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 month “October, 2012”

Halloween in Berkeley

As a newbie in this fair land, there is much I love about America. I say this because so many of the blog posts that I, and my esteemed colleagues at Left Coast Voices, are critical of one thing or another. I love the freedom, liberty and Halloween. 

I know this ancient, spiritual festival is now commercial, sugar and additive prone. I know these are the hazy remnants and perhaps denigration of the customs and culture of a downtrodden religion. But I love how everyone throws on a costume for a few hours, get all excited and friendly, and for a few hours share the sandpit together without squabbling over toys or elections … and I enjoy the kids doing it too.

Perhaps it’s living in Berkeley (I have no experience outside of cold, awkward England), but when whole streets get into the swing together, something very special happens, if only for an evening.

My first novel, A Gardener’s Tale, illustrated the struggle between the Pagan religions and Christianity in rural England. It follows two years in the lives of the villagers and a mysterious stranger who comes into their community. One of the elements felt by the villagers is the breakdown of their community, how they are becoming increasingly estranged from their neighbors.

Through reigniting the Pagan religion that once united them, the protagonist offers an opportunity to reclaim their community. We need this today more than ever. How many of us really know our neighbors and those living across the road? My neighborhood began a community initiative to get to know each other after a woman was attacked by a man who tried to steal her purse. As she screamed for help, there was a spontaneous outpouring of people from their houses. Out of nowhere, that street became a community. But it lasted only a year or so and we returned to our own little connected/unconnected worlds.

We need Halloweens to bind us together rather than crimes. With so much violence and conflict in the world that sees to revolve around religion, perhaps we also need the gentler, older religions. The earth certainly does.

So here’s to candy and spontaneous celebration. Happy Samhain, everyone. And I know that a week before the Presidential elections it is probably a relief to read something that is politic-free, but I couldn’t resist the pumpkin below. After all, this is Halloween in Berkeley.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist 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).

Advertisements

Vote Yes on CA Prop 37 – Tom Rossi

The California proposition we should all be aware of, Republicans, Democrats, and everyone else, is prop 37. Prop 37, despite claims to the contrary, is simple: if a food product is made with ingredients that came from a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), the label should say so.

This seems so simple, so obvious, so harmless, and so clearly a good idea that I can’t understand how anyone could oppose it. But the corporations that profit from the genetic manipulation of our foods have geared up the public relations powerhouses to protect those profits.

The main argument put forth against prop 37 by the likes of Monsanto corporation (including Eli-Lilly, American Cyanamid, Dow, and UpJohn corporations) is that the it’s labeling requirements are “illogical.” In TV commercials, they show things like meat and milk and alcoholic beverages and say that they are “exempt.” Well, prop 37 doesn’t require labeling of the upholstery in you car either. The food-biotech industry may have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot with this one…

Prop 37 calls for labeling of foods that contain genetically-modified ingredients. That is to say, foods that contain ingredients which have, themselves, been genetically modified. But let’s look at milk, for example. Milk is, for better or worse, pretty much the stuff that comes out of a cow, possibly with a vitamin or two thrown in. The mild itself has not, to this point, been genetically modified. The cow, however and in most cases, has been modified, or at least it’s milk production has.

Cows (not the ones that produce organic milk) are, in the majority of cases in our wonderfully modern country, injected with hormones, specifically to make them produce more milk or just grow faster and bigger. The hormone for increased milk production is recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH), also known as recombinant Bovine Somatotropin (rBST). This and other hormones given to cows are synthetic versions of natural bovine hormones.

This process is not covered by prop 37. I would say that situations like this would be a great next step. But it’s logical, practical and much more politically feasible to start with GMOs.

Another argument from the Monsanto PR machine is that labeling foods as genetically modified would be “misleading.” This is claim is due to the ironic idea that people will interpret the GMO label as meaning that it’s something bad. That’s pretty interesting. Maybe we should stop labeling food period. Sugar content? It’s OK, all you need to know is that our government has determined that it won’t kill you… today. MSG? Sodium nitrate? FD&C red #40? They have all been determined to be “safe.” So you don’t need to be informed, just eat up! Only a small percentage of you will get sick or die, and that’s perfectly acceptable – on a statistical basis.

