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 “non-profit”

Dragged into the 21st Century

Did you wake up this morning the proud/confused/intimidated owner of something small, electrical, and vaguely rectangular? Did you smile meekly last night while your loved ones looked on with bated breath as you apprehensively ripped open the packaging and did they cheer and clap their hands welcoming you into the technological age?

And did they notice when you reached for that glass of single malt and took a gulp instead of a sip? Thousands of years in the future, archeologists will discover that man had a propensity to collect random items and leave them in their boxes. Often, they will claim to skeptical crowds, these gifts ran off of some obtuse energy source which was, no doubt very rare, since these gadgets seem to be hardly used.

Furthermore, they will note, primitive humans had a propensity to acquire the same gadget with slightly better features despite barely understanding the gadget’s predecessor.

Have another sip of scotch. Oh, I forgot it is the morning after. Well you can always lace your cereal if you do it discreetly.

We are all entering the technological age, whether through brave adventurism, or without choice. You might as well take a deep breath and plunge in. Who knows, you might actually enjoy it.

Such things as cell phones and iPods seem to be accepted by all but a brazen few, even if the desire for the latest phone has nothing to do with actually making a call. The battle, for now, is over the tablet. The world (at least those of us who don’t need to worry about the little things like a roof over our heads, food at our next meal, or what’s in the water supply) is divided into three groups.

1. Embracing the technology. These people don’t just read on their iPad, Kindle or Nook, they embrace it, often with an annoying missionary zest. They don’t take it out of their bag at the coffee shop or on the bus, they brandish it, like a mighty sword from days long past.

They are liable to chastise you, often in a smug, sympathetic way, as you balance your hardcover on your lap. “Oh,” they whine in true Bob Dylan style, “How many trees does a Luddite reader fell…” When dealing with these people, it can be advantageous to note that the hefty hardcover has a distinct advantage over the light, sleek screen – it is far more effective when you take a swing at aforementioned annoying individual.

2. Luddite Conviction. No way! We are already spending too much time on screens. A book is more than just words on paper. You can smell it, feel the page crackle as you move through the novel, feel the weight of the author’s perseverance as you hold his/her masterpiece in your hand… And then the classic, yet oft-doomed line: It will never catch on.

3. Dithering in the Middle. There is some middle ground. I have to admit that I love my Kindle. It is light, convenient, and I get a kick about the environmental aspects. I am also a confirmed Star Trek fan. However, I do also miss the feel and smell of the book. I love the art of a well thought out book cover, and I also love reading while soaking in a hot bath. My bookshelves are an important part of my identity in our house and I hope sets a certain tone with my family.

So, some Advice for The Morning After:

Firstly: Don’t Panic! Take a deep breath and slowly unwrap the gadget and take it out of its box.

Then: Go on your computer and find either the website for the company or go to You Tube. There are some really good, simple, step-by-step videos for people like us. I know, half of my readers are men and we read instruction manuals like we ask people for directions (btw – you might have a GPS navigator on your tablet).

Finally: Have another whisky. It is the holiday season after all. And take note: if you are reading this blog, then you have already embraced the blogosphere: the cutting edge of the Internet. You are already firmly in the 21st century, dude. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Oh, and if you did receive a Kindle, iPad, or whatever, this might be a good first book to read on your gadget (couldn’t resist!).

Happy Hols’

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, 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).

Adopt an author for the holiday season

It’s quick. You don’t need to battle frantic store crowds.  It’s environmental. It’s not expensive … and it helps a struggling author.

Did you know you can buy an e-book and send it directly to a friend as a gift? They usually range from $0.99 – $9.99. Any Kindle book available for purchase in the Kindle Store can be given as a gift to anyone with an e-mail address. You do not need a Kindle device to send or receive Kindle book gifts, and the recipient can read their gift on a registered Kindle device or any free Kindle reading application. All you need to know is that person’s email.  You can add a personal message as well. For more details, click here.

So here’s my idea: Apart from giving a meaningful gift, you are also helping a struggling author. For less than $20 you can buy five ebooks for five different friends and introduce them to an author you know or follow. Be honest – tell them that you want to help promote this author and why – it adds something personal to the exchange.

