30 posts categorized "bloggery"

February 22, 2013

There ARE Second Acts in American Blog Posts

It seems my "damned if you do, damned if you don't" post about white writers writing about POC has been Tumblred and hit some sort of critical mass. It even reached people I know who missed it the first time around. Someone even emailed me today for permission to use it in a presentation. (The same day I deleted a comment calling it "reverse racist." I don't allow that term to be used on my blog.)

So I went to the original Tumblr post and read through all the comments (I still don't get Tumblr. Why make it so difficult to see people's responses?) and I find I have a couple more things to say.

  1. This is a "shut up and deal with it" post. It's not a post telling you what or what not to do with your life. It's a post telling white writers who have been fortunate enough to complete a book, find a publisher, find an audience, and have a public discussion happen about their work to "shut up and deal with the negative criticism in the midst of your good fortune." Shut up and deal with it.
  2. Dude, you don't know any of these people who might be criticizing you. Why would you let my saying that a few nameless, faceless (literally, this is the internet) POC will criticize you stop you from doing anything?

...

Yeah, that's pretty much all I had to say. Beyond that, whoever doesn't get it, doesn't get it. Maybe someday they will.

Also, here's a good rephrasing.

And here's a moment of perspective.

And, if anyone was wondering, here's an ideal response from a white writer.

January 01, 2013

New Year's Resolution

I'm not sure why exactly, but reading GGP's account of his two-months' struggle with a rather mysterious illness has just kicked me in the ass a bit. I'm going to make an actual resolution for 2013 ... maybe two.

  1. I'm going to write in this here blog every week. I've been too unmotivated -- lacking in energy -- to write. But I'm going to do it, even if I have nothing to write about. And I'll write short.
  2. Get on top of this stupid disease: go to the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome clinic in Palo Alto. I forget what it's called. But I'm going to go. And I'm going to do what they tell me. And I'm going to try every stupid California new age acupusher thing that crosses my path.

January 08, 2011

Yay!

Hey, my leetle book got onto io9's list of the top 15 books of 2010! Yay! It's good to have friends in high places!

Thanks, Annalee!

December 31, 2010

E-existential Question of the Last Day of the Year

Why do I blog?

November 04, 2010

NaBloWriMo Fail

Argh! Already!

I owe two stories today, but threw a dinner party instead. Now I'm drunk and it's not gonna happen!

Tomorrow I'll try to catch up on two stories and Sat two more. Argh!

October 04, 2010

Migration and Identity

No, this isn't another race post.

You might have noticed a slight change in the look of the blog recently ;). The amazing Derek Chung is redesigning my online personality right now. When he's done, I will not only have a MUCH prettier blog (though my soul will remain as schmutzig as a pig's latrine), but I'll also have a whole website with stuff.

Feel free to express positive opinions about the lovely redesign. And also feel free to tell me if something is uncomfortable or doesn't work right.

That is all.

June 02, 2010

I Am Writer, Hear Me Read

Just poking my head in for a second to note that a story I recorded for KQED's "Writers' Block" podcast is now up on the internet. You can check it out onsite here, or just listen to the embedment below. ... or, you know, just ignore it.

April 06, 2010

Beautiful Websites

I'm finally getting the website train rolling. It's a part of my declaring that this first book will not be the last; declaring a sort of grand opening of the professional enterprise of my writing (though I don't expect to ever make money off of it.)

So anyway, I'm collecting beautifully designed websites that can help me and my designer figure out what I want. I'm going to post some here, and please post the URLs of any websites whose design you love and would like me to see.

Thanks!

The Bold Italic: this is an SF Bay Area culture, events, and tips magazine. Very cool design in terms of visual aesthetics, and also in terms of how they intend the site to be used (see the icons on the left edge of the frame?) Too busy, though, and a little difficult to figure out what the different categories mean. Also a little too difficult to figure out what the website IS at first.

Cranky Girl Archive Project: this is a very old art project around family archives online. The aesthetics aren't really me, but I just love clicking through this piece. Nothing here that I can really use for my own website, but it belongs on a list of website I dig.

Snog: a great commercial site for frozen yogurt. It declares its target demographic immediately, and brands hard and fast. I love the single bright color and the sepia photos against the white backdrop. A bit stark, but that works for me in this context. Great choice of photos too. Also a bit too busy with the text. I like a clean, simple homepage.

Like Falcon, for example: this is the anti-splash page. Eyeball kick, but no splash. Just the image that declares what the site is about (yay!) and a much smaller company logo. The navigation isn't hard to find or use, but it's so small and held back that it is essentially not there, aesthetically. I also dig how, when you move into the site proper, the aesthetic impact reverses and you have a black background with machinery guts, and white text. I don't do white text, but it's a great concept: outside/inside.

Monty Lounge: I don't like too much text on the homepage, but I love this idea: the text IS the graphic element. The only image on the entire site is the (small) logo. On this homepage, the text is text, not linked. But this would be a great idea for a writer's website: using chunks of text in different fonts, sizes, and shapes to link to pages, to be a graphical navigation that was more radially oriented, or at least oriented in tables.

Finch: I like the simplicity of this design, with the huge logo, the small nav bar on the side, and the single paragraph of blog text leading directly to the blog. The more complicated navigation is below in the dark, so it doesn't look like the one page is too cluttered.

Seven Trees: I like the framing conceit on this one, and how it is continued in the banner top and sides inside the site. Not my aesthetic, but it works for this company and is good branding.

Matt: Although I don't like how this site works (log in, enter through only one link), I like the aesthetic here, and how the aesthetic works into how the information on the site is presented: the drawing, the torn edge, it all works together.

Great Works: I really like this website, but there's nothing about it that I want for my own. It's got too many layers of navigation, too many different levels of logo, too much going on. I don't like a homepage that you have to keep scrolling down on. But I think it looks great for itself and works well for its purpose.

Colourpixel: Love the bright colors! Love how the theme demonstrates the company's title! The designer has a lot of stuff going on on this page, but somehow manages to keep things in order and easy to understand and find. That's some talent there.

Jak & Jil Blog: This is just a blog, but I love the "splash page": the type and the chic simplicity of it. It's a photo blog, so it can get away with not having any images in its design. I love that it does that.

July 14, 2009

I'm Teaching A Blogging Class (post #666)

Hey Bay Areans,

I'll be teaching a weekend blogging workshop through Kearny Street Workshop this weekend in San Francisco's SOMA district. Saturday is a free two-hour blogging 101 class for absolute beginners. The goal will be to set up your first blog. Sunday is a three hour blog writing and marketing workshop with me and Glenda Bautista that costs $50.

You can get details here or below. Please spread the word to those folks in your life who want more blog in theirs!


Weekend Blogging Workshop

July 18-19, 10:00am - 1:00pm
KSW @ PariSoMa, 1436 Howard Street

This weekend intensive blogging workshop will take you from beginner basics to blog bragging rights. Sign up for one day or both, and get into the blogosphere.

DAY ONE: Writing 101 with Claire Light
Saturday, July 18, 11am - 1pm

This FREE two-hour class will help absolute beginners get off the ground. We will discuss what a blog is; what things (skills, technologies) you will need to start a blog; how to actually create your blog; and how to connect with the blogosphere so you're not casting your pearls into the void.

Prerequisites: familiarity with email programs and web browers; moderate skill with Microsoft Word; possession of a laptop with wireless.

Cost: FREE
Minimum class size: 4

To register, please email ellen@kearnystreet.org with your full name and contact info.

DAY TWO: The Art of Blogging with Claire Light and Glenda Bautista
Sunday, July 19, 10am - 1pm

This three-hour paid class is designed around examining blogging as a writing form, or a written art form. We will discuss blogging as a form; what are its opportunities and limitations; what is commonly done within the blogging form and what are some interesting outliers; what technologies exist to facilitate blogging as a writing form. We will discuss "blog marketing" not as a commercial enterprise but as a method of connecting to a community that furthers the art of the blog. We will also do writing exercises in various blogging forms, on the internet. The result of this three-hour workshop will be a number of blog texts and a group project (for example: a blog carnival, or possibly even a group blog.)

Prerequisites: you must have a laptop with wireless for the session and have an established blog; this session may not be ideal for absolute beginners.

Cost: $50 per person
Minimum class size: 5

To register by check, please send check or money order to: Kearny Street Workshop, PO Box 14545, San Francisco, CA 94114-0545. Or pay online by clicking here and then clicking on the Buy Now button.

