Features & Columns

Silicon Alleys: Show Goes On

Even a plague can't stop this cadre of artists from performing in San Jose Read More


Silicon Alleys: Show Goes On

History is filled with plagues affecting the arts, but no one predicted this one. On Saturday, San Jose's New Ballet School will present a live-streamed production at the Hammer Theatre, a choreographed ballet with dancers wearing Covid-era masks. Human patrons will not attend, but the dance and the musical accompaniment will take full advantage of the Hammer's recent renovations to accommodate high definition, live-streamed events. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 23, 2020

Author Renata Adler expresses my own feelings when she writes, "Hardly anyone about whom I deeply care resembles anyone else I have ever met, or heard of, or read about in literature." I bet if you're honest, Taurus, you would say the same. It's almost certainly the case that the people you regard as worthy of your love and interest are absolutely unique. In the sense that there are no other characters like them in the world, they are superstars and prodigies. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Road to Ruin

At the corner of Lincoln and Auzerais, you have Roselli Foreign Car Repair, a legendary place. The sign out front is old and weathered in all the right ways. During working hours, pristine Ferraris, Maseratis and Alfa Romeos are often parked around the corner waiting to be repaired. More cars jam the inside of the lot. This is a longstanding business with legions of repeat customers. I can't imagine that corner without Roselli Foreign Car Repair. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 14, 2020

Would you be willing to meditate on how you might become more skilled in the arts of intimacy? Would you consider reading books and websites that offer guidance about strategies for being the best partner and ally you can be? Are you receptive to becoming more devoted to practicing empathy and deep listening? I'm not saying you're deficient in these matters, nor am I implying that you need to improve your mastery of them any more than the rest of us. I simply want you to know that now is an especially favorable time for you to make progress. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Jazz Phantoms

Abandoned buildings remind me of maritime treasures. They're like wrecked ships buried in plain sight. Navigating the former Garden City Casino parking lot and its environs at Stevens Creek and Kiely boulevards, for example, seems like an ancient seafaring expedition. One can sail the seas of ruin, accompanied only by the ghosts and their stories. I have summoned the ghosts of this plaza in previous columns, but as the capitalist onslaught of Halloween products is already upon us, let me begin with the concept of Hauntology. Over the decades, everyone from postmodern philosophers to dub musicians have articulated Hauntology as phantasms persistently infiltrating the current from the past, displacing the concept of time. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of October 7, 2020

According to my reading of the astrological potentials, the coming weeks will be an excellent time for you to take a vacation in reverse. What's that? It's when you devote yourself to renewing and reinvigorating your relationship with the work you love. You intensify your excitement for the vocation or job or long-term quest that teaches you important life lessons. You apply yourself with sublime enthusiasm to honing the discipline you need to fulfill the assignments you came to Earth to accomplish. » Read More

The Best of Silicon Valley 2020

First, that weird virus everybody was worried about in February turned out to be totally mild and disappeared "like a miracle," just like the president said it would. Then white people across the country united to embrace the message of racial equality promoted by the Black Lives Matter movement, finally bringing an end to centuries of discriminatory laws and police enforcement. Man, that was beautiful! Remember how that freak lightning storm they thought would set the entire state of California on fire just burned, like, one tree? » Read More

Silicon Alleys: In Tune

This time, the mad dervish whirl of synchronicity emerged thanks to O'Flaherty's Pub, Crema Coffee and India. Several months ago, I came across a tattered paperback copy of Home to India by Santha Rama Rau at Recycle Bookstore. Published just after World War II, the book chronicled Rau's return to Bombay in 1939 after growing up in London. Even though the premise resonated with me on a deep level, I didn't buy the book because I figured it would still be there whenever I returned. When I did go back to find it, the book was gone. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 30, 2020

"The basic principle of spiritual life is that our problems become the very place to discover wisdom and love." Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield made that brilliant observation. It's always worth meditating on, but it's an especially potent message for you during the first three weeks of October 2020. In my view, now is a highly favorable time for you to extract uplifting lessons by dealing forthrightly with your knottiest dilemmas. I suspect that these lessons could prove useful for the rest of your long life. » Read More

Myth Universe

Stroker's win was praised as both deserved and historic, considering the awards had gone 73 years without even nominating an artist in a wheelchair. But at the same time, the Tonys came under massive criticism for an ironic twist in the ceremony: it wasn't wheelchair accessible. Instead of making her way to the stage to the applause of the theater world like her fellow winners, Stroker had to emerge from backstage to claim her award. The situation generated next-day headlines like "Ali Stroker's Tony Win Was Monumental ... and a Huge Slap in the Face." » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Bird Thoughts

I disembarked at the Lawrence Caltrain Station intending to complain about piles of ugly condos, but ghosts of dead pigeons prevented me from doing so. Now, I have a long history with pigeons, so let me explain. In 2007, the Mercury News kept fawning and fawning over the peregrine falcons nesting at the new San Jose City Hall. At the time, I was a restless, irritable and discontent person whose nervous system didn't exactly process the outside world very well, so as a knee-jerk response I wrote about dead pigeons at the Lawrence Caltrain Station. Call it oppositional defiant disorder if you must, but it happened entirely by accident. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 23, 2020

"It takes a lot of courage to be the same person on the outside that you are on the inside." Author Barbara De Angelis made that observation. I offer it up to you as a fun challenge. During the coming weeks, you may be strongly tempted to be different on the outside than you are on the inside. On the other hand, you'll have the necessary insight and valor to remain unified. In fact, you may ultimately create more congruence between your inside and outside than you have in a long time. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: This Old Haunt

