This Modern Art of Publishing

At the beginning of May, the print version of Listen & Be Heard Weekly made the move to becoming Listen & Be Heard Monthly. Listenandbeheard.net remains a weekly. The daily feature of the Poem of the Day, which you can find Monday through Friday at listenandbeheard.net/poem.htm, pays homage to our roots in poetry and spoken word. Featuring a fresh poem each day takes advantage of the instant nature of publishing on the World Wide Web. You can expect us to add more exclusive features to the website as we progress (like an interesting collection of RSS feeds relevant to You the Artist and Creator), giving you more reasons to visit us daily. If you are weary of all the litter on the internet, the pop-up ads, the outdated coupons, the virtual carpet baggers, and the highway robbers, just go ahead and make us your homepage. We are your portal for jumping right into what’s going on in your community, and avoiding the pitfalls and outright dangers of the information superhighway. If you would like to get a weekly e-mail with links to all the fresh content on our site, please send an e-mail to subscription@listenandbeheard.net. We will add you to our list, which we do not share with anyone, and will never sell to anyone.

Newspapers, radio shows, and tv shows all have websites. No medium exists today without a companion website, and in many cases that website becomes more of a focus than the original medium that spawned the site. Websites contain all of the mediums we knew before the advent of the internet, and also allow for interaction with the reader, listener, watcher, (and shopper) who needs only be literate with a mouse. A website can be published as fast as it can be created, which is pretty darn fast. If a mistake is made, it can be corrected instantly. If information is old, it can be updated right away and made available to anyone with access to an internet connection. The World Wide Web is the source for the most current information on almost any subject. If not always accurate, it is also not limited to just a few publishers or broadcast companies.

The consumer of information has far more choice about content and who provides that content, than ever before. The consumer can in fact become the publisher himself, or herself, at far less less cost than the old days when it was all in the hands of the man with the machine. When I spend time searching, researching, or shopping and paying bills, I appreciate the sites that give me what I?m looking for without delay or distractions. Here on Marin Street in Downtown Vallejo, and also through an extended network of tele-commuters, we produce a truly impressive amount of information each week, providing you with depth of content that is entirely free, and remains archived for you to peruse at your leisure. I can truly say that we are offering you Value and Depth for your time.

Listen & Be Heard Weekly actually got started as an e-mail newsletter about our poetry activities and features. (You can still subscribe to the Caf? newsletter by sending an e-mail to mailinglist@listenandbeheard.net.) It was and is a way for us to spread the word about the Listen & Be Heard Open Mic, which has since found a permanent home on Friday nights at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?. The print version greatly expanded on the e-mail newsletter. We knew that pretty much the entire arts community on this side of the Carquinez Strait could not rely on any of the established news sources in Solano County or the Bay Area to write about, take pictures of, or promote local arts. So we took on the motto “Fulfilling the Promise of Diversity” and included everyone into a format that has brought you good, useful and interesting news and reviews every week for the past two and half years. We have, in fact, put Vallejo on the map as a burgeoning art community. We began providing the same weekly content on our website in 2005.

Now, in June of 2006, the website is no longer a mirror image of the newspaper. It has taken on a life of its own, and because we do not have the same space limitations that we do in print, we actually have more columns on the site than we do in print. One of those is visual art by Q.R. Hand Jr. We have plans for some new web columns. If you have a burning desire to participate, please first check our writers guidelines at listenandbeheard.net/guidelines.htm, and then query me at editor@listenandbeheard.net. No phone calls please 🙂

We know many of you looked forward to your weekly newspaper copy of Listen & Be Heard, and that some people do not go on-line. We heard from many readers in May, when they didn’t get what they were expecting. The way I see it, we made a trade-off. Newspapers are now competing with websites for advertising dollars. Many people prefer to search on-line for jobs, (go to listenandbeheard.net/classifieds.htm), audition and submission opportunities, (go to listenandbeheard.net/auditions.htm), and real estate agents and listings, (go to listenandbeheard.net/realestate.htm). It is in fact a more efficient way to accomplish those important tasks. Our Auditions/Submissions listings are extensive and updated each week. No other source in this area is as comprehensive in listing opportunities for artists of all stripes living and working here.

With the change, we have made improvements to what is now Listen & Be Heard, Arts, Entertainment and Culture Magazine, and it still has a very important function. Please take note that we now have full-color and more pages. We will be moving to a glossier magazine look that will provide a better showcase for the arts events and artists we serve. Print still goes places the Web will never get to, so the Magazine serves as a vanguard, an invitation to participate in “Fulfilling the Promise of Diversity.” What the reader discovers between the pages should serve as a starting point for getting involved in something much bigger. All your favorite columnists are still inside, and there is still no smut in the back of the paper. Our calendars include activities for the whole month, but if you’re looking for more events, or recent updates, we update them weekly on-line, and include extensive listings of upcoming events as well. So think of the website as a companion to the newspaper that will add depth to your experience of arts, culture and entertainment where you live. If you would like to be sure to get your copy each month, please consider taking out a subscription. For $40 a year you can have it either delivered to your doorstep, or your mailbox by the first of each month.

Listen & Be Heard has been about providing quality and depth from the very beginning. Whether you want to listen to poetry, read our magazine, or visit our website, you know you can rely on us to provide something worth your valuable time. You know you will obtain some useful information, and be handed multiple opportunities to participate in what is going on around you. As always, I welcome your feedback. Please send an e-mail to me at editor@listenandbeheard.net, or write me a letter and send it to SpeakOut!, Listen & Be Heard, 818 Marin Street, Downtown Vallejo, CA 94590.

