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From the Editor:


The Undercurrent, as an independent newspaper (of, by, and for the people), brings together a lot of different folks with a lot of different ideas. That being said, The Undercurrent itself does not endorse any of the views expressed in its pages, but endorses wholeheartedly the necessity of expressing views in all their variety—openly, honestly, and with an aim for the truth, whatever it turns out to be. To that end, we encourage our readers to send us letters. We’ll print them without edit. When a letter addresses a particular article, we’ll let the writer respond. When it addresses the paper as a whole, we’ll respond. In this way, together, we’ll inch our collective way closer and closer to the truth.

s we enter the month of July, and it finally starts feeling like a Fresno summer, there is much happening in the world around us. Hurricane season is a-comin’ (not to Fresno, mind you), and people living in the as-of-yet-unaffected areas around the Gulf of Mexico (particularly people living near the gulf coast of Mexico) are bracing themselves for not just the hurricanes, but the globs of crude oil that will be brought to shore as well. This month, we offer a short piece by Greg Palast that may help shed some light on BP’s track record and the recent disaster in the Gulf, as well as other recent disasters you may not have heard of. We’ll try to follow up next month with more on the clean-up and aftermath of the spill. We also bring you another column by Roberto Dr. Cintli Rodriguez, a professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Arizona who provides us with a distinct perspective on the controversial laws passed in that state, and identifies what’s really at stake in this debate. I grew up reading and being challenged by Patricia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriguez’ “Column of the Americas” in the Bee, and so it seems appropriate to be challenged by Rodriguez once again as the date of implementation of the Arizona law approaches.

highlighting local legends The MoFo Party Band, letting you know which shows to check out this month in the Indie Preview, and some great reviews (and advice) from the always intelligent, always funny and always inappropriate Nick Nocketback.

I really like this month’s cover, brought to us by Christian Vargas, and hope that you go and check out his work while it’s up this month at the Iron Bird Café in the Cultural Arts District downtown. While you’re at it, check out the surrounding area, and the new murals and building projects (if it’s been more than a couple months since you’ve been to the area, you’re sure to be surprised by something new…).

Those of us here on the editorial staff of the Undercurrent are teachers and students; we’ve completed some graduate degrees, and several of us are on our way toward completing more. We teach classes at FCC and CSUF, and reach out to other faculty and students for much of the content you see on a monthly basis. But because we’re always taking on more jobs, degrees or projects, we can definitely use your help in putting this paper together and getting it out to the community. If you or someone you know has some skills and wants to share, Our feature topic this month is Markets, and though hit us up. We sorely need help with anything having the majority of our articles focus on food markets, to do with our web presence, and could also use we were able to dig up another lost Socratic diahelp distributing papers to local businesses; even if logue that takes on the financial market and is you just want to pick up papers from us & drop strangely on-point in its discussion of how “the mar- them off at a couple spots near your house, every litket” works (or doesn’t work…). The idea for the tle bit helps. That being said, we’re always looking focus on markets came from a late night grocery for more writers, and always wanting to expand the shopping trip to Fresh & Easy, which you can read diversity of voices brought to you every month by about in my article “The Robots Have Taken Over.” this paper. Long story short, if you like the paper, From there, we reached out to Paul Gilmore, histori- or some aspect of the paper, give some thought to an extraordinaire, to give us some background on helping us maintain (or grow) an alternative, indethe history of supermarkets in the United States. pendent media in the Central Valley. Carlos Fierro gives us a round-up of local farmers markets, and also explores a seemingly crazy idea in It’s still sort of a surprise to me that we’ve been putour capitalist society: that of the “pay-what-youting this paper out for a little over 4 years now, and can” restaurant, being implemented by Panera in this feat would not have been possible without a their restaurants. In our Local section April long list of contributors, collaborators, supporters Hoogasian and Rosalba Lopez-Ramirez bring us and readers. So if you fit into any of those catesome updates on Youth Leadership Institute’s cam- gories, thank you very much. We’re going to try to paign to provide healthy options to residents living keep bringing you thought-provoking material and in the “food deserts” of south Fresno, which are highlighting the immense talent of creative artists in becoming less desert-like because of YLI’s efforts, the Valley, as long as you keep picking up the paper. and the efforts of many youth and community part- Good luck finding some shade and hydration as the ners. Don’t miss Adam & Ed’s ruminations on heat rises… CSAs and supporting local farmers. We’ve got some great articles in the back section,

M. Espinoza Watson June 28, 2010.

July 2010

Volume 5

Issue 2

Editorial Board Carlos Fierro

Jessi Hafer

Matt Espinoza Watson Abid Yahya

Contributors Christy Arndt Ramzy Baroud Eric A Boll Steve Early Paul Gilmore April Hoogasian Kiarra Hughe Steven J Ingeman Gena Kirby Stuart Littlewood Michelle01 Nicholas Nocketback Greg Palast Rosalba Lopez-Ramirez Eli Rayes Roberto Dr Cintli Rodriguez Hugh Starkey H Peter Steeves Ed Stewart Eddie Trevino Christian Vargas Adam Wall

Copy Editing Christy Arndt Matt Espinoza Watson Layout Carlos Fierro

For advertising inquiries, please email For letters to the editor, please email For submission information, please email For subscription information, visit or send a check for $35 to “The Undercurrent” P.O. Box 4857, Fresno, CA 93744. ©2010 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.


Smart Pig: BP’s OTHER Spill by Greg Palast


Cultivating Consciousness: Dance Timeout! by Gena Kirby


Food Justice: Youth Take on Greening Fresno’s Food Deserts


by April Hoogasian & Rosalba Lopez-Ramirez




Manifest Destiny to Manifest Insanity

by Roberto Dr Cintli Rodriguez

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Righting a Perpetual Wrong by Ramzy Baroud California Union Rebels Demand Biggest Labor Board Vote In Seven Decades by Steve Early


The Robots Have Taken Over: Or, Welcome to Your Friendly Neighbourhood Fresh & Easy


A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing...Now We’re Pigs to the Slaughter: the History of Supermarkets




by Matt Espinoza Watson by Paul Gilmore

Pay What You Can by Carlos Fierro The Market by Carlos Fierro

The Socratic Dialogues: “Seven Against Knoxos”

by H Peter Steeves & Steven J Ingeman


GAME [RE]VIEWS UnderCurrentEvents Calendar


The Undercurrent’s indie PREVIEW


Meet the Musicmakers: MoFo Party Band by Christy Arndt



E-40, Revenue Retrievin’ Day and Night Shift & other assorted albums reviewed by Nicholas Nocketback


Christian Vargas “Untitled”


Poly-Lit Reveiw by Nicholas Nocketback


Letters From Palestine reviewed by Stuart Littlewood


Gasland by Eric A Boll


Ondine reviewed by Nicholas Nocketback



One Up! A Review for Gamers: Super Street Fighter IV by Hugh Starkey


Dear Nocketback by Nicholas Nocketback


Thrift Bucket:

28 28

La Tienda Guild

by Michelle01 & Kiarra Hughe The View Looks Good From Here, Fresno: Markets by Adam & Ed

MisFortune Cookies by Nicholas Nocketback



Casa de Tamales reviewed by Jessi Hafer

Bacchus Blurb: The Espinoza by Carlos Fierro


Her Gum on My Headboard / Remedy / Phyllis’s Lobby by Eddie Trevino

Smart Pig: BP’s OTHER Spill BP never heard of. How does BP get away with it? The same way the Godfather got away with it: bad things happen to folks who blow the whistle. BP has a habit of hunting down and destroying the careers of those who warn of pipeline problems. In one case, BP’s CEO of Alaskan operations hired a former CIA expert to break into the home of a whistleblower, Chuck Hamel, who had complained of conditions at the pipe’s tanker facility. BP tapped his phone calls with a US congressman and ran a surveillance and smear campaign against him. When caught, a US federal judge said BP’s acts were “reminiscent of Nazi Germany.” This was not an isolated case. Captain James Woodle, once in ith the Gulf Coast dying of oil poisoning, there’s no space in the charge of the pipe’s Valdez terminus, was press for British Petroleum’s lat- blackmailed into resigning the post when he est spill: over 100,000 gallons, at its Alaska complained of disastrous conditions there. The weapon used on Woodle was a file of pipeline operation. A hundred thousand faked evidence of marital infidelity. Nice used to be a lot. Still is. guys, eh? Two decades ago, I had the On Tuesday, May 25, Pump Station 9, at Delta Junction on the 800-mile unhappy job of leading an investigation of British Petroleum’s management of the pipeline, busted. Thousands of barrels Alaska pipeline system. I was working for began spewing an explosive cocktail of the Chugach villages, the Alaskan Natives hydrocarbons after “procedures weren’t who own the shoreline slimed by the 1989 properly implemented” by BP operators, Exxon Valdez tanker grounding. say state inspectors. “Procedures weren’t Even then, a courageous, steelproperly implemented” is, it seems, BP’s eyed government inspector, Dan Lawn, was company motto. hollering about corrosion all through the BP Few Americans know that BP pipeline. I say “courageous” because Lawn owns the controlling stake in the transkept his job only because his union’s Alaska pipeline; but, unlike with the lawyers have kept BP from having his head. Deepwater Horizon, BP keeps its Limey It wasn’t until 2006, 17 years name off the Big Pipe. later, that BP claimed to have suddenly There’s another reason to keep discovered corrosion necessitating an emertheir name off the Pipe: their management of the pipe stinks. It’s corroded, it’s under- gency shut-down of the line. It was pretty darn hard for BP to manned and “basic maintenance” is a term claim surprise in August 2006 that corro-



sion required shutting the pipeline. Five months earlier, Inspector Lawn had written his umpteenth warning when he identified corrosion as the cause of a big leak. BP should have known about the problem years before that ... if only because they had tapped Dan Lawn’s home phone calls.

tos of solar panels in their annual reports and they’ve painted every one of their gas stations green. The green paint-job is supposed to represent the oil giant’s love of Mother Nature. But CEO Tony Hayward knows it stands for the color of the Yankee dollar. In 2006, BP finally discovered the dangerous corrosion in the pipeline after BP: Red, White and Bush running a “smart pig” through it. The “pig” is an electronic drone that BP should have I don’t want readers to think BP is a foreign been using continuously, though they had marauder unconcerned about America. not done so for 14 years. Another “proceThe company is deeply involved in dure not properly implemented.” our democracy. Bob Malone, until last year By not properly inspecting the the Chairman of BP America, was also pipeline for over a decade, BP failed to preAlaska State Covent that March Chairman of the 2006 spill which Bush re-election polluted Prudhoe campaign. Mr. Bay. And cheaping Bush, in turn, was out on remote conso impressed with trols for their oil BP’s care of well blow-out preAlaska’s environventers appears to ment that he have cost the lives pushed again to of 11 men on the open the state’s Deepwater arctic wildlife Horizon. refuge (ANWR) to But then, failure drilling by the BP to implement propconsortium. er safety proceYou can dures has saved go to Alaska today BP, not millions and see for yourbut billions of dolself the evidence lars, suggests that of BP’s care of the the company’s pig wilderness. You is indeed, very, can smell it: the very smart. crude oil is still on _______ the beaches from This article origithe Exxon Valdez spill. nally appeared at Exxon took all the blame for the spill because they were dumb enough to Greg Palast investigated charges of fraud by have the company’s name on the ship. But BP and Exxon in the grounding of the Exxon it was BP’s pipeline managers who filed Valdez for Alaska’s Chugach Natives. reports that oil spill containment equipment Palast’s investigation of Chevron’s oil drilling was sitting right at the site of the grounding operations in the Amazon for BBC Television Newsnight is included in the DVD compendinear Bligh Island. However, the reports were bogus, the equipment wasn’t there and um Palast Investigates. Palast’s investigaso the beaches were poisoned. At the time, tions are supported in part by the Puffin and Cloud Mountain Foundations and the Palast our investigators uncovered four-volumes worth of faked safety reports and concluded Investigative Fund, a 501c3 charitable trust. that BP was at least as culpable as Exxon for the 1,200 miles of oil-destroyed coastline. Nevertheless, we know BP cares about nature because they have lots of pho-

“Dance Timeout!”

Adults teach children in three important ways: The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example. ~Albert Schwitzer


few weeks ago, we discovered something at our house that has allowed us to diffuse a number of melt-downs. Just when we see one of the kids or ourselves start to lose it, we cry “Dance Break!” We take all the kids to the kitchen, crank up the stereo and rock out. It is amazing how much better we all feel after a dance break. We all are a little winded, and have forgotten why we were so upset in the first place. Depending on the time of day it can be helpful to get them to sleep too! I’ve been battling insomnia lately, but after 2 or three rounds of Dance Timeouts I have no problem passing out at the end of the day.

We discovered this quite by accident. I had given myself a time out when I become quite aggravated over my kids shenanigans, but instead of losing it, I walked away. I went to the kitchen and started washing dishes but first I put the stereo on. My favorite song came on and the next thing I know I was dancing. My kids came in to say “sorry” and saw me dancing, so they started too, soon we were all laughing and singing and dancing and soon we had all forgotten those frustrating feelings. As an Attachment Parenting advocate I love this solution. As parents we tend to revert to the stressing behaviors we grew up with. I can sometimes see myself model those behaviors and it scares me. So, for me, the dance timeout works on so many levels. I get to be physical without hurting my kids. I get to model a behavior that I don’t mind them copying. So far it works for most melt-downs and argu-

I was raised in a home where I was always being told not to do as my parents did, but to do as they said. I’m sorry to say I was pretty bad at it. In fact I ended up doing exactly as they did. It’s hard as a child not to mirror what you see, that’s how they learn. Am I perfect? Um, NO! Do I want to do things differently than my parents? Yes! Does this make my parents terrible people? No! Do I hope to be the perfect parent? Absolutely not, I know there is no such thing. My goal is to be present enough, to get when I screw up, and be able to drop my ego long enough to apologize and move on. For me, Attachment Parenting is simply this; treat your kids how you want them to grow up and treat you and others in their lives. From Confucianism to Islam to Christianity to Judaism, the core teaching is “The Golden Rule.” Is this type of parenting easy? NO! Is this hard in the face of the predictable intense and challenging moments of parentments. Once we are all in a good place again, ing? Yes! But parenting isn’t for sissies, it’s it makes it easier to talk about our feelings. hard, but our kids are worth our efforts. I’ve heard the argument that unless Lu Hanessian, author of Let the you “discipline your children, they will never Baby Drive gives these words of wisdom, learn.” I have often had this famous line from “Question things” (see side panel). She also the bible* quoted to me; “Spare the rod and says it’s important to “Know your story.” To spoil the child,” (which is a misquote). I get better explain what this means to me, I will quoted this by parents who believe it is their quote from Attached at the Heart, by Barbara duty to spank their kids. The actual wording Nicholson and Lysa Parker, “It is a sign of is, “he who spares the rod hates his son, but strength and personal growth for a parent to he who loves him is careful to discipline him” examine his or her own childhood experi(Prov 13:24). Dr. William and Martha Sears ences, to explore how these negatively influask us to consider a different interpretation of ence parenting, and to seek professional help these words, in The Complete Book of if needed. When your connection with your Christian Parenting and Child Care: “Rod child breaks, always take the time to repair it, (shebet) can mean several different things. whether that means apologizing or making The Hebrew dictionary gives this word variamends to your child. By doing so you are ous meanings: a stick (for punishment, writmodeling the very behavior you want to instill ing, fighting, ruling, walking, etc.). While the in your child.” rod could be used for hitting, it was used So instead of reverting to what I was more frequently for guiding wandering sheep. shown as kid, I have turned instead to the Shepherds didn’t use the rod to beat their healing sounds of music, to distract, calm and sheep-and children are certainly more valure-focus. After we’ve laughed and smiled our able than sheep. As shepherd-author Philip way back to “happy,” we can then work out a Keller teaches so well in A Shepherd Looks at solution together, apologize genuinely and Psalm 23, the shepherd’s rod was used to say, “I love you.” fight off prey, and the staff was used to gently ______ guide sheep along the right path. (“Your rod Gena Kirby is a wife, mother, Doula, and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm Childbirth Educator, and creator of mommy23:4). “The book of proverbs is one of She is the creator and ry. It is Logical that the writer would have host of the radio show, Progressive Parenting, used a well-known tool to form an image of which airs every Thursday at 1pm on KFCF authority. We believe that this is the point that 88.1 FM. God makes about the rod in the Bible, parents _______ take charge of your children. When you re* The origin of this phrase (“Spare the rod, read the “rod verses,” substitute in the concept spoil the child”)cannot be attributed to the of parental authority when you come to the Bible, the origin of the phrase came from a word ‘rod,’ rather than the concept of beating poem by Samuel Butler written in 1664 titled, or spanking. It rings true in every instance.” “Hudibras.” It’s so easy to laugh It’s so easy to hate It takes strength to be gentle and kind ~The Smiths

Positive Discipline Leads to: l Increased l Increased l More l More

moral judgment

empathetic behavior


positive behavior

l Better


l Lower

risk of smoking

l Positive l Lower


risk of drug use

l Cooperation

and respect

There is no scientific evidence I can refer to regarding our Dance Time Out, all I can say is it works for us. As far as what other parents do, I think if you listen to your gut you can’t go wrong. As for Dance Time Out, give it a try and get back to me about how it works or doesn’t work for you! Here’s a link ( to the video showing us dancing in time out; it was taken by my 6 year old, I hope it makes you smile. Happy parenting! ~Gena For more detailed information on Attachment Parenting and Positive Discipline visit or

The Following are quotes from songs that give me pause and remind me that trusting my gut about what’s “right” for me and my kids is “right” for me.