June 16, 2009

Breakin' Up Iz Hard 2 Do, Part II

So what I wanted to do -- about a month ago now, in the weeks leading up to WisCon, when I was considering "breaking up" with the antiracist blogosphere as a result of RaceFail and MammothFail -- was write a series of posts about how antiracist action online actually works, and why I have problems with it.

But a number of things intervened.

*****First, right before WisCon, Al Robles, an elder in my Bay Area Asian American activist community, died suddenly. His family organized a memorial event and I was asked to help, so I took over volunteer coordination for the six-hour event. The event took place at the venue where we had staged the Asian American arts festival I ran for its first few years; being there as a coordinator reminded me of that work and of the atmosphere of common purpose and mutual help that can arise out of creating a "real world" racial community. It also reminded me that I had a real world community in the first place, that I had been neglecting, partly in favor of my online stuff.

Also, being at Manong Al's memorial really made me think a lot about Al. The sort of elder whose memorial event draws thousands of people, requires ten tables to hold all the food, and has trouble restricting the stories, poems, and testimonials to six hours, is a very particular person. Al was a leader, not in that he put himself and his agenda first, nor in that he had great managerial skills he used to organize people. Al was a leader by example. He was everywhere he needed to be to get the work done. He was physically there; he put his hand on your arm when he saw you. He knew everyone in the community because he talked to them, partied with them, and remembered them whenever he saw them next. He never lost his interest in individuals, never lost his excitement about the new (and old) things people were doing, never failed to connect the creative life (he was a poet) with the activist life, and the activist life with the good life.

The consideration that makes my eyes well up, both in love for Al and in shame for my own failures, is the memory of Al as someone who always gave respect, gave face, to everyone, from the most snot-nosed, fist-pumping teenager, to the oldest, out-of-commission elder.  He made you want to earn the respect that he gave you unconditionally. He loved whatever it was that you did. Thousands of people turned out to say goodbye to him because people like that are so rare.

It makes me really think about who is going to take over for Al. Less than two years ago we lost another elder, Manong Bill Sorro, who had a similar role in the community as Al Robles, had a similar way with people, although the two were very different. As I said, these people are rare. Manong Al and Manong Bill were my touchstones in the community and now that they're both gone, I'm all out of touchstones. They were it for their generation. Who will be it for my generation?

I'm not that kind of person, but I can try to be more of that kind of person. I don't have to be the Manong Al or Manong Bill of my generation, but I think we can split up those duties a little more evenly, especially if we believe in community and continuation. But to do that, I have to get off the fucking internet and get my butt down to where the community is.

***** Second, I went to WisCon. Given the atmosphere surrounding RaceFail and then MammothFail, I was expecting WisCon to be emotionally fraught, stress-filled, and conflict-ridden. Instead, what I found was that there were more POC there than ever before, and that the POC there were organizing, coming together, and also connecting outside the POC community with a confidence and interest and even joy that I hadn't seen at WisCon before.

I realized that the online fights that had stressed me out so much, make my stomach tie up in knots and feel like all was sick with the world, had energized a lot of other folks. I was forcibly reminded of how I felt eleven years ago, when I first joined battle -- in a very limited and constrained way -- with folks online on the multiracial list-serv and the Asian American writers list-serv I joined. It was energizing; it did make me want to do stuff. And, because I was in San Francisco, I just went right out and did stuff: joined orgs, started programs, etc. It was a wonderful cycle of discussion and action: I discussed ideas online, and then took those ideas out into the real world and acted on them.

Of course, the energizing aspect of the arguments and sometimes fights had a limited efficacy. They were only energizing as long as they were still new to me, and still had something to teach me about that particular way of viewing the issues. Once I had been through the cycle of argument once or twice (and had experienced intelligent, articulate opponents who just plain didn't listen to you) the argument stopped energizing me and started to stress me out. Eventually, I had to quit the two list-servs, and I didn't miss them much when I had. That was mainly because the people I "knew" on the list-servs were just usernames. I was also spending time with folks in meatspace and many of those folks are still my friends; I'm not still friends with a single person I interacted intensely with online at that time, even the people I met in person and tried to work with there. But what I got out of those discussions didn't go away. The results -- the ideas and ability to articulate arguments -- stayed with me.

***** Third, I went back to Berlin, where I spent much of my twenties, and saw a lot of my friends, ten and fifteen years later. I saw that my friends had taken one of three tracks: folks who hadn't quite gotten started on a career and were still struggling to figure out where to go and what to do; folks who had started a career, then started a family and were now negotiating the limitation on their career that a young family imposes; and folks who were well into a creative career, some simply moving forward and others wondering if they wanted to stay on this track or make an adjustment.

I'm with the last group. I've spent the last decade plowing ahead full steam in ethnic-specific arts and culture, and I've accomplished much that I'm proud of. But I've definitely reached a point where I'm trying to make an adjustment in my direction, and that's a difficult thing to do. While in Berlin, I got a rare perspective on where I am in life, by seeing my peers dealing with being in that same place. And I think I can take this adjustment more quietly -- be less manic and bewildered about it -- and focus in. I think that's the key: letting some options go, and focusing in on what's most important to me.

*

I came back to online antiracism a few years ago with my interest in speculative fiction, and with working with POC SF communities that I had connected with through Clarion West and WisCon. And the community here is wonderful, and vibrant, and full of energy and purpose. I've learned a lot from reading blogs, and getting into discussions ... and even from some of the less pleasant fights I've gotten into. Some things I've learned couldn't have been gotten at another way.

But there are also problems with it ... and it was my intention to tease out those problems in a series of posts, as I said above. But after Al's memorial, and after WisCon, and after my visit back to the site of my young adulthood, I think I'm realizing that I don't need to do that right now. What I'm feeling is particular to me and my situation. Maybe down the road I'll have some perspectives that will be useful to someone else, but I don't think I do right now.

I've been upset and angry at an argument that I've heard too many times before that doesn't have the power to inspire me anymore, but that doesn't mean that this discussion isn't inspiring anyone else to new and great things. I think I'm probably best off shutting up and getting out of the way.

*

One thing I do want to clarify: when I said in an earlier post that the best thing that came out of RaceFail was the smart posts published early in the incident, a few outraged people pointed to Verb Noire (which has just announced its first publication, which makes me want to pee with excitement) as a direct result of RaceFail. I was surprised by that perception. Having been involved in so many start-ups (APAture, Hyphen, the San Francisco Hapa Issues Forum chapter, the now-defunct Digital Horizon afterschool program) and seen so many from a peripheral viewpoint, it's second nature to me to assume that any start-up or initiative has its roots in longstanding dreams and long planning processes ... that then come together around a particular opportunity.

Yes, I believe that RaceFail brought on a convergence of a number of things that led to Verb Noire being launched right then, but I don't believe that without RaceFail there would have been no Verb Noire. (Please tell me if I'm completely wrong here; I have no telepathic connection to the publishers, and no idea what specifically got them going.) Furthermore, I'd be worried if I really thought that RaceFail was the only or main impulse to starting Verb Noire. Last straw, yes; main thrust, no. It's a terrific project, coming at the right time, but it's larger than just RaceFail. The language and direction of the project already seems larger -- seems to fill up a space that has to do with more than just a failure of the general SF community to understand cultural difference and appropriation.

Basically, until it was pointed out to me, I didn't connect Verb Noire directly with RaceFail. RaceFail to me is just an incident: an incident that got drawn out way too long and produced some good writing, some bad writing, and a lot of bad feeling ... but still just an incident. Verb Noire is ... an organization, a long-term program, an institution of new perspective in the making. The two are bound up together, certainly: all good organizations, programs, institutions have their roots in unacceptable circumstances, or ongoing failures, and series of incidents that demonstrate these circumstances and failures.

But the two are distinct. One is discussion; the other, activism. For me, there does come a time when the discussion that inspires activism starts to get in the way of activism, and I have to opt out of direct discussion for a while.

*

I don't know what this means for me on a practical level. I have an online presence that takes some work to maintain and that brings me a lot of pleasure, aside from other things. But it also, I have to admit, sucks too much time away from my writing and my working in my community. I might have to cut back on being present online for a while, but I'm not sure how or how much. I'm not making any quick decisions.

I have no conclusions yet, no declarations to make. I think I'm going to be reading less from blogs, and participating less in any sort of online discussions in this area for a while. But at this point, I'm just thinking out loud.