Wishing you Peace and Poetry,
Martha Cinader Mims

Adventures in Acquiring Knowledge

in the last few weeks and months we have been making a transition from being a weekly newspaper with a print focus and fledgling website, to a weekly website with a monthly print companion publication. in the process, i as the editor (and co-publisher with my husband tony mims), of both forms of the publication, have been spending some long hours studying and investigating web culture and technology.

i’ve always had a cavalier attitude toward higher education that i still can’t seem to shake. i think it’s because i never liked the idea of an exclusive club. when i was a teenager in new york city, back in the seventies, there was a popular nightclub called studio 54. the gimmick was that you could only go in if the people at the door gave you the stamp of approval. you could be refused entry because your hairdo wasn’t right, or your shoes weren’t allowed. that kind of thing made me want to go in the other direction. but there were many people who thronged to the door hoping to get in. there were vip’s who thought they were special because they weren’t required to undergo inspection. in my mind applying to a major university or any college at all was no different. how could anyone deny me some fun on my night out, or deny me in my pursuit of knowledge at any time? there is no university that can prevent me from learning what i need to know, so why should i be concerned whether or not they want me around?

while the government searches for ways to tax us for using what is so far the ultimate source of free knowledge, i continue to proceed with my technical education. like so many other people seeking Information of all kinds, i traverse threads of the world wide web for the information i need to accomplish a particular task. it is a challenge not to get lost in the ongoing weaving, and i get tangled up at times, but i have hung on, and in this manner have acquired a few morsels to satisfy my search. everything that i have learned how to do on the World Wide Web i have learned from the World Wide Web. i never took a class or read a book. that just appeals to my freedom loving nature, and i do hope that this vast library, becomes more accessible to more people, instead of less.

my latest investigation has been into the best way to present multiple menu options, when some menu items have two sub-categories. here’s an example: we offer guides to various kinds of local businesses. so the first category is “guides”. the second category is the type of business; “restaurants”. the third category is the type of restaurant, “coffee shop” would be one choice. since my goal is to make navigating our site as intuitive and simple as possible, i was searching for the quickest and easiest route for someone in search of a coffee shop in our guides to find one. if they could do it in one click that would be best of all.

in the process of fulfilling that goal i have learned how to do simple css coding, i have found some freeware that simplified the creation of a javascript code for a pop-down menu with subcategories. it also allows me to place a menu on a framed page that opens pages in another part of the frame. i incorporated what i learned into yet another redesign of the site. Now instead of loading a new page of options every time a reader chooses a category, the thing for which you are searching is reachable with one click.

now it is up to you, our readers, to test it out and let me know how it works for you. i’m going to move on to a new goal for next week, and hope to create a little Peace and Poetry along the way.

Going the Other Direction

We all make choices every day
about what direction to go.
We can get up or stay in bed.
Wash ourselves or keep the funk on.
Eat breakfast or run out the door.
Those are the obvious choices.

Which way you’re traveling can make
all the difference in the world
to the company that you keep
the work that you are able to do
the balance of your bank account
the meaning of your entire life.

We appear to have many options.
Really, for every choice we make
there is a built in set of rules
that will not change without effort.
Even the supreme sacrifice
of your life may not be enough.

Do you like the people you know?
Do you know the people you like?
Are you doing what you’ve been told?
Have you been told what you’re doing?
You’re doing something to someone
or to something just by breathing.

Just because you are really alive
just because you are who you are
you are free to think whatever
you want whenever you want to
right up until the last moment
when you’ll know which way you traveled.

Until then the choices you make
are the risks that you have to take
are you going to do what’s easy
or do what you know that you should?
Will you speak the truth that you know
or let the next man speak for you?

You can always do what you think
everyone else has been doing
but that never made something right.
You can imitate what seems safe
but things are never what they seem.
You can give in or you can fight.

If you know what’s worth fighting for
then right now is the time to fight
the tide and get to the other
side, beyond the reach of the blind
grasping, greedy and grotesque king
setting his traps along the road

most traveled and waiting to count
the coins extracted from car seats
and washing machines and old coats
by the people standing in line
waiting to pay for the pleasure
waiting to be given directions.

Changing with the Times

Society has a strange existence of its own that extends beyond any human life-span. Each of us is inextricably bound to the place and time in which we?re born. First we must learn about the infrastructure of our daily lives. We must learn the rules within the context of survival. We find out what the pecking order has been since before we arrived, and where we now stand in line. The next lesson is to understand how free we are to change what we don’t value, and to create what we do value.

What is true for individuals is also true for groups of people working together to create something of value. In the case of a few dozen writers, photographers, deliverers, editors, programmers, salespeople and others living and working in or near Vallejo, there has been a concerted effort made to produce a newspaper that has been called Listen & Be Heard Weekly. Previously limited to being a weekly e-mail newsletter, (for which you can still sign up by sending an e-mail to mailinglist@listenandbeheard.net), we added a much more comprehensive print version two and a half years ago. The mission from the beginning has been to fulfill the promise of diversity, and we took a great leap by putting out a newspaper that has become the most comprehensive guide to arts, culture and entertainment that you will find for this entire region. We can make that claim thanks in great part to the diligent work of Cyndi Combs, our Calendar Editor. Week after week the extraordinary photographs by S.N. Jacobson of artists of all stripes have been featured on our cover, and many a grateful emerging artist has thanked us for the honor!

The e-mail newsletter continues to be a great way to keep our patrons and fans informed about all our activities. To be honest, I don’t recall exactly when we started offering all the content of the print newspaper, and more (like a weekly color slideshow of photos taken during the previous week, not all of which made our black and white print version) on our website at www.listenandbeheard.net. I think it was about a year ago. Thanks to the efforts of Alison Pilapil, we now also have archives going back to February 2006. Thousands of people have visited us on-line, and I’m sure will return for their favorite column or calendar, or to read a review before going to see a play or movie or buy a cd or book.