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small?By giving you no time instead of it all?Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all... They hurt you at home and they hit you at school?They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool?Till you’re so f*&^%*# crazy you can’t follow their rules... When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years?Then they expect you to pick a career?When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear. ~Green Day, Working Class Hero Answer me and take your time, what could be the awful crime he could do at such young an age? If I’m the only witness to your madness offer me some words to balance out what I see and what I hear. All these cold and rude things that you do I suppose you do because he belongs to you and instead of love, the feel of warmth you’ve given him these cuts and sores won’t heal with time or age. ~10,000 Maniacs

FOOD JUSTICE: Youth Take on Greening Fresno’s Food Deserts


n many of Fresno County’s low income communities it is easier to find a bag of flaming hot Cheetos than a fresh apple. Likewise, a 40 oz of beer costs a fraction of what it costs to buy a bottle of water. Lack of access to healthy food is a social justice issue. In low income communities with limited access to healthy food there are higher rates of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. Too often emphasis is placed on unhealthy individual “lifestyle” choices and not on the unhealthy environments that essentially force many living in poor food environments to make unhealthy choices on a continuous basis. Recently the local young leaders of Youth Leadership Institute (YLI) have made radical and innovative efforts to improve food environments in urban Fresno.

California’s Central Valley is the agricultural heart of the nation. Despite the abundance and diversity of fruits and vegetables produced in the valley, many low income local communities have severely limited access to produce. In Fresno County, many neighborhoods are considered food deserts where there are no full service grocery stores, farmers markets, community gardens or other outlets where fresh and affordable produce can be purchased. Research conducted by YLI’s Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program (CCROPP) youth council revealed a 10 to 1 ratio of corner stores to full service grocery stores in the southeast 93702 area. This poses a problem for southeast residents looking to purchase healthy food because corner stores traditionally stock tobacco, alcohol, and high calorie snack foods and rarely offer nutritious food choices. Additionally, the youth observed that most of urban Fresno’s full service grocery stores are concentrated in central and north Fresno. With over 60% of families in the 93702 area living in poverty, traveling long distances to full service grocery stores is not an option for many (Census, 2000). Many residents do not have access the reliable and safe transportation required to make a two mile trek to buy healthy food. With nearly 50% of the 93702 population under the age of 18 it is common that parents with small children must endure an arduous 40 minute round trip bus ride to transport groceries. As a result, many residents in the 93702 communities purchase much of their food from corner stores because such stores are much more abundant and accessible.


To promote awareness around the food justice issues present in the 93702 communities the CCROPP youth council composed a photo voice project documenting the neighborhoods’ over saturation of liquor stores and absence of affordable and quality produce. Supported with local data, the photo voice proj-

The youth council listened to Akram’s concerns around stocking produce and worked toward changing the status quo. After months generating awareness around food justice issues in local communities, the youth council had forged many relationships with community partners, including Blake Kozuki, a fourth generation local farmer and grower. Blake agreed to work with Latino Market to supply small quantities of produce at wholesale prices and collaborated with the youth to establish strategies for sustainability. With Blake’s support, the youth moved forward and began conducting one-on-one interviews with community members to assess which varieties of fruits and vegetables residents would buy at Latino Market. The youth also assisted Akram in becoming a Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vendor, which ect was showcased in a variety of community allows Latino Market to accept produce vouchsettings and acted as catalyst in establishing ers from WIC recipients, further creating access support among the community, stakeholders to healthy food for high need residents such as and decision makers. With the support of the low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and noncommunity, the youth began to reach out to breastfeeding postpartum women with infants, corner store owners in the 93702 communities and/or children up to age five who are found to in hopes of establishing partnerships that would be at nutritional risk. result in creating greater access to fruits and As change was underway, the youth vegetables. Akram Alsharabi, owner of Latino began further establishing a trusting relationMarket, a corner store located in a the densely ship with the community; a relationship where populated area of Olive and Fisher Streets, youth were able to understand the dynamic peragreed to collaborate with the youth council to sonality of the community that was vibrant yet transform his store into a community asset faced many challenges. The community where local residents could purchase local and vibrancy was evident as the youth walked quality produce at affordable prices. through the streets where children played and Akram, like many corner store ownwhere there seemed to be a constant flow of ers seeking to carry produce, was presented foot traffic. Community members of all ages with many unique challenges. Often store own- and ethnicities openly shared with the youth the ers do not have the resources to buy the proper challenges they faced accessing healthy food, refrigeration equipment required to stock prosuch as transportation and cost. Enthusiasm by duce and keep it fresh. Additionally, many pro- community members grew as changes took duce distributors require a minimum purchase place, including the store transformation that for delivery which often far exceeds the created an environment promoting healthier amount that a small corner store can afford or choices. The youth placed healthy food items accommodate. Other barriers to stocking prosuch as produce, milk, eggs, and bread at the duce include marketing and advertising, as well front of the store, and healthy snacks such as as maintaining competitive prices with big box nuts and dried fruits were placed near the cash outlet stores such as Winco and Food Maxx register. A refrigeration unit was also put in that offer wholesale prices on produce and place, which was filled with local veggies and other grocery items. fruits.

Youth also separated alcoholic beverages from the non-alcoholic beverages and alcoholic beverages were separated from food items. Reducing alcohol advertisements and separating alcohol from non-alcoholic items were of particular importance to the youth, because they wanted to eliminate the negative associations made between marginalized communities and alcohol. While eliminating alcohol advertisements, the youth saw an opportunity on the outside of Latino Market to remove an unhealthy message and replace it with a healthy message. A “Cold Beer” painting was replaced by a beautiful mural created by Mauro Carrera (local Fresno artist) and children from the neighborhood. The image and message of the mural reflected the vision of the community discussed by residents, which was a “Healthy Community, Comunidad Saludable (Spanish), Nyab xeeb peej xeem (Hmong).” On May 14, the youth organized a block party with community members and local partners to celebrate the completion of the store conversion, which was filled with fun activities for everyone. The innovative work of a store conversion as a way to bring access to healthy food is one way that the YLI CCROPP council has strengthened and accelerated the food justice movement in Fresno County. YLI is also advancing the youth- led food justice movement in the communities of Kerman, Selma, San Mateo and San Francisco where local youth councils are partnering with communities to create healthier food environments in schools and neighborhoods. Youth are building momentum in the food justice movement and by supporting corner store conversions, local farm stands, and supporting policies that promote better food access in communities and schools, one can be part of this moment too! The Latino Market Healthy Store Makeover was funded by The California Endowment and The Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Project. Latino Market is located at 1145 N. Fisher Fresno, CA 93702 (just south of Olive east of Fresno street) For more information visit & _______ Rosalba is a member of the CCROPP Youth Council and an active advocate for the community. April works for Youth Leadership Institute as the Research & Outreach Coordinator, and can be reached at, or at 559-255-3300, ext. 231.

From Manifest Destiny to Manifest Insanity



s a result of several recent draconian laws, Arizona’s image has taken a drubbing internationally. And yet, Arizona is but the spear. In reality, its politics are not that dramatically different from other states and not that different from Washington. That more than a dozen states are waiting in the wings with copycat legislation and that the Obama administration continues to view migration through a law enforcement and military prism is plenty proof.

Those politics, fueled by hateful and cowardly politicians and the hate-radio universe, are undeniably anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant. Yet in truth, they actually are anti-Indigenous. In effect, the politics that we are seeing are undeniably but an extension of Manifest Destiny. Its modern expression is a Manifest Insanity—an attempt to maintain the myth of America— conceived of as a promise of a pristine, God-given home—reserved for Englishspeaking White Anglo Saxon Protestants, this amid the “browning” of the nation. These Arizona laws are part of a spasmodic reaction to this demographic shift, an attempt to maintain a political and cultural dominance over [brown] peoples seen as less than human and as defeated

has been pushing an “Americanization” agenda, insisting that Arizona students be exposed only to “Greco-Roman” knowledge. Knowledge centered elsewhere is generally considered subversive and unAmerican, including Mesoamerican or Maize knowledge—knowledge that is Indigenous to this continent. It is this knowledge that is at the philosophical heart of Mexican American or Raza Studies. Arizona is not alone in this insanity; Texas Education officials recently banned the inclusion of labor leader Dolores Huerta in Texas school cur-

familiar with Acuña’s book (He matter-offactly tells them to read his book before attacking). At best, they spar over its title and a few catch phrases (mistranslating La Raza to mean “The Race” as opposed to “The People”) and attempt to denigrate an entire discipline on the basis of their ignorance. Yet, at the core, the critics are correct. Ethnic Studies indeed is a threat to the myth of America—the mythical America where genocide, land theft, slavery and dehumanization are denied or are but mere footnotes, as opposed to being the recognized foundation of this nation (Unchallenged, this glossed-over view is what permits U.S. citizens to view permanent war as a God-given birthright). With such a denial, the concept of Occupied America—an occupied continent— becomes unfathomable. The narrative of an empty continent, incidentally, is what perpeoples. These laws seek to maintain this mits the myth of “no occupation.” riculums. narrative of conquest. This is why the loss The best Raza Studies critics do is Horne, via HB 2281, has longof lives of some 5,000 Mexicans and attempt to dehumanize Mexicans/Chicanos. claimed that Raza Studies preaches hate, Central Americans—primarily Indigenous In their conjured up narrative, results in segregation and promotes antipeoples––in the Arizona/Sonora desert in Americanism and the violent overthrow of Mexicans/Chicanos are neither legitimate the past dozen years, mean little in this the U.S. government. Truth is, he has had a Americans, nor legitimate human beings. clash. The same is true with regard to the Neither are they afforded the status of vendetta against Raza Studies since recent killings of two Mexicans by U.S. Indigenous peoples; at best, they are monDolores Huerta proclaimed in 2006 at agents along the U.S./Mexico border. grels, undeserving of full human rights. Tucson High that Republicans “hate For those who are attempting to Latinos.” Horne, who constantly denigrates This dominant narrative is dependent upon uphold this dominance, this browning repher as “Cesar Chavez’s former girlfriend,” this process of de-Indigenization and dehuresents a time reversal—a cultural and manization. Those of us that cannot be and his allies have spent the past several political reversal of the so-called triumph years trying to prove her right. deported (can’t wait for next year’s of Western Civilization. This is what As Acuña found out in Arizona, Arizona battle over the 14th amendment Arizona represents; a civilizational clash for some, having a different philosophical and birthright citizenship) are welcome and a clash of narratives over the myth of center, in and of itself, constitutes a threat here, as long as we participate in our own America itself. Nothing less. to this cultural and political domination. assimilation or ethnic cleansing and are Rodolfo Acuña, author of More than that, it threatens the national happily subservient and willing to accept Occupied America, came to Arizona last narrative of having tamed a wild, savage this nation’s mythologized narrative. week, offering a stark reminder about this and empty continent… of having conThat’s the definition of Manifest clash. His book—along with Paulo Freire’s quered, exterminated and civilized “the Insanity. Pedagogy of the Oppressed—has been at Indians.” _______ the center of the anti-ethnic studies Rodriguez, an assistant professor at the Enter Occupied America and it firestorm and law—HB 2281—signed last upsets the carefully crafted myth and narra- University of Arizona, can be reached at: month by Gov. Jan Brewer (She had signed tive of the United States as the land of His ARCHIVED SB 1070—the racial profiling law—the freedom and democracy or Paradise on COLUMN OF THE AMERICAS can be previous month). The controversy surEarth. found at his book has been fueled by an Raza Studies critics in Arizona— noftheamericas. extreme Eurocentric ignorance. For several including media professionals—are barely years, State Superintendent, Tom Horne,

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon: Righting a Perpetual Wrong by RA MZ Y BA RO U D


Why should Palestinian refugees be humiliated for no fault of their own?

inally, a parliamentary debate in Lebanon over the human rights of Palestinian refugees. What is unfortunate though, is that granting basic civil rights to over 400,000 Palestinians - 62 years after their expulsion from their historic homeland and the issuing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been a topic of ‘debate’ in the first place. Equally regrettable is the fact that various “Christian” Lebanese political forces are fiercely opposing granting Palestinians their rights.

massacres and untold hardship failed to destroy—the memory and the belonging— will certainly not be eliminated now by some rightwing politicians and a few parliamentary bills at the Israeli Knesset, including one that forbids Palestinians from commemorating their Nakba (Catastrophe of 1947-48). The ongoing debate in the Lebanese parliament, however, is of a different nature. Lebanon is striving to settle many hanging political questions. Despite Israel’s devastating wars, a more confident Lebanese populace is emerging. This was largely empowered by the success of the Lebanese military resistance Most Palestinian refugees in to Israel. A country of law and order is replacLebanon are second and third generation ing that of chaos and turmoil, and a level of refugees. Impoverished camps are the only political independence is making some promhomes they have ever known. In Palestine, ising appearances after decades of total polititheir real home, their villages were destroyed, cal dependency and proxy civil wars. their fields were burnt down and their culture However, there are those who want was eradicated. An ongoing attempt at erasing Lebanon to remain a country divided on secevery aspect of the Palestinian Arab identity tarian lines, a characteristic that defined in today’s Israel continues unabated, strength- Lebanese society for generations. Only such a ened by the rightwing government of Prime division could guarantee their survival at the Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Foreign helm of dismal clan-based, sectarian hierarchy Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is recogthat has long degraded the image of the counnized in many political circles as “fascist”. try, and allowed outsiders, notwithstanding But what 62 years of dispossession, Israel, to manipulate the fragile structure for

their own benefit. The denial of rights for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon is an old subject that often resurfaces as a political ploy to serve immediate interests. This time, however, things seem to be different. Lebanon needs to move forward. Denying 400,000 people living a most wretched existence in scattered refugee camps, surrounded by mass graves, military checkpoints and no political horizon whatsoever is not conducive to the process of political and social progress. Of course, those who dread the possibility of a modern Lebanon unified by one common identity—one that is not held hostage to sectarian allegiances or tribal affiliations—want Palestinian refugees to remain perpetual victims. The good news is that the bill is supported by those who are otherwise political rivals in Lebanese politics—Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister of the Future Movement, and Hezbollah and Amal, among others. The bill, introduced by the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP) on June 15 “would cancel prohibitions on property ownership and social security benefits for Palestinians, and ease restrictions on their right to work,” according to Human Rights Watch. Nadim Houry, HRW director in Beirut, said, “Lebanon has marginalized Palestinian refugees for too long (and the) parliament should seize this opportunity to turn the page and end discrimination against Palestinians.” Indeed, it is an opportunity. But MPs from the Free Patriotic Movement, Phalange and Lebanese Forces are strongly opposing the measure. Phalange official Sami Gemayel, for example, has tried to delay the measure, hoping perhaps to deflate the strong movement that no longer tolerates denying Palestinian refugees their basic rights. “A matter that has created a number of crises for more than 60 years could not be tackled within three days,” the Lebanese Daily Star quoted him as saying. Of course he could not help but infuse the same old tired mantra, stressing that “integrating the Palestinians in the Lebanese society would undermine their right of return and fulfill an Israeli demand.” Not one Lebanese could possibly believe that a Phalange official—whose party

worked with Israeli forces in the summer of 1982 to orchestrate and carry out the killing of thousands of defenseless Palestinian refugees in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps— could truly be concerned about the Palestinian sense of belonging, identity and right of return. It is obvious that the measure could embolden refugees into demanding full integration into Lebanese society, which would completely undermine the foundation of the sectarian society that the Phalange official stalwartly champions. But why should Palestinian refugees be humiliated for no fault of their own? Why should they live under the choice that they either suffer under draconian measures or risk losing their right of return? It’s like repeatedly punishing the victim for “allowing” his victimhood. The fact is Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, like Palestinian refugees elsewhere, are utterly clear regarding their right of return and their adherence to that right. They need not to be fined or jailed for adding a bedroom to their ramshackle homes in the refugee camps. They need not to be treated like tenth class citizens to be reminded of their love for Palestine, the names of their destroyed villages and the memories of their ancestors. It is ironic how Mr. Gemayel found it implausible to reach a solution regarding the acknowledgement of Palestinian refugees’ basic rights in three days, while it was astoundingly achievable to butcher thousands of innocent civilians by Phalange forces in 3648 hours in Sabra and Shatilla on September 16, 1982. The survivors of those camps and the rest don’t wish to impede the “Christian” parties’ bid for demographic and sectarian “balance” in Lebanon. Their home is Palestine and they cannot wait to return. But, until that day arrives, there is no need to deny them the most basic of rights and infringe upon their very dignity. One can only hope that Lebanon’s new political development overpowers those who wish to keep the country fragmented, sectarian and forever hostage to the ghosts of its colonial past. _______ Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story (Pluto Press, London), available on

California Union Rebels Demand Biggest Labor Board Vote In Seven Decades


Unhappy Kaiser workers aim to leave SEIU does now, the election could be held anytime between late August and October. SEIU, join NUHW


SEIU. Aiding the latter, Kaiser tried to punish workers who voted for NUHW by denying them a previously scheduled wage increase— an unfair labor practice so blatant that it forced even the slow-moving and employerfriendly NLRB to issue a complaint against KP several weeks ago. This employer retaliation was not unrelated to a much larger pattern of management support for the incumbent union and interference with the activities of the insurgent one. The much-heralded Kaiser “labor-management partnership” has become an additional weapon against employee free choice. Workers are being told by SEIU that they will lose the benefits of a Kaiser labor coalition contract just negotiated—and won’t be allowed to join either the partnership or the 30-union coalition that participates in it. Neither threat seems to be doing too much damage so far. The new SEIU-Kaiser agreement has been widely criticized by NUHW supporters and has won them further shop-floor support from co-workers in the California Nurses Association. CNA members have always opposed the partnership and believe the justratified SEIU deal sets a bad precedent for their own statewide bargaining next year. Between them, CNA and UNITE HERE have provided more than $3 million in loans and grants to NUHW since the new union was launched 17 months ago. Scores of organizers, on loan from UNITE HERE, have also been assisting NUHW’s bare-bones network of low-paid, full-time staffers and its dedicated cadre of Kaiser campaign volunteers. “Kaiser workers are on the verge of making history and taking their union back,” Local 2 secretary-treasurer Lamoin WerleinJaen told the press conference. “We have a shared vision that emphasizes democracy and placing members at the center of our organiz-

J UN E 3 0 , 2 0 1 0

ing, our work and our decision-making.” Outside Werlein-Jaen’s union hall door, a small group of purple-clad SEIU members handed out anti-NUHW flyers, accompanied by a nervous-looking young staffer named Adriana Surfas. Adriana is the PR person who raised a few eyebrows in May when SEIU pulled out of a long-sought NLRB vote at USC University Hospital in Los Angeles. Amid a vicious anti-union campaign by management—that was aided and abetted by SEIU—the incumbent union suddenly removed itself from the ballot! Adriana told the Los Angeles Times that this was because management “had created an extremely hostile environment, so that workers who supported unionization feared what was going to happen.” What happened was that 393 workers voted for NUHW, 122 voted for no union, and the union that represented all of them until the day before simply vamoosed. Since the well-deserved loss of SEIU’s entire KP membership would be quite a blow to new national president Mary Kay Henry—and a set-back for Stern-appointed UHW trustee Dave Regan, who is about to become the permanent leader of UHW—no one expects a similar disappearing act at Kaiser. But before the balloting is over, Kaiser workers will see more of that “extremely hostile environment” in their own workplaces, as SEIU and management team up to make changing unions as difficult as possible. _______ Steve Early worked for 27 years as an organizer and international representative for the Communications Workers of America in New England. He is the author of Embedded with Organized Labor, from Monthly Review Press, and the forthcoming The Civil Wars in U.S. Labor, from Haymarket Books. He can be reached at

At the Bay Area NUHW press briefing, hosted by UNITE HERE Local 2, Kaiser ith justifiable pride (and the numworkers explained why they want out of their bers to prove it), the 1.9 million existing union. Since January of 2009, when member Service Employees former SEIU president Andy Stern (now a International Union (SEIU) has long drug company board member) put 150,000claimed to be the “fastest growing union in member United Healthcare Workers (UHW) America”. By the end of this year, it could under trusteeship for challenging his heavybecome the fastesthanded rule, things shrinking union in have not gone well California—a reversal of for caregivers in fortune largely unforeCalifornia. seen until recently. Kaiser social The architects of workers Randi SEIU downsizing (if it Shaw and David occurs) are not budgetShapiro were part cutting Republican goverof a pre-trusteeship nors or anti-union nursing UHW chapter that home owners or unionhad 350 widely busting hospitals, dispersed memalthough all will be bers, but a strong impacted by the upcomnetwork of 35 ing vote demanded yeselected shop stewterday by thousands of ards. The social Kaiser Permanente (KP) workers felt conworkers. In Los Angeles nected to Kaiser and San Francisco, contract negotiaunhappy SEIU members tions in 2000 and held press conferences 2005 that Shapiro Tuesday to announce that participated in as a Longtime labor activist Dolores Huerta (center) cele- bargaining comthey are seeking National brates with Kaiser Permanente employees petitioning mittee member. Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections so they for an election that would allow them to join NUHW, “Our local, they can switch to the rival said nothing would in Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 29. National Union of change. But one of Healthcare Workers (NUHW). the first things they did was remove stewards Their contested bargaining units and other elected leaders.” Day-to-day reprecover 45,000 employees at California’s largest sentation has suffered as a result, Shaw and hospital chain. To get a representation vote in Shapiro reported. Only members willing to a group of this size, you need to sign up, in sign an official SEIU loyalty oath are eligible very short order, at least 13,500 people in 350 to serve as stewards or negotiators. different work locations in one of America’s So Kaiser management is taking largest states. (And that minimum 30% advantage of the weaker, less experienced “showing of interest” to trigger a vote was people who’ve replaced the hundreds of certainly far exceeded by NUHW supporters Kaiser stewards who have quit or been at Kaiser who did the bulk of the signatureUS soldiers total US total US purged by SEIU because of their NUHW US soldiers gathering on their own time—before, during sympathies. “It’s very different working at killed in June 10 soldiers killed soldiers killed killed in June 10 and after scheduled work shifts.) Kaiser now,” Shaw said. “The culture has As a longtime helper of labor organ- changed and you can feel it.” izing drives on the East Coast—the largest of Shapiro cited the gains made by which involved 10,000 fewer workers in a fellow Kaiser professionals in Southern public sector campaign 30 years ago—my hat California who were the first to switch is off to the formidable rank-and-file team unions in January, in a landslide vote against IRAQ IRAQ that’s re-building unionism at Kaiser today. AFGHANISTAN SEIU. The nurses in that group of 2,500 AFGHANISTAN After all, it’s not every day that someone immediately went to work on the issue of knocks on the door of the NLRB and says, staffing levels. They were able to negotiate We have not included numbers for civilian casualties because, though there are many studies and sources positing estimates, there is “Hey, let’s hold the biggest union representa- additional RN positions at a time of Kaiserno single, reliable, regularly-updated source of data regarding civilian casualties. Just assume that the number of civilians killed in tion vote since the 1940s.” wide job elimination—a trend that NUHW Iraq and Afghanistan dwarfs even the number of American soldiers injured, let alone killed, each and every month. Depending on how much legal foot-dragging says is not being effectively resisted by

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The robots have taken over: Or, Welcome to your friendly neighbourhood Fresh & Easy The Market



live on the outskirts of downtown, and a couple years back, was excited to hear that there would soon be a new grocery store in the area, and one that carried “healthy” food at that. (1) Hearing later that the store would be a project of British mega-supermarket-builder Tesco didn’t grab my attention much, just because I don’t really know who owns any of the other grocery stores I shop at, so why should I start being xenophobic all of a sudden, right? The store began advertising for all the jobs it would bring to the community, which seemed like another mark in their favor. Then I heard that Tesco is notoriously anti-union, and that the jobs which would be created by Fresh & Easy wouldn’t be very good ones (compared with union grocery store workers’ jobs). This did grab my attention, and after reading fliers from UFCW-8 Golden State (the United Food & Commercial Workers union) listing many reasons not to shop at Fresh & Easy, I had to nod in agreement, and decided to keep my distance from the place. I was further put off when I learned that the whole store is automated, or “self check-out”. I, for one (and I may be in the tiny minority here) am OK with spending a couple dollars more if I know that someone in my community has a decent job, that one less person is unemployed and/or homeless as thousands of jobs disappear or are shipped overseas on a regular basis…

I remained curious, however, about the store. “What if they have really good ____ there?” “It’s right around the corner; I should at least check it out…” But I remained committed to not shopping there. Until, one night, I needed to make a late-night grocery run before a very early morning trip the next day, and my defenses were worn down; f*** it, I said to myself, I’ll just go to the Fresh & Easy… And thus began the weirdest grocery shopping experience I’ve ever had. Really, what it came down to was the fact that I went in not too long before closing, and so the store lights were on, and it looked like a grocery store, but there was no one inside. No other customers shopping, nobody near the door when I came in, no one to exchange a smile with, just… nobody. I made my way around the deserted space, made my selections, and was beginning to check myself out, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw what seemed to be a store employee, who some 20 feet down the conveyor belt was bagging my groceries. By the time I’d finished scanning my groceries, pulled out my ATM card and looked over to thank him, he’d disappeared, back into the night and the mysterious people-less store. I left the store feeling perplexed, like I’d just walked out of the future, and I didn’t like what I saw. I guess I didn’t really notice when the self check-out contraptions started appearing in grocery or department stores some years back, or if I did, it was years ago, and I’ve become accustomed to seeing them down on one end of the checkout. The sterile experience of shopping at Fresh & Easy, on the other hand, was very in-my-face with its eerie lack of human interaction. The experience made me realize that we have become OK with certain functions and jobs being outsourced to computers, like ATM’s for example, and I’m OK with that; in fact, it’s been years since I’ve actually been inside my bank. And I like it that way. But, money is one thing, and food another. Right? I love going to the remate (swap meet), or to farmer’s markets, where you’re likely to be

surrounded by community, and perhaps even talk to the people who grew and harvested the food you’re buying. I love to travel, and go to Mexico whenever I get the opportunity. I like wandering around, and I especially like going into the markets in Mexico City and any other small town I might wander into. The mercado, or tianguis, is full of people and sights and smells and sounds, and is a wonder to behold. It’s shopping the way it’s been done for thousands of years, and there’s something very visceral and satisfying about getting your food in this manner. But I’m also a product of growing up in Fresno, where we have fast food restaurants galore, and meals just magically appear. The bustling tianguis is not my everyday grocery experience by any means. I’m as disconnected with my food as the next person, but for some reason, the completely automated grocery store crossed a line that I wasn’t ready to cross. Industry sources say that an automated store requires less than 1/3 the number of employees as a regular store, and although all the Fresh &

Easy stores in the U.S. are self-checkout, at first I thought it was a Fresno-only thing, as we’re the “test market” for so many fast-food companies and anything else; but nope, all the Fresh & Easy

stores are self-checkout only. Tesco has only recently opened a line of stores back home that are self-check only. Critics in the UK warned that “the move marks the end of basic human interaction during weekly shopping trips and could eventually cost thousands of jobs.” (2) It’s those thousands of jobs that concern me, the lack of which will save Tesco lots of money but may pave the way for a colder, more automated future. Each Fresh & Easy store does create an average of 23 jobs though, so maybe we should just applaud them for 23 jobs that didn’t previously exist, even if they’re not great jobs?? One of the more interesting things I found out while doing some research on Tesco is that, despite raking in £3.4 billion (or $5 billion U.S.) in profits this last year and being the world’s third largest food retailer, the company is actually losing lots of money with this whole Fresh & Easy venture (“a loss of £165m—up from a loss of £142m the previous year.”) (3) However, despite these losses, “Tesco has poured hundreds of millions of dollars into building an infrastructure, including a distribution center in Riverside that is the size of Disneyland that could support many times the number of stores it has opened or has in the pipeline.” And the company has stated it is prepared to spend $2 billion over 5 years to “crack the U.S. market,” so like them or not, they’re not going anywhere for the time being. (4) So, on one hand, the fact that residents in southern Fresno have more options (and relatively healthy options) is very much a good thing. I support the burgeoning “food justice” movement, and believe all communities should have access to healthy, reasonably priced food. But at the end of the day, what I’m left with is the

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notion that in this consumerist society we live in, that we vote with our dollars, so to speak, and so shopping at this place is, in effect, me saying I support the way they do business. And I don’t.

Just about 15 years ago, author, professor, and activist Jeremy Rifkin wrote a book called The End of Work: The Decline of the Global Labor Force and the Dawn of the PostMarket Era. Rifkin speculates that worldwide unemployment will increase as new computer-based and communications technologies eliminate tens of millions of jobs in the manufacturing, agricultural and service sectors. He writes: “We are entering a new age of global markets and automated production. The road to a near-workerless economy is within sight. Whether that road leads to a safe haven or a terrible abyss will depend on how well civilization prepares for the post-market era that will follow on the heels of the Third Industrial Revolution. The end of work could spell a death sentence for civilization as we have come to know it. The end of work could also signal the beginning of a great social transformation, a rebirth of the human spirit. The future lies in our hands.” Indeed it does... _______ NOTES: (1) All Fresh & Easy brand products are made with “no artificial colors, flavors, or added trans fats, and only use preservatives when absolutely necessary”, and they market themselves as a sort of cheaper Whole Foods (not that it’s hard to beat WF’s prices). (2) From “Are the days of the checkout worker numbered? Tesco pioneers first ever self-service only shop”, June 14 2010, Daily Mail Reporter (3), April 20, 2010, “Tesco rings up record profits” (4) “Fresh & Easy Expansion to Continue Despite Red Ink” Apr 22, 2009 - Jerry Hirsch - LA Times business/fi-fresh-easy22/2

A Wolf in Sheeps Clothing...Now We’re Pigs to the Slaughter: the History of Supermarkets The Market



s it not just a little strange that nearly everyone in the country can recognize the blue and yellow box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? Isn’t it bizarre that there even is such a thing as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese? Even to those of us who eat meat, it is surely more than a bit odd that bright red hunks of animal flesh, cut in every imaginable way, each individually plastic-wrapped with its own little tray, sit stacked in open refrigerator cases in thousands of supermarkets across the country. Isn’t it also kind of foolish that we drive cars for miles, park in giant plazas of asphalt, and wander acres of aisles, only to purchase a gallon of milk and a loaf of Wonder Bread at Save Mart? Am I the only one who thinks it is downright uncanny that Wonder Bread ever sold a single loaf, much less millions—that this feat is something that needs explaining?

several years, something of a cottage industry has grown up around analyzing the problems of our food system. From Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, to Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and documentaries like Food, Inc and Fresh, many critics have exposed the massive health and environmental problems that our way of producing and distributing food has created. They have condemned the exploitation—yes, exploitation—of workers and farmers that this system produces. And they have also lamented the spiritual bankruptcy that a culture of consumption offers. It’s helpful to point out that it didn’t have to be this way. The cities and neighborhoods we live in and take for granted, our built environments, are just that—built. And so are food markets. This deluge of packages and brands, of advertising and shopping centers and big box stores—the world of supermarkets like Save Mart, Vons, Whole Foods and Fresno’s latest, Fresh and Easy—is not a force of nature, but a I haven’t figured it out, by the way. The Wonder Bread thing still boggles me. But product of history. All of these cans and boxes and botI do think it’s useful to ask how this all came to tles, with their colors and come-ons, put me in be. Too often, we take our everyday world of mind of a nice five dollar term from good old food for granted, as if this world is the best we Karl Marx—commodity fetishism. Very simcan hope for. It’s heartening that in the past

ply, this is a reference to our tendency in a capitalist world to misplace the source of value in the things we buy. Instead of valuing the labor that goes into the production of those things, we come to think that those commodities, those products, somehow have value in and of themselves. In a consumer culture, this is intensified. All those packages, those neat little trays of meat labeled Oscar Mayer, the Jolly Green Giant can, the bottle of Coke—are a kind of veil that hides the labor that went into making them, obscuring also their connection to the environment. We even say with a straight face that we are “loyal” to a brand. Today, such fetishism is a kind of collective epidemic disease, and the modern supermarkets are just one symptom, but if we look at the history of the 1920s, we can see the elements of our modern consumer culture being built. One element of the modern supermarket that obscures the labor that goes into it is self-service. It’s hard to imagine grocery stores without self-service, but believe it or not, stores in which customers freely wander the aisles were almost unknown in the early 1900s. Clerks and butchers packaged bulk goods and compiled orders and cut meat to order. Though there were some pre-packaged goods, most of the “selling” was done by the clerks and meat cutters. Clerks and meat cutters spent a good amount of time in the back room too, packaging bulk goods and cutting meat, laboring to manufacture food products. Self-service changed all that. To the extent that such a thing can be invented, the self-service store was invented by Memphis, Tennessee’s Clarence Saunders in 1916, when he opened his first Piggly Wiggly. Saunders’ novel store layout, which he patented in 1917, consisted of a turnstile through which the customers entered and picked up a basket, and a staggered series of shelves arranged in such a way as to herd patrons along a specified route past every item in the store and to the cash register like hogs in a pig-run being led to slaughter (thus, Piggly Wiggly—yes, you are the pig). Saunders’ stores caught on. He franchised the design, and by 1922, there were nearly 2,000 Piggly Wigglies throughout America, and the company was trading on the New York Stock Exchange. But after a failed

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attempt to ward off a bear raid on his company’s stock in 1923, Saunders was forced into bankruptcy. But the self-service Piggly Wigglies remained, under new owners, some of them the leading national chain corporations, including Safeway in the West, Kroger and National Tea in the Midwest, and Colonial in the South. These companies ran their Piggly Wiggly stores for many years before they converted their own stores to self-service. The introduction of self-service revolutionized the world of not only the small-time shopkeeper, but also the customers and workers. According to his patent, Saunders wanted to fashion a retail environment that eliminated the labor of clerks and increased sales by giving customers direct access to the goods. And he enforced this too, instructing those few clerks stocking shelves to politely refuse to select merchandise for the customers. Simultaneously, Saunders claimed, the store helped “educate” the customers, turning mere grocery store patrons into shoppers who were free to feed their own wants—desires supposedly inspired and met by nationally advertised packaged goods “conveniently and attractively displayed,” rather than through the efforts of a salesman. Saunders’ willingness to “free” the shopper to leisurely roam through the store only extended so far. For instance, he wanted them to have access to the goods, but he feared that they would use such access to steal merchandise, so his design also called for a “gallery” entered into from the back room and connected to the tops of the shelves from which a “floor-walker” (a better term would be “shelf-walker”) could supervise from above and inspect the stock, while keeping from getting between the shopper and the products. The Piggly Wiggly was not a fullfledged supermarket—other innovations were yet to come—but it was a pioneer in retailing. With the introduction of self-service, a process that took decades, food manufacturers and retailers showed they were no longer content to rely on salespeople to do the selling; their stores became machines for selling, imbedding the sales job in the packaging and the consumer culture itself. Managers assumed that their customers had internalized the sales messages of food manufacturers and expected them now to perform for free the labor that

The Market clerks had once been paid to do. Customers were simultaneously given the freedom to look and touch and were ever more subtly poked and prodded into buying. As one trade journal editor put it, “little does the average housewife realize when she enters the up-to-date grocery store that all of her idiosyncrasies have been capitalized, that she has been psycho-analyzed, and as a result the grocery store exactly built so that the loosening of her purse strings is a pleasant and painless experience.” Customers at Piggly Wiggly were becoming shoppers, consumers. As the historian James Beniger put it, Saunders’ “essential idea was to process neither transactions nor commodities as his primary retail function but

rather customers themselves.” The Piggly Wiggly was a kind of assembly line, processing people past packaged merchandise, producing baskets full of packaged goods, and creating consumers. Later Saunders inventions, the “Keedoozle” and the “Foodelectric,” took this idea to almost comical extremes. They were essentially mechanical computers in the shape of store-sized vending machines. In the Keedoozle, for instance, customers would receive a key upon entering the store and choose items by turning the key at windows behind which rested the products they wanted. Through a complicated contraption, these products would be mechanically compiled into an order at the other end of the store where the customers would pay for their food. This invention reveals in Saunders a deep affinity for things mechanical and his disturbing desire (beyond all rationality that could be tied to profit) to remove human labor (that is, paid labor—the customers do the work) from the store floor. One can imagine the ghostly feel of such a place. The Keedoozle (Keydoes-all) failed, but perhaps we see its relative in the world of self check-out that we’re being told is greatest thing since sliced bread (which, by the way, is not so great). In fact, it seems that to me that this

desire to remove labor from the eyes of consumers is one of the main themes of retail development over the years. The work of skilled clerks and food preparers and especially butchers, folks who could use their skills to defend their working conditions, has been moved off-site, where they can be better controlled. Perhaps one of the most significant ways that labor has been hidden from us has happened right under our noses. That is the amount of the work of food distribution that has been taken over by us, the consumers, while simultaneously separating us from the other (i.e. paid) workers involved. This is called “efficiency” and is offered as a reason why we “demanded” Velveeta. In the terms used for individual firms, supermarkets certainly are incredibly efficient machines, what with all the free work we do for them. The costs that don’t see a return are externalized. Other firms, or the rest of society in general, bear those costs. Customers seeking the lowest societal costs should not have the same definition of efficiency as a particular firm. If you think in terms of the entire food delivery system, which includes all the costs, including the more nebulous “spiritual” costs, the supermarket is tremendously inefficient. Some policy makers and consumer movement activists, especially in the late 1930s and in WWII, when food costs were a huge issue, made this point and tried to push for other forms of distribution. It would cost much less to the society at large, for instance, to have home delivery rather than have every person drive giant machines with enormous excess carrying capacity to market and park them in that incredible waste of space and environmental disaster, the parking lot. Without the greatest public works subsidy in the history of the world—the freeway system for automobiles—a supermarket would look pretty silly, but we bear that cost. Storage could much more efficiently be done in central warehouses, rather than in our cupboards and giant refrigerators. But firms chose to externalize those costs, and the development of the system has proceeded in ways that encourage us to see that as convenient. But we are blind to this. We are in thrall to the product—the fetish of the commodity. The absurdity of beautiful red tasteless tomatoes in July. The thousand mile apple and orange, right next to the orchard. The joy of shopping. I suggest a healthy dose of gardening. ______ Paul Gilmore teaches history at Fresno City College. He used to think a lot about supermarkets, probably far too much. Don’t get him started. Paul can be reached at

Pay What You Can by CA RLO S FI E RR O


little over a month ago Panera Bread chairman, Ronald Shaich, did something that has the potential to drastically alter the corporate mentality of business. More so, Shaich’s vision for a pay-what-you-can restaurant may possibly alter, at least in small manner, the way we view people.

When customers are treated more like potential adversaries than valued customers, what with theft detectors standing at every entrance, cameras following one’s every move, and security guards walking the floor, stores and restaurants can feel more like prisons than markets. Some have actually argued that this adversarial relationship actually leads to and increases the occurrence of theft. The basic idea behind the nonprofit restaurant is that the restaurant will run on the honor system. As customers place their orders they are told the suggested price, at which point they decide what they can afford. The pay what you can idea is not a new one, and Panera Bread is not the first to try treating their customers with respect and good will. The idea is an old one, and one that has astounding success when tried. Recently the rock band Radiohead, offered their listeners the opportunity to pay-what-they-want for their album In Rainbows, the band’s first album following the expiration of their contract with EMI/Capitol. As bandleader Thom Yorke told Time regarding their break with EMI/Capitol, “it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say ‘Fuck you to this decaying business model.’” Panera Bread is not the first

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The Market

The Market by C AR LO S FI E R RO

restaurant to try the pay-what-you-can model. Denver area restaurant SAME Café (So All May Eat) has been operating on this model since 2006. Seattle area restaurant Terra Bite Lounge offers the same service as well as Salt Lake City’s One World Everybody Eats restaurant. In fact Shaich got the idea from SAME Café and One World Everybody Eats. Yoga studios have begun to do so as well, and some authors offer pay-what-you-can books. What makes Panera Bread distinctive is the fact that, until now, pay-what-you-can has been solely occupied by small (yes, even Radiohead is a small entity, when compared to the behemoth EMI/Capitol), independent shops. Panera is anything but small. With 1400stores nationwide they are a major player in the “somewhat fast-food” industry. Prior to opening the St. Louis restaurant, Shaich hoped that those who could afford to pay full price would do so, perhaps even pay a bit more, so that those who couldn’t afford to pay full price could pay less or even receive their meal for free. Now, one month in, it seems that the experiment has met with success. According to an Associated Press by Christopher Leonard, Panera Bread has reported that 60-70% of their customers pay full price, 15% pay a little more, & 15% pay less or nothing at all. Some also leave donations, specifically for those who can’t pay. The success of the St. Louis store has prompted Panera Bread to move forward with plans to open new non-profit locations throughout the nation. Again, speaking with Christopher Leonard, Shaich said about the experiment, “I guess I would say it’s performing better than we even might have hoped in our cynical moments, and it’s living up to our best sense of humanity.”

the stock market, is a place for buyers and sellers to exchange goods and services. The difference, then, is one of proximity. The open-air market is populated by the farmers and the artisans on one side of table and the buyer on the other. This is just as true of the farmers markets we find in Fresno today as those we might have found in Jalisco 200yrs ago. As Paul Gilmore reminds us, the value of the goods in such markets are found in the labor used in the production. But as the distance between the laborer and the buyer increases (In the move from the farmers market, or openair market to that of Eggplant are just one of the many vegetables to be found at the supermarket, and local farmers markets. more so to that of the commodities market t would be remiss to take as our featured topic Markets, without writing and the stock market, the value of the labor is replaced by that of the commodabout farmers markets. But before ity. We no longer buy the tomato grown highlighting some of the wonderful on the vine, picked by the farm laborer, farmers markets we have here in the but we buy the bag of tomatoes Fresno area, we should take a closer (unaware of where they come from, look at the idea of markets in general. most likely they come from no one For those who have had a chance to place), or we buy pork belly futures, or travel to areas in the world where “the stocks in some company, that may or market” still consists of an open-air may not make some particular thing.), plaza where farmers, artisans, and our understanding of the product skilled laborers gather to sell, trade, or exchange services, you will have noticed decreases. This is especially seen in the that the idea that we have of the market production of meats, where the product is drastically different than that of other we buy in the store has no resemblance to that of the original animal. parts of the world. Farmers markets, or what was And, as you may have found in once simply known as “the market,” Paul Gilmore’s wonderful piece on the allow for us to come to close proximity history of supermarkets, there is a very to not only the product, but the to the clear progression (or digression, if you labor that produced it. And, to varying will?) from the market to shopping degrees Fresno has markets that allow malls, and supermarkets. However, at the buyer to see and engage with those its most basic, the open-air market and that produced the goods. the mega-mall are basically the same.


At its most basic the market, and this goes for the open-air market as well as

Market on the Mall: through the fall every Wednesday & Friday from 10am-

2pm in the free speech area of the Fulton Mall. The Market on the Mall has over 20 vendors with all sorts of fruits, vegetables, and other goods. Like with all good Farmers markets, the Market on the Mall specializes in seasonal produce.

The Vineyard Farmer’s Market: year round, every Wednesday 3-6pm, and Saturday 7am-Noon at the NW corner of Shaw & Blackstone. Recent years have seen a move toward some packaged or processed goods, but the staple of this farmers market is still local, fresh produce. With over 25 vendors the Vineyard Farmer’s Market has a wonderful supply of seasonal produce, ranging from leafy greens, beans, melons, grapes, tubers, root vegetables, stone fruit, nuts, and mushrooms. Tower Farmers Market: unfortunately this is only a farmers market in name. Most of the produce is imported from distant locales. This becomes obvious with the sale of bananas and pineapple.

River Park Farmer’s Market: Tuesdays 5-9pm, April-October. Though you will find local produce on hand, you are more likely to walk away with a trinket.

Old Town Clovis Farmer’s Market: Friday nights, May-September. A large market, that consists of produce and other goods.

Kaiser Permanente Farmer’s Market: Wednesdays 8am-1:30pm, year round. Not the largest farmers market, but a nice selection of local produce and oils, vinegars, and jams. (7300 North Fresno St.)

Fruit Stands: Perhaps the best way to get your produce, aside from growing it yourself, is to pick it up at a fruit stand. There are too many fruit stands to list here, but if you live outside of the city you are sure to have seen these fruit stands. Not all fruit stands correspond to any particular farm. Some stands, usually set up on street corners, purchase their produce from packing-sheds in Reedley, Mendota, or other nearby towns. However, many small farms set up fruit and veggie stands along roads that border their farms. Some of the best produce around will be found at these stands.

The Market

Aurelios: Wake up, Socrates. Socrates: Hmmm? What? A: C’mon. It’s time to go. S: Ah, yes. Right! OK. Everyone remember: this is it. If we all play our roles correctly, in a few hours we will be rich beyond the dreams of Midas. We just have to keep our wits about us. Now, Agathon, you will keep the pit boss busy with your oration on love while Pausanias places the by-pass cables on the closed circuit cameras. Thrasymachus will strong-arm the guard stationed at the back exit after Glaucon, folded upon himself and hidden in a vase, bursts free and sets off the smoke grenade so that… A: What are you talking about, you senile old man? S: Our heist! The one where we wear our formal tux-togas and take the Spartan Casino for all it’s worth. You know: Socrates’ Eleven. A: Right. Well, you were dreaming and we are alone. I’m waking you up because it’s your stop. S: Oh. Already? How long was I asleep? Did I miss Sparta? A: It’s almost noon, Socrates. You’ve been snoring the whole trip. And we didn’t go to Sparta; we went to Knoxos. Unfortunately. S: I see. Why “unfortunately”? A: We failed, Socrates. We failed miserably. Don’t you remember? We didn’t get an ounce of gold from Knoxos. S: Ah, yes. The caper’s all coming back to me now. How silly of me! The road from Knoxos is long and dusty, and the sun is beating down fiercely. I slept

right through it, dreaming of a different adventure! And not only a successful one, but one with a sort of retro-hipster vibe. Dreams can be so much better than real life, wouldn’t you say, Aurelios? Well, I’d better go try to patch things up with Xanthippe. She’s going to be furious when she learns that we are still poor. A: Yeah, sorry things didn’t work out better, Socrates. No hard feelings? S: Oh no, not at all. In theory it was a brilliant plan. A: One of your best. The six of us would assault Knoxos’ high citadel, taking the guards unaware on account of the sheer audacity of our objective. Having eliminated all resistance, we would then have confiscated all the gold from their vaults and transported it back to Athens, where we would live out our lives like kings. S: I’m still a little fuzzy about the transporting part, come to think of it. We only had the one ox-cart…. A: Well, it doesn’t matter now, does it, Socrates. I just can’t believe the vaults were empty. All our lives we were told about “all the gold in the many-spired citadel of Knoxos.” S: It seems, my friend, that even Knoxos has adopted a floating exchange rate, fiat money, and fractional reserve banking. A: It would seem so, Socrates. By the way, as long as I’ve got you here…what are all those things? S: It’s technical. And I really should be getting home. Xanthippe is probably worried about me. A: …

S: I’m just kidding, of course! Come, Aurelios, let’s discuss this subject over some wine—your treat—for I may have just thought of a way that we can quickly make more money than we know what to do with. A: Oh, do tell! Did it come to you in a dream? S: Better than that. You are acquainted, I suppose, with young Aristotles’ comments on money, to the effect that money is passive and not productive? A: I’m familiar with his ideas. “The Boy Wonder” certainly won’t stop talking about them. S: Well, even though money can’t produce more money in the way that birds or dogs mate with each other and create offspring, or in the way that frogs emerge spontaneously from pond muck, we might still be able to use the money we have to fool other people into giving us their money. It’s a little like stealing the gold from Knoxos, except that it doesn’t involve any actual stealing. Not in any recognizable form, at least. A: You’re either mad or you’re a genius. Tell me, Socrates, what is this plan of yours? S: All right, here goes: We need to borrow a lot of money. A: You fool! Are you not aware that if we borrow the money we will be expected to pay it back?! S: You’re right, of course. But what if we borrowed and spent the money? A: You’ve lost me. S: Suppose I go to Cephalos the Rich and ask for one thousand drachma. And suppose one thousand drachma will buy me ten amphorai of wine today, so I buy ten amphorai of wine. But what if there were a particularly dry summer, or wet summer, or whatever kind of summer it is that might ruin this year’s wine crop. Wine would suddenly be more expensive, right? A: I don’t understand. Why would the cost of wine change? Wine is wine. S: Wine is wine, but if many people want wine and there is only a little bit of it—not enough for all of them—won’t some people be willing to pay a little more for it? A: I suppose so. Or people might just keep their money until wine is available again. S: Hush, Aurelios. Do you know nothing of market forces? Do you want to encourage people to underconsume? What kind of Athenian are you? Anyway, let’s assume that people are now willing to pay

more for my ten amphorai of wine. Suppose I can sell eight amphorai for one thousand drachmai, and I can thus repay Cephalos the Rich his original loan plus his usual fee of one amphora of wine. We would still have one amphora leftover that we could sell, and that money would be all ours to spend! A: Yes, we could buy wine with it! S: Well, there is that. But suppose instead we invested that money in goats— you know how I love goats—just before a terrible plague of hoof and mouth disease swept through the goat population. Would we not stand to make even more money off our original borrowed money? A: It’s truly ingenious, Socrates. Although…how will we know when a drought or a plague of foot and mouth disease is about to happen? If we bet wrong, and the price of wine or goats declines, we would then be unable to repay the original loan. S: It’s true. We might have to borrow money elsewhere, then, to pay Cephalos back. A: Or we could just apologize to Cephalos, because, after all, wasn’t it his fault for thinking we could be trusted with that kind of feta? I mean, you’re a philosopher for the gods’ sakes. You have no real job or job skills. Saxos: Perhaps I can be of assistance, gentlemen? A: Hey, it’s my friend, Saxos! He’s a market genius. S: Really? What is it you sell at the market, good man—handicrafts? Piece goods? Sa: Oh, I don’t sell any actual goods. I lend money to people so they can buy goods, then they pay me back over time. It’s an idea I got from Usurios. A: See what I mean, Socrates? The man’s always a step ahead. So tell us, Saxos, do you know how we can predict fluctuations in the price of wine or goats? Sa: Sadly, only the gods know such things, and they’re not talking. Believe me, I used to play that game. I can’t tell you how many offerings to the Delphic Oracle I threw away, trying to figure out when the olive market was going to peak or hit bottom. No more. Not me. S: So you’ve given up on trying to make money and you’ve decided to focus on the care of your immortal soul? Sa: Who’s your friend, Aurelios? He’s funny. No, I still make money hand over fist, but now I don’t try to bet on a

Knoxos continued next page...

Knoxos continued...

market doing well, I bet on it doing poorly. S: But you’re still betting. How do you know when a market is about to do poorly? Sa: Because I make it do poorly. It’s complicated, so let me give you an example. The other day I borrowed ten amphorai of wine from Cephalos the Rich’s private cellar, promising I’d give him back ten amphorai in a few months. A: And he agreed to that? Sa: Oh, I paid him for letting me borrow them. Not a lot, but enough to make it worth his while. Remember, he isn’t losing any wine; he just doesn’t have it available for the time being. Anyway, I took his ten amphorai of wine and I sold them. S: So, Aurelios, we were going about it all wrong. We were borrowing money to buy wine, when we should have borrowed wine to sell for money. Sa: I’m not done, Socrates. For Cephalos is still going to want his wine back later, right? S: Oh. Yeah. Sa: Well, if the price of wine drops between now and then, I will be able to buy ten new amphorai of wine for less than I earned when I sold the ten amphorai I had borrowed. So I will get to keep the difference. Does that make sense? A: But what if the price of wine stays the same? Or even rises? Then you are in the same position that Socrates and I were considering—you would have to tell Cephalos that he won’t get his wine back, and he will have Musculos come and break your kneecaps. Sa: That’s true, but the situation is actually more complicated than that. Cephalos doesn’t expect his wine back for a few months, right? In the meantime I’m sitting on the cash I made from selling his wine. I take that money and use it to pay other usage fees to other lenders, and I sell their products as well, and get more cash, and so on. I will be flush with cash by the time I have to return the wine to Cephalos, so no problem. S: And that works? It seems somehow…unsustainable. Didn’t Ponzios have a scheme like this? And look at him now, imprisoned in one of those pyramid-shaped things in Northern Africa. Sa: This is nothing like that for I have discovered something amazing about this technique. I told you that I quickly amass a large amount of cash, right? S: You did. Sa: Well, suppose I borrow a lot of

THe Market wine from a lot of different people’s cellars, and I have plans to sell it all. We’re talking a lot of wine here, because I can keep spending my cash to borrow more and more wine. Once it becomes known that I have a lot of wine for sale, some people will come to me rather than to their local wine store. They will correctly guess that, in order to sell it quickly, I will have discounted my wine somewhat. Wine at the local wine stores will suddenly go unsold since many people are coming to me instead, and the other store-owners will feel pressure to lower the price on the wine in their stores to lure their customers back. A: Ah! So the price of wine inevitably drops once you start selling off your borrowed stock! Sa: It’s even better than that, my friend. For some people are sitting on reserves of wine, waiting for the price to rise. Like idiots they borrowed money to buy wine, hoping the value of wine would increase! S: … Sa: They now see that the price of wine is dropping, and that if they do not act quickly to get what little cash value they can out of their borrowed wine, they will owe their lenders even more. So they then try to sell off their wine as well—in a hurry, so, again, at rock-bottom prices—causing the price to drop even further. The whole thing snowballs. A: What’s “snow”? Sa: I have made the market take a turn for the worse! With the price of wine now lowered, I can easily pay back Cephalos the initial wine I owe him, having made exorbitant amounts of money in the process! S: I like you, Saxos. I like you a lot. You don’t just play the market, you make it play your own tune. I believe that we might have a wonderful future ahead of us. You and I and Aurelios ought to form an alliance. A: Along with my four friends who have been sitting silently and patiently in the ox-cart throughout this dialogue, of course. S: Yes, the seven of us should form an alliance, and we should return to Knoxos and take that high citadel for everything it’s worth. Sa: Sure. Why not? A: It’s a fantastic idea, Socrates. But what should we name our group? I was the first person who thought of it, so my name should come first. Sa: But I had the key idea! S: It doesn’t matter to me. Besides, names don’t really mean anything.

Arktos and Stearnous: Excuse us, gentlemen, but could you point us toward the Parthenon? Sa: By the gods! Look at the size of those twins—their foreheads scrape the sky! They are even bigger than the Lehmanous Brothers. S: Don’t answer them, anyone! Surely they are Titans left over from before the war, and they mean to destroy the statue of Athena Parthenos at the heart of our city! Ar and St: We mean you no harm. A: Ow! You just stepped on my foot! I’ll never dance again! Ar and St: Oh, sorry. We really didn’t mean to hurt anyone. We’re just famished and we lost all the money we had with which to purchase food. We traded all our livestock for wine futures, sure that the market would rise. But it fell unexpectedly and we were wiped out. A: Why did you trade all of your cattle? That seems rash. Ar and St: Oh, it wasn’t our cattle. We’d borrowed it from Geryon, so we didn’t feel obliged to be prudent with it. But now we are starving! Sa: And how can you say you’re hungry? You each are holding an entire roasted bull, and are ripping the flesh from the carcass with your teeth as we speak. Ar and St: Yes. But with beef you’re hungry again in ten minutes. It’s all about cattle flow. Sa: I don’t get it. Why do you want to go to our Parthenon if you are simply hungry? I could point you toward a nice cheap falafel stand, if you promise not to crush me on the way there. Ar and St: This Parthenon is the building that acts as your treasury, correct? We are going to appear there, demand money, and then use that money to buy food. We are hungry. A: Sure. Good luck with that. Having blown what Geryon loaned you, do you think the sensible governors of Athens will just hand you money? Sa: Indeed. As we have been discussing for some time now, the way to make money these days is to play the markets. You need to find a way to buy low and sell high, or formulate a way to manipulate foreign exchange rates, or at least map out a scheme to monopolize a resource and then charge exorbitant prices for it. You can’t just go up to a treasury and say “Give me money.” Ingenious plans are the path to riches! Or you could get a job. Ar and St: Huh. We’ve never tried any of that. Maybe next time. But…we’re going to the Parthenon first. Is it over there?

A: Ow! My other foot! I’ll still never dance again! Ar and St: Sorry. We are growing feint from hunger, and it’s hard to see all of you from up here. Really, just point toward your Parthenon and then get out of the way. We don’t want to collapse and crush you by accident. A: There! There! It’s over there! Sa: Zeus-on-Olympus, look at them lumber away! I’ve never seen men so large and, at the same time, so clumsy and stupid. Well, they’re someone else’s problem now, at least. They’ll never get a drachma out of the geniuses at the Parthenon. A: I’m not so sure. I mean, it makes no sense, of course, simply to hand over free money to them, but at this point— and now that they are in our city-state— perhaps they are too big to allow them to fall? Sa: Ridiculous. That’s just the shock talking, Aurelios. The pain of two broken feet can drive a man to madness. Now, where were we? A: I think that the six of us were going to return to Knoxos and get rich along with…oh, dear. It seems he has fallen asleep again. Sa: Either that or he’s dead. Heat stroke does take a lot of our elderly. A: Socrates! Socrates, wake up! S: Hmmm. What? Sa: The twin giants are gone now. S: I don’t know what you’re talking about, but I did have another amazing dream. It was action-packed and gadgetfilled! Aurelios, you were at Knoxos trying to make the gold unusable rather than steal it, thus increasing the value of our own gold by a thousand-fold. And Agathon was there, too, but he was nude and covered in gold paint. It was a good dream. A: He’s finally lost it. Sa: You know, old-timer, I don’t think we were ever properly introduced. S: How uncivilized of young Aurelios. The name’s Tease. Socrates. Now bring me a hemlockitini, shaken not stirred, and let’s get to work. The dialogue of this adventure is not going to just write itself! _______ H Peter Steeves, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy at DePaul University and can be reached at Steven J Ingeman, MLIS, is an independent scholar and Circulation Supervisor at Mary Riley Styles Library in Falls Church, VA and can be reached at


where: 2ST: 2ND Space Theatre, 928 E Olive AAM: Arte Americas, 1630 Van Ness AQS: Aqua Shi, 1144 E. Champlain Dr. #108 ADG: Austin’s Downtown Grill, 820 Van Ness Ave CIF: 935 F St


CPB: Cracked Pepper Bistro,389 E Shaw CR: Club Retro, 4450 N. Brawley CRS: Crossroads, 3315 N Cedar Ave CT: Crest Theater, 1170 Broadway Plz CYC: Chinatown Youth Center, 901 F Street FAM: Fres Art Mus, 2233 N 1st St FCB: Full Circle Brewing Co. 620 F Street FP: Franks Place, 1432 Fulton St IBC: Iron Bird Café, 1915 Fulton St


Mehfil-E-Sartaaj, Warnors

Theatre, 7p

Monsanto, CRS, 4-8p


Metal Mondaze w/ DJ Evil Gizzy, FREE,

Audie’s Olympic, 10p

11 l

Outlaw Country Night w/ DJ Audie

5000 ($2 Fernet Shots, $1 PBR & OLY Drafts), No Cover, Audie’s Olympic, 10p


CineAmericas: Volver, $7, TT, 2p and


Monsanto, CRS, 4-8p




The Triggers, The Midnight

Howlers, DJ

Audie 5000 (Psychopunk, Rockabilly, Outlaw Country), $5, Audie’s

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Olympic, 9p

Silverstein, Amery, Dance Gavin Dance, more, $20, CR, 4:30p

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Chris Shiflett & The Dead Peasants feat. Chris Shiflett of The Foo Fighters (Americana), $10, Audie’s Olympic, 8p

Dollar Punk Nite (4 Punk Bands for a Buck!), $1, Audie’s Olympic, 9p Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, For Today, more, $18, CR, 2:30p l

Monsanto, CRS, 4-8p


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Evil G., FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 10p

SL: The Starline, 831 E Fern SLG: Starline Grill, 833 E Fern TC: The Captive,1440 N Van Ness TKG: Tokyo Garden, 1711 Fulton St TM: the Manhattan, 1731 W. Bullard TP: Thai Palms, 7785 N. Palm TT: Tower Theatre, 815 Olive WST: William Saroyan Theatre, 700 M St WWP: Woodward Park VVV: Veni Vedi Vici, 1116 N Fulton

DJ Dinobyte, FREE,

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Crossroads of Comedy, CRS



Loomis and the Lust, SL, 8p

Gary Farmer, The Trouble, Lance Canales, Flood w/DJ Dinobyte, $5 Audie’s Olympic, 8p Violent Affair, The Dirty Mugs, Urban Decay, more, CYC, 5p Cloud 99, VVV, 8p An Evening with Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra, $36+, TT, 8p Gwen Stacy, Lower Definition, $12, CR, 6p

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RESURRECT Drum & Bass Party w/ The Bass Feindz Kru & DJ Prof. Stone. (Drum & Bass, Dubstep), FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 9p l

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David Kelley & Friends feat, Brian Kenney Fresno, Blake Jones, Nate Butler, FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 8p Towers, Dogs of Ire, more, CYC, 6p Cloud 99, PAL, 7p - 9p Cloud 99, LMK, 10p DJs F-Plus & Don-D, AQS

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"FADED 80's" w/ DJ Audie 5000 (80's Dance Party & Late Night Happy Hour 10p-12a), FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 10p Cloud 99, PAL, 7p - 9p Cloud 99, LMK, 10p Fresno Freedom School: A Community Dialogue: "What is the failure of community?" 6:30-8 pm, Fresno County Public Library, 2420 Mariposa St., 6:30-8p DJs F-Plus & Don-D, AQS


Dance Party w/ DJ Dinobyte + Friends, FREE, Audie’s

Olympic, 9p

Cloud 99, VVV, 8p

Crossroads of Comedy, CRS

l INDIE Night, $5, Audie’s

Olympic, 9p l Comadre, Glasses, Finisterrer, $7, TC, 7p Cloud 99, VVV, 8p Four Letter Lie, $10, CR, 6:30p The Dangerous Summer, the Morning Of, more, $12, CR, 6:30p Crossroads of Comedy, CRS


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FADED 80's w/ DJ Audie 5000 (80's Dance Party & Late Night Happy Hour 10pm.-12am.), FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 10p Reignition, Roam Alone, Boxing Day, Bridges, $5, CYC, 6p Cloud 99, PAL, 7p - 9p Cloud 99, LMK, 10p DJs F-Plus & Don-D, AQS

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Art Ho

Knifey Spoon Audie’s O Rademacher Nate Butler, Wild Hare Th Austin’s Com Woodward S Venice, fre

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Girls OLY


Austin’s Com The Red Airp Nate at the Respite by t Sylvia Ros Center, 6 Woodward S Venice, fre



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Crossroads of Comedy, CRSl


Rosie Flores, Motel Drive, Roger Perry (Rockabilly/Americana), $10, Audie’s Olympic, 8p Burn Idols, Bad Mouth, Vulgar, Soya, Blackwater, $4, CYC, 6p Cloud 99, PAL, 7p - 9p Cloud 99, LMK, 10p Fresno Freedom School: A Community Dialogue: "What is the failure of community?" 6:30-8 pm, Fresno County Public Library, 2420 Mariposa St., 6:30-8p DJs F-Plus & Don-D, AQS


Cloud 99, VVV, 8p



Rock & Soul "Artifacts" w/


Metal Mondaze w/ DJ





Monsanto, CRS, 4-8p


ITZ: Studio Itz, 370 N Fresno St KPJ: Kuppajoe, 3673 N First St LMK: The Landmark, 644 East Olive PAL: Palominos, 805 East Olive PDP: Piazza del Pane, Cedar & Nees RL: The Red Lantern RR: Roger Rocka’s, 1226 N Wishon SBN: Sequoia Brewing, North, 1188 E. Champlain SBT: Sequoia Brewing, Tower, 777 E. Olive


12 l



Got An Event? 4 5 l



Austin’s Com

Archeology, Woodward S Venice, fre

Bria Co Po $1 l Austin’s Com l The Effort, C l Division Min l Inner Ear Po l Josiah Jame l Woodward S Venice, free, W


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Austin’s Com



ny, Born Loser (Punk), $3, Olympic, 9pm r, Ibid, Bad Andy, TKG, 9p $6, FCB, 8p hursdays, CRS, 9p medy Show, ADG, 8-9p Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of ee, WWP, 8p


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Night Out ($2 Pinky Shooters, $1 Y & PBR Drafts), No Cover, Audie’s Olympic, 9p medy Show, ADG, 8-9p planes, $5, Warnors Theatre, 8p Movies, $3, FCB, 8p the River: Children's Respite with ss, SJ River Parkway River 6p Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of ee, WWP, 8p

, DJ What's In Your Record Bag? DJ Ms. Soulflower, Mr. Leonard,

2 Pinky Shooters, $1 OLY & PBR

afts 10p-12a), FREE, Audie’s

ympic, 9p

medy Show, ADG, 8-9p

Lakes, $10, CR, 6:30p Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of ee, WWP, 8p

an Kenney Fresno's Birthday oncert, Ryan Kenney oughkeepsie, Rademacher, Moetar, 10, Audie’s Olympic, 8p medy Show, ADG, 8-9p Choke Up! More, CYC, 6p nuscula, SL, 9p oetry Jam, $5, FCB, 8p es, $10, CR, 6:30p Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of WWP, 8p

s Night Out ($2 Pinky Shooters, $1

Y & PBR Drafts 10p-12a), FREE,

die’s Olympic, 9p

medy Show, ADG, 8-9p

Happy Hour w/ The Jeff & Ben Show, FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 5:30-8p l Hooligans and The Suppressors (Ska), $6, Audie’s Olympic, 9pm In Desperation, Fed Up!, Tigron, more, CYC, 6p Heroes are Forever, Silence O'Israel, more, KPJ, 7:30p Cloud 99, Patio Café, 7p Don't Go Home Friday, CRS Meatball Magic, FREE, RL, 10p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p DJ Kristian Moua, FREE, AQS, 9p l

Happy Hour w/ Glen Delpit & The Subterraneans, No Cover, Audie’s Olympic, 5:30-7:30p l Mofo Party Band (CD Release Party), $10, Audie’s Olympic, 8p Elmo Marconi, Bridges, more, KPJ, 7:30p Fresno Filmworks: Mid-August Lunch, $10, TT, 5:30p and 8p Cloud 99, IBC, 7p Chris Janzen Ensemble, IBC, 7:30p Evo's Old Time Music Jam, $6, FCB, 7p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p DJ Kristian Moua, FREE, AQS, 9p

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Happy Hour w/ Mike Smith (Americana/Country), FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 5:30-8p l 80's Night Dance Party Live w/ The After Party & DJ Audie 5000 (80's Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll Tribute Show), $5, Audie’s Olympic, 9p Satie, CYC, 6p Briertone is Back w/Archeology, Lakes, more, KPJ, 7:30p Native, My Heart to Joy, Buffalo Guns), $6, TC, 7p 40 Watt Hype, SL, 9p Meatball Magic, free, RL, 10p Arsonists Get All the Grils, $10, CR, 7p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p DJ Kristian Moua, FREE, AQS, 9p

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Happy Hour w/ Glen Delpit, FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 5:308p l Benefit Concert w/ The Argyle Pimps, Girators, Goat, $10, Audie’s Olympic, 9p Off with their Heads, In defense, more, $7, TC, 8p Knights of the Abyss, $12, CR, 6:30p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p DJ Kristian Moua, FREE, AQS, 9p

23 l





Happy Hour w/ Dave Lane (Americana/Country), FREE, Audie’s Olympic, 5:30-8p


12 Gauge Serenade, Aesop & The Fables, $5, Audie’s Olympic, 9p


Critical Mass, meet at Broadway Studios, 5:30p

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One Hot Minute, A Current Affair, more, KPJ, 7:30p Amber Pacific, Hallfax, $12, CR, 6:30p DJ Kristian Moua, FREE, AQS, 9p


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Dave Gleason & The Golden Cadillacs, Cattie Ness &

The Revenge, The Whiskey & The Devil Chaplain (CA Country/Rockabilly/Americana), $8, Audie’s

Olympic, 9p

The Electro Funk Experience, $6, FCB, 8p

Six Ounce Gloves, ADG, 7:30p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p



Swingin Utters, Complaints, Not For Hire

(Punk/Rock/Folk), $12, Audie’s Olympic, 9p


Admiral Radley (members of Grandaddy & Earlimart),


Fres Folklore Soc: Hans York & Steve Ono, $15, Wolk


The Stephens 18 Birthday Bash/Benefit: Silent Treatment,


El Olio Wolof, Rademacher, FP

Garden (6661 N Forkner), 7:30p

Aroarah, Rainman Suite, more), $10, CR, 6:30p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p Kicking Harold, Llama Boy, Fay Wrays, Halcyon Fix (Alternative/Rock/Metal), $7, Audie’s Olympic, 9p Paula Poundstone, $26+, TT, 8p LA Guns, Faster Pussycat, John Coradbi, $20, Jon Jons (1432 H Street), 7p Deathriders, Metal Sanaz, SL, 8p Alex Band, $15, CR, 7p Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p

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Strangevine CD release w/The Fling & Jessica Taylor, Audie's Olympic, 8:30p FINAL PERFORMANCE: Woodward Shakespeare Festival's Merchant of Venice, free, WWP, 8p

l Rock Salad (70's & 80's Rock), Midnight Run (Journey Tribute), $10, Audie’s Olympic, 8p l The Stepsons, $6, FCB, 8p

rock bands have recorded platinum records there; Rancid, Bad Religion and Sublime have all recorded there. The studio itself is vintage, and a lot of the gear in there is vintage, but the sound of the album doesn’t really reflect the same genre that those guys are used to producing down there. I think it’s a step above anything we’ve done, and the whole band is really excited about it.


lues wouldn’t be the same without The MoFo Party Band, which has been on the Fresno scene for 21 years. They’re loved for the jaw-dropping performances that they put on, which remind people that the blues can be fun.

The MoFo Party band is skilled at breaking the 4th wall at their shows, interacting with the crowd and even jumping up on the bar to play a few guitar solos. With all of the screams that this act induces from the crowds, it is somehow still possible to hear the band play. The rambunctious blues brothers who started the band, John and Bill Cliftone, were holding auditions for a new drummer in March 2009, then approached Darryl Jones, a powerful and dynamic drummer who caught their attention. Jones toured with them in Europe last year, and he was a perfect match for their creative style; he ended up recording with the band in the studio for their sixth upcoming album, Low Down. The MoFo Party Band is wellknown in Europe, and especially in Poland, where they have a cult following. The band will tour Europe once again this year, in addition to several music festivals in the United States. Upcoming events include performances at the Biscuits and Blues Festival in San Francisco on July 7, the annual Modesto Blues Festival on July 10 (main stage) and the Hot August Night Concert Series in Texas on August 6. A CD release show for Low Down will be held at Audie’s Olympic Tavern on July 9. John Cliftone, their singer, explained the creative direction of Low Down and the groundbreaking experimentation which is

heard on the new album.

Q. Are you experimenting with anything new on the album that you’ve never tried before? A. We are. We’ve got a few things that we’re doing a little bit differently. We’ve decided to make every song sound different than the other, so we’ve gone through different styles of blues. We’ve gone off the beaten path a little bit with some of the chord progressions; some of the rhythms are different and some of the stuff is straightforward. We’ve done a lit-

Meet MoFo Party Band

Q. Why did you name the album Low Down? A. Darryl said that the music sounds pretty low down, and that’s kind of how it is; the music is a little more low-down than some of the other stuff we’ve had. Some of it’s a little darker and has a little more edge to it. It’s not depressing, but it’s low-down blues.

Q. As your style has evolved, what has worked-and what hasn’t worked-for your band? A. I think playing stuff that’s too mainstream and blues songs that people are really familiar with doesn’t work. I think on the larger scale of things, if you make your own music and you play songs that are obscure, that are yours, there’s nothing to compare you to. If you play all the standard blues songs that every band plays and everybody’s familiar with, there’s this standard that you have to be at; and you can be judged by those things. But if it’s your own music then it works. And being friendly works; and being un-friendly doesn’t.

Q. Can you describe the blues scene in Fresno for people who are unfamiliar with it? A. There are bands that play around town but we’ve kind of been traveling a lot more than some of the other bands. We’ve put out a few more albums of original music than a lot of the other bands, but there are some pretty good bands here. There’s a group of people that get together and go watch the blues shows, and there’s a blues society in town; so it’s not just us. I think that our town is a little more unique in a lot of ways, and everybody pretty much gets along. There’s a little scene of people; but we travel a little bit more and see more high profile shows than the other groups do. That’s about the only difference between us; and all of the groups sound a little different.

_____ Christy Arndt is a Fresno native and CSUF graduate. If you are a local musician, and would like to be interviewed for “Meet the Q. How was the recording process different? Musicmakers,” please contact her at christA. We booked 50 hours at a Hollywood studio called West Beach Recorders on Hollywood Boulevard; it’s an old studio that’s been there since the ‘50s. A lot of rock bands and punk tle bit more with the vocal tracks and background vocal tracks that we haven’t done.

Christian Vargas “Untitled”

Tell us about this particular cover image. It’s a portrait of my grandfather Gregorio Morales.

What got you started in your artistic endeavors? A slight interest in photography led to a quick run in street art, stickers, paste ups and whatnot. Eventually I started painting random confusion. …Which is still what I do today, just at a mediocre level. How long have you been creating art here in Fresno? Since about 2 this morning.

Has Fresno or the Fresno art scene had any influence or effect on your work? Absolutely. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to meet, and work alongside, some great artists. …Whom I now consider some of my closest friends… Just working and hanging out with them has taught me so much. Broadway Studios has also had an effect on my work. How would you describe your style? Portrait and animals for the most part. If someone wanted to see more of your work, how would they go about that? I have a solo show at Iron Bird Cafe in July.

If someone wanted to give you money for your work, how would one go about that? They could put cash or check in a envelope and slip it under my door.. studio #9 at Broadway Studios. Or show up to the opening and closing receptions at Iron Bird Café, or they could contact me at

What projects are you working on or dreaming up for the near future? Another big show. Bigger canvases and more installation work . Christian Vargas. 24. painter.

Please provide a short bio.

All images “Untitled”


Revenue Retrievin’ Day and Night Shift (Double Album) Heavy on the Grind (2010)

reviewed by N I CHO LAS N O CK E TBACK

Remember Hip Hop in 1996? Well, The Same Artists Are Apparently Still Making Music Nocketback’s Summa Time Ghetto Report Card



N Palm Ave

W Bullard Ave

ack in ’95/’96, many now classic hip hop songs were constructed by artists who carried the industry on their backs with nary an iTune or ringtone to sell—you really couldn’t make a ringtone for a pager. This year, and particularly this summer, however, they’re back, and many are recreating the same formula that made them famous. For your sake and my sanity, I purposely did NOT review or listen to the new Sum41 or Papa Roach—you’re welcome. 1. Starting from the east coast, members of the WuTang Clan have produced a record called Wu Massacre, featuring Method Man, Ghost Face, and Raekwon. While equally dope lyrically, it lacks musically, and feels like any of the other 214 Wu-related albums…skip it or get it free. 2. Nas, an influential artist for over 10 years, offers a collaboration album with Damian Marley entitled Distant Relatives. While many of the songs carry a political slant and chants of freedom from the oppressive white man, they all seem to blend together, like most reggae-related tunes will—sorry Rastas. 3. Naughty By Nature is back…what? That’s right, if you find yourself still down with OPP, check out their EP Get to Know Me Better. The original format is kept intact, keeping close relations with raunchy lyrics and anthem-like choruses. Check out “I Gotta Lot,” then toss the rest. 4. Houston native Scarface released Dopeman Music in May and it basically highlights several other, not-as-dope-artists. Let it lay. 5. Virginia natives The Clipse came hard,

as always, with Till The Casket Drops. However, the duo uses Pharell sparingly and the music suffers. You can check out “I’m Good”, “Popular Demand” and “Kinda Like a Big Deal” which features production by Kanye West. This is getting tedious, I know. But, just think about all the money you’ll save by not having to buy these albums. More importantly, though, at least geographically, is the myriad round-up of old school west coast artists that have resurfaced and sound almost exactly the same—in a nostalgic way. 6. Too Short, America’s originator of ultra-nasty rap, and whose album you had to hide from your parents under the mattress is back with Still Blowin’, concurrently, still filthy. Songs range from “I’m A Pimp” (as if we hadn’t figured that out yet), “Checkin’ My Hoes”, and “Fed Up”, which you will be if you listen to more than four songs. 7. America’s most frightening MC, Brotha Lynch Hung, created an album called Dinner and a Movie, which discusses the subtle intricacies of committing suicide, punishing a ho, and a delightful cautionary tale entitled “Colostomy Bag”—I believe you get the idea. 8. The highlight of this list, as always, is E-40; the slanguage originator and hip hop linguist gives us the most value for our dollar with the double album Revenue Retrievin’. 40’s magnum opus delivers 42 bangin’ tracks that will put you up on game from slangin’ heavy in the streets, to the etiquette of pairing stilettos with skinny jeans. Ready your face for just raw, unrestrained language from his “esophogarus.”

Poly-Lit Review: Summertime Reads You Ain’t Gotta Be A Pro to Get These Prose Beach Week

Susan Coll Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (2010)

When It’s This Hot Out, Who Has Time to Think? Read These in the Sun, Without Feeling Dumb. At its core, Beach Week is a heartwarming tale that leads us down a meandering path of debauchery and decadence, all the while teaching us that being young is not a crime, and should thusly be embraced. As D.C. suburb area teens graduate from high school, they find themselves on a trip that is at once liberating and free and at the same time frightening in its openness. The formula reads much like an equation for sheer disaster—or at the least, a painful, contagious VD. Ten newly graduated teen girls flock to Chelsea beach in an attempt to shed their neo-bourgeois lifestyle. Jordan and her friends successfully shake their parents’ overprotective eye and begin preparing for the largest, most drug-laden bash imaginable. It is a respite for Jordan whose parents, Leah and Charles, are entering a rough patch at home and showing it by resorting to teen antics. Charles, when not drunk and playing beer-pong in his under panties, is vomiting in the family car. As strange as it may seem, Coll manages, successfully, to pull wisdom and banal beauty from the unexpected.

reviewed by N I CH OLA S N OC KE T BAC K

Print Media Bleeding You Dry, Soak It Up With an iPad

Invincible Iron Man Annual #1 Marvel Inc. (2010)

Comic aficionados and graphic novel purists the world over, get ready to blog your fingers bloody. Marvel has announced that they will be adding the iconic character to their downloadable line-up with many more to come. There’s no telling the backlash that may come from this as nerds unite on internet chat rooms the nation over in an attempt to stop people from purchasing such a blasphemous item. That being written, it is my belief that this same core of traditionalists, once the commotion has died down, will be purchasing both a print edition as well as the digital. There are certain advantages to having the digital copy available; most importantly, there is no longer a need to put your comic in those ridiculous zip-lock baggies. Sorry Glad Freezer Products, you and Proactiv have been taking advantage of the comic reading community for far too long.

Put on Your Crown Queen Latifah Grand Central Publishing (2010)

The Queen, who has been an entertainer for decades now, has finally penned a book of memoirs detailing the more dramatic elements of her life. We know about her Oscar and Grammy nominations as well as her lucrative deals with Cover Girl, struggle with weight, and who could forget her role in Bringin’ Down The House opposite Steve Martin? But the meat of this

publication chronicles her abusive relationships, loss of her brother, and coming out to America. The read is a bit pedestrian, but it is rather inspirational, especially for teen girls or anyone in a relationship that is as toxic as the Gulf of Mexico. Mark my words: this will be an Oprahstamped piece by the end of July, if it isn’t already. Don’t get me wrong, Latifah has had an interesting life and all, but if we’re going down this road, can a brotha read some scandalous deets about MC Lyte?

Letters from Palestine by Kenneth Ring (2010)

reviewed by ST U AR T LI T TLE WO O D Israeli soldiers right in front of his eyes. Many of the children wore pictures of dead loved ones or of martyrs around their necks or on their shirts. It was a constant part of their lives.” Fareed, a peace activist, challenges Israel’s claims that the clamp-down on Palestinian movement is in response to the new Hamas-led government. “The reality is that Israel first established its system of permits and closures in 1991, and we have been living under these difficult conditions ever since.” The first-hand accounts of terrified families trying to survive the horror and devastation unleashed by Israel on the Gaza Strip in December 2008 are very powerful indeed. Ken himself reminds us, “By the time it was over, nearly 7,000 Gazans had either been killed or wounded, and Gaza itself had been largely reduced to smoke, burning phosphorous, and rubble.” The book’s hard message is softened seldom read books from cover to cover. by the many threads of humor. “In spite of the But when Kenneth Ring sent me his terrible hardship, you still won’t find people Letters from Palestine with a note saying sleeping on pavements like in New York or “Here’s my baby,” I couldn’t put it down. London,” says Ghassan. “So we guess we still Ken presents a collection of personal have a long way to go before we become an stories from Palestinians, inside and outside advanced society.” the occupied territories, that provide penetratHe observes that Israel is losing the ing insights—sometimes harrowing, somedemographic war with the Palestinians. “What times funny, always fascinating—into their do you expect people locked up in their daily lives and thoughts. It would not surprise homes to do, especially when the power is cut me if, in time, these accounts became off by the Israeli Army and no TV?” inscribed in Palestinian folklore. I laughed out loud at Ghassan’s The 30, whose voices are heard in pithy jokes and found myself cheering the letters they write to their American Manar’s exploits, which she reported to her friends, are a wonderfully varied group. university chums back home in the US. But One young lady says that, for her, then I was brought down to Earth with a jolt the adeyat phalastin (question of Palestine) is by Ramzy Baraud’s heartbreaking account of the ultimate fight for humanity and justice. how his freedom-fighter father, ill and pre“And being Palestinian reminds me every day vented by the Israelis from leaving Gaza for that justice and human rights can never be treatment, died there alone, cut off from his taken for granted. Because, in theory, every family. person is entitled to equality and his or her Discovering that two of Ken’s conrights. In reality, they are a privilege a select tributors were friends of mine was a wonderfew enjoy.” ful surprise. Jiries Canavati (I call him A young Palestinian-American George) was a survivor of the infamous 40woman visiting family members in Birzeit day siege of the Church of the Nativity in comments: “The majority of the students I Bethlehem in 2002. It is a gripping story of worked with at the camp had a parent or a sib- great courage. In the end they had to surrenling in jail. One boy’s father was shot by


der, but the eyes of the world were on the Church by then. George was lucky. Many who came out of the Church alive were deported. The Israelis put him on a blacklist. “So I can’t leave Bethlehem now. I can’t move anywhere. Bethlehem is like a big jail, and that’s it... I am a Christian, but there were both Muslims and Christians together in the siege. The relationship became very friendly. We respect ourselves, we respect each other, and we love each other. And they said, now the Church of the Nativity is the most important place and very special for us because this place protected all of us.” George has very recently set up an organization called Bethlehem Fair Trade Artisans, which promotes small craft workshops. Ken won’t mind, I’m sure, if I give this brave man’s new venture a plug by mentioning the link: The second courageous friend is that young Gazan photo-journalist Mohammed Omer. Sheer professionalism, and a determination to tell the unvarnished truth about Gaza to the Western world, earned him the coveted Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism in 2008 while he was still only 23. He received the award in London and went on a speaking tour of European capitals. On the way home to his family in Gaza he was detained and brutally beaten up by Israeli border and security thugs at the Allenby Bridge crossing from Jordan, and hospitalized with severe injuries. In the book Mo tells the shocking story in his own words. Perhaps Mo’s darkest hour - and he must have had many in his young life - was in January 2009 at the height of Israel’s vicious blitzkrieg on Gaza’s civilians. He wrote to me: “I have been in Holland the past few weeks in

hospital, with high fever and following up Gaza’s appalling situations. My family have been under very awful situations, but today I managed to get hold of them finally and they are all alive. Some damages around, but that doesn’t matter as long as they are alive. I have been so worried and also sad to lose some of my friends who are journalists and others were injured... shame on the international community to allow this to happen.” Ken writes from a humanistic standpoint, as befits a professor of psychology. He treats those he meets with sensitivity and respect. His great affection for them shines through at all times. Letters from Palestine will put you through the emotional wringer—you’ll share the laughter, pride, helplessness, despair, anger and even the camaraderie. It is written with a pleasant light touch while providing an accurate portrayal of the plight of the Palestinians. And Ken’s being Jewish makes the book all the more remarkable. I see it as one of the few beacons of decency in a swamp of deceit, and I would like one day to shake his hand. I understand that proceeds from the book are to be split between the Atfaluna School for the Deaf in Gaza, where Ken sponsors a child, and civil society NGOs in the West Bank with which co-author Ghassan Abdullah is associated. _______ Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit


directed by Josh Fox International WOW Company (2010)


reviewed by E R IC A BO LL

ver the last several years, with all of the talk in the media and elsewhere regarding “green” energy, one solution that has been given considerable push is natural gas. The ads for this “clean, safe and plentiful” energy source have run incessantly on TV, newspapers and other media for as long as I can remember.

I then heard a recommendation for Josh Fox’s film, Gasland, offered on a progressive radio show not available in this area other than through the internet and XM. The film, in a nutshell, deals with the health and environmental effects (among others) of what is the natural gas industry’s preferred method for extracting the precious propane, methane, and other “-anes” you can think of from the considerable shale deposits on the continent - hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” In short, the next time you see or hear an advertisement in whatever form touting how wonderfully clean, safe, and efficient natural gas is, try measuring those claims against the sights and sounds Mr. Fox captures, such as:

l the sight of how flammable the affected tap water is when a match or lighter is introduced; l the sight of the chemicals and sediment that come out of these faucets and collected in Mason jars; l the sight of emaciated farm animals and dead fish; l the sight of politicians in committee telling how proud they are of being supported by the gas and oil industries; l the sounds of those professional liars known as oil/gas industry lobbyists, plying their trade with regard to the gas fracking process in the same house committee; l the sights of many of these rigs occupying land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management, where security

is next to nil, and literally anybody could drive up to one of these rigs. Aspiring terrorists with inquiring minds want to know; l the sounds of stories of the widespread illnesses created by the now-defiled groundwater supply, and the lengths some of the affected people go to, to get clean, drinkable water; l the sights and sounds of how lucrative these companies make it for landowners to put these rigs on their land—In this economy, how do you turn down $4,500/acre (as was offered to Mr. Fox for the rights to his 19.5 Pennsylvania acres)? Josh Fox paints a prism-like mural with this film, as there are so many different angles that he touches on— public health, political, economic, our relationship to the land, et cetera. And, he does so at so many different depths:

his personal experience with the home in which he grew up and the wilderness that surrounded it, the vastness of the gas fields, the individual stories of the land and home owners affected, and the sheer breadth of the greed and avarice of the oil and gas industries and their political sock puppets. Most impressive, however, is how the human stories are told. He lets his interview subjects do most of the talking, and the science of natural gas extraction is kept to an understandable, relevant minimum. The histrionics common among some of the “name” documentary filmmakers are absent here—Josh Fox lets the story do the talking here, and as a result, the story and film scream like an air raid siren. The film is presently on HBO’s schedule, and available On Demand through Comcast. I highly recommend it. _______ Eric A. Boll, a denizen of this planet for 42 years, received his formal education at Gavilan College, SFSU in Music & Broadcast Communications. He’s worked a number of various jobs, union and otherwise since he was 11 years old. But, perhaps

most importantly he is concerned that the present generation is asking future generations to foot the bill for our excesses. He can be reached at


directed by Neil Jordan Wayfare (2010)

reviewed by N IC HO LAS N O CK ET BA CK

This Mermaid Tale Is As Thick As Beyoncé


his little gem of a film has been playing in the Bay for a few weeks and should be in your Netflix queue and movie stores by the time you read this. If not, wait a week. Ondine follows Syracuse (also known as Circus) as he fishes a meager living from the Irish Sea. The plot is simple and enchanting and plays out like a fairytale would: man fishes, man catches mermaid, mermaid helps man catch more fish, man falls in love. The domestic tale is far more intriguing and actually highlights Colin Farrell’s abilities as an actor. Seriously, before this, what had he done? Go ahead, I’ll wait. Initially, understanding the thick accent is rather tedious, but once you catch the rhythm and cadence of the muddled English, it’s a fair transition. Syracuse is a single father and former alcoholic—a choice he had to make because his daughter’s mother is also an abuser of the sauce, and even under the most ideal circumstances, two drunks do not a family make. To further the intensity and banality of the tale, Syracuse’s daughter, Annie, has a terminal illness and must be cared for. As if life isn’t difficult enough for Syracuse, his ex-wife has custody of Annie and has a live-in boyfriend who drinks like a mermaid himself. You do the math. The myth of the Irish Selkie states that once a Selkie has been caught, she stays with you forever. Syracuse finally gets his luck haul, but with such luck comes great responsibility and a bit of sheer horror.

Keeping it a secret in the small village is much harder than one expects. Farrell plays the role with such empathy and compassion that you cannot help but feel devastated when things turn for him. Another shinning light takes the form of his daughter Annie (Alison Barry) who suffers for her father more than herself. Of course, this wouldn’t be a proper Irish, Jordan film if it didn’t deal with Catholicism. We, like Syracuse, find solace in the town priest (Stephen Rae), who acts as his godly AA sponsor. The subtlety of the story and rich historic content offer a very engaging, and surprisingly enough, heartwarming tale of love. See it for your own sanity.

modes is a training mode that teaches the player how to use each character in the game, and the old “destroy the car and barrels” mini games are back and better than ever. Upon unveiling Street Fighter 4 last year, Capcom set the new standard in terms of 2D fighting games with kick ass hand drawn character styles put over 3D character models. Capcom (2010) / (for PS3 & Xbox 360) The results were stunning, and game play was nil affectLike fine wine, Capcom’s Street Fighter series just ed. Super Street Fighter 4 plays just like the 2D fightkeeps getting better with age. ing games we all remember, and in fact has been so ut it also has as many iterations as a fine distill- finely tuned by Capcom’s development team that players can use either the directional pad or analog ery. Anyone familiar with the Street Fighter series will remember each game having several sticks to control the action. Both work well, however versions released to gamers. The updates were usually it can be somewhat difficult to control with the sticks pretty good, but for the most part it was youthful exuberance that kept us buying each new game. In the end, the additions usually didn’t necessitate the price tag of a whole new game purchase, which is what was required.

Super Street Fighter IV


So the question begs to be asked… Is the recently revamped Super Street Fighter 4 a worthy predecessor to last year’s Street Fighter 4? Well, thanks for asking, and yes it definitely is. Not only has Capcom released Super Street Fighter 4 at a reduced price (due to the short time from which the original source material was released), they have also retooled and balanced the entire game. In addition, you also get 35 characters (2 all new, 8 new to SSF4, and 25 returning from SF4) all of which are playable right from the get go and new ultra combos for each character giving you two to choose from. The online mode has been retouched as well, and deserves noting. All game lobbies are now able to handle a higher number of players, and new modes have been added, like team and endless battles. A tournament mode add-on has been announced as a download as well. Rankings still work the same, with players earning character-specific battle points and profilespecific player points. The former establishes your personal rank with a particular character; the latter is your overall performance reflection of all the characters you’ve played. The offline modes remain the same with options to play single player against the computer A.I. or a friend in versus mode. Rounding out the play

when the game’s speed is turned up; or for me at least it was. There really isn’t a difference between the PS3 and XBOX360 versions; both play fast and fluid. If you’ve ever thrown a fire ball in Street Fighter before, you’ll have no problem handling SSF4 as the moves are still to this day largely unaltered. Just like riding a bike, you can’t forget how to play Street Fighter; it becomes instinct. Super Street Fighter 4 just finely hones these instincts into fighting perfection. Let the addiction begin anew…. Super Street Fighter 4 rates a 9/10.

Dear Nocketback, Hello. I am writing due to a more mature matter. I do hope you take this seriously. I am in a committed relationship and have been for about a year. We live together and are pretty compatible. The crux lies in our love-life, though. You see, we used to make love once a week, but lately I’ve been making excuses to get out of it. We haven’t been romantic in a month. She’s beginning to get upset and has even accused me of cheating. I can’t go through with it because of her “sexy” voice. She tries to be sexy and seductive and talks in a deep, rough voice that is utterly repulsive. Honest to god, she sounds like a cross between Sasquatch and my Jewish grandmother who has smoked since birth. I don’t know how to approach this. It may very well ruin our relationship. —The Sound and The Fury

Dear TS&TF, It sounds to me, young buck, like you have a classic pickle on your hands. And pickles, my friend, were made to be eaten –pun, most nastily intended. Okay, peep game, if this is your only issue with your girl, you’re golden. There are two ways of fixing this. When she begins to talk to you in that way, put something in her mouth—stay with me here—you can fill it with grapes or Ritz crackers, but I’d choose something more organic. I understand that you might not always have access to food, so try this: when she says something in her “sexy” talk, say something in return using your “sexy” voice. May I suggest something in a Yoda meets Tom Waits gargling glass shards? When she says (and she will) why are you talking in that horrible voice? Simply respond, EXACTLY. —Guadalaholla Back

Dear Nocketback, My neighbor is my bestie. We’ve hung out since the third grade! Then, I started to like him. My best friend told him that, and he said he doesn’t like me back because I’m a freak, and it’ll ruin his “reputation” ‘cause he’s one of the popular kids. But, we still hang out, and one time we almost kissed. But right before he did, he left because he was too scared. How do I get him to like me? He tells me he doesn’t like me like me every time my friend asks him. Help! —Tina Dear Tina, This is unfortunate for you. Boys are simple, basic creatures and they really don’t change much. He’s saying

this because he’s waiting for something better to come along—don’t take it personally, not everyone can be pretty. There is hope, though; you just need to step up your game. Here are a few ways to get his attention in order of horrible-ness. #1 have intercourse with his best-friend or brother, #2 flash him your lady-flower through the window, #3**(my favorite) break into his house, strip down—wearing only an orange belt and a Nextel pager, coat yourself with a thin veneer of cat urine, tape a printed picture of Tony Danza to your cooter, crawl under his covers and when he comes through the door, tell him “I’ll show you a freak. Now drop drawers and show me your veggie cart, mama needs her some carrot juice.” —At your service, N.

Choose Your MisFortune

Then look over at page 28 and see what your misfortune holds

Some 411


Y/N 1-5

Women's Clothes Y



Men's Clothes



Children's Items









Sporting Goods








d. 12 min. from Fashion Fair driving

All proceeds benefit the Children's Hospital of Central California.


he Thrift Bucket is a monthly thrift card on thrift shops in the local area. Each month a Thrifty Buyer Guest and I will visit a local thrift shop to see what we can buy, reuse and reinvent. Our TBG of the month is Kiarra Hughe.

Thrift Store

La Tienda Guild Thrift Shop, 708 E. Olive Avenue


a. 4 min. from Fresno City College driving b. Doorfront Bus Number: 28 c. 10 min. from Downtown Fresno driving

Pay close attention to the price label color. Yellow tags and white tags are discounted items.

In the Bucket

During our visit, I spend $13.50 and buy: 1 hardcover large book (1.50), 2 tanktops (2.00 ea.), small hemp purse (3.00), tamborine (5.00).

My 2 cents

I spent my lunch money and ended up nearly broke at the La Tienda Guild. The thrifty items in the store are in great shape, of a wide range and very reasonable. Volunteer help at the store can be a problem at times. Patience is needed in addition to keeping your manners. Otherwise, please visit this store and then keep it as our secret. My guest and I choose our thrift store adventure by picking a thrift store name out of a bucket. If you'd like to submit a name into the Thrift Bucket, email






Of a wide range. You must look in all areas. (M) The summer clothes are very nice. (TBG) A small variety. In great condition. (M, TBG)

Clothes, toys and books. (M, TBG)

I found a large book on Herbs. (M) Good romance authors. (TBG) Little to none. (M)

This store features a linen closet.(M)

There were a few items. (M)

Tons of glasswear for the kitchen and display. (M)

The antique area is nice. The jewelry ranges from beaded wear to cos tume stones. (TBG)

small farms which deliver are doing is catering to our desire for fresh, delicious, in season produce while at the same time, making it incredibly easy to acquire. And it’s really interesting how this movement has the potential to draw a community together. I know several people who get boxes from T.D. Willey that share the contents with their friends and family. What a great way to come together.


d: I admitted in a recent column that since Fresh & Easy opened in Fresno, I’d been doing most of my shopping there. That’s still true, although I miss shopping in the gigantic warehouse that is Foodmaxx. But before you think I’ll get all nostalgic and head back, I’ve actually been thinking a lot lately about buying food from other sources, particularly fruits and vegetables. We live in an agricultural horn of plenty, and there are tons of market options available to your average Fresnan. First, there are little (and big) farmer’s markets. I’m not the biggest fan of these. Generally, a lot of them seem like stuff that I either don’t use, don’t use that much of (who needs 1 lb. of jalapenos?) or stuff that isn’t the highest quality. That last claim isn’t true of all of the farmer’s markets for sure, and the organic market on the Fulton Mall has some awesome stuff. What’s really piqued my interest is some of the local farming groups that are around. Many people have heard of T.D. Willey farms out of Madera, which delivers fresh, organic vegetables to a couple of points around Fresno. But there are other, similar operations that people may not have heard about. RipeNow ( is a recent addition to the scene, delivering local fruit at its freshest to your home. When I saw an ad for this service on it really got my brain spinning. I also learned of another service on a friend’s blog. Farmer and the Dale delivers both fruit and vegetables to Fresno and Visalia, with the majority of the produce coming from Reedley. It doesn’t get much better than fresh, quality fruit delivered to your house. And I really like the idea of supporting local growers. Adam: It’s interesting to see local produc-

ers’ delivery options becoming more and more common. It’s a great way to address the market when it comes to fresh produce because big box stores have really spoiled most consumers with the ability to be a one stop shopping locale. Most people don’t care if their vegetables are in season or come from another state, or even some place like Chile. We talk about how much it must suck for people that don’t live here and how they have to make due with boxed peaches that were picked when they weren’t ripe or asparagus that was shipped across the country and is floppy and wilted. Yet, we don’t care or notice that the nectarine we just picked up at Save Mart came from the southern hemisphere, was picked early, and “ripened” in the box on the way here. To be honest, we’re lazy. We’re spoiled and we take it all for granted. What these

Ed: That coming together and sharing food is a great way to enjoy what the local market produces in community. I also appreciate that these local distributors are completely local. That means our neighbors in the valley are growing this food. Jobs are being created and sustained by participating in these farming endeavors. This also means that the cost of transporting the food has been lessened. And, hopefully, the environmental impact of the purchase has also been reduced. Finally, in a way it’s resetting the culture of convenience. Sure, it’s convenient to have the fruit and veggies delivered to me, but it’s also a bit of retraining my diet. I admit I’m guilty of eating things out of season just because I want it. This way, if it’s not in season, it’s not on our plates. And so my family is embarking on this experiment of fresh delivered fruits and vegetables. We’re starting out small, with a one-time purchase that we hope will blossom into a weekly or biweekly purchase. Whatever happens, we’re glad to take part in the local market.

Misfortune Cookies by Nick Nocketback

1 2

When life gets har d this month, soften up with non-prescription dru gs. Somethin g wicke d this w off you ay come r back a s...afterw nd dont’ return h ards wip is calls. e

3 4


People will find you strangely attractive on the 30th; capitalize on this by selling 8x10 signed glossies of yourself to foster children. When it comes to true love, liste n with your heart not your genitali , a...remember wh at happened last time?

mean . By this, I this month se or el , nd ne ie eo fr , in som a neighbor Find solace ations” with tionable r“ el es qu ve ha lative. trusted re

Casa de Tamales 3747 West Shaw Avenue 559.275.9300

Hours: 9AM through 8PM, Monday through Sunday

reviewed by J E SSI HAF E R

The Espinoza



make my own vegan tamales for the holidays, and I’m very proud of them. Considering this and the fact that most tamales aren’t vegan (or even vegetarian, for that matter), I had never had tamales I didn’t make myself until I went to Casa de Tamales. Now that I have been there, I’m very excited to have another method of getting great tamales that doesn’t involve several hours of making my kitchen a total mess.

“Combination Plate” to get two tamales served with rice and beans. The Combo Plate made for a filling lunch, but, of course, we also ordered some of their sweet tamales for dessert. I think we were most impressed with the sweet tamales simply because we had never had them (or, at least, had never had good ones) before. There are two vegan tamales on the sweet menu: cinnamon & raisin (without the sauce, which has dairy in it), and the Pineapple Coconut. Other sweet tamales Casa de Tamales features “traditional include Chocolate Cake, Blueberry & Cream and gourmet” tamales. Vegetarians can go to Cheese, Strawberry Cream Cheese, and Candied there with confidence because they don’t use lard Guava. Both of the vegan ones were delightful. I or chicken broth, etc, in the masa, beans, or rice. liked the pineapple coconut a little better, finding That said, they have a wide range of tamales: the balanced, tropical flavor an uplifting finish for some with meat, and some vegetarian. We tried an otherwise slightly-heavy (in a good way) meal. the two vegan options on the “Gourmet” menu: That said, the other people I was with preferred Soy Chorizo Con Papas (potatoes) and the the Cinnamon Raisin so much that we ended up Portobello & Asparagus. Both were both very buying an extra dozen to take home with us. We good, and it was tough to pick a favorite. The ate them that night. Chorizo Con Papas struck me as a bit more tradiOur experience demonstrates a couple of tional and comforting, but I was also enamored things. One, you can’t have too many tamales in with the Portobello/asparagus combination. a day. And two, one of the great things about Vegetarians may also try the Spinach & Artichoke Casa de Tamales is that you can eat there (though (which has cheese) or the Black Bean and Cheese. seating is a bit limited), or you can buy a whole Omnivores will find a wide range of possibilities, bunch of tamales to eat (and maybe share) later. from “Green Tomatillo Chicken,” to “Camarones Both approaches worked quite well for us! Veracruz Shrimp,” and more. Their full menu is available on their website (above). You can do a

ecause there is no time like summer time to sit back with a nice, fruity cocktail, this month’s Bacchus Blurb brings you a Puerto Rican drink that originates in the romantic confines of Ostra Cosa restaurant in Old San Juan. We happened upon this restaurant, located in one of the many inner courtyards of this old colonial city, partially by design, but not necessarily for the drink.

I can’t tell you anything about the food at Ostra Cosa (we ended up passing on food because we had just eaten elsewhere), but the Espinoza was most certainly memorable. The inventor of the Espinoza and restaurant owner (for the life of me I can’t remember his name) told us that the Espinoza was Puerto Rico’s answer to the margarita. The Espinoza is basically water, sugar, limes, and dark rum (not dark because of spices, like Captain Morgan’s, but because of the aging

process). Rum, like other spirits, goes from clear or light to dark, depending on the amount of aging in charred oak barrels. The rum pictured here, Ron del Barrilito (Rum from the little Barrel) is a mellow, smoky, sweet blend of rums aged in used charred oak, bourbon barrels for between 6-10yrs. Ron del Barrilito is not easy to get in the states; other aged rums, specifically the Barcardi brand, are more readily available, but tend to be over priced. You can buy Ron del Barrilito online for between $25-$35. You may have to look around, but it’s well worth it To make your own Espinoza, place 6cups of water, four good sized limes (whole limes, rinds and all), and a cup of sugar in a large blender. You could use key limes, but you will need to experiment with the number. After blending the ingredients into a lime-green, smoothie-like substance,

strain the liquid into a glass pitcher. Add more sweetener to taste, if necessary. Next, add one shot of rum per cup of water (so here, six shots, though you can add more or less rum depending on your taste). Pour yourself a glass over ice and enjoy…

Poetry and Short Fiction by Eddie Trevino Her Gum on My Headboard

like I was eating snot, I wondered. Did this old lady think I was rich or lazy?

I want to go to sleep but it’s hard to breathe in this stuffy room and I can’t blow my nose because I have no paper. Every time I cough, Simon’s older Unseen are the chips of white paint, brother Daniel grunts Etched behind its slumbering lumber head. so I know I’m botherMemories of a few brief deliberate collisions, ing him but I can’t help Between wall and wood. it. I decide to use my sock as a handkerchief. Now I really have to pee. I look over at Simon, sprawled out over his futon like a thrown piece of laundry. Damn, he looks comfortable! I cough into my pillow to muffle the sound so I don’t piss-off Daniel. I don’t want him to think I’m some sort of baby. I’m worried that he won’t let me and Simon hang out with him tomorrow. He said he’d drive us to Arthur’s Toys leeping in this house reminds me of camp- and I don’t want to screw that up. No one but ing, the weird sounds, hard floor, and this my mother has ever driven me there. Daniel itchy sleeping bag. The whole room stinks is the oldest and coolest kid who I’ve ever got like boiled dirt. I have to go pee but I would to hang with. He’s just turned 16 and he’s have to walk past Simon’s grandma’s room already got his license. and she freaks me out. At the dinner table she The first time Simon introduced me kept staring at me. Every time I looked up, to his brother I thought they were twins even there she was. I wasn’t being rude. I used though they are four years apart. They have my best table manners. My mom had told me the same faces, they are the same height and before I came over here that it was very rude they both poke their noses with the same finto make any bad remarks about other people’s ger. When I told Simon this he said, “People food, especially as a guest. I guess she knew think all Hmongs look alike. That’s OK Hmongs eat some weird stuff. I couldn’t fig- because all Mexicans and Blacks look the ure out why she was staring. What was her same to me too.” Even after Simon introproblem? Simon noticed that I was uncomduced me as his friend Daniel didn’t say hi, or fortable and said something to her that sound- hey, or what’s up. He just asked a question. ed like a bunch of long vowels. “Don’t “You like Roosters?” At first, I thought he worry, I think you’re the first Mexican grand- was just messing with me, after all Simon said ma has seen. There weren’t many in Hawaii his brother was a smart ass. But then Daniel and I know there weren’t any in Laos.” But I led me into the backyard and showed me a knew she wasn’t staring just because I was shed with two large, caged roosters. They Mexican. Maybe it was because I’m fat? My were big and bright and looked liked feathgeography teacher said that obesity is viewed ered candy apples with legs. Daniel didn’t differently by different cultures, for some it’s wait for an answer. “This one is Crockett, this a sign of laziness and in others it’s a sign of one is Tubbs. If they were in the same cage wealth. So as I sipped the brown broth of my Tubbs would probably kill Crockett. They slimy soup trying not to be rude, trying not to cost two thousand dollars each, that’s four let anyone in Simon’s family know that I felt grand, four large!” Daniel puffed out his

Chewed soft and pressed stuck, Above the rails; Once wrapped by thin fingers and long nails. The only spot of color on its face.



chest as he explained how much these overgrown chickens were worth. I was sure he was lying. My grandmother had a bunch of chickens and I know they weren’t worth more than one hundred dollars combined. But there was no way I was going to call Daniel a liar to his face, so I just stayed quiet. “Do you want to know why they cost so much?” Again, I stayed silent and just stared at the picture of the ocean wave on his lime green shirt which had a two letter logo that read: OP. “They’re not even your roosters!” Simon interrupted, “Uncle fights’em for money. Daniel just feeds them; he never even gets to watch them fight.” I wanted to laugh but thought if I did Daniel would smack us both. I tried to breathe slower, hoping that it would somehow make my nose less runny. It didn’t work so I blew my nose in my sock again. Coughing in my pillow didn’t help. I’ve got to spit this crap out of my chest. I decided to get up and make the trip to the bathroom. As I passed the Simon’s grandma’s door I walked fast and then quietly opened the bathroom door. Once in the bathroom, I peed for what felt like five straight minutes. This has to be some type of record. I also blew my nose over and over again hoping that I’d cleared out enough phlegm so that I didn’t need to come back until morning. For the first couple of minutes back in my sleeping bag, I felt like I would be able to fall asleep, then it started again. It began as small coughing bursts, but eventually the cough erupted into me, sounding like a yelping baby seal. I alternated coughs, one in my pillow then one out. Through the bottom of the door I noticed a light. Oh crap! Someone turned on a light. I must have wakened them up with my coughing. Damn, I wanted to go home! Whoever was in the hallway was now opening the door to this room. Damn! I tried to lie still with my head tucked toward the floor. I could hear feet sliding towards me. I bet it’s Simon’s mom asking me to call my parents to pick me up. This is freaking embarrassing. I could feel little fingers tapping on the top of my head so I rose up slowly as if I had just awoken from a deep sleep. I guess it’s alright, I thought, I’ll just make up a lie about why I had to leave. I’ll tell Simon and his brother that I had an asthma attack and that I almost died and my mom took me to the hospital and the doctors had to cut open my chest and operate. That way I don’t sound like such a wimp. The look on Simon’s grandmother scared the crap out of me. She’s staring at my chest and pulling at my t-shirt collar. I could-

n’t even talk. The only word I could muster was “Huh?” I couldn’t even look her in the eyes. I said, “Huh?” again real loud and looked around the room hoping that either Simon or Daniel would wake up and help get their grandma off me. They didn’t even move. What the hell was this lady doing? I remember my Aunt who told a story she heard on the news about this girl who spent the night at a friend’s house and was molested by her friend’s father. Don’t tell me I’m getting molested by a hundred-year-old Hmong lady! I then smelled something familiar as she lets go of my shirt and dips her hand into a jar. I know that smell, its Vicks. She tried to rub it on my chest but I moved so much it ended up all over my collar and neck. I pushed her hands away and rubbed it on my chest myself hoping she would just leave once I was done. OK, I’m done. Why is she still hovering over me? Damn, I want to go home! When I finished rubbing the Vicks, she nodded her head yes and handed me a small glass of something. I don’t care what it is; I’ll drink it. It can’t be as bad as the soup. It tasted like soy sauce and V8 juice. I hate soy sauce. I really hate V8 juice. After I drank it I wanted to scream, “There, it’s gone! Now can you please go away lady?” But I said nothing. I handed her back the glass and she shook it, tapped me on the chest, nodded yes, smiled, and crept out of the room. The Vicks rub did help me breathe better and the sewage that I drank made me cough a lot less, so I fell asleep. Daniel woke me up in the morning by throwing my dried up snot sock at me. “I know you’re hungry, big boy. Let’s go eat.” He was right, I was starving. Simon yelled from the kitchen, “You want some leftover soup? Just Kidding, I‘m making French toast.”


Phyllis’s Lobby

“I gotta piss; I gotta piss like a motherfucker,” says a man with thick, bright-white socks creased at the toes by the plastic knob of his sandals, separating his big toe from the other four. His baggy red polyester basketball shorts shine brightly like silk in the early morning sun. A cigarette lies tucked, slumbering, behind his left ear. The whiteness of it

Fiction continued next page...

Fiction continued...

amplifies against the contrast of his dark brown skin. At exactly 8:00 a.m., the dull florescent lights of the lobby flicker on as they attempt to wake. With legs close together, the socks and sandal man squeamishly bounces up and down quickly like a child. “I’m about to piss my pants,” he complains, as he grabs the door handle in anticipation. He peers inside and lets out a guffaw as the lady behind the glass checks the lobby floor for any items that might have been left behind the previous work day. As she places the key into the lock he jerks the handle of the door one last time to voice his frustration. The lobby doors of the Fresno County Probation Drug Suppression Unit are opened daily Monday through Friday (excluding County holidays) promptly at 8:00 a.m. by Phyllis, the lobby receptionist/cashier. According to the last office birthday party, Phyllis is 69 years old. However, her Driver’s license, birth certificate and county ID badge (which she conceals in an obscure pocket of her wallet) reveal that she is actually 71. Her hair, always in perfect assembly, has been erected in a blonde beehive since 1980. When complimented on the consistent flawlessness of her golden crown she says “It takes me twice as long and costs three times as much to keep this thing going. I call it my other full time job, and besides, this style will make a comeback and when it does I’ll be ready.” Variations of her joke change slightly from time to time but she always finishes with the same punch line. As Phyllis unlocks the door she peers around Mr. Sandal Socks and smiles at the forty three probationers lined up behind him who are just as eager to piss. Everyone in this line and everyone who will enter the lobby today are required to submit to repeated drug testing as a condition of their probation. This is a “Prop 36” lobby. After unlocking the lobby, Phyllis exits through a side door and prepares to man her reception window. Through its thin fingerprint-stained glass, she peers at the line again. From the time she opened the lobby door to the time she sat at her desk and readied her cash register, the line has doubled. One by one, she begins her Monday morning routine of answering phones and selling drug test forms. By 5:00 p.m. she will have sold more than 500. Each person will purchase a drug test form for $12, have it stamped with a number, and wait for their number to be called. Most will not wait in the lobby. The majority of probationers prefer to smoke cigarettes in the front building parking lot. Mr. Sandal Socks has lit his cigarette and speaks to a man in a white and green uniform. The cuffed pants, stiff collar and matching coat resemble the milkman uniforms of the 1930s. The name Tony is embroidered on a name tag

patch on his right breast. Another matching tag covers his left and reads: ORKIN. He used to be addicted to meth, now he kills bugs. Tony smokes and laughs as Mr. Sandal Socks complains, “These motherfuckers is always late on Monday. I was the first motherfucker in line and they still ain’t called. Like I ain’t got shit to do!” Tony nods his head and responds in agreement, “I got to be out of here by nine… for work.” Tony, who is married, gainfully employed, and pressed for time represents less than half of the probationers on prop 36. Before Mr. Sandal Socks gets a chance to finish his cigarette, they call his number. His feet slide across the lobby’s linoleum floor as he enters the testing room. The lobby seats 60. Six rows of 10 thinly upholstered dingy blue chairs with metal armrests lined up in classroom-style fashion face the blank white walls of the lobby. For those who sit and wait to be called, the only decorative wall ornament they have to admire is their own reflection in the police-like twoway mirror that separates the testing area from the lobby. When their numbers are called by an officer, they hand their form to the officer and are given a urine sample cup. Everyone tested must be observed as they urinate in the container. Female testers can only be observed by female officers; male testers can only be observed by male officers. About 25% of all Prop 36 probationers are female. Despite the sign on the testing door that informs the clients, “Please do not bring children in the lobby or the testing area,” many probation officers allow the children to sit in an area away from the bathrooms while their mothers test. When asked about why this rule is never enforced, one officer replied, “Some of these ladies test twice a week, and it may take over an hour for their number to be called, so who’s going to watch their kids? The fathers? And I think it’s funny that we have never had a male bring in a child. I guess they can just leave the kid with the mom.” After submitting his urine sample, Mr. Sandal Socks greeted a fellow probationer standing in line by bumping fists. He then bestows a peace sign to a crowd of smokers congregating around sole ashtray of the entire building. They pay little attention to Mr. Sandal socks as he leaves their smoldering bunch repeatedly throwing up his two peace fingers to their small crowd like a priest dousing his parishioners with holy water. “I’m out! See you motherfuckers on Wednesday.” Shortly after sandal socks departs, Tony rushes out through the lobby doors checking his watch, unaware of his unclosed zipper. He zigzags through the parking lot and almost collides with an elderly lady who is fighting with her keys, diligently ensuring that every door of her pristine Chevy Nova is locked tight. Her concentration as she

secured her vehicle was so intense that she failed to notice the athletic maneuver Tony had just performed in order to prevent from knocking her down. She peruses the front and back windows of the car making sure her windows are sealed tight. “Roll ’em up all the way,” she shouts to her son, standing by the passenger side of the car. He acknowledges his mother by rolling his eyes and stands expressionless, waiting for her to complete her car locking regimen. Both mother and son enter the lobby. As the line to the reception window shortens, the mother begins meticulously counting and recounting 12 one dollar bills. Phyllis eagerly greets them both. “Good morning Jan, I didn’t even see you guys in line,” her greeting to the son is less enthusiastic, “Howard.” Phyllis stamps Howard’s testing form and begins to recount the 12 one dollar bills that Jan has just handed her. After placing the money in the register, Phyllis continues to converse with Jan despite the growing line. “Did you go to that foot doctor I told you about?” Jan paused and then responded with a mental jolt, “You know, they wouldn’t let me make an appointment on Friday. What kind of doctor does not see patients on Fridays? Fridays are best for me because Howard doesn’t have to test or go to AA. I was so mad I forgot to ask if they took Medi-Cal.” As Jan and Phyllis banter about lazy doctors, crazy drivers, and gas prices Howard walks outside to smoke. Before leaving the reception window, Jan informs Phyllis, as well as everyone else in the lobby who was forced to listen to their conversation, that her grandson, Howard’s youngest, has graduated from a high school, and is moving from Las Vegas to come to live with them. “Howard’s can get him a job at Red Carpet and he’s even got his drivers license” she says proudly. Jan then sits in the lobby while Howard smokes outside. By 5:00 p.m. the building will be empty of probationers and Phyllis will rise from behind her reception desk and lock the lobby doors. Through the dingy faded tint of the windows she will scan the parking lot, nod her head, and smack her tongue in insincere disgust at the hundreds of spent cigarette corpses that lie strewn out in a trail, from the front of the lobby door to the end of the street. ______ Eddie Trevino is a 36 year old father of 2 (girls 4 & 6). Born and raised in Fresno with brief stints in the Bay Area, he studied English at Fresno State. He’s worked in a mental health facility for juveniles and currently works for the Fresno County Probation Department’s drug suppression unit.

The Undercurrent  

July 2010, Vol. 5, Issue 2

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