Category Archives: north oakland

A Touch of Sunshine

So it’s supposed to rain every day for the indefinite future… I thought I’d share a touch of sunshine.

Remember when I wrote about the Temescal traffic boxes? Well some clever artist has taken to adding his/her own enhancements.  Check out these B&W creature stickers…

creature stickers on temescal traffic boxes

I really love the bird below… wish I’d gotten closer to get a better shot.

traffic signal box art, sticker art
Happy weekend everybody! Hope you stay warm & cozy & dry.

EarthDance Film Festival – Thursday Night

So there’s a pretty cool event happening tomorrow night… The 8th Annual EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival.  I should tell you right off the bat that it’s not actually in Oakland (rather Berkeley), but I am writing about it for a few reasons…

For starters, its founder Zakary Zide is an Oakland resident.  He worked at the Oakland Museum of Art for years and it was during this time, and through the museum’s support, that the festival originated.  Plus one of the films included this year is Oakland’s own homespun documentary “Scrapertown” about the Scraper Bike movement in Oakland.

Having established the festival’s proper Oaktown street-cred, what’s more important is that this event is cool, thought-provoking, inspiring, entertaining, and fun! You can read more about it in my interview with Zakary, below photo.  In the meantime, here are the details:

EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival
2011 Official Selections (PG-13)
9 films, 90 minutes.

A serious and light-hearted exploration of nature, culture and environmental design.
Featuring an eclectic collection of comedies, documentaries, adventures and animations, films range in length from 3 – 30 minutes.
Short is Sweet.

Thursday, March 17th, 2011
7pm and 9pm (two screenings, same films for both)

24/7  ticket hotline:  800-838-3006
On-line:  BrownPaperTickets

The David Brower Center
2150 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94610
(map here)

photo by Rus Anson

Hi Zakary,

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions about your 8th Annual EarthDance Film Festival, screening tomorrow night at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen several of the previous incarnations of this festival, even back to its early days when it was screened at the Oakland Museum of California.  Can you talk about its genesis?  How you came up with the idea?  And the involvement of OMCA towards that end?

It’s great that you’ve experience our collection!  Thanks for following our event!

I started the EarthDance Short-Attention-Span Environmental Film Festival in 2004 for 4 reasons:

  1. I wanted to demonstrate that stories about the environment aren’t always political and aren’t always gloomy and doomy…the natural world is full of humor, quirky characters (the praying mantis – come on!) and inspiration.  My friends, colleagues and I weren’t seeing the kind of environmental stories that we could relate to.  Most things being produced at the time were either of the Croc Hunter variety or predictable to the point of being annoying.
  2. To provide a container for people to come together; a venue for people to share their stories and multi-media explorations of their relationships with the natural world.  Environmental films aren’t just for eco-freaks.  We all have a relationship to the natural world; even if we’re only talking about an ant invasion in your kitchen. How you deal with the ants, that’s the interesting bit.
  3. To help create a ‘culture of nature’ and raise money for environmental issues.
  4. To inspire and be inspired to take action.

I was working at the Oakland Museum at the time. I presented the idea to the powers that be and eventually got funding for a “pilot” year. The goal, among those above, was to help the museum with new audience development.  Fortunately, EarthDance did what we had hoped.  The Film Fest bolstered museum membership. And existing members were happy to have something new to get excited about.  As a result, I got more funding to keep the project alive.  I’ve since left the museum, but thankfully they have remained supportive.

Were there other environmental film festivals that served as examples?  Of either what to do, or what not to do?  (You don’t have to name names).

There were a few, but we were one of the first environmental film fests.  Now it seems that everyone and their uncle has a film fest. I should really talk to my uncle about starting another one.

I believe the festival’s been referred to as “eco-tainment”.  Can you talk a little bit about that?

People like good stories, for good reason.  I’m not a fan of sensationalism, but I do appreciate an entertaining story that has a meaningful message.  I think this explains the popularity of such films as Super Size Me, and Michael Moore’s documentaries.  In this way, I don’t think one should have to sacrifice entertainment for ecology.

I think too many TV shows and films with important messages to tell get caught up in a scripted narrative, or else frighten or bore their audiences to death.  There are so many different ways that people relate to the natural world – from the hunter to the vegetarian.  I’m interested in telling everyone’s story.

What I love about the films I’ve seen in years past, is the enormous variety of subject matter & film styles.  Everything from 30 second shorts filmed under a scientific microscope, to 30 minute long foreign animated films, short documentaries following eco-warriors, and so much more.  There’s really something for everyone.  And typically lots of laughter.  Can you talk a bit about your process of selecting films for inclusion?

I’m glad to hear your feedback on this!  This is exactly the kind of response that we try to elicit with our curation!

We intentionally cast a wide net.  This is another reason why I felt like the Short-Attention-Span nature of the film fest was essential – variety.  People’s time is short and as great of a film as Who Killed the Electric Car is, not everyone wants to sit through 90 minutes of one eco-themed story.  We wanted to include more people and expand the conversation.  We’ve found that people really appreciate our variety. We often hear that our collection is “not what we expected, and that’s a good thing.” Specifically we look for films that are passionate, provocative, and funny.  We look for personal stories that have not been told before; quirky, inspirational, and generally non-political.  And of course, they have to be 30 seconds to 30 minutes in length.

I know a particularly memorable one, both because it was hilarious, and also quite recent, was the short film “Spiders on Drugs.” Does each year consist of entirely new material?  Or do you carry over audience favorites from year to year?

Each year is a fresh collection. We do, however sell / lease compilation DVDs of all of our collections for both public and private screenings.  It’s probably time that we have a “Best of the Best” screening!

It seems a common perception problem with issues of conservation and/or sustainability is that it’s just not fun.  It’s like your mother nagging you to turn down the heat and put on a sweater instead.  You know it’s the right thing to do, but somehow it feels… what’s the word… um, burdensome.  Are you trying to change this perception?

Absolutely! A little sugar helps the medicine go down.  As one of our festival attendees put it, the environmental awareness of our fest hits you more like a fine wine vapor than a sledgehammer.  I think we go for the subtle and sublime as opposed to the guilt.

As an ecologist and educator myself, I learned first hand that facts and figures don’t often move people as much as a personal connection and the rich flavor and depth of the story.  We have found that if people can relate to the story that it’s easier to get inspired, and then they will take it upon themselves to take their interest and awareness to the next level.

We all know on some level that the environmental situation – our relationship to the natural world – is being tested and strained.  We don’t need more gloom and doom stories.  Now is the time for stories and meaningful media that reconnects us to the source of life – the very stuff of our spiritual, physical, and psychological sustenance.

Has your perception of the world, and our place in it, changed at all through your years of curating of the festival?

I think that more people are waking up to their relationship to the natural world, and that the economy is reflecting this.  Of course we have to be careful of greenwashing, but I think it’s great how many more eco-friendly products and designs are available today vs. 8 years ago when the festival first launched.  Green products and services can always be improved. But humans will always have an impact. We consume. Mitigating our consumption and giving people healthier choices is a step in the right direction.

What do you hope the festival’s viewers will experience?

Surprise, joy, inspiration, celebration and motivation to explore their relationship to the natural world.

I know there’s a question and answer period following each screening.  What’s the craziest question you’ve ever gotten?

Would I ever make love to a polar bear?

Hah!  Thanks again Zakary.  See you at the screening!

WHEATPASTES!!

Well, I was gearing up to move on from the whole street art thing I’ve been doing for the past week or so, but then I watched Exit Through the Gift Shop.  I know it came out like a year ago, but lamely I had yet to see it…

All I can say was it was fascinating. Both from the perspective of traveling along with the likes of Shephard Fairey, Banksy, and others during their nighttime escapades… the sheer scale of which, at times, are mind-boggling.  But also following the invention of Mr. Brainwash and his ability to completely infiltrate the conventional art scene with a little PR and a lot of hype, ultimately duping collectors into paying sh*t-tons of money for his seemingly inane pieces of rehashed pop-street-“art,” if you can call it that.  I can’t figure out if the guy’s an idiot or a genius.  But this article in the Economist (Con or can do) poses that his real success may lie in ability as a performance artist above all else…

In any case, right after watching the movie, I came across these large wheatpastes by three different artists…

I love this sleepy owl! The scale of it is quite impressive… I’m assuming it was a smaller sketch that was blown up during reproduction.  The girl below seems to be the same artist.

large wheatpaste, bart tracks, oakland graffiti, east bay wheat paste

oakland graffiti wheatpaste, owl wheatpaste, burl wheatpaste

Here’s a new one by Get Up I hadn’t seen yet…  It’s hard to tell from these pics but this one is larger than life… maybe 10 ft tall?

Get Up, Bart Track wheat paste, guy with phonograph wheatpaste

The one below looks to be a hand-drawn original and includes the words (and image) “Get on the Good Foot”. Makes me wonder if this artist has any relation to the KALX DJ The Good Foot who starts off every set list with James Brown’s “Get on the Good Foot.” Good stuff…

The Good Foot, Get on the Good Foot, oakland graffiti

Let the music move you…

Here’s another stencil by Get Up.  This one’s been up for a few months… I shot it back in October and thought it would be buffed immediately.  It’s on one of the BART track supports along MLK Jr Drive and these tend to aggressively monitored for graffiti.  I drove past this just a few days ago and it was still there.  Perhaps they’ve deemed it worthy of staying… or maybe they’re just out of money.

In any case, I love it. If you like it too, check out Get Up’s Facebook page.

Get Up Graffiti, Get Up Boom Box

Get Up, Boom Box Stencil, Get Up Graffiti Artist

What’s your resolution?

So after nearly two weeks of traveling for the holidays… semi-invasive security scans, crappy airport food at exorbitant prices, too much chocolate (I didn’t think it was possible!), and too little sleep on too small and seriously uncomfortable beds (sorry mom)… we touched down at Oakland airport after making a glorious low swoop over Berkeley, the Bay Bridge, and then San Francisco at dusk, to loop back around and hit the runway from the reverse-of-typical direction.

It was beautiful. The city twinkling amidst its blanket of deep blue. The strand of lights stringing the bridge that stretches from one city to another, hitched at a small island in the sea, and paralleled by the new bridge, slowly but stealthily nearing completion.

And I had the feeling I always have upon returning home after travels, whether they be to frequent destinations or distant exotic places.  I’m so happy to be home.  And I’m so happy my home is here.

It’s interesting to describe Oakland to people who aren’t from here. During the holidays with my family, my brother quoted the statistic that Oakland was the fifth most dangerous city in the country.  Um… thanks Mike! And of course we do have our share of problems. Yes there is violent crime.  And blight. And devastating poverty, among other things.

But we have so much more than the grim facts delivered by sensationalist seeking so-called “news”. Thanks to smart stewardship we have plentiful protected green spaces that provide habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for us humans.  We have the best damn weather in the country (I do not miss the 6 month long New England winter!) We have a wealth of diversity of peoples and cultures that, frankly, exists in few other parts of this country.  And this diversity promotes a rich & complex smorgasbord of art and music and food that truly enriches our lives.  I really can’t imagine living anywhere else.

But times are tough these days, and I know our city is facing some serious challenges (as is our state, and our country at large),with the budgetary crises being pre-eminent.  If you listen to the news these days you hear a lot about sacrifice.  The impending “day of reckoning”.  And I’m not speaking religiously here, but rather, fiscally. Funds will be cut from schools, from health and human services, and numerous other places, but mostly from those who need it most.

People get greedy in times of strife.  The economist Benjamin Friedman identified this in his book “The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth,” noting that in times of economic stagnation, voters become more concerned about protecting their own interests, more hostile towards outsiders, and less interested in social welfare. Everyone’s out to protect their own. But unfortunately, this mentality fails to recognize the obvious truth (and I wish I knew who to attribute this quote to but I don’t)… “we all do better when we all do better.”

Mayor Jean Quan, in her inaugural address, asked Oaklanders to dream.  She said that Oakland is a city of dreams and asked each and every one of us to dream big and then take concrete steps towards seeing those dreams realized.  She asked us to reject the individual protectionism rooted in fear, and rather reach beyond ourselves to promote growth and healing towards our extended Oakland “family.” She suggested the following actions:

  • Organize our Blocks (whether through a clean up, and crime watch, or general neighborly assistance) – I went to my block’s annual Night Out party last year and it was a great way to meet my neighbors. It really does make a difference when you feel connected to your community.
  • Volunteer for Oakland – she asked each of us to donate just 1 hour a week to a cause of our choosing, and there are many to choose from.  Park cleanups, youth mentoring, neighborhood watch groups, school fundraisers, the list goes on and on… And with shrinking government dollars to pay for services, volunteers can really make a huge difference.
  • Shop Oakland – this is a no brainer as dollars spent in local businesses stay in the community.  She said if Oaklanders increased their spending locally by just 25% it would increase revenues by millions of dollars that could pay for more afterschool programs, more police, and more parks.
  • Discover Oakland – she encouraged residents to step outside their comfort zones and discover new neighborhoods and new happenings in this city.  In a way, that’s partly what this blog is all about, and though I’ve been remiss during the last hectic month of December, I’m looking forward to getting back on the Oaktown express.  There’s much yet to be discovered.

What are your dreams for our city? And what will you do to help see them realized?

Holiday Happenings…

old holiday card I designed but never used

Holy crap!  I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas… and already Hanukkah.  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was working on my elf costume for Santacon.  2009!  Yikes.

You’ve probably noticed I’ve been a bit absent these last few weeks…  work’s been crazy; I ran out of hard drive space; the cat ate my blog post; you get the idea.  And then once you stop, it’s sooooo hard to get started again…

But I got a little kick in the pants yesterday when the UPS guy dropped my new harddrive on my doorstep  (couldn’t he have just gently placed it on the porch?) and then later last night, when I heard the Oakland Interfaith Choir performing on the radio.  They’re truly awesome, and it made me feel a wee bit guilty I haven’t been better about promoting all of the holiday hoo-ha about town.

So here is a a quick stab at a few things going on this weekend (by no means complete, so do send in comments if you know of other excellent happenings):

Friday, December 3rd

  • Art Murmur (5pm onward)

    Buy art for your friends and family!  Many galleries typically host small (and very affordable) works at this time of year for just this reason. Your loved ones will appreciate it more than another pair of socks, and you’ll be supporting local artisans as well!
    http://oaklandartmurmur.com/

  • Temescal Winter Art Hop (6pm – 9pm)

    View art at over fifteen Temescal locations! Pick up a Temescal Art Passport, collect stamps from at least ten venues, and turn it in for a chance to win a work of art. Also enjoy live local music during your stops along the Art Hop!  http://www.temescaldistrict.org/events.html

  • Jingletown Holiday ArtWalk Opening Reception (6pm – 9pm)

    The annual holiday open studios in this thriving arts district will highlight the work of artists who live and/or work in the area known as Jingletown, which is situated between the Park and Fruitvale Street bridges adjacent to the Oakland Estuary. Studios will be open to the public all weekend, with an opening reception Friday 12/3 at 420 Gallery, 420 Peterson St., Oakland. http://jingletown.org/

  • Jack London Square Lights Up for the Holidays! (5:30pm – 7:30pm)

    Oakland’s favorite waterfront destination will light up the skies with over 5,000 sparkling lights on a 55-foot tree.  Enjoy music, song, dancing trees, Santa’s reindeer, PBS characters, the Jack London Square Rising Star Talent Competition and snow…yes, snow!!!  (Broadway at Embarcadero)
    http://jacklondonsquare.com/

Saturday, December 4th

  • Jingletown Holiday ArtWalk (11am – 6pm)

    The annual holiday open studios in this thriving arts district will highlight the work of artists who live and/or work in the area known as Jingletown, which is situated between the Park and Fruitvale Street bridges adjacent to the Oakland Estuary.  Among other notable artistic enterprises, it is the location of the Institute of Mosaic Art and Float Gallery, as well as studios of many other renowned artists who are living and working in one of the most established artist warehouse districts in Oakland. http://jingletown.org/

  • Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir at the Paramount Theatre (7:30pm)

    The award-winning Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir is a multiracial, interfaith group that regularly performs throughout the Bay Area. Its vocalists, led by Artistic Director Terrance Kelly, perform traditional and contemporary black gospel music and spirituals. This season’s 25th Anniversary Holiday Concert includes an alumni choir!  You can go to the Paramount’s box office direct (510.465.6400), or feed the beast here.

  • 2nd Annual Piedmont Avenue Tree Lighting & Holiday Stroll (5pm sharp)

    The Oakland Lyric Opera, Pacific Boychoir Academy, Accordionist Salane Schultz, and the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School Band will entertain followed by a ceremonial Tree Lighting and a visit by Santa Claus. Enjoy complimentary coffee on the plaza from Peet’s Coffee & Tea, then stroll along Piedmont Avenue and visit participating businesses, who will be staying open until 8pm. (Key Route Plaza, 41st & Piedmont)  http://www.piedmontavenue.org/

Sunday, December 5th

  • Jingletown Holiday ArtWalk (11am – 6pm)

    The annual holiday open studios in this thriving arts district will highlight the work of artists who live and/or work in the area known as Jingletown, which is situated between the Park and Fruitvale Street bridges adjacent to the Oakland Estuary. Among other notable artistic enterprises, it is the location of the Institute of Mosaic Art and Float Gallery, as well as studios of many other renowned artists who are living and working in one of the most established artist warehouse districts in Oakland. http://jingletown.org/

You can also check my holiday posts from last  year for more fun ideas…  Just click on the archives for December 2009.  Now get busy ya’ll!