Last week, on a quiet prowl through the half-empty Cambrian Park Plaza, the desolation was inspiring. Amid semi-unhealthy air quality, the doomed plaza made me think of a recent quote by novelist Fatima Farheen Mirza: "Ghosts are misunderstood. So haunted they seek to haunt. But beneath their antics and their anger, their desire is simple, childlike. Look at me, they seem to say, I'm not ready to be invisible yet." One must summon the ghosts and wrestle with them before setting them free. And writing was a way of doing that. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 16, 2020

In one of your past lives, maybe you were a Neanderthal midwife in what's now southern France. In another incarnation, you may have been a 17th-century Guarani shaman who shared your knowledge about local plants with an Italian Jesuit missionary in what's now Uruguay. All the powers and aptitudes you perfected in those and other previous ages could prove helpful as you cultivate your genius in the coming weeks. JUST KIDDING! Cancel my previous speculations. For you Aries folks, past achievements are often of secondary importance as you create your future. In fact, your mandate is usually to transcend the old days and old ways. It may be better not to imitate or rely on old stories, no matter how dazzling. This will be especially true in » Read More

Generation Kendrick

After leaving the conference one afternoon, several attendees witnessed a 14-year-old boy at a nearby bus stop being harassed by police, who believed he had an open container of alcohol. When they confronted the officers, they were pepper-sprayed, but they stood their ground, and were able to get the boy's mom on the phone and later on the scene. She demanded the police release her child. To everyone's amazement, they did. In what felt like a rare win against the police, the crowd of 200 spontaneously chanted the chorus to Kendrick Lamar's recently released song, "Alright": "We gon' be alright! We gon' be alright." » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Flying Colors

If the painter Mark Rothko reincarnated as an Indian woman in Silicon Valley, his name would be Chandrika Marla. In a style reminiscent of Rothko, Marla explores the beauty of the female form through vibrant colors. Her new exhibit, "Women in High Chroma" opens on September 17th at Menlo Park's Art Ventures Gallery and runs through October 23rd. On the afternoon that I hit Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park, much of the road remains blocked off and set aside for outdoor dining. Eateries for the affluent and the comfortable dominate the scene. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 9, 2020

"It's not that some people have willpower and some don't," observes author James S. Gordon. "Rather, it's that some people are ready to change and others are not." Lucky for you, Aries! Your willpower is even more potent than usual right now, and your willingness to change is growing stronger. And so very soon now, I expect you will reach the threshold that enables you to act crisply and forcefully. You will become so convinced that it's wise to instigate transformation that you will just naturally instigate transformation. Adjust, adapt, improvise, improve! » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Gametime Call

Even in the confines of a nondescript parking garage outside Earthquakes Stadium, we could sense that American pro sports were reaching a serious inflection point. To be more precise, it wasn't just a point of inflection; to this columnist, it felt more like a matrix of inflection. As of last Wednesday, Aug. 26, time seemed to warp in strange ways. Coincidences were afoot. Last week, the San Jose Earthquakes were supposed to resume their 2020 Major League Soccer season at home against the Portland Timbers after months of serious safety precautions to accommodate the Covid-19 era. The game would have been the first professional sporting event in Santa Clara County since the initial lockdown in March. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of September 2, 2020

"A new idea is rarely born like Venus attended by graces. More commonly it's modeled of baling wire and acne. More commonly it wheezes and tips over." Those words were written by Aries author Marge Piercy, who has been a fount of good new ideas in the course of her career. I regard her as an expert in generating wheezy, fragile breakthroughs and ultimately turning them into shiny, solid beacons of revelation. Your assignment in the coming weeks, Aries, is to do as Piercy has done so well. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Arts and Chaos

Seventy years ago, SJSU's music building displaced a little-known pet cemetery and just as I started to spill the history in my word processor, all classes were canceled on the first day of the semester. Covid-19 had already forced most university classes into the online world. Then poor air quality from wildfire smoke triggered an across-the-board cancellation around noon on Aug. 19. It was a defining infomercial for our era: There wasn't even time to get over the previous disaster, when another one happened. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 26, 2020

Aries author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes, "Some stuff can be fixed, some stuff can't be. Deciding which is which is part of maturing." I offer this meditation as your assignment in the coming weeks, Aries. You are in a phase when you'll be wise to make various corrections and adjustments. But you should keep in mind that you don't have unlimited time and energy to do so. And that's OK, because some glitches can't be repaired and others aren't fully worthy of your passionate intensity. You really should choose to focus on the few specific acts of mending and healing that will serve you best in the long run. » Read More

Auto Show

"There are a lot of people who don't know what a double feature is," says Tony Maniscalco, vice-president of marketing for West Wind Drive-Ins, which owns Capitol. "So they'll say, 'Okay, you're showing Black Panther and Jungle Book, but I only want to see Jungle Book. Can I come after Black Panther and just see Jungle Book? And of course we tell them they can. They're unsure of how drive-ins operate. We answer all those questions. We get hundreds of them per day." » Read More

Silicon Alleys: A New Hope

The stretch of Race Street between The Alameda and San Carlos Street is a yin-yang fusion of melancholy and hope, a microcosm of everything wrong and right about San Jose.Normally on a street like this, the urban blight exploration junkie falls off the wagon with no positive outlook whatsoever, finishing his column with a tidal wave of despair. This time around, hope sprung eternal. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 19, 2020

"We never know what is enough until we know what's more than enough," said Aries singer Billie Holiday. I don't think that applies to everyone, although it's more likely to be true about the Aries tribe than maybe any other sign of the zodiac. And I'm guessing that the coming weeks could be a time when you will indeed be vivid proof of its validity. That's why I'm issuing a "Too Much of a Good Thing" alert for you. I don't think it'll be harmful to go a bit too far and get a little too much of the good things; it may even be wise and healthy to do so. But please don't go waaayyyy too far and get waaayyyy too much of the good things. » Read More