The anti-prop 37 commercials also claim that people’s food bills will go up if the bill is passed. The “research” that came to this conclusion was done by, you guessed it, the biotech industry. It’s not an independent study and not from a credible source. Food companies will have to change the labeling on processed food packages, it’s true. But, as it is, these labels change all the time anyway. In fact, I often see the same product on a shelf in the store with two different labels. The only difference is a different color or typeface.

This whole issue is incredibly simple. We, as citizens of the United States of America and as human beings, have the undeniable right to know what’s in our food, period. We also have the right to know when we are eating something that has been produced in a way that could threaten our environment and future food production, as many of these “Frankenfoods” are doing.

And as for the claim that prop 37 is a “complex set of regulations,” it’s only complex if you can’t read very well. If you are interested in reading the actual text of prop 37, you may do so here.

Prop 37 is a stand against the people being turned into Guinea pigs. Vote “Yes” on prop 37, and call your friends and make sure they will, too.

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

___________________________________________________________________________

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

——————————————————————————————————

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).

Interview with a Blogger – Kymberlie Ingalls

Roger Ingalls has been authoring on this blog for just over a year now, and through his posts, you’ve learned his philosophies and hopes for the world.  But who is the man behind the words?  Here, in this exclusive interview, we learn more about the wizard behind the curtain.

I asked Roger what the most important advice is that he’s ever received.  “When in doubt, fake it. This advice came from Mr. Davis, a high school teacher and it got me through many a tough circumstance. As a leader, you’re expected to be the guiding hand in most, if not all, situations but the problem is nobody knows everything. So you have to fake it to instill confidence in your team. In reality, very few people will challenge you because they’re either scared or lack confidence themselves. However, faking it should be used as a last resort tool and not as a primary game plan.

Roger agreed that books are a most important influence on us as a society.  “I can’t choose just one because they’ve both taught me so much.”  He responded when asked to name his favorite.  “The first book was written 2500 years ago by Sun Tzu called the Art of War. The second book is titled Competitive Advantage by Michael Porter. Both books teach strategy and tactics with one being from the perspective of war and the other from business. They’re both great reads for people wanting to develop competitive thinking skills.”

Having survived decades in the competitive hi-tech industry of Silicon Valley, then transitioning in to blue-collar ownership, how has he survived this downtrodden market and economy?  “Adaptability or willingness to change. If we don’t. we become obsolete. The sure way to gain advantage over a foe or competitor is to change because they will always be one step behind.”

Everybody has a hero, and Roger is no exception.  “Muhammad Ali.”  He goes on to explain: “He was strategically the greatest fighter of all time. He studied his opponents and adjusted his boxing tactics accordingly.  He overcame racism and fought the U.S. government when his beliefs were attacked. He became a great humanitarian and is the most recognized person in the world.”

Roger has touched on religion often in his writings.  I asked him what he considered to be the good, the bad, and the ugly.  “Religion is good for discipline. But it also teaches inflexibility and squelches thinking outside the ‘good book.’. In western cultures, those who routinely practice the three original monotheisms (Judaism, Catholicism and Islam) are the hardest and the most devoted workers. Religions that promote discipline through routine are synonymous with a good work ethic. The down side of this is a lack of understanding of different cultures and religions.”  He paused, seeming to reflect upon his own past.  “Sometimes straying from one’s path is the best plan.”

To sum things up, I asked Roger to give us the world in a nutshell.  “We are a naïve society. Immersed in greed and the belief that Earth has an endless supply of resources to fuel an economic system based on perpetual growth. In the back of our minds we know this is not possible but few of us are willing to step up and say so. It’s a tough situation because the whole world now follows this economic agenda.”

“Only the inevitable collapse will force a change.”

