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 “left coast”

Tom Rossi R.I.P

I know its been a while since I wrote anything on Left Coast Voices but I feel compelled to. It’s 1am on Sunday morning and I am staring at the sad news: Tom Rossi, a contributor to the blog, passed away last week after a tragic car accident.

I admit we grew apart at some point, life just got in the way, as it does with so many friends. We only realize, of course, when it’s too late. I wish we had been in touch around the election – before and after. I could use his strength and sense of humor right now.

Tom wrote some great posts: politically cutting, cynical, funny, and satirical. He hid his frustration with the injustices of our world because he was too smart to be able to ignore it.He fought his own personal battles, but never gave up on the collective struggle.

I guess the best tribute I can manage right now is share some of his contributions:

Healthcare.gov, Oh My!

Technicolor Cough?

Left Coast Nihilism 

Tuolumne Meadows, Yosemite

… and my favorite:  Gordon Gekko Lives


My thoughts and sympathy go out to Marianne Ingheim Rossi, his dear wife. I cannot imagine what it is like to lose your soul mate. I hope you will find the strength you need.

There will be a memorial next Sunday and details will be posted here.

R.I.P Tom! I’m sure you’re up there already campaigning for equal rights for angels. I hope we will honor you by continuing the good fight.


Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click hereMore information at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).



National Sax Day – Joshua Redman

Three weeks ago, November 6th, was National Saxophone Day but we can be excused for being just too distracted. Here is my tribute to the day, better late than never, recognizing a great Left Coast local boy.

I have always prided myself with enjoying more than one genre of music. It seems a waste. I have my favorite heavy metal groups, punk, soul and R&B. I have flirted with country and now, with my son’s guidance, am tentatively learning to enjoy rap. Somehow, until I came to live in Berkeley, jazz just passed me by. So it is fitting that the first jazz artist that I learned to admire is Berkeley born and bred.

Joshua Redman is both African American and Jewish American. I have no idea how this fusion affected his music, but I am aware that African American Jews have additional obstacles within even the liberal Californian Jewish community. When it is only a second glance born out of reflex, it is still one glance too many. Sometimes it is more and I have had the misfortune to witness this while working with an African American Jewish student at the San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center.

According to his biography Redman was exposed to many kinds of music at the Center for World Music in Berkeley, where his mother studied South Indian dance. He graduated from Berkeley High School [1], class of 1986 (my eldest son will study here next year). In 1991, Redman graduated summa cum laude with a degree in Social Studies from Harvard University, a path I would be happy for one of my boys to emulate.

Redman won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, also in 1991, and began focusing on his musical career. I am not qualified to judge his music; I can only say that as a consumer, I have become captivated by it. When I return home from work, tired and facing making dinner and helping the kids negotiate their homework, Redman’s sax is often in the background.

Redman was an inaugural member of the Independent Music Awards’ judging panel to support independent artists. Unfortunately, with the decline of session studio work Redman’s contributions are gradually being replaced with computer-based synthesized music. While again claiming no musical talent or judgment, I have to share that I find the rise of computer-based synthesized music to be disturbing. If I can claim to play music because I own a certain computer program, then Houston we have a problem.

My youngest recently told me that he can choose a new instrument and can’t decide between a number of instruments including trumpet and sax. I thought of Joshua Redman and fired up my favorite Redman album, Freedom in the Groove, onto my stereo system. No pressure there, son.


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 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 www.alonshalev.com

The Future of Blogging

There have recently been a few articles suggesting that the blogosphere is in decline. Perhaps it is part of the five-minute attention span that seems to be evolving – been there, done that – a desire to master something, even if only superficially, and then move on.

An article in the New York Times by Verne G. Kopytoff (02/20/11) recently suggested as much citing statistics illustrating that the younger generation is moving on to Twitter and embracing the ever-expanding capability of Facebook.

At a recent meeting of bloggers, one experienced person explained how there are about 250-300 million blogs out there and how we need to strive to break into the top 0.5% of rankings. My first reactions was: Wow! I’m competing with 300 million others for your attention, never mind all the other media platforms that we turn to – websites, Twitter, e-groups, Facebook, etc.

Then I thought about it. Many blogs are set up and then discarded when the writer discovers that only his mother is really interested in what he ate yesterday, or that it is actually hard work to consistently provide content and implant all the links, tags etc. Then again, many blogs were the offshoots for future blogs. Left Coast Voices is my second blog. That means I am responsible for at least 1 of the 300 million blogs out there.

