Features & Columns

Silicon Alleys: Under Pressure

Hammer & Lewis hit 100 years old last year, but the party will have to wait Read More

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Silicon Alleys: Under Pressure

Less than a minute after I crossed the threshold, Hammer & Lewis proprietor Ivette Velez and I reminisced about nearby businesses from 30 years ago. We unraveled yarns about Woolworth as well as the former Guadalajara Market and even a Mexican bakery. On the wall, I noticed photos of the original store, plus some old downtown shots from a century ago. Ivette schooled me on fashion history, including the emergence of Angel Flights, Ben Davis and Dickies, our conversation crisscrossing decades in a span of moments. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of January 20, 2021

On May 4, 2019, my Aries friend Leah woke up in a state of amazement. During the night, she felt she had miraculously become completely enlightened. Over the next 16 hours, she understood her life perfectly. Everything made sense to her. She was in love with every person and animal she knew. But by the next morning, the exalted serenity had faded, and she realized that her enlightenment had been temporary. She wasn't mad or sad, however. The experience shook her up so delightfully that she vowed to forevermore seek to recreate the condition she had enjoyed. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Name Dropper

Last week, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved a resolution to rename portions of Bird Avenue, Montgomery and Autumn streets after President Barack Obama. If everything goes according to plan, catfish sandwiches will be served up at the Poor House Bistro on Barack Obama Boulevard. I am not opposed to this at all. It's much bigger than Woz Way, because with this valiant effort, San Jose joins international locales that have already named places after our 44th president. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of January 13, 2021

Today I received a new email from a Gemini friend who lives in London. It was date-stamped January 15, 2015. Weird! In it, she talked about applying for a new job at a publishing company. That was double weird, because February 2015 was in fact the time she had gotten the editing job that she still has. Her email also conveyed other details about her life that I knew to be old history. So why did it arrive now, six years late? I called her on the phone to see if we could unravel the mystery. In the end we concluded that her email had time-traveled in some inexplicable way. I predict that a comparable event or two will soon happen in your life, Gemini. Blasts from the past will pop in as if yesterday were today. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Music History

After a lifetime of experience, I can say were it not for Music Village, no one from outside Cambrian Park would go to the intersection of Union and Foxworthy avenues. The tiny stripmall there, Union Plaza, goes back to at least the '60s. I don't think the sign has been updated since then. Yet tucked away in the corner, I was proud to rediscover yet another stomping ground from my youth. Along with Guitar Showcase not too far away, Music Village might be the only similar shop left from decades ago, a living throwback to what now seems like the vanishing Wild West, when an industry of locally-owned instrument retail businesses thrived in various pockets of the suburban landscape. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of January 6, 2021

The pandemic has made it challenging to nurture our communities. In order to make new connections and keep our existing connections vibrant, we've had to be extra resourceful. I hope you will make this work one of your holy quests in 2021, Aries. In my astrological opinion, you should be ingenious and tireless as you nurture your web of allies. Your assignment during our ongoing crisis is to lead the way as you show us all how to ply the art of high-minded networking. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: From the Logs

Even though 2020 was one of the worst years on record, the Alley denizen did not give up. He celebrated local heroes, hit a personal milestone, mourned the dead, hit a few unexpected home runs and found gratitude. As the pandemic settled in, local folks did the best they could to soldier through it all. In fact, I used that phrase a few times. Scott's Seafood, Tony & Alba's, Academic Coffee, Streetlight Records, New Ballet San Jose and the public library all showed up in this space. In the latter case, library employees 3D-printed masks for front-line workers. No one knew how long shelter-in-place would last. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of December 30, 2020

Author Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) carried on a long love affair with books. He read thousands of them, wrote more than 20 of them, and further postulated the existence of numerous imaginary books that were never actually written. Of all the writers who roused his adoration, a certain Russian novelist was among the most beloved. Borges wrote, "Like the discovery of love, like the discovery of the sea, the discovery of Fyodor Dostoevsky marks an important date in one's life." I'm wondering if you will experience one of these pivotal discoveries in 2021. I strongly suspect so. It may not be the work of Dostoevsky, but I bet it will have an impact close to those of your original discoveries of love and the sea. » Read More