Standing Tall – A Salute to Amar’e Stoudemire

I enjoy when men and women of wealth and fame are willing to leverage their money and time to help create a better world. Brad Pitt is a fine example with the work he does in New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward, a place close to my heart.

When such a person comes from a low background himself, there is something even more satisfying. Amar’e Stoudemire, the power forward of the NBA’s New York Knicks is such a man.

Through his foundation, Amar’e has been promoting frameworks to encourage children, especially boys, to “creatively inspire a new generation to read.”

Mission: The Amar’e Stoudemire Foundation is a youth outreach program designed to creatively inspire and help at-risk youth to succeed with the goal of eradicating poverty through education.  By providing education, support, supplies, tools and donations, the Amar’e Stoudemire Foundation helps each child thrive and achieve goals well beyond even their own expectations.

 Now he has taken this theme one step further and has himself written two books for children.

A few weeks ago, I saw a great interview with him on The Daily Show. I couldn’t find it to share with you but I found this endearing interview with him.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTz__3swlPQ

I’m sorry for your loss,my friend. But despite all the obstacles, you stand tall and not just on the basketball court.

——————————————————————————————————

 

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).

 

One of the Important Things the Candidates Don’t Talk About – Tom Rossi

Usually, I’m pretty disgusted with the news on TV. In the typical half-hour news broadcast, there are several minutes spent on weather (which is useful, to a large degree), several minutes on sports, a few minutes on either direct entertainment “news,” such as what movie is hot at the box office, or reports of celebrity deaths, incarcerations, marriages, or divorces. The lead-off story is often about some shooting or car accident. All of this leaves precious little time for stories about what’s actually happening in the world that might drastically affect our future.

 But on Sunday night, the CBS evening news shocked me, just a little, with this story: “Scientists warn of rising sea levels in Florida.” The story actually presented rising sea levels (as one result of climate change – implied but not stated) as fact. They didn’t put on “different viewpoints” to “balance” the story, they just showed the science and talked about what it means and what plans we should make to deal with the changes that have already started, but will get much more serious.

When I started to write this, I though I might run down, for the ten billionth time, the evidence that global warming is real. But I’m so tired of making that argument. I’m really tired of telling people that two plus two equals four, and not three. With the people who just don’t want to believe anything that would mean their previous position on something had been wrong, I’ve wasted my breath.

 

So don’t take my word for it. Look to the National Academy of Sciences. This is a large group of elite scientists from all around the United States, with 2,152 members plus 430 foreign associates. The analyses they present are clear. I’ll let you take a look for yourself. Even the handful of legitimate skeptics are finally rubbing their eyes to the morning sun.

 

I’m as surprised as anyone to be saying this, but kudos to CBS news. They still didn’t really come out and say the boogie words: “Global Warming,” or at least: “Climate Change,” but this story was really a step in the right direction.

 

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

___________________________________________________________________________

 

Authors Are Not Islands Unless They Want To Be

I seem to have corresponded with a number of writers over the past few weeks who tell me that writer’s groups are a waste of time and ineffective. This is in spite of the fact that I have been a member and facilitated the Berkeley Writers Group for several years and it continues to thrive. Still meeting face-to-face might not be for those of either softer or harder feelings than the Wednesday warriors who attend my group.

 I believe the idea of an author’s life being a solitary one is outdated and ridiculous unless the writer chooses to walk alone. There are many options today that Mark Twain never had.

                                                                                       A Master At His Desk

Since I last wrote on the topic, a number of online communities have come to light. But I want to put the spotlight on Author Salon, a new initiative aimed at helping authors prepare to pitch and market their manuscripts. It is a win:win community wherein the author is able to hone their work, while agents and publishers can delve in knowing these writers have done their due diligence.

When you sign up for Author Salon there are a lot of questions about your work. Often these questions make you look at your manuscript through new eyes. This is essentially the idea, that you see it not as the writer, but as the agent or publisher.

