess, also a whistleblower 

http://youtu.be/Zsx4wpKpo6I

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Alon Shalev writes social justice-themed novels and YA epic fantasy. He swears there is a connection. His latest books include: Unwanted Heroes and the 2013 Eric Hoffer Book Award for YA - At The Walls Of Galbrieth. Alon tweets at @alonshalevsf and @elfwriter.   For more about the author, check out his website.

In Praise of Editors

I have adapted this post from my elfwriter blog because I am aware that a large proportion of the faithful from Left Coast Voices are either writers or people interested in the writing world. I have made a few adaptations from the original post. 

No blog post this weekend. 

Two weeks ago, I received the manuscript to At The Walls of Galbrieth, my first foray into the world of Young Adult Epic Fantasy, back from my editor. Like many authors, I thought I had sent her a pretty clean story. I had gone over it several times myself, had it scrutinized by the venerable Berkeley Writers Group, and put it through the laundry with softener (I think you get my point).

At first, I was a bit dismayed to see all those little boxes in ‘Track Changes’ fighting each other for space along the right-hand side of my page. But after following and accepting her changes for the first three chapters, I am in awe of what an impact the eye of an independent professional can have, how much s/he can discern, how a few changes can add such clarity.

My last novel, The Accidental Activist, is a social justice-themed novel that fictionalized the McDonalds libel trial in England in the 1990′s. To show how thwarted and depressed my protagonist felt, I had used an English soccer game of my favorite team, Arsenal, as an analogy. My editor had written to me and, while expressing that she did not follow soccer, had researched a bit and thought that I could use an actual game from 2004. She had been right. The game was perfect.

With Tourmaline Press working hard with a gifted cover artist in St. Louis, an ISBN number (or three) assigned to the book, everything is taking shape. On Friday, I wrote the dedication at the front of the book with tears in my eyes. But that is a story for another time.

This update is just to let you know why there is no blog post this weekend. Here let me click the button…. Okay – posted!

Have a great weekend and if you know an editor – give ‘em a hug.

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).

Matt Fielding – His own words

The following post has been written by Matt Fielding, the fictional protagonist of The Accidental Activist. Yesterday, I gave a brief explanation of my desire to revisit the characters of this story, a tale that continues to be as relevant today as the real McLibel trial in the 1990’s upon which the story is loosely based.

I would like to be able to offer the following disclaimer as I do with all guest posts that what follows is the words of the writer himself and his alone. Given that he is a product of my imagination, I’ll skip it this time. Over to you, Matt.

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Thanks, Alon. I am truly humbled. I knew Alon Shalev was writing this novel, The Accidental Activist, and I knew he had aspirations to one day see it published, but I kind of had my doubts about the whole project.

Don’t get me wrong. The decision by Global Energy Development Corporation to sue my girlfriend, Suzie, and her colleague, Bill, was pretty stunning. That the British judicial system didn’t see fit to provide them with legal aid is still hard to believe; and, of course, the astonishing fact that this court case went on to become the longest trial in British history, is all worthy of being recorded.

What I find humbling is the fact that Shalev saw fit to make me his protagonist. Certainly my role as the web designer was significant. The fact that the Oilspill.com website was probably the first ever interactive advocacy website, that it became a conduit for the free flow of information on a global level, and that it enabled Suzie and Bill to act and respond at the necessary legal level without any formal training, is all amazing, especially to geeks such as myself.

The real website - McSpotlight.org

But Shalev goes a step further. He is not content with the mechanics of the Information Highway and the work our Dream Team undertook. He seems fascinated with me personally and the process I went through.

Let me be honest: Before meeting Suzie, I couldn’t have told you the names of our government’s cabinet members. I knew more about Arsenal Football Club’s reserve side than our shadow cabinet and, being in opposition meant Chelsea, Manchester United, Barcelona, and Liverpool, not the Conservatives, Liberals or the Green Party.

I’ll be perfectly clear (I have been asked this many times in interviews): I only got involved because I fancied Suzie (love came along, but much later) and wanted to date her. I can’t tell you at what point I became politically aware, or at what point it went beyond personal.

This reckless multinational corporation, like so many today, hurt many people I loved and respected. My friends became victims to a business model that cannot conceive of the pain and destruction left in its wake, the devastating effect these companies have on the individual who willingly or unwillingly gets in the way of their profit margin.

Today I remain involved: being with Suzie, how could I not? My consulting agency is selective about which clients we take on and we have an internship program where we not only mentor students, but also have them work, pro bono, on projects that advance social justice and sustainability.

Not bad for a self-absorbed yuppie who was only out to get laid, huh? But it was when I read The Accidental Activist that I understood the personal transformation that I underwent. I guess for this I should thank Shalev for writing the novel and giving me the chance to become who I am today.

And if my story can in any way help someone else make the personal changes necessary to help this embattled world of ours become a better place, well, I am proud to have been the protagonist of The Accidental Activist.

Matt Fielding
Oilspill.com Webmaster.

The real heroes - Helen Steel and Dave Morris

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

What a Father Really Wants

Not a tie (even a Jerry Garcia collectors item), or cufflinks (anyone still wear them?). Not a bottle of wine, or aftershave (really? really!)…

Here are my Top 10 What A Father Really Wants. It’s based on my absolutely not unique qualification of being a father who, with each year, is fighting with an ever more competative field for his children’s attention. It’s written by a father who has an average standard-of-living: food on the table, clothes on his back, and a gym membership. Everything on my Top 10 list have one thing in common – see if you can work it out before the end:

1.  To watch Star Wars and Lord of the Rings with his kids, all sitting scrunched together on a big chair.

2. To go fishing with his kids in a beautiful natural place.

3. To play basketball/soccer with his kids and the winner being s/he who laughs the most.

4. To hear his kids looking forward to that family camping trip.

5. To hear his kids speak out on issues of social justice.

6. To listen to Eminen together and discuss his lyrics.

7. To receive that unsolicited hug when times are tough.

8. To have your kids want to play you at the card game Magic The Gathering (even when you are really bad at the game).

9. To educate another generation of Arsenal soccer fans (it doesn’t work with any other soccer team, trust me, I’m objective).

10. To have your culinary talents appreciated even when you overcook the scrambled eggs.

Who cares if the big one gets away? Artist: Mark Tomalty

And the answer is… No not a vivid imagination. It is all about time. No breakfast in bed or one-off treat can compare. When we have the time for our kids, then they have the time for us. And Father’s Day is no longer just a once-a-year event.

The unsolicited ones are always the best

Happy Father’s Day, Dads.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Oil Conspiracies

A few days ago I suggested that we phase out production and imports of cars that do not reach a minimum mpg of, let’s say, 35 mpg, within a couple of years. It makes so much sense that you have to ask what is stopping us? I posed this question to a couple of friends, admittedly people who might well be, okay, who are conspiracy theorists.

Shirt reads: Global oil industry = Weapon of mass destruction

Now before you click away to see how Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen are doing, I want to warn you that there are two kinds of conspiracy theorists in the world – the crazies and the astonishingly smart. It is easy to differentiate between them: the former rants on and loses you before you realize you are gulping down your wine in order to excuse yourself to get a refill, while with the latter you are determined to crush their logic and simply can’t, no matter how you try. The worse part of interacting with the astonishingly smart is that you walk away, maybe even lie in bed a few hours later, wondering whether they might just be right.

Here are a couple of neat articles:

The Truth Will Set You Free

BP Oil Spill Conspiracy Theories

Even Fox News are happy to participate in the conspiracy world, though I can’t help suspecting ulterior motives.

I could go on just drowning in theories regarding the oil industry. When I wrote The Accidental Activist, in which an oil company’s policies and their power with governments are exposed, I was surprised to see how easy it is for big business to quickly become indispensable in the economy of smaller and poorer nations.

The question is: if an inspired President, backed by his party, did embark on such a policy as I outlined the other day, who would try to prevent him succeeding, and what weapons do they possess in their arsenal?

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Go Giants – SF Pride

Now I know that those of you who have supported the Giants through thick and thin regard people like me with disdain and I actually respect that. Here I am, a relatively new transplant, fresh off the boat, and the first time I attempt to absorb myself in the true essence of American culture, the Giants win the World (excuse me – US) Championship, and there I am strutting around the city with my Giants T-shirts and scarf.

What a Moment!