NYE2020: Go With The Flow

This strange and quiet New Year's Eve is about one thing and one thing only: celebrating in whatever Covid-safe way that can leave 2020 with at least one, sparkly, happy memory. And here at Metro, we're determined to help you do that. It's not an easy task, as the entire Bay Area remains shut down with the most restrictive tier of health safety rules. They are keeping restaurants and bars shuttered, relegating them to delivery and takeout only, and almost every kind of gathering is currently outlawed. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Makers' Market

With people hoarding paper products or refusing to follow basic safety measures, the obnoxious behavior of certain individuals in grocery stores can turn any columnist into a Scrooge. But in the spirit of the season, rather than lose faith in human potential, I imagined the Ghost of Christmas Past taking me on a tour of long-gone San Jose grocery stores back when life was simpler and small businesses could overcome non-pandemic-related obstacles to succeed. I found that at one point, family-owned markets were exponents of San Jose's character. This was a great history lesson. I found hope for the present and the future. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of December 23, 2020

Your capacity for pioneering feats and impressive accomplishments will be at a peak in 2021. So you could become the best human ever at balancing a ladder on your chin or typing with your nose or running long-distance while holding an egg on a spoon with your mouth. But I'd prefer it if you channeled your triumphal energy into more useful innovations and victories. How about making dramatic strides in fulfilling your most important goal? Or ascending to an unprecedented new level of inspiring people with your passionate idealism? Or setting a record for most illusions shed? » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Unearthed Saga

Japantown is the perfect San Jose neighborhood for artists to fuse the natural with the digital, especially now, as one of the city's most intriguing historic locales faces all the classic threats of gentrification, real estate greed and political indifference. A new project, Hidden Histories of Japantown, makes that fusion by implementing augmented reality (AR) technology to dig down deep and tell stories long buried "beneath the surface." AR works by installing an app on a smartphone, which then overlays computer-generated sounds, images and text on the camera's view of the real world, producing an alternate, "augmented" experience. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of December 16, 2020

According to Taoist scholar Chad Hansen, "Western philosophers have endlessly analyzed and dissected a cluster of terms thought to be central to our thinking," such as truth, beauty, reason, knowledge, belief, mind and goodness. But he reports that they've never turned their attention to a central concept of Chinese philosophy: the Tao, which might be defined as the natural, unpredictable flow of life's ever-changing rhythms. I think that you Aries people, more than any other sign of the zodiac, have the greatest potential to cultivate an intuitive sense of how to align yourselves vigorously with the Tao. And you're in prime time to do just that. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Father Fiber

Three years ago, I made a solo pilgrimage to a nondescript white building on College Avenue in Palo Alto. Inside, two members of the Sikh Foundation fed me lunch. With a belly full of tea and Indian food, I completed the pilgrimage upstairs to meet one of the unsung legends of Silicon Valley: the Father of Fiber Optics, Narinder Singh Kapany. I took up a chair while he sat at his desk before an expansive depiction of the Golden Temple in Amritsar on the wall behind him. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of December 9, 2020

According to Taoist scholar Chad Hansen, "Western philosophers have endlessly analyzed and dissected a cluster of terms thought to be central to our thinking," such as truth, beauty, reason, knowledge, belief, mind and goodness. But he reports that they've never turned their attention to a central concept of Chinese philosophy: the Tao, which might be defined as the natural, unpredictable flow of life's ever-changing rhythms. I think that you Aries people, more than any other sign of the zodiac, have the greatest potential to cultivate an intuitive sense of how to align yourselves vigorously with the Tao. And you're in prime time to do just that. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Gone Home

This time, the Tao of synchronicity emerged in connection with the classic San Jose thoroughfare of forgotten suburbia: Umbarger Road. First of all, I, the Urban Blight Exploration Junkie, cannot walk down Umbarger behind the county fairgrounds without channeling a matrix of history. A more standard historian might explain in no crazy terms that David Umbarger was one of the original forty-niners that came west looking for gold and that his descendants eventually sold portions of the family's massive acreage to the Santa Clara County Fair Association. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of December 2, 2020