Portrait of a Broken System

In his remarks, Ek essentially said that musical artists are just going to have to adapt to the world of streaming and the stark economic realities that Spotify created. In remarks to the website Music Ally, Ek said that artists can no longer "record music once every three or four years and expect that's going to be enough." He said that those successful in streaming are those "putting the work in, about the storytelling around the album, and about keeping up a continuous dialogue with your fans." He cited Taylor Swift, the recording industry's 800-lb. gorilla, as an example of how to succeed in the streaming age. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Supply Drop

"We have 500 face masks, with another 1,000 on the way," Tenes tells me, rifling through a mixed bag of materials. "Last time somebody donated boxes, which was really helpful. This time we're collecting kids' masks, also."Organized by CasaQ, a local outfit that teaches Latinx culture via lectures, events and travel experiences, the Farmworker Caravan enlists a spirited convoy to deliver supplies and support for Central Valley campesinos. As Covid-19 migrates from cities to the impoverished areas of rural California, the farmworkers, who often live in camps of multiple families, are especially vulnerable. With Latinos disproportionately affected, the Central Valley has become a pandemic hotspot. » Read More

Indictment in CCW Probe Raises More Questions Than Answers

Why would someone with no apparent South Bay political ties offer so much money so close to an election that the incumbent, by most measures, was already on track to win? In searching for answers, Metro learned that Nielsen emigrated from Denmark to pursue a career in the U.S. as a bodyguard to Silicon Valley A-listers and C-suite execs. The mysterious donor had a background in martial arts and a resume that culminated in a middle management position at AS Solution, a Seattle-based executive protection firm headed by a fellow Dane named Christian West. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 12, 2020

Motivational speaker Les Brown says his mission in life is to help people become uncomfortable with their mediocrity. That same mission is suitable for many of you Rams, as well. And I suspect you'll be able to generate interesting fun and good mischief if you perform it in the coming weeks. Here's a tip on how to make sure you do it well: Don't use shame or derision as you motivate people to be uncomfortable with their mediocrity. A better approach is to be a shining example that inspires them to be as bright as you are. » Read More

Question Mock

I could spend my entire life speaking in blurbs, in sound bites. I think that's from enjoying the media and always reading how journalism takes something and makes it appealing to everybody. There was a headline in the New York Post the other day when Dr. Fauci threw out the first ball at the baseball game: "Catch This." It was so funny. That's the kind of thing that, I don't know, you need media training. I mean, I start my day with about eight newspapers. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Golden Girl

As I stand at Olivia de Havilland's former doorstep in Saratoga, I imagine the ghosts. De Havilland, who passed away of natural causes at her Paris residence on July 26, was the final surviving star from Gone With the Wind, and at 104 was one of the last actors left from the Golden Age of Hollywood. She grew up along with her actress sister, Joan Fontaine, in a Tudor Revival-style house not too far from the main crossroads of downtown Saratoga. A quaint two-story residence with a large backyard, the house retains most of the original architectural design, workmanship and materials, but upon my arrival it looks abandoned. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of August 5, 2020

In her book Sticks, Stones, Roots & Bones, Stephanie Rose Bird reports that among early African Americans, there were specialists who spoke the language of trees. These patient magicians developed intimate relationships with individual trees, learning their moods and rhythms, and even exchanging non-verbal information with them. Trees imparted wisdom about herbal cures, weather patterns and ecologically sound strategies. Until recently, many scientists might have dismissed this lore as delusion. But in his 2016 book The Hidden Life of Trees, forester Peter Wohlleben offers evidence that trees have social lives and do indeed have the power to converse. I've always said that you Aries folks have great potential to conduct meaningful dialogs » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Mother of 'MINE'

Her home turf is the Rancho San Vicente area off McKean Road, a still-wild territory steeped in historical treachery, murder and betrayal related to the quicksilver mines that are rich in opportunity for Clendenen to fuse her passion for nature writing with a penchant for stories about powerful mother figures. "MINE," her new book about the life of Maria Zacarias Bernal de Berreyesa, who was born in 1791 and at age 14 married Jose de los Reyes Berreyesa, weaves all of that together. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 29, 2020

Aries poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti is renowned for his buoyancy. In one of his famous lines, he wrote, "I am awaiting, perpetually and forever, a renaissance of wonder." Here's what I have to say in response to that thought: Your assignment, as an Aries, is NOT to sit there and wait, perpetually and forever, for a renaissance of wonder. Rather, it's your job to embody and actualize and express, perpetually and forever, a renaissance of wonder. The coming weeks will be an especially favorable time for you to rise to new heights in fulfilling this aspect of your life-long assignment. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Eddie Gale, a Mainstay In San Jose's Jazz Scene, Played Outside the Box

Gale, who died July 10 at age 78, gigged with Sun Ra, John Coltrane and Cecil Taylor, to name but a few. Originally from Brooklyn, he lived in downtown San Jose for decades, setting up shop on Sixth Street near SJSU, around the corner from Peanut's Cafe. His wife, Georgette, worked on campus for a long time. Anyone who passed through the jazz programs at SJSU during the last 40 years either knew Gale, played in a band with him, talked shop with him or enjoyed the peacenik vibes of a legendary yet humble performer. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 22, 2020