Adopting an author has five advantages over a pet:

1) We are (generally) toilet-trained.

2) You don’t need to take us out for walks in the rain. In fact, we prefer to sit in front of a keyboard with headphone on.

3) Your guests won’t be allergic to us.

4) We don’t fight with or try to hump every author we pass in the streets. The few of us who do tend to be locked up.

5) When you bring someone home, we don’t bark at them or try and leave a mat of our fur all over them – we just conspire how to work them into that next novel.

Since you are in the mood – here are 10 other ways to help a friend who is an author.

Happy Holidays.

——————————————————————————————————

 

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, 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).

Lighting A Candle For Freedom

Tonight Jews around the world will light the third candle of Chanukah. For a description of the festival please click on the link. The purpose of this blog is to focus on the theme rather than the ritual. But what I found fascinating is that American Jewry identify and celebrate Chanukah more than any other Jewish festival by a huge margin. The statistics buck the doom-and-gloom fears of assimilation and I believe there is a good reason for this. Chanukah is the Jewish festival of freedom. And freedom, while something the Jewish people have often struggled for, is a universal theme.

This year, I would like to dedicate Chanukah (not that I own any dedicating rights!) to the Egyptian people, who after demonstrating so bravely to overthrow a dictator, find themselves in Tahrir Square again only a year later. Freedom is worth fighting for … and coming back to fight for it again.

imgres

Tahrir Square this past Friday.

The fact that many religions have a festive holiday deep in the winter is another bond that binds us. Here is my offering to kick off the festive season. It is one of a series of cool, hip Jewish songs for different festivals by a great, rising star.

Michelle Citrin has an amazing voice, an amazing personality and deserves so much more success. So please check out her music here.

Happy Chanukah to All People – Let’s all light the way to freedom.
——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, 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).

PTSD – Never Leaves You

This is an old blog post, but the subject is very much on my mind with the release of Unwanted Heroes.

I left my office late that damp, foggy San Francisco night. I drove my car onto Junipero Serra, a main street, and then pulled over, needing to wipe the windows for safe visibility. As I worked my way round the back of the car, wheels screeched around the corner behind me. I instantly crouched down low behind my car and my whole body tensed. I was ready. I could feel my heart thumping.

When I saw the joy riders speed past me, their music blaring, I leaped back into my car,  pulled out and followed them. I think my wheels actually screeched. They would stop at the traffic lights a half-mile away and I could ram my car into theirs. I would teach them a lesson they would never forget. I could clearly imagine the crunching sound from the impact of the two cars and the terror they would feel, similar to the terror that I had just felt.

I pulled up behind them, images of my wife and children instantly grounding me. I breathed heavily and scrambled for some familiar radio station as I followed them to the Daly City exit where I would turn off.

When I had served in the army, I drove plain-clothed deep into enemy territory. My role was to protect someone who received information. There were three guards: one entered with the person, the other two stood outside guarding the car and the entrance.

We were undercover, but wore our army boots and carried our distinct semi-automatic rifles. In short, we were sitting ducks for a sniper, or a drive by. When any car approached, either too slow or too fast, we would take defensive postures. When a car’s wheels screeched to accelerate, we hit the ground, in one well-practiced movement.

My hands remained clenched tightly around my Saab’s steering wheel for the whole 45-minute trip home to the East Bay. When I stepped through the door to our apartment in Berkeley, it was time for dinner, kid’s homework, and to hear stories from the schoolyard.

I had made it home today …  but only just.

But there are friends who were not so fortunate. They never made it home. They never got the opportunity to open the door to a loving, if somewhat crazy, family. It’s the difference between choosing to hit the gas or the brake.

As simple as that.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, 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).

Surviving Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Buy Nothing Day

It’s got very confusing. I don’t know anyone who is not aware of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or any of a number of other crazy sales days or anti-consumerism initiatives.

I have to admit that I have stood in line in past years and exploited the opportunity. I feel okay with this because I have always bought something that my family ‘needs’ (let’s not go there, okay), and would have bought anywhere. The self-righteous like to point fingers at the fanatics, the violent, and the irresponsible. Fair game. But, as Eugene Cho commented a year ago, this is often the privileged who can afford to buy these items year round.

