Features & Columns

Silicon Alleys 2013 Year in Review

Of time capsules, macarons, TVs shot out by Elvis and C2SV— the year in Silicon Alleys
Silicon Alleys 2013 Year in Review

As 2013 draws to a close, allow me to reflect on some of this year's highlights. On the macro level, world renowned celebrities and artists rolled into town and wormed their way into this column.

From a micro perspective, quite a few local spirits came into their own and materialized right here on this very page. As always, the lens through which Silicon Alleys tended to observe and participate in the San Jose condition was a lens of harmonious opposites: luxury and gutter, punk and technology, native and exotic, academe and the street. In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

Three fixtures in SJSU's English Department—Cathleen Miller, Sally Ashton and Alan Soldofsky—infiltrated the public eye through various projects, both nonfiction and poetry. The art department at that same institution presented a series of centennial celebrations, which inspired this columnist to muse on his own involvement. Somehow, it all comes back into my life, over and over.

On the gallery front, local luminaries at MACLA, Anno Domini, and the San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles all showcased provocative works this year. CreaTV and the School of Arts and Culture at Mexican Heritage Plaza likewise ratcheted up their respective operations. The San Jose Public Library came into focus quite a few times, with new branch openings and historical events of every sort, including this author's reflection of his own history at various branches, his memories of the sheet music collection and even the dilapidated time capsule originally buried underneath the old San Carlos Street main library. Somehow, past, present and future all seemed to merge. Over and over.

One of the year's landmark shows, however, went down at the San Jose Museum of Art in June. Legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz presented a show of her personal photos—not of celebrities, but shots from her own journeys across the country, walking in the footsteps of those who inspired her. She even included a photo of the television Elvis Presley blew a hole in. "David Letterman told me Elvis always shot the television whenever Robert Goulet came on," said Leibovitz, while showing us around the exhibit. That was probably the quote of the year.

Traveling, both at home and abroad, resulted in a grandiose, borderline cosmic evolution of this space. The Urban Blight Exploration Junkie, admittedly silent most of this year, emerged again via a space-time continuum-shattering rampage through the history of Willow Street, including defunct dive bars and even a pizza joint where the Doobie Brothers and Chet Baker performed. Again, past, present and future expanded and contracted like a rubber band.

On a more mystical note, and in one of the top three columns I've ever written, the tea culture of Montreal, Quebec, illuminated a grand cosmic web of synchronicitous plot and counterplot, all of which frequency- and amplitude-modulated the transdimensional muse personified by the folks at Satori Tea Company in San Jose. Try their ginger pu'erh while rereading that one. It's good for digestion.

Continuing with the space-time continuum-shattering spectacles, Cafe Stritch opened up in the former Eulipia space with a tribute to Rahsaan Roland Kirk, the legendary jazzman whose saxophone now sits attached to the wall above the stage. Kirk's tune gave the original venue its name 36 years ago and now his sax gives the venue its current name. His widow even showed up, while former bandmate Steve Turre threw together a transcendental series of shows, even proclaiming that Rahsaan's presence was felt in the space. With that venue, as well as Blackbird Tavern, there is new hope for some sort of a jazz scene besides the yuppie-dinner-jazz-fusion schlock we're usually subjected to.

Of all the transformations of the San Jose condition this year, perhaps the most promising was C2SV, a new conference where punk met technology to shape the future. Silicon Valley pioneers Nolan Bushnell and Steve Wozniak told stories from back when they started the PC and video game industries, while Iggy and The Stooges guitarist James Williamson presented in his capacity as a former Silicon Valley executive and also gigged with the band. Other rock star geniuses included the notorious John McAfee. Whatever next year brings, I guarantee that past, present and future will merge yet again.