"The creation of the world did not take place once and for all time, but takes place every day." Aries playwright Samuel Beckett made that observation, and now I'm passing it on to you as you glide into an extra-creative phase of your astrological cycle. I hope you will regard Beckett's idea as an open-ended encouragement to improvise and experiment. May it rouse you to brainstorm about novel possibilities. May it inspire you to explore fresh trends you could launch. May it mobilize you to imagine the new worlds you might Big Bang into existence. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Divine Blight

Who would possibly walk all the way up Hedding to the San Jose Flea Market? So asked the urban-blight exploration junkie, to himself, as he approached the intersection of Hedding and 13th. Hedding, of course, turns into Berryessa, the main thoroughfare of the same district, named after a storied local family back in the Spanish-settler era. With the new BART station opening up right into the flea market, along with various trail connections and piles of luxury condos sprouting up everywhere, the blight junkie needed to reacquaint himself with one of San Jose's oldest industrial neighborhoods near Berryessa and 101, all as part of a solitary sojourn up to the flea market. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 15, 2020

"If the time is not ripe, we have to ripen the time," wrote Aries educator and activist Dorothy Height. This approach worked well during her 98 years on the planet. Her pioneering advocacy for African American women generated a number of practical improvements in their employment opportunities and civil rights. In accordance with the current astrological omens, Aries, I highly recommend her guiding principle for your use. You now have the power to ripen the time, even if no one else believes the time is ripe. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: East of Wrath

Since Covid-19 has stymied the brick-and-mortar library-research process and also driven people to escapist fantasies, I followed the lead of legendary city columnists such as Herb Caen and Jimmy Breslin, who thrived by tapping secret local sources whenever they needed to prowl for scoops and philosophize about their cities. The "what ifs" are often the most intriguing stories, so this columnist, otherwise known as Venerable Herb Caen Rinpoche of The Alameda, recently busted in on a secret Buddhist source near the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood to ponder if John Steinbeck IV ever made it to San Jose. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 8, 2020

"As beautiful as simplicity is, it can become a tradition that stands in the way of exploration," said singer Laura Nyro. This is practical advice for you to heed in the coming weeks. According to my analysis, you're scheduled to enjoy an extended engagement with rich, fertile complexity. The best teachings won't be reducible to a few basic lessons; rather, they'll be rife with soulful nuances. The same is true about the splendid dilemmas that bring you stimulating amusements: They can't and shouldn't be forced into pigeonholes. As a general rule, anything that seems easy and smooth and straightforward will probably not be useful. Your power will come from what's crooked, dense and labyrinthine. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Urban Agriculture Organizers Reinvent in Transformational Times

Out beyond the rusted farm equipment, the parking-lot roosters and the upturned wheelbarrows, a busy six-acre urban farm continues to evolve in the Covid-19 era. To paraphrase Rumi, I met the peacocks there. At the far-back corner of Emma Prusch Farm Park, in the trenches of East San Jose's Mayfair neighborhood, Veggielution, in normal times, provides a smattering of community services. One can take cooking classes, volunteer in the garden or pick up boxes of fresh vegetables direct from the farm just steps away. To get there, one enters the park from the grimy thoroughfare of King Road and then ventures past wooden cow placards, 10-foot-tall sunflower stalks and bored roosters sleeping on the wood chips that cover the parking medians. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of July 1, 2020

Aries author Marge Piercy writes, "The people I love the best, jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows." The Aries people I love best will do just that in the coming days. Now is not the right time to wait around passively, lazily hoping that something better will come along. Nor is it prudent to procrastinate or postpone decisions while shopping around for more options or collecting more research. Dive, Aries, dive! » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Only The Lonely

Near 34th and Santa Clara streets, one sentence on a billboard, profound in its simplicity, captures the San Jose condition on multiple levels. The billboard says, in all lowercase letters: "nothing will be the same here." It begins in blurry fashion, before gradually coming into clarity at the final word. Entire San Jose history books do not say as much as that one sentence does. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 24, 2020

In addition to being a magnificent storyteller, Aries author Barbara Kingsolver raises chickens at her home. "There are days when I am envious of my hens," she writes, "when I hunger for a purpose as perfect and sure as a single daily egg." Do you ever experience that delightful rush of assurance, Aries? I suspect that you're likely to do so on multiple occasions in the coming weeks. And if you are indeed visited by visions of a perfect and sure purpose, your next task will be to initiate practical action to manifest it in the real world. » Read More

The Recovery Begins

A community's identity is often expressed through the locally-based businesses it sustains over the course of decades. The news this week that longtime icon Original Joe's would reopen was comforting news, because let's face it, it's hard to imagine a San Jose without Original Joe's. Despite being part of Silicon Valley's resilient economy, small businesses have been walloped hard. Many were already struggling with competition from digital giants, rising rents fueled by an overheated technology-driven economy and displacement from real estate activity. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: BART Finally Extends Its Line to the Capital of Silicon Valley

For many, the previous day's press conference felt like a city-hall reunion of sorts, with previous mayors, county supes, transportation hotshots, councilmembers and state assemblymen from multiple cities all participating in a strange masked ball, with everyone trying to ID everyone else. VTA even provided piles of commemorative masks just for the occasion. Unlike some cities, San Jose actually practices social distancing, so all chairs remained six feet apart, meaning the dozens in attendance were spread out over quite a range. Some occupied seats while many others stood in the background or on the periphery. Everyone seemed to put aside previous political spats to celebrate what was a milestone event. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 17, 2020

"The answers you get depend upon the questions you ask," wrote physicist and philosopher Thomas Kuhn. That's always true, of course, but it's especially true for you right now. I recommend that you devote substantial amounts of your earthy intelligence to the task of formulating the three most important questions for you to hold at the forefront of your awareness during the rest of 2020. If you do, I suspect you will ultimately receive answers that are useful, interesting and transformative. » Read More

