August 24, 2008


On the beach, Gualala

Thick fog creeping across the cliffs, dark sand, driftwood, poppies and thistles, sequoias and ghost gums, turkey vultures, hawks, seagulls, pelicans, oases of floating kelp, furtive abalone divers, surfers shivering in wetsuits… and hordes of aged geezers on ear-splitting Harleys stopping to have coffee at places with slogans like "Not just a cup of coffee — a just cup of coffee", or dropping in for dinner at Pangaea.

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August 22, 2008

Beyond Sebastopol

On the Gravenstein Highway just beyond Sebastopol a spindly young black guy wearing a grey suit with a straw hat and a huge bass saxophone strapped across his back rides slowly through the dry shimmering; it seems too true to be real, but it's one with the Zen center, the Sensuality Shoppe, and the roadside bars here, I guess. This time the anti-war signs are faded, torn, shabby, a little less abrasive; in any case, no one's honking as they drive past any more as far as I could tell (did they ever?).

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August 17, 2008

Stunt Ballet

"Once again The Crucible sets the dance scene ablaze with a fusion of classical ballet, fire performance, aerialists, acrobats and break dancers to create a fiery and funky interpretation of Stravinsky’s masterpiece. It’s definitely ballet with an industrial edge provided by Crucible artisans, a cameo appearance by a Pontiac Firebird, and a ballerina’s graceful pas-de-deux with a motorcycle stunt rider." (from a flyer promoting local arts and craft outfit The Crucible's latest song and dance).

In other words, NASCAR in drag for hipsters who wouldn't be seen dead at a NASCAR event (both demos have tats; it's just that one group thinks of them as pictures, the other as "art"; and for one group, "industrial" is an edgy aesthetic; the other, a way of life). That great herd of independent minds, again, I guess. See you at Burning Man. Boom!! Bang!! Crash!! Dude, the Flames…

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August 13, 2008

Buying The Dream

Obama confronts America with a successful living out of, and (crucially) a strong belief in, the traditional American Dream, at least as evangelised by the usual sellers of the Dream. It's interesting to watch conservative America react to the reality of that dream coming true for such a, well, different figure: the most interesting response being an engaged recognition of the fact but a (healthy) skepticism that merely believing in and fulfilling the American Dream isn't in itself sufficient qualification for being president; more commonly, it's just angry denial or a squirming sort of let's-change-the-subject deflection.

Even more interesting is the reaction on the left: quite often denial that there's any such thing as a valid American Dream, or that if it exists, that anything good could come from trying to live it. But in any case, for many Americans, what they think of Obama is what they think of the American Dream — and its applicability to Americans in general.

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August 07, 2008

The Dreaming

Michelet's "Each epoch dreams the one to follow" seems quite wrong; every epoch dreams the one it follows. We sleepwalk the one to follow….

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August 01, 2008

In Search Of Lost Times

It's telling and (for me, at least) depressing that the ethnic and racial makeup of the residents of the large old building I live in in Jingletown has changed markedly over the past few years. Right up until about two years ago it often came pretty close to reflecting the larger surrounding Oakland neighbourhoods in that a near majority of us were African-American and Latino; the rest of us (myself included) were an assorted hodge-podge of white, Asian, Indian, and (as one neighbour put it), "Lord-knows-what". Nowadays we're almost completely white and Asian.

The change coincides almost exactly with the change in the immediate neighbourhood from being a mostly-anonymous industrial area dotted with shabby artists' studios, working lofts, the occasional large industrial plant, lots of odd small businesses, little islands of public housing, and bad karaoke bars, to being an officially-proclaimed "arts district" with new lifestyle lofts, galleries, hipster cafes, and hordes of self-righteous cyclists riding through the 'hood in their bright spandex clown suits.

It's also telling that right up until about two or three years ago the majority of the residents of my building — a place explicitly zoned live / work, where you're supposedly legally required to have a business license in order to live there — were artists, musicians, graphic designers, art restorers, etc.; nowadays they're almost all just lifestyle lofters. I think there are only three other tenants (out of nearly two dozen) besides myself who actually do anything creative in their units or who actually have businesses now. The new residents are the sort of people who will probably protest the return of what some of us fondly remember as the Jingletown Express, lumbering laboriously down Glascock Street a couple of times a week until fairly recently.

People seem to be taking the whole slightly-ludicrous Brooklyn West thing seriously: the newest two tenants are both actually straight from New York; their cars still sport the Empire State license plates, and they seem oblivious to the life around them much beyond the obvious. Plus ca change and all that, I guess. Time to move on before I'm moved….

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