May 25, 2009

atlas(t) Now On Twitter!

Just created a twitter feed for my mapping blog atlas(t). It's at atlastweet.

May 16, 2009

Outrage, Pullback, Punishment: The Structure of One Common Antiracist Post

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

So, to kick off my out-loud consideration of if and how to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere ...

I'm going to start with organizing some observations about how racism is talked about on the POC antiracist blogs I've been reading for the past six years and laying out the basic structure of one type of typical antiracist post.

First, most POC A/R blogs rarely take the bull by the horns, that is to say, they rarely take the initiative in introducing topics of discussion and setting the terms for the discussion. Instead, most POC A/R blogs are reactive, that is, they keep watch on what is happening in the world and especially in the media, and respond to incidents or discussions initiated by people out in the world, or by the media.

The way this works is what I call "Outrage, Pullback, Punishment" (and yes, it is a plus that it compresses to "OPP"). How it works is as follows:

Outrage: something racist happens in the world. A blogger or group of bloggers pick up on it. They note it in their blogs and express outrage at it. The item gets passed on from blog to blog.

Pullback: of the bloggers who post on this topic, less than half will express anything other than outrage. But a subset of these bloggers will spend a little time pulling back from the outrage to contextualize this incident of racism and explain why it's a problem. They will go into the history of these types of incidents, they'll go into academic theories of X, they'll give talking points on why this sort of thing is bad for people of color, bad for justice, and bad for the world in general.

Punishment: of the bloggers who pull back and contextualize, an even smaller subset will propose or initiate action. This action is dual: it proposes advocacy of a particular view, action (usually apology and some sort of remediation), and threatens punishment if this action isn't taken up immediately. I call this step "punishment" because punishment is advocated at two places: often the remedial action is punishment of the original offender (as in asking a radio station to fire a racist DJ), and the action threatened if this remedy isn't taken up is usually a punishment as well (official complaint up the chain of command, formal boycott, or bad publicity, and the hanging of the "racist" label on the totality of the offenders.) The action is then picked up by the other bloggers and passed around.

Lest anyone think I'm trying to hurl accusations from a glass house, I'll give an example from my own oeuvre. (I'm actually critiquing all of POC antiracist blogging, including my own, which is part of the whole and speaks the same language.) The recent example is the Avatar casting controversy:

You'll notice here that the structure not only makes the information easy to understand and assimilate, but it also makes the basic conveyance of the information easy to adapt to each blog. Each new blogger who picks the story up simply gives a spin to the same blog post and passes it on.

This structure of communication has been effective in the past for specific purposes. The best example would be the Jena 6 controversy in 2007 where a group of black teenagers were unfairly prosecuted for an assault on a white teenager that was provoked by a series of racist incidents. Originally ignored by the mainstream media, outrage in the POC blogosphere contributed heavily to the story being picked up nationally. Additionally, the "punishment" phase of this story advocated action that was less punitive and more justice-oriented, and resulted in large demonstrations in Jena and all over the country, that have succeeded in bringing about a more just resolution for many of the defendants than would have happened otherwise. Here's a post from the Angry Black Woman which demonstrates OPP and links to other posts you can check out as well.

An earlier example was the Abercrombie and Fitch controversy (2002/2004), which involved first a series of t-shirts with racist images of Asians on them, then a lawsuit (later settled) that alleged that A&F gave visible jobs to white employees and restricted POC to the stock rooms. The online campaign against the t-shirts -- organized with a speed that surprised even participants -- led to real-world protest outside the stores, which in turn caused the company to withdraw the shirt and issue an apology. The t-shirt protest was actually organized via email, list-servs, and discussion boards, more than via blogs. But if you look at the discussion boards link, you'll see one of the origins of OPP structure. The continuing online scrutiny of A&F's racial attitude helped keep pressure on them that contributed to the favorable settlement of the lawsuit.

As has been rightly said since the Jena 6 protests, online social networking has created a world in which effective protest can be organized quickly and nationally to address even local injustices. OPP is a great launching point for these kinds of effective protests: OPP informs and arouses a sense of outrage very quickly, and creates a sort of information tree or hierarchy which people can follow back to a source of organization if they wish to get involved. People are no longer dependent on being reached by recruiters, they can recruit themselves to act. And POC communities, if they know how to leverage the hinges of the Tipping Point, can control to a great extent the spread of their mobilization effort.

This structure of communication also makes it easy for the mainstream media to pick up on POC responses to national incidents. Reporters don't have to dig through a lot of discussion and process its implications to know what POC bloggers are thinking. They just aggregate the most popular bloggers and do a keyword search for the controversy du jour, and bingo, insta-quote. So in this way, POC can come closer to the mainstream media.

All this is great. But.

The negative result of this is that POC A/R blogs tend to accept, without thought or discussion, that the white-dominated media and mainstream culture gets to initiate action and discussion, and the POC A/R online media's role is merely to respond to this discourse, and not to control it or be a partner in shaping it.

This is fine when an injustice happens -- as in Jena -- and must be addressed quickly. These sorts of things happen all the time, so having a structure in place to deal with these things -- to remedy actual injustices as they happen -- is important. But it does not move the discourse on race forward. It unconsciously takes for granted that POC have no initiative in the world. In the call and response of the mainstream media discourse, POC have only a response, not a call. And as we all know, whoever calls, rules.

I say _________, you say "racist"

Mr. Patel!
Racist!
Airbender!
Racist!

If you look back on any effective movement of the 20th century (suffrage, civil rights, Vietnam) their communication structure all had these things in common:

  1. A clear, articulated overall goal towards which all participants were willing to work for years.
  2. A set, but evolving discourse and vocabulary, which the movement controlled.
  3. Media: alternative media organs (papers and magazines) dedicated to promoting this message and discourse; and, over time, allies in the mainstream media dedicated to promoting this message and discourse.
  4. The necessity of responding deliberately and thoughtfully, owing to the lack of instantaneous communications technology. Because everything written was printed and had to be edited and proofread, everything broadcast had to be accepted by media corporations and could be heavily controlled, the message and discourse were very polished, thoughtful, respectful, and carefully tailored to appeal to listeners who may have held a differing opinion.

If you think about it, OPP simply cannot exist in a movement in which the above conditions obtain. Chaos and Freedom are the twin faces of the same internet beast. The viral responsiveness and speed of protests like Jena 6 and A&F owes to the Freedom face. The lack of a goal, a message, a discourse, and deliberate or thoughtful response owes to the Chaos face. Although there's more than one argument to be made here, I would contend that the POC Antiracist blogosphere is not a movement, it is merely a community.

As such, it can facilitate the creation of temporary movements (like the Jena 6 protest movement), but it cannot change, or even affect, the national discourse on race. All it can do is respond to it.

In my next post, I'm going to talk about initiatives that do shape, or attempt to shape, national discourse on race, and how these work together with online OPP.

May 15, 2009

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do: How To Handle Antiracist POC Communities

ETA: Please note! This is my personal blog and, although I draw on my experience with the organizations I work for, I write on this blog as a private citizen, and not as a representative of any organization! In these posts it's especially important to remember that I'm not speaking for the Carl Brandon Society, but only for myself.

WisCon starts in a week, and, as a result of RaceFail and the more recent resurgence of controversy around race, I've been thinking a lot about the issue of how antiracist action is handled on the internet. I'm going to spend the next week on a series of posts about my thoughts on this topic. I need to clear my head and -- not knowing what to expect from WisCon this year -- prepare my thoughts for whatever comes.

(One quick caveat here: I despaired years ago of getting through to ignorant, privileged whites on the internet through argument, and haven't engaged in that sort of argument for a long time: because it kills me, and because it doesn't seem to do much good. The only thing that works, in my experience, is providing copious resources that someone, who wants to seek and understand, can find and use in his/her own way, so that they can choose to prepare themselves to join a discourse, rather than argue their way into knowledge.

So if I seem to be only criticizing the antiracist POC side here, it's because I am. No amount of tantrums, unprofessionalism, and bad behavior from the privileged side surprises me anymore, and I find it pointless to even criticize it. At the latest, after last year's Rachel-Moss-WisConFail, and the conscious delight privileged white males (and females) took in baiting feminists, people of color, differently abled, and transgendered people, I have refused to engage with such perspectives, which I consider a continuum. I only now engage with "our" responses to such perspectives, or more accurately, with a broader-based strategy to combat ignorance and prejudice in our media and in our society. Doubtless RaceFail blame falls much more heavily on the side of baiters and privileged idiots. But they can't bait those who won't be baited. They can't enrage those who won't be enraged.)