Flash Black

The #OscarsSoWhite protests during the 2015 Academy Awards tried to tell us something. So did Ryan Coogler's Fruitvale. So did Oscar Micheaux's and Charles Burnett's entire filmographies--in Micheaux's case, beginning a century ago. And yet, current events show us that not enough people paid attention to African-American stories. But there's a way to remedy that. Here's a list of 15 exceptional, Black-themed movies we've previously. Most, if not all, are available for streaming now. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Reopened Books

Inside, the piles on the floor were much smaller, yet the place was raring to go. As of right now, anyone can bring in books for trade or cash, as long as they adhere to some logical safety measures. Patrons wear masks and practice physical distancing. As long as you're a compassionate, empathetic, heartfelt person with real human feelings, you shouldn't have an issue with the rules. "The general rules are as when you're inside a grocery store; it's essentially the same type of rules," said Eric Johnson, the store manager. "You make sure you stay six feet away from other people. I made my own rule of two people per aisle, and then we tried to make the transition as touchless as possible between customers and whoever's ringing them up. We » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 10, 2020

During her 90 years on the planet, actor and singer Marlene Dietrich reinvented herself numerous times. She had superb insight into the nature of shifting rhythms, and a knack for gauging the right moment to adapt and transform. Good timing, she said, came naturally to people like her, as well as for "aerialists, jugglers, diplomats, publicists, generals, prize-fighters, revolutionists, financiers, and lovers." I would add one further category to her list: the Aries tribe. Make maximum use of your talent in the coming weeks. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: San Jose's Iconic Streetlight Records Stays The Course

Approaching 30 years at its current location, Streetlight Records has now entered the next stage of reopening by offering contactless curbside pickup. Customers order in advance and then drive on over. Since November of 1992, San Jose's most storied indie record shop has occupied a large building at 980 S. Bascom Ave., anchoring an iconic stretch of wide, fossilized pavement accented with sun-cracked sidewalks, decaying half-dead strip malls leftover from the 1950s, vacant lots, weed-infested gutters, ancient tract-house subdivisions with sloping curbs, paint-peeled apartment complexes and ghosts of dive bars lone gone, all as the gritty Burbank district slowly dissolves into Campbell. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of June 3, 2020

Aries poet Paul Verlaine wrote "Autumn Song" in 1866. It became a well-known French poem, and eventually played a role in a historical turning point. In June 1944, a top-secret British spy organization used the poem as a code to communicate crucial information to the French Resistance, via BBC radio, about the allies' upcoming D-Day invasion of Normandy. In the spirit of poetry being used to accomplish practical actions, I'm now sending out a burst of code to you, Aries. It's adapted from another poem by Verlaine: "Delight in good-omened fortune, baptized by the bristling scents of mint, thyme, and clover on the wind of dawn." Regard this as a signal for you to acquire a necessary resource, strengthen connections with key allies and » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Fire-Gutted Dick's Center Hearkens Back To A Bygone Era In Silicon Valley

Last week, one of San Jose's most decrepit and gloriously crumbling strip malls, Dick's Center on Bascom Avenue, spontaneously burst into flames. Again. With a pandemic washing over the landscape, people often feel a sense of isolation, but the Anti-Man-About-Town prefers to view any situation as one of deep connections across time and space. In this way, one can sit with one's own scarred landscape--both inner and outer--in a much more productive fashion. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 27, 2020

"The best of my nature reveals itself in play, and play is sacred," wrote the feisty Aries author Karen Blixen, who sometimes used the pen name Isak Dinesen. The attitude described in that statement helps illuminate the meaning of another one of her famous quotations: "I do not think that I could ever really love a woman who had not, at one time or another, been up on a broomstick." In my interpretation of this humorous remark, Blixen referred to the fact that she had a strong preference for witchy women with rascally magical ways. I bring this to your attention, Aries, because I'm inviting you to cultivate a Blixen-like streak of sacred play and sly magic in the coming days. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Downtown San Jose Cafe Models Cafe Culture in Time of Isolation

At that time, Nguyen, whose previous life included marketing, social media management and e-commerce, built and launched a new website, Academic Pantry, in two days, to sell high-quality produce. Working with companies that also supplied produce to Manresa and Orchard City Kitchen, Nguyen was able to hawk Brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce and similar produce at almost the same price, if not cheaper, than Whole Foods. In the process, Academic's Instagram account skyrocketed. Followers flocked on in. As a result, coffee shops from around the neighborhood and even the Bay Area called to ask how Academic was making the day-to-day operation work, what Nguyen was using to wipe down the surfaces, what types of cleaning materials he recommended » Read More

Advice Goddess: How Can I Make Her Parents Like Me?

Accordingly, if a woman's looking for a man for herself, research by evolutionary social psychologist Shelli L. Dubbs suggests she's likely to favor "traits that suggest genetic quality," like being physically attractive. However, if the woman's assessing a man for her daughter, she (along with her husband) will likely prioritize "characteristics that suggest high parental investment." In short, parents are wondering about the guy dating their daughter: "Hey, buster, you gonna stick around and pay the mortgage, or will we have to cover it because your paycheck keeps getting tangled up in strippers' G-strings?" » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 20, 2020

"The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for," writes author Barbara Kingsolver. "And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof." According to my analysis of the astrological omens, that is exactly the work you should be doing right now, Gemini. Everything good that can and should happen for you in the coming months depends on you defining what you hope for, and then doing whatever's necessary to live inside that hope. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Counterculture Poet Michael McClure Helped Define a Generation

More recently, I can think of two downtown San Jose moments when I was grateful to be in the same room with him. In 2013, he showed up at the San Jose Museum of Art to attend a major Annie Leibovitz exhibit, Pilgrimage, for which I was grateful to write a cover story. I did not speak to him at the reception, but he was there in all his dapper glory, even at 80 years of age. I was so proud of the museum, especially the curators who lobbied to secure that show for San Jose. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Should I Keep Trying to Get Through to My Wife?