So the question is: do we throw the baby out with the bath water? Answer: only if there is a special deal on babies or bath water – check out Bed Bath and Way Beyond.

But here are five steps to embrace Black Friday and not feel like you sold your soul to consumerism.

1) Decide on a number of items that you want to buy, how much you are going to spend, and only buy these.

2) Bring an extra cup to share that hot chocolate you have to avoid hyperthermia and share with the person in front of you.

3) Support Small Business Saturday by patronizing a local family-owned shop, also for something you need.

4) I’m impressed with the idea of Buy Nothing Day. I think it is something incredibly powerful and educational. The kids will love you for it!

5) Take a portion of the day and do something for charity. Maybe donate what you bought last year at Black Friday to Goodwill or Out of the Closet. You need to donate something of worth. Those stained, musty t-shirts don’t count.

6) There is no No. 6 – we are sticking to a plan and the plan was 5 ideas, remember? You alway want more than you set out for, looking for the extra deal and value. What do you think this is? Black Friday?

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. 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).

Ann Bear – Another Angel In Heaven

Yesterday, a dear friend, mentor and philanthropist, Ann Bear, lost her struggle with cancer, and passed away.

Jewish texts teach of thirty-six light-bringers who wander the earth sharing love and compassion with all. Ann Bear was one of those people. After I got to know her better, I would watch her as she worked the room at a philanthropic event. She would leave a trail of positive energy in her wake.

I got to know Ann closely after her husband, Irwin, passed away. Irwin had been the President of the Board of Directors at San Francisco Hillel Jewish Student Center, where I work.

I happened to meet Ann on two consecutive days at Jewish events and then bumped in to her as I entered, and she exited, the building of the SF Jewish Federation. I was on a low professionally, and quite surprised when I blurted out how amazing she is to be all the time working for philanthropic causes.

She looked at me in astonishment. No, she told me, she is blessed to have a partner in Irwin who can put her in this position and who encourages her to spend her time in this way.

Anyway, she said, I am the one who is amazing, and went on to tell me of the important work I am doing and how inspiring I am to her.

I walked away, my body straighter, with a big smile on my face.

That is the effect that Ann had on many others and me. It is for us to learn and emulate the way in which she lived her life. It is what I believe she would most want.

I visited Ann last week and spent almost four hours with her. She insisted that we focus on a project that she was helping me with. When I kept asking if she needed to stop to rest, she refused. She felt a sense of urgency and the need to give as much as she could while she still could. She lived her life for others right up until the end.

We must celebrate her life and continue to walk in her path. There is no greater way to pay tribute.

——————————————————————————————————

Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. His next novel, Unwanted Heroes, is due out in early 2013. 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).

 

National Novel Writing Month

It was early November and I went to the coffee shop in a Borders (RIP) to write. I immediately saw that something was different. During the week, the tables were usually occupied by nursing students with huge, backbreaking text books and blank facial expressions.

This Saturday, it was a different crowd and I could feel the silent tension screaming.  Half the tables were occupied by writers (don’t ask me how I know), but when I took out my laptop to write, one leaned over and asked, her tone conspiratorial: “How many words so far?”

I glanced at the novel that I wasn’t far off completing and told her that I was at 72,000 words. She stared at me. I didn’t understand it then. I do now.

National Novel Writing Month is: “a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel-writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175-page) novel by 11:59:59 PM on November 30.”

I have never felt the need to participate. It seems to me that this challenge is for those who need the adrenaline rush and/or discipline demanded from ‘NaNoWriMo’. I am blessed (or cursed if you ask Mrs. Left Coast Voices) with the ability to sit anytime, anywhere and write. I write my 90-100,000 word novels in four months. I work, sleep and write. 

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.

But for those who don’t howl at the full moon, this sounds like an amazing opportunity and I think I am somewhat jealous of the camaraderie that develops for those people who congregate in sacred and frantic silence. 

“Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration, and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.