Back in February, around the time I thought that RaceFail was going to die down, I started writing a series of posts on this topic. But RaceFail didn't die down then, nor for another couple of months. The residue of a contentious and conflict-soaked election campaign, and of a devastating economic collapse, the impact of which we'll be unraveling for years, was like jetfuel to the usual flame. Whereas internet blowups usually only last a couple of weeks -- a flash flood -- the almost palpable panic and fear and weariness cracked open the levees we'd been ignoring for so long, and our little corner of the blogosphere was overwhelmed. What started as an initially salutary repeat of a discussion that had never quite been put to rest, soon turned into a community eating itself.

Not coincidentally, February was the time the Carl Brandon Society's Heritage Month book advocacy campaign kicked off. We'd chosen one recommended reading list in January -- immediately before RaceFail had started -- and were trying to put together a second list in February as the tone of the discussion got ugly. The difference was dramatic. In January our members were joyfully and actively participating, just like last year. By mid-February, our list-serv had fallen silent: everyone was too busy at work or in their lives to participate. For the first time since I joined the Carl Brandon Society Steering Committee, our members actually ignored direct requests for participation. And I have to say: I don't blame them one little bit.

Heartsick and anxiety-ridden over the tone the public discourse began to take on, I bowed out of the discussion and abandoned the posts I had started. I did save them, though, and, although I'm even more heart-sick and anxiety-ridden now, I have to talk this out, if only with myself. Essentially, I have to decide, in the next couple of weeks, if I'm going to "break up" with the antiracist blogosphere.

This is not the first time I've had to make such a decision. In the year 2000, I had to "break up" with the discussion list-servs I was on in 1998/99, that helped me learn and understand so much about my own identity and community, and that helped me formulate my own thinking about race and organizing and why these are important. Without those list-servs and those discussions, I could not have become an effective community organizer, teacher, and advocate. I would not have been able to articulate to myself or anyone else why building a community voice is essential to racial justice.

But the discussions on those list-servs stayed in one place and cycled around that place over and over again, like a ferris wheel. Staying in that discourse after I had completed a few cycles was not merely annoying, it actually militated against progressive action. It made me anxious and sick to my stomach, it made me angry, and -- whereas initially it had brought me closer to my fellow community members -- it began to drive a wedge between us, emphasizing small differences in opinion, and sucking energy and air away from broader-based action.

I thought I would miss it too much. I said I'd "take a break" for three months and then see if I could go back and take part in a more rational manner. What happened instead was that, within a few weeks, I had nearly forgotten about the list-servs, and had discovered a pocket of free hours that I could now dedicate to more real-world action.

But those were purely discussion list-servs; not only were they not intended for action, but calls for action and event announcements weren't allowed on those lists. Breaking up with the antracist POC blogosphere is a much more complex proposition, because it exists not just for discussion, but also for discourse, not just for expression of outrage, but also for action and organizing. And there are people in this community who are so geographically far away, I can't access them any other way.

So this consideration is not just a "in or out" proposition. Being on the CBS Steering Committee requires me to use online organizing and keep up with what's going on in the communities. Writing for Hyphen blog requires me to participate in POC bloggery. I'm not quitting these organizations, so the question is: how to tailor my participation in online POC antiracist action so as to curtail the negative influence of discussion loops, while keeping me in the loop?

This is what I'll be considering over the next few posts. I probably won't respond to comments until I'm through, since this is a longer thought process than usual, and I don't want to break it off or argue until I've gotten through it. Be advised that anything that smacks to me of attack (in comments) may well be deleted. (That's another tactic I'm going to be considering.)

May 12, 2009

White House Geekery

Obama_computer

I am so in love with deadbrowalking's Wild Unicorn Herd Check-in. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, read this first. As a response to one of Lois McMaster Bujold's more clueless statements -- that PoC didn't exist before the internet, essentially -- deadbrowalking called for PoC nerds, especially outside the US who were second or third generation nerds, to check in. The response has been astounding.

My eyes tear up every time I go there and see that the list has added another page. If you're a nerd of color, please go and check in!

In other news, I picked this up from the unicorn herd: Barack Obama is a nerd of color. (Okay, well, we knew the last part already.) But what does his using a Mac have to do with it? I thought real nerds used pimped out PCs.


May 11, 2009

Can We NOT Do Racefail Again, Please?

I'm sticking my head out of its hole here (please note: my head is NOT wearing its CBS hat) to make a plea ... and realizing that I'll probably either get ignored, or get my head bitten off. This plea goes out to my fellow active and activist PoC and white antiracist SF/F fans. Anyone who doesn't fit this description, please refrain from commenting below (I will probably delete you.)

Apparently, Patricia Wrede has written an alternate history YA in which American Indians/Native Americans simply never existed, replaced by magical mammoths. If you don't immediately see what's wrong with this, read this list of links. (I also surfed through from this post and found a buncha stuff that wasn't on the links post above.) The posts linked often link to further reading, so go knock yourself out surfing.

Okay. I, for one, think this list of posts offers a perfect summation of what the problem with Wrede's premise is. What I'm asking for now is for PoC and white antiracists to take a REALLY DEEP BREATH ... and to fail to have a massive, collective, monthslong comment thread freakout like the one that happened this January/February/March/April (a.k.a. RaceFail '09.)

I know you guys are tired of it. We all are. I know the ignorant and vicious attempts to block and derail discussion are making you crazy. But responding to them in comments didn't do much good a few months ago ... and I think it'll do even less good now that the clueless are still smarting from the pileups at various whitepeople blogs which caused everyone to freak out and f-lock and delete their blogs and out each other's real identities and and and ...

What good did any of that do? What good will it do to go there again? The best thing that came out of RaceFail was a list of good, thoughtful posts about cultural appropriation that we can point out to people who want to be educated. Unfortunately, as much as people during RaceFail were linking to these great posts, they were ALSO engaging in increasingly angry comment threads with flamers and trolls who weren't interested in learning anything, and wouldn't have learned anything even if they were BECAUSE THEY WERE ON THE DEFENSIVE, AS EVERYONE IS IN A COMMENTS THREAD BATTLE.

So my suggestion -- my plea -- is to avoid engaging in comment threads as much as possible. You can't argue someone out of their ignorance. You can only lead them to water and WALK AWAY, hoping they'll drink after you've gone. There are some links pileups starting already. Let's contribute to them, and then make some private pledges to simply link to the links posts in comments and NOT COMMENT FURTHER.

WisCon is a week and a half away. I DO NOT want to walk into WisCon wondering who has put themselves in the wrong now. I DO NOT want to have to navigate sudden, new schisms having to do with random ignorant comments-thread comments. We DO NOT have to use this opportunity to excavate every ignorant corner of our fellow SF/F fans' racial consciousness. Let's put the info out there and let them do what they want to with it.

(A suggestion: those of you planning your own blogpost about this, please consider closing comments, so that anyone who wants to respond cannot do so anonymously, but MUST respond by posting something on their own blog. This will cut down on a lot of opportunities for people to enrage you from the safety of anonymity. I'm leaving comments on this post open because I'm hoping we can discuss ways and means of NOT engaging in a RaceFail 1.5.)

*****

In other news, (putting my CBS hat on): the Carl Brandon Society is sponsoring a "Cultural Appropriation 101" class at Wiscon (Friday afternoon during The Gathering -- it will only take up part of the Gathering time, so you can still attend.) The class will be taught by Nisi Shawl, Victor Raymond (both CBS Steering Committee members) and Cabell Gathman.

This will be a SAFE SPACE for anyone who suspects they may be missing some of the basics to come to and learn and discuss, and ask the questions you're afraid to ask for fear of being jumped on. We strongly recommend that anyone who feels a little shaky in the basics, or who doesn't agree with what a lot of PoC are saying about cultural appropriation, come and attend this class BEFORE going into any panels on race or cultural appropriation. Forearmed is forewarned.

May 05, 2009

Kathleen Duey Twitter Novel

Oh dude.

Oh dude. I know what's going into my aggregator, like, NOW.

Kathleen Duey -- of the awrsome YA novel Skin Hunger -- is writing a Twitter novel live. You can read it on the blog here, or live on Twitter here as it happens.