We’ve learned more about the media world into which we ventured as we’ve grown, and we’ve come to realize that it’s time to make some adjustments for the sake of our own survival. As a whole, the newspaper industry is seeing a decline in advertising dollars. This is due in part to a shift in the market to the internet, where many old and established news companies have now established or are scrambling to create a presence. News companies are making this move in order to be able to continue to serve the needs of their sponsors. Another factor is the high cost of print and delivery, especially at the pump. Our solution is to keep the print version of Listen & Be Heard alive by switching to a monthly format that will look more like a magazine. Our purpose in making changes is to better fulfill our mission, and to continue to be able to do it with the consistency and quality that you have come to expect from us.

We will be taking a step up in the quality of the presentation of our print news, which I hope you have already noticed. There will be more changes in our appearance to come. We believe that it will serve as a better showcase of local talent and small businesses. If you’re asking yourself what will happen next week when you want to get all your news, the answer is that you will still be able to go on-line for the same weekly news, reviews, calendars and guides, that you have been enjoying up until now. The print version of the newspaper is a great way to reach out to new people and draw them in from all over the Bay Area and we fully intend to continue to come out with an ever-improving print product. But you can also expect us to venture into the very latest technologies and offer you a full multi-media experience on the internet in the months to come.

As always we want to hear from you, whether it’s love or displeasure (no hate mail please). Write to us and tell us how we’re doing, what you like and don’t like, or just whatever is on your mind. Wishing each of you Peace and Poetry.

Soul Food

If I’m not careful it is easy for me to become overwhelmed by the mediocrity that seems to keep us all in constant danger of succumbing to it’s hypnotic siren song. Yeah it’s easy to switch on my television and flop down on my couch, getting up to visit the refrigerator every time one of those food commercials gives me the munchies. But I know I will go to bed unsatisfied with that choice. Why? Because the singer was just lip syncing and was more concerned about flipping her hair than interpreting a ballad, or even knowing what it means to be on pitch. I already knew how that movie was going to end that I watched at the same time. I’m not as stupid as I’m being played for. But no one asked me what I thought, or even said hello. I’m just left with doubts and fears and phobias planted every few minutes by snake oil salesmen, and festering in my uneasy sleep. Turn on the radio and I am assaulted by booty songs, or conversely, angry conversations between people who are not communicating or cooperating or accomplishing anything. And of course the other kind of pitch. I’m not talking about notes or baseballs either. There is always the sales pitch. Even when I do venture out to a live production with real people playing real instruments, I am often sorely disappointed to find many of them mimicking mass culture, and motivated by ego or vanity, and not a genuine attempt to communicate.

I know industry and economy are here to stay. I know that I am inescapably a consumer, but I don’t have to be just a consumer every minute of every day. The fact is that I want and need deeper connections, and experiences that appeal directly to my soul. Speaking of soul, it is a strange truth that the same country (United States of America) that produces the most schlock, is also the birthplace of an art-form that practically defines Soul, admired and celebrated more often in other countries than here at home. I’m speaking, of course, of Jazz. What makes Jazz a language of the soul? I will tell you. Its intelligence. Its ingredients. Above all, its free spirit.

When I was little, my mother used to play records of Beethoven concertos, and Mozart symphonies, and Chopin piano compositions. The names of the conductors and musicians have long since faded in my memory, but the music remains there. As my understanding grew of the history of music I came to realize that when Beethoven and Mozart and Chopin were alive, they were all skilled improvisers, and the classical concerts and recordings of today, as moving as they may be to some people, are but shadows of what live performances of these masters must have been like. The sheet music probably functioned as a guide for their solo performances similar to the “fake books” and “real books” that serve as guides to modern standards for budding musicians. What jazz musicians did and do, is take the ingredients of their time, the sounds and rhythms of a cultural melting pot, and deliver it fresh each time they play. Not only does Jazz draw on the classical traditions of Europe with great skill, its roots lie in ancient African rhythms and harmonic structures. Seamlessly blending the two great traditions together, you will also hear Latin and even East Indian and Chinese elements combined to create living music for today.

Even when there is the occasional great Jazz concert on television, it still isn’t the same as being there, and actually feeling the vibrations of the drums. That is where the true spirit of any performance really exists, in the moment and place that it is unfolding, among the musicians and the audience who are present. Any live performance is something which will never be duplicated, even if it is repeated note-for-note by devoted followers studying the recordings the same way classical musicians study their scores.

In 2003, in an interview by Javier Antonio Qui?ones Ortiz for allaboutjazz.com, our hometown master of percussion, Babatunde Lea, is qouted as saying:

“After many years studying the rhythms of the African Diaspora, I have peeped that through many of the African cultures lies the understanding that there is no separation between mind, body and spirit. In fact, that is when health ensues. I contend that polyrhythms are a metaphor for universal culture. Polyrhythms are connected. So are we as human beings. We just dont fully realize it because it needs to be taught, just like one needs to be taught rhythms by a master drummer.”

Yes folks, we need to be taught, and it is up to each of us to learn the lessons, or pay the price. What price? The price of lingering dissatisfaction, the price of regret, the price of boredom. I contend that the polyrhythms that Babatunde Lea refers to are not only heard, they are felt. But you have to take the steps leading to a place of community, where you can experience something real for yourself. When Tony and I opened the doors to Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf? we made the commitment to support live jazz right here in Vallejo, to create a home for jazz musicians to come and be heard with the listener?s respectful attention. We have been delivering on that promise every Saturday night when we feature live jazz with a poetry intermission. We have had several patrons exclaim that they “can’t believe this is happening in Vallejo.” But why shouldn’t it be happening in Vallejo? It’s happening in Tokyo. It’s happening in Frankfurt and Amsterdam and Berlin and Paris. Why shouldn’t it be happening in a place that has a rich history of Blues and Jazz musicians who were walking and playing these very streets. New Orleans knows its history, and has capitalized on it. If anything, it is its history more than anything else that will motivate people around the world to rebuild and preserve the city. Why shouldn’t we be proud of our history and the musicians living among us? This particular Saturday will be extra special because we will be featuring seasoned masters.

David Gonzalez is a perfect example of a living, breathing form of music that he has made uniquely his own. Of Mexican heritage, he grew up in San Francisco listening to the sounds of Ellington, Basie, and Goodman, and also Mexican radio programs that played everything from John Phillip Sousa to Jorge Negrete. Years later he has become an accomplished vocalist that according to the legendary bassist Vernon Alley, “swings his ass off.” Singing both original compositions and standards, David brings a great vocal range, (and pitch), and interesting latin variations on standards. He has no problem rising above even the most driving rhythm section, which is what he will have to do this Saturday, because he will be appearing with none other than the Babatunde Lea Trio.

You won’t find him on television (yet), but Babatunde Lea is an internationally recognized performing artist. The truth is that the only reason you have the opportunity to hear him live and at a very reasonable price right here in Vallejo is because he lives here and makes the choice to support live Jazz here. Lea has forged a career steeped in the rhythms of the motherland of Africa and its Caribbean and South American Diaspora. Raised in New York and Englewood, New Jersey, he migrated westward to the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960’s. He was deservedly voted Jazz Musician of the year by SF Weekly in 2005. Joining him will be Ron Belcher on bass, and Glenn Pearson on piano, two of the most sought after rhythm section men in the business, and for very good reason. When they get into the spirit, there is no denying feeling it. If you have never ventured out to a live jazz concert, this Saturday would be a perfect time for you to dip your toes in the water. You will not be disappointed. If you hold out with only the highest most discerning standards when it comes to Jazz, this will also be a night for you.

I have a word of advice for the musicians reading this column as well. I am continually surprised at how few musicians who have appeared at our caf? and other venues in the area, turn out to listen to and support other musicians. This Saturday it will cost far less to pay the price of admission, than a semester at school, but you stand to learn just as much. The singers who show up to jam sessions not knowing the lyrics to the songs they want to sing, the musicians who turn out wanting to be heard, but not really listening very well to others, the humble ones who know they have much to learn and still lack the confidence to really fly, this will be a night for all of the above to take away something they can use to improve themselves.

So come out to support live jazz by all means, but more importantly come out to meet strange people like yourself who are searching for more than mediocrity. Come out to learn. Come out to feed your soul.

You can learn more about David Gonazalez by visiting http://www.sfjazzmex.com. You will find more about Babatunde Lea, and the Educultural Foundation founded by him and his wife Dr. Virginia Lea, by visiting www.motema.com. You will get a chance to meet and greet them on Saturday night from 9pm to midnight at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf? located at 818 Marin Street in Downtown Vallejo. Admission is $10, and the phone number is 707-554-4540. You can also visit www.listenandbeheard.net for more information.

Live Comedy Every Tuesday Night Right Here in Downtown Vallejo

Ever since Richard Pryor?s three classic films ?Live In Concert,? ?Live on the Sunset Strip? and ?Here and Now?, stand-up comedy left behind its late night dive image to become part of mainstream American culture and entertainment. People paid good money to see just Richard Pryor standing onstage, larger than life, with no special effects, actual car chases or spilled blood, just Richard Pryor with all his expressions, gesticulations, sound effects and drama of the human soul. It was enough. Most comedians working today either consciously or unconsciously tip their hats to Richard Pryor by using physical comedy, using their own neurosis as rich material, and by getting past just one-liners to building drama. Comedy today is not for polite society. Most comedians I have heard lately will talk about pretty much anything. Nothing seems to be taboo, and most of it is probably inappropriate for impressionable young children.

Sure you can turn on your television most nights and find some kind of stand-up comedy, but for me television is the wrong venue for comedy. While film was the perfect medium to showcase the pure genius of a great artist like Richard Pryor, television doesn?t have the space or time or intimacy to do the same for the rare comedians, let alone the emerging artists working on their craft. The chemistry of laughter, even the most raucous laughter, is actually a very delicate thing. Much of the experience of live comedy is the interplay between the comedian and the audience, and the audience members with each other. One thing is for sure, you will never be the butt of a comedian?s joke if you?re watching safely from your couch. You also won?t have the opportunity to laugh when that same comedian ribs your companions, or jokes about a local situation that only the locals could possibly know about.

The perfect setting for comedy is actually, if not a dive, an intimate setting where the comedian is up close and personal, naked to the audience and not blinded by lights. A real person, reaching out to other people who are each both ordinary and extraordinary, can create a unique experience that can only happen in that room on that night. Each upcoming Tuesday night at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf? will uphold the worthy tradition of naked comedy. While the first Tuesday of the month continues with Darkroom Productions? Rats in the Alley Improv Troupe (more about them at www.ratsinthealley.com) the remaining Tuesdays will be taken up with The World Comedy Jam. That?s at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, 818 Marin Street, Downtown Vallejo, 94590. 707-554-4540..

According to Julie Anderson, producer of the World Comedy Jam and co-host with Jorge Castaneda, ?the mission of the show is to bring a diverse line-up of comics from all over the California bay area to Vallejo, bringing a much needed evening of comedy to the North Bay. The showcase consists of comics at various levels of experience, from coming to the stage for the very first time to working comics playing at clubs like The Punch Line, Cobbs, The San Jose Improv, and Pepperbelly’s.? The show is open to anyone who would like a chance to take the stage. People who have never done comedy before but want to give it a try will be allowed the opportunity. Each week there will be a few 2-3 minute spots for these people to take a shot at it – just show up and talk to one of the hosts – Julie Anderson or Jorge Castaneda. To be booked in the showcase, comics can email julie@julescomedy.com.

Each week there are several featured comics. Following is a list of the headliners coming up. Wishing you Peace and Poetry…martha mims, editor.

April 18. Gail Epps recently opened for Eddie Griffin at the San Jose Improv. They did six sold-out shows. Back in the day she held the title of lead singer for a NYC-based new wave band, The Blenders and performed at places like CBGB?s and Max?s Kansas City. Stand-up comedy has become a life-style that defines who she is. Whether it?s on stage, in line at the airport, or walking through a farmer?s market, you will always find Gail entertaining everyone in her immediate vicinity. She can?t help it. Gail is a regular performer in the bay area, and makes occasional jaunts to her native New York, where she insists that she has to tell the jokes a little faster.

April 25. Grace White, aka That Old Hippie Chick, is a classic bohemian with a mother who stalks her, and a father to whom road rage is an art-form. White launched her comedy career at the onset of her “Middle Ages,” and has gone on to open for the Jefferson Starship, 3 Doors Down, Edgar Winter, Leon Russell, Father Guido Sarducci, and Kevin Pollack. She made her film debut in “The Independent,” starring Jerry Stiller and Janeane Garofalo. White is a symphony in contradictions, a blur of reluctant energy and a compulsive workaholic entrepreneur who stubbornly maintains her title of World’s Laziest Woman. She’s also a successful single parent (her daughter’s never been to jail), and has earned a solid reputation for herding aspiring comedians through their performing puberty.

May 9. Tessie Chua is fulfilling her sacred duty to set the record straight with the “real truth” about Asian Pacific women. She welcomes you into her world where everything ends up intensely funny and then gets even more weird. Tessie on dating: “You go out with them once and it’s ‘She wants a relationship.’ Now I just give it to ’em right off the bat! I need a relationship! I want a commitment from you now! I want to have your baby! Then they get off the bus!” She has shared the stage with Robin Williams, Robert Schimmel and Tom Rhodes.

May 16. Tim Lee wasn’t supposed to be a comedian. He spent years developing simulation and analytical models of population dynamics before he discovered that this bored him to tears. In 2003 he tried stand-up comedy for the first time and the tears stopped. Tim has performed at clubs all over California, Oregon and Hawaii. “I like to point out the absurdity around us that everyone else is ignoring”

What Motivates You?

In the world of the unspoken, the place where the heart speaks in your voice, or touch, or perception of what is really going on, motivation is the last word, the sum of all that has happened, and is destined to happen. What motivates you is complicated. What motivates you, you may not be conscious of. What motivates you separates you from the next person, no matter what your circumstances may be, no matter who you are. If you aren’t motivated, then someone else is motivating your moves, making you mediocre, or magical or a mover of merchandise according to what motivates him or her, or his or her wife or who knows who or what or how if you don’t know yourself.

It’s daunting sometimes to contemplate the combined force of so much motivation. The like-mindedness of such and so many men will raise an armed force and send it across the globe to wreak havoc and destruction. The pursuit of an answer to a question will pave a path of understanding that will destroy old ways of life and create new ways never before imagined. The desire for wealth will fuel an entire entertainment industry devoted to selling the products of the highest bidders by maintaining a massive mesh of mush-brains who will march to the melody of the cash register ringing, consume corporate cookies and give birth to shoppers.

Deep in the heart of a newborn consumer probably lies the motivation to love and be loved, to matter, to make a mark on the world and in the minds of men. Mostly when you sing, or paint a picture, or act in a play, or write a poem or story, or dance across the floor, for the first time, you do it because you are inspired. Your motivation comes straight from your soul. But then you or someone else discovers that you have talent and the drama begins. Right away your motivation will determine your destiny.

Do you seek fame, fortune or technical superiority? Are you motivated by a deeper understanding of your craft and the ability to move the minds and hearts of people? Are you going to that audition for a national television show because you want the attention, or just because you think it’s the thing to do? It may be that the thing to do is not what you’re being told, the thing to say is what is not being said, the thing to see is the unseen, the thing to sing is the unsung story, the place to go is where no one has gone before.

Did you audition for your local community theatre because you want to be involved in theatre no matter what, or because you think you’re not good enough for something “better?” One motivation will result in enrichment, the other will continually erode your self-confidence. Motivation is what we’re made of. If you’re in it for the money then you’ll either make money or drop out. If you’re in it for fame, you’ll become famous or drop out. If you’re in it to be better than everyone else, you’ll be better, but you won’t move any mountains.

We are all artists and creators, shaping our lives out of the materials we have at hand. It is our choice whether to create for better or worse, and in the end our motivation for our creations will determine how we feel about them after we let go. Those of us working in the arts struggle against many forces that threaten the continued existence of our organizations from day to day and week to week. It is important for us to recognize the need to work together to continue to provoke depth of thought, compassion, understanding and the imagination in our youth among the elderly, and in our most valued institutions. We can help each other by reminding each other what our motivations are when we are assailed by the detriment and distractions of our daily lives. Here’s to greater understanding, peace and poetry.