You will need to refine your pitch, synopsis, introduce your characters, clarify the overriding conflict and examine many other aspects. You need to plan for a few hours at least and this is only the first round.

Once you have completed your proposal, it is reviewed by peers and the Author Salon staff, all experienced agents or people who have worked in the publishing business for years. You get graded as your proposal is developed and this enables the agents and publishers who troll the site to know who is holding a more finished product.

This is not a get-rich-quick or silver bullet offer. Author Salon seems to hold pretty high standards and if you have a tender ego, perhaps you had better give this one a miss.

However, if your goal is to get published, if you fear your manuscript sinking into the publishers’ ever-growing slush pile and if you are willing to do what it takes, Author Salon might just be the answer.

                                                                                                     Slush Pile

——————————————————————————————————

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).

 

Hope from Our Youngins – Roger Ingalls

I’ve been racking my brains trying to come up with something to write about for today’s post. I wanted to do something positive because we’ve just concluded round two of the presidential debates and I was appalled at the inaccuracies by both candidates. President Obama didn’t create false statement but he exaggerated many points while Romney outright lied in traditional Republican grand standing fashion. The Republican leaders knows their followship will believe anything they say so truth doesn’t matter (it’s the conservative authoritarian belief system that creates blind followship).

I was about to give up on a positive subject and write about the stupidity of California Prop 30 but then a Facebook post caught my eye. An old friend posted a question to teenagers on her Facebook page asking which presidential candidate THEY would vote for, without influence from their parents.

Their responses were interesting. They almost apologetically assumed they were supposed to say Romney. All selected President Obama and their comments were telling. They were very logical and actually saw through the Republican Party’s false sound bites. I was amazed!

Here are a few of their comments:

1)      “It’s taken me more than four years just to pay off my little car loan, how is Obama expected to fix a trashed economy in such a short period of time”.

2)      “Obama inherited Bush’s mess, why is the Republican Party blaming him?”

3)      “Romney doesn’t truly believe in equal rights for all and would push back gains made by LGBTQ”.

Again, I was amazed. These young people were thinking critically and were not blindly following like many of their parents. They saw through the false sound bites; their brains were engaged.

This gives me hope…it really gives me hope.

50 Years of Jazz Despite Everything

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band have seen it all – war, segregation, hurricanes – they may have closed the band down, but in the name of jazz and New Orleans, they rose each time stronger than ever. There is something about New Orleans resilience that keeps me coming back every year since Hurricane Katrina to help rebuild something that must not be lost. 

So it is that we are celebrating a half century of one of jazz’s landmark institutions. Last month, NPR paid tribute to the band and I want to add my admiration for their talent, freedom of expression, and their resilience. Good music can’t be kept down. You don’t have to be a jazz aficionado to appreciate the fusion of talent and energy when this band is on stage.

Big jazz bands are not necessarily the choice of music of the younger generations, but I have seen my sons join me at the screen and admire the vibrancy they saw before them. There is nothing technological, no slick videos or lyrics, which attract my boys and their friends, but they can understand what I feel. They are touched. Seeds are sowed. Jazz will live on. So will The Preservation Hall Band. Below is a short but wonderful tribute.

Happy 50th Anniversary.

——————————————————————————————————

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).

The Online forum – A Place for Answers? – Tom Rossi

I’m taking a little break from politics this week. Stop the ride or I’m gonna barf. Instead, I present another of life’s annoyances.

I hate it so much when I or someone else asks a question on a forum on the internet and people answer with what they think or assume but they have no actual knowledge of the answer.

Here’s my impression of the typical online forum discussion:

YahooMicrosoftAppleGoogleKingOscarSardines Discussion Forum

New thread

Posted by Elmerglooigloo654:

Hi everyone. I’m new to this forum. Can anyone tell me if it’s safe to plug my computer into a socket with only two holes? The computer power cord has three prongs, but they sell those converter things that take it down to two.

Thanks in advance.