Already the text has developed a rhythm that comes across similarly to blank verse: you can tell the rhythm's gonna hold up, and it gives the text a stability most prose doesn't have. It'll be interesting to see what kind of content acrobatics she allows that stability to give her.

This whole thing is so exciting I want to pee. Or do one myself.

Via Gwenda.

So The First Thing I Do?

After declaring a daily blogging month? Is to forget to blog the very next day. Yay me.

May 03, 2009

Daily Blogging

Okay, I've been watching my friends who took on the daily blogging thing in April, and I've been really enjoying what they've been coming up with.

Also, I tried out a month's worth of weekly roundup posts and I didn't like them. They don't feel like proper blog posts and I don't feel any satisfaction at doing them.

So I'm going to start blogging every day for a while and see where that leads. Let's give it the month of May.

April 29, 2009

Traditional Immigrant Story

Shipping_routes_national_interest

Pacific shipping routes.

This is just one thread, but it's confusing, so pay attention.

Great-great-grandfather went to San Francisco to pluck duck feathers and carve candles. Great-grandfather didn't join him in the States. Why? It's possible that, returning to Zhong Shan, Great-great blew all the money he had saved on gifts and banquets and couldn't afford to bring his only son over. Another possibility is in the timing: Great-grandfather would have been only 14 in 1882, so perhaps it would have been impossible for him to go, son of a duck-plucker that he was.

Older Cousin, who was going to Costa Rica in 1885, got off the boat too soon and had to establish himself in Colon, Panama instead. Import/export/retail. Cousin offered to pay young Great-grandfather's way to Panama. Skip Ahead.

The year the Canal construction began, now rich enough to support two families, Great-grandfather got a new wife, Great-grandmother, and brought her out to Panama. With three children, and Grandfather on the way, the family moved to Macau, the Portuguese colony off of Hong Kong. Two years later they returned to Panama. Don't know why. Move on.

Great-grandfather and Co returned to Macau in 1922 following his retirement, then Grandfather:

  • studied engineering in Indiana,
  • taught math in Shanghai, where he met Grandmother (who was from Hong Kong, but that's a whole other thread,)
  • settled in Hong Kong until the Japanese invaded,
  • worked for the Chinese nationalist government in Chong Qing until the communists came down,
  • went back to Hong Kong,
  • retired to Vancouver, Canada, and died there.

Which brings us to Mom. She grew up entirely in Hong Kong and mainland China, went to the States to go to graduate school and married there. ... Or something like that.

So my question: if the family makes a good faith effort to return to country of origin, does it all reset? Does Mom get to be a traditional immigrant?

Familypicture

Grandfather is fourth from the far right, last row, holding Youngest Uncle. Mom is seventh from the far right, last row. Oldest Uncle is first on the far right, standing, Second Uncle is seated fourth from the right in front. Grandmother is second row from the top, second from the far left. The rest is family.

For the Joy Luck Hub blog carnival, which I'm running over at Hyphen blog. If you're of Asian diasporic extraction, please submit your 300-word immigrant story, which is NOT like The Joy Luck Club!

April 13, 2009

Weekly Roundup: April 5 - 11

Okay, I'm calling it: Life has jumped the shark. Suddenly, everything's been about Charlie? The whole thing has been about getting Charlie into whatever their organization is? Please. Oh, and also, now he and Danny are oogly over each other? Because she was in danger? There's nothing like a damsel in distress, right? Am I right? And he's the perfect ... cop, gangster, guy, whatever? You can't hold him cuz he can kill you with a karate chop to the throat? Too bad none of the rest of those fools who do time have learned that jailhouse trick. Argh. Stupid show.

Food poisoning this week. That was fun. Sad thing was, I was so doped up from illness that I actually got two good nights' sleep.

Then I went in for a sleep study. Very weird sleeping in a hotel room with about fifty wires glued to my skull and chest and four down my pant legs, plus elastics around my chest and waist. Very creepy. But maybe I'll get to sleep right now. Here's hoping.

Got through another season of The Wire. Now I'm just waiting for season five to show up in my mailbox. Omar is definitely still my favorite character.

Posted about Koreatowns on atlas(t). So I live in Oakland Koreatown now. Whatever.

Two birthday parties this weekend. Fun.

I'm reading Proust Was a Neuroscientist, a birthday gift from Pireeni. I'm not throwing it across the room so much as writing "dumbass!" in it frequently. The dude is a good popular science writer but he doesn't seem to understand how novels work at all. Will have more to say about it when I finish the book.

Went for a walk in the Oakland hills this weekend with Jaime. Very beautiful in springtime. Didn't know there were so many colors of green. But part of one path was along a very steep cliff and had a near panic attack. Funny moment during the worst part when we had turned back and I was talking myself through it: "It's okay, you can do it. It's not a problem. It's okay. You can do it ..." and then a dude came barreling towards us on a mountain bike and I almost lost it. Weird that it was bad when the cliff was on my left side, but when we turned around to come back and the cliff was on my right side it was much, much worse.

I'm putting together a carnival of 300-word Asian American immigrant stories for API Heritage Month on Hyphen blog. This is also to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the publication of The Joy Luck Club. The idea is to get non-Joy-Lucky immigrant stories. Here's the link.

Also, the Carl Brandon Society's API Heritage Month book list will be the same as last year's. Here's that link.

And posted a review-ish piece on the current 21 Grand show on KQED. Here's the link.

April 01, 2009

Bad Book Reading Consequences


Awrsome.

Via.

March 31, 2009

Weekly Roundup: Concept

I've been so bad about blogging here on my beloved personal blog that I feel I have to Take Steps. Or Step.

The Step I'm Taking is to do a weekly roundup post, which will be a repository for things from that week -- links, thoughts, experiences -- writ small. So it's low pressure. I can still post throughout the week, of course, but the roundup will be there if I don't ... or even if I do. (semi-evil cackle.)

We'll see if this works.

Just for clairification, I'm having trouble posting here regularly because I'm posting again (since November, actually) at the Hyphen blog, and taking it very seriously. It's tantamount to a part-time, unpaid writing gig, but I think it's important. And we're bringing the blog back from a low point, so please check it out. Right now I'm rounding up a series of profiles of Asian American women I'm doing for Women's History Month, so have a look.

Another recent thing: I wrote a review of Joel Tan's new book Type O Negative over at KQED, which I'm still writing reviews for. Do check that out as well.

March 30, 2009

Separating the Sheep from the Goats

Awrsome. This made my day, especially the pong.

Via.

March 02, 2009

Blogging Class Questions

So, I'm planning on teaching a beginning blogging class at a community arts center this summer. Thought I'd put it to you folks:

  1. What is the most important thing for beginners to know about blogging before they go in?
  2. What is NEW about blogging that the world has never seen before?
  3. What is IMPORTANT about blogging?
  4. What are your favorite blogs?

Thanks!

February 28, 2009

The Glamorous Life

Here's yet another iTunes meme, via Gwenda. Yes, they're annoying, but I loves 'em. You're it!

***

My Life in Itunes

RULES

1. Put your iTunes, Windows Media Player, etc. on shuffle.

2. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.

3. YOU MUST WRITE THAT SONG NAME DOWN NO MATTER HOW SILLY IT SOUNDS.

4&5. Deleted the part about tagging people, so just do it if you like.

6. Have Fun!


IF SOMEONE SAYS 'ARE YOU OKAY' YOU SAY?

Warm Air Cooling JUDAH JOHNSON

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF

Bootie Intro EARWORM

WHAT DO YOU LIKE IN A GUY/GIRL?

Let's Take a Ride JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE

HOW DO YOU FEEL TODAY?

Don't Stop Believin' in Planet Rock A PLUS D

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE'S PURPOSE?

Bleeding Love LEONA LEWIS

WHAT'S YOUR MOTTO?

Bhangra Fever MIDIVAL PUNDITZ

WHAT DO YOUR FRIENDS THINK OF YOU?

Si Me Prueba No Me Olvidas SAMY Y SANDRA

WHAT DO YOUR PARENTS THINK OF YOU?

Brrrlak! ZAP MAMA

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT VERY OFTEN?

The Space Between ROXY MUSIC

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR BEST FRIEND?

Alagemo THE MOUNTAIN GOATS

WHAT IS YOUR LIFE STORY?

Lizard Brain THE INVISIBLE CITIES

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP?

Better Together JACK JOHNSON

WHAT WILL THEY PLAY AT YOUR FUNERAL?