In 1994, the animated movie The Lion King told the story of the difficult journey made by a young lion as he struggled to claim his destiny as rightful king. A remake of the film appeared in 2019. During the intervening 25 years, the number of real lions living in nature declined dramatically. There are now just 20,000. Why am I telling you such bad news? I hope to inspire you to make 2021 a year when you will resist trends like this. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Tech Tuned In

Even without a live gathering of global humanitarians, hi-end video presentations and reporters mobbing the lasagna, the optimism endures. One of the events I normally look forward to every year at this time is Tech for Global Good, formerly the Tech Awards, which is the San Jose Tech Interactive's signature annual event, a pure-positive celebration of projects showing great promise in addressing humanitarian themes. One gets to hobnob with aspiring entrepreneurs whose goals are not to write phone apps that deliver potato chips at 3am, but instead to address poverty, world hunger, sustainable energy and climate change. The event is one of the most inspiring parties of the year. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 25, 2020

"A little too much is just enough for me," joked poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau. I suspect that when he said that, he was in a phase similar to the one you're in now. I bet he was experiencing a flood of creative ideas, pleasurable self-expressions and loving breakthroughs. He was probably right to risk going a bit too far, because he was learning so much from surpassing his previous limitations and exploring the frontiers outside his comfort zone. Now here's your homework, Aries: Identify two actions you could take that fit the profile I've described here. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Playing Sick

From London in 1665 to downtown San Jose in 2020, the plague will be streamed live this Saturday at 7:30pm. Thanks to the Hammer Theatre's broadcasting technology, SJSU's first-ever virtual play, The Living, will depict 17th century events in which the Great Plague of London infected the population and the king didn't care. Originally crafted by playwright Anthony Clarvoe in the '90s as a response to the AIDS epidemic, The Living now transforms into a play about the Covid-19 era. SJSU Theatre Arts lecturer Johnny Moreno directs the play, while Barnaby Dallas takes on the role of production manager. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 18, 2020

Back in 1974, poet Allen Ginsberg and his "spirit wife," Aries poet Anne Waldman, were roommates at the newly established Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. The school's founder asked these two luminaries to create a poetics program, and thus was born the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Waldman described its ruling principle to be the "outrider" tradition, with a mandate to explore all that was iconoclastic, freethinking and irreverent. The goal of teachers and students alike was to avoid safe and predictable work so as to commune with wild spiritual powers, "keep the energies dancing," and court eternal surprise. I think that would be a healthy approach for you to flirt with during the next few weeks. » Read More

Street Hustle

The wars were mostly battles of identity. I was too academic and intellectual for the dive bar crowd, the punk crowd, or the rock crowd. On the flipside, I was too snotty and punk for the academic crowd. I was too young for the historians and too jaded for the music scene. If I occasionally sat in the Fairmont Lobby Lounge for some peace of mind while writing, security would follow me around, thinking I was a homeless person sneaking into the bathroom. In other cases, I'd weave French postmodern philosophy into a particular story or use 20th century art history to help contextualize a column, only to irritate the bar crowd because I used too many big words. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Flight of Fancy

In the Terminal B Arrivals Hall of the Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport, the first installation of Holding the Moment, a new rotating series of artworks, occupies two glass cases. The installation features 16 out of 96 total works by 77 different artists, all to be swapped in and out over the next seven months. The City of San Jose's Office of Cultural Affairs (OCA) partnered with the airport to host the art exhibit, which captures local artists' interpretations of life during the global pandemic crisis. All 77 artists are based in San Jose. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of November 11, 2020

Author Barbara Kingsolver says, "Don't try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say." That's always valuable advice, but it'll be especially useful to keep in mind during the coming weeks. You're probably going to feel more pressure than usual to tell others what they wish you would tell them; you may experience some guilt or worry about being different from their expectations of you. Here's the good news: I'm pretty certain you can be true to yourself without seeming like a jerk to anyone or damaging your long-term interests. So you might as well say and do exactly what's real and genuine. » Read More