What it Takes

Anyone choosing to work in almost any area of arts and entertainment will inevitably be forced to recognize certain truths, and make choices based on their motivation for getting involved in the first place. Some of the forces that operate before our eyes and behind the scenes are on a national and even international level, while others operate on a local level. It’s up to you, the artist, the producer, the venue owners and operators, the elected officials, to decide what your goals are and how you’re going to get there.

The average artist has at least two jobs, the one they do for money, and the one they do for love. Many young artists, actors, painters, writers, get caught up in visions of fame and fortune, or simply making a career out of their creative expressions, but time tells the next part of that story. When an artistic generation reaches its thirties and forties, a very few have had commercial success, and a great many have changed professions. Many of those who quit were motivated to get rich and be famous, and moved on to find other ways to accomplish that. The hardcore artists, who hold fast through hard times, have found ways to reach out and make lasting connections. I’m not talking about boardroom connections, or the office couch. I’m talking about a web of community connections that make artistic activities viable.

The biggest, best paying venues for entertainment, that gain the largest share of a nightly audience, are increasingly homogenous, allowing for virtually no real freedom of expression, and rarely require the audience to leave their couch. The average singer can hope to win American Idol, or she can take off most of her clothes and pray for a record deal that may or may not work out to her benefit. Another alternative is to take matters into her own hands. An independent artist, (by choice or by force) finds venues on her own, works hard to promote her appearances, and builds a reputation based on professionalism. A crucial part of that equation is promotion, a piece to the puzzle that too many performing artists usually leave completely out of the equation.

It seems that even many veteran performing artists want to leave promotion up to the venues that book their appearances. They simply show up to play and hope that there will be an audience to listen to them. The reality is that a venue can only do so much to promote the acts that they book. It’s true that some people come to a venue simply based on its reputation, but if a musician or singer or poet never gains a following of their own, then they will eventually fall out of the existing circuit they want to join, because venues can’t afford to continually lose money. They will fail to create a viable circuit where none exists, while competing against overwhelming odds. These days, most musicians have already produced at least one CD on their own, so if for no other reason, it would be in their best interest to promote each appearance since it should translate into increased sales of the product they labored so hard to create.

Here in Vallejo, and in other cities surrounding us, we have a small and fragile performance circuit with great potential for growth. But everyone participating in the tremendous growth of our arts community will have to take matters into their own hands in order to reach out to that majority of people who still don’t know that a contemporary arts scene even exists here. That means getting out in the streets. That means putting flyers into peoples’ hands and talking to them one at a time. That means advertising in what local media exists, and creating a web page, and e-mail list and then still coming up with creative ways to get people?s attention and draw them into what you already know will be an enriching and empowering experience for them.

Listen & Be Heard Weekly is an example of taking matters into hand. So the Vallejo Times Herald will only do an article on our poetry activities once in awhile, and if they do a pre-show article they’ll never come back to write another article about what actually happened. So they rarely run an actual review of an exhibition or play or concert, or local restaurant. So KPFA Radio doesn’t get to Vallejo very often, and their producers don’t answer phone calls. The East Bay Express doesn’t cross the Carquinez Bridge, and the San Francisco Chronicle treats the burgeoning artistic community of Vallejo like a smelly second cousin with bad breath. We don’t have to wait around for someone else to talk about us in a positive light. We started doing it for ourselves. And from the very beginning the idea was not only to do it for ourselves, but to provide a means for other artists, arts organizations, and small businesses to do it for themselves on a scale that they can afford. That’s what it takes.

So we can’t afford to run television commercials to get people to come to Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, but we can make post cards and flyers and get into the streets. We can provide a wealth of information on a website, and we can send press releases to the media and e-mails to our ever-growing e-mail list. The reality is that you have to spend some money. The advantage to an independent approach is that you will still own your work, still have control over how you are presented to the public, and if you play your cards right, your grandkids will be able to collect some royalties long after you’ve left the stage.

So the powers-that-be don’t think that you are “what people want.” You can reach out to the people that do want what you have, and prove to those who would exclude you that they are wrong. You can plan ahead to make sure you get your message out before it’s too late. You can even show them that you don’t even need them in the first place. You can organize your own event, or venue, or publication, or radio station, or television station even. You can become your own power base. What it takes is a plan and a commitment to promotion from all players.

Here at Listen & Be Heard it is our mission to help you to become and remain a success. Toward that end we are extending our ad design services to encompass a total promotional package for your event or business. Prepare in advance this time, and see for yourself the truth of what I am telling you. You can now get a four week ad in print and on the homepage of our website (http: //www.listenandbeheard.net), and 500 postcards, all with a unified look designed by us for you. We will hand you all the creative work on a disc so that you can go even further with it in other media outlets, all for the single price of $450. After that it will be up to you to put each of those post cards in the right hands, and of course deliver a quality product.

Here?s to wishing each and every one of you, and all of us together, success!

Celebrating the Creative Accomplishments of the Women Among Us

I was thinking about our upcoming Women’s History Celebration this Saturday at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, and some of the challenges presented by putting together a program of women. The dynamics of bringing together particular groups of people led me to ask myself why it is that we designate days or months to celebrate certain things.

Next month will be poetry month, presumably because of a perceived need to raise awareness of one of the oldest art forms. I don’t think there will be a television awareness month coming anytime soon. Last month it was black history. We don’t designate a white history month, because we are already dominated by white history and compelled to learn it. This month it is women’s history, and there’s not even a men’s history day of which I am aware.

So why do we feel the need to shed light on the accomplishments of women? Part of the answer lies in the word “history” itself. Although women give birth to men, they are somehow excluded from the very idea that they have had anything to do with the progress of “mankind.” Or do you prefer “humanity?” I never did like a sentence containing he/she or his/her. That has always seemed wishy-washy to me, and less than poetic, but it does give one pause to think about the words we use to communicate with people we love. And women around the world are objects of love, mostly imperfect love, but love all the same. Women are loved by their sons and daughters, their fathers and mothers, their husbands and lovers, and yet their contributions continue to be devalued. Women themselves contribute to the situation every day when they allow their vanity to dominate their good sense, their envy to dominate their compassion, and their greed or selfishness to override what they know is for the common good.

When it comes to the performing arts, women who wish to participate are presented by many challenges. They make less money, get less respect, and are even vulnerable late nights when finishing work. Often the greatest challenge is for the woman who is a mother. Whether married or single, the responsibility for looking after the children will generally fall upon her. The necessity for travel increases the difficulty, and excludes some women completely. Many women make the choice not to have children. Some are forced to sacrifice a career in the performing arts altogether when they become mothers. Others bring their children with them, and even make the commitment to” home-school” them away from home, or spend long hours and days away from them, relying on family members to pitch in. And still others begin careers only after their children are grown. Even at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?, where we actively engage in bringing in a diversity of people, most of the performers we book to perform are men.

Despite the challenges, there are notable women working in every field of the performing arts, and also some entertainers who cater to women and their children. One thing I know for certain is that when a group of women get together for a purpose, there is always a special feminine energy that I greatly enjoy, and from which I derive strength. I’m not talking about muscles either. I’m talking about a fierce feminine energy that is intensely creative in nature, and when unobstructed can produce wondrous sounds, sights, stories and laughter that knits together communities, heals deep wounds, and forces us to progress to higher levels of consciousness.

This Saturday night, March 18, Tony Mims will be in Oakland receiving the ?Blues Print Media of the Year Award?, for Listen & Be Heard Weekly, at the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame & Awards Show, at the Scottish Rite Center, 1547 Lakeside Drive in Oakland. Stephen Jacobson, our staff photographer has been nominated as a blues journalist of the year. While they are there, Martha Mims will be with the women keeping the spirit alive at Listen & Be Heard Poetry Caf?. The evening will start early, at 7pm with an open mic hosted by DC, also known as Donnette Mosley. DC is a young woman who has already had a varied career, and is now back in school at Diablo Valley College. She has been standing out at Listen & Be Heard with her unique and spirited poetry since back in the day when we were just an open mic without a newspaper or caf?. She will be your capable host if you wish to come and share your poetry from 7-8pm.

Julie Anderson is a comedian with a lot of energy for which other comedians should probably be grateful. Her World Comedy Jam will debut at the caf? on Tuesday March 28, and continue on Tuesdays in April with comedians from all over the bay area on the bill. This Saturday at 8pm, you can get a taste of what’s to come with two comedians Gail Epps who has a “serious need and desire to bring the funny and ignite the laughter in the room” and Jovelyn Richards, who you may have already heard about at Kimballs East. The comedy will be followed at 9pm by a double bill about which I am really excited. Phoenix Rising is a personal favorite. We have played their first CD, “Whispers” around the office quite a bit. They are Wendy Loomis on piano, and Monica Williams on flutes. Self described as creating “scenescapes of light and energy” they will have special guest Annie Yeh join them this time on the cello.

Born in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1975, Fely and her band perform original “world” music in the spirit of West African, Latin American and Jazz. After over three years in San Francisco, Fely has established a household with her daughter, provided for her wellbeing and education, taken college courses in English, business and computers, founded her own music label, Fely Productions & Divers, and assembled a band. We are very happy to welcome her to the Listen & Be Heard stage to finish our Women’s History celebration on a positive note.

For those women and men who like to get out early in the day, we have something for you too. Our usual acoustic jam from 11am-2pm will be hosted this week by our local percussion star Shannon Lacy. Following the jam session will be a special show for mothers (and fathers) and the children. ?Dr. Solar’s Goodtime Sunshine Traveling Medicine Show? leaves out of the title that he is a ventriloquist. I’m sure he has lots of fun in store for the kids and I will be there with mine. It’s free, and I hope that you will join me.

Ancient Artistry, Modern Times

When I was a little girl I used to watch my mother knit sweaters for my dad and for each of her children. Some of them were pretty simple, but there was one I remember, that I think was based on an Irish Fisherman’s pattern, that was more complicated and looked really beautiful in its better days. My dad wore it as a ski sweater for many years, and at some point it got hijacked by one of my sisters. Many years later, it was handed to me, with holes, almost as if it was a holy object, and I put it away in my closet.

I think most people know, or can remember a woman in their life who they picture in their mind holding knitting needles, an embroidery needle, a crochet hook, or even sitting at a loom. If you’re lucky, they made something beautiful and useful for you. With the birth of my youngest son, I received two handmade baby blankets from elderly women here in Vallejo. One was knitted by Lilian Rivera, who had a long career in fashion design and especially with knits. She is the mother of my daycare provider, and when I come to pick up my kids, she will often grab a hook, sit me down, and fix the little snags on my sweater before allowing me to leave, a service for which I am very grateful! The other blanket was crocheted by Sammi Nobles. It has a bold geometric design, with tight little stitches and garnered many compliments while wrapped around my little boy.

Sammi’s gift made me curious about this woman and her skills, and prompted me to meditate a bit on the whole story of women and textiles, bringing me to write this editorial during March, which is Women’s History Month. Textile production goes back to ancient times. Considering that clothing and textiles are integral to the survival of the human race, weaving is perhaps one of the most miraculous skills people have managed to acquire all over the world. The design of looms, and the mechanization of the industry in more modern times may have been dominated by men, but the original technology almost certainly originated in the hands of women as they labored to but clothes on the backs of their husbands and children. They were all engaged in a constant search for better, more efficient, and also more beautiful ways to weave, crochet, knit and sew together the fabric of their clothes and communities.

From the Andean mountains, home of Vicu?a, Alpaca Wool and Pima Cotton, to the Burnt City where women living 5,000 years ago wore outfits similar to the sari worn by Indian and Pakistani women of today, beautiful fabrics were part of every day life. All ancient Egyptians, rich or poor, male or female, wore linen clothing, and of course the weavings of Native Americans are prized possessions among collectors. Quilts made in Europe and America that were once looked at as folk art, are now highly prized works of art worth thousands and sometimes millions of dollars.

If you look around you a bit, there is probably a woman in your life right now with skills. Here are short profiles on three women I know with skills and how they put them to use.

According to Sammi Nobles, indigenous Guatemalans are the best weavers, crocheters and embroiderers in the world. She showed me with absolute admiration a crocheted bag that her sister brought back from Guatemala, and told me that she will “never be able to crochet like that.” The bags crocheted by Guatemalan women are meant for carrying produce and even water, and are made with very tiny, very tight stitches. Sammi’s enthusiasm for textile arts is infectious, and it is apparent that she has read quite a bit about the subject. She started knitting at the age of thirteen with a “Learn How” book. She was corrected one day by Ms. Elma Bollman, a former White House maid, who told her that she was “twisting her stitches,” and proceeded to show her how not to twist them. Since then it has been “a steady progression of learning and more fine points.” At 21, a co-worker of hers named Ita Noone, who was Irish, told her that the Irish would say “she was a bad knitter” because she was doing a single stitch at a time. Ita showed her a faster, more efficient way to knit. She also shared with Sammi that Irish fishermen who washed up to shore from the sea could be recognized by their sweaters. According to Sammi, “things that were essential are now hobbies, so the supplies have gotten more expensive.” She has stuck with it because “it’s something to do,” and her friends have benefitted from her activities with the gifts of socks and sweaters and blankets and such. Her mother and sisters were “1920’s ladies who embroidered. Mom did acres of needlepoint. I still can’t touch the quality. It takes practice.”

Janet Sylvain has made a career out of quilting and interior design. Unlike Sammi, who grew up surrounded by women with needles in their hands, Janet didn’t learn to quilt at home. She met an eighty year old woman, affectionately called Grandma Dickerson, who was a friend of the family and rented out her home to skiers in Tahoe for Christmas vacations. “Every bed had two or three quilts that she had made. To me it represented her lifetime. Some were made on a machine, some by hand. She had something to show for her time.” Even as a beginner Janet couldn’t help thinking that she would have used different colors, which led her to think ?I could make a quilt.π

At the age of twenty-four she had three kids at home and one on the way, and “couldn’t go to college” because she had no time. She wanted something to practice while her kids were growing up, so she would have a skill when the kids were grown, and be able to contribute something to the economy of the family. She started out with a craft show, and at her very first show she got an order for a king size quilt. She brought that quilt around to a high-end store that had a policy not to buy “crafty, hand made goods” but broke with that policy to order one of her distinctive quilts. Still having ideas of her own, she made a sample according to their instructions, and another one the way she would make it. They loved her original sample so much that they never gave her any instructions again. They turned into “a really good customer” and launched her career in interior design as she branched out into designing pillows and other sorts of things. Her career has progressed mostly by word of mouth ever since, leading her into adventures with rich oil families in Texas, and some of the wealthiest American families, who hire her for both restoration work, and her unique and often non-traditional designs. “I have to like everything I make. I never let anything go if I think the customer doesn’t like it. I just tell them, I’ve got a thousand ideas, let’s fix this.≤ Janet’s store is called Pieced on Earth and is located at 340 Georgia Street in Vallejo. The phone number is 707-644-6768. Her advice for anyone going into the sewing business: “Be open to changes in the market. You have to keep growing and changing. Right now I’m opening up to creatively designed window treatments. Slip covers are still a large part of my income. My work now, instead of coming in pieces, is coming in rooms.”

I already knew Dawn Jacobson had some serious skills in canning, having been the recipient of some of her award winning jams and jellies. Her husband, (our staff photographer) informed me that her skills are not limited to the kitchen. A teacher at Hogan High School here in Vallejo, Dawn grew up in a family where needlework “has always been done.” Her great grandmother on her dad’s side taught her two daughters how to crochet, do tatting (sort of like lace), knit, and do fine needlework. Dawn’s mother learned to knit from Irish nuns in the orphanage where she grew up in Pennsylvania. Dawn started learning needlework at the age of five, embroidery at seven, and knitting at nine or ten. Crocheting is actually her favorite, because she “doesn’t have to think about it, and it keeps her from strangling people at meetings.” Unlike her preserves, she hasn’t entered too many contests with her needlework, although she once won a second place prize for a napkin. She is considering entering a recently completed Afghan in the next County Fair. Some of her favorite pieces of work are a large wool rug in her home with a Chinese design. Her inspiration comes from Chinese needlepoint designs and European and American weaving from the 14th to 19th centuries. She said she doesn’t have the “tremendous patience it takes to do really fine Navajo weaving.” Maybe not, but she does have the patience, sometimes, to spin her own thread. Supplies for spinning have become increasingly rare, and most practitioners of the art order them from the internet these days. For Dawn, it’s all a hobby. “I have fun with it. It’s something I’ve always done and probably always will. My mom is in her seventies and a very active quilter. I look to my mom for inspiration, but I leave the quilting for her to do.”

Do you have a story about a practitioner of the art of textiles that you would like to share? Please write a letter to the editor. We would be very happy to hear from you.