Family gatherings should not be indistinguishable from foreplay. It sounds like you're being visited by the Dark Triad, which, sadly, is not an after-school club for young Batman and his friends. It's a set of three separate but overlapping malevolent personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy, which make for social and personal relationships that would more accurately be called "manipulationships." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 13, 2020

During a pandemic, is it possible to spread the news about your talents and offerings? Yes! That's why I suggest you make sure that everyone who should know about you does indeed know about you. To mobilize your efforts and stimulate your imagination, I came up with colorful titles for you to use to describe yourself on your résumé or in promotional materials or during conversations with potential helpers. 1. Fire-Maker 2. Seed-Sower 3. Brisk Instigator 4. Hope Fiend 5. Gap Leaper 6. Fertility Aficionado 7. Gleam Finder 8. Launch Catalyst 9. Chief Improviser 10. Change Artist » Read More

Silicon Alleys: San Jose Library Deploys 3D Printers to Make Personal Protective Equipment

Likewise, in the Czech Republic, a prototype face shield came into being, thanks to the folks at Prusa Research, a famous and successful 3D printer manufacturer. The design is fully open-source. Anyone can download or modify it. At first, Prusa just threw the files up on their website, but now the design is being used throughout the world, as hospital staffers, first responders, nursing homes and grocery store employees continue to need such equipment. As with the 3D printed masks, the designs are not just somebody's best guess. Prusa worked with the Czech Republic Ministry of Health to help refine the designs to ensure they'd meet the requirements of those in need. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Does This Cheapen Our Entire Relationship?

"I only have eyes for you" is sometimes actually true, like when two people in a relationship are being held hostage together in the trunk of a car. Beyond small-space kidnappings, the reality is typically more like: "I only have eyes for you. And you. And you. And, hey, is that your sister?" We're each attracted to a whole crop of people. However, attraction doesn't necessarily lead to action, at least for those of us who have a psychological moat holding us back. It's largely two things that keep us from sneaking out and having sex with the hot neighbor: love for the person we're with and a personality trait called conscientiousness. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of May 6, 2020

According to Aries author and mythologist Joseph Campbell, "The quest for fire occurred not because anyone knew what the practical uses for fire would be, but because it was fascinating." He was referring to our early human ancestors, and how they stumbled upon a valuable addition to their culture because they were curious about a powerful phenomenon, not because they knew it would ultimately be so valuable. I invite you to be guided by a similar principle in the coming weeks, Aries. Unforeseen benefits may emerge during your investigation into flows and bursts that captivate your imagination. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: PBS Series Explores How Asian Americans Contributed to Rise of Silicon Valley

The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) in San Francisco conceived the series in the long-standing PBS tradition of comprehensive, ethnic-historical documentaries. Told through personal histories, Asian Americans explores the impact of this demographic on the country's past, present and future, all illuminating the significant roles Asian Americans played in shaping American history and identity. In the series, which this columnist has already watched, we get to see the first wave of Asian immigrants circa 1850, then various articulations of identity through eras of social and cultural turmoil in the 20th century, and then finally to the ways Asian immigrants and refugees contributed to the rise of Silicon Valley. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Clone Shark

This sort of thing can seem seriously creepy, until you drop in on a behavioral genetics researcher like Nancy Segal. Research by Segal and others on identical twins separated at birth (sometimes by a hospital mix-up) and raised apart suggests that many of our behaviors and preferences are genetically driven. For example, Segal told me "most behaviors have a 50% genetic effect." There's an interplay between genes and environment that can shake things up a bit, but if Mommy likes hot food and dark-haired men, there's a good chance her daughter (who shares approximately 50% of her DNA) will also be thumbs up for Sergio and Sriracha. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 29, 2020

I always hesitate to advise Aries people to slow down, be more deliberate, and pay closer attention to boring details. The Rams to whom I provide such counsel may be rebelliously annoyed with me--so much so that they move even faster, and with less attention to the details. Nevertheless, I'll risk offering you this advisory right now. Here's my reasoning, which I hope will make the prospect more appealing: If you commit to a phase in which you temporarily invoke more prudence, discretion and watchfulness than usual, it will ultimately reward you with a specific opportunity to make rapid progress. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Shelter-in-Place Takes the 'Street' Out of SoFA Street Fair--But the Show Will Go On

During the COVID-19 era, much of downtown San Jose is empty, with bars, restaurants and public events shut down until safer days emerge. Here's what would normally unfold this Sunday: The spring version of the SoFA Street Fair would include a smattering of outdoor and indoor stages, above ground and below ground, all over the immediate area. Food trucks, beer vendors and artisans would fill the streets. Fans young and old would scramble from stage to stage in search of new sounds. Some would plan it all out in advance via a scheduling app while others would take a more impromptu random approach, tripping around to see what they could discover. And the bands that didn't get booked would bitch about it all year long. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Are There Some Pickup Lines Men Love to Hear?