In a State UNKLE

WHAT IS YOUR HOBBY/INTEREST?

Din Din ZAP MAMA

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST FEAR?

Wish Someone Would Care IRMA THOMAS

WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST SECRET?

Mercury KATHLEEN EDWARDS

WHAT DO YOU WANT RIGHT NOW?

Constellations JACK JOHNSON

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF YOUR FRIENDS?

One for the Head M.I.A.

WHAT WILL YOU POST THIS AS?

The Glamorous Life SHEILA E.

January 08, 2009

Update On 2008's Goals 'n' Objectives

Before I really get into this, I should mention that I spent most of 2008 in a mild depression. I won't get into why, but I'm not ashamed of it and think that people should be clear when they're in a depression that they are (or were, in my case, I'm out of it again, thank oG) depressed. It helps for other people to know. I was depressed from about Sept 2007 to March 2008 and then again from June 2008 until November. I snapped out of it at the end of November and am going strong now.

So I was actually unable to fulfill many of my goals for this very specific reason: writing was mostly out because of it, and exercise was iffy. But here goes:

  • Get writing again. This is the big, important one. The goals are more immediate:
    • full draft of a new short story every month
    • completed first draft of the YA fantasy
    • completed second draft of da Nobble 

Okay this is a tricky one. I DID get started writing again in March and made some serious headway on da nobble, but got stuck again around June-ish. But by rearranging my work plan, I finished the second draft. Also in the spring, I wrote the initial pages and notes for a new novel. But then, of course, got stalled. Only drafted one complete new story -- in fact, I only came up with the one new short story idea. Did ZERO work on the YA fantasy, which may be dead.

  • Read more challenging and inspiring material. In 2007 I read a shitload of YA. Deliberately. And I'm glad I did ... but I kinda feel my muscles atrophying, and I have a pile of grown-up books waiting for me. Also, nonfiction, hello?

Spent a large part of the middle of 2008 doing re-reads and reading fantasy and YA series for escapist purposes, so no, not "challenging."  But I did read a bit more nonfiction and a few more books specifically for analysis purposes, so I did head in the general direction of this goal.

  • Get on the insulin pump, which will definitely happen. I've taken the first steps already and the thing will appear in January most likely. 

I got stalled by a hoop my insurance wanted me to jump through and then the depression got me. Made some strides, but they're void now and I'll have to go back and make them again this year.

  • Work the blogs. This blog you are reading is easy, because when I don't feel like doing a big, long post about something challenging, I can do my equivalent of catblogging. But that's boring for me and you. Plus, I've figured out the difference between atlas(t) and atlas(t): Galleon Trade Edition, and I want to work both. 

I did get started again on atlas(t) and decided definitively to kill Galleon Trade. I also started a new, paid blog and did a good job with it, I think. But then, I got stalled on my personal blogs, and then got started again. Did a LOT of political writing on this blog, which I'm proud of, but I also think I alienated a lot of people with it. Unintended consequence. So, again, sort of.

  • Get fit. I.e. exercise five days a week, minimum twenty minutes. No other goals there, because apparently, this is challenging enough. 

I tried. I managed to do some exercise most weeks, although certainly never five days a week.

  • Lose that 15 pounds. It really just slides off when I eat right, so the key to all of this is wanting to eat right, which means handling stress better. Which relates directly to the above objective and the three directly below. 

Lost it, got depressed, gained it back.

  • Get regular massages. 

Yes! I actually met one of my goals!

  • Go dancing regularly. 

No, not at all.

  • Regular dinner parties, game nights, and other relaxing, small social events at my house. Yes.

No, in some ways I did less of this, and in some ways, I did a bit. But my couch broke in June and I didn't get it fixed (part of depression) and it was a convenient, but also unavoidable, reason for me not to entertain. It's getting picked up by the upholsterer on Monday (no shit) so that excuse/reason will be gone after next week. Yee haw!

So I have to say, I'm not as badly off as I thought I was. I did make some headway on most of my goals last year during the times that I was able. When I was disabled by a (mild) depression, I still struggled, and I took steps to address the depression (mostly by getting the massages, still trying to exercise, and finding a shrink finally.) So I'm actually ... proud of what I was able to do last year, although bummed that I took such a hit, moodwise.

So next post, I'm setting goals for 2009, since -- on this reflection -- it DOES seem like goals-setting is worth my while.

December 09, 2008

Gendering Blogs

Via Aqueduct blog I came to the Gender Analyzer, an AI-driven online app that tells you whether a man or a woman wrote a particular blog.

Naturally I had to try it out:

  • atlas(t), my mapping, geography, 'n' stuff blog, is 70% certain to be male.
  • atlas(t): The Galleon Trade Edition, my art blog of the Galleon Trade artists exchange project, is 59% certain to be male, "however it's quite gender neutral."
  • SeeLight, this very blog, is 58% male, but is also "quite gender neutral."
  • APAture Live, the live blog I kept for the 10th Annual APAture arts festival, is 52% male, but also ... you know.
  • EnterBrainment, my paid entertainment blog, which I've abandoned now, is 57% FEMALE (but quite gender neutral).

It's interesting, because I use pretty much the same diction and sentence structures in all five blogs, but the vocabulary is different because the topics covered are different. Atlas(t) has a lot of abstract terms, and a very wide variety of terms, because of all the blogs, this one covers the broadest range of topics. Galleon Trade Edition is mostly about art, and SeeLight is mostly about literature. APAture Live was about multidisciplinary arts, but also about relationships and community. And EnterBrainment was about entertainment and celebrities, written for a primarily female audience.

So what I can gather from all of this is that they have simply gendered sets of vocabularies. Sigh.

December 07, 2008

Top Ten

Everybody wants year-end top ten lists!

I pledge to be year-end top ten free on this blog! Argh!

December 02, 2008

Liveblogging "Continue the Conversation - Bay Area Cultural Participation"

I know, I know. You fell asleep halfway through the title. And today's event that I'm liveblogging might not be interesting for anyone who isn't an artist or a nonprofit arts administrator. But then again, I think they've got some fun stuff planned, including a performance by Paul Flores and ... something by Favianna Rodriguez (does it really matter what? Everything she does is cool.) So I'm holding out for the "hmmm ... iiiinteresting" possibility.

Okay, what this is: a "convening" (read: mini-convention) of artists and cultural workers in the Bay Area, especially the East Bay, under the aegis of a consortium of foundations. This has something to do with the Wallace Foundation, and something to do with the San Francisco Foundation. And that's the best I can do three minutes before the show starts. I'll fill in the blanks as they do.

(ETA: A little background: The San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts, two of the Bay Area's primary grantmakers, got funding from the Wallace Foundation to give out individual artist commissions to address "How rapidly changing demographics and/or evolving technologies impact the ways in which artists and arts organizations across the region connect with audiences." I proposed to liveblog APAture 10 (which I ended up doing for myself here), but instead of that proposal, John Killacky asked me to liveblog an artists and orgs convening instead. That is, this one. I worked together with Nicole McGovern of Helicon to set up a Twitter @reply page where people could send comments during the event, as well.)

Here's the info: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 from 1:00 PM - 6:00 PM (PT) at the Oakland Scottish Rite Center. I'd say just come on down since it's free, but they required an rsvp and it "sold out" at least a few days ago. (Wow! Iiiiiiinnnteresting.)

I'm here, I'm all set up. I just posted instructions to the Twitter page on how people can start posting to our Twitter page. (If you have a Twitter account.) People are going to be conversing via Twitter during the convening ... which may or may not be an overly optimistic statement.

The place is organized in tables, labeled with artistic discipline. My first fellow "Literary" person gave me this tip: the "Have Fun Do Good" blog by Britt Bravo. Will check it out. But first, I have to load up on liquids.

1:16 PM: And we're starting with a welcome from Samee Roberts from the City of Oakland (Arts Division). Says: no way to quantify how many artists in Oakland. We are poised on one of the most culturally rich regions of the world. 957,000 people are exposed to art--and a bunch of other statistics I didn't catch. Often the city art programs are the ONLY art programs left in the schools. Arts one of five key growth industries in Oakland in the coming years. Attracting more nonprofits and supporting the business end. Launching major arts marketing initiative in the spring. Today's event is an all-Oakland production.