Truth is, my wife (also very community conscious) and I were enthralled by the Giants during the season as we saw that what was pushing this team on (apart from considerable talent) was an amazing team spirit, an all-for-one-and-one-for-all attitude, and a handy propensity to ignore the stats and the commentators who read too much into the aforementioned stats.

Having already celebrated winning the championship six months ago, why bring it up now? I believe that a team should reflect its town and its supporters. San Francisco is a unique city, excuse me – City – and so are our Giants.

I am proud that the SF Giants have decided to be the first professional sports team to endorse the “It Gets Better” campaign, which began as a response to a spate of bullying young homosexuals culminating in a tragic suicide of Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers back in September.

The Giants made their decision after receiving a petition signed by over 6,000 Giants fans and will produce a video to support the campaign. The sports world remains a macho and often homophobic and racist environment. One of my favorite soccer players, Thierry Henry (a black man), endured monkey sounds being made by a small segment of opposing fans when my team played in European games. Recently, even one of the all-time best NBA players was caught making an anti-gay comment.

I am proud that the Giants have made a stand. You win in sports by never compromising on your commitment to win, by never giving  an inch. This is the only way to deal with racism and homophobia and who better to lead us than those who understand what it takes to win.

Today is Harvey Milk Day, a commemoration of the life of Harvey Milk, who became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California and who was assassinated for being gay. It is a fitting day to come together as one City, one baseball team, one community.

Harvey Milk sitting on the SF Board of Supervisors

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

My Worlds Collide

So there I was, just after concluding what I hoped was a passionate speech (probably more of a speechella since I was sharing the stage) for literature as a tool for social activism. Some people came up to the panel and shared their view, asked a few questions, and then this tall man leaned in.

“English right? Which team?”

I never batted an eyelid. He nodded approvingly as I espoused  my affinity for Arsenal, the soccer team I have passionately followed since my Uncle George, may he rest in peace, took a wide-eyed six-year-old to his first game in 1970. We won 4-0 and I, totally absorbing everything around me, missed every goal. But undeterred, I followed in the family footsteps (one cousin aside, but we don’t discuss that) and became a Gunner-for-life.

Every day, I drink my morning coffee reading the New York Times and the daily offering of Arseblog. I am often moved to tears of joy or anger, or burst out laughing, and I also think the New York Times is a good read.

But this left me thinking. Why do we, primarily though not exclusively, 21st century men, need to find connections over sports? I wear a Golden State Warriors pin on my jacket, and I admit, the pin serves a purpose as I work the room making contact with donors for my non-profit, or to promote my books.

Then, yesterday morning, as I worked out on the elliptical at the gym, I came across an article in Men’s Health (issue – November 2010) by Lee Child called “Get Your Head in the Game”. He took my thoughts one stage further. Why do we, grown men and women all, insist on wearing our lucky shirts for the game? Why do I get up at 4 or 7 am on a Saturday to watch my team play live in the UK, because if I record the game we might lose?

We all know that, though these players need our support, their winning a game probably depends more on hours of training, planning strategy and individual and team preparation. My old Arsenal shirt (commemorating our last year at Highbury before moving stadium), worn 5,371 miles away (I looked it up) from where the game is taking place, at 4 am in the morning Pacific time, probably does not tip the scales.

The answer lies perhaps in the fact that our lives, particularly in the digital age, are becoming so predictable. Sure, shit happens (nice surprises too), but we generally know how our life is playing out, hour-by-hour, backed up by electronic reminders. We even pay most of our bills automatically and can buy our groceries without leaving home.

What is left is the uncertainty of 90 minutes of soccer, when giants can be humbled. The Warriors (NBA) have just reeled off 7 of 9 victories, including winning against teams that will make the playoffs. My own team Arsenal just beat the team considered by most football fans to be the best in the world, even having to come from behind to win 2-1.

This is what makes our blood pulsate. It connects us to the excitement of the hunt. Even if we are not the one to throw the spear, score the goal, or shoot the game-winning basket, even if our team will not be champions at the end of the game or season, for a few moments we allow ourselves to revel in the world of unpredictability. Perhaps this helps to set us apart from the onslaught of technology. Perhaps it is one the few ways to maintain our humanity in the 21st Century.

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Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/

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