Friday, April 30, 2010

Oakland Museum of California Opens After Major Renovation

all photographs (c) 2010 K. Smokey Cormier

Last night I went to the grand opening of the Oakland Museum of California. It was exciting and the museum, which has undergone major renovation, is gorgeous. A delicious orange color pulls the museum’s ensemble together beautifully. It starts with the exterior signs -- beautiful against the sky.

The art gallery is so much bigger. It feels good walking through. I realize now how pinched I felt in the old, much smaller gallery.

Don't lick the paintings

The California History exhibit spreads out now too and the museum can show off their collection. The gardens are open and have tables so you can sit out there. (It was a bit too cool to sit there last night but I look forward to those warm Oakland days.)

The museum's store has been enlarged too and it dazzles. Make sure to stop by and say hello to all the friendly and helpful clerks.

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Disclosure: A dear friend works there. But I loved the Oakland Museum before he started working there so I feel perfectly comfortable singing its praises. And another thing, I love Oakland and will always point out something wonderful here.
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I love bringing my daughters to this museum. It makes us all feel good -- there's something about the architecture here and the natural light as you travel through the levels. I love the way the walk-through is a series of broad steps up and then a series of steps down. However, don’t fear -- the museum is wheel chair accessible too.

You can read more about the design and read more information about the museum here.

Why is this museum and its renovation important for the residents of Oakland? We are inundated with depressing stories about Oakland too often. To me, the museum is like the Oakland Rose Garden (also called Morcom Park) -- it is a treasure, someplace to visit that makes you feel good. And I love art. I find the Oakland Museum so accessible. It’s so easy to go there. Since I’ve lived here in Oakland, I have always wanted to support the institutions that uplift our spirits. Plus, did you know that lots of community events happen at the Oakland Museum? Yep. They’ve got lots of spaces.

I love all the nooks and crannies at the museum. I can sit and relax for a moment before I go on to the next activity.

I took lots of photos ... so keep scrolling and you’ll get a little taste of the museum’s new look. And, if you have time tomorrow or Sunday (1 May 2010 and 2 May 2010), go and visit. The Oakland Museum of California will be open from 11:00 am Saturday until 6:00 pm Sunday. Yes, that’s right -- it will be open all through the night! It's free to get in during that entire period.

I’m sorry I didn’t get the names of the pieces or the artist ... I had limited time there last night. I’m going back tomorrow night.

This is one of the gardens. You can see the Alameda Country Superior Court just beyond.

Tortilla Art - this guy was doing silk screens on tortillas -- and they were edible!

Note: The new cafe won't be ready until July.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Questions About Australia

I received this several years ago in email from one of my friends. So, I've pulled it from my archives because it still makes me laugh. Of course, I probably get more enjoyment from it than most "Americans" because I'm from that giant peaceful neighbor up north -- Canada.


The questions below about Australia, are from potential visitors. They were posted on an Australian Tourism Website and the answers are the actual responses by the website officials, who obviously have a sense of humour.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Australia? I have never seen it rain on TV, how do the plants grow? (UK).
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.

Q: Will I be able to see kangaroos in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you've been drinking.

Q: I want to walk from Perth to Sydney - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it's only three thousand miles, take lots of water.

Q: Is it safe to run around naked in the bushes in Australia? (Sweden)
A: So it's true what they say about Swedes.

Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Australia? Can you send me a list of them in Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville and Hervey Bay? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?

Q: Can you give me some information about hippo racing in Australia? (USA)
A: A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe. Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific which does not... oh forget it. Sure, the hippo racing is every Tuesday night in Kings Cross. Come naked.

Q: Which direction is North in Australia? (USA)
A: Face south and then turn 180 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we'll send the rest of the directions.

Q: Can I bring cutlery into Australia? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.

Q: Can you send me the Vienna Boys' Choir schedule? (USA)
A: Aus-tri-a is that quaint little country bordering Ger-man-y, which is...oh forget it. Sure, the Vienna Boys Choir plays every Tuesday night in Kings Cross, straight after the hippo races. Come naked.

Q: Can I wear high heels in Australia? ( UK)
A: You are a British politician, right?

Q: Are there supermarkets in Sydney and is milk available all year round? (Germany)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilization of vegan hunter/gatherers. Milk is illegal.

Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Australia who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca which is where YOU come from. All Australian snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.

Q: I have a question about a famous animal in Australia, but I forget its name. It's a kind of bear and lives in trees. (USA)
A: It's called a Drop Bear. They are so called because they drop out of Gum trees and eat the brains of anyone walking underneath them. You can scare them off by spraying yourself with human urine before you go out walking.

Q: Do you have perfume in Australia? (France)
A: No, WE don't stink.

Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Australia? (USA)
A: Anywhere significant numbers of Americans gather.

Q: Can you tell me the regions in Tasmania where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.

Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Australia? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.

Q: I was in Australia in 1969 on R+R, and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Kings Cross. Can you help? (USA)
A: Yes, and you will still have to pay her by the hour.

Q: Will I be able to speak English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you'll have to learn it first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Anne Lamott at City Arts & Lectures Monday April 19, 2010

(c) 2010 K Smokey Cormier

I placed the book there but not the mouse ... or Willy Billy Button

On Monday night I went to City Arts & Lectures to see Anne Lamott. There was a podium and she mostly stood there and talked to us about what her life had been like lately. (An exception about standing at the podium: She left the podium once to hand a cough drop to a member of the audience who had been coughing. Lamott herself was nursing a cold.)

She talked about three partamajigglyfrutu things in her life. “Partamajigglyfrutu”? Well, I didn’t have a tape recorder and that’s what my old-as-dirt brain tells me she said. It means something like chaos + joy + loved ones + rich experience + lots of colors. Of course, once again I’m relying on my old-as-dirt brain in remembering how Anne Lamott described that mysterious word.

The things were: birth of her grandson, trip to India ... and ... g'ddam it, I can’t remember the third thing.

Lamott is so generous. She gives of herself so deeply. And, humorously. I sit and listen and think: How does she do it?

She told stories about her family and friends. Interesting stories about flawed mensches that pulled me back from the cynicism and disgust I often feel about humanity. At least the humanity that is out THERE ... not my friends. My friends are what humanity is trying to be. (Those words remind me of a postcard I just bought: "Don't be a snob, hob nob")

She quoted -- really good quotes -- from other writers ... encouraging the writers in the audience to write. Write. Get down to it.

She talked a lot about the alcohol and drug problems of teenagers. That’s one of the things her latest book is about. Frightening for me, mother of two teenagers. But she was also encouraging. The biggest thing for parents is to NOT become ostriches. This is definitely NOT the time to put your head in the ground. Be alert. Give drug tests if necessary. (She didn’t advise this directly but that’s what the parents do in her book.) Keep connected and alert. Don’t be your child’s buddy. You must parent (lovingly) with all your might.

Would I like Anne Lamott to read this? You betcha. Because I want her to know how much I love it that she shares so much of herself. (And I do not mean “overshare overshare!”) It looked effortless and as if she were just stream-of-consciousness talking the other night. But, those were not effortless words. Lamott thought long and hard about everything she said (and probably wrote about all of it too). How do I know? Because it all came together. (Okay, she could be a talented channeler ... but I don’t think so.)

Advice alert! If you ever get a chance to see Anne Lamott in person, please do it. You’ll learn a lot of things that will be flooding into your subconscious ... you’ll be sitting there thinking you’re just having a fun time ... but you’ll be learning too. (Most fun way to learn, in my humble yet haughty opinion.)

If you'd like to read an interview with her, go here.



Disclaimer: Don't know Ms. Lamott personally, don't know her publisher, don't know anybody in her life. (I believe that to be true ... although there is that Six Degrees of Separation phenomenon.) I'm just an enthusiastic fan. Although I do see her at activist events from time to time and haven't yet been bold enough to gush at her one-on-one.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mulch and T. Coraghessan Boyle

(c) 2005 K Smokey Cormier

If you're a real environmentalist, you'll cover yourself with mulch right up to your neck and then shoot yourself in the head.