Replies

TestasRossas9753:

Elmer, that’s the first thing they ask you when you call support for a computer, “Is it plugged in?”

Joetheplumper:

I had the same problem. I just cut off the extra prong with a pair of dikes.

Jenniiii2112:

That’s what happened to me! I was like, Duh! After I plugged it in, everything was OK. My computer gets way too hot, though.

Barbariomustachio666:

Plugs have three thingies on there now because we have 3-way electricity now. You need all three kinds.

Babaphooey.3.95:

I think it’s safe. I’ve been doing the same thing for years. I’ve had a few system crashes, but I don’t think it’s related. The new ones I replaced them with worked fine, at least for a while.

Ekiekipakang001:
The electricity that comes out of the wall is at a frequency of 60Hz. It’s at a voltage of 110, 120, or 220 volts, depending on where you live. Is your microprocessor running at 65megaMIPS? Or is it made by Microyamasakaco, and therefore 64.85megaMIPS?

IROCgenie1984:

Jenniiiiiiiiiiii, you must be some kind of moron. Of course your computer gets hot. It’s sitting on your lap, one of the warmest parts of your body. If you want your computer to run cooler, drink some ice water or something. But don’t waste our time on this forum!

BrattyMattyBoomington64:

How dare you say “dikes!” I’m so sick of this sexist, racist, genderist society! Joetheplumper, your nothing but pig. If you actually had any balls, I’d cut them off!

Elmerglooigloo654:

Ekie, I’m not sure how many MIPS my system runs. Is this important?

99redbuffoons:

Did you know the end of an electrical cord is called a “dongle?” That’s funny.

Quirkiedork123:

I wouldn’t do it. If the thing came that way, use it that way. You have to trust the company. I had a Ford Pinto for years without any problems.

JohnCleese1977:

I discovered that the only reason it had been sitting on its perch at all was that it had been nailed there.

Waltzowizard.loves.Wilma:

Three-way electricity???? Dude, u r we Todd did.

Inthinkerator757:

I think that third, long prong on the plug is just an anchor. It just makes the plug stay in place better.

Jenniiii2112:

Youre the moron IROC cheeseball! For your information, I always use my laptop on a table. The table isn’t hot. Unless I just spilled some coffee or something. Anyway, my thoughts are just as important as yours. If you want your time unwasted, go back to playing space invaders or whatever.

Ekiekipakang001:

Elmer, it matters because it makes a difference what memory module you’re accessing at the time. If it’s 0000 BA16, for example, then you have to have enough power through your capacitance to flip the ifindibulator to the RFMA state. But that would change if, say, you were accessing memory module 0010 BA15. Understand?

Joetheplumper:

Bratty, it’s a tool! You idiot!

Barbariomustachio666:

Look, Waltzowizard.loves.Wilma, Ekiekipakang001 totally confirmed what I’m talking about. He (and he sounds like a pretty smart guy) says that there’s 110, 120, and 220 volts. There. Whoz retarded now? Yes, I figured it out. Smart ass.

BuckGlenBeck09:

Wow. Just… wow.

BrattyMattyBoomington64:

So now you’re calling us tools?!?!? Listen, Plumper, you have dug your grave deep. I’m going to call the women in your family and have them slap you. I suppose by “tool” you mean something to use to entertain yourself by “watching.” You make me sick.

Muchomacho.Z28.Brooklyn:

Yo! IROC man! I used to have and IROC! They rule! Mine was super dark purple – almost black. It looked like some kind of ominous spirit coming down the street at night. Awesome!

Kiddieridebarfbag1111:

Dongle… that is funny. LOL!

Elmerglooigloo654:

Um, can someone who actually knows something just try to answer my question?

Please?

-Tom Rossi

___________________________________________________________________________

Tom Rossi is a commentator on politics and social issues. He is a Ph.D. student in International Sustainable Development, concentrating in natural resource and economic policy. Tom greatly enjoys a hearty debate, especially over a hearty pint of Guinness.

___________________________________________________________________________

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: