Features & Columns

Silicon Alleys: Walking Among Ghosts of Literary Greats in Trieste

The Anti-Man-About-Town heads to the coast of Italy to experience the 'idiosyncratic cosmopolitanism' of Trieste Read More

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Ready Player Fun

TMy afternoon begins with a leisurely stroll through downtown Campbell, but the quiet is soon interrupted as I step through the door of the former Gaslighter Theater. I am immediately greeted with the sounds of bells, whistles, laughter--and a very distinct "wakka, wakka, wakka..." that I hadn't heard in years. I peer into the corner and witness a group of young adults sipping on cold draft beers while playing four-player Pac-Man Battle Royale, then I almost trip over a pack of young kids darting across the room. They move from machine to machine like bees pollinating flowers, but instead of buzzing, they laugh and are enthralled by these 8-bit relics of days past. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Walking Among Ghosts of Literary Greats in Trieste

The author James Joyce harbored a love-hate relationship with his hometown of Dublin, so he exiled himself to Trieste, a city at the tip of the Adriatic Sea, in what's now Italy. Since I've already written about Joyce's birthplace and gravesite, Trieste was the next logical destination. Although Trieste is where Joyce wrote Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, as well as The Dubliners and significant portions of Ulysses, he was not the only one whose ghost began to follow me around. An unapologetically trans-ethnic type of place, Trieste was for centuries the main port city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. After World War I, it became part of Italy. After World War II, it became a free independent territory administered in two different » Read More

Advice Goddess: Paint the House Red

Some people are just irritating. It doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their ovaries. Women's house paint preferences, sadly, have not been a prolific area of scientific study. However, there was a bunch of research suggesting that women's mate preferences shift with their hormone levels during the menstrual cycle--for example, findings that women went for more masculine faces in the fertile phase of their cycle. But these studies had methodological shortcomings, which can lead to false positives. When psychologist Benedict Jones and his colleagues ran a study using more rigorous methodology to check these findings, they found "no compelling evidence that preferences for facial masculinity track changes in women's hormonal » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 13, 2018

My Aries acquaintance Tatiana decided to eliminate sugar from her diet. She drew up a plan to avoid it completely for 30 days, hoping to permanently break its hold over her. I was surprised to learn that she began the project by making a dessert altar in her bedroom, where she placed a chocolate cake and five kinds of candy. She testified that it compelled her willpower to work even harder and become even stronger than if she had excluded all sweet treats from her sight. Do you think this strenuous trick might work for you as you battle your own personal equivalent of a sugar addiction? If not, devise an equally potent strategy. You're on the verge of forever escaping a temptation that's no good for you. Or you're close to vanquishing an » Read More

No Laughing Matter

Is it really a joke if no one's laughing? One would think a professional comedian, especially one who is often mentioned in the same sentence as Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore, would have a ready answer to such a question. But at some point in the middle of the night after the three-day Memorial Day weekend, Roseanne Barr's comic instincts--honed over three decades at the top of her field--failed her spectacularly. For reasons that still mystify her fans and her critics alike, Barr tweeted a "joke" that compared a prominent African-American woman to an ape ... in 2018. By the next morning, she had apologized, but the news cycle was already madly churning. An hour and a half after Barr's apology, African-American comedian Wanda Sykes, » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Memories of Failed 'Jeopardy!' Tryouts Return with Champ's Appearance

After 28 years of operating on San Fernando Street in downtown San Jose, Gordon Biersch (GB) will close its doors for good this weekend. Every bartender and former employee that I can remember, at least those within driving distance, will descend upon the establishment for one last blowout on Saturday. For anyone to appreciate the absurdity of this, I must take you back to an early-'90s version of downtown San Jose, before laptops, cellphones and the World Wide Web, and back when real estate syndicates were scrambling to "revitalize" the neighborhood. Much of the area was still abandoned since the '70s, while other parts of it featured crumbling retail, empty parking lots, stray halfway-house denizens, panhandling transients and fledgling » Read More

Advice Goddess: I Dunno, Maybe Padlock Your Diary?

Having regular sex with you does not give another person the right to rake through your diary like it's the $1 bin at Goodwill.Your boyfriend probably equated your approaching this other guy with an attempt to cheat, but it sounds like it was something different--a sort of preliminary investigation into whether you had any chance with that guy. It turns out that we have a sort of inner auditing department that gets triggered to calculate whether "the one!!!" should maybe be that other one. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 6, 2018

According to my analysis of the astrological omens, you would be wise to ruffle and revise your relationship with time. It would be healthy for you to gain more freedom from its relentless demands; to declare at least some independence from its oppressive hold on you; to elude its push to impinge on every move you make. Here's a ritual you could do to spur your imagination: Smash a timepiece. I mean that literally. Go to the store and invest $20 in a hammer and alarm clock. Take them home and vociferously apply the hammer to the clock in a holy gesture of pure, righteous chastisement. Who knows? This bold protest might trigger some novel ideas about how to slip free from the imperatives of time for a few stolen hours each week. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Corporate Owners Drive Pioneering Downtown Brewpub into Ground

For anyone to appreciate the absurdity of this, I must take you back to an early-'90s version of downtown San Jose, before laptops, cellphones and the World Wide Web, and back when real estate syndicates were scrambling to "revitalize" the neighborhood. Much of the area was still abandoned since the '70s, while other parts of it featured crumbling retail, empty parking lots, stray halfway-house denizens, panhandling transients and fledgling obnoxious jock bars. The light rail had just gone in. Across the street was a not-yet-disastrous attempt to force-cram an upscale open-air shopping mall into the area, the now infamous Pavilion Shops. Downtown had no restaurant scene of any sort, and the entire concept of "good beer" did not exist » Read More

Advice Goddess: Doggy Knows Best

Dogs have proved useful for sniffing out drug stashes, dead bodies and IEDs. How great would it be if you could dispatch your German shepherd Tinker Bell into a bar or party to sniff out the human minefields? "Naw...skip this dude. Serious intimacy issues." People will swear that their dog is a great judge of character--focusing on the, oh, two times he growled at someone they despise but conveniently forgetting all the times he snuggled up to their sociopathic ex. The reality is, research does not support dogs (or even chimps) having what they'd need to assess a person's character--a sophisticated cognitive ability humans have called "theory of mind." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 30, 2018

A critic described Leonardo da Vinci's painting the "Mona Lisa" as "the most visited, most written about, most sung about, most parodied work of art in the world." It hasn't been sold recently, but is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Today it's kept in the world-renowned Louvre Museum in Paris, where it's viewed by millions of art lovers. But for years after its creator's death, it enjoyed little fanfare while hanging in the bathroom of the French King Francois. I'd love to see a similar evolution in your own efforts, Aries: a rise from humble placement and modest appreciation to a more interesting fate and greater approval. The astrological omens suggest that you have more power than usual to make this happen in the » Read More

Cluing In

Kelly Luker needed to learn how to smoke crystal meth. As a criminal defense private investigator in Santa Cruz in the mid-2000s, she had been asked to learn—and be able to demonstrate to a jury--the technique of smoking crystal meth and scraping down particles formed along the inside of a glass pipe. The client was definitely a drug addict, but she had to help prove he wasn't a drug dealer, too--and that meant proving that he wouldn't have been able to profit off the amount of "substandard" drug residue inside his pipe--which he was accused of selling. Luker had never smoked meth, and didn't intend to start now. She needed a teacher, a propane torch, vitamins and liquid air freshener—not all of which were particularly easy to find. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: SJSU, Irish Colleges Exchange Grad-Level Scholarship

Helena Byrne, an Irish singer and storyteller from across the Atlantic, is entertaining a group of 40 people with stories about the footprint of St. Patrick. She sings familiar songs and then conjures up a few pagan stories about Samhain. I'm in the back row, with all of us comfortably jammed into the parlor of Pamela McMahon's house in Santa Clara. Byrne is on tour, her first time ever on the West Coast, and this performance is a fundraiser for the San Jose-Dublin Sister City Committee's educational programs, which include a trans-Atlantic academic exchange between San Jose State University and the prestigious Dublin institutions of Trinity College and Dublin City University. Sister Cities International includes 500 member communities » Read More

Advice Goddess: Are My Shoes a Dealbreaker?

Sadly, the CDC has been remiss in informing men of the exceptional protection against sexually transmitted diseases that open-toe shoes can provide. Men's shoes speak to women. They are a form of what anthropologists and zoologists call "signaling"--communication between organisms. In the mating realm, signals advertise quality in a potential partner--or sound the alarm when it's lacking. Wearing bad shoes (like your stanky, hobo-ready sneakers) suggests you lack the social intelligence to dress like a grown-up and/or the interest in taking care of more than your own needs--like for the five basic bachelor-dude food groups: beer, Hot Pockets, pizza, Doritos and pot edibles. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 23, 2018

The Aries poet Anna Kamienska described the process of writing as akin to "the backbreaking work of hacking a footpath, as in a coal mine; in total darkness, beneath the earth." Whether or not you're a writer, I'm guessing that your life might have felt like that recently. Your progress has been slow and the mood has been dense and the light has been dim. That's the tough news. The good news is that I suspect you will soon be blessed with flashes of illumination and a semi-divine intervention or two. After that, your work will proceed with more ease. The mood will be softer and brighter. » Read More

Bringing the Heat

It's hard to believe 2018 is approaching the halfway mark. It's been nearly five months since the holidays, the days are long, the nights are warm and people are itching to cut loose and have a good time. That's what this guide is for. Consider it a manual for summer fun--a cheat sheet for all the thought-provoking performances, inspiring art, fantastic food and live music that are worth checking out this season. There are up-and-coming bilingual rappers--San Jose-born Snow Tha Product is on the cover--classic and cutting edge plays, outdoor food festivals and celebrations of wine and culture. So, break out the date books, raise a glass and dig in. It's going to be fun. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: This Year's VivaCalle SJ Holds Potential to be Best Yet

Last week, the city of San Jose announced the route for this year's annual Viva CalleSJ open streets initiative, which will expose tens of thousands of residents to the best and worst of San Jo, all in one afternoon. On Sept. 23, the route will start at South First and William streets in downtown San Jose, right smack in the middle of the SoFA Street Fair, where 100 bands will already be gigging throughout the afternoon. Then the route proceeds all the way down Monterey Road, the Champs-Elysees of San Jose's underbelly, before briefly veering down Branham to Martial Cottle Park. As always, various nodes of activity will erupt at specific parts of the route. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Stop Commenting on My Weight

It is more taboo than ever to make cracks about a woman's weight--that is, unless she doesn't have a whole lot of it. Then it's open season: "Wow, what happened to you? Forget where the supermarket is?" However, it probably is not "people" but "people who are female" who are thin-shaming you. Welcome to female intrasexual competition--competition between women--which is covert and sneaky (and thus poisonous) in a way male-on-male competition is not. Men, who evolved to be the warriors and protectors of the species, tend to be openly aggressive. A guy will give another guy a beat-down or publicly dis him: "Yeah, bro, sure you can get a chick to go home with you--if you've got five grand for a sex robot." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 16, 2018

One of the most popular brands of candy in North America is Milk Duds. They're irregularly shaped globs of chocolate caramel. When they were first invented in 1926, the manufacturer's plan was to make them perfect little spheres. But with the rather primitive technology available at that time, this proved impossible. The finished products were blobs, not globes. They tasted good, though. Workers jokingly suggested that the new confection's name include "dud," a word meaning "failure" or "flop." Having sold well now for more than 90 years, Milk Duds have proved that success doesn't necessarily require perfection. Who knows? Maybe their dud-ness has been an essential part of their charm. I suspect there's a metaphorical version of Milk Duds » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Ao Dai Festival Pays Homage to Traditional Vietnamese Gown

By now, many are familiar with an ao dai, the traditional Vietnamese gown, a colorful garment worn mostly by women and usually over trousers. This stylish dress has been the muse for many poets and at least one newspaper columnist for years. However, thanks to the efforts of Jenny Do, a longtime San Jose attorney and Viet arts leader, the dress is now elevated far beyond clothing or fashion. It symbolizes multiple dimensions of female empowerment, liberation, struggle, pride and obstacles overcome. So much, that the fifth Ao Dai Festival erupts this Saturday, including several new components. First, a procession of at least 200 people wearing the ao dai will begin at City Hall and conclude at the San Jose Museum of Art, where a grand-scale » Read More

Advice Goddess: Time to Grow Up

"I need to come over right now!" What are you, a day spa for her emotions crossed with the Burger King drive-thru? It's easy to confuse the chunk of time a friend has been in your life with reason for them to continue being there. It helps to unpack the mystique about how friendships form. Social science research finds that a major driver of friendship is similarity--shared values and attitudes, for example. But demographic similarity is part of it, too--like both being 30-year-old single female zoo workers who went to a crappy college. And though we want to believe we carefully choose the friends in our lives, personality psychologist Mitja Back and his colleagues are among the researchers who've found that "mere proximity" seems to play » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 9, 2018

Born under the sign of Taurus, Edmund Wilson was a renowned 20th-century author and critic who wrote more than 30 books. He also served as editor for Vanity Fair and The New Republic, and influenced the work of at least seven major American novelists. When he was growing up, he spent most of his free time reading books: 16 hours a day during summer vacations. His parents, worried about his obsessive passion, bought him a baseball uniform, hoping to encourage him to diversify his interests. His response was to wear the uniform while reading books 16 hours a day. I trust you will be equally dedicated to your own holy cause or noble pursuit in the coming weeks, Taurus. You have cosmic clearance to be single-minded about doing what you love. » Read More

All Jokes Aside

Despite the prevalance of comedians infusing their work with social commentary, W. Kamau Bell stands distinct. Atop his successful stand-up career, Bell kicked off the third season of his CNN show, United Shades of America, on April 29. On Shades, Bell acts as a sherpa for the couch-bound to discover America. Rather than mostly mock people from confines of a New York studio, Bell travels the nation to allow the most talked-about subgroups in the country explain themselves--even members of the Ku Klux Klan and alt-right leader Richard Spencer. Bell makes a point of attempting to shake people out of their preconceived notions, not that he believes he'll save the world. A disciple of Jon Stewart's school of blending humor and insight while » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Exhibit Brings Indian Art Scene to Diaspora in U.S.

The South Asian avant-garde will invade a psychologist's house in Saratoga this weekend. Thanks to Gallery Metropolis in Mumbai, India, along with some local co-conspirators on the curating and marketing ends, a provocative exhibition, Master Strokes: Unique Contemporary Art from India, will present works from some of the most cutting edge artists currently working in that country. This will not be a showcase of antiquities or "exotic" miniatures. The gallery has shipped a variety of paintings and visual works from its extensive collection straight to the house of Saratoga resident Anu Singh (no relation to me). A clinical psychologist and executive coach with a passion for collecting visual art, Singh aims to introduce members of the Bay » Read More

Advice Goddess: I Did Not Sign Up for This

Not to worry...that fan won't be stalking you forever--hat is, if you'll just sign the medical release she's had drawn up for the two of you to get surgically conjoined. In writing your book, you probably wanted to help others get the monkey off their back--not point them to the open space on yours so they could line up to take its place. The interaction these fans have with you is a "parasocial" relationship, a psych term describing a strong one-sided emotional bond a person develops with a fictional character, celebrity, or media figure. These people aren't crazy; they know, for example, that Jimmy Kimmel isn't their actual "bro." But we're driven by psychological adaptations that are sometimes poorly matched with our modern world, as » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 2, 2018

I hate rampant consumerism almost as much as I hate hatred, so I don't offer the following advice lightly: Buy an experience that could help liberate you from the suffering you've had trouble outgrowing. Or buy a toy that can thaw the frozen joy that's trapped within your out-of-date sadness. Or buy a connection that might inspire you to express a desire you need help in expressing. Or buy an influence that will motivate you to shed a belief or theory that has been cramping your lust for life. Or all of the above! (And if buying these things isn't possible, consider renting.) » Read More

Joey Hernandez: YouTube's Fast Food King

As of 2017, nearly half of the world's population is online. Current U.N. estimates put the number at 3.58 billion users. Of them, nearly a third, regularly tune into YouTube to watch or share videos. According to the company's official blog, a billion hours of video are streamed through the platform every day. That's hours, not minutes, and billion with a 'B.' Every 60 seconds, users upload 300 hours of video to YouTube. By the end of day today, 432,000 hours of new footage will have become part of its archive. In addition to home movies, music videos and promotional content, some of YouTube's massive daily upload is submitted by the site's stars, of whom some make millions of dollars a year from their channels. Some of the site's most » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Book 'Disoriental' Springs from Struggle for Political, Sexual, Cultural Reorientation

When a punk rock lesbian sound engineer from Iran told me her life story in a Paris fertility clinic, I no longer felt disoriented. A sense of grounding, part Eastern, part Western, brought me home as I learned more about her. Kimiâa Sadr escaped Iran at the onset of the revolution in 1979, traveling with her mother and sisters through perilous situations in Turkey before eventually making her way to France. Now she was sitting in a waiting room with a tube of sperm, thanks to her donor, some dude named Pierre. Engrossed by her multiethnic, multigendered, multilingual, mythic story, I learned about various generations of her family back in Iran--her political dissident father, various uncles, and a strange maternal grandmother who could » Read More

Advice Goddess: Is There a Way to Reboot Our Sex Life?

It's understandably depressing if the only time there's heavy breathing in the bedroom is when you're re-enacting WrestleMania XXV--that is, trying to get the duvet cover on. This doesn't mean you should buy into the lesbo-bashing notion of "lesbian bed death"--the myth that lesbian relationships, in particular, are where sex goes to die. The term traces back to a finding from social psychologist Phillip Blumstein and sociologist Pepper Schwartz, published in their 1983 book, "American Couples: Money, Work, Sex." Blumstein and Schwartz, reviewing results from their survey of 12,000 American couples, announced that lesbians in relationships "have sex less frequently by far than any other type of couple." This single survey led to decades of » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 25, 2018

Imagine you're one of four porcupines caught in frigid weather. To keep warm, you all have the urge to huddle together and pool your body heat. But whenever you try to get close, you prick each other with your quills. The only solution to that problem is to move away from each other, even though it means you can't quell your chill as well. This scenario was used by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud as a parable for the human dilemma. We want to be intimate with each other, Freud said, but we hurt each other when we try. The oft-chosen solution is to be partially intimate: not as close as we would like to be, but only as much as we can bear. Now everything I just said, Aries, is a preface for better news: In the coming weeks, neither your own » Read More

Silicon Alleys: San Jose Pens its Name in Literary Annals

As was evidenced by a smattering of legit events last week, downtown San Jose's literature scene is on the uptick. Many ideas came to the surface, especially some thoughts on how to foreground the literature of migration and diaspora. For one, the Center for Literary Arts at San Jose State, already a purveyor of gigs by Nobel laureates and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors for decades, continued its foray into the urban landscape with its final gig of the season. Peter Balakian, who won the 2016 Pulitzer for poetry, read from numerous books and talked about his life's work in researching the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Kicking off the week was former U.S. poet laureate and San Jose legend Juan Felipe Herrera, the poet of "Zen Jose," who led a » Read More

Pot Shots: Proposed Law Would Allow Vets to Prescribe Pot to Pets

Is it time to slip your doggo some dope? Californians have been using medical marijuana for decades, and now more humans are sharing the benefits of blazing with their four-legged friends. But before getting your furbaby lit on some good shit, Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) wants to make sure you check in first with your local veterinarian about the risks and options. That's why he wrote AB 2215, a bill that would protect licensed veterinarians in California from disciplinary action for discussing with pet owners the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for animals. "The law is completely silent on veterinarians advising patient owners or on dispensaries being able to sell anything targeting pets," Kalra said at a reception in » Read More

Advice Goddess: Why are Women So Hard to Read?

That said, you shouldn't be too hard on yourself. The psychological operating system now driving you (and all of us) evolved to solve ancestral mating and survival problems, and what was adaptive back then can be maladaptive today. Take how we evolved to be deeply concerned about safeguarding our reputation. Reputation is essentially our social report card—others' evaluation of the sort of person we are. It matters today, of course, but not in the life-or-death way it often did in an ancestral environment, where--per anthropologist Irven DeVore's estimate--many people were with the same band of about 25 others for much of their life. Back then, if a guy got snubbed by a girl, it would be front-cave news; everybody would know and be » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 18, 2018

In the early history of the automobile, electric engines were more popular and common than gasoline-powered engines. They were less noisy, dirty, smelly, and difficult to operate. It's too bad that thereafter the technology for gasoline cars developed at a faster rate than the technology for electric cars. By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, the petroleum-suckers were in ascendance. They have remained so ever since, playing a significant role in our world's ongoing environmental degradation. Moral of the story: Sometimes the original idea or the early model or the first try is better. According to my analysis of the astrological omens, you should consider applying this hypothesis to your current state of affairs. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Remembering San Jose's Ostrich Farm

The cosmic matrix of San Jose history once again enlightens us all. This time around, after visiting the massive archives at History San Jose across from Kelley Park, I prepared to pound out some words on the San Jose Ostrich Farm that appeared at Alum Rock and King from 1904 to 1909. But lo and behold, I soon discovered that the heroes in the California Room of the main library had already whipped out a similar story just a few months ago. As a result, I shuffled on over there and pored through their storehouse of research materials, leading me to even more inspiring tidbits of local ostrich history. First of all, the California Room is one of this city's most treasured locations. Every crazed tidbit anyone wants to know about this » Read More

Advice Goddess: Does My Profession Make Me Less Desirable as a Partner?

You were never going to be the guy for those women who pictured themselves spending lazy summer afternoons in Martha's Vineyard (as opposed to Martha's Laundromat). However, your having a middlin'-bucks job instead of a megabucks one probably wasn't the root of your mate retention issues. It turns out that there's more to mate value than money and a "high-end" job. In fact, evolutionary psychologist David Buss did a massive cross-cultural survey looking at what men and women want in a partner, and kindness topped the list for each. Intelligence was another list-topper. What wasn't on the lists at all? A partner who's a pushover. Accordingly, you mention psychologist Robert Cialdini, whose "scarcity principle" I've referenced. Basically, we » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 11, 2018

Aries statesman Thomas Jefferson was the third president of the United States. He wrote one of history's most famous documents, the Declaration of Independence. He was an architect, violinist, inventor, and linguist who spoke numerous languages, as well as a philosopher who was knowledgeable about mathematics, surveying, and horticulture. But his most laudable success came in 1789, when he procured the French recipe for macaroni and cheese while living in France, and thereafter introduced the dish into American cuisine. JUST KIDDING! I'm making this little joke in the hope that it will encourage you to keep people focused on your most important qualities, and not get distracted by less essential parts of you. » Read More

The Convention Connection

There may not be a unified field theory yet, but the axis of science, technology and popular culture brought together at the Silicon Valley Comic Con may help the world find the key someday. The Steve Wozniak-founded convention unites authentic scientists and wreakers of fictions, in addition to movie stars who prove the Peter Weller Rule. Weller will never overdraw the credit he got from starring in Robocop and Buckaroo Banzai—the cult film name-checked in Ready Player One. Weller will always work because science fiction and fantasy fans are the most ardent of all fans. And they never forget. Celebs this year include Mads Mikkelsen, the asthmatic Le Chiffre from Casino Royale (2006) and Ian McDiarmid, the palpably evil Emperor Palpatine. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Power of Babel

The Dutch master of sound poetry, Jaap Blonk, will return to San Jose for the first time in 24 years this Saturday, when he unleashes guttural phonetic madness at Anno Domini. Now, before I go off the deep edge with this, allow me to explain that sound poetry is an artistic form emphasizing the raw sounds of the voice as opposed to syntax or semantics. We're talking pure vocal audio, the human voice as noise generator in a performance context. To the uninitiated, watching this stuff might lead you to question the person's sanity or call the paramedics, but as an art form, sound poetry traces all the way back to the dada artists in Zurich, circa 1916, and then even further back to the Italian futurists and perhaps even to "Jabberwocky," if » Read More

Advice Goddess: Looking for Something Longer Term

But ask yourself whether you simply prefer the springier chickens and are actually just afraid of the emotional risks (as well as the emotional adulthood) required in being with somebody closer to your age. That's something you can work to correct. Ultimately, if you want a relationship, the answer to your "Hey, babe...where have you been all my life?" shouldn't be "Um...waiting for my parents to meet so I could do the fun stuff fetuses do, like kickboxing in the womb and giving my mom gestational diabetes." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 4, 2018

A few years ago, a New Zealander named Bruce Simpson announced plans to build a cruise missile at his home using parts he bought legally from eBay and other online stores. In accordance with current astrological omens, I suggest you initiate a comparable project. For example, you could arrange a do-it-yourself space flight by tying a thousand helium balloons to your lawn chair. APRIL FOOL! I lied. Please don't try lunatic schemes like the helium balloon space flight. Here's the truth: Now is a favorabl e time to initiate big, bold projects, but not foolish, big, bold projects. The point is to be both visionary and practical. » Read More

The Best of Silicon Valley 2018

A decade ago the Great Recession hit the U.S. economy. The massive downturn put local merchants out of business and employees out of work. It was a rough time--even for Silicon Valley. But we're back! In the 10 years since dark days of 2008, the world's technological engine has chugged along. The iPhone--not even a year old when the housing bubble burst--would spur a tech renaissance, as entrepreneurs churned out apps that would change the way we interact with the world. For us, however, Silicon Valley is not Uber and Facebook and Tesla, the way the world views us. It's the place where we live. And prosperity has brought a new set of problems as rents soar and local businesses can't find people to hire. » Read More

A Soccer Star Returns to San Jose

Last week, Landon Donovan, one of the best soccer players ever to emerge from U.S. soil, returned to San Jose, the city that launched his career. Now 36, he plays for the Mexican team Club Leon, which battled the Quakes in a friendly game last Saturday. Landon scored the only goal and Leon won the match 1-0. Journalism-wise, only a few of us are left from when Landon played here (2001 to 2004), so it was a poignant experience, at least for me, when he gave a press conference at the end of last week. In comparison to when we held voice recorders in front of him, 17 years ago in crumbling Spartan Stadium locker rooms, he's a more contemplative and wiser dude these days. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Will I Regret Having a Modest Wedding?

Let's think this through. First, there's "We blew our friends away with the wedding of the century!!!" And then: "But, strangely, none of them showed up to our housewarming in our new tent beneath the overpass." To understand your longing to get married in, say, the suburban Taj Mahal, with Beyonce as entertainment, it helps to understand that we are imperfectly rational. Our emotions are our first responders, and those still driving us today are often a mismatch with our modern world. They evolved to solve mating and survival problems in ancestral times. Back then, humans were probably around the same small band of 25 or 50 people all the time. This was a harsh world, entirely lacking in 7-Elevens and online listings of couches to surf. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 28, 2018

A few years ago, a New Zealander named Bruce Simpson announced plans to build a cruise missile at his home using parts he bought legally from eBay and other online stores. In accordance with current astrological omens, I suggest you initiate a comparable project. For example, you could arrange a do-it-yourself space flight by tying a thousand helium balloons to your lawn chair. APRIL FOOL! I lied. Please don't try lunatic schemes like the helium balloon space flight. Here's the truth: Now is a favorabl e time to initiate big, bold projects, but not foolish, big, bold projects. The point is to be both visionary and practical. » Read More

Play Depicts Bloody Legacy of South Asian Partition

India and Pakistan were born from violence. Depicting that violence through the stories of its survivors posed a few obstacles for EnActe Arts, a local theatrical company whose next production, The Parting, comes to the Hammer Theatre this weekend. "Showing graphic violence does not serve the purpose in any way," says Vinita Belani, EnActe's founder and artistic director, when describing her approach. "What we want to show is the idea of violence and the aftermath of violence, and so, because this is a dance-theater-in-equal-parts production, we use dance to stylize the violence. Then we show the actual horror of the violence through the after effects." » Read More

Advice Goddess: Some Closure Would've Been Nice

When a guy just cuts you off like a bad tree limb, it's tempting to come up with ego-cushioning explanations: He's in a coma! He's trapped in a wooded gully in his crashed car! He's being interrogated at a CIA black site! ("Sorry...Mr. Jones is getting a series of painful electric shocks to his nipples right now and cannot come to the phone.") However, the best explanation for this man's disappearance is probably textbook stuff—psych textbook, that is, and specifically a couple of personality traits. One of these is "conscientiousness." And the bad side of the spectrum is being "low in conscientiousness"--psychologists' term for a person who is careless, irresponsible, impulsive, and lacking in self-control and who habitually ducks his » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 21, 2018

The "School of Hard Knocks" is an old-fashioned idiom referring to the unofficial and accidental course of study available via life's tough experiences. The wisdom one gains through this alternate approach to education may be equal or even superior to the knowledge that comes from a formal university or training program. I mention this, Aries, because in accordance with astrological omens, I want to confer upon you a diploma for your new advanced degree from the School of Hard Knocks. (P.S.: When Ph.D. students get their degrees from Finland's University of Helsinki, they are given top hats and swords as well as diplomas. I suggest you reward yourself with exotic props, too.) » Read More

Building Blocks

Even the most charismatic heros are destined to be supplanted by their more stable, if droll, contemporaries. This seems to be hard-boiled into our human destiny. Agamemnon and Achilles were replaced by their less flamboyant counterpart, Odysseus; the fiery promise of fossil-fuel technologies are now being phased out by the boring, reliable and simple electric motor. It's the same play being performed on different stages with a different cast. In that vein, one of the most recent dramas can be seen in the spectacular rise and fall of Bitcoin. » Read More

New Exhibit Features Paintings, Sketches of Vintage Signs

Originally from Bombay, India, Suhita Shirodkar stands on corners, sits on benches, or infiltrates any San Jose locale to paint watercolors of old-school signage. A graphic designer by day, she sketches urban scenes wherever she roams, carrying a notebook, pen and ink, and watercolors to capture vintage components of the landscape as they fade away. Many of her discoveries happen by accident. "It's a cross between journaling and plein-air painting, but it's much more urban-focused and more about documenting, and sort of visual reportage," she says. "And watercolor just happens to be a very portable medium. I like the idea of accidentally finding stuff. Anything that catches my eye is worth drawing, to me." » Read More

Advice Goddess: Should I Date Below My League

After you've had your heart broken, it's tempting to opt for romantic safety measures. For example, a garden gnome could be an ideal partner--because few women will fight you for your 18-inch "Man of Resin" and because his stubby little legs are molded together, making it impossible for him to run away. There's a name for this "dating down" thing you're contemplating: "the principle of least interest." This is sociologist Willard Waller's term--from his observations of dating dynamics between college students--describing how whichever partner is the least emotionally attached is in a position to "exploit" the other. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 14, 2018

The British science fiction TV show Dr. Who has appeared on BBC in 40 of the last 54 years. Over that span, the titular character has been played by 13 different actors. From 2005 until 2010, Aries actor David Tennant was the magic, immortal, time-traveling Dr. Who. His ascendance to the role fulfilled a hopeful prophecy he had made about himself when he was 13 years old. Now is an excellent time for you, too, to predict a glorious, satisfying, or successful occurrence in your own future. Think big and beautiful! » Read More

Cinequest Shines with Eclectic Array of Movies, Artists

One of the best aspects of Cinequest is the emergence of local and interpersonal connections, the crazed ways in which you see yourself in a film, its dynamics or its geography. This year is no exception. First off, Nicolas Cage stole the opening few days' worth of glory. Growing up with August Coppola as a father was quite an experience, he said. August made him read Siddhartha and Aldous Huxley, asking Nicolas to write the missing chapters. Cage also talked about watching Cal Worthington car commercials as a kid. ("Go see Cal!"). I thought I was the only one whose creativity inherited a wild combo of Hermann Hesse, Aldous Huxley and Cal Worthington, a triple-shot of epic proportions. This is why I love Cinequest. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Did I Really Just Get Ghosted?

Of course, it isn't just men who are prone to ride the "seemed like a good idea at the time" seesaw. It's anyone with a human brain. This asking for your number and then never actually dialing it thing appears to be an example of our brain's two systems at work--our quick-to-react emotional system and our slower-to-come-around reasoning system, which I wrote about in a recent column, per the research of psychologist Daniel Kahneman. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 7, 2018

The men who work on offshore oil rigs perform demanding, dangerous tasks on a regular basis. If they make mistakes, they may get injured or befoul the sea with petroleum. As you might guess, the culture on these rigs has traditionally been macho, stoic, and hard-driving. But in recent years, that has changed at one company. Shell Oil's workers in the U.S. were trained by Holocaust survivor Claire Nuer to talk about their feelings, be willing to admit errors and soften their attitudes. As a result, the company's safety record has improved dramatically. If macho dudes toiling on oil rigs can become more vulnerable and open and tenderly expressive, so can you, Aries. And now would be a propitious time to do it. » Read More

Ghosting on Billions

For a champion of the notion that one's youthful indiscretions shouldn't follow one through life, it's a bit ironic that Evan Spiegel's hard-charging Stanford fraternity days are a central focus of this month's hottest business read. But, hey, when you're the world's youngest billionaire, you don't really have to worry about a prospective employer finding posted photos of that night in Puerto Vallarta. And he's safely married to supermodel Miranda Kerr, who's not at her first rodeo either. Still, who needs a fellow Kappa Sigma brother and ex-college journalist as their career biographer? Former Stanford Daily editor Billy Gallagher first interviewed the Snapchat CEO more than six years ago, when they were both undergraduates. » Read More

Multimedia Event Showcases Local Poets, Live Music and Film

The interdisciplinary genius Jean Cocteau opined that all art forms, especially cinema, could be understood as poetry. So in my view it makes sense for the Cinequest Film and VR Festival to incorporate a Poets 'n' Film event. This year the gig will unfold on March 8 at 3Below Theaters & Lounge, the old Camera 3 Cinemas, now fully renovated and transformed. Regulars will jump for joy over the new bathrooms. This year marks the second Poets 'n' Film event after its debut at the 2017 Cinequest. The brainchild of local poet, filmmaker, actress, painter, academic and provocateur, Kimy Martinez, the multimedia event will showcase local poets of all sorts, but also incorporate live music, video projection and costumes. » Read More

Advice Goddess: No Time Like the Present

Procrastination is defined by psychologists as voluntarily delaying some action we need to take, despite our knowing that doing this will probably make the ultimate outcome much worse. Procrastinating seems seriously dumb, right? But consider the sort of tasks we put off. Chances are, nobody needs to nag you 45 times to eat cake or have what you're pretty sure will be mind-blowing sex. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 28, 2018

On Sept. 1, 1666, a London baker named Thomas Farriner didn't take proper precautions to douse the fire in his oven before he went to sleep. Consequences were serious. The conflagration that ignited in his little shop burned down large parts of the city. Three hundred twenty years later, a group of bakers gathered at the original site to offer a ritual atonement. "It's never too late to apologize," said one official, acknowledging the tardiness of the gesture. In that spirit, Aries, I invite you to finally dissolve a clump of guilt you've been carrying . . . or express gratitude that you should have delivered long ago . . . or resolve a messy ending that still bothers you . . . or transform your relationship with an old wound . . . or all » Read More

Cinequest Returns

Last year, in the wake of downtown San Jose losing its first-run movie multiplex, the Camera 12, it looked like the Cinequest was in trouble. In official programs and publicity materials, the shift to screening films at Santana Row and in Redwood City was billed as something akin to an expansion--an opportunity for festivalgoers to experience more of Silicon Valley. If film lovers who had shelled out hundreds of dollars for all-access festival passes viewed all this as marketing spin, they would be forgiven. It's not exactly convenient to schlep from downtown San Jose to Santana Row and then over to the Century 20 in Redwood City--especially when all the movies in the festival used to screen within just a few city blocks of one another. » Read More

The Almaden Brit Celebrates 30 Years

Some of us were hanging out at Britannia Arms on Almaden long before Rod Stewart ever showed up. In my case, as soon as I turned 21, I drove down Blossom Hill at midnight and bought my first legal beer at the Almaden Brit. I think it was a Harp. I was not there at the very beginning in 1988, but since this classic institution is now celebrating its 30th anniversary, the memories are spiraling back to the forefront and I can't hold back my two cents. I have more memories in that pub than at any other place south of Branham that's still left. We'll begin with the 1990 World Cup. There was nothing close to top-flight pro soccer in the U.S. at that time, the rubes on the major networks hated the sport, and there was nowhere else for us to go » Read More

Advice Goddess: I Can't Get My Ex Out of My Head

The widely believed myth that dreams are filled with meaningful symbolism is an unfortunate form of what I call Freud reflux. The assumption that Freud knew what he was talking about comes not from any solid evidence for his claims but, probably in part, because he "accessorized so credibly, with the cigar, the iconic eyewear and the groovy Viennese fainting couch." Psychologist G. William Domhoff, on the other hand, has done decades of research on dreaming. He finds there's really no good scientific evidence that dreams have any importance for guiding our lives. Domhoff explains dreaming as "intensified mind-wandering" that leads to "imaginative but largely realistic simulations of waking life." Brain imaging of people in REM sleep » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 21, 2018

When you're playing poker, a wild card refers to a card that can be used as any card the cardholder wants it to be. If the two of hearts is deemed wild before the game begins, it can be used as an ace of diamonds, jack of clubs, queen of spades, or anything else. That's always a good thing! In the game of life, a wild card is the arrival of an unforeseen element that affects the flow of events unpredictably. It might derail your plans, or alter them in ways that are at first inconvenient but ultimately beneficial. It may even cause them to succeed in an even more interesting fashion than you imagined they could. I bring this up, Aries, because I suspect that you'll be in the Wild Card Season during the next four weeks. Any and all of the » Read More

Emily Chang's 'Brotopia'

It's the stuff of nerdy programmers' dreams: make enough money in Silicon Valley, and the invites to secret sex parties will roll in. The soirées are the 21st-century version of dotcom-era trips to Vegas, where you might see a polyamorous venture capitalist dressed like a bunny before he splits off to have druggy sex with a few women at once. The ratio of women to men is 2-to-1, the opposite of a typical tech sausagefest, and the molly takes many forms: mixed into a coconut, pressed into a Snapchat logo-shaped tablet, passed around in big plastic bags. The motto is "no voyeurism," so everyone basically has to participate, and what starts as a "cuddle puddle" often turns into a full-on orgy. » Read More

Backwater Arts Venue Celebrates 10 Years

Backwater Arts is appropriately named. To get there, one must venture down Senter Road, in this case at nighttime, surrounded by noir strip malls of seedy karaoke joints, beauty salons, laundromats, and a VietAir freight shipping facility before turning east down Quinn Avenue. From there, it's only a short stroll past rundown RVs, computer warehouses, trucking yards and a few characters dumping couches on the sidewalk before Quinn dead-ends at a two-story New England-style house built in 1877 and currently home to Backwater Arts. On a chilly night, local musician Ben Henderson and the amazing female folksy trio the Wild Reeds are gigging on a cool makeshift stage out back. I am among the first to show up. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Can Casual Sex be Emotionally Satisfying?

It's possible for a woman to have an orgasm from hookup sex--just as it's possible to spot a white rhino grazing on a roadway median in suburban Detroit. The reality is, hookups tend to work best if you are a man or a trailer. Research by sociologist Elizabeth A. Armstrong and her colleagues finds that for women, hookup sex is particularly problematic in the orgasm-dispensing department. In first-time hookups, women they surveyed reported orgasms only 11 percent of the time--compared with 67 percent of the time from sex in a relationship. However, the more times a woman had slept with her current hookup partner the more likely she was to finish with screams of ecstasy--and not the ones that stand in for "You 'bout done yet?" » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 14, 2018

At 12,388 feet, Mount Fuji is Japan's highest peak. If you're in good shape, you can reach the top in seven hours. The return trip can be done in half the time--if you're cautious. The loose rocks on the steep trail are more likely to knock you off your feet on the way down than on the way up. I suspect this is an apt metaphor for you in the coming weeks, Aries. Your necessary descent may be deceptively challenging. So make haste slowly! Your power animals are the rabbit and the snail. » Read More

The Book of Love

From Harvey Weinstein's desperate email to his industry bros asking for a "second chance," to Kevin Spacey's tone-deaf, "I now choose to live as a gay man" deflection, to Louis C.K.'s insistence on using the word "dick" in his apology letter, it seems that just about every Hollywood hotshot called out for sexual assault, harassment and misconduct has missed the mark when attempting to make amends. But can we really blame these men? Well, yes. Of course we can. And we should--and will. But if the #MeToo movement is to amount to more than a collection of crushed careers and deflated male egos, our culture needs to undergo a larger paradigm shift. » Read More

Santa Clara County Anoints Mighty Mike Its Poet Laureate

Mighty Mike McGee and I are slouching around inside an undisclosed coffee shop, discussing the laundromats of downtown San Jose. We're rattling off the benefits of carrying our laundry to 11th and San Carlos, as opposed to Eighth and Empire streets. McGee is a fixture in coffee shops like Caffe Frascati, where he runs the weekly Live Lit event every Thursday, and where he also reads from children's books every Sunday morning. But as of this past Monday, McGee is the newly donned Santa Clara County poet laureate, and his biographical info is now permanently enshrined in a county Board of Supervisors meeting agenda packet. McGee has already paid his poetic dues on the streets of San Jose, and it's about to get better. » Read More

Advice Goddess: I'm So Tired of Texting

Back in, say, 539 B.C. in Sumer, if you wanted to tell somebody you were "laughing out loud," you'd have to dispatch your eunuch across town with the message on a cuneiform tablet. OK, so the "tablets" are way more tricked out these days, but oh, how far we haven't come. Texting can be a great way to get to know somebody--somebody who can't talk on the phone because they're hiding in a closet from kidnappers in a Liam Neeson movie. However, assuming neither of you is in immediate danger of being sold into sex slavery by the standard swarthy Hollywood terrorists, you should hold off on any text-athons until after you put in some solid face-to-face time. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of February 7, 2018

British athlete Liam Collins is an accomplished hurdler. In 2017, he won two medals at the World Masters Athletics Indoor Championships in South Korea. Collins is also a stuntman and street performer who does shows in which he hurtles over barriers made of chainsaws and leaps blindfolded through flaming hoops. For the foreseeable future, you may have a dual capacity with some resemblances to his. You could reach a high point in expressing your skills in your chosen field, and also branch out into extraordinary or flamboyant variations on your specialty. » Read More

The Real Sarah Winchester

At night, lit up, it draws people driving past on Winchester Boulevard with its potential for horror. The guides put you in a susceptible frame of mind as you climb the strangely angled stairs and walk the dim corridors. Since the reclusive Sarah Winchester's demise of old age in 1922, the place has had an enthusiastically cultivated bad name. As early as 1939, the WPA Guide to California, an early tourism reference book, described the mansion as "the externalization of a psychopathic mind." » Read More

Finding Literary Inspiration at the Chiang Mai Writers Club

Last week, the anti-man-about-town returned to a literary vortex of major influence. Eight years ago in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I discovered a place on Rachadamnoen Road inside the central area of town. The Chiang Mai Writers Club and Wine Bar was right down the street from the Phra Singh Temple. Bob Tilley, a retired journalist from the UK, owned the place, along with his wife, Tong, and it functioned as the unofficial English-speaking foreign correspondents club of Chiang Mai. Every possible demographic of expat writer might be found inside. A lonesome traveling screenwriter might show up to get drunk in the corner, a journalist might pop in after filing a story, or someone may just be looking for other writers to drink with. The phrase, » Read More

Advice Goddess: Does This Sunspot Make Me Undateable?

I'm a single 33-year-old woman. Suddenly, after years of outdoor sports, I have a dime-sized dark brown sunspot on my face. It's not cancerous, and I'm having it lasered off. This will take a while. Though I cover it with makeup, I'm terribly self-conscious about it, and I don't want to date till it's removed. I know how visual men are, and I don't want a man to find out I have this thing and see me as unattractive. My friends say I'm being ridiculous. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of January 31, 2018

In all of history, humans have mined about 182,000 tons of gold. Best estimates suggest there are still 35 billion tons of gold buried in the earth, but the remaining riches will be more difficult to find and collect than what we've already gotten. We need better technology. If I had to say who would be the entrepreneurs and inventors best qualified to lead the quest, my choice would be members of the Aries tribe. For the foreseeable future, you people will have extra skill at excavating hidden treasure and gathering resources that are hard to access. » Read More