I don’t believe that blogging is the right medium for everyone. Furthermore, I don’t see it competing with Twitter or Facebook as they are so very different in content. Actually, most mediums leverage Facebook to get the word out about whatever else they are doing. There is an automatic thread from this blog that feeds onto my Facebook page.

Blogs are more active than most websites (I know there are exceptions), but I see my website as the place people go to research me and my books. My blog is a daily offering of news, organizations and people who I feel it is important to promote. Occasionally it is about my successes and failures, just so my mother knows what’s going on.

As such, I think blogs are here to stay. I think the shrinking statistics that Mr. Kopytoff offered in his NY Times article only offer so much information. Anyone can create a blog, but only a few will be disciplined/motivated/consistent enough to continue blogging.

And it is okay for someone to discover that Facebook or Twitter offers a better platform for whatever they are trying to achieve. It is legitimate for high-school students to experiment with blogging and then give it up . I salute them for trying.

I believe we are still in the early days of social network platforms. New ideas will emerge and millions will experiment with them. Only a small percentage will continue to exploit and develop them. As long as we don’t put too much credence in statistics, I am fine with this.


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).


Finding the Time to Blog

I recently spoke to a group of writers and outlined why I blog and the strategy behind it. External and internal links were interesting, book sales generated from blog drew a question or two, but what people really seemed to want to talk about was how I found the time to blog every day.

I was surprised. I thought people would ask more technical questions or where I look for ideas, but the whole issue of time management seemed to have struck a chord. And I am not sure why this surprised me. I have a full-time job that often demands time beyond the 9-5 Monday to Friday, young children who are still fleetingly young enough to enjoy their father’s company, creeping blood pressure that sends me regularly to the gym, and a wife who is incredibly understanding and supportive.

I want to suggest a few best practices that help me, though I need to admit that I find juggling everything into 24 hours to still be incredibly challenging.

1. Know what you want to write before you sit down to blog. I allocate an hour a day to blogging which includes writing, research, finding links and pictures, adding tags and categories. I rarely fit this into the allocated hour, and never would if I didn’t have an idea of what I wanted to write. When to think about it? The shower, the commute, on the treadmill… When NOT to think about it? When helping your child with their maths homework, when your partner wants to talk, when the Golden State Warriors are blowing a 20-point lead (it’s your fault!).

2. If you are at your computer during (um) work and an idea comes to you, take a minute to open a new post and write in a few words. It will make it so much easier when you do sit down to blog – you will come off the starting line sprinting.

3. Keep it brief. People don’t want to spend too much time reading, and if they do, then you provide them with links.

4.   When you are blogging, you are not reading email, checking the soccer results, or multi-tasking. You are focused and running against a clock.

5. Find a quiet place to write, somewhere where no one can distract you. In my little house, my desk is by the kitchen table – the one we eat from, the one the children use for their homework, the one where any guest not watching TV is going to gravitate to. I rarely can creatively write at my desk. It explains my caffeine intake and why entrepreneurs think they can open a coffee-house on every street corner in Berkeley in the midst of a recession.

Like I said, I am not exactly the perfect example. I am posting every day and have been since October, but I also haven’t been writing. My last two novels were both written in an intense period of time (86,000 words in 100 days, 91,000 words during the summer). I am desperately missing the creativity of writing the story. I have two books ready in my mind, one a sequel to Unwanted Heroes and the other is a sequel to the fantasy novel I wrote with my eldest son.

I guess that sleep is just overrated. Still, I love my family, my job, my writing, and even the gym (at least once I’m there). I wouldn’t have it any other way.


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

Left Coast Voices

Alon Shalev is a left coast, social activist and fiction writer. His second socially conscious novel, Oilspill dotcom, addresses the power of multinational corporations and their power and abuses of individuals. This bi-weekly blog tracks the authors, organizations and events that are shaping the left coast culture, with an emphasis on the San Francisco Bay Area.

For more on Alon and his books, please visit http://www.alonshalev.com/
WARNING! This author believes that writing can help change the world.
To life and literature!

Launch Date 08/01/10

Thank you for checking out this blog. It will launch on August1st. Meantime, check out Alon Shalev’s other blog: Countdown to a Novel Published which describes his personal journey as an aspiring author.

For more on Alon Shalev, please visit his website.

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