- T.C. Boyle

... from an interview with Michael Krasny ... I'm reading Krasny's book OFF MIKE: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

We Mourn the Loss of Wilma Mankiller

Photograph taken by K Smokey Cormier at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C, May 2005

We mourn the loss of Wilma Mankiller. We loved her. We didn’t know her but we loved her. We loved her for her perseverance. Perseverance is a very underrated quality. And, what is it that makes the most difference in your daily life ... and in the lives of much of humanity? Perseverance. L. Frank Baum should have written in another character for the Wizard of Oz ... one that needed perseverance. Although, I guess, courage comes close.

Being a lesbian, I always wondered about her last name. I was often called “man hater” by various people as a pejorative for “lesbian.” According to Wikipedia:
The family surname, Mankiller, is a traditional Cherokee military rank and is Asgaya-dihi in Cherokee,[5] which is alternatively spelled Outacity[6] or Outacite.
Wilma Mankiller also had ties with the San Francisco Bay Area and my beloved Oakland:
The Mankiller family lived on Charley’s allotment lands of Mankiller Flats near Rocky Mountain, Oklahoma. In 1942 the US Army declared 45 Cherokee families’ allotment lands, near those of Mankiller’s family, in order to expand Camp Gruber. The Mankillers willingly left under the Bureau of Indian Affairs' Indian Relocation Program. They moved to San Francisco, California in 1956 and later Daly City.

In 1963, at the age of 17, Mankiller married Hector Hugo Olaya de Bardi, an Ecuadorian college student. They moved to Oakland and had two daughters, Felicia Olaya, born in 1964, and Gina Olaya, born in 1966.

Mankiller returned to school, first at Skyline College, and then San Francisco State University. She had been very involved in San Francisco’s Indian Center throughout her time in California. In the late 1960s, Mankiller joined the activist movement and participated in the Occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969. For five years, she volunteered for the Pit River Tribe.
She moved back to Oklahoma and her ancestral home, Mankiller Flats, after she divorced her husband and, when the chief of the Cherokees resigned, Wilma Mankiller became the first woman to be a principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. She was elected in 1987 for another term and then re-elected in 1991. Perseverance:
Mankiller faced many obstacles during her tenure in office. At the time she became chief, the Cherokee Nation was male-dominated. Such a structure contrasted with the traditional Cherokee culture and value system, which instead emphasized a balance between the two genders. Over the course of her three terms, Mankiller would make great strides to bring back that balance and reinvigorate the Cherokee Nation through community-development projects where men and women work collectively for the common good, based on the Bureau of Indian Affairs "Self Help" programs first initiated by the United Keetoowah Band, and with the help of the Federal Governments Self-Determination monies. These projects included establishing tribally owned businesses (such as horticultural operations and plants with government defense contracts), improving infrastructure ( such as providing running water to the community of Bell, Oklahoma), and building a hydroelectric facility.
President Obama released this statement:
"I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Wilma Mankiller today. As the Cherokee Nation’s first female chief, she transformed the Nation-to-Nation relationship between the Cherokee Nation and the Federal Government, and served as an inspiration to women in Indian Country and across America. A recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, she was recognized for her vision and commitment to a brighter future for all Americans. Her legacy will continue to encourage and motivate all who carry on her work. Michelle and I offer our condolences to Wilma’s family, especially her husband Charlie and two daughters, Gina and Felicia, as well as the Cherokee Nation and all those who knew her and were touched by her good works."
Want to read about her ... in her own words?
You can read her first book, Mankiller: A Chief and Her People, an autobiography, which became a national bestseller.

In addition to her mother, she is survived by her husband, Charlie Soap; her daughters, Gina Olaya and Felicia Olaya, both of Tahlequah; several brothers and sisters, and four grandchildren.

We send our most sincere condolences to her family and friends.

Wikipedia biography: Go here.

Her obituary in today's New York Times: Go here.