I’m Going to Get My Anarchist MBA!

The Gold Rush era of California never really interested me, growing up. I thought they were all foolish, these hordes of men who ran across the continent to chase a rumor.

But I saw a painting today in the Oakland Museum that blew like a gust of wind into me: an oil painting of a miner, lean, spare, in colors as drab and flat as his faded pants and canvas shirt.

The detail of his costume, I’d never really understood how spare it was, how few things: a pack, a rifle, a water bottle, an axe, a shovel, a kerchief, a powder horn. With these few things, hiking through the mountains for weeks at a time – something the hardiest of us doesn’t even attempt. Half-starved. Eyes straining for signs of microscopic flakes of metal in the monstrously huge mountains.

One daguerreotype photo wrote how every miner wanted a picture of his land claim, his shack, whatever he had made it to. The original Alfred Bierstadt painting is there, the one of Yosemite, the glowing one, and every painting like this in the landscape section of the art gallery has a little nagging downer placard next to it saying that the painter exaggerated in their representation of the landscape, or even added waterfalls where there where none.

Despite such party poopery, the paintings still glow like fires, drawing us in, capturing the awe more than grating realism ever could.  People always need dreams, utopias, fantasias. We live without them now, and our lives are much diminished. The paintings of San Francisco at the turn of the last century are wobbly, wavy, woozy, barely out of whack.

Read More

Ally Rose, UN Ambassador

Ally Rose, UN Ambassador

Sarah Steerwell Weber, Woman with Leopards

Sarah Steerwell Weber, Woman with Leopards

The Easy Bay

This was the whole reason I moved to the East Bay: to green things. To tumble forward into the reality of Mother Earth, the planet as it really is and was long before us: the forest, the jungle, the trees in their cumulative immensity. There used to be redwoods in the Oakland hills so tall that sailors could navigate by them in the bay. Their former domain matches the trail of the fog, as it cuts across the bay and rolls northeastward in a wave across the hills. 

Read More

The Peacetime War

The only people who believe in peace anymore are grandmothers.

This Tuesday night I walked by a nighttime rally on Market Street, in front of the Montgomery BART stop. There was a huge banner stretched out over the steel grating, made with a string of Christmas lights that spelled out “NO DRONES” in the darkness.

Across the street someone was waving around a giant cardboard model of a drone. The crowd of women had lit votive Spanish candles and scattered around the ground, and most of them had gray hair. I stopped to say hello and thank them, and they asked me to stay, but I said I couldn’t, but I didn’t tell them that I was dissing the anti-drone rally to get to a yoga class, because that would make me a 180 proof California asshole. 

Read More