In 2011, we had 256,618 participants and 36,843 of them crossed the 50K finish line by the midnight deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.”

Good luck, NaNoWriMos’ May the Muse be with you.

——————————————————————————————————

 

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).

 

 

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).

 

Exclusive Interview: The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC

The following interview is with The Honorable Henry Wilkins QC, the fictional judge of The Accidental Activist. Last Friday, we heard from Suzie Thornton and the week before from Matt Fielding – all of whom agreed to sit with me for coffee, even though none of them really exist.

 

—–

Henry Wilkins QC: Let me make it clear before we even begin this interview. I will not answer any question specific to the ruling of the Oilspill Libel case, as it is now known. I am a judge, a Queen’s Councilor, and proud to serve at Her Majesty’s Royal Courts of Justice. I am somewhat suspicious of blogs, of what one can or cannot write, and I am anxious to read this book by Alon Shalev – The Accidental Activist – I’ve read his other book and, frankly, I’m perturbed.

Interviewer: Let us begin with this aspect of the court case. Did you ever imagine when the two sides stood before you that first day in court that the case would last for so many years and become the longest trial in British history? Or that it would attract such a high-profile?

HW: Certainly not. The mere notion that two amateurs could take on a legal heavyweight like Jeffery Sithers and fathom their way through the complex framework of British libel laws is baffling. Of course, no one imagined that the websiteOilspill.com, would have such a profound effect or such worldwide appeal. It was the first of its kind and possibly the most impactful element when history looks back on this trial.

Interviewer: Did you ever feel that you wanted to help or advise the defendants because of this blatant inequality?

HW: Hmm, a tough question. With regard to the actual issues, I never felt a desire to support either side. I am most comfortable with the gown and wig that I wear and understand my role of objectivity, of ensuring that the law is respected.

But then I sat there for two years seeing two exhausted and frustrated young people, clearly committed to what they perceive as a better business and world model, but always outflanked, out-resourced and, certainly out-briefed – not that such a word exists.

Then at the other table sat Jeffery Sithers, the most famous libel lawyer in Britain, with seven legal aides, all dressed up in their pin-striped suits, and always prepared for what was unfolding. Did you know that the company actually provided Jeffery with a young caddie, whose sole responsibility was wheeling all their documents in and out of the courtroom every day? It made me appreciate the lad at my golf club.

Interviewer: What was groundbreaking about this case?

HW: Hmmm, I think there are two significant aspects. Clearly, it exposed the need to update the British libel laws, which, I believe, have been left untouched for 500-600 years. Second, the whole aspect of the growing role of the Internet: that such a global informational conduit could be leveraged in such a fashion, well let me tell you, it was fascinating. And, between you and me, I have tried to stay abreast of these technological advances.

McSpotlight, possibly the first interactive advocacy website was the game changer.

Interviewer: How did you feel when you saw your old nemesis, Professor McGoughen enter the fray?

HW: Ha! That old cad! I think the only time I allowed my emotions to show was the first time I saw the old fox sitting up in the galley grinning. I never thought he could be lured out of his academic palace at Oxford. He might seem eccentric to some, but let me tell you, he was a legal titan in his day. He pursued the multinationals and big businesses with a vengeance. I clashed with him many times during our careers and I hold him in the highest esteem. Still, I can’t say I was too happy with him when he pulled that stunt on me at the end of the trial.

Interviewer: Without getting into the court case itself: what lessons can we all learn from what transpired in your courthouse?

HW: Hmm. First, that the law makes everyone accountable, no matter how powerful or wealthy they might be. It must fulfill this role. Second, that the Internet has an important role of keeping things in the open, so that we all make informed choices and have the information at our fingertips.

And one effect I would like to share that this case had on me, personally. We only have one world and we are all responsible for what happens to it. It is a fragile world and getting frailer everyday.

Interviewer: Do I detect a value judgment of the court case?

HW: Good Heavens! No! Strike that from the record!

Justice Rodger Bell presided over the McLibel trial almost from the beginning. He has never offered a personal opinion on the case.

——————————————————————————————————

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 h and on Twitter (#alonshalevsf).

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: