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- The Undercurrent -

Good day all. I hope you’re well. Things on our end are well. We are all over worked, perhaps a bit over extended, a little tired, but pressing on. In fact, the end of December will see the end of The Undercurrent’s third calendar year. As you might recall, December also marks a little vacation for The Undercurrent staff. Once again we come to our special (especially for us) two-month issue. There will not be an individual January issue, so the next time we come to you will be in February. But, before we jump ahead, let me address the issue at hand. As we have done in the past with our twomonth “winter” and “summer” issues, so we do again; namely, we’ve given you a little extra to read. As always, we are chock full of good stuff to read: music, film, book, and restaurant reviews, poems, fiction, games, gardening, and a hodgepodge of additional columns in the back section, as well as the usual fare in the front. This months featured topic is “Movements.” In this section, we look at all different sorts of movements, from plate tectonics & the cultural fluidity of meaning and symbolism to dropping out of the Electoral College & the resurgence of member democracy in the labor movement, and from the slow food movement to the rebirth of the “Victory Gardens” and its new form of urban gardening. In our media section, we look at the “white spaces” that will be left behind once TV switches to a digital signal; some backdoor deals may make for a windfall for media giants. Elsewhere, our S/H/E section may cause you to think twice before you apply your favorite antiperspirant. It being December, we do our part to fight against the consumerism of Christmas. It is a losing battle, but one worth fighting. You see, con2

sumerism takes everything and makes it base. Nothing is sacred. The religious and the secular are up for grabs. Thanksgiving is nothing more than the day before “Black Friday,” and Christmas is a time to buy more gifts than you can afford. President’s Day is a day for President’s Day sales, Memorial Day is the time to buy furniture, and Labor Day marks the day when either one starts or stops wearing white(???). Either way it’s time to buy new clothes for the wardrobe. In our Labor/Econ section, we take a look at the battle brewing between SEIU and UHW. In our State, National, & International section, we bring you another installment of the Palestine Report, as well as some onsite reporting regarding the recent US attack on Syria. Elsewhere in the world, our Panamanian correspondent (You didn’t know we had one, did you? This is the first of what we hope will be many reports from Angel Ricardo Martinez, a Panamanian journalist who covers the Americas for a leading Panamanian newspaper.) brings us news concerning Colombia’s military machinations. As The Fresno Bee and McClatchy continue to shrink their newsrooms and foreign desks, we at The Undercurrent are taking up the slack. There is even more, but I want to draw your attention to the Lost Socratic Dialogues this month. Every month Steven Engeman & Dr H Peter Steeves have brought us brilliant commentaries in the style of Socratic dialogues. What is even more amazing is that the dialogues have matched our featured topic. This month, though, they bring us a special “Chimas Carol.” It is preternaturally funny. Enjoy & here’s the best to you and yours. That’s all for now, more later…

Letter to the Editor:

I’m a longtime fan of The Undercurrent and was amused to find my name mentioned in the coverage of the Hmong Community Garden. It was interesting to find myself described as a “criminal” by the individual known as “irlandeso.” According to the article, my coverage of a press conference in which some city officials offered Hmong gardeners use of Melody Park facilities, presented only the city’s side of the issue and deliberately ignored other points of view. I am sorry if irlandeso received this impression. In fact, I was sent to the press conference at the last minute and did my best to describe what took place there. Since I do not speak Hmong, I accepted in good faith the translation as to how the gardeners felt about the Melody Park offer. I should note that only one gardener would comment on the offer and the others present deferred to him. I only covered this conference because Diana Marcum was off work that day. I did call Diana after the conference to obtain phone numbers of others involved in the controversy, but was not able to reach anyone at those numbers before time constraints required me to file the story. After the article was published, I received a phone call from Summer Vue, who told me that the gardener that I quoted did not think that his sentiments had been translated correctly. Summer did not take issue with the reporting itself. This was a breaking news event. As such, one does not have the luxury of an extended period of time in which to wait for returned calls before writing. I would have enjoyed explaining this to irlandeso, who is always able to reach me at the phone number and email at the bottom of my stories. I would also have communicated this directly to irlandeso, were I to know irlandeso’s true name or his/her email and phone number, which unfortunately seem to have gone missing from the bottom of his/her article. Kind regards, Jim Guy

irlandeso responds:

The next time you write an article based on a press conference by city officials, I would hope that you will be a bit more skeptical of the information that they are feeding you. Calling you a “criminal” journalist was a play on words that I couldn’t resist, but the fact remains that you are a crime journalist and your coverage of that particular press conference was somewhat influenced by your journalism style. If your background allows you to not question politicians and city officials who have an obvious stake in the outcome of the struggle for the Hmong Community Garden, then I believe that your reporting is a crime against our community. It may be a minor crime to report these things as if they are facts, but, in this case, it could determine whether or not families will have enough food to eat over the winter. So, in a way, your negligent reporting, combined with the Fresno Bee’s editorials and policies, end up contributing greatly to the City’s efforts to take food off of these people’s plates this winter. Critical as always, irlandeso soyirlandeso@gmail.com

Dec/Jan 2008/2009

Volume 3

Issue 7

Editorial Board Carlos Fierro Editor editor@fresnoundercurrent.net Jessi Hafer Associate Editor jessi@fresnoundercurrent.net

Matt Espinoza Watson Associate Editor mattw@fresnoundercurrent.net Abid Yahya Associate Editor abid@fresnoundercurrent.net Staff Writers Vahram Antonian

Contributors: Amy Bradley Nicole Castillo Christy Cole Vince Corsaro Cresencia Cruz Steve Early Resa Garcia Stephanie Gonzales Huma Gupta Steven J Ingeman irlandeso Joe Johnson Ángel Ricardo Martínez Christopher Martinez Tracy Newel Daniel Ray Bernardo Salazar H Peter Steeves PhD Ed Stewart Adam Wall

For advertising inquiries, please email ads@fresnoundercurrent.net For letters to the editor, please email letters@fresnoundercurrent.net For submission information, please email submissions@fresnoundercurrent.net For subscription information: FresnoUndercurrent.net or send check for $35 to “The Undercurrent” P.O. Box 4857, Fresno, CA 93744

©2008 Out of respect for our contributors, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in any retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the permission of the Editor-in-Chief.


- The Undercurrent -

Eats & Drinks

Krua Thai Kitchen by Jessi Hafer

29

Nine Things to Put in Your Mouth by Tracy Newel

29

ON THE MEDIA 4

White Space by Jessi Hafer

SCIENCE, HEALTH, & ENVIRONMENT The Stink About Antiperspirant 5 by Jessi Hafer LABOR & ECONOMICS 6 6 8

SEIU’s Latest “Kangaroo Court” by Abid Yahya

EFCA, The Economy, Obama, and Labor? by Steve Early Coping with an Economic Meltdown by Bernardo Salazar

STATE, NATIONAL, INTERNATIONAL AfterWords 9 by Carlos Fierro & Abid Yahya 10 11 12 13 14

Picking up the Pieces After a Very Unnatural Disaster by Resa Garcia Obama and the end of racism by Carlos Fierro Colombia: From “Jaque” to False Positives by Ángel Ricardo Martínez On the Edge of the Maelstrom: Effects of the “Covert” US Raid in Syria by Huma Gupta The Palestine Report by Abid Yahya

FEATURED TOPIC: MOVEMENTS 15 Victory Gardens: A Modern Revival by Stephanie Gonzales

15 16

Food Fight by Tracy Newel Stay in School, but Drop Out of the Electoral College by Daniel Ray & Abid Yahya

17 18

Movement of the Earth: Earthquakes by Jessi Hafer Ollin: Movement by Matt Espinoza Watson

FROM THE LOST SOCRATIC DIALOGUES 18

“A Chi-mas Carol” Discovered by Steven J Ingeman & H Peter Steeves

CALENDAR 20 UnderCurrentEvents Calendar 22 The Undercurrent’s indie PREVIEW PLUGS & PROFILES 23 Con Todo Corazón, Para Café Corazón by Cresencia Cruz

25 25 25 26

Christmas Tree Lane Walking Nights by Jessi Hafer The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged] by Jessi Hafer Get Your Slingshot Organizer Now by Jessi Hafer 36th Annual Chicano/a Youth Conference by Matt Espinoza Watson

MUSIC [RE]VIEWS 26

Four Short Music Reviews by The Undercurrent editors

BOOK REVIEW 27

Unending Rooms by Matt Espinoza Watson

About the Cover Collection” 30 “Centaure by Joe Johnson 30

“The Opening” by Nicole Castillo

BORED? GAMES! 32

Killer Bunnies: Journey to Jupiter by Jessi Hafer

GREEN UP YOUR THUMB Motivation 33 Cultivating by Christy Cole THE UNDERCURRENT SPOTLIGHT 33

Ali Bahar by Vahram Antonian

COLUMNS 34

The View Looks Good From Here, Fresno by Adam & Ed

SHORT FICTION 34

Way of the Gun (part 2 of 2) by Christopher Martinez

POETRY 38

Four Untitled Poems by Amy Bradley

PUZZLE PAGE 39


On the Media - The Undercurrent -

Free

Radio waves and television waves currently broadcast in the radio frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum (EMS). Visible light is also part of the electromagnetic spectrum, with the visible spectrum appearing as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet light (you may recall “ROY G BIV” from school). To communicate the similarities between visible light and radio waves, I explain to students that the frequencies in the radio spectrum are really like invisible colors. All these colors travel through the medium of the air. So then I ask, who owns the exclusive rights to the color red? No one. It is part of science/nature, and its light trav-

The

Airwaves 4

els through the air, which belongs to no one. So who should own the exclusive rights to radio waves? The answer should be no one, as radio waves are a phenomenon of science/nature and they travel through the air. The early history of radio regulation in the U.S. is characterized by this recognition that radio is a public resource that belongs to no person or company in particular. While radio licenses ensured that radio stations could coexist without stepping on each other’s toes by way of signal interference, applicants had to demonstrate that they were operating in the public interest. This emphasis on public interest can be difficult to relate to in this era of media deregulation and corporate media giants. Granted, spectrum scarcity is not the issue it was in the early days of radio. However, we’re now seeing new opportunities to reclaim parts of the spectrum to benefit the public by way of “white spaces” (which fits my previous color analogy well). “White spaces” are unlicensed, vacant bands of spectrum between analog channels that protect broadcast channels from each other, preventing channel interference. White space signals (like their neighboring television and radio signals) use low frequencies, so they travel very well through buildings, trees, and over a variety of terrain. When television broadcasters complete their mandatory shift from analog to digital signals in February 2009, there will be even more open, unregulated spectrum available (much of this spectrum, particularly the UHF channels, has already been auctioned off to communications companies). Technology companies and consumer advocates have argued for the use of white spaces for new products and services. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently agreed unanimously, on November 4, 2008, to adopt a Second Report and Order to allow unlicensed wireless devices to use white space.

Others disagreed. The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) argued that new white space devices would interfere with TV stations on neighboring channels. Critics of the NAB suggest that the broadcasters are just worried about increased competition with new technologies. Other opponents have been wireless microphone manufacturers. Wireless microphone signals have traveled within white space spectrum without licensing for many years. Critics of these companies argue that the potential benefit of available white space far outweighs the benefits of wireless microphones. Besides, there are solid technological answers to the concerns of the NAB and wireless microphone manufacturers. The FCC began testing white space prototypes in labs in January 2008, and outdoor tests were run in July. In early August 2008, the FCC (with cooperation from the National Football League) tested the ability of white space devices to detect available spectrum during a pre-season football game. The FCC conducted additional testing during a Broadway show. Not all of the prototype devices have passed the tests, but some have. The most successful devices so far combine spectrum-sensing and geo-location. The FCC has plans to allow locations that use wireless microphones to register in a database to be ensured frequency protection. Geo-location capabilities in white space devices will allow the device to figure out where it is, and then scan a database of spectrum use in its current location to determine which parts of the spectrum are available for use. Spectrum-sensing verifies that the spectrum is indeed white space (protecting devices that might not be registered in the FCC’s database). All white space devices will be subject to equipment certification by the FCC Laboratory to ensure that they meet spectrum sensing requirements. Devices that do not include geo-location and database access capabilities will be subject to more rigorous spectrum sensing testing before certification.

White space advocates highlight several uses for the white space spectrum, and the most significant is arguably rural broadband. There is more white space available in rural areas because there are typically fewer television stations. Rural areas have also been under-served by cable broadband and DSL service providers, who have not installed the necessary cabling and infrastructure to be able to provide service to rural residents. While it is speculated that white space broadband will be more expensive than cable or DSL for comparable speeds, white space broadband is expected to be much cheaper and faster than satellite internet, which is typically the only high speed internet option in rural areas. I know from recent experience that it’s no fun at all to try to check your email using your relatives’ dial-up internet service when visiting family in rural areas. In more populated areas, white space spectrum (54 MHz to 698 MHz) combined with Wi-Fi (which operates in the higher frequency, 2.4 GHz to 5.0 GHz portion of the spectrum) could become a competitive service. The Wireless Innovation Alliance suggests a number of other viable options for the white space spectrum, including video-conferencing and communications for emergency disaster response. There appears to be great potential to use previously unused portions of the electromagnetic spectrum to provide more competitive and useful information services, especially since it has been shown that these new technologies pose no real technological threat to existing services. The threat this poses to the status quo seems to be a business threat. With this in mind, though, it will be important to keep an eye on new communications companies and services that come about through white spaces. We’ll have to make sure that our spectrum (because it should belong to everyone, and no one in particular) isn’t just shifting between two media companies that have both lost sight of the public interest.


- The Undercurrent -

The Stink About Antiperspirant by Jessi Hafer

The etiquette of not smelling bad may carry a higher cost than we think, though it is nearly impossible to know how serious the dangers are due to the availability of conflicting and poorly supported claims. First, the basics of sweat: a body sweats to regulate its temperature. The apocrine sweat glands, which can be found in the arm pit area and which become active during puberty, produce sweat that contains proteins and fatty acids (in contrast, the eccrine glands, which can be found on your forehead and hands, are active from birth and produce sweat that does not contain proteins and fatty acids). Sweat is odorless, but bacteria metabolizes the proteins and fatty acids from apocrine glands, and the bacteria produces odor (so this is why your armpits smell and your forehead presumably doesn’t). Next, what do people do about sweat: people say they put on deodorant, but most people use this word incorrectly. There are two distinct, basic categories of products: antiperspirants and deodorants. Most antiperspirants also contain deodorant, hence the misused terms, but there are important differences between the two types of products. Deodorants are legally classified as cosmetics (substances that do not affect the body’s structure or function) because they only mask odor. Deodorants combat smell by killing the bacteria (the actual source of the unpleasant smells) that metabolize the proteins and fatty acids in sweat; deodorants don’t actually keep you from sweating, though. Antiperspirants combat smell by preventing you from sweating where they are applied. This is accomplished with aluminum that blocks the pores (check for an active ingredients list on the product you use – if you use an antiperspirant, you’ll see some sort of aluminum on the list). Because antiperspirants change the normal functions of the body, they are legally classi-

fied as a drug. Once you recognize the difference in products, the words antiperspirant (anti – perspire) and deodorant (de – odor) make more sense. The differences between these products do not end at the armpit, though. One area of concern is that antiperspirants prevent sweat; your body would normally dispose of waste products through sweat, so waste products with nowhere else to go accumulate in your body. Another area of concern is paraben, a preservative that can be used in antiperspirants, deodorants, and a multitude of other products. Evidence suggests that paraben can affect the body’s hormones by mimicking estrogen. Parabens can even be found in “natural” products. Check the label for compounds such as methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, parahydroxybenzoate, and similar-looking words. However, most of the concerns about antiperspirants center on aluminum. The aluminum in antiperspirant may be one of several compounds, and the most common include aluminum chloride, aluminum chlorohydrate, and aluminum zirconium. People can actually be exposed to aluminum in many ways. Aluminum is the most abundant metal in the Earth’s crust. It is used in appliances, building materials, paints, containers, and other household products. It is found in antacids, some aspirins, and even in some food and drinking water (aluminum is used in water purification). However, aluminum is poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract. In contrast, aluminum in antiperspirants is meant to be absorbed into the skin – that is how it blocks your pores. Aerosol spray deodorants can also be inhaled through the nasal passages and enter the bloodstream. Furthermore, many people put on antiperspirant at least once a day, every day, for many, many years. Aluminum in general has been linked to a several health

impacts. Aluminum was first recognized as a neurotoxin (a substance that damages the nerves and nerve tissue) in 1886, with inhaled aluminum was shown to have serious health effects. Postmortem studies of Alzheimer’s patients discovered that people with Alzheimer’s have increased levels of aluminum in their brains as compared with people who do not have Alzheimer’s. This was noted in a 1993 World Health Organization report, though the Alzheimer’s Association says that studies have failed to confirm the role of aluminum in causing Alzheimer’s. Aluminum has also been linked to breast cancer. A study by P.D. Darbre in the Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry (September 2005) pointed out that aluminum can alter DNA. Consider also that antiperspirants are applied at the armpit, and the majority of breast cancer occurs in the part of the breast closest to the armpit (some note that perhaps the fact that most breast cancer has affected the left breast is due to the fact that most people are right handed, and perhaps antiperspirant is applied more heavily with the dominant hand). Then again, there is a greater amount of breast tissue in the area close to the armpit, and some point out that the chemicals in deodorant would need to somehow make it to the lymph nodes. Others who defend deodorant say that the “myth” of antiperspirant being linked to breast cancer arose from the fact that women are told to avoid antiperspirants and deodorants before mammograms so that the product does not end up on the medical equipment, which could affect the X-ray; “confused” women then thought that these products were linked to breast cancer. One study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute (October 2002) compared 813 women with breast cancer to 703 women with no history of breast cancer and concluded that antiperspirants do not cause breast can-

cer. However, another analysis showed that the percentage of breast cancer incidence has increased between 1940 and 2000, and antiperspirant sales have also increased between the same time period (www.controlyourimpact.com/articles/antiperspirantsaluminum-andbreast-cancer/). Yet many things have increased during this time period… So is aluminum in antiperspirant to blame for the aluminum associated with these health endpoints? It depends on who you ask, but listen closely to their answer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website has a page titled “The Cancer Myth” (www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2005/405_sweat.html#myth), proclaiming at the outset that this is all a myth. The page cites the National Cancer Institute (NCI): “the NCI says that no existing scientific or medical evidence links the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants to the subsequent development of breast cancer.” And then the NCI cites the FDA on their webpage (www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Ris k/AP-Deo): “[NCI] researchers… are not aware of any conclusive evidence linking the use of underarm antiperspirants or deodorants and the subsequent development of breast cancer. The… [FDA] also does not have any evidence or research data that ingredients in underarm antiperspirants or deodorants cause cancer.” Again, antiperspirants are classified as over the counter (OTC) drugs by the FDA because they actually change the functions of your body. As such, every antiperspirant has a Drug Identification Number (DIN) on the label. As with other drugs, the FDA ensures that antiperspirants

are properly labeled and that the benefits outweigh their risks. And with all drugs, controversial products can remain on the market until the FDA thinks there’s enough evidence of danger to take the product off the shelf. Is there such evidence yet? There doesn’t seem to be. The FDA, the American Cancer Society, and the National Cancer Institute proclaim antiperspirants to be “safe.” However, those still concerned about antiperspirants point out that those in defense of antiperspirants can only say that there is no evidence that there should be concern; they cannot say that the products have been tested thoroughly or that there is conclusive evidence that there is no concern. One area where the FDA acknowledges a possible health link is for people with kidney disease, and antiperspirants now have to include a warning label to caution people with kidney disease to ask a doctor before using the product. I wonder about how a product applied to the arm pit can affect the kidneys, but not breast tissue or the brain… Americans spent about $1.7 billion on antiperspirants and deodorants in 2004 (Mintel Group, as cited by the FDA at www.fda.gov/fdac/features/2005/405_sweat.html). And I don’t even want to think about how much money I personally have spent on “natural” deodorants that didn’t work for me. I feel fortunate in that I have found some deodorants with cotton in them that work well for me. I can thus indulge in my skepticism and corporate distrust fairly odor free while I wait for some more thorough studies of aluminum and health effects – and who knows when those studies will ever be available. 5


- The Undercurrent -

SEIU’s Latest “Kangaroo Court”

ship will be removed and replaced with appointees handpicked by Andy Stern—and who-knows-what will happen to the workers. When SEIU announced the date of the hearing’s start, they Sunday, 16 November 2008 when SEIU Local 250 merged refused to diswith SEIU Local 399. It is close a location, On Wednesday 12 November, now officially called SEIUso as to frustrate the Washington DC based lead- UHW-West, though most attempts by vocal ership of Service Employees everyone uses the simple and uppity UHW International Union (SEIU) moniker UHW. It is a feisty members to reconvened its trusteeship little union, and it is known for organize protests hearing against the California- being so. Its members are at the site of the based, 150,000-strong United loud, proud, and frequently hearing. Healthcare Workers West show up in big numbers when- Eventually, they (UHW). Three days later, the ever and wherever they feel revealed the locahearing, at long last, ended. their collective voice must be tion as they are required to, (The hearing’s first session heard. It is a refreshing break and around 8,000 UHW membegan on 26 September and from the tendency among bers and supporters showed up also lasted three days. The many unions to be staff-driven in San Mateo for two days of result of the hearing will help “association”-type unions that raucous rallying, marching, “guide” SEIU president Andy operate with minimal direct and testifying, all planned Stern’s “decision” about participation by members. within a week. After three whether or not to take over— Furthermore, utilizing bold and days, the hearing officer impose a trusteeship on— ambitious organizing strateannounced that the hearing UHW.) In the build-up to the gies, UHW staff and member would resume after the elecjust-completed trusteeship organizers have helped tens of tion. hearing, and as it went on, thousands of healthcare workUHW staff and memStern led the charge against Sal ers in California join their bers call the hearing a “kangaRosselli, president of UHW, union in the last twenty years, roo court,” charging that and against the proud members making UHW the second SEIU’s trusteeship move is of UHW. Stern has personallargest union in California unwarranted and unfair, and ly—and indirectly through today and one of the fastest that, since the hearing officer, hired consultants, attorneys, growing in the entire counJames Marshall (former and pocketed journalists— try…and all of this in the Secretary of Labor under attempted to create a largely private-sector healthJimmy Carter)—the man who storm of accusations care industry with a hefty will make the decision in the and propaganda under amount of employer hos- end—was appointed by SEIU’s which to bury tility toward unions. leadership, the decision of the UHW, all without After reject- court is clearly a moot point. any real eviing an independent Also, the decision is merely a dence mediator’s proposal recommendation to Stern, that to peacefully work which he can ignore if he out its perceived wants. Doubly moot. beefs with UHW Nevertheless, UHW through has put together an impressive mediadefense. UHW members tion, packed the venues and passionSEIU’s ately, in turn, for hours, I leadership, addressed the hearing sessions can on 26 in both San Mateo and San discern at September Jose. And, just a few days ago, all, and all 2008, convened a in spite of all the political i ll while signifitrusteeship hearing weight being pushed onto her se s cant evidence of against UHW, the Ro by SEIU, the great Dolores l corruption against boldest and most serious Huerta took a train to San Jose, Sa other SEIU local unions move that an international appeared before the hearing as has been uncovered, withunion can make against one of a character witness on behalf out drawing nearly as much ire its locals, and a move generally of UHW, and delivered a fiery or venom from Stern. made only when there is seridefense of the little union that To quickly catch ous evidence of corruption in could, at the end of which she everyone up, here is some brief the leadership of a local. If received a standing ovation background information. SEIU does indeed put UHW from the workers in the crowd UHW is an SEIU local under trusteeship, UHW’s and the hearing officer himself. union that was formed democratically elected leader6

by Abid Yahya

Furthermore, as the hearing’s penultimate day carried on, a letter was sent to Andy Stern from hundreds of elected officials, community

EFCA, The Economy, Oba ma an d L ab or? by Steve Early

Andy Stern leaders, and religious officials throughout California. “The letter is signed by state senators and assemblymembers, Democratic party leaders, members of boards of supervisors of 10 counties, leaders of unions and labor councils, religious leaders, healthcare advocates, leaders of seniors’ organizations, and heads of Latino, Filipino-American, and Chinese-American organizations.” The damning letter points out that SEIU’s beef with UHW is a “matter that can and should be resolved through negotiation and compromise, without the imposition of a trusteeship.” The letter continues, “In our experience, UHW has consistently acted with the highest integrity, placing the best interests of caregivers, consumers and communities at the center of its work, and placing top priority on efforts to organize workers who do not yet have the benefit of a union. Indeed, UHW is one of California’s and the nation’s leading advocates for workers’ rights and quality, affordable healthcare, and is a major force in building a progressive majority committed to the pursuit of economic, social and environmental justice.” It remains to be seen how this will all play out, but a lot hangs in the balance. The hearing ended on 15 November and Marshall will make his recommendation by 15 January. To keep up, visit www.seiuvoice.org.

In 1978, unions came closer to strengthening the Wagner Act than at any other time since Congress enacted labor’s “Magna Carta” in 1935. During Jimmy Carter’s first and only term, they had the benefit of big Watergaterelated Congressional victories by the Democrats in 1974—and, four years later, 61 Senate Democrats. Yet, when a bill was introduced that would have speeded up National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections, helped fired organizers, and penalized unionbusting employers, labor law reform got filibustered to death in the Senate, after tepid White House lobbying on its behalf. Three decades after that political set-back—and partly because of it—American unions now represent only 12.1 percent of the total workforce. In the National Labor Relations Act-covered private sector, union density is down to 7.5%. Thanks to the popular backlash against our current lame-duck Republican administration, Congress once again changed for the better, in 2006, raising new hopes for labor law reform. This year, union members helped elect even bigger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, plus a new president. Those Nov. 4 victories have accelerated labor’s campaign for enactment of legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) early next year. Since many in labor believe that amending the NLRA is more critical to union survival today than 30 years ago, it’s worth examining the on-going campaign for EFCA (1). Have the lessons of past defeats been well applied in labor’s renewed bid to strengthen the right to organize? Can the AFLCIO and Change To Win (CTW) win on this issue when organized labor’s size and political clout has been so much diminished since the late 1970s? Even if enacted, will EFCA enable unions to overcome widespread employer resistance to collective bargaining in the U.S.? As a dress rehearsal for their push for labor law reform in 2009, unions forced a House vote on EFCA in March, 2007, even though their Democratic allies lacked enough votes in the Senate and President Bush would have vetoed the bill anyway. At hearings, rallies, and press conferences around the country, EFCA continued next page...


- The Undercurrent -

EFCA continued...

union officials and fired workers explained how EFCA would make a difference in union organizing and first contract bargaining. Management would be compelled to recognize new bargaining units based on a showing that a majority of workers (in an appropriate unit) had signed union authorization cards. Employers would no longer be able to insist on NLRB elections, taking advantage of the accompanying delays and opportunities for legal (and illegal) antiunion campaigning. Workers fired for organizing would be eligible for “treble damages”—three times their lost pay— rather than just “back pay” minus “interim earnings.” Other employer unfair labor practices—now “punished” with a mere notice posting—could result in a $20,000 fine (if found to be willful or repeated violations of the Act). Finally, EFCA would create a Canadian-style process of first contract mediation and arbitration. Unresolved first contract negotiations could, at union request, become the subject of binding arbitration leading to imposed contract terms. This would make it harder for employers to use bad faith bargaining as their second line of defense against unionization—as many do after losing a contested representation election. EFCA opponents launched a wellcoordinated drive against the bill in 2007— in a dry run of the even bigger management counter-campaign anticipated next year. In op-eds, paid ads, anti-EFCA mailings, speeches, and websites, industry lobbyists defended the sanctity of secret-ballot NLRB representation votes, depicting labor’s “card check” alternative as deeply flawed, undemocratic, and even “unAmerican.” The result was a 241 to 185 House vote in favor. Three months later, 51 members of the Senate moved to bring it to a vote on the floor—far fewer than the 60 necessary to stop a Republican filibuster.

Meanwhile, on the presidential campaign trail, every Democratic candidate endorsed the bill, although only John Edwards ever talked about EFCA much in front of nonlabor audiences. When he was pursuing the “labor vote” in Ohio’s Democratic primary, the eventual nominee, Barack Obama told a blue-collar crowd in Lorain, “If a majority of workers want a union, they should get a union. It’s that simple. We need to stand up to the business lobby and pass the Employee Free Choice Act. That’s why I’ve been fighting for it in the Senate and that’s why I’ll make it the law of the land when I’m president of the United States” (2). Labor law reformers now hope that their preparatory activity in 2007 and continued agitation during the 2008 race will force a vote on EFCA early in Obama’s administration. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Majority Leader George Miller have committed to pushing the White House forward on the issue without any Clinton-style commissions, delay, or political “triangulation.” But not all of their colleagues, old or new, will necessarily be as reliable as the House leadership. In a recent message to members of the United Electrical Workers, the union’s political director Chris Townsend warned “against political phonies who want us to think they are in support of EFCA but who will get cold feet when big business lobbyists (and campaign contributors) lean on them hard when the bill comes before Congress again” (3). The 2007 House and Senate roll-calls were an important stepping stone to labor law reform—but, in terms of outcome, these were votes that “didn’t count.” Everyone knew that EFCA wasn’t about to become law then, which made it possible for labor’s more lukewarm “friends” to take a “prounion” stand of no actual consequence. In addition to their campaigning for Obama, private sector unions devoted

much of 2008 shoring up the shakier Senate Democrats and trying to ensure that all the successful Democratic candidates now joining them in January are already committed to EFCA. (In labor’s best-case scenario for the recounts and/or reruns that have left the total number of Democratic seats still unclear, EFCA supporters are nearing a filibuster proof, super-majority.) During the 2008 campaign, members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and other unions were deployed around the country to educate politicians about the experience of workers already covered by EFCA-type procedures for “card check” recognition. In Arkansas, for example, AT&T wireless customer service reps visited U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln, a past EFCA fence-sitter, to recount how management had used threats, intimidation, and harassment to thwart past union activity. When ownership of their call center in Little Rock changed, workers were able to unionize, without interference, under a negotiated agreement that obligated management to remain neutral and authorized the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to certify CWA based on its “card majority.” [The fact remains, though, that] any broad overturning of anti-worker rulings by the “Bush Board” [the NLRB under Bush, who often used recess appointments to ensure a Republican majority on the five-member board for periods of his presidency] requires the presidential appointment of more labor-friendly NLRB appointees and several years of case-bycase adjudication and/or agency rule-making. In addition, as Nation writer Max Fraser notes, “Democratic Labor Board majorities have had little positive effect on organizing” in recent decades. “Private-sector union membership dropped steadily and by more than half between 1977 and 2000, while the two parties spent equal time in the White House. The Reagan years were particularly dismal, but labor didn’t exactly thrive under the Carter and Clinton boards either” (4). That’s why EFCA backers believe unions won’t be able to build on the success of card check US soldiers 1,033,000 and neutrality agreements (negotiwounded Iraqis Dead total US ated by SEIU, UNITE-HERE, (May 2003 - August 2007) CWA, IBT, UAW, UFCW, and othin Nov 08 soldiers ers) without changing the NLRA wounded itself. Iraq report is In key 2008 Senate races, e in Nov d dead however, business groups spent an 08 estimated $50 million on ads depicting labor law reform as a dangerous “Big Labor” power grab, fueled by union donations to the Democrats (5). (No matter how much unions have shrunk, in the (Sources: icasualties.org, Opinion Research Business) imagination of

Iraq Casualty Counter total US soldiers killed

4,207

US soldiers killed in Nov 08

17

30,711

51

317

www.unionfacts.com and like-minded sources of disinformation, the bogeyman of “Big Labor” still stalks the land, just like it did in the late 1940s when Taft-Hartley was required to tame it!) In the January 2008 issue of HR Magazine, former management lawyer Rick Berman, now executive director of the Center for Union Facts in Washington DC, warned employers that, if EFCA passes, “private sector union membership could double.” In the same article, well-known union busting consultant Stephen Cabot sounded the alarm about the proposed law’s higher penalties for management misconduct. “Currently, many employers engage in initiatives to counter union campaigns they wouldn’t dare do under EFCA,” Cabot said. “With EFCA, it will be very costly.” HR’s conclusion: “If EFCA passes, it would be the most significant pro-labor legislation in more than two decades”—employers should rightly fear that it “will open the floodgates for organizing” (6). To broaden support for EFCA, unions are depicting it, more accurately, as essential to their institutional survival. Friends of labor have been reminded that, without NLRA reform, unions will be further weakened as a defender of working class living standards and an historic ally of progressive causes. For example, defending existing pension and medical benefits—not to mention protecting Social Security and replacing job-based health insurance with a Medicare-For-All system—will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, without greater union density. The U.S. mortgage market meltdown and accompanying financial crisis provides yet another compelling reason for Congressional action on EFCA, since workers’ rights could be a helpful part of any real “economic stimulus” package. [But this argument] won’t gain any traction in Washington DC without many more labor “boots on the ground” (and the accompanying sound of marching feet). At least that was the theory behind the AFL-CIO’s “Million-Member Mobilization” for “bargaining rights worth working for and voting for” in 2008. Undertaken at the urging of CWA President Larry Cohen and others on the federation’s executive council, the AFL-CIO resolved to get ten percent of all union members [that’s one million petitioners] signed up on pledge cards demanding that Congress and the White House take action on EFCA. As Cohen argued earlier this year: “Our own history, as well as that of other labor movements around the world, teaches us that we must act to create change—not sit back and hope for it, or hire others to make it happen for us” (7). Subsequently, Cohen became a bridge-builder to Change

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to Win unions as well. He urged them to join Alliance union members in grassroots activity that would inject EFCA into 2008 races and build public support for its passage in 2009, by pushing candidates to talk about workers’ rights in front of non-labor audiences. (In [the four] presidential or vice-presidential debates [in 2008], neither Obama nor his running-mate, Joe Biden, mentioned EFCA once. Nor do they bother to make the simple point that Cohen does in his EFCA campaigning, namely that greater unionization would be a “rescue package” for workers, by enabling them to boost their incomes during our deepening recession.) To raise EFCA’s profile, a group of seven unions, acting through American Rights At Work, spent $5 million on cable TV ads designed to counter big business saturation of the airwaves with anti-EFCA propaganda. (There has also been an intensifying op-ed page war going on about EFCA in newspapers all around the country.) With a month to go before the election, CWA reached its own goal of signing up 15% of all members on EFCA pledge cards; it now has more than 100,000 ready to be displayed in the U.S. Capitol in January, at the swearing-in of the new Congress. Around the country, some organizers are putting a human face on the EFCA cards they are still gathering. They have photographed rank-and-file endorsers of the bill so their pictures can be posted on campaign websites and sent to Washington too— demonstrating to legislators that EFCA is a real worker priority, not just a project of the labor bureaucracy and its paid lobbyists. In early 2009, the Employee Free Choice Act will clearly face plenty of competition for inside-the-Beltway attention, due to the economic troubles that have now become scarily systemic. Even after union workers helped put Obama in the White House, through their exertions in key “battleground states,” the new president will not be spoiling for a knock-down, dragout fight with corporate 8 American over labor

law reform. If recent history is any guide, he may instead be tempted to take a Jimmy Carter-style dive or start bobbing and weaving like the inimitable Bill Clinton. Only postelection pressure on the Democrats, from the bottomup, can insure that this bout even occurs—not to mention ends favorably—for labor during Obama’s first term. ______ Steve Early worked as a CWA organizer for 27 years. He is the author of a forthcoming book called Embedded With Organized Labor: Journalistic Reflections on the Class War At Home (Monthly Review Press, 2009). A longer version of this article, entitled “Labor Law Reform Thirty Years Later: Back To The Future With EFCA?” will appear in that collection and is being published in Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, Volume 5, Number 4, November, 2008. For subscription information, see www.labor.dukejournals.org. ______

1) Actually, not everyone does agree that EFCA would make that big a difference. See, for example, the provocative arguments of James Pope, Peter Kellman, and Ed Bruno, “The Employee Free Choice Act And A Long-Term Strategy For Winning Workers’ Rights,” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society, Vol. 11, March, 2008, pp. 125-144. 2) Brian DeBose, “Obama Banks on Union’s Support,” The Washington Times, March 3, 2008, page 14. 3) Chris Townsend, “The Deck’s Stacked Against Labor,” The UE News, February, 2008, page 15. 4) Max Fraser, “Beyond the Labor Board,” The Nation, Jan. 21, 2008, pp. 6-8. For a critique of the performance of the NLRB during the Clinton years, see Steve Early, “How Stands The Union?” The Nation, January 22, 2001 pp. 2527. 5) Kris Maher, “Labor Dispute Takes To Airways,” The Wall Street Journal, July 16, 2008, page A6. 6) Robert J. Grossman, “Reorganized Labor,” HR Magazine, January, 2008. 7) See “Employee Free Choice Act is Within Reach,” The CWA News, January-February, 2008, page 8.

- The Undercurrent -

Coping with an Economic Meltdown

by Bernardo Salazar

reduces traffic therefore reducing the amount of smog (which is a severe problem for the valley) and the probaThe economic meltdown has made bility of accidents. It’s also beneficial many of us insecure about our livelito your wallet; a monthly pass is only hoods. The fact that the government has bailed out AIG, whose executives $35. However, due to rampant treated themselves to a $400,000 spa retreat, doesn’t help the working class development, some areas of Fresno psyche. By bailing out these financial (such as Northwest and Northeast) don’t have easy access to the FAX. companies, the government sends a (Let’s hope Mayor-elect Swearengin clear message that it’s okay for the rich to steal; however, if you or I were follows through on her promises to expand FAX.) There’s no reason why caught stealing, I doubt that the sysFresno can’t implement High Density tem would be so lenient. One positive aspect of the economic meltdown Development, where we build within certain parameters and put abandoned is that it forces us to reflect on our buildings into use. By the way, spending habits. Therefore it is my there’s a great book out there titled privilege and honor to assist in your Big Box Reuse written by Julia journey, at the same time addressing local issues. There are many different Christensen, who “began investigating how communities are re-Using areas in which you can cut back; the big box in the wintransportation is one of these areas. ter of 2003.” If you Owning a car can be a can, purchase the book financial hassle, especially if you online or at a local have a car loan. Getting rid of bookstore. your car loan is the fastest way to Purchasing it at reduce debt. First find out the Borders or Barnes minimum cash amount that and Noble would your finance company is be counter prowilling to accept in order ductive, though, to pay off the loan. as both epitoNext figure out your mize the vehicle’s True urban Market Value. sprawl True Market that Value is an Edmunds.com exclusive pricing Christensen system that enables is trying to comyou to find how much bat. When I heard people are paying for your about the book, I vehicle in your area. I have immediately thought of the abandoned a brother who is making payments on K-Mart on Olive and Goldenstate a 2005 White Jeep Wrangler X 4wd Blvd., and about how it would better with 56,433 miles. According to Edmund’s TMV, his vehicle’s Private serve the community as a homeless shelter. If you’re interested in looking Party selling price, for zip code 93706, is $13,985; his minimum cash at some of the uses for these structures, visit www.bigboxreuse.com. amount is $12,698.48. If my brother So, while getting rid of your was a logical person he would cut his car and using public transportation losses and sell the vehicle for the can save you money, it isn’t for everyremaining balance and be at least one. The downside of public transtwelve thousand dollars out of debt, portation is that operation hours make however that is not the case. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem feasi- it difficult for people who work swing and graveyard shifts. Entertainment ble for those who own vehicles that aren’t worth much; I am one of those is another area in which you can easily reduce spending. people. Owning a television can be I own a 1987 Chevy El Camino bucket that gets about twelve very expensive, especially if you own a HDTV. If you have a HDTV then miles a gallon. So when gas prices were at an average of $3.63 per gallon you have to buy the HD cable service, along with the HD converter…and a in Fresno (according to fuelgaugereBlue Ray Disc or HDDVD player in port.com), guess who was taking the order to take full advantage of the bus? There’s this stigma that public technology. Not everyone owns a transportation is only for the poor. HDTV, but the majority of people That’s not true; I have met plenty of with regular TVs still pay for cable or people from different backgrounds who use public transportation for vari- satellite service. Cutting your service ous reasons. Some feel that using the doesn’t mean you have to live a boring life. You can still rent movies. bus system is very practical; it

However, some rental locations require a lengthy drive, and, more often than not, they don’t have the video selection you want. That is one of the reasons why I recommend Netflix; the other reason is that it’s not Blockbuster Online. Blockbuster is owned by Viacom one of the biggest media conglomerates in the world, which also owns Comedy Central and MTV. Both networks have contributed to the commodification of culture and have synergistically perpetuated the wrong images to its audience while making millions from exploitative advertisements. (For more insight watch Frontline: The Merchants of Cool, read Naomi Klein’s No Logo, read Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, and listen to Sut Jhally’s speech, “How TV Exploits Its Audience,” the last of which can be purchased at www.alternativeradio.org.) Fresno also has many alternatives to owning a TV, simply look at The UnderCurrentEvents Calendar each month, which includes Filmworks screenings, some free local shows and Art Hop dates. If you’ve never Art Hopped before, do yourself a favor and check out Arte Americas and the Fresno Art Museum. Admission is free on Art Hop nights. Due to the uncertainty of the economy, many of us are worried about how we’re going to get through the holiday season. There’s a real dilemma about whether we should buy gifts at all. I don’t think there’s a way around buying gifts, but you can reduce your buying by making your own gifts using everyday material. Www.instructables.com is a community based site that offers unique gift ideas that you can make at home. Did you know you can make an iPod speaker using old headphones, a Hallmark music card and an empty cereal box? (Check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQpNgtE ijy8 to learn how.) Ultimately, it’s the thought behind a gift that’s more important than how much it costs. In the end, the holidays is about achieving happiness through our willingness to make sacrifices for one another and help not just our immediate families, but also those less fortunate than ourselves. (For more on consumerism and the credit crisis in the US, check out the great documentary films, What Would Jesus Buy? and Maxed Out.) ______ Bernardo Salazar is a student at Fresno City College who will soon be transferring to SF State, where he will major in sociology. He can be reached at toro_razalas@hotmail.com.


- The Undercurrent -

the racist statement in the first place. ~AY

Apparently, no American president has ever had an email account—at least not one used in the capacity Scientists at the University of a question from a reporter for the of being president. Al Chicago have found that the Israeli daily, Ma’ariv. The Gore, barrier-breaker coastal ocean waters are turning to reporter asked him whether through and through, acid at an alarming rate. Oceans, Emanuel would influence Obama was the first vice presiwhich are filled with vegetation, to take a pro-Israeli stance. He dent to have an email take carbon dioxide from the air responded, and I quote, account. (After all, he and convert that carbon dioxide to “Obviously he’ll influence the did invent the internet, oxygen. However, as a result of president to be pro-Israel. Why right?) the conversion, massive amounts wouldn’t he? What is he, an Arab? But Barack of carbon dioxide are dissolved He’s not going to be mopping Obama, who was seen into ocean waters. The dissolved floors at the White House.” all over the campaign CO2 forms cartrail with his thumbs bonic acid, tearing up his Blackberry keypad, which can may become the first emailing wreak havoc on president. Indeed, his Blackberry sea creatures. was a crucial part of his winning The carbonic campaign; his staff rarely used acid is particupaper, preferring to email Obama larly damaging his memos and documents. to shelled creaObama is also poised to become tures; their the first American president to use shells can disa laptop in the oval office. solve in the Obama aides told the The New acidic waters. York Times that Obama’s emails Mussels, in parare “generally crisp, properly ticular, have spelled and free of symbols or seen a drastic decline as acidity The Arab-American Anti- emoticons.” OMG, how lame. levels have continued to climb. Discrimination Committee sent a Obama insiders, howevThe University of Chicago ecolo- letter to both the younger er, are worried. Because of the gists published their finding in the Emanuel and Obama demanding a Presidential Records Act and the Proceedings of the National public disavowal and repudiation Freedom of Information Act, all Academy of Sciences. of the elder Emanuel’s remarks, documents that come across the This new study, which which they rightfully called “an president’s “desk” (including was based on data taken from a unacceptable smear.” Kareem emails, even if sent or received on small island off the coast of Shora, the group’s executive a Blackberry) are considered to be Washington state, found that director, said, “All we ask is to be presidential records, and are thus costal waters were becoming treated in the same way as any subject to public scrutiny later on acidic at a rate ten times faster other ethnic, racial, or minority down the road. than other models had suggested. group. We’re not treating it as Furthermore, the ~CF simply an Arab-American issue; Blackberry poses a security risk we’re trying to treat it as an for Obama, not only in terms of As you’re probably aware, American issue.” information (hackers), but also in almost immediately after the elecThe younger Emanuel’s terms of personal safety; there’s tion, President-elect Obama subsequent apology to Arabthe possibility that the location of selected Rahm Emanuel, a Americans at large, however, was Obama’s Blackberry—and thus, of Democratic congressman from perhaps even more priceless than Obama himself—could be Illinois, to be his chief-of-staff, his father’s initial bone-headed tracked. making Emanuel the object of comment. He said, “From the Obama’s team hasn’t envy for American politicians of fullness of my heart, I personally decided what will be done yet. all stripes. Emanuel’s political apologize on behalf of my family Obama may lose the Blackberry, ascendancy, however, was tainted and me. These are not the values or may only receive, and never a bit by his own father, who lives upon which I was raised or those send, emails. We’ll just have to in Israel. Benjamin Emanuel, all of my family.” Well, very believ- W8 & C. :) ~AY bursting with pride for his son’s able indeed, particularly given that promotion, sloppily responded to it was his own father who made

A study published in the Journ- remission by virtue of the body’s al of the American Medical own immune system. If the Association’s Archives of Internal screenings don’t lead to a higher occurrence of breast cancer, then one would expect to find similar rates among women who receive regular screenings and among those who didn’t. It may be the case that women who didn’t receive regular screens were developing cancer at the same rate, but that the cancers “spontaneously regress.” The complete study can be found in the Archives of Internal Medicine, 2008;168[21]:2302-2303. ~CF

Well, it’s been a big month for public suicides. Abraham Biggs, a 19 year old from Pembroke Medicine found that the occurPines near Miami, Florida, posted rences of breast cancer increased several messages on his blog on significantly in four Norwegian 21 November, announcing his counties after women (119,472 in intention to kill himself live (no all, ages 50 to 64) began receiving pun intended) later that afternoon. mammograms in regular two year He began streaming live pictures intervals. The study also showed from his room, and viewers that Europe as a whole saw a rise watched him swallow a number of in breast cancer rates at the same anti-depression pills and fall time that screening programs unconscious. After images of his began to become prevalent. motionless body had streamed The study suggests that onto the web for several hours, this isn’t a simple case of more someone finally called the cops, breast cancer cases being discovand they found him dead. ered because of screenings. In Apparently, a number of the viewfact the study also found that the ers had posted messages throughoccurrence of breast cancer was out the day, some of which higher among women who encouraged him to go through received screenings every two with it. years as opposed to women who Then, the next day, in received screenings every six Buenos Aires, Argentina, Mario years (the control group consisted Ferreyra (former police chief of 109,784 women of the same turned alleged human rights abusage in 1992). The numbers among er wanted by the cops) surprised women who received mammothe television news reporter who grams every two years were 22% was interviewing him—along with higher over all, and showed that everyone who was watching the women who received regular live broadcast—by pulling a pistol screening were more likely to out of his boot mid-interview and develop breast cancer at every shooting himself dead, quite sudage. denly, in the head, behind his ear. The study doesn’t discuss He was accused of kidnapping the cause for the increased cancer and torture during the military rate among women who have reg- junta known as Argentina’s Dirty ular screenings, but the study War, which took place in the late should raise some troublesome 1970s and early 80s, and the cops questions. For instance, do x-rays were on their way to arrest him as and the radical compressions of the interview went on air. They breasts during screenings lead to a arrived shortly after the shot. higher occurrence of breast canNo jokes here, just more cer? The study also brings to the evidence of a world gone awry. forefront the interesting possibility ~AY that cancerous tumors can go into 9