1:21: Diane Sanchez from East Bay Community Foundation. Makes a joke about tables labeled "Other." Is talking about John Killacky, arts program director at the San Francisco Foundation, and listing his accomplishments when I tune back in from explaining to someone how to make a post to Twitter. Killacky's experienced every side of arts organizing. (From what I've heard, it's all true about him. He works his butt off to support the arts in the Bay Area ... and knows everybody.) Intros John Killacky.

1:23: John Killacky speech:

Shout outs to the folks involved in this event. Mentions previous, smaller convenings. Group of them also brought back the arts office in the City of Oakland. (Applause.) Describes scene when councilman says "Artists, I have heard you. The money's back in." Time of community power.

Could spend the whole afternoon bemoaning the economy. One of the things we need in a bad economy is a loyal and expanding audience, so today we're going to talk about our audiences, and our relationships to them. New demographics and changing technology. Shout out to me. Points out Twitter.

The Wallace Foundation focused on arts organizations around the country and looking at community. Last year Wallace invited Kary Shulman at Grants for the Arts and Killacky to talk about collaboration. Five other cities were invited. Experiment in which Wallace is staying with them for four years, eleven orgs in Bay Area.

(Sigh. I missed a whole chunk of what Killacky was saying because my wireless connection went down a bar and all this stopped loading very fast and I was struggling to manage it. Sorry! He was just talking about what's happening today. Also introduced someone whose name I missed.)

1:34: Killacky again:

Cellphones off except for Twitter. No formal breaks today. There are speakers and a performance "expert," but really today is about your conversation and the "World Cafe" discussion.

Introducing Paul Flores. Poet, playwright, spoken word artist who's been on HBO. Asked him to accept commission to do performance text. Bilingual piece.

1:37 Paul Flores:

Start with funk music and a video of latino youth in SF, the Mission. (Darren Leon at the next table is sit-dancing to the music.) Here comes Paul. Music fades out but Paul stands in front of screen with images running, he's in the scene and also popped out of it. Busting spoken word. (How long does a poem have to be before it becomes a play? How cohesive does a story have to be to be a narrative?)

Beautiful, "mission communist chicano" standing in front of an image of sneakers on power lines. Back in the day, the poets in the 'hood. Shout outs. "Machetes, machetes, machetes in their voices." The part about the food. "The readings were never paid," but they ate well. Sweeping history of the movements from seventies to now, shout out to technology. Mentions his size (he's big). Ends in 1995.

1:44: More conversational now. In 1995 left Chula Vista and came to SF. Met *and here he describes every type known to man*. Everybody was a poet.

Goes into a character with a stick-up-the-ass American accent, dropping items of cultural savvy. Turns him on to poetry slams. Story about SF State and a girl selling Guatemalan textiles. Already has a dress to use for her rape poem. Why does everyone in SF want to go somewhere else. He's only ever wanted to come here. Jack Kerouac fan. "Poet or die ... I think I'm dying." He's a punk ... but cool. Starving.

Girl selling textiles actually daugher of a colonel who burned people during the war. Valley girl Spanglish accent, but had purpose and really wanted to move to El Salvador. Had a plan to move to the jungle and marry an Indian. He doesn't have a plan. His upper-middle class parents not a good example. Realizes that all the Mexicans in the Mission could also be Salvadorean refugees. Listened to the Spanish being spoken around him and it was amazing. It was like being in a foreign country. He's a refugee, too. Everyone saying "Son of a bitch."

1:52: Back to his own persona? No. Now he's a woman activist sitting on the ground trying to sell poetry to passersby. Will trade a book for a burrito or piece of pan dulce. selling revolutionary poetry, not to immigrants. They don't need reminding. Back in the day, shout outs to revolutionaries of years past. Bone through my hair, spear in my hand, tribe. Stood out here and told the truth about property. Everybody wants to live in a loft, like a fishbowl. You a businessman underneath that goatee? Tattoos, body piercings.

Now back to his own persona. (A lot of this funny, but my response time is slowed by typing. Nobody else near me is laughing or reacting. I wonder why.)

2:00: Now he's doing a puppet show with beer cans as puppets. Three beers. I can't see the brands. One is Coors. "Wannabe test tube gangster" Three gangsters talking shit about each other. Somebody holding forth about Sam Colt. One of them is sick and somebody goes to get a guy named "Gato." Gato is a can of Tecate, shorter than the others. Sam dies. Argues over baseball teams and shoots Tecate can.

2:03: Back to persona: reminds of incident when Glickstern of Liquid club beat some Latino patrons with a crowbar and wasn't convicted of anything.

Poem about this and gentrification, hipsterdom. "Are you doing that crowbar thing?" Everything is "_____ thing." "How could gentrification be violent if artists started it?" "That English-only thing ... that electronic hate-mail thing ... that Mexican beer is better at room temperature thing ... doing the volunteer at the pirate store instead thing ..."

How was I different from them? Fought for afterschool arts programs, not bike lane. Couldn't call himself an artist in the Mission until he was evicted. Came to Mission looking for an audience. Now when he walks through the neighborhood, he only sees tourists.

2:09: John Killacky:

By-play with Flores about baseball teams. Paul says Cubs might make it because look at Obama.

Killacky intros Holly Sidford of Helicon Collaborative. She authored reports on various things I didn't quite catch because I was looking at how to spell her name. (Sorry! I'll fill in blanks later.) She'll set the frame before we do World Cafe.

2:11: Holly Sidford:

Was asked to set the frame for the conversation. Trying to hit the key ideas they hope will frame the discussion.

Theme is change: in the economy and community. Is cultural participation changing in the Bay Area? How is that change afffecting you? (Missed the last two. Dude, I do wish speakers would slow down around the key points.)

Change is inevitable. Strains of economic crisis only illuminate trends going on for a while. Rahm Emanuel: a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Thriving in times of significant change requires five attributes:

  • anticipating and analyzing what's going on
  • having right attitude, not feeling like victim
  • capacity to adapt and change
  • articulation and communication, consistently
  • audacity think big, think bold, don't get beaten down by current circumstances.

Short term crisis brings opportunities to address long term challenges. So don't do anything that won't address long term goals. Don't try to save jobs that are going to be lost anyway. Anticipate what the world will look like five years from now.

Fight idea of retrenchment and death by a thousand cuts. Any org can cut 10% and look the same but 30% cuts or more will change the orgs. Will have to rethink fundamentals of org.

We are in a global economic upheaval and we're not taking this seriously enough. We are in a once-in-a-lifetime gale that is ripping up the bases of our economy. California will be particularly hard hit. State deficit will balloon. If the auto industry and financial sector are going through a mass transformation, then the arts "industry" will as well.

How the arts have weathered previous crises: in 4 of 9 recession years totals of arts giving increased. But this is different. Responses of audiences vary but in hard times they tend to shrink and their tastes become more conservative. And applications to art school go up. (general rueful laugh.)

This impacts:

  • revenue--earned and unearned
  • audiences--appetite and capacity
  • programming--scale and frequency
  • partnerships--ripple effects
  • venues--cost, availability.

Need to maintain adaptability b/c all of this is uncertain.

2:20: Lists some statistics about Asian and Latino community growth, white community decline. Rising elderly population. Shows graphs. 27% of Californian population is immigrant. Will grow to 36% within 12 years. (Boy, these are great graphs! I hope they post these. I'll ask them to.) Breaking down ethnicities in Bay Area counties now and in the future.

Implications for arts industry? Young Latino audiences, aging audiences. What themes will artists explore? What technologies? Institutions? How will people manifest support? Continued contests over immigration, language, growth, and public resources. Likely to get more intense. Bigger, more diverse, and older population, smaller working-age population. Immigrants will be supporting Baby Boomers. Women in workforce needed to support aging population.

Alan Brown did a study of cultural engagement patterns in the Inland Empire. Home is most common setting; places of worship and parks are also big for African Americans and Latinos. Taking photos, singing, musical instruments, social dancing are all big. Twice as many  Latinos as whites participate in ethnic heritage. Participation is changing: increasing, doing it themselves. Strong and growing desire to create and share what they create. Technology lowers barriers to artistic expression.

Ways of participating: Inventive, interpretive, curatorial, observational, ambient.

2:31: Obama zeitgeist: Lesson for Cultural Sector:

  • people want to be inspired; want link to a higher purpose and the future
  • the improbable is possible with the right strategy--applying lessons of community organizing, neighborhood by neighborhood
  • entitlements are dead--sense of entitlement, that is--could be what sank Hillary and McCain
  • empower the young--hire young people, respect them
  • participation is our most important renewable resource--Obama's the most diverse campaign, 2.5 million contributions, 1.2 million donors under $100? Made it easy for them to give small amounts.