Fisher's research, like previous research, found that men preferred direct pickup lines to the innocuous and flippant ones. This isn't surprising. Men tend to be bad at picking up hints, and many are terrified of overestimating a woman's interest and waking up to their name hashtagged with #MeToo. When a woman uses a direct pickup line, and especially when she spreads additional direct lines around in conversation, she's telling a guy she's interested in seeing more of him, as opposed to seeing whether she should Mace him. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 22, 2020

The Ojibwe are indigenous people of North America. Professor of Ojibwe studies Anton Treuer writes that in their traditional culture, there have been men who act and dress like women and women who act and dress like men. The former are called ikwekaazo and the latter ikwekaazowag. Both have been "always honored" and "considered to be strong spiritually." Many other Native American groups have had similar arrangements. Transcending traditional gender behavior is not unique to modern Western civilization. With that as inspiration, and in accordance with astrological omens, I invite you to explore any inclinations you might have to be your own unique gender. The time is ripe for experimenting with and deepening your relationship with the » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Anti-Man-About-Town Reflects on Column's 15th Year

Meaning, maybe we will come out of this even stronger. Which is why, despite now being the official 15th anniversary of this column, I will momentarily cast aside any celebrations, or at least give them a different spin. At the moment, sickness and suffering continue to characterize society even more than usual, with heavy loads of stress, anxiety and fear collectively overshadowing any humble anniversary brags I would throw your way. So for the moment, I offer something more important: gratitude. Not just for you, the readers, but for everything this landscape has given me over the last 15 years. And gratitude will get one through a lot of hard times. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Should I Just Try to Forget About Him?

Essential to determining your risk tolerance is figuring out the possible costs if a thing between you and this guy goes all crashy-burn. For example, there could be financial costs if you end up needing to move. You should also factor in your tolerance for drama, like embarrassing public encounters with a Mr. Romantic turned Mr. Should Be In A Jacket With A Lotta Buckles. Also consider your fiscal and emotional fortitude for what psychologists Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham called "unknown unknowns": crazy stuff most of us just wouldn't imagine happening, like much of the adult world getting grounded by the government. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 15, 2020

Most authors do their writing while sitting on chairs in front of desks. But long before there were standing desks, poet Rainer Maria Rilke and children's author Lewis Carroll wrote their books while standing up. Novelist Henry James had eight desks, but typically paced between them as he dictated his thoughts to a secretary. And then there have been weirdos like poet Robert Lowell and novelist Truman Capote. They attended to their craft as they lay in their bed. I suggest you draw inspiration from those two in the coming weeks. It'll be a favorable time to accomplish masterpieces of work and play while in the prone position. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Pie in the Sky

Right now, Tony & Alba's on Stevens Creek Boulevard is knee-deep in all sorts of heroic efforts to help people get through the COVID-19 era, but their humble beginnings go back to the original Mountain View location at 619 Escuela Ave. In the '80s, Mountain View was still a glorious bastion of old-school gritty suburbia, with a smattering of stoner apartment complexes, nefarious car washes, dive bars, stripmalls and Moffett Field employees. High-tech as we know it today was only just emerging. There was no eclectic foodie scene of any sort. When Tony and Alba Salciccia first opened their joint on a side street off El Camino Real, they had no idea what it would turn into.. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Once a Cheater, Always a Cheater?

The question is, does the skeleton that your boyfriend's yanked out of the closet point to a heavily populated closet in your collective future? This is ultimately a question of whether he's a cheater or a person who once cheated. There is a distinction. Sometimes, somebody cheats just to see what it's like to walk on the bad boy/bad girl side--the (heh) Socio Path. And sometimes, in the moment (SEXXXXX!), somebody who's generally considerate puts their partner's feelings on "ignore." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 8, 2020

Moses did forty years' worth of hard work in behalf of his people, delivering them out of slavery in Egypt. Yet God didn't allow him to enter into the Promised Land. Why? At the end of his travails, he made a minor mistake that angered God beyond reason. Petty? Harsh? Very much so. I'm happy to say that your fate will be very different from Moses'. Some months from now, when your labors bring you to the brink of your own personal version of the Promised Land, not even a small error will prevent you from entering and enjoying it. And what you do in the coming weeks will help ensure that later success. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: How African-Americans Navigated Academic Life in Segregated San Jose

Even COVID-19 will not stop local filmmakers from elevating the ignored voices of San Jose history. Over recent months, Naglee ParkÐresident Cotton Stevenson spent a huge amount of time interviewing several alumni members of the Good Brothers, the groundbreaking African American fraternal group that emerged in downtown San Jose in the mid-to-late 1950s. His 30-minute film, gloriously lo-fi and home-movie-like, was scheduled to premiere at the Antioch Baptist Church at Seventh and Julian streets a few weeks ago, until the coronavirus made it clear that people shouldn't be gathering. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Can I Get My Son to Dump His Girlfriend Without Being an Overbearing Mother?

Character doesn't always seem important in a partner until a person gets knocked around by somebody with some big vacancies in that department. In other words, if you want your son to dump this ethically elastic chickie, the ideal thing to say is nothing. Let him marinate in her bad character. Hard as it will be to keep mum, you might try to view him as midway through the natural recovery process in the wake of contracting a nasty parasite--one that's 5-foot-7 and blonde with window-sized Gucci sunglasses you suspect she lifted from some distracted wealthy lady's restaurant table. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of April 1, 2020

"If all the world's a stage, where the hell is the teleprompter?" asks aphorist Sami Feiring. In my astrological opinion, you Aries are the least likely of all the signs to identify with that perspective. While everyone else might wish they could be better prepared for the nonstop improvisational tests of everyday life, most of you tend to prefer what I call the "naked spontaneity" approach. If you were indeed given the chance to use a teleprompter, you'd probably ignore it. Everything I just said is especially and intensely true for you right now. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: A Lonely Road

Solitary walks along empty sidewalks and back alleys in the age of COVID-19 are turning into psychological experiments. Even with stay-home orders in effect, persons and/or their cohabitants are still allowed to go out for walks, jogs, or exercise as long as a distance of six feet from others is maintained. Yet it has become a strange experience. As soon as one sees another person approaching, a game emerges to see who crosses the street first or alters direction. What's a natural born explorer supposed to do? » Read More

Advice Goddess: Could I Win Him Over by Making Him Jealous?