Picking Up the Pieces After a Very Unnatural Disaster - The Undercurrent -

Within months of its inception, Proposition 8 has succeeded in tearing apart communities, families, and friendships from San Diego to the Oregon border. Sadly, some of the damage is irreparable. We have now seen how fragile our communities can be. With hatred and bigotry, an entire society was knocked down, and we must realize that, to reconstruct a strong community, it will take an unbelievable amount of work from all of us, regardless which side of the issue we happen to be on. All of us have been hurt by Prop 8, and it’s time to begin the healing process and rebuild those relationships that were so painfully destroyed. PROP 8 IS HATE, AND WE ARE MAKING IT KNOWN

There are Californians who simply do not agree with homosexuality. Perhaps they find it disgusting. Maybe they’ve decided that it is immoral to be born gay. This is their opinion, and they have a right to feel that way. However, with the passage of Prop 8, the Yes crowd used their collective opinion to participate in discrimination and oppression against a group of people. You see, the passage of Prop 8 was not just the expression of an opinion. It was an act of violence disguised as a democratic vote. And this act of violence did not go unnoticed here in California, nor did it go unnoticed throughout the rest of the country. The Sunday before Election Day, a large No On 8 rally was held at Fresno City Hall with an estimated 1,000 people attending. Even before this, many of us took to the streets to pass out door flyers and some of us called up registered voters in hopes of gaining support for the No vote. Since November 4, protests both large and small have taken place across the nation. On November 5, a candlelight vigil was held at Wesley United Methodist Church here in Fresno, where opponents of the proposition marched from the church to The Peace Garden at Fresno State. Five days later, on November 10, a protest was held at Fresno City Hall in which opponents of Prop 8 held signs, chanted, 1 0 and eventually handcuffed

themselves to the doors of City Hall. A National Day of protest was held on November 15, organized just days beforehand. The national protest drew crowds in almost every major city across the country. Some 20,000 strong marched in the streets of San Diego, thousands walked through

no bounds. Even before the election, a friend of mine said, “No matter how this turns out, things won’t ever be the same again.” How right she was. Even if Prop 8 had been defeated, the damage would have already been done. Lines were drawn well before the election and, to this day, I have not met a single person who doesn’t have a very strong opinion on the issue. Emotions continue to run high and many are having trouble feigning indifference. There are neighbors, once friends, Gay rights activists and supporters rally outside of Fresno City who are no Hall during a coordinated national day of protest on Saturday, longer November 15. friendly toward one another. During a conSan Francisco, and thousands in versation about Prop 8, a gay New York and Boston rallied and friend of mine said that she doesn’t held signs. Smaller crowds gathwant to know which of her neighered in Cleveland, Las Vegas, Chicago and Dallas, just to name a bors voted Yes on 8. She isn’t capable of knowingly allowing her few. All of these protests began at the grassroots level. Now organiz- son to play with the children of ers are calling for a boycott of all parents who think that she and her businesses that donated money to partner are sinners, abnormal, or the Yes campaign. At this moment undeserving of equal rights. New plans are still being made to create cliques have formed at work. PreAmerica’s first “Day Without A election friendships have dissolved, Gay.” On this day, December 10, including a few of my own. I find gays and lesbians (and their myself wondering how I was so straight allies) are asked to call in oblivious to the lack of the comsick to work and refrain from passion those close to me have for spending a single dime. The aim of others. Another friend of mine, all these movements and protests is while in town visiting family and to show how gays and lesbians are friends refused to have dinner with such an integral part of our society. her father and step-mother. She Make no mistake, these couldn’t bear to listen to them protests are not being organized or speak about “restoring the tradiattended by only homosexuals. tional definition of marriage.” There are many of us heterosexuals (Keep in mind, her father and stepwho feel strongly about this issue mother are two people who have and we understand the need for our been divorced and consider themselves worthy of a chance at a secpresence, visibility, and support ond marriage, yet they don’t find during these times. gays worthy of a first chance at marriage). PROP 8 HAS DIVIDED US Throughout this entire ordeal there is one issue that remains indisputable: the mere placing of Proposition 8 on the ballot has torn apart every community in California and its division knows

THE CHURCHES

Although many churches publicly supported Prop 8, there is much division among and within the churches. The morning following

by Resa Garcia

gay marriage, I assure you that they know more now about gay marriage than they ever would have had this proposition not made it to the ballot. Your children are not learning that gay marriage is wrong; they are learning that, if you don’t like a group of people, all you have to do is use lies and fear tactics in order to gain support for your cause. Now that we’ve spent almost a month with a gay marriage ban in effect, how have our lives improved? How have things changed for the better? One sad truth about the division and turmoil created by Prop 8 is that it was all for nothing. Not only have several lawsuits against Prop 8 already been filed (and the CA Supreme Court has already agreed to review the lawsuits beginning in March 2009), but many people who voted yes on Prop 8 feel now that they made the wrong decision. They are seeing the consequences of their seemingly harmless “opinion” and many regret ever having supported the proposition. Movement has already begun in hopes of putting a proposition on the 2010 ballot that would repeal Prop 8. Let’s not forget that many young people who will be of voting age by 2010 have grown up with gay friends and family members, are children of gay parents, and many are gay themselves. If the court does not overturn Prop 8, young voters in 2010 will. And you cannot discount those of us who will continue to fight for respect, equality, and dignity for all people in this world and not just those we agree with. History has shown us that what is right and just eventually wins in the end. And not even the most fearful and hateful of people can stop it. Gay marriage will be legal in California someday. It’s inevitable. ______ Resa Garcia is so ‘bout it that she can be found sitting at a desk during the weekdays and kicking it with homeless people on Saturdays. TO THOSE WHO VOTED YES She doesn’t know how to work a stove and her attempts at cooking I want to ask those who supported have often been called “pitiful.” this proposition to think of the But, man oh man, can she dance! severely negative consequences Her entire family voted No On 8, their actions have had on this entire including her 71-year-old, oldstate. What good came out of this? school grandma. If you were afraid of your children learning about homosexuality and the day of national protest (Saturday 15 November), local supporters of Marriage Equality and the No On 8 campaign headed downtown to Cornerstone Church with flowers in hand. We stood outside of the church and passed out carnations to members making their way in for morning service. Each carnation had a tag attached to the stem which read, “Do unto thy neighbor as you would have them do unto you” and, on the flip side, “Love, thy Fresno neighbors.” Seems harmless enough, right? Apparently some found the gesture to be a bit too dangerous and members of the congregation were not allowed to bring the flowers into Cornerstone church. The flowers were taken from church goers, broken in half, and thrown in the garbage. When told that she would not be allowed to take her flower into church, one woman announced, “Guess I’ll have to find another church,” before turning and walking away. This certainly isn’t the first time a church member has left their congregation due to their church’s heavy political involvement in support of the gay marriage ban. I wonder how many church goers will have to leave their congregations in search of more peaceful, tolerant services before church leaders realize how divisive their words and actions have become. I have to take a moment, though, to commend Jim Franklin (pastor of Cornerstone) for inviting Robin McGehee, a very vocal opponent of Proposition 8, to speak in front of his congregation during the second service of the day. This showed a hopeful first step toward reconciliation and unity within our community. Also, church members were at last allowed to bring their flowers into church. They were reminded upon entering the church that the carnations they were holding were “No On 8 flowers.”


- The Undercurrent -

Obama and the end of racism

fectly acceptable that he has the right to even discuss plans for a named Secretary of State. lems go away for the average perpartial pullout, scaling down, or by Carlos Fierro Even with this, it is hard son of color. Nothing has changed maintaining residual forces in Iraq. to deny that the symbolic signifiand, for many, the negative stereo- IRAQ DOES NOT BELONG TO I’ve made no secret about my less cance of Obama’s election is types are still very much there.” US! VENEZUELA, BOLIVIA, than enthusiastic response to indeed staggering. It certainly The article also quotes AFGHANISTAN, PAKISTAN, Obama’s candidacy and subsequent wasn’t lost upon me. I was teach- Chuck D, of Public Enemy. AND PALESTINE DO NOT election. That being said, it wasn’t ing as the election results began to “People will say: ‘You guys have BELONG TO US! Obama in particular I was unenthucome in that night, and we had a got a black president so it’s cool. Only the hubris of a US siastic about. Obama showed himTV on in the background. My dis- It’s straight.’ But it does not erase president would allow one to disself, within the context of the US interest in the results didn’t mean the discussion (about race) that you cuss such things as drawing down presidency, or one vying for the that I couldn’t appreciate the hisneed to have.” but maintaining forces in Iraq so US presidency, to be little better or toric nature of the event; historic it On the other hand, many that we can ratchet up our presence little worse than past presidents or certainly was. The significance in the news media point to in Afghanistan. To a man with a presidential candidates. My can be overblown, however. Obama’s win as evidence that there hammer, everything looks like a qualms weren’t directed at Obama has been a drastic nail. To a man with as a special case, aside from the THE END OF RACISM, AMER- change in the the hammer the size of fact that he, more so than in recent ICAN EXCEPTIONALISM, & racial landscape. the US military, the memory, was able to garner within EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW To a degree, this whole world looks like people a wide range of beliefs in AGAIN is true, especially a nail. his ideas and policies that were in when one considWhen the fact contrary to his ideas and poliers the history of A few years back, Brit Hume (on missiles continue to cies. Rather, I am concerned with the US. For a FOX’s Sunday morning show) fall on the people of the temporary insanity and amnesia country founded made the claim that racism in the Iraq and Afghanistan that we seem to be collectively suf~Barack Obama on genocide, US was no longer an issue. The after Obama is sworn fering from. argument Hume gave went unchal- slavery, and theft, in, ask them if those The liberal minded among to elect a black man president is an missiles hurt any less? Ask them if lenged by the other panelist. us who told us that, first and foreHume suggested that racism could- astounding moment. Considering they kill and dismember their famimost, we had to make sure that that the US was one of the last n’t be a problem in US because ly members any less? Ask the peoObama got elected, but that the nations to still have in place an large numbers of white kids listen ple of Central and South America real work would begin after the institutionalized system of to and emulate black entertainers. if US imperialism is any less election, have remained oddly apartheid, the symbolic signifiOf course, this makes as much destructive being that Obama is at silent as the Obama administration sense as saying that racism wasn’t cance of the election of Obama the helm? Militarism and imperibegins to take shape. First, there cannot be overplayed. a problem during slavery because alism are still militarism and impewas the announcement that Rahm Unfortunately, the elecwhite slave masters partook in raprialism, no matter who occupies Emanuel would become Obama’s tion of Obama can be little more ing their black slaves. Or that the White House—Republican, Chief of Staff. Emanuel, who is than symbolic. Imagine that racism wasn’t a problem in the Democrat, white, black, man or one of the most ardent supporters Obama, rather than winning the US woman. 20s, 30s, and 40s because white of apartheid Zionism practiced in presidency, was named the CEO of kids swayed to the music of Billie Racism does not die with Israel on Palestinians, also voted Wal-Mart. No one would deny Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Ella a black man in the oval office, but for the trillion dollar give away to that this would be a symbolically Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington. that doesn’t mean that notions of banks, voted to authorize the war significant event; likewise, no one So it came as no surprise US exceptionalism aren’t proin 2002, and worked to defeat an that the election of Obama brought would imagine that Obama would gressed. A simple Google search anti-war candidate in Illinois (see disband Wal-Mart or make it some- of the terms “Obama,” “end,” and about all number and variety of Tammy Duckworth v. Christine thing other than Wal-Mart. The questions concerning the end of “racism” reveals a disproportionate Cegelis). Then there was the US presidency is an institutional racism in the US. Very few of number of returns concerning a announcement that Lawrence position that requires presidential those questioned, aside from perstory that made the rounds through Summers would head the National action. US presidents act like US haps Brit Hume (though I must mainstream media shortly after the Economic Council and act as presidents. They are tasked with admit I have not heard Mr. Hume elections concerning France’s push Assistant to the President for maintaining the US’s primacy in comment on the subject), suggestto end racism, of course the impliEconomic Policy. Mr. Summers the world, economically, militarily, cation being that the US has shown ed that Obama’s election marked found fame when, as president of and with regard to consumption, the end of racism. The Reuters the rest of the world, or at least Harvard, he publically suggested article, “Obama’s win does not end pollution, and access to resources. France, that racism is not the way that women are inferior to men in U.S. racism, activists say,” demon- With the job come certain responto go. math and science, which accounted sibilities that are inescapable. strated this quite well. In the artiWe heard other proclamafor Harvard’s disproportionately cle, Earl Ofari Hutchinson is quot- Obama has already shown himself tions that usually begin “Only in low numbers of women in math up to the task. He has made no ed as saying, “There is an acceptAmerica.” Such as Tom Holbrook’s and sciences. Mr. Summers lost secret that he will act as US presi- Examiner.com article titled ance among wide segments of the his gig as president shortly therepopulation that a qualified African dents act, and that he thinks like “Obama…Only in America.” after. And lastly we learn that American (Obama) can be accept- US presidents think. It is within Holbrook writes, “As I said at the Hillary Clinton, as hawkish a hawk the mental framework of the presi- top... only in America!!! An amazed in the highest office, but that as there has ever been, will be does not magically make the prob- dency that he should think it pering, meteoric rise for any man in

“[I]n no other country on Earth is my story even possible.”

the political world but even more amazing is the fact that, Barack Hussein Obama, the son of an Arabic black father of Kenya, and a white American mother from Kansas, is the first black person in the history of the United States to ascend to the highest and most powerful political office in our country.” Russell Redenbaugh, in his article “Barack Obama: Only In America,” wrote, “Obama’s climb to the Presidency is the definition of the American dream” (http://www.realclearmarkets.com/ articles/2008/11/barack_obama_an d_only_in_ameri.html). A The San Diego Union Tribune editorial stated that “[Obama’s] election is an affirmation of American ideals to a world that has grown increasingly skeptical of our actions and intentions” (www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20081105/news_lz1ed5top.htm l) Of course, Obama himself has said that “in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.” Obama’s election has also allowed some among us to feel better about ourselves. Black friends have told me stories about white acquaintances, or even strangers pointing to “Obama 08” bumper stickers on their cars, as if signs of…what(?)…solidarity…liberal credentials…a sign that they are not racist? Chuck D goes on to say in the Reuters article that, the election of Obama may become “a weapon of mass distraction.” Obama’s election is certainly historic, but racism, & let’s not forget classism, will still be interwoven into the fabric of the US so long as the war on drugs is used as an excuse to lock up black and brown people at disproportionally higher numbers and for longer terms. So long as we continue to build walls around our borders to keep those undesirables out, so long as we turn our hateful eyes toward the weakest among us—the poor, the immigrants, the homeless— racism/classism remain an integral part of our society. So long as our foreign policies privilege US lives over Iraqi, Afghani, Pakistani, Palestinian, Cuban, Haitian, Mexican, and Sudanese lives, Obama’s election doesn’t mark the end of racism, but more of the same. 11


- The Undercurrent -

COLOMBIA: From ‘Jaque’ To False Positives by Ángel Ricardo Martínez

Just over four months ago, on July 2, the Colombian military carried out Operation Jaque. Ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Bethancourt and 14 others were rescued from the hands of FARC (Frente Armada Revolucionaria Colombiana) (Revolutionary Armed Front of Colombia). The spectacular operation generated passionate praise on the world stage toward the Colombian military and government. President Alvaro Uribe reached a 92% approval rating and his second reelection was assured. Minister of Defense, Juan Manuel Santos, received congratulations from all sides, and even came to be seen as the natural successor to Uribe in the event that he decided not to run for a third term. Lastly, the commander of the army, Mario Montoya, achieved the military glory of having led the most successful military operation in Colombian history. The operation was a success even for the thenpresidential candidate in the US, John McCain. The senator, who happened to be visiting Colombia that very day, saw for himself the result of his unconditional support for Plan Colombia. Before leaving, McCain assured Uribe that, under his governance, the Free Trade Plan was more than guaranteed. But not all the responses have been positive. A large number of media outlets and personalities have taken it upon themselves to make evident some “strange” aspects of the operation, among them the fraudulent use of the name of the Red Cross and the approval by the Colombian military of an agreement made earlier between the FARC and two European diplomats. The agency IPS, in a report titled “The General Who Embraced Ingrid,” called attention, among 1 2 other things, to “the disco-

stripped of their titles on October 29, and the same General Montoya—the hero of Operation Jaque—who presented his resignation just over a week ago. Hours after his resignation, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (whose president is Joe Biden, Vice President elect) determiPresident Alvaro Uribe at press conference for Operation Jaque ned that the Plan Colombia had very in 2007 of a common (mass) pend military assistance to the failed in some of its objectives. grave in the Putumayo department Colombian government until they BBC reported that “the objective contain the rising death toll of [province], with the remains of of reducing the cultivation, procivilians committed by security more than 100 victims killed cessing, and distribution of illegal forces.” Uribe passed the month during the same period that drugs…has not completely been Montoya was heading up the Joint of October trying to discredit acheived.” However, the US Task Force of the South.” Back in these organizations, saying about Senate did recognize that those glorious times, those victims Jose Miguel Vivanco, the director Colombia had “improved its clifound in Putumayo were conside- of American affairs for HRW, “the mate of security.” red by the government as “guerri- people of Colombia long ago lost Why resort to false posirespect for him,” and that lleros (rebel soldiers) masqueratives? In a column for the magaAmnesty International wasn’t “in ding as civilians.” zine Semana, the journalist Juan Four months have passed, any place to give lectures on Diego Restrepo explained it fairly and a series of negative events for human rights” to him. One week well saying that “the military later, Barack Obama—critic of the the Colombian government have garrisons were formed to get Free Trade Agreement with transformed the panorama comresults in war. And as such, one Colombia precisely because of pletely. First was the confrontaof the strategies to accomplish this tion between the President and his said human rights violations— goal is to resort to extrajudicial knocked McCain out of contenown judicial body, an event that executions and demonstrate satistion in the U.S. Maybe it was many understood as an intent by factory operational advances in its Uribe to protect many of his close then that Uribe, Santos, and comstruggle against the guerrillas.” It pany started to worry… friends who had proven connecis precisely these “results” that tions with paramilitary groups. Today, victims such as allow the US Senate to conclude On October 16, the international those encountered in 2007 in that Colombia “improved its cliorganization Human Rights Watch Putumayo are known as “false mate of security” and thus, appropublished a report that, coinciden- positives”: innocent civilians who ved the more than 500 million tally or not, accused the governwere who were later made out to dollars annually that the U.S. ment of “obstructing justice.” look like guerrilleros. The scangives to Colombia. Yes, those are Weeks later, on October 28, the dal generated by the finding of the the cold hard numbers. other human rights giant, Amnesty cadavers of several young people On the other hand, false International, added to HRW’s who disappeared in the locality of positives are a part of all wars. In report and reported that “impunity Soacha, outside of Bogota, and Afghanistan, for example, they are continues to be the norm in the who were reported to be guerrillecalled “Taliban,” in Iraq, “insurmajority of cases of abuse of the ros, has now reached almost onegents.” In Palestine they are DDHH,” and asked the United third of military officals—among “militants” and “terrorists.” What States and other countries to “sus- them three Generals—who were

makes the Colombian case be sui generis (unique) though, is, without a doubt, that the executions are perpetrated by the army against those people whom, one supposes, they should be protecting—their innocent fellow citizens). Strange and macabre, the vicious circle of the Government and the FARC that brings them to the point of killing civilians in order to show results that will allow them to receive economic and military assistance supposedly destined to protect those very same civilians. Up until the present date, just as Restrepo affirmed, any questioning of the public forces was pushed aside by Uribe, saying that the reports “advanced a juridical war in order to favor the guerrillas or to say that the people killed were guerrilleros masquerading as civillians.” It should not escape our attention that Uribe’s change in attitude coincides with the condemnation of two international human rights organizations, and—above all—with the election of Barack Obama as the new president of the U.S. The BBC, which assured us that “the report came out in the midst of a climate favorable to the reduction of economic aid to Colombia,” also reported that the Minister of Defense Juan Manuel Santos “is ready to go to Washington to defend Plan Colombia with the Obama team.” At present, defending Plan Colombia and trying to get the Free Trade Agreement approved seem to be more complicated tasks than ever. ______ Ángel Ricardo Martínez is the editor for the Americas section of one of Panama’s top newspapers (La Estrella, laestrella.com.pa). He can be reached @ armartinezbenoit@gmail.com ______ Spanish to English translation for this article was done by Matt Espinoza Watson.


- The Undercurrent -

On the Edge of the Maelstrom: Effects of the “Covert” US Raid in Syria by Huma Gupta

the fundamentalist Sunni Al-Qaeda network operate to the east. It is thus expected that much of the blood shed around the country also seeps into Syrian soil. And, members of the aforementioned groups do operate or cross through Syria from time to time. These are, however, not necessarily relationships of mutual agreement, but, rather, of mutual convenience. (November 5, 2008) Syrian students protest the October 26th U.S. raid on a Syrian village Syria’s outnear the Iraqi border that killed eight Syrians right disavowal of any and all of these groups could invite Syria plays in this deeply contest“Ana min Amriika” (I am from the surrounding battles to its own America) would typically warrant ed geopolitical region. Syria, territory. In fact, this is already under the present leadership of the following response from taxi Bashar al-Assad who was preced- occurring. Just two months ago, drivers, students or neighbors on September 27th, a Lebanese alike: “We don’t like your govern- ed by his father Hafez al-Assad, have maintained a secular regime group known as Fatah al-Islam ment, but we like your people. executed a suicide bombing near a for over thirty years that has sucAhlan wa Sahlan! [Welcome].” Shiite Shrine in southern cessfully thwarted any and all This conversation could occur in Damascus. Seventeen lives were internal opposition. This heavyany number of places, but in this taken. Just twelve days later, on handed technique, on the one case, it is a daily ritual for many October 9th, Syrian security Americans in the Syrian capital of hand, has impeded the realization forces clashed with armed forces of Syria’s democratic principles to Damascus. Syria, in recent years, has the point of its characterization as in Yarmuk, a Palestinian refugee camp. The assailants were susbecome a refuge in the vastly dif- a despotic regime. On the other pected to be of Iraqi and Saudi hand, the regime has consistently ferentiated Arab world for origins. Three lives were taken. and brutally eliminated Islamist American students, workers and But that is not where it groups that threaten the regime’s tourists. Most of who are unable stopped. Since Syria borders Iraq, commitment to secularism and its or unwilling to settle in war-torn the US expects the Syrian governown power. The most gruesome Lebanon, highly westernized ment to put forth its maximum manifestation of this was in the Jordan, devastated Iraq or the resources to patrol the Syrian-Iraqi Syrian city of Hama in 1982, clearly unpredictable Palestinian border to curtail the smuggling of territories. And unlike what some when an entire contingent of weapons and fighters into Iraq. Americans believe to be the case, Muslim Brotherhood adherents Abu Ghadiya was identified by was massacred. individual Americans have been the US as one of these notorious Despite easily made critiwelcomed, with few reservations, Al-Qaeda smugglers, living in the cisms of the regime, it is imporby the population. This opensmall village of As-Sukkariyah tant to recognize its careful balminded and nuanced attitude ancing act. Hezbullah (The Party close to the Iraqi border. The US toward Americans persisted for a felt, however, that Syria was of God), with its frequent attacks long time, despite the US-led occupation of Iraq, overwhelming on both Israel and the confessional either unable or unwilling to uphold its part and effectively US support of Israel and US alle- Lebanese government, stands to patrol the 376-mile long border. the west of Damascus. Hamas gations that Syria had a hand in So, they decided to send and Fatah, militant Palestinian the assassination of the former “our boys” in. A covert operapolitical parties, are to the southLebanese Prime Minister Rafik tion, not the first, and certainly not east. And worst of all, the range Hariri. the last, was launched at 4:45 pm of militants now fighting in Iraq The persistence of this Syrian time on October 26th. from the Shiite Mahdi Militia to attitude indicates the unique role

Equipped with Black Hawk helicopters and black M16s, this ‘quiet’ operation team tiptoed into the village with their guns blazing. The Al-Qaeda militants easily identified the helicopters in the clear, blue, autumn sky in the desert, and proceeded to fire at them. Syrian villagers said US soldiers were shooting uninhibitedly even before they hit the ground. Eight civilian lives were taken, and two men captured. Admittedly, upon hearing the news when I was in Damascus, I felt enraged and confused. Is this what covert operations are supposed to look like? Whatever happened to the famed stealth and discretion of our highly trained military and Special Forces? It seems the government has authorized surprise raids to find “terrorists” in sovereign nations not engaged in war with the United States. To sweeten the deal, these nations need not be informed of the violation of their respective airspace, national sovereignty or potential collateral damage (a.k.a. civilian casualties). These countries include Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, Pakistan, Yemen, and now Syria. Syria stands at a dangerous edge today. It too can plummet into the maelstrom of instability, like its neighbors, especially following a US policy of aggression and diplomatic disengagement. Syrian government response to the raid was, at first, mild. An American school and the American Cultural Center were shut down. Then, the American embassy decided to close in order to protect itself from any retribution. Also, thousands of Syrians gathered in the streets to protest the American attack. Americans on the ground there zipped their mouths and kept a low profile. It seemed, at first, that the Syrian public was too conscientious and/or strictly policed to take any violent, retributive action. Nevertheless, conversations have changed. “I am from America” no longer renders the

usual response. Soon after the attack, two American boys were spotted in the ancient part of Damascus at their favorite café, conversing with a Syrian friend, the owner of a popular tourist gift shop. After months of knowing each other, the friendly gift shop owner abandoned his usual politeness, though held onto his calm disposition as he asked them to leave Syria and never return. Violence is not always the primary fear in these situations; rather, it is the end of our conversations. It has been the policy of our current administration to refuse diplomatic engagement with states viewed as state-sponsors of terror. Perhaps it is now important to remind present and future leaders that diplomacy is an instrument to use with those we disagree with, not those who are already complicit to our ways and demands. Just recently, British foreign minister David Miliband conducted formal talks with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. He is convinced that Syria’s role in the Middle East will be productive in restoring stability to the region. Syria has survived for so long by engaging with (and aiding, when necessary) all who surround her, both “terrorist” groups and sovereign nations. Though this approach is worthy of severe criticism, the regime’s stability in the face of gross regional instability is worthy of admiration. Thus, instead of pushing Syria off the edge into yet another maelstrom we are not prepared to deal with, it is time to strike up a conversation wherein we aren’t ashamed or scared to say “Ana min Amriika.” _______ Huma Gupta is an urban planning historian, researcher, and graphic designer. She was employed in Syria by the Municipal Administration Modernization Project (mam-sy.org), a joint venture of the European Union and the Syrian Ministry of Local Administration and Environment. She can be reached at humagupta@gmail.com. 13


- The Undercurrent -

ERS “STRIKE” November. The IDF has since launched an investigation and concluded that the video was shot On 24 August of this year, the “15 months ago in the area of the start of the academic year, the roughly 9,000 public schoolteachGaza Strip.” It shows a ers of the Gaza Strip, who are Palestinian man, blindfolded, joined together in a union called being made to kneel beside a stone barrier. A group of IDF sol- the Palestine Teachers’ Union 24 November 2008 [IDF] official” said that “this (PTU), went out on strike. But diers surround him. They taunt year’s harvest was one of the most him and make him repeat phrases this isn’t your normal strike; this UPDATE ON THE WEST BANK violent in recent years, with 20 is much more complicated than of their choosing, some of which clashes” in the first six days. SETTLER WAR workers versus bosses. This is a make reference to the Golani Palestinian president power struggle between two parinfantry brigade—probably the In a sad escalation to the situation Mahmoud Abbas had this to say: most well-decorated brigade in all ties, and the teachers are clearly I described last month, Israeli set- “We condemn the attacks against the IDF—and others of which are the pawns. our people and the harassment by sexually degrading. The final tlers in the occupied West Bank After Hamas won the the settlers and the army during attacked a number of Palestinian 2006 elections and then booted statement he is made to repeat in the olive harvest in more than one the video is, “The Golani will farmers during the first week of Fatah out of the Gaza Strip, Fatah place in the West Bank.” And the yearly Palestinian olive harlost almost all its clout in Gaza. bring you a log to stick up your vest, which began this year on 13 condemnation didn’t just come One of its October. Groves of olive trees all from the Palestinians. last vestiges Ehud Barak, Israeli over the West Bank provide the of power in minister of defense sole means of income for many Gaza is the and deputy prime Palestinians. According to the teachers International Solidarity Movement minister (also former union, which prime minister), said, (ISM), nearly 100 settlers gathis a Fatah ered near Qalqilya to block roads “I condemn these organization, thugs who interfere and throws stones at Palestinians whose leadwith the olive harworking on the harvest. Several ership is not vest, which constiinternational activists and even elected by tutes an important some Israeli citizens are helping the union sector of the out with the harvest this year, members, but Palestinian econopicking olives alongside is appointed my.” Palestinians. Tragically, though, by the FatahAnd this even they have been attacked by controlled practical considerasettlers. And even more tragicalPalestinian tion may be what ly, some of them—the victims, Gazan schoolchildren are the losers in the Gaza teachers “strike” Authority mind you—have been arrested by finally pushed the (PA), based the IDF and implicitly blamed for Israeli government to in Ramallah announce on, 2 November, that it ass.” He repeats it and the solbeing there in the first place. in the West Bank and led by presiwill end its public funding and Three internationals and one dent Mahmoud Abbas. The teachdiers are all laughing heartily as Israeli have been arrested, accord- support for all illegal settlement ers’ salaries are paid by the PA, the video ends. outposts. The larger and estabing to ISM. Meanwhile, an AP though they work in schools Then, on 14 November, lished settlements, of course, will the IDF announced that it had sus- administered by Hamas in the cameraperson caught, on 18 October, caught footage of a small continue to receive lavish support pects and would try the offending Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. from the government, but the group of Israeli settlers punching The strike is seen by soldiers by court-martial. Now, and kicking a Palestinian photog- rough and tumble settlements of obviously this is institutional face- most as an attempt by Fatah to the hardcore ultra-Zionists, which saving. IDF soldiers rapher and a British woman who had enjoyed public funding until was helping with the harvest. routinely abuse now, will be cut off. Many Israeli Palestinian prisoners. Also, a Palestinian teenager who ministers said that the move was had allegedly “been preparing to These guys were just in response to an “intolerable” rise stupid enough to get throw petrol bombs at the cars of Jewish settlers” was shot dead by in settler violence against caught on film. Palestinians. I don’t say this an IDF soldier on 15 October. Nevertheless, a courtoften, but…bravo, Israel. These particular attacks martial seems, at the are merely a sampling, and all very least, in order, and happened within the harvest’s first ISRAELI TROOPS ACTUALLY is far better than the FACING ABUSE TRIAL week. Now, admittedly, the harstandard IDF response vest is marred by violence of this to complaints of abuse, Oh, the blessed power of sort every year. This year’s, which is ignore them, though, seems particularly rough. YouTube. A certain video was so—wow, twice in one posted on YouTube sometime in According to a Jerusalem Post month—bravo, Israel. early November and then broadreport, an unnamed “top cast on Israeli television on 6 Israeli Defense Forces THE GAZA TEACH14

challenge Hamas, and it has disrupted life in Gaza and given Hamas quite the headache to deal with. Explicitly, the strike was called in response to Hamas’ consistent transferring of pro-Fatah teachers and administrators in order to fill key posts give Hamas supporters key posts. It’s important to note, though, that the strike was called by the Ramallah-based leadership of the PTU, not by the teachers. The teachers themselves took no vote. Some have said that they were “ordered” to stay home by the PTU or their salaries would be withheld. Some even report that they were threatened with termination if they didn’t stay home. Just days after the strike began in late August, Hamas replaced about 2,000 of the striking teachers with scabs, and Hamas’ Education Minister Mohammed Askoul rather bluntly declared, “Anybody who left their job will not be allowed to return. They have become irrelevant and cannot be trusted anymore as educators.” Since then, Hamas has continued to install new proHamas teachers in the positions left unoccupied by striking proFatah teachers, and the result is a Gaza-wide school system now stacked with Hamas loyalists, whose presence in classrooms will certainly guide students toward the more strictly Islamic ideology of Hamas. As if the cruel Israeli blockade of Gaza weren’t doing enough to encourage fundamentalism, now the fundies are running the schools. The bad news just keeps on coming.


- The Undercurrent -

Victory Gardens: A Modern Revival by Stephanie Gonzales

Urban America is no stranger to growing its own food. Though you may look around your neighborhood today and see yards full of lush lawn and blooming flowers, there have been periods where you were as likely to see vine-ripening tomatoes and flourishing strawberries. Due to a growing movement, we may see a return to backyard gardening where we will walk to a neighbor’s house to borrow some broccoli instead of turning to a grocery store for fresh produce. Victory Gardens are quickly regaining popularity, and backyard gardeners are taking a movement initiated to combat the effects of war, to now combat the effects of climate change, and a failing capitalist system. Victory Gardens— also called Peace Gardens, Freedom Gardens, Liberty Gardens—are small plots of land or container gardens used to grow food for self-sufficiency. The benefits of such a garden are numerous; they are a good use of resources which would otherwise be used on lawn, they circumvent the need to buy fresh produce at rising rates, and they provide an enjoyable hobby. It is easy for even the most inexperienced gardener to start her own backyard Victory Garden. Though self-sufficient gardening has existed since humans began to cultivate their own food, “Victory Gardens” were brought into the spotlight in the United States during World War I and World War II. Primarily as a response to food shortages, Americans were encouraged by Uncle Sam to grow their own food to decrease the demand on industrialized farmers at a time when produce was being rationed by the government. Instead of being discouraged by the

cultural industry eventually led to the decline in Victory Gardens, and American’s again used their yards for lawns and non-edible plants. Self-sufficiency gardening fell by the unavailability of meat and wayside, losing its promotion cheese, people were encourand interest as food shortages aged by their ability to grow no longer seemed troublesome. their own food at home. Now, however, the The federal governnation is seeing a revival in Victory Gardens, though they are called by many other names. This illustrates the dichotomy in the motivations of those who grow their own food now versus those who initiated the original Victory Garden movement. While the term “Victory Garden” is strongly associated with war due to the governmental promotion of gardening as a war-time effort, the modern movement is more strongly linked to environmental and health concerns. While the ment used various forms of increased cost of fresh produce propaganda such as posters and due to financial crisis no doubt pamphlets to promote the idea plays a role in the popping-up of family gardening as a form of backyard gardens, it appears of patriotism, in addition to to be a more direct response to community activism encourag- the agricultural industry’s use ing the same. Even the first of harmful chemicals on our lady Eleanor Roosevelt led by food, and the fuel used for culexample, planting a Victory tivating and transporting vegGarden on the Whitehouse etables which contribute to the lawn, and many popular maga- unnecessary destruction of our zines featured tips on how to environment. More and more grow and use your own vegeta- often you will see someone bles. replace a rose bush with a blueThis movement was berry bush. hugely successful during World Backyard gardeners, War II. Families from many sit- looking for a way to reduce uations and backgrounds contheir environmental impact, verted their urban and suburban feel that they can make a difplots to gardens, trying to sup- ference by growing at least port their government by supsome of their own food. By porting themselves. It is estidoing so, they are guaranteeing mated that 20 million gardeners that they know the origin of put forth their efforts at growtheir vegetables and how they ing food for their own families, were grown. Instead of their and as much as 40% of the food traveling from across the nation’s food supply was grown country, or world, it must only in our own backyards, on our travel from the backyard to the rooftops, and on our patios. table. After the war ended, a The Victory Garden sense of security and confimovement is rapidly gaining dence in the economy and agri- support. Though George Bush

does not yet have corn crops or cantaloupe growing at the Whitehouse, there is increasing hope that Barack Obama will. Roger Doiron of Kitchen Gardens International has started a petition to encourage the newly-elected president to follow the footsteps of Eleanor Roosevelt and be an example for self-sufficient gardening. His website encourages “We did it before. We can do it again. Please tell President Obama to Eat The View!” (www.eattheview.org) There are “Food not Lawns” chapters being established in cities all over the country, with members helping people replace their lawns with edible plants. Inspired by a book by the same name, Food not Lawns groups are community activists hoping to make an environmental and public impact through volunteer efforts. The movement has gained official support in the city of San Francisco, which has funded a pilot project called “Victory Gardens 2008+,” with their stated mission “to support the transition of backyard, front yard, window boxes, rooftops, and unused land into organic food production areas.” In addition, a Victory Garden was established at the San Francisco Civic Center in the summer of 2008. The success and scope of the Victory Garden revival will depend on the American people. If we determine that locally grown, chemical free, and inexpensive food is worth our efforts, we will continue to see increasingly edible landscapes. While governmental support can help push a movement along, it is truly up to the people to propel it forward, turning it into a way of life as a long-term solution to combat long-term problems. ______ Stephanie Gonzales is a freelance writer and keeper of www.killthelawn.com. She can be reached at stephaniemgonzales@comcast.net.

Food Fight by Tracy Newel

Eating has become complicated in recent years. On one hand, we are eating more... a lot more. The average American downs nearly 4,000 calories per day and childhood obesity rates have more than doubled since 1980. Yet any headway in boosting the healthful eating habits of Americans is likely to come in the form of an “innovative” low-cal product (like the new FiberOne 80 calorie, key-lime-pie yogurt from Yoplait with Splenda™). Over and over, we are told that eating something will make us thinner. Consumers are confused, increasingly distanced from their food source, and ultimately ignorant of what exactly they are putting in their mouths. Navigating a menu, let alone the grocery store, has become more and more of a liability and a matter of values. Our food system accounts for 19% of our fossil fuel consumption, second only to cars. This is a result of our monoculture of corn and soybeans (pick up almost anything in a grocery store and you will find at least one of these little guys listed on the label). Fossil fuels in the form of nitrogen based fertilizers and pesticides are used to grow these crops, to convert a corn kernel into a Pepsi, and finally for packaging and shipping. Even something as simple as chicken breast or a bunch of grapes is loaded—the chicken is fed corn and the grapes grown with chemicals and often shipped thousands of miles from their source. In addition, we are faced with a health care crisis. Heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and cancer are all chronic diseases linked to diet. We live in a confused culture of conflicting ideas about how to make healthy choices. Take the simple tomato. The variety grown today for most fast food establishments has on average 60% less of the nutritional content of its counterpart grown in 1950. Partly this is based on genetic selection and partly it is due to being grown in molecularly bankrupt soil. In addition, the longer it is off the vine, the more nutritional content is lost. Imagine what transpires in a processed food like a CheeseIt cracker? What are our bodies really left to fuel themselves on? Perhaps one of the reasons Americans are gorging themselves is in a subconscious attempt to get the basic vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that have been bled out of our foods. All this has led to an American food culture on the decline. We are losing regional favorites, like the boiled peanut in Florida, to Nabisco 100 Calorie Packs. We are losing heirloom foods like the Sun Crest peach because it does not stand up to being shipped thousands of miles. We are losing the will to slow roast a whole chicken because the Vons version is so cheap and easy. We are losing basic knowledge of how our food is grown, when it is ripe, and

Food Fight continued next page...

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- The Undercurrent -

chose to go into farming with a bend towards organic heirloom fruits and vegetables. how it should taste, all in the name of the Ten years ago, terms like “locabottom line for Kraft Foods. vore” (someone who likes to eat locally) Depressed yet? Looking at your were not even in the lexicon of most love handles in a new way? The good Americans and now we have, even in news is that people are not taking this layFresno, a small bubbling subculture that is ing down. There is a rumble in the belly of able to support small organic farms through farmer’s markets, Community Supported Agriculture, and conscientious restauranteurs. Ultimately, this is not a problem that is insurmountable. There is plenty us little people can do. So here’s the plan. For one, look at what you are eating... really. In most cases, it’s loaded with a lot more than 500 calories and the quick dopamine fix we’ve all come to know and love. Ask yourself, “Who is this food supporting? Can it support me?” I admit it’s a bitch sometimes not to just load up on what is readily available in a vending machine, but I feel great the world for real, sustainable food. The eating food I know a little more about. early seeds can be traced back to the 1970s Secondly, learn a little. Eating is vegetarian movement, which provided the something we all do... quite a bit in fact... foundational philosophy for many of and yet most of us function with the knowltoday’s organic farmers and Gen X food edge of a 5th grader. Figure out what’s seawriters. Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in fair. You sonal, what’s sustainable, what’s Berkeley has been a champion of the vegmight find that you actually like eggs that etable in its highest form for decades. The are fresh from a chicken’s ass or an in-seaorganization Slow Food was founded in the late 1980s by an Italian as a call for “Good, son wedge of roasted squash. Next, get to know the people who supply your food. Clean, Fair Food.” As a backlash to the We don’t live in Rhode Island—we’ve got increasingly dire state of our food culture, an amazing, prolific supply of year-round, the early seeds from these visionaries have local delights just mere miles from Fresno. truly began to blossom in recent years. Ask your restaurants to carry them. Find There was the groundbreaking out how your food is grown. If you don’t book Fast Food Nation followed by the know where to start, seek out us foodies at documentary Super-Size Me. Then, in farmer’s markets or in home veggie patch2006, Michael Pollan, arguably one of the es. We are more than happy to tell you all most eloquent food writers of our time, about okra and heirloom pork. wrote The Omnivore’s Dilemma followed Finally, use your measly power as by In Defense of Food, both packed with an American citizen to let our government tales of the current American Landscape. representatives know the importance of all Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, this. Petition to save community gardens Vegetable, Miracle, dropped off the grid for and keep out yet another casual-chain a year and chronicled eating within 100 restaurant. Even the most conservative miles of her home. And Alice Waters has a American can get behind family dinners foundation to provide gardens, cooking classes, and healthy lunches for school kids. around the table and eating local as a means to end our dependency on foreign oil. It’s If she can pull this off in Oakland, we’ve up to all of us to rebuild America’s food all got a little hope. culture. Robert Kenner, maker of the new Being knowledgeable about your “Food, Inc.” said it best in a documentary, food is even on the verge of being chic. In NY Magazine interview: “We get to recent September, Slow Food Nation San vote three times a day when we go food Francisco provided a playground for hipshopping. So go vote for fair food!” sters to taste, soap box, and even catch a _____ Gnarls Barkley show. Urban Homestead touts the virtues of backyard chicken coops Tracy Newel can be reached at traand foraging for food in the city. Kids cynewel@gmail.com and her blog can be read at www.fresnofoodie.blogspot.com. like 23 year old Alyssa Jumars, 1 6 graduate from college and then

Food Fight continued...

Stay in School, but Drop Out of the Electoral College by Daniel Ray & Abid Yahya

example, got 1 out of 5 of 1806). Back then, according to the National Archives, “an Nebraska’s electoral votes. All the other states and DC, elector was one of a number though, work under the winof princes of the various ner-take-all rule. German states within the Owing to the domiHoly Roman Empire who had nance of this winner-take-all a right to participate in the rule, as election of the German king nationalpopularvote.com puts (who generally was crowned BACKGROUND as emperor).” In USA, the The Electoral College is an example of indi- Electoral College was established by the Founding rect elections. Rather than Fathers as a compromise directly voting for the presibetween election of the presdent and vice president, citiident by Congress and eleczens cast votes for electors, tion by popular vote. The who are free to vote for anylatter idea was shot down one eligible to be president, but usually pledge to vote for because many believed that each state would just vote a specific candidate. For a candidate to win the election, for its “favorite son” and he/she must secure a majority that no candidate would of the 538 electorates (at least receive sufficient majority vote to win the presidency. 270). According to the National Archives, “each State’s allotment of electors is PROBLEMS WITH THE equal to the number of House ELECTORAL COLLEGE “What? My vote doesn't matter if I'm not in a There are two members to which it is entibattleground state?” major problems with the tled plus two Senators.” Electoral College, in our (California, for example, has it, “candidates have no reason view. First, it allows for the 53 representatives plus 2 to poll, visit, advertise, organSenators, so we have 55 elec- loser of the popular vote to win the election. Four candi- ize, or pay attention to the torates.) If no candidate in a concerns of states where they dates have won the majority presidential election wins a are safely ahead or hopelessly of the national popular vote majority of the electoral and nevertheless lost the elec- behind. Instead, candidates votes, the choice is then concentrate their attention on tion. They are Andrew referred to the House of a small handful of closely Representatives. If no winner Jackson (lost to John Quincy divided ‘battleground’ states. comes from there, the choice Adams), Samuel J. Tilden (lost to Rutherford B. Hayes), This means that voters in two is next given to the Senate. thirds of the states are ignored Grover Cleveland (lost to And because each state, as in presidential elections. In Benjamin Harrison), and noted in the Constitution, is 2004, candidates concentrated finally Al Gore (lost to able to design their own George W. Bush). To many, over two-thirds of their method of choosing electors, though, this seems counterin- money and campaign visits in the Presidential election has tuitive; it seems to be a funjust five states; over 80% in since become a jammed damental and basic tenet of nine states; and over 99% of process that consists of 51 democracy that majority their money in just 16 states.” separate but simultaneous rules. elections rather than a single Another major prob- HOW CAN WE DROP OUT election. And if that isn’t confusing enough, candidates lem with the College is that it OF THE ELECTORAL has allowed for the present COLLEGE? can fail to get the most votes situation in which most states So the question in the national popular vote remains. How do we drop and still win the election. give all of their electoral out of the Electoral College? For the history buffs votes to the winner—even if barely—of the state’s popular Unfortunately, the only way out there, the Electoral to truly and resoundingly do vote. Maine and Nebraska College did not make its that would be through a are the only two states that debut in American politics, Constitutional amendment. have some means of proporbut rather, the Founding tionally awarding their elecFathers borrowed it from the College continued next page... toral votes. Obama, for Holy Roman Empire (962There are a lot of things about the way democracy is run in this country that are in dire need of reform, but our focus here is on the national Electoral College specifically. We think it sucks.


fact that we seem locked in a permanent two-party structure And that would, of course, that discourages healthy debate require a two-thirds vote in both and limits participation of those the House and the Senate and a outside the mainstream in “our” ratification by three-fourths of the democracy. states. Now, it must be noted that So, in an IRV system, a the Constitution has been amend- voter would rank her choices (1, ed only 27 times since its adop2, 3, et cetera) for a candidate— tion in 1787, and that includes the president, in our case—and the first 10 (the Bill of Rights), which number of rankings would equal we tacked on shortly after ratifithe number of candidates in the cation of the original race, and would not be limited to Constitution. only two or even three, as it effectively is now. If any candiTHREE ALTERNATIVES TO date wins an outright majority THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE (50% + 1) in the top ranking, then If we drop out of the that candidate wins, but if no one Electoral College, though, there takes a majority, then the candimust be some alternative means date with the least number of of electing a president in place. votes is eliminated and “an There are a vast number of proinstant second round of counting” posals out there for how it should takes place, whereby all the elimbe done, but let’s look at three of inated candidate’s votes go to the the most popular. voters’ second choices. This First, the national popu- process is continued until a candilar vote. Majority rules, no matdate takes a majority. So your ter what state a vote comes from. vote counts for your second (or It’s simple, direct, and plainly third, or fourth, et cetera) choice democratic. However, its major if your top pick is unable to win. drawback—and perhaps why the In this way, it takes away the framers set up the electoral colfeeling that many voters have that lege in the first place, rather than our vote is somehow wasted if we the seemingly obvious national vote for a candidate that probably popular vote—is that, all else won’t win, according to the polls. being equal, NPV favors the And clearly, this type of system interests of folks who live in would encourage a greater divermore populous regions with more sity of participation and debate in densely populated urban centers the democratic process. over the interests of folks who live in the more sparsely-populat- THE NATIONAL POPULAR ed regions of the country. Then VOTE INTERSTATE again, though, so does the COMPACT Electoral College. Now, of these three Others argue that the alternatives, the national popular electoral college ought to be vote is closest to achievable, so to retained, but that the electoral speak. According to the US blocks shouldn’t be states. Constitution (Article II, Section Rather, the states should be drawn 1), each state controls how it into more equally populated chooses its electors, and thus its regions. This is referred to varielectoral votes. (Various means ously as Electoral College reform. have been tried, but most states It seems reasonable enough, but today just award all their electoral would require all manner of com- votes to the winner of the plicated bureaucracy. statewide popular vote.) Now, The most progressive this constitutional clause affords alternative, though, is known as supporters of a national popular Instant Run-off Voting (IRV). vote the opportunity to circumSupporters of IRV are concerned vent the Electoral College without about the state of democracy in officially dropping out of it, and USA. They consider it tragic that that’s the basis for the National under 50% of potential voters Popular Vote Interstate Compact, actually vote, and that this ranks which has already been joined, so lowest among industrialized far, by Hawaii, Illinois, New countries (though it looks like it Jersey, and Maryland. When a was around 60% in this election). state joins the compact, it’s an And they’re concerned about the agreement by that state to award

College contin-

all of its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the popular vote in that state. Given that 270 out of 538 electoral votes are needed for any candidate to win the presidency, once the number of electoral votes represented by states in the NPV Interstate Compact reaches 270, it’s on. These states then effectively choose the president, because their electoral votes are enough to elect the winning candidate and they’ve all agreed to give it to the winner of the national popular vote. The four states signed on so far represent 50 electoral votes. Nationalpopularvote.com points out that this is 19% of the way to 270. And there is reason to believe that this thing can happen. For a state to join the compact, its state house and senate must enact the National Popular Vote Bill and its governor must sign it. Though only four states have done it so far, the bill has currently made it through one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and has made it through both houses in California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill is endorsed by 1,181 state legislators, including, right here in our neighborhood, State Senator Dean Florez, State Assemblyperson Juan Arambula, and former State Assemblyperson Nicole Parra. California would have enacted the bill in 2006, more than doubling the number of electoral votes represented by the NPV Interstate Compact, were it not for Schwarzenegger’s veto. Furthermore, the National Popular Vote Bill has been endorsed by a number of prominent newspapers and organizations, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. It seems possible that this almost irreverently subversive experiment in interstate cooperation could, at long last, unburden us of the woefully sloppy, outdated, and almost vestigial Electoral College. ______ Daniel Ray is a union organizer and local filmmaker. He can be reached at dray26@gmail.com.