Participation is our most important renewable resource.

(Good talk. Really interesting points. I hope they post that powerpoint presentation.)

2:36: People from Helicon speaking and explaining "World Cafe" concept. We're getting into small groups of five or six and discussing ... stuff.

World Cafe core assumptions:

  • The knowledge and wisdom we need is present and accessible
  • Collective insight evolves from honoring unique contributions:
    • connecting ideas
    • listening into the middle
    • noticing deeper themes and questions.
  • Intelligence emerges as the system connects to istelf in diverse and creative ways.

We're splitting into small groups by discipline.

ROUND ONE: This first session will be about 25 minutes. Describe your experience of how cultural participation is changing. What lessons have you learned?

I'm going to sign off now and I'll check in at the end of each group.

3:14: So I was in a group with Emily Sevier of CCI, Khan Wong and Valerie Tookes from GFTA (lotsa funders here!) and a ceramic artist who didn't put on her name tag until the end. We talked about new technologies of course. Khan is a gamer! We talked about expanding communities online, and how online apps and games (like World of Warcraft!) are changing the type of cultural participation that happens online. Also how games (like Guitar Hero! You Rock!) brought arts participation back into the home.

ROUND TWO: New question: How would you describe the Bay Area arts community's experience of how cultural participation is changing?

3:20: I'm now at a table with Isaias Rodriguez of YBCA, Samee Roberts of City of Oakland, Rene de Guzman and Indra Mungal of the Oakland Museum. René and Indra talked about Museums being the television model: where you have to be on the couch at 8 PM to see your show. But nowadays, with TV shows online, you can watch what you want, when you want. How do museums update? I complain about bad museum websites.

3:42: The most interesting result for me from this discussion was the consideration that Favianna Rodriguez' really amazing and successful real-world studio sales couldn't happen without the internet. The internet changes the way we organize things in the real world ... not just how many people we can get to the event, but how the event operates. Talked about the long tail of internet commerce.

ETA: This was a really interesting discussion group, but because I didn't take notes during the time, I've lost a lot of what we said. Bad Blogger!

ROUND THREE: The question is what do you see as the future possbilities for cultural participation the Bay Area given what you are hearing today (including your conversations and the context presented)?

3:46: I was looking for a table with total strangers and found it! Nirmala Ramalingam of the San Francisco Foundation, Sherwood Chen, Sade Huron, Jonathan Darr of Young Audiences of Northern California.

I mention my previous museums online complaint and Tate Modern website Tate archive is recommended.

We spent a lot of time going over what was said in previous sessions. We didn't much get to the question at hand, but did talk about the need for arts education to be put back in the schools.

4:14: HARVEST: harvesting ideas after the three rounds.

Changes:

  • people have to get into the electronic public space
  • attentiveness to younger people's perspectives
  • social networking for marketing and communications
  • redefining sense of community
  • multilingualism, multicultural, multiracial
  • definition of "culture" is much broader
  • increasing self-curating; ipods; harder to get audiences to take risks; at same time a yearning for connection; social dancing is exploding
  • changing look of performances
  • participation is more in demand
  • arts are becoming more democratic; elite art forms becoming more unpopular
  • accessible, neighborhood-based and family-based activity

Possibilities:

  • barter? easier to carry a credit card than a chicken; embrace being different things to different groups
  • importance of arts education; audience development
  • opportunity to tap into nonarts groups
  • arts could function as amazon functions--if you like this maybe you'd like this
  • wikipedia doesn't have more obscure stuff; use wikis to make more stuff available
  • arts groups interacting with nonarts groups, social change element
  • partnering with existing local agencies for transportation
  • expertise vs. participation; access for public to make their own traditions.
  • adopt web standards, tagging system, pull each other's feeds
  • Obama's push for rebuilding country's infrastructure, make sure some of those funds are earmarked for artists (yes! the new WPA!)
  • artist-led integration of arts technology to inspire; BA perfect place to incubate that relation.
  • does technology widen or close cultural gap?

4:35: now, take 30 seconds to reflect, then we'll do a modified version of "open space." Come up with a topic of a discussion you'd like to be part of. Then people who propose topics will be leading discussions.

Topics:

  1. drawing audiences to East Bay arts events
  2. what this recession means, the value of cultural participation in terms of civic action
  3. how to engage audiences to participate more actively in specific art projects
  4. getting artists and programs for people in the baby boomer generation
  5. how do we hold the dept of education accountable to getting arts education
  6. organizing a lobbyist in washington to influence obama re: arts
  7. people who are using media technology and other internet tools and resources for cultural participation (Isais)
  8. how oakland and east bay arts orgs can cross promote
  9. new paradigms for sustaining nonprofit orgs
  10. next steps after this event

4:58: Technology group is by far the largest group, and splits very reluctantly into two groups at moderator's insistence ... and then only when Isaias and Favianna, who are leading, each take a different group. I'm with Favi's

She asks: What apps do you use? I'm just gonna list them here:

  • constant contact--email management
  • facebook, myspace, linkedin, tumblr--social networking sites
  • surveymonkey
  • typepad, wordpres, blogger--blogging sites
  • youtube, tubemogul--video share
  • gmail
  • googletalk
  • paypal
  • yahoogroups
  • basecamp, dot project--project management
  • google docs
  • flickr--photo share
  • itunes, amazon--creating product lists

What great models have you seen of people's use of technology?

  • Using paypal to facilitate money exchange.
  • Integrating blog posts with event announcements; integrating different media/apps: embedding videos into event announcements
  • Using tagging, keywords, trackbacks to increase traffic to website. But this requires cost/benefit analysis b/c it takes time.
  • What about rights to images on Flickr?

5:15: Back to center. Each group is going to share one thing they talked about.

  • What's the deal with the recession? group: Keep the conversation going, have another forum on this topic specifically, use your space to convene, have a barter board.
  • Audience participation group: identify how to let ppl into creative process, which is fragile and messy.
  • Getting Boomers to begin creating art group: celebrate those boomers who may have given up a while ago, create intergenerational art opportunities.
  • Next steps group: creating an online way for Bay Area arts orgs to communicate with each other. Also, a physical space.
  • East Bay arts orgs attracting audiences and cross promotion groups (which were actually two groups which melded): openly foster a culture of collaboration among arts orgs of the East Bay. Don't be territorial.
  • Online media tech tools and how to prioritize them group one: good next step is to share best practices.
  • Creating new paradigms for nonprofit orgs group: changing language, 21st century language for fundraising; outreach on Obama campaign model; redefining funding levels to be more comfortable for those in the service area; what does sustainability mean?
  • Lobbying Obama for arts policy: reaching out to Barbara Lee and a whole list of orgs. (Did nobody get the memo about saying just ONE thing you talked about?) Arts to no longer be satisfied with crumbs, etc. (Wow, he's listing too many things for me to type.)
  •  Media group two: big list concept turns into genome concept (Amazon's "If you like this then you'll like ...")
  • Arts education group: willing to partner with other agencies to work with Ron Dellums' office; how to integrate arts into core subjects; understand what they're allowing students to miss out on and why this is unacceptable

5:25: We did amazing work today. Tip of the iceberg. (Seriously, though, are there ever next steps to these things?)

Closing with thank yous and ... oo! Next steps. Question answered. We can't have another day where we sit and talk about great ideas and not have any next steps. This is a four-year initiative. There will be many conversations, and there *can* be other activities. Can use these topics as workshop themes.

Closing with thank you and invitation to reception. Thanks to various participants and funders:

Wallace Foundation
San Francisco Foundation and Grants for the Arts
East Bay Community Foundation
City of Oakland
San Jose Cultural Office
Theater Bay Area
Staffs of Theater Bay Area, San Francisco Foundation, and Grants for the Arts, who staffed the event
Favianna and Reed who are producing a film about this, Moi, Paul for performance
Sound people and folks at Scottish Rite Temple
Paul McGovern who organized entire event

Okay, I'm off to the reception. Will clean up and add links and comments later tonight.

November 30, 2008

I'm Boring

Don't agree with me!

Now that the election is over, I have nothing to saaaaaay! Argh.

But I've reshuffled some blogging dooties: I'm blogging again at Hyphen magazine, if you wanna check me out

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