The moment you realize you've got the lukewarms for a guy is the moment you should break it off and move on. You'll be that much further along in meeting somebody who might be right for you. Plus, your sharing any more than a date or two (and a chaste kiss, no nudity) with a guy you're not that into is likely to make his dude friends classify you as off-limits. Of course, it's also seriously unfair to the meh man (who is also a person with feelings) for you to slow-walk him off the plank. Sure, there's this idea that a romantic partner will be your shelter, but that's not supposed to mean they're the bus stop where you wait till the guy you're actually into picks you up. » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 25, 2020

Your oracle comes from Aries poet Octavio Paz: "The path the ancestors cleared is overgrown, unused. The other path, smooth and broad, is crowded with travelers. It goes nowhere. There's a third path: mine. Before me, no one. Behind me, no one. Alone, I find my way." APRIL FOOL! Although the passage by Octavio Paz is mostly accurate for your destiny during the rest of 2020, it's off-kilter in one way: It's too ponderously serious and melodramatic. You should find a way to carry out its advice with meditative grace and effervescent calm. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Nirvana Once Crashed in Japantown Home with Ties to Sub Pop Records

"It was just a typical night at the bar: any Sub Pop band that was touring was automatically invited over," says DeAnn Caughey, who then lived at the house, along with John Graziadei and Carlos Fuentes. Yours truly did not attend the show or the afterparty, although I did show up at the house on numerous other nights. At the time, that address was San Jose's unofficial headquarters for all things Sub Pop Records, the famed Seattle label that can be blamed for the rise of grunge. In early 1990 we weren't even calling it "grunge," but many of us owned Nirvana's Bleach LP or were members of the Sub Pop Singles Club, so the Cactus show was on our radar. » Read More

Advice Goddess: I'd Really Like Her to Stop

When you're female, junior high never ends. The Hello Kitty knife in your back just gets upgraded to one by Cuisinart. Women are said to be the "gentler sex," because we rarely see one drag another out of the bar by her ponytail for a parking lot beatdown. But women aren't better people than men. Female-on-female aggression just plays out differently than the male-on-male kind. Psychologist Anne Campbell explains that women evolved to avoid direct confrontation and instead compete with other women through sneaky "indirect aggression." » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 18, 2020

We interrupt your regularly scheduled horoscopes to offer insights about the virus-driven turning point that the whole world is now experiencing. As you've probably guessed, all of us are being invited to re-evaluate everything we think we know about what it means to be human. I refer to this unprecedented juncture as The Tumultuous Upgrade or The Disruptive Cure. It's fraught with danger and potential opportunities; crisis and possible breakthroughs. And while the coronavirus is the main driving force, it won't be the only factor. We must be ready for more Rough, Tough Healings disguised as Bumpy Challenges in the coming months. » Read More

Monument Man

It's a tale of dashed hopes and silver linings. In other words, it's a typical Irish story. On March 17, 3Below Theaters & Lounge stages the U.S. debut of a play about a small Irish town and a fateful visit from former President Bill Clinton. San Jose denizens will recognize the playwright, Tom McEnery, who served as mayor from 1983 to 1991. In addition to the many properties his family company owns downtown, his name is emblazoned upon the city's convention center. A Statue for Ballybunion, opening March 17, centers around a short detour Clinton once made--in 1998, on his way back to Shannon Airport--to the one-street town of Ballybunion in County Kerry. » Read More

Silicon Alleys: Bright People, Illuminating Films Raise Spirits at Truncated Cinequest Film Festival

At Cinequest, I went looking for sadness, but elation kept breaking through. Opening night filled at least some of the California Theatre for John Pinette: You Go Now, a fantastic documentary about the late comedian's life and eventual decline into drugs and alcohol. While most of the film explored the joy and laughter Pinette brought to people's lives for decades, it was refreshing to see an opener that wasn't a watered-down, family-friendly rom-com, but instead a testament to real-life human suffering. » Read More

Advice Goddess: Why Would He Set Me Up with Someone So Wrong for Me?

To get a little perspective on this, consider the parallels this fix-up fail has with failures in gift-giving. I used to sneer at gift registries for weddings as cheat sheets for the lazy to buy presents for the greedy. Boy, was I ever off base. Research by business school professors Francesca Gino and Francis Flynn found that married people who'd received gifts they'd listed on their registry appreciated them more than the off-list gifts their guests slaved away finding or making. In fact, spouses they surveyed saw these registry gifts (which could take all of four minutes to pick, click, and ship) as more thoughtful and--get this--even more personal! This is the opposite of what we gift-givers think will be the deal. "Gift givers expect » Read More

Free Will Astrology: Week of March 11, 2020

Taurus poet Gary Snyder said, "Three-fourths of philosophy and literature is the talk of people trying to convince themselves that they really like the cage they were tricked into entering." Personally, I think that many of us, not just philosophers and writers, do the same thing. Are you one of us? Your first assignment during the next four weeks will be to explore whether you do indeed tend to convince yourself that you like the cage you were tricked into entering. Your second assignment: If you find that you are in a cage, do everything you can to stop liking it. Third assignment: Use all your ingenuity, call on all the favors you're owed, and conjure up the necessary magic so that you can flee the cage. » Read More