Movement of the Earth: Earthquakes

the Parkfield earthquake, magnitude 6.0 at the epicenter) actually felt more like a hypoglycemic episode. I wouldn’t have even noticed it, except a friend in Kerman called me in Fresno and asked if I had felt it, and I hadn’t, but I did just a few moments later. I hadn’t thought about the fact that the waves would need time to move through the earth. The other tipoff was the swinging chandelier, definitely not typical of hypoglycemia. My second earthquake experience, in San Francisco on October 30, San Andreas Fault 2007 (magnitude 5.6 with an epicenter nine miles northeast of by Jessi Hafer San Jose, lasting 30 seconds), was much more dramatic and noticeable, Facts: The land along the San Andreas but fortunately safe. I remember I was fault moves about a foot over a six year in San Francisco to take a friend to the period. The fastest moving plate is the airport, so she got to return to the East Pacific Rise in the South Pacific, Midwest with a good earthquake story. moving a foot in just over two years. But the geologic story on earthquakes starts with the many layI was having one of those days when ers of the Earth. There is an inner my first reaction to everything was core, an outer core, and a lower manquite literal. So when we decided tel. Then there’s the 500 mile-deep upon the feature topic of “Movements” lithosphere, which includes the upper for this issue, I thought of literal mantle, the crust (both oceanic and movement. I thought of earthquakes. continental) and the layer in As a born Midwesterner, I between—the Mohorovicic discontinuwas always fascinated by the idea of ity, called “Moho” for short. In the an earthquake. Of course, I was more lithosphere, the surface of the Earth is accustomed to tornados. You hear on broken into several large plates, and TV or the radio that a tornado has the edges of the plates, or the boundbeen spotted, so you take your radio aries between them, are faults. into your basement and prepare for the Earthquakes are, in the most basic long wait. You’re waiting for one of sense, the movement of these plates two things—either the announcement along the faults. that the tornado warning is over, or the There are a few different sound of that roaring freight train riptypes of faults. The 800 mile-long San ping trees from the ground and winAndreas Fault is one of only a few dows from their panes. Fortunately, transform-fault boundaries on land. you usually receive the former, but the Transform faults are where plates slide wait and the uncertainty is nerve horizontally past each other. On the wracking. west side of the fault, the Pacific Plate Earthquakes are the opposite. has been moving northwest relative to No warning, no basement, no long the North American Plate on the east wait. It all sounds so dramatic—and it side of the fault, and the plates have is, really. Yet the first time I saw part been moving past each other at a rate of the San Andreas Fault, I was terriof about two inches per year. In addibly disappointed. Even with an undertion to transform faults, there are graduate degree in geology (earned in divergent faults where plates pull away the Midwest, so I knew much more each other, with new crust forming about the Great Lakes than I did about between them, and convergent faults, earthquakes), I had expected a huge, where one plate is subducted or sinkbarren, gaping fissure in the earth, ing under the other, the submerging tense with possibility. Instead, it crust destroyed. Convergence of two looked like an un-kept, dried up creek continental plates builds mountain bed overgrown with grasses. The first earthquake I felt (September 28, 2004, Earthquakes next page... 1 7


Earthquakes continued...

ranges, as neither plate sinks. Geologist Harry Hess concluded that since the Earth is not getting bigger or smaller, the Earth’s crust is being destroyed at convergent faults at about the same rate as it is being created at divergent faults. The current theory surrounding earthquakes is that slow movements and temperature transfer (by way of convection) in the Earth’s interior layers induces stresses in the surface plates, storing energy within the plates. As stress accumulates, the rocks break suddenly, releasing the stored energy and moving the plates as an earthquake. Below the surface, the earthquake’s focus (or hypocenter) is where the earthquake originates, and the epicenter is the point on the Earth’s surface above the focus. As plates move at the faults, the earthquake creates waves. Rayleigh waves move over the surface of the Earth, moving the ground up and down. Love waves (named after a mathematician) move over the Earth’s surface more quickly, moving the ground from side to side. P-waves and S-waves travel beneath the surface. When an earthquake occurs, a seismograph records how the ground moves (recording a zig-zag line) to calculate the location and magnitude of the earthquake. The amplitude of the waves recorded by the seismograph is used in mathematical equations to determine the strength of the earthquake on moment magnitude scale (MMS), successor to the Richter Scale. On these logarithmic scales, a 6.0 earthquake has ten times more amplitude than a 5.0 earthquake, and this corresponds to about 31 times more energy released.

Facts: The Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 pm occurred at the beginning of Game 3 of the World Series between the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. It lasted 15 seconds and measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale, and it was the first major earthquake in the U.S. to be broadcast on live 1 8 television.

- The Undercurrent -

idea on that level is crucial. Whether through by Matt Espinoza Watson movement on When “movements” came up as our a cellular level, our heartbeat, or the feature topic this month, I immediate- movement of the earth around the ly thought about this image. I’ve sun, we can see the symbol reflecting been fascinated with it since before I this fundamental principle of life. can remember. It’s always grabbed, As you’ll notice, the ollin or rather demanded, my attention. image from the calendar (at left) has My pursuit of beginning to understand four quadrants, which at once repreit has taken me up and down this state sent the four chambers of the heart, and into Mexico several times, and the four seasons, the four previous has cost me a good deal of mental world ages (in the Mexica worldenergy. Ultimately, part of what I’ve view), and the four elements that give learned is that that’s your face there in us life (The jaguar represents the the center, or rather, that the symbol earth; The beak-like face to its left, you see is universal, meaning it Ehecatl (Wind), represents air; the applies to everyone, and that it is also symbol below it in the bottom left is a description of our universe and one Quiahuitl (Fire-rain), which represents of the fundamental principles of fire, and on the bottom life: Movement (Ollin) (proright is Atl (Water).) nounced oh-leen). It is a And despite what it reminder that without our might seem, we as heart moving blood humans are still through our bodies, we dependent upon would not have life. these four ele(Not to mention the ments for our millions of other movelives. Even genetments going on inside ically modified our bodies…) super-processed I’m into words, food-like substances understanding where they like the Cheetoes you come from. And so understandbuy at the corner store were ing this symbol and this word requires once corn, requiring these four eletalking a bit about the culture that it ments to make their way to your came from, and the world that shaped mouth. We are not separate from the it. We must understand also that, as rest of the world around us, despite in many cultures, one symbol can rep- driving around in cars, gazing at resent a great number of things. The screens and living in manufactured symbol ollin comes from the Mexica environments. We need to be remindor Aztec culture, though the origin of ed of this sometimes. We are not only the symbol is much earlier than this dependent on these elements, but we civilization. Like many of the peoples are constituted by them. of central Mexico, the Mexica spoke The symbol and the word Nahuatl. In Nahuatl, the word ollin ollin, in addition to referring to the has as its root the word yollotl, or above, is also a representation of heart. And so built within the essence another very particular kind of moveof this Nahuatl word, ollin, movement…earthquakes. In its simpler ment, is the word for our hearts. So form (at right), Ollin is blue above when we see this symbol we should red, “like the moment of dusk when see our face and our heart reflected the sun is setting and the blue night within it. We can extend the sky is appearing above the horizon metaphor and intuit that our moveand red fire of the sun. This is the ments (our actions) should be directed moment of a great change of enerby our hearts (not the organ, but the gy—this is ollin. Ollin is both the core of our being). Connecting to the

Ollin: Movement

masculine and feminine forces coming together. Ollin is a revolutionary spirit of cleansing, new creations and possibilities.”* Here we see the aspect of Ollin representing duality, and ultimately balance. Sometimes balance is achieved through earthshattering means. At times we all need a lil earthquake in our lives to wake us up to the present moment, to ourselves, to our surroundings. Another important aspect to

According to those who promote a unified perspective of the Mesoamerican calendars**, these five ages combine to create a larger cycle of about 26,000 years. It is this larger cycle, a full lap of our earth’s wobbling around on its axis (or precession), that is completing itself (not really ending) in 2012.*** In an age when we are beginning to awaken to the fact that our planet has a finite amount of resources and a finite limit to the damage we can do before making it uninhabitable for us, when we are realizing our economy based on continual growth isn’t realistic, maybe it’s time we question what else works in closed circles? Perhaps it’s also time for a reevaluation of how we look at time itself. Are we on a path that is a straight line stretching ever upward and forward, or does time itself follow a circular route? Even if we’re skeptical of this radical shift in our view of time, it’s consider is that this symbol is the very clear that we are at a point where we center of what is commonly called the require a reevaluation of how we Aztec Calendar. It is here that we can define ‘progress.’ It’s been said before that clearly see that ollin is cyclical in ‘sustainability’ and our ecological nature. It is a reminder that life movements are ultimately rooted in moves in cycles; a straightforward connection is with the seasons. Ollin ideas that are indigenous to this contiis a reminder to be observant, mindful nent and that were practiced by many of ourselves and our surroundings (to of its inhabitants for millennia. It may come as no surprise, then, that watch the way things are moving within and around us), recognizing the symbol the Mexica chose to that at times circumstances around us exemplify the age we live in is one demand action, while, at other times, that reminds us that, in order to move what is best is our disengagement or forward, sometimes we must look inaction. It is very Taoist in a way; if backward….Simplify. (Recognize we pay attention to movement, we simpler doesn’t necessarily mean easican learn to act in concert with what er). Strive toward more sustainable is around us. It is particularly relepractices and educate yourself about vant as winter approaches. Our surthe imminent changes we face in our roundings remind us that it is a time First World bubble….Observe. of death, of going within, and we Organize. Move. would be wise to embrace that. To ______ look inward and not run away from *Maritza Montiel, “The Tonalpoualli: ourselves, from our subconscious, The Heartbeat of our Culture and the from our instincts. Cosmos.” So we are reminded that the **Such as one of my teachers, world moves in cycles…really long Ricardo Duran ones sometimes, as in the case of the ***See www.alignment2012.com for ollin-calendar and the world ages that a (relatively) straightforward source it charts, but cycles nonetheless. In on this topic. this case, the ollin-calendar image is a representation of the five world ages.

Cephalos: Socrates, what a delight to run into you! But why do you look so glum? It’s Chi-mas! Can’t you feel it in the air? The smell of burning laurel wreaths? The Chi-mas epodes being chanted on every street corner? The big “X”s adorning all the shop windows. Socrates: It is truly a magical time of year, my friend. But I’m not feeling very much in the spirit, I’m afraid. Not this year. I took a bath in the stock market. C: I didn’t even know they had a bath in the stock market! What’s wrong

with it? Too hot? Too cold? S: No, I mean I lost all my money in the stock market. C: Stolen, yes. It’s important to watch your valuables when you’re at the baths. S: What I’m saying, my friend, is that I was participating in the stock market in the conventional manner, buying and selling stock—sheep, mostly— when the bottom dropped out. C: Yes, you have to watch your bottom, too, when you’re at the baths. S: All right, look. All I’m trying to say to you is that I can’t buy you a Chi-mas present this year, and I hope you will understand. I just don’t


have any money. C: Oh, neither do I, Socrates. I lost everything in the stock market crash. But surely you’re not really considering curtailing your shopping, are you? Or do you hate Athens? S: I beg your pardon? C: Oh, I’m sure I misheard you. Curse old age, and the hairy ears that come with it. It’s silly of me to think even for a moment that you would forego the giving of Chi-mas presents this year. S: What I said was that I can’t afford to buy you anything right now, but once I have my finances back in order— C: I knew it! I knew you were anti-Athenian! You nay-sayers are ruining it for everybody. Seussaphys: Cephalos! Is that you yelling over there? C: Oh no, here comes Seussaphys. Hide, Socrates, before he starts rhyming. Se: Stay where you are Socrates. I heard what Cephalos was saying—you and your student conspirators are waging a war on Chimas! S: Not at all, I was just explaining to my old friend that financial circumstances this year are such that… Se: Wait! I’m having a moment of inspiration! The muse of poetry is laying her hands upon me even now. C: Actually, that’s just me, Seussaphys. You’ve been working out? Se: “All the Athenians in Athensville loved Chi-mas a lot, but the Gadfly of Athens he most certainly did not.” S: How’s that? Se: “He hated Athens-tinsel. He hated their sophistry. He hated blim-boogles and jim-jangling Athens-zonkistry.” S: … C: … Se: “You’re a mean one, Socrates. You’re a nasty, bi-curious grump. Your method is despicable, your students all are chumps, Socrates. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that your philosophizing’s what put our economy in such a slump.” S: So, anyway, like I was saying, I only meant that I can’t afford to buy everyone presents right now, but as soon as… C: Athens-hater! S: What are you talking about? I just…. C: This economic downturn

is a state of mind, Socrates. Snap out of it. S: How do you figure? C: You don’t have enough money to make ends meet, so you stop buying things? Explain to me how that makes sense! S: What are you suggesting? Please elucidate, my old friend, since, as you know, I actually know nothing. Se: “The Gadfly hated Chimas! The whole Chi-mas season! Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason. It could be his theory of Forms was plain stupid. It could be, perhaps, that his mind wasn’t lucid. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his penis was two sizes too small.” S: What the…! C: Look, Socrates, ignore him. Now, I’m no economist, but perhaps my three translucent friends here can explain the intricacies of city-state finances to you. Have a sip of nog and stare into the mist…. Shade of Chi-mas Past: Socrates! S: By the gates of Hades! SCP: Socrates! Look—do you see yourself as a young man? S: That’s so weird. I can see my younger self. Man, I was cut. SCP: In those days you were in love and wanted to buy some hyacinths for Xanthippe. Do you remember? S: Sure. And back then nothing on her sagged. SCP: Indeed. Yet you were a young man of limited means. How did you acquire that bouquet of hyacinths? Did you, perhaps, borrow the money? S: Actually, I think I stole them from the neighbor’s yard. SCP: Oh. Well, there were other times, I’m sure, when you borrowed money to buy something you wanted at that moment, even though you weren’t sure you would be able to pay it back. Am I right? S: Oh sure! All the time! SCP: Well, there you go. S: Wait, what do you mean? Where are you going? Was there some kind of lesson I was supposed to take away? Shade of Chi-mas Present: Socrates, behold. S: Where’d he go? Who are you? SCP’: Focus, Socrates. Do you recognize that little waif? S: That? That’s little Oedipus. The poor kid has a bum foot, so he’s no good at athletics, will

- The Undercurrent -

never be a hoplite, and will probably wind up in an unhappy marriage. Why? What’s he to me? SCP’: His father is a goatherd, is he not? S: I think so. Although, you know what they say: Mama’s baby is Papa’s “maybe.” SCP’: Yet you are not buying a sacrificial goat this year, because you [makes quotation marks in the air with his fingers] have no money. Suppose everyone behaved so selfishly, Socrates. What would become of little Oedipus if his father were unable to sell any goats this year? S: Gosh, I guess I had never considered how my own actions might impact others. SCP’: That’s right. He might have to use his goats in a sustainable fashion, using their milk to make cheese, and weaving their fur into clothing, and starting up a profitable goat-lawn-mowing business. You know those things eat poison ivy? Did you realize that? S: Goats are awesome! But wait, where are you going? Was that the lesson I was supposed to learn? Hello? Shade of Chi-mas Future: Socrates, what you are about to witness is extremely disturbing. I cannot show it to you until you sign this health waiver swearing that you do not have any known pre-existing health condition. S: Of course. But tell me, shade, are you going to prophecy my own death? Am I doomed to eternal punishment for my stinginess? SCF: Beats me. But certainly your stinginess has consequences. Look! S: Is that Oedipus? All grown up? SCF: It is. S: What’s he doing? SCF: He’s trying to get a loan. S: It doesn’t look like it’s going well. SCF: It’s not. Remember when you decided to cut back on sacrificial goats because you were [makes quotation marks in the air with his fingers] strapped for cash? That meant that Oedipus’ father had a little less money that year. So you know what? He, himself, felt suddenly strapped for cash. So he decided to reduce business costs by downsizing his operation, and he laid off one of his goatherd boys. But that meant that one of his goatherd boys was now no longer bringing home a couple drachmas a week to his family, so

his father— S: Wait, I’m getting this. His father, who was a…let’s say he was a blacksmith. So his father the blacksmith had to cut back a little, since he didn’t have his son’s extra income, and he decided to reduce expenses by…by what, Shade of Chi-mas Future? Tell me what he cut back on! SCF: Insurance. He canceled his foundry insurance, so when a stray spark set his workshop on fire he didn’t get a large cash payout and he had to get a job as a street sweeper. Plus the insurance industry had to reduce costs, since so many otherwise cash strapped people were canceling their policies. And also, so many people applying to be street sweepers meant downward pressure on wages, so even street sweeping didn’t pay what it used to. You see, now, what you will cause? S: I do, shade. But why can’t Oedipus get a loan? SCF: Oh, that’s because the wealthy merchant he is trying to borrow from has been burned recently by defaults. It seems that he made some risky loans which didn’t pan out, and he lost about 6% of his wealth. So now he’s being more careful with his money. S: I see. But tell me, is there still time? Can I go back and do things differently? Please? Hello? Where’d you go? C: Ah, you’re back. S: What day is it, Cephalos, my old friend? C: It’s Chi-mas day, Socrates. S: I’m not too late, then? C: Too late for what? S: To get a loan! I have decided that I want to stimulate the economy by buying everyone a sacrificial goat! Come on! We have to get to a wealthy lender. C: What are you talking about, Socrates? Nobody in their right mind is going to lend to you. Do you have any collateral? What’s your income? S: But I thought—I thought I was supposed to borrow the money to buy you a Chi-mas present, and that then everything would be okay. C: Forget it, Socrates. I tried to get a loan, too. But the rich people are worried about the economy. They’re worried that I’ll try to start a business, the business will fail because it doesn’t have any buyers since no one has any money these days, and then they’ll lose their money. S: What little of it they’ve invested, at least.

C: Exactly. So probably the only thing for you and me to do is to pool whatever money we have left and buy a bottle of wine. Then we can get drunk, chant epodes, beg on the street, and if we get cold we can burn our togas. What do you say? Would you like to spend Chi-mas with me, Socrates? S: Sure, why not? Se: “As he stared down at Athensville, the Gadfly popped his eyes. Then he shook! What he saw was a shocking surprise. Every Athenian in Athensville, the tall and the small, was singing! Without any presents at all! He hadn’t stopped Chi-mas from coming! It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same! But without any presents, all agreed it was lame! And the Gadfly, with his sandaled-feet stuck in the sand, stood puzzling and puzzling: ‘It came, but it’s bland? It came without ouzo! It came without figs! It came without baby sheep, rams’ horns, or pigs!’ And he philosophized three hours, till his philosophizer was sore. Then the Gadfly thought of something he hadn’t before! ‘Maybe Chi-mas,’ he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Chi-mas, perhaps, means a little bit more! But just a little bit, because with the store it means more!’ And what happened then? Well, in Athens they say that the Gadfly’s small member grew three sizes that day! And the minute his toga didn’t feel quite so breezy he whizzed in the road and he felt kind of queasy. He wished he had treats. He wished he had toys. He wished he had olive oil, cheap wine, and boys. But most of all he was hungry so he wished hard for food, and he started to hallucinate (which lightened his mood). He saw his friend Cephalos, on whom men would dote, take wing and rise up like Hermes might float; then he imagined him plop down in a gravy-filled moat, all juicy and succulent (Epicureans, take note!), and he—he himself—Socrates carved the Cephalos-goat!” Happy Chi-mas, and Zeus bless us— every one! ______ H. Peter Steeves is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and can be reached at psteeves@depaul.edu. Steven J. Ingeman is an independent scholar and Circulation Supervisor at Mary Riley Styles Library in Falls Church, VA and can be reached at ingeman@fallschurch.lib.va.us. 19


Sunday

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

1

w SIN w/ Hillbilly Rockstar, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Live Music, VVV w Valley Café Scientifique: Life Beyond Earth (Dr. Frederick A Ringwald), North India Bar & Grill, 6p

2

w Open Jam w/ Aesop, Tommy D., Moltron and Dave Trent, free, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Licorice Pimps featuring Jeff Logan, VVV w Basslines Dub Step w/ DJ B, LC/ZP, 9p

3

w Ladiez Nite 80z Night w/ Pistol Killer & DJ Audie 5000, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Soul Freedom Lounge – Mr Leonard, VVV w Socials Drinking Club, LC/ZP, 9p w Broadway in Fresno: Sweeney Todd, $27.50+, WST, 7:30p

4

7

w Miracle Dolls, The Pricks, The Family Curse, Proto Man, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Freeshow, VVV w Fres Phil: Annual Holiday Celebration, $24+, WST, 2:30p

8

w SIN w/ Hillbilly Rockstar, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Live Music, VVV w The Word Alive, Underneath the Gun, EXT, 6p

9

w Open Jam w/ Aesop, Tommy D., Moltron and Dave Trent, free, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Licorice Pimps featuring Jeff Logan, VVV w Basslines Dub Step w/DJ B, LC/ZP, 9p

10

w 80z Nite Ladiez Night w/ Jay Smith Biatch, DJ Audie5000, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Hump Band, VVV w Golden Age Films: Holiday Inn, FAM, 2p w Socials Drinking Club, LC/ZP, 9p

11

14

15

16

17

18

w 5150 Firefighter’s Band, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 4p w I Set My Friends on Fire, Karate High School, EXT, 6p w Fres Grand Opera: Christmas on Van Ness, $25, 1rst Congregational Church, 2p w Freeshow, VVV

w SIN w/ Hillbilly Rockstar, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Live Music, VVV

2 1 22 w Outlaw Country w/ DJ Audie 500 and Evil G, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w The Nutcracker Ballet, $20+, WST, 2p w Freeshow, VVV

w Not for Hire, Our Lost Cause, Check Raised, $7, SL, 8p

w Open Jam w/ Aesop, Tommy D., Moltron and Dave Trent, free, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Basslines Dub Step, LC/ZP, 9p w Stick to your guns, EXT, 6 w WSF Staged Reading: All's Well that Ends Well, Woodward Park Library, 6:30p w Licorice Pimps featuring Jeff Logan, VVV

w 80z Nite Ladiez Night w/ Pistol Killer, Jay Smith Biatch, DJ Audie, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Socials Drinking Club, LC/ZP, 9p w Soul Freedom Lounge – Mr Leonard, VVV

2 3 24 w Open Jam w/ Aesop, Tommy D., Moltron and Dave Trent, free, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w 8 Man MC Battle w/ Evidence, Fashawn, Richie Cunning, Gold Plated Hustla, $18, SL, 9p w Licorice Pimps featuring Jeff Logan, VVV w Basslines Dub Step, LC/ZP, 9p

w 80z Nite Ladiez Night w/ Jay Smith Biatch, DJ Audie5000, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Beat Dynasty, VVV w Socials Drinking Club, LC/ZP, 9p

Art Hop

w No No Au Go Fred, 9p w Fres Poets' Ass w Ron Thompson w Bryan Adams, w Cloud 99, The w Reggae Night – w Sleepover Disa TKG w Love the Capti

w Love The Capt and DJ J Cat w Reggae Night – w 5th Annual Hm Series, free, T w Love the Capti w Cloud 99, The

w No No Au Go Fred, 9p w Love the Capti w Cloud 99, The w Big Tim's Birth Check R (AFI), Not for H (Operation Iv w Reggae Night –

Art H

25 w No No Au Go

Olympic/Clu w Love the Capti w Reggae Night –

Ongoing w Roger Rocka's:

28

w $1 Punk Night: w/ TBA, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Freeshow, VVV

29

w SIN w/ Hillbilly Rockstar, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Live Music, VVV

w Calendar current as of printing

30

w Open Jam w/ Aesop, Tommy D., Moltron and Dave Trent, free, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Basslines Dub Step w/DJ B, LC/ZP, 9p w Licorice Pimps featuring Jeff Logan, VVV

w Roger Rocka's: w 2nd Space Thea w NYE Party w/ The Suppressors, The Burnouts, DJ w 2nd Space Thea w Knuckledragger Romantixxx, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p (1009 S. Hazelwoo w New Year's Party, VVV w Zapp’s New Years Party, LC/ZP w Patrick Conreras Band and BB King New Years Show, Warnors Theatre w Jan 6 & 7: Broa w Jan 9: Fres Film w Jan 10: Fres Phi w Jan 31: Fres Gra

31

January


Thursday

p Tower /Downtown)

Friday

Saturday

5 w Glen Delpit & The Subterraneans, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 5p

6

soc: Sam Pereira, $5, FAM, 7:30p n and the Resistors, CRS, 6p TT, 7:30p Landmark, 8p – Reality Sound International, VVV aster, Rademacher, Death to Anders,

w w w w

tive Presents: Bean Dip, Robo Pop tch, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p – Reality Sound International, VVV mong Voices Short Documentary Film TT, 7p ive, LC/ZP, 9p Landmark, 8p

12

13

w w w w w w w w

w w w w w

Go Lounge, Audie's Olympic/Club

ive, LC/ZP, 9p

Fresno Beehive Birthday Party w/ Acts TBA, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 8p Meatball Magic, free, RL, 10p Mr. Leonard & the Dixons, LC/ZP, 9p Lower Definition, In Fear and Faith, The Ember Reign, From Ritual to Romance, EXT, 6p w Soul Good – DJs Matt Burton & Manny Carr, VVV w Marshal Pullaim, Captain We're Losing Speed, KPJ w Woodward Shakespeare Fest presents: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), $15, SEV, 8p

Mofo Party Band, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p Mike Smith & Dave Lane, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 5p Bodycall – DJ Prof Stone, VVV IQ Promotions, LC/ZP, 9p Picture Atlantic, Adam Passion, Brother Luke & the Comrades, $6, KPJ Holiday Fun in the Tower, 6-9p WSF: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), $15, SEV, 8p Fres Filmworks: Frozen River, $10, TT, 5:30p and 8p

Go Lounge, Audie's Olympic/Club

19

Go Trip Hop Lounge, Audie's ub Fred, 9p ive, LC/ZP, 9p – Reality Sound International, VVV

26

Hop (Metro/Outlying)

ive, LC/ZP, 9p Landmark, 8p hGay Bash: Black Fag (Black Flag), Raised (Alkaline Trio), Pinky Swear Hire (Bad Religion), The Martyrs vy), $8, EXT, 6p – Reality Sound International, VVV

w w w w w w

The Bungalow Downs, Blooming Hands, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p Glen Delpit & The Subterraneans, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 5p Frisky – DJ P-Rez, VVV Go Push Ent, LC/ZP, 9p Sahab, Hello Astronaut, Stereo Substance, KPJ Meatball Magic, free, RL, 10p

w Bob Wayne and The Outlaw Carnies, Lightnin Woodcock, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Dave Lane, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 5p w Rhythm Do-Gooders, VVV

gSomething's Events: Afoot, Nov 13 - Jan 11

Footloose, Jan 15 - Mar 15 atre: A Christmas Carol, Nov 1 - Dec 21 atre: The Trip to Bountiful, Jan 2 - Feb 22 rs Improv Comedy, Central Valley Church od), Fridays at 8p, $6

yadway in Fresno: Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, $27.50+, WST, 7:30p

mworks: A Christmas Tale, $10, TT, 5:30 and 8:45 p il: Hollywood Movie Scores, $24+, WST, 8p and Opera: Tenors' Tribute to Mario Lanza, $35+, TT, 7:30p

Where:

2ST: 2ND Space Theatre, 928 E. Olive CRS: Crossroads, 3315 N Cedar Ave EXT: The Exit, 1533 E Belmont FAM: Fres Art Mus, 2233 N. 1st St. IFS: InfoShop, 935 F St

w Attitude Adjustment, I Madman, Moses, Benny and The Vetts, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w Wintch Mob, Your Own Destroyer, Maya over Eyes, Never Broken, Pinky Swear, EXT, 7p w WILPF Annual Craft Faire, First Congregational Church, 10a – 4p w Violet Shore, The Dirty Sanchez, Hot Shade, LC/ZP, 9p w Dinosaur Movies, free, MET, 1p w Beat Dynasty, VVV w Black & White Ball holiday event, $175/person, MET, 6p w WSF: Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), $15, SEV, 8p w Fresno Folklore Society: Glen Delpit, $15, FAM, 7:30p Soular Power and Ecliptics, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p The Same Shape, VVV, 10:30p Do U Entertainment, LC/ZP, 9p Jeffree Star, Hello Astronaut, EXT, 6p Woodward Shakespeare Fest presents: The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), $15, SEV, 8p w Fres Grand Opera: Christmas on Van Ness, $25, 1rst Congregational Church, 6p

20

w In Flight Nymphs & TBA, $5, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p w The Nutcracker Ballet, $20+, WST, 2p and 7:30p w Body Rock – DJ Don D & the F Squad, VVV

27 w 40 Watt Hype, Audie's Olympic/Club Fred, 9p

w Word of Mouth – DJ Rusty, VVV w Festfest! 559, EXT, noon w 8th Annual Winter Solstice Concert: Lyquid Amber, $20, Unitarian Church, 8p

KPJ: Kuppajoe, 3673 N. First St RL: The Red Lantern RR: Roger Rocka’s, 1226 N Wishon SEV: Severance, Floradora & Wishon SL: The Starline, 831 E. Fern SMH: Smokehouse Bar, 1231 Van Ness TKG: Tokyo Garden TT: Tower Theatre, 815

Olive Ave WST: William Saroyan you want included on the Theatre UnderCurrentEvents WT: Warnor Theatre Calendar? Email us with the WWPL: Woodward Park Library what, who, where, when, and VVV: Veni Vedi Vici, 1116 N how much $: Fulton Calendar@FresnoZP: Zapp's Park, 1105 N. Undercurrent.net Blackstone

Got An Event


(far left)

Dressy Bessy (left)

RADEMACHER / THE SLEEPOVER DISASTER / DEATH TO ANDERS

THURSDAY

DECEMBER 04

930pm T O K Y O garden 21+ / $5

It’s not really a post-art hop show without Rademacher, now is it? The originators and curators of this First Thursday phenomenon are at it again, this time with guests The Sleepover Disaster (Devil in the Woods Records) and LA band-to-watch Death to Anders, who have—since their last visit to Fresno—released a new record and become big players in the LA indie rock scene. Good music and good friends always make the post-arthop show the best thing to happen to Thursdays since, um, “must-see TV”. Come be a part of it.

DRESSY BESSY / COLOURMUSIC

M O N D A Y

DECEMBER 08

930pm CELLAR door 21+ / $5

Dressy Bessy have an extensive catalog of their own, so it’s almost pointless to note that John Hill (Apples in Stereo) is a member of the band, but Apples in Stereo rock, so there you go. While the two bands both draw from power pop influences, the female-fronted Dressy Bessy plays more on the power-chord-bash-and-pop side of the genre. Supporting will be Oklahoma’s Colourmusic, who have a huge sound made up of two parts gospel rave-up and one part fuzzed-out folk-psychedelia. Survey says: a must see live-show.

THE SUPPRESSORS / THE BURNOUTS / DJ ROMANTIXXX (new year’s eve)

WEDNESDAY

DECEMBER 31

930pm audie’s OLYMPIC 21+ / $10

This show is possibly your best opportunity for a fun, live music-fueled dance party on New Year’s Eve. Local Ska band The Suppressors have come up big this year, playing more shows than ever and being named “best band in Fresno” by FresnoFamous.com. Put them together with locals The Burnouts rockin’ it rockabilly/country-style and DJ Romantixxx to fill in the blanks (and get you shaking your stuff into the wee hours), add a few drinks, and there’s your party to bring in the New Year.

LE SWITCH / special guests

SATURDAY J A N UA RY 2 4

800pm the PARTISAN 21+ / $5 22

As if you needed one, this is a good excuse to make the short drive to check out The Partisan in Merced. R.C. and company put together some of the best, most interesting shows in the Valley, featuring some of the best, most interesting touring and Valley bands. This night features the soulful indie sounds of Le Switch (Los Angeles), who are passing through on their way home from a short Northwest tour, and you can be sure there’ll be some great support acts on the bill.

(right)

Bob Wayne & the Outlaw Carnies

Fruit Bats

S U N D A Y

DECEMBER 07

930pm audie’s OLYMPIC 21+ / $5

MIRACLE DOLLS / THE FAMILY CURSE / THE PRICKS It’s a truly interesting and fairly diverse line-up for this night at Audie’s, which features three touring bands. SoCal pop-punks and Warped Tour veterans Miracle Dolls bring their energetic live show to the stage with big guitars, big drums, and solid female vocal harmonies. LA band The Pricks deliver an interesting blend of punk, electronic, and hip-hop, and Seattle’s The Family Curse rock the stage with big industrial-electronic fuzz.

BOB WAYNE & THE OUTLAW CARNIES / LIGHTNIN’ WOODCOCK

F R I D A Y

DECEMBER 26

930pm audie’s OLYMPIC 21+ / $6ish

Raucous doesn’t begin to explain what this show promises to deliver. Both of these bands rock in the way Hank III rocks, with booze-fueled fierceness and a country ton of energy. Seattle’s Bob Wayne & The Outlaw Carnies do their thing with rocked-up country flavor, while L.A.’s Lightnin’ Woodcock take that formula and add some punk, rockabilly, and blues for good measure. If you enjoy any of the aforementioned genres, or if you’re just enjoy larger-than-life live performances, you’ll find something to love about this show.

Love the Captive presents... BUFFALO GUNS / FROM INDIAN LAKES

T U E S D A Y

J A N UA RY 0 6

930pm the STARLINE all ages / $5

SATURDAY J A N U A RY 31

930pm CELLAR door 21+ / $5

A Love, the Captive promotion. For those who think that the Fresno area has nothing to offer in terms of local music, here’s your chance to check out two of the area’s best up-and-comers. Not only can Buffalo Guns play a great live show, but they can actually write interesting rock songs of a quality rarely seen in a such a young band. From Indian Lakes recall early emo bands and more recent experimental indie influences, and they’re able to play across a broad spectrum of sonic dynamics. Come out and show your support!

FRUIT BATS / SERA CAHOONE

Aaron Gomes (of Sound N’ Vision productions) brings another great show to Visalia. This time, S’N’V brings the Fruit Bats, featuring Eric Johnson, a touring member of the Shins. These guys will appeal to Shins fans, but Fruit Bats take indie jangle and bluegrass roots further than the former has done thus far, but with that 60’s feel you might expect. Supporting them will be Sub Pop lablemate Sera Cahoone with her band, who have a gorgeous jangle of their own.

THE VENUES / Cellar Door = 101 W Main St, Visalia / The Exit = 1533 E Belmont, Fresno / Audie’s Olympic Club Fred= 1426 N Van Ness, Fresno / Howie & Sons Pizza = 2430 S Mooney, Visalia / The Starline = 831 E Fern, Fresno / The Partisan = 432 W Main St, Merced / Tokyo Garden = 1711 Fulton, Fresno / Veni Vidi Vici = 1116 N Fulton, Fresno / Babylon = 1064 N Fulton, Fresno


- The Undercurrent -

Con Todo Corazón, Para Café Corazón by Cresencia Cruz

So I’ve had a somewhat of a hard time writing this article. The past couple weeks I’ve been thinking of different ways to start the article. Then when I wasn’t thinking about the intro, I was thinking about the rest of the article. What should I write about? Should I include this or that? Should I write some parts in Spanish or just do it all in English? Don’t think I’m writing about Café Corazón because it was an assignment. Nope. I wanted to do this for Leo & Liz. I wanted to do this because I loved the café and le tengo muchisimo cariño a Liz y Leo. Also because it was a sad thing to see them have to close the doors of this amazing place, when they put all their heart and soul into it without asking for much in return. I believe the best way I can say thank you to them is by writing this article con todo el amor y respeto that I have for them. A year ago I would have never thought of being close friends with such amazing people like Liz and Leo. Now I’m not sure of the date of the first time I went to Café Corazón, but I do know that it was a Saturday morning, about a year ago. So, I don’t know about everyone else but I had a hard time finding Café Corazón. It probably took me about 15 minutes because the out-

side of the café looked like a jewelry store. But now that I think about it, it was the almost perfect place to put such an amazing and beautiful jewel. To me that’s what Café Corazón was, a

jewel, for not just one person but for the whole community to enjoy. When I walked in, I felt this amazing vibe of energy, of calmness and comfort that would make the café my favorite place to be. I was greeted

help students, especially mexicano/mex-american/chicano students to get an education that their parents would have a hard time providing for them. They wanted to give back to the community for being so good to them, but we the community by both Leo and Liz and their smil- slowly started to drift away. People ing faces. We introduced ourselves, stopped attending “Speak Your I ordered some food and we got to Heart” & art hop soon foltalkin’. lowed. The couple of months They shared with me, as that showed a promise of a with everyone else that wanted to bright future for the café soon help them, their dreams and turned to hard times. In part hopes for this place. They the economic situation had to wanted to host art hop, do with the closing of the which they did, so that café. There wasn’t enough any artist could put up coming in to keep the doors their work and show. open and the shop running. So They wanted to do Leo & Liz had to make the poetry jams and they difficult decision to close up did because they shop. But they won’t be gone felt it was necesfor good. They hope to open sary to provide a up shop either in the coming safe space for both months or in a year or two. youth and adults to You can probably see them express themselves. around town at different They also wanted to events doing what they did provide a space to before the shop. But when hold cultural events they do open up again, please like Cesar Chavez day support them even if you just or an event filled with show up to an event because music, poetry and thejust seeing your faces makes ater. And these were only them happy. short-term goals for the Leo & Liz Thank shop. They were hoping their You! Also, Thank you to business would take off in a couple those who organized the beneof months and start making some fit party for them. profit. Leo & Liz aren’t the greedy ______ type where they’d go start a busiCresencia Cruz is student at ness just to make some money. CSU Fresno majoring in They wanted to make money so that Psychology and Chican@ & they could start a scholarship to

Latin American Studies, an active member of Club Austral and the Chicana/o Writers & Artists Association (CWAA), an intern at California Rural Legal Assistance, and someone who loves folks with good hearts who want to make a difference. She can be reached at ccruz615@gmail.com.


- The Undercurrent -

Christmas Tree Lane Walking Nights

The bus ride, which ensures you only have to walk Christmas Tree Lane one way (as opposed to the four mile round trip), costs $7 per person at the time of boarding. Alternatively, by Jessi Hafer advanced tickets for the bus are $5 per person, and they are availDon’t you just hate the exhaust of able at the Longs Drug store in idling cars creeping through other- Fig Garden Village, Whole Foods, or Gazebo Gardens (Shields and wise festive displays of outdoor Van Ness). Groups of 20 or more holiday décor? This year, as in can purchase their tickets for th previous years, the 86 Annual $6/person at the time of boarding, Christmas Tree Lane will grace but a reservation is needed (conVan Ness Avenue in Fig Garden tact Tree Fresno at 221-5556). with two “Walk Nights,” when no Buses leave about every half hour vehicles are allowed. This year’s starting at 5:45 pm. For more walk nights are Tuesday, information, visit December 2 and Wednesday, www.oldfig.org/about/christmasDecember 10, from 6:00 pm to treelane.html. 10:00 pm. Bus rides from the north east section of Fig Garden Village in the Financial Center are available on the Walk Nights.

by Jessi Hafer

The Woodward Shakespeare Festival will be presenting a fully staged off-season production of the acclaimed, 97-minute comedy, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). The play features performers Daniel Moore, Brandon Petrie, and James Hume, and performances are being held at the California Arts Academy Severance Building in the Tower District for just four nights: December 5, 6, 12, and 13, at 8 pm each evening. Tickets are $15, with advance tickets available at www.woodwardshakespeare.org. Tickets for the opening night champagne reception are $25. Proceeds benefit Woodward Shakespeare Festival’s upcoming 2009 season of free plays at Woodward Park.

Get Your 2009 Slingshot Organizer Now by Jessi Hafer

also know that, on that day in 1930, there was a general strike in Valencia, Spain; in 1981, Mumia Abu Jamal was shot The 15th annual organizer/calendar, the down and accused 2009 Slingshot Organizer, is now availof killing a cop; and able from the Berkeley-based Slingshot in 1992, protesters collective. I’ve been happily carrying were evicted from around a Slingshot organizer for a few UK’s first anti-road years now. The first draw for me was the camp at Twyford fact that it’s small (the pocket edition is Down. The cover 4.25 x 5.5 inches) and has book-like bindand pages are ing (no spiral!). That said, for people with adorned with neat more to write (or for those who lose their back-of-the-envelittle calendars), there is a larger spirallope-ish scribbly bound verdrawings, too. The sion that’s 2009 organizer also 5.5 x 8.5 has pages showing inches. monthly calendars, In pages for notes, and each verpages with other sion, you useful information. open to two The organpages showizer is available in ing you your week, 30 different cover colors, and it’s only about $6 with space to write (plus shipping), depending on where you buy it. whatever you have to Once you get yours, take the collective’s advice and do, and your activilaminate it or cover it with clear contact paper or ties will be in the packing tape, and it will hold up much better (I didcompany of various n’t cover my first one, and I really regretted it). For historical moments of more information, visit radical significance. slingshot.tao.ca/organizer.php. For example, not only do I know that I have a class on December 9, 2008. I 25


- The Undercurrent -

Four Short Music Reviews by The Undercurrent Editors

by Matt Espinoza Watson

The 36th Annual Chicano/a Youth Conference will be held January 17 on the Fresno State campus. The longest running event of its kind, CYC is a tradition that continues to be upheld by dedicated students and community members, and continues to offer Valley youth a day full of activities designed to promote cultural awareness, higher learning and higher consciousness. Every year, many high school and middle school teachers bring busloads of young people from throughout the Valley to descend upon the CSUF campus and spend the day attending workshops, lectures, and meeting other youth from the area. This year’s theme is “History, Knowledge, and Future: Look into the past, change the present, better the future.” As always, CYC is a free event open to everyone. And as always, it will be filled with speakers and facilitators who care deeply about their community and who have lots to offer conference participants. Whether workshops on attending college & financial aid, career opportunities, community involvement, identity, or indigenous cultural traditions, there will be something to interest anyone in attendance. Although the conference is aimed primarily at high school aged youth, older and younger folks will surely find something exciting and new to learn about also. CYC organizers always seem to bring in some great music, art, and cultural components as well. The event will be held from 8 am to 4 pm, centered around the Satellite Student Union, where parking will be free. Encourage young people you know to attend and take advantage of this opportunity. For more info, email mechadefresnostate@yahoo.com.

26

Happy Misunderstandings The Skeleton’s Keys

Kittygato Records (2007)

If you live in Fresno and aren’t familiar with the music of Tommy Delgado, then, well, you should be, because he has been on the scene for many years, hosting open jams, encouraging & recording other local artists, and fronting one of the best live bands in Fresno, The Same Shape. If you don’t know Tommy D, The Skeleton’s Keys would make a fine introduction. This solo effort (done under the name, Happy Misunderstandings) was released last year, and showcases Delgado at his best and most eclectic. Tommy’s live performances and recordings have always stood out to me because of his raw skill as a musician, but also because you know he loves what he’s doing. A quote I read years ago, about Los Lobos frontman David Hidalgo, popped into my head as I sat to write about Tommy; “toca todo, hasta toca las puertas” (he plays everything, even doors )…well, it really doesn’t translate, but the point is, whether in live sessions or on this album, Tommy jumps effortlessly from playing a mean slide guitar to picking up a bass

and then sitting down behind the drums and laying down some beat. He’s a talented musician and songwriter whose skill is evident on The Skeleton’s Keys. From funky mellow instrumentals (“the porch who couldn’t speak”), to heartfelt lyrics about love and pain and personal & collective growth, Tommy moves between rock and blues and folk and African drums and tender whispered lyrics and it all sounds good. Do yourself a favor and check it out at www.myspace.com/tommydelgado. Check him out at Audie’s Olympic every Tuesday night. ~MEW

playing 13 December at Cellar Door in Visalia, and you can always check www.myspace.com/chuckdimes for other show dates. ~AY

PC Muñoz Grab Bag

Talking House Records (2008)

History of the Blues is about as good as it gets. The trouble with PC Muñoz (self-described on blues anthologies, even the best of his/their Myspace page as them, is that they can never lyrical/electro/funk) was one of encompass the blues. I know that my favorite musical acts at the all music is best listened to live, at Rogue Festival in 2008. I was least music worth listening to, but completely mesmerized by his the blues, more so than other types experimental and highly articulate of music, is never done justice on Twenty Haiku multi-media project, recorded format. The challenge and the band’s other songs were for blues anthologies is to capture equally poetic and impacting. not only the quality but the feeling The San Francisco-based group of the music. This is what makes features band members Danny blues anthologies so difficult to do Zingarelli (electronics and vocals), well. The best blues you may Dave Worm (musical vocals), Keep the ever hear may be from some Kevin Carnes (drums and vocals), nobody in some hole in the wall, Change Vicky Grossi (electric bass), and but the crowd and the atmosphere Milk Crate PC Muñoz (kalimba, cajon drum). that night allow the music to Music (2008) You’d be truly amazed at the level speak to you in a way only the of musicality they achieve without blues can. That being said, A The one and a guitar or keyboard, just through Brief History of the Blues gives only Chuck carefully arranged electronics and you the best of the blues, short of Dimes, who percussion. Their new album, being there. With a smattering of has risen up Grab Bag, features 12 great songs some of the best known singers, (along with a (some a bit dark and eerie, some a such as Muddy Waters, Robert few others) bit more upbeat), and you can sign Johnson, Elmore James, Howlin’ from amongst up to download a rare track for Wolf, B. B. King, and John Lee the vast sea of wanna-be emcees free (see their myspace blog entry Hooker to name a few, as well as all over this town to become a for details). You can order Grab some of the lesser know jewels well-known, consistently crowdBag for $10 through links availlike Mississippi John Hurt’s pleasing, and proven rocker of the able on their website “Stack O’ Lee” and Sonny Boy mic, has dropped a new album, his (pcmunoz.com), and you can lisWillamson’s “Don’t Start Me To second. Keep the Change is a ten to a few of the tracks on the Talkin,” this album is an solid follow up to 2006’s A Fresh myspace page essential part of any blues Start, full of catchy and clever (www.myspace.com/pcmunoz). collection. ~CF rhymes and undeniably funky and But the stylized cover art with the fresh beats, and featuring an allCD, like an order form in the star line-up of local emcees in back of a comic book, makes cameo performances, including getting the CD (as opposed to a Hype da Holik, Turbin, Fashawn, download) a better choice. and Diego Redd. Check it out online. ~JH And if you’ve never seen Chuck Dimes play live, you should. His hunched over frame, his eyes often clenched closed, his lips kissing the mic as he drops Universal Records (2008) sharp and rapid rhymes; all these betray a marked and serious intenIf you’re looking for the stocksity to his presence on the mic. ing stuffer for that someone It’s a performance to behold. He’s who enjoys the blues, A Brief

Chuck Dimes

A Brief History of the Blues


- The Undercurrent -

Unending Rooms Daniel Chacón

Black Lawrence Press (2008)

by Matt Espinoza Watson

My first encounter with the work of Daniel Chacón also happened to be my first encounter with the author himself. It was my first year teaching at Fresno State, and one day I decided not to delete one of the many daily bulletin-board emails from the school. The title of this one grabbed me: Visiting Professor Daniel Chacón will be giving a talk entitled “Fresno: The Center of the Cosmos.” As it turns out, the talk was as fascinating as it sounded, weaving together the craft of writing with the creative process generally & topped off with a dollop of quantum physics. Chacón spoke of the holographic universe we inhabit (at least according to quantum physicists), and how Fresno was just as much the center of the cosmos as any other place. During the talk, he recalled a childhood memory of his mother telling him Blackstone Avenue would take you “anywhere you want to go,” and young Daniel taking the statement

quite literally, thinking Blackstone was the gateway to China and other faroff lands. Chacón’s newest work, a collection of stories titled Unending Rooms, continues Chacón’s exploration of the quantum world (where possibilities abound) with a child’s exuberance, and continues to do so in a way that places Fresno at the center of his work. The stories that make up Unending Rooms take place throughout the Southwest, the Midwest, and in foreign cities like Cuernavaca and Buenos Aires, but some-

Book Review

how Fresno keeps popping its head up in there…(sometimes as seemingly random references, like the great Fresno poets Lee Herrick and Andres Montoya’s names being dropped). Unending Rooms is a creation that is itself an exploration of the creative process. It is meta-fiction done in a way that any reader can appreciate. In many of the stories, the main character is an author writing a story (which itself becomes part of the story). It is about stories with lives of their own that push their way into existence through an unwilling author, unwanted black holes that swallow stories as they’re being written, and funny stories shared at devastatingly sad moments (as in the case of the hilarious Crazy Chicken being shared with the main characterauthor’s mother on her deathbed). And for all the writing about writing, it is not something only writers will enjoy. It is fantasies and inade-

quacies and moments of transformation and surrender and connectedness. It is zen-like tales and fables and places where joy and desperation co-exist. It is a journey into the real worlds we imagine and the imaginary worlds we realize. The book begins, coincidentally (or not, as the case may be), with a story that was first published in The Undercurrent, “John Boyd’s Story”. It is an exploration of what it’s like to be a person of color in a graduate program, and the expectations & stereotypes (even when well-meaning) of the others in the program. Like many of Chacón’s stories, it explores profound and serious issues in a humorous context, without pretense or self-indulgence…(traits, coincidentally or not, shared by many of the other excellent writers I love who are from the Central Valley; see, for example, the poets mentioned above). Chacón’s writing is quintessentially Chicano. Many of his characters are indeed Mexican-American, but really what I mean by this is that his characters are often caught between worlds, never quite fitting into their surroundings, existing on the margins—making this experience

Unending Rooms contiuned page 37...


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- The Undercurrent -

Kru a Th ai Kitch e n 5104 N. West Avenue (559) 432-1193 Open 7 days a week, 10:30 am Ð 9:30 pm by Jessi Hafer

On the one hand, I like a lot of Thai restaurants (as evidenced by all the reviews of Thai restaurants I’ve written). On the other hand, I could eat Thai food all the time, so it’s nice to have several to choose from. I find that there are certain things I crave at each of them. My favorite dish at Krua Thai Kitchen, and the dish I’m sure I’ll go back for, is the Curry in Sweet Peanut Sauce (in the stirfried curry portion of the menu). As with most of the dishes at Krua Thai, vegetarians can have this with fried tofu or mock duck (there are also the usual meat choices available). The mock duck is more like a seitan, wheat gluten-ish protein. While I personally prefer to stick with tofu, the mock duck is worth trying for something a little different if you haven’t had it before. But more importantly, the sauce itself in the Sweet Peanut Sauce dish is pretty amazing: very peanut-y, and it has a little bit of kick to it that I really liked. Krua Thai can do just about anything on the menu vegetarian, and they also do a nice job with several

of my favorites, including Pad Thai and spicy noodles. Their fried tofu appetizer was good. The pineapple fried rice went well with the other things we tried, but it didn’t strike me as very pineapple-y (so I may just stick with the regular fried rice next time, or maybe the fried rice with basil, or maybe just the sticky rice, which is always one of my favorites). The fried rice also had corn in it (corn kernels, not the usual Chinesestyle baby corn), which seemed a little odd at first, but it wasn’t overly distracting. The tom ka soup (the one with the coconut milk) was also good, and it had a nice amount of mushrooms in it. The menu is quite extensive, so there are plenty of curries, stir fries, noodle dishes, rice dishes, and soups to try. Prices are moderate, not the most inexpensive I’ve seen for Thai, but not the most expensive either. Curries include green curry, red curry, yellow curry, “Mat-saman” curry, and pineapple curry. Appetizers include fresh spring rolls, papaya salad (Thai style or Lao style), cucumber salad, apple salad, and the afore-mentioned fried tofu. I think that next time I go to Krua Thai, I’d like to try the papaya salad and the pad see-iw. But only if I can get the Sweet Peanut Sauce dish again…

Nine Things to Put in Your Mouth.

I don’t have much in common with Oprah. I’m a fixed-income kid from Cali, without too much press. But like Oprah, I’m cool with my place in the world. And I definitely have some favorite things. Get ready to squeal with delight...

1. T&D Willey Farms Nantes carrots. These suckers are fierce. Thick orange broads packed with sugary sweetness and a dense, moist snap. Cut into carrot sticks, they will leave a florescent film in their baggie. Look for the blue rubber band and snatch these up at Whole Foods or through their CSA. 2. Koda Farms Organic Nirvana rice. The ancient tradition of growing rice is alive and well in Dos Palos, where they are cultivating heirloom varieties of plump sushi rice. The Organic Nirvana mix is floated with a number of other old-school grains, which result in a delicate creaminess giving way to a nutty chew. Get it while you can at Tower Health. 3. Charlotte’s Bakery sourdough wheat. I feel as though I am in a Bruegel painting each time I am lucky enough to sink my teeth through the chewy crust into the spongy interior. Robust, traditional, and brown. How bread once was. Find her in the Tower District. 4. Fresno State Butter. These kids know how to do dairy. Little tubs hold insanely fresh churned golden butter with a nice salty bite. It is heaven on toast or dabbed over vegetables. You’ll have a hard time going back to sticks. Find it at the Rue & Gwen Gibson Farm Market on Barstow and Chestnut. 5. Organic Pastures kombucha. Gnarly,

energy giving, microbe housing, fermented tea served up in a brown beer bottle. It’s a little sweet, pH tangy, and faintly fizzy. Rumor has it, it cures just about anything. Grab a bottle for breakfast at their stand at the Vineyard Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning. 6. Tonno tuna in olive oil. I once saw Julia Child on PBS touting the virtue of tuna packed in oil as a pantry staple. “Oil?” I thought, “how… fatty.” I now see the error of my ways and slam down a can almost weekly. The quality

of this fish suspended in such a flavorful medium makes it a meal unto itself. It bears no resemblance to its fishy, watery brother. No need to mess around with mayo and pickles on this one. Buy it at Sam’s Deli, Piemonte’s, or Trader Joe’s. 7. Torani Blood Orange syrup. A mix of sour punch, pithy bite, and true orange flavor makes this deep blushed stickiness a perfect addition to a cocktail... or in true 1994 fashion, an Italian soda. Pick up a bottle at Cost Plus World Market. 8. FAGE Total Greek yogurt. One bite and you’ll never go back to low fat again. Luscious, tangy dairy delves into your whole mouth for a rich and velvety feel. Dollop instead of sour cream, dab in cereal, or spoon with honey and almonds for dessert. Find it at most grocery stores. 9. Alternative Baking Company vegan cookies. How do they make them taste so damn good without any of the crap in a normal cookie? Dare I say, better? Superiorly moist with top-shelf ingredients and a dense crumb, these things are seriously satisfying. Get them at health food stores or the occasional mountain general store.

29


- The Undercurrent -

Joe Johnson

“ Centaure Collection” JJ’s Sign company in 1985.

Has Fresno or the Fresno art scene had any influence or effect on your work?

The art scene has allowed me venues to exhibit and sell my works. The local Art Hop encourages collectors and casual admirers to buy fine art, and to meet and become better acquainted with their favorite artists. The cost— and pace—of living in Fresno has afforded me, space, equipment and time to work and be inspired.

How would you describe your style?

Tell us about this particular cover image.

The cover shows part of my Centaure Collection. The centaure is a metaphor for the human condition. My creations occupy various positions in life, an Amish couple, an executioner, and several monks. The narratives are common to their roles as they try to come to grips with, succumb to, and rise above their animal instincts.

What got you started in your artistic endeavors?

I’ll give my mother credit for that. To keep me occupied, she gave me paint by numbers, and various craft kits. Later in Jr. High, a teacher told me I had talent; that lit the flame. My highest grades all through school were in art. Throughout my teen years, I drew a lot, and trained to be a tailor. I didn’t consider being a professional artist until I was about 23.

How long have you been creating art here

o yps l a C

r me m Dru

in Fresno?

When I moved to Fresno in 1975, I decided to do exactly what I wanted to, and that was art. I’ve been painting, sculpting, creating, just doing it ever since. I also did something really 3 0 practical along the way; I started

My work is usually abstract and figurative when I’m sculpting in wood or clay, but abstract, non- objective, and realistic when I’m airbrushing mixed media portraits and paintings. The works are informed by my experiences. People, politics, religion, songs, old sayings, movie lines, etc., are all subjects and sources of inspiration.

If someone wanted to see more of your work, how would they go about that?

My local gallery representative is The Fig Tree Gallery. 644 N. Van Ness. Visitors can tour my studio, at 3849 E. Ventura, Fresno, 9-5 weekdays and by appointment. You can also visit artistful.com, and galleryjj.com.

What if someone wanted to give you money for your work, how would one go about that?

One can view artworks for purchase by visiting my studio, making a cash or check purchase, or leaving a deposit. Artistful.com is a site where one can make an acquisition. If I’m commissioned, the client and I discuss the particulars of the project, our expectations, and some time frame/delivery date. Works in progress are open for previewing.

“The Opening”

Tell us about this particular cover image.

This painting sprouted from a fairy tale about imagination; some have even called it a great battle. It had to do with a magical planet that was long forgotten and taken for granted by some very important creatures that inhabited her, for they did not know they played a major part in keeping her magic alive. These poor creatures did not realize that, for thousands and thousands of years, they had given away their most precious gift, the power of imagination. Some of the sensitive creatures began to feel the pains of the long lost magical planet. Those same creatures began to realize that certain beings that were not who they said they were had intentionally found a way to use their magic against her. In fact, they weren’t even the same species as these special creatures from which they had stolen the knowledge from that was not intended for them. These evil beings learned to harvest fear frequencies from these special creatures on a regular basis, by using separation, compartmentalization of the psyche, & other ‘telefrequency devices’ in other wordz. So, when these special creatures began to realize all the beautiful values of the magical planet, she began to open up realms that they could not have imagined; this alone inspired these special creatures to look deeper into the truth. In their discoveries, they found magic stones that had their own magical frequencies that were there to help heal. There was even magical fungus and magical plants that also helped heal. These very special creatures knew that…if all this was Jimi really real, what more could there be? As they finally got a grasp of what was possible, the use of mass consciousness was implemented. They found that it was most effective when used with the love frequency and intent. Finally they found a way to transcend all of the evil beings that had always masqueraded freedom and change for a better tomorrow by using their immense power in the now. This tale does not have an ending.

Nicole Castillo

What got you started in your artistic endeavors?

A long time ago when I was 2 and a half to three feet tall, I remember being frustrated that I could not make things appear in front of my face or in my hands, so I settled for creating 2-D images with pencil and paper. Just recently I discovered that my thoughts & emotions mirror back to me what I think is reality. There were way too many confirmations for me to pretend that it is not real. So to think in terms of your thoughts being the paint brush and your attitude the canvas, what would you paint?

How long have you been creating art here in Fresno?

I was born & raised in Fresno.

Has Fresno or the Fresno art scene had any influence or effect on your work?

I have to give a shoutout to Studio Itz. No one honors creativity the way they do & every art hop kind spirits light up the place.

How would you describe your style?

I wouldn’t.

If someone wanted to see more of your work, how would they go about that?

I have pieces displayed at the Stuffed Pipe in Tower, and The La Luna Loca Tattoo Shop. I specialize in painting, permanent skin art, and woodburned portraits.

What if someone wanted to give you money for your work, how would one go about that?

They can call me at 268-LUNA or email me at customartbynicole@yahoo.com.


- The Undercurrent -

Bored? Games!

the sun, each moving in their orbits throughout the game (this ever-changing game board is one of the interesting things about the game play). Carrot tokens are on the board. You roll a dice to move, and which dice you roll depends on the power of your space ship (determined by a few factors in the game). You want to land next to a carrot token to collect it, get your space ship to Jupiter, and then trade the token for one by Jessi Hafer of eight coveted carrot cards. Along the way, though, you may have to battle opponents or the Beyea Aliens… One nice The first thing about the Undercurrent game game is that it review was Killer has several variBunnies: The Quest ations of some for the Magic of the game Carrot. Since that decisions so that review (which you can decide focused on the card how long you game’s blue and yelwant to play the low starter decks), game (games I’ve added all nine could be as booster decks to the short as half an game. The bylaws hour). The of my game addicgame is laced tion stipulate that with lots of purchases of game wacky sci-fi references, and, most expansions don’t count. Furthermore, card games don’t importantly, it’s a lot of fun to play. count. So I can’t get in trouble for buying expansions to

Killer Bunnies: Journey to Jupiter

card games because they don’t count twice, so it’s like adding negative games to my collection… I recently bought the newest Killer Bunnies game: Killer Bunnies: Journey to Jupiter. The game is part board game, part card game (thus I count this as half a game under my game addiction bylaws, so I shouldn’t get into too much trouble for buying this one). I think fans of the Magic Carrot will really enjoy Journey to Jupiter. I would also encourage people to try the Magic Carrot first, if they haven’t already. Journey to Jupiter includes two phases of play, a ground phase (primarily involving cards) and a space phase (which centers on the board. The mechanics of the ground phase are just like the mechanics of the Magic Carrot: you plan two turns ahead with a top run card and a bottom run card, then your turn consists of flipping the top run card (or playing a “Special card”), sliding the bottom run card to become the top run card, drawing a new card from the draw pile, then choosing a card from your hand to become your new bottom run card. There are bunny cards, weapons, and “feed your bunny” cards. Journey to Jupiter also has space ships, and this brings me to the space phase of the game. After the ground phase, if you have a space ship card and bunny cards to put in the spaceship, then you can take the corresponding space ship token and launch your spaceship from Earth on the game board. The 3 2 game board has Earth, Mars, and Jupiter orbiting

Now You Know... ...and knowing is half the battle!!

OPEN MIC EVERY WED 6-9PM

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Hours Mon-Fri 6am-6pm Wed 6am-9pm Sat-Sun 7am-2pm

WWW.JAVAWAVA.COM


- The Undercurrent -

think you will be amazed at how much you can sense from so little and how much joy and wonder can be extracted from it.

Cultivating Motivation

If you’ve read my column even once or twice, you may now know life changing information like why mulch is important or that NOW! is the time to plant a winter garden (ok, maybe lifealtering information). But other than the inherent “coolness” of having a garden, what are some of the concrete reasons to actually make it happen? I’m dedicating my allotment of words this month to cultivating motivation to start a garden or garden-like project. My hope is that these thoughts will help you overcome the “I don’t have enough time, money, chic overalls” excuses! Sensory Overload. I took an archaeology class years ago…it pretty much entailed carefully digging 4ft x 2ft x 6ft holes in the Sierra Nevada searching for precious pieces of antiquated garbage (pot shards, broken beads, etc). My favorite part? I remember the damp, clean smell of the freshly dug earth. I’m sure I was seen as a bit of an oddity when I (repeatedly) stuck my head in those holes and just breathed in (the altitude has gone to her head again!). It’s not at all a stretch to call it less than perfume. Why not garden to return to the natural sights, smells, textures, tastes and sounds? Our everyday lives are filled with sensory overload— lights, TV, computers, advertisements…all the yada yada yada we can take! I say use gardening to cultivate a new kind of sensory overload. Close your eyes and feel the soft fuzz of oregano, taste a single tangy thyme leaf, and of course, smell dirt! (Maybe not freshly composted dirt though!) I

Weeding is Meditation. Many years ago at a Christmas party, I was speaking with a family friend I’ve long admired (and wish to emulate for an ever-growing amount of reasons). We were talking about meditation, and I was, as usual, voraciously consuming every word she uttered. What struck me about what she said that night…actually it was a total epiphany…was that she often meditated while doing small repetitious things like weeding. At the time I was still of the mind that meditating was all about sitting cross-legged and chanting “om.” (Hey, it took me a while to catch up on some of the Eastern nuances—remember I was sticking my head in holes in the last section.) I have come to see more of the light, and enjoy the “mindlessness” of “mundane” tasks like weeding and the like. My advice: Don’t fight the job— revel in it. Start weeding or planting, etc, and let your mind drift to where it wants to be, kind of akin to dreaming. You may garner some helpful insights into yourself or a situation. An even better suggestion is try to gently concentrate on your task, keeping your mind clear and “empty”— thinking of nothing. A real mental vacation lies in the garden! (Thank you J.D.!) Lookie What I Did. One of my biggest pet peeves about the modern workplace is the utter lack of tangible tasks and accomplishments. If I were to stereotype it, it seems like at the most you have papers (whoo-hoo) and at worst your “fruit” are computer-based creations like spreadsheets (ugh—not tasty or nutritious!). While I begrudgingly acknowledge the need for the afore-mentioned things, I champi-

on gardening as a great prescription for the electronic way of life. With gardening you have the chance to engage your whole body and can put yourself right in the middle of nature and the life cycle—not of a corporate plan. You can not only see the results of your work immediately, you also see your work change and grow (if you remember to take care of it!) over time. Your tangible rewards can come in the form of a peaceful place to just hang out to shiny-skinned tomatoes, aromatic herbs and graceful flowers. I’m sure I could fill up a few Undercurrents with all of the benefits of gardening (but I doubt the editors would let me!) so I’ll overview just a few more motivating facts:

•Gardening is good exercise! Burn calories while you shovel, weed and walk aimlessly just enjoying things. •Speaking of burning calories, growing your own food can inspire you to actually eat your fruits and veggies! Vegetables and fruit are naturally low in calories and usually high in fiber. Fresher is better too— fresher food has higher amounts of vitamins and antioxidants. •Feel better! Getting out in the fresh air (ok, it’s Fresno air, but you know what I mean) and sunshine can boost your mood… studies have shown that just a few minutes of being out-ofdoors can lift you up for hours. So, now you have a bouquet of good reasons to motivate you to garden—go out and naturally overload your senses while mediating and burning calories so you can have tangible accomplishments to eat for dinner! Happy Gardening! ______ If you have freshly dug earth in your yard and there is a woman sitting next to it chanting om, it’s Christy Cole. She teaches for several different departments at FUSD and owns her own mural and painting business. Questions? E-mail her at callansmama@hotmail.com.

The Undercurrent Spotlight

Ali Bahar; Putting the ‘dis’ in civil disobedience Up to the present, the Spotlight has honored individuals whose well-documented dedication to humanity and the environment inspires many around the world. In the case of Ali Bahar, this month’s subject, a simple, brave gesture has earned recognition. A student at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Ali is chair of the Arab Student Body and a member of Abna al-balad, a democratic organization active inside 1948 Israel, calling for “the return of all Palestinian refugees, and end to the Israeli occupation and the Zionist apartheid, and the establishment of a democratic secular Palestine.” On November 2, Israeli President Shimon Peres visited The Hebrew University to congratulate students on the opening of the academic year. He shook hands with many of the assembled student body, but upon approaching Bahar and extending his hand, he was denied. Bahar refused and stated “I will not shake hands with [a] murderer of kids.” Immediately following the encounter, Bahar was detained by university security personal and his student ID was confiscated. His student ID will not be returned until a disciplinary committee at Hebrew University investigates the

incident. In calling Peres a “murderer of kids,” Bahar was referring to the Qana Massacre in South Lebanon by the Israeli occupation forces in 1996. A UN compound sheltering hundreds of civilians taking refuge was intentionally attacked with deadly shells. 104 civilians were killed and 100 were injured. Peres, then acting as Prime Minister, blamed the attack on faulty intelligence and on resistance forces using civilians as shields. He famously responded in a press conference “We are sorry, but we do not apologize.” The detention of Bahar is not an isolated incident and reflects a common discriminatory practice of detaining and imprisoning Palestinian university students in Israel. For more information about the abuses and denial of basic rights to free-speaking Arab students by the Israeli government, visit the website of the student watchdog initiative, Right to Education Campaign (http://right2edu.birzeit.edu/ne ws/catindex31). 33


Columns

- The Undercurrent -

about New Year’s, let’s talk about our favorite Fresno moment of the last year. For me, I’d have to say that my favorite Fresno moment was…hard to say. There’s been so much good stuff from post art hop shows featuring great bands to Ed: Wow, another year is Christmas Tree Lane gets a starting a podcast to the almost over, and I’ve got little tired for me, too much blogger Olympics to FSU my post-Thanksgiving of the same old decorabaseball winning the colstuffing going on. I know tions. And, if we’re walk- lege world series. I’ll go I’m already looking foring, I’d rather go down a out on a limb and say that ward to the end of the year well lit Huntington than my favorite Fresno moment holidays with anticipation trip on a dog. Maybe that’s was the inaugural FUSE and beginning to think just me. Well, after the Festival. I had such a blast about the next year. lights have dimmed on checking out live music at Where’s your favorite Christmas, how do you like several venues downtown Christmas celebration to ring in the New Year? over a half day. Adam: Oh, venue? That is, who’s got Adam: Ah, the there’s no dimming for me. recap. Yes. FUSE was a the best light show? Is it I plan on taking that week Christmas Tree Lane, fantastic event and a very Huntington Blvd, or one of between Christmas and the successful first in what I New Year straight through. hope is a long line of festithe newer light spectacles Sure, there will be time for vals that showcase the local on the edges of Fresno? Adam: I’ve only naps, but rather than pull talent and even draw bands over to a rest stop, I’ll sleep from elsewhere like other walked Huntington Blvd once during Christmas. I while I’m driving, thank big festivals. I’ll take a think it’s a bit too classy for you very much. As to the selfish moment, or two or me. I love me some actual eve of 2009, I’m three, and say that one of Christmas Tree Lane, espe- open to a lot of things, but my best Fresno moments cially on the walking I’ll probably be at a house this year was getting my nights. Crowds of joyous party. I like being with first tattoo. I’ll give a little friends and/or family mak- shoutout to Monica at people drinking hot beverages, tripping over other ing our own celebrations. Tower Tattoos for that one. people’s dogs, having argu- I’ve had my big New But really, the best moment ments about things like Year’s, but nothing beats a for Fresno this year was which direction Van Ness game of Cranium and when the economy tanked runs, etc. You know, what mixed drinks, except for and I couldn’t move away everyone likes to do when maybe a game of Wii bowl- to school. That’s right. they’re wandering some ing. And you, my friend? You’ve still got me bitchez! strangers’ street staring at Ed: I actually Ed: Well, I’m not their houses. All kidding don’t even like New Year’s sure if all of Fresno would aside, I can’t wait for the Eve that much. It seems say that was the best brisk air blushing the like it’s always a let down. moment of the year, but I cheeks and the secret beYou bounce around from suppose some might quibflasked booze warming my lame parties to overcrowd- ble with mine as well. We tummy during the walk ed bars with wack drink all had our best moments, down whichever street I prices. If the tickets but I’m sure we can all say make it to. weren’t so expensive, I’d that it was a good year for hit up the B.B. King show Ed: Although I Fresno. And we’re poised rarely go down it, I actually over at the Tower Theater. for change in our city and Maybe I’ll just stay home think Huntington is a little our nation. better. Maybe it’s because this year and go crazy shooting bullets into the air. I don’t go down it But, since we’re talking 3 4 that much, but

Short Fiction

Way of the Gun “I’ll see you when I’m done with school, abuela.” “Okay, mijo. Have a good day.” He picked up his backpack from where he had left it by the doorway the previous day and went through the front door. Outside the day was sunny and warm, and he could already feel the heat that the day promised beginning to build. He fished around in his pack for his car keys as he walked down the stone path to the driveway where his car, a 1961 Impala, was parked. The car had been a project that he, Cesar, and his father had shared. It had taken years to restore it back to cherry, and when their father had died, he and his brother argued constantly over who should get it. They finally decided the winner of a basketball game gets the car. The game, of course, stretched into an ugly best-of-seven match that left both brothers angry with one another, neither speaking to the other for the better part of a month. He got inside and turned the ignition, feathering the throttle as he did so, and the engine roared to life. After letting it warm up for a few minutes, he backed out of the driveway and was on his way. The neighborhood he drove through was made up of old, dilapidated houses with neglected yards, often with chain-link perimeters. There were few cars, fewer still that weren’t on cinder blocks or rusting on lawns. Sidewalks were uneven and overgrown with weeds and the streets were

(part 2 of 2)

by Christopher Martinez

spider-webbed with cracks and spotted with potholes. Dogs lay apathetic on their owners’ porches with forlorn looks on their faces. The sunlight, bright and cheerful above, seemed dull and gray below. This was the part of the city that had been forgotten and swept under the rug, the denizens within left to fend for themselves. Even police seldom were seen, knowing that the eastside belonged to El Olvidado.

notebook from him and began to read, and he studied her while she did so. She had a small build with soft, cream colored skin that seemed to radiate even in the daylight. Her black hair was highlighted and glistened in the sun as it flowed past her shoulders. Her face was round and flawless and set with dazzling emerald eyes that shone with an innocence that made him ache when he looked into them. “This is awful,” He got to school early and she said bluntly, bringing took a seat on the concrete him out of his daze. bench near the water foun“Yeah,” he said, tain, watching as the water feeling as if he had just cascaded into the air and been punched in the gut. “I sparkled in the sunlight like know it’s not that good.” liquid crystal, producing a “No, I mean it’s steady roar as it came good,” she corrected, handdown. He took out his note- ing him back the notebook. book and began writing. He “But what you’re writing enjoyed poetry, finding it a about is just dark and really way to get all the thoughts depressing.” and emotions that cluttered “I know. It’s just his mind and give them a how I feel sometimes.” place. It helped him deal She rested her head with stressful times and on his shoulder and the two when he was particularly of them watched as life depressed about something. happened around them. This It was like having someone was one of the few times to talk to whenever he they saw each other during needed to vent. the week. She was from a “You writing about suburban family and her how much you miss me?” parents were strict about her Marissa asked as she took a dating and about who she seat next to him, exchangsaw. After going out in ing a quick kiss with him as secret for about eight she did so. months, she finally man“Um, sure,” he aged to persuade them to said. meet him. As soon as they “What?!” she saw the way he dressed, the exclaimed in mock surprise, car he drove, and, above all, “I don’t know what else you the tattoo on his arm, their could possibly be writing minds were made up about about then.” him. They had been keeping “Here,” he said, close tabs on her ever since, handing her the notebook, and her mother had even “It’s just another poem I’ve tried to convince her to go been working on.” Way of the Gun next page... She took the


- The Undercurrent -

Way of the Gun continued...

belong there.” He nodded, though he out with their neighbor’s son wasn’t sure what she said was instead. true. “Maybe. I’ll try talking to So they savored every him when I get home.” He moment, just enjoying each walked her to class, the only two other’s company, and hoped their students that were not in a hurry. time together would never end. “Love you.” “I hate hardly seeing “Love you too.” you,” Marissa said after a time, She kissed him, her lips “We should be able to be with soft against his, and he pulled her each other more.” close, liking the way her body felt He sighed, already know- against his own. He held her tighting this conversation by heart and ly, knowing each moment that its futility, but went along with it passed was closer to the moment anyway, thinking in vain that per- she would leave. Bells sounded haps it would end differently this from nearby and she pulled away, time. “Me too.” giving him one last mesmerizing “Can’t you just leave and smile before disappearing through move somewhere else? You don’t the door. He stood there for a few wanna be in a gang all your life, minutes afterwards, still feeling do you?” her presence against him, warm He shrugged. “No, I and comforting like the light of guess not, but I don’t know where the sun, and silently wished that I would go.” she hadn’t gone. “What if we were to get an apartment together?” she It was late in the afternoon when asked, her eyes widening from her Alejandro returned home, the excitement at the thought, “It sweltering heat coming off wouldn’t matter what my parents rooftops and pavement in waves, think about you then. It doesn’t giving an almost surreal backdrop have to be anything fancy, just a to his surroundings, as if he were one-bedroom somewhere, away in a dream. His grandmother was from all the gangs and stuff.” in her usual place on the sofa He mulled the thought being hypnotized by daytime teleover. “You think we’re ready to vision, looking away briefly to move in together?” greet him as he came in before “I don’t see why not. returning to her trance. He We’ve been going out for almost a deposited his pack on the floor of year.” his room amongst the rest of the “It’s expensive. Even clutter and collapsed on his bed, with the both of us working, we his mind numbed by the incessant would barely make it.” lectures of the day, and let himself “But we’ll be together,” doze. she smiled, “and that would make Once he felt somewhat it worth it, wouldn’t it?” rested, he reached over for the He nodded. “Of course, remote to his stereo and hit PLAY. it’s just...I don’t think I can leave A few moments later the grinding Cesar and my grandma behind.” riffs of Metallica came out of his Her smiled slowly faded. speakers as he began tackling the “Oh....well nevermind then.” mess that was his floor. He was in “It’s not that I don’t want the middle of a solo on the imagito, it’s just my grandma is getting nary guitar he was playing when old and Cesar is never there. My Cesar appeared in the doorway. brother alone gives me enough to “How can you listen to worry about. I’m worried he is this stuff?” his brother asked, going to become like my father, shaking his head in disapproval, and worse, I think he is actually “It sounds like a bunch of guys trying to be like him.” clubbing a cat to death with a gui“You’re not like them, tar.” you know. You’re different. I can He laughed. “It’s actually see it in your eyes. You don’t pretty good. You should try it

sometime. Maybe you’ll even like it more than The Game.” “That ain’t possible. I can actually understand what Game’s talking about, unlike this crap.” “Game talks about the same garbage all the other rappers on the radio talk about, he’s nothing special.” “Blasphemy! He’s the next ‘pac.” “Everyone is the next ‘pac to you. Before Game, you swore it was 50. Whenever the next one gets shot, you’ll be worshipping that one. Getting shot doesn’t make you a good rapper. It’s just a publicity stunt.” “Whatever. Grandma is convinced that you’re going to hell if you don’t stop listening to your rock. She’s convinced that the devil is talking to you through the music.” Alejandro grinned and looked at his brother, whom he hadn’t seen in several days as he walked around his room as if he had never been in it before. Cesar was a head shorter, but with a more compact frame. His hair was shaved almost to the skin and a red bandanna was tied around his head, covering most of his umber eyes. His face was round and showed the shadow of a beard with a pencil-thin mustache below a stubby nose. On his right forearm was tattooed Oro. “Haven’t seen you in awhile,” Alejandro said, “You been going to class?” Cesar shook his head. “Not since last week.” “What have you been doing?” He shrugged. “Nothin’ much. Been down Angela’s or out with Carlos and them.” “What are doing hanging around Carlos? He and his crew are crazy.” “Yeah I know. We fucked up some scraps pretty bad yesterday. They were walkin’ through the park like it was their own turf so they picked me up and we jumped ‘em. After what we did to them, they’ll think twice about doing that again.” Alejandro felt his ears

begin to burn. “Why would you go and do something like that?! Now they’re going to come looking for you!” Cesar shrugged. “Let them; I’ll be waiting. They know not to step foot on our territory unless they got an army with ‘em.” He shook his head. “This is serious. You could get killed by doing stuff like that. You’ll end up like dad and Henry.” “What’s wrong with that?” Cesar replied, “Everyone thinks pops and Henry are heroes. They stood up for El Olvidado, even when it cost them their lives. What’s up with you, anyway? You’re soundin’ like the coward that everyone is sayin’ you are.” “What are you talking about?” Alejandro asked, “Who’s been saying that?” “I just said everyone, didn’t I? Carlos, Juan, Jesse... hell even Angela and Lorena have. They been sayin’ that you’re more concerned with college and that shit than El Olvidado. You never even wear the color anymore. They’re saying that you’re selling out and that you got you’re priorities misplaced. Or maybe you don’t. From what I’m hearing from you, sounds like your priorities are straight, in your head anyway.” Alejandro sat down on his bed, thinking over what his brother just told him. Cesar shook his head. “There’s more too. They’ve been wanting to beat your ass bad, maybe even kill you. If it wasn’t for me, I don’t think you’d be alive right now.” “What do you mean?” “Why do you think I’ve been hanging around with them so much? I’ve been vouching for you, and they’ve kept their distance because you’re my brother. Lately though, it’s been gettin’ harder to. Carlos said that you’re not only disrespecting the gang, but pops and Henry too. He says he’s glad that at least one of us is tryin’ to live up to them.” Alejandro sat quietly for awhile, letting the news sink in. He was not surprised by their actions, and deep down he had

expected it. Still, finally hearing it from his brother... “I’m sorry bro,” Cesar said, “If I were you, man, I would get my act together, or run.” “You think I should go?” he asked. Cesar sat down next to him. “ I always knew that you were different. Just by lookin’ at you I can tell that you’re not comfortable in the way you act. Even the way you dress doesn’t seem right. You don’t even talk like us. You don’t belong here.” Alejandro nodded his head slowly. “Marissa wants to get an apartment together. I wasn’t sure because I know they’ll come looking for me if I leave.” “Maybe for a month or so, but not very hard and not beyond our lines. They’ll be pissed for sure though, so I would make sure I never stepped foot here again.” “That’s not the only reason holding me back,” Alejandro admitted, “I didn’t want to leave you and grandma here. You should both come.” Cesar shook his head. “I don’t wanna leave Lobo. This is my home, and I’m satisfied with it. Everything I’ll ever need is right here.” “It’s dumb, Cesar. Killing over colors and territory that doesn’t even belong to them in the first place. Don’t you want something better than this?” “Not really. I guess we don’t have the same wants in life. Here, I got people that got my back. Here, I can be someone important, even if it is just within a few miles of one town. Out there though, I’m nothin’. I may be street smart and able to survive, but I’m not book smart like you, and surviving out there is a lot more complicated. Life is simpler here. Dangerous, but simple. They would see me as just some street thug, like how Marissa’s parents saw you. That’s all I’ll ever be, but you can do something I can’t: You can prove them wrong.” “I’ll worry about you too Continued next page...

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- The Undercurrent -

Way of the Gun continued... at how certain he suddenly was,

much, and what about grandma?” “Talk to grandma, but I’m not sure if she’ll go. If she wants to, then we can move her once you got a place set up. As for me, I’ll be fine. I’m not as dumb as I look.” Alejandro smiled. “Could’ve fooled me.” Cesar shoved him playfully. “Better than not being as smart as you look.” He shoved him back and in a matter of moments, the two of them were on the ground wrestling for position on the other. Cesar muscled Alejandro’s arm loose, put it between his legs, and arched his hips up as he leaned back. “I don’t hear you tappin’,” Cesar teased. Alejandro slapped the floor with his hand, swallowing his pride and a nursing his arm as his brother released him. “You may be in college ‘n all, but remember I can still kick your ass.” Alejandro grinned. “Get out of here, you dumb animal.” “Candy-ass!” Cesar shouted back as he went down the hall.

The stars were beginning to manifest themselves in the night sky, like shards of glass against a sheet of velvet, as the sun descended wearily below the western horizon. The lithe form of a barn-owl glided effortlessly overhead as it searched the nearby fields for a meal. High in the firmament, a plane flew seemingly amongst the stars, it’s red light blinking steadily. Alejandro watched it all unfold as he laid in the bed of the ‘81 El Camino that was parked permanently in his back yard. The car was to be the next project after the Impala, but now stood derelict and forgotten, a silent witness as time marched steadily onward. He laid thinking for sometime, watching as the crescent moon rose in the heavens, and it was beginning to fade when he finally made up his mind. He sat up, surprised 36

and then at why he had even debated it at all. It was time for a change in scenery. It was time for him to go. He hopped out of the bed and headed towards the house, a cool breeze blowing from the north offering a brief reprieve from the stuffiness of the summer night. He swatted at a few annoying insects as they buzzed around his face hungrily and stepped through the door and locked it behind him. He was excited about his decision, able to live the way he wanted and with the girl he loved, and went to Cesar’s room to tell him, only to find it vacant. He frowned and went to the kitchen to get a roll of garbage bags before going to his room. Once there, he began shoving everything into a bag, ready to move on already. He was trying to decide what to pack next when he heard a car come to a screeching stop outside his house followed by shouts and yells. A cold feeling developed in his gut and he rushed out the door immediately. Outside he found Carlos and Julio pulling Cesar out of their car and laying him on the ground, his shirt covered in blood. “No!” Alejandro screamed as he knelt down next to his brother, Cesar’s face pale and gaunt, and he figured it was a mirror image of his own, “What happened?!” “It was those fuckin’ scraps from the park,” Carlos said, rather calmly, “They opened up on us.” “Dammit!” Alejandro leapt to his feet, “I’m calling an ambulance!” He started towards the house, but felt a strong hand pull him back by the arm. He staggered and turned to find that the hand belonged to Carlos, the big man shaking his head. “What are you, stupid?” Carlos asked, “If you do that, then they’re gonna ask questions and then cops are gonna start snooping around.” “So?!” Alejandro shouted, “What does it matter?”

“So,” Julio said, “It matters ‘cause we were drivin’ around in their territory and shot a couple of ‘em.” Alejandro stood dumbfounded. “You took Cesar on a drive-by?! Are you insane?! He’s only sixteen! What am I supposed to do then, watch him die?!” Carlos shrugged and lit a cigarette. “Maybe he’ll live, maybe he won’t. It’s in God’s hands now. If he dies, then at least he went out like a man. You should be proud.” Alejandro couldn’t believe the two of them were talking and acting like they didn’t notice his brother was lying on the ground in a puddle of his own blood. “I’m getting an ambulance.” He tried to run but this time Carlos grabbed him and threw him on the ground next to his brother, and he found himself looking down the barrel of Julio’s pistol. “You need to calm the fuck down,” Julio said, “We already told you no ambulance. One man ain’t above the gang, everyone knows that.” “You got somethin’ else to worry about anyway,” Carlos said, letting out a stream of smoke from his nostrils, “Someone just shot and maybe even killed your brother, your own blood. Now we’ve been real lenient on you, as I’m sure Cesar has told you. Now it’s time for you to prove how much of a man you are, and how much Olvidado you are.” “What are you talking about?!” Alejandro yelled, not taking his eyes off his brother. “I’m....sorr...,” Cesar managed before he began coughing up blood violently. Alejandro held his hand tightly. “I know. Just rest now,” he said, trying to comfort him, tears coming forth in torrents, helpless as he watched Cesar begin to shake uncontrollably. “Please don’t leave me,” he begged silently. Another dry heave and Cesar’s hand went limp, his glazed eyes, staring intently at nothing. “No!”

“What I’m talkin’ ‘bout is simple,” Carlos continued, as if watching Cesar die had been no different than watching the news. “Are you going to avenge your brother, or not? It’s the least you can do for him after all the trouble he went through to keep you safe, don’t you think?” Alejandro wiped his eyes on the back of his hand, shaking with rage and grief, then paused as he saw the butt of a gun tucked in his brother’s waistline. He looked away quickly, hoping they hadn’t seen him notice it. Julio was talking now but he wasn’t paying attention, his mind focused on what he was about to do now. “Yeah,” he whispered to no one in particular, “I’ll avenge him.” Before he knew what he was doing, he yanked the gun free from his brother’s waist, aimed it directly at Julio, and pulled the trigger. It sounded like thunder had just clapped next to his ear as Julio disappeared behind a spray of red mist. For a moment he sat stunned, not believing what he had just done, as if he had watched it happen from somewhere outside his body. Then he heard Carlos shouting and he regained his senses and bolted towards the front door, firing behind him blindly, the recoil of the gun sending shockwaves through his body, almost causing him to drop it. He flung the door open and slammed it shut, throwing himself on the ground as Carlos’ pistol retorted, bullets piercing the air where his head had been only a moment before. He laid on the ground, unable to move, the weight of what he had done beginning to settle on him, Julio’s face, contorted with fear and then pain, was frozen in front of his eyes. He sobbed, feeling sick to his stomach. Cesar’s face was there as well, looking at him accusingly. He should’ve done something, but what? “Mijo!”his grandmother shouted, running to his side, “What happened?! What’s going on?!” He tried to reply but the

words stuck in his throat. “Puto!” Carlos shouted from somewhere outside, “I’m gonna blow your fuckin’ head off!” He sprang to his feet and half-dragged his grandmother down the hall. “Get back in the room!” he shouted, “Stay down!” “No!” she pleaded, “Not again, Hector!” He ignored her cries and slammed the door shut just as the front door was kicked in. He whirled around, Carlos seeing him at the same time, and they both raised their weapons at each other. They fired, and Alejandro felt as if molten lava had been poured on his chest. He caught a glimpse of Carlos clutching his throat, eyes wide in surprise, before the world began to spin around him, He slumped against the wall, trying desperately to catch his breath but his lungs were not responding, and he could no longer feel the searing pain he had felt a moment ago as his body began to go numb, its senses shutting down one by one. A silent scream came from his throat, full of rage and despair at what was happening, and he was shaking, though he could not tell whether it was from his body reacting or from fear as he realized with a terrible clarity that he was dying. He thought he could hear his grandmother’s voice, but it sounded distant, as if she was calling to him from across a great void. Random images began appearing in his mind, memories of his childhood, of Marissa, of the final minutes of his father’s and brother’s lives, and of the events that led to the end that seemed inherent in his family. Slowly they all faded, one by one, into oblivion. Then death enveloped him in its comforting embrace, softly caressing him, as if he were its child, and gently carried him away into nothingness. ______ Christopher Martinez is majoring in sociology at Fresno State and is interested in becoming a teacher.


- The Undercurrent -

Unending Rooms continued from page 27... accessible, regardless of your background. Chacón’s characters exist in a world full of possibilities and limitations. As in the case of an American tourist in Mexico, who is disgusted and frustrated by the country, yet deep down is in love with her. The tourist who “…didn’t really understand Mexico, but…didn’t know that he didn’t understand Mexico.” Crises of identity, the depths of alienation, loneliness, and insecurity are all probed with the precision of someone who knows what those places feel and look like. The curse of too much memory (a “be careful what you wish for” story) is illustrated by a character who is unable to have new experiences and (so) is constantly re-experiencing his past. An urban performing duck with

an identity crisis narrates “The Magic Duck.” A lonely old oak tree befriends and then begins to stalk a cute young girl in “The Tree That Wouldn’t Leave Sara Alone: a children’s fable (maybe).” And “Page 55” is a brilliant meditation on reading and life, (“What if the way we read a book is the way we live our lives? If we can’t stand the reading and are always looking toward the bottom of the page, toward the end of the chapter, counting how many pages until the end of the book, surely we must live life the same way, impatient with a walk in the city or with sitting in a garden, wanting only to arrive, never to be.”) Sometimes the stories take unexpected turns into darker territory, as in the case of “Sky Rats,” where a man tries to unleash a spiritual/religious catalyst on others through his sociopathic behavior. Or the fascinat-

Book Review continued ing “Daniel 13,” where a gangmember turned born-again Christian turned vigilante crusader for justice tries to right other’s wrongs. The book ends, in a way, as it began, with an illuminating, hilarious, thought-provoking piece (partly) about being a Chicano in an academic setting (“he was the campus Latino. El Super Token.”), and about other’s expectations. “Epilogue: Borges and the Xicano (in b flat)” is Chacón at his most vulnerable, and creative. At the end of a book filled with stories I was really impressed with, it left quite the impression. (My notes for this story mostly consist of a quote from the book and then “wow.”) A critique of Borges, and of academia, but also a deeply personal exploration of fears of meaninglessness, of inadequacy, and of insignificance, that ultimately results in synthesis and understanding.

rtJyoh”nson a P “War by Joe


Poetry

Four Untitled Poems by Amy Bradley (1)

Japanese beetles buzz and crack in the fig leaves.

My mother planted the tree, she piled the fruit into gray glass bowls you stole from Israel. And you loved me like the fig the beetles’ hard, black mouths bite into: velvet skin breaks, and mauve seeds pour out. (2)

I am Bathsheba. The blood of the messiah is in my thighs, and I bathe in the cement of the San Joaquin. It is November. I am tired of feeling dry. The apple trees stand in rows beneath the sun. Their leaves cake with dust, and their branches bow.

O heart, do not tell what I have done. The black apple seeds lie in the dust. (3)

I bend like a giraffe to drink.

“Disgustipated Chaotic Confusion” by Nicole Castillo

Your brown body writhes in the sun with your one eye open, wide.

2. trek, v.t., to travel, especially

sent on a diplomatic mission

1. emlbaslsy , n., a body of perons

38

slowly or with difficulty

Grapefruit we stood on dusty plastic chairs to steal, cutting our arms on the brick, the skin scraped white. We layered the fruit thick with sugar, licked our fingertips. ______ Amy Bradley recently earned her B.A, and relocated from L.A. to Fresno.

3. ushler, n., official doorkeeper

Dandelions curve huge, bend out of the flowerbed. Pale green stems rise, dark heads twist yellow.

4. key, n., something that controls

(4)

entrance into a place

You bruise my thigh, bruise my eye.

Dicltionlary Game Anlswers

5. braise, v., to cook by sauteting

Tip the bottle, and kiss your wife goodnight.

and then simmering

Kiss your daughters goodbye on the lips.

Puzzle Answers Undercurrent Sudoku Answers


Puzzle Page - The Undercurrent -

UndercurrentbySudoku Jessi Hafer

ÒGeorge ClintonÓ

by Joe Johnson

Did you Know? The Undercurrent is 100% biodegradable and nontoxic. The Undercurrent is printed with nontoxic soy based ink. That means you can use it in your compost, as ground cover, or as a liner for your birdcage. Wet the edge and use it in place of a dustpan. Use it to make a newspaper Christmas tree. Use it to make a captainÕs hat, or an airplane. Use it to make papier-maˆche´. Use it to make a pin˜ata. Maybe even read it.

The Dicltionlarly Game © TM

Instructions: With the 2 words given, guess the word that comes between them in the dictionary. No word derivations.

ÒBetty PageÓ

by Nicole Castillo

1. emlbarlrass, v., to make ashamed

_ _l _ _ _l_ _ n.

emlbatltle, v. to arm for battle 2. treilllage, n., latticework _ _ _ _ , v. trelllis, adj., latticework

3. usler, n., a person or thing that uses

_ _ _l _ _, n.

ulsulal, adj., expected by reason of previous experience with same occurrence

4 ketltle, n., a metal container in which to boil liquid

_ _ _, n.,

khakli, adj., a dull yellowish brown 5. brain, n., anterior part of the central nervous system

_ _ _ _ _ _, v.

brake, n., device for slowing or stopping

ÒMagicÓ

by Joe Johnson

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The Undercrurrent