Friday, March 31, 2006

Lifesize sculpture of Britney Spears giving birth, no comment. Mmmm, gee. Aye vey.

What will those crazy artists think of next?

Cesar Chavez Day

Cesar, your children are in the streets and we now miss your spiritual leadership more than ever.
¡Si se puede!
Here's a link to a review I wrote a long time ago on The Fight in the Fields, a documentary on the life and work of Cesar Chavez:

Thursday, March 30, 2006

El Gato

Back in 1979-1980, us P*Land boyz spent a lot of time at The Ranch Skatepark in Colton, California. We thought we were pretty good skaters and shredded our homestyle ramp daily, but once we left the desert and hit The Ranch, we discovered we had a long, long way to go. Eddie "El Gato" Elguera (pictured above, mid-frontside invert), was a local there and blew us away. I once saw him stop mid-Rock-n-Roll on The Ranch's half pipe extension, leave his skate rocking there on top, hop off, go get a soda in the snack bar. About 15 minutes later, he came back, hopped back on his board, and dropped in on 12 feet of vert back into the pipe. Maybe a bit of a showoff, but still...only El Gato at The Ranch could get away that. He definitely owned the place. We would drive back up to the desert, humbled but inspired, and keep blazing. One day I hope to write more about all that P*Land boyz, scan your photos and send them to me.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


....I can't wait until I can take my favourite chair out on the balcony and enjoy the warm weather with a couple of bottleskis.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Yesterday my grandmother would have been 86, or perhaps 84, depending on what year she told you she was born. She also used several different spellings for her family name. To other adults she was probably mysterious in a lot of ways---I'm sure her neighbours in the bucolic L.A. suburbs of 1950s-1960s El Monte thought so. But from a kid's perspective (that's me and her above in the early 60s) she was the amazing, dramatic, and wildly spontaneous Bambea (from "Gram Bea" I guess).

Bambea was certainly unconventional. "Noisy, colorful and disorganized, but well meaning," my mom wrote when she sent me this picture. I have no end of crazy and beautiful stories about Bambea ( red hair and whip cream fights, artists' sketches all over the actual walls inside her house, her pool filled with poor kids from Watts every summer, a trip up the coast for the Summer of Love, fantastic food creations, a yard overflowing with poppies, poinsettias, and pomegranates....). Imagine Endora from Bewitched meets Phyllis Diller meets Eva Peron. That gets close to my memory of her. Though she died in 1977---way too young---Bambea had a very big impact in my life, mostly by nurturing my curiosity and giving me a sense of wonder about the world. What a wonderful gift for a grandmother to give.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Border Crossed Us

Wow, this is the East LA I remember as a kid (or at least it's how I imagine it was). Major protests are happening all over the States about some of the new immigration laws that make it a felony to be in the U.S. illegally. I even saw the mayor of LA encouraging the marchers on TV. I know illegal immigration causes a lot of problems for everybody, both those coming and those living in the places folks are coming to. There are a lot of complex reasons why "labor" leaves one place and goes to another, including employers on both sides of the border who drive wages down so they can make more money themselves. But if I had to pick between upholding a law or supporting a family's dream for a more hopeful life, I would have to side with the family. Everyone should be able to take advantage of a more fruitful, peaceful, and fulfilling life. After all, that's why I fled the States and snuck into Canada.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Amadisto is Two Months Old!

...and these are real smiles. Wendy took these great pictures yesterday. It's amazing how one smile can make all the sleepless nights totally worth it! (And what is up with that hairdo? Ah, kids these days....)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Set the Captives Free!

Today is a happy, happy day at our house as heard the news of the rescue of Christian Peacemaker Team hostages in Iraq. Wendy and I (especially Wendy) have a lot of friends who are very close to James Loney, one of the Canadian hostages (above on the left) and we are very happy to celebrate with them. Joy is tempered by the killing of Christian Peacemaker Tom Fox who was also kidnapped with the group and found dead in Baghdad about two weeks ago, as well as by the fact that many Iraqi and some Western hostages remain in captivity.

The Christian Peacemaker Teams are my model for what actual lived Christianity should look like. Forget all the televangelists, war-mongering wackos, anti-evolutionists, anti-gay, Republican party faithful. It is very hard for me to see any sign of Christ in them. If you want to see what Christianity incarnated is, consider the Christian Peacemakers and so many other groups like them who put themselves in harm's way to protect the vulnerable, offer hospitality to the poor, testify against grave injustice, and speak the truth to power, even when it's dangerous and unpopular to do so. Believers like this are working all over the world, but are often overshadowed by the Religious Right, who often show more concern for themselves and their own power than they do for others. They could learn a lot about what is really spiritual from people like the Christian Peacemakers. We are so glad they are free.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Happy Birthday Sol!

Happy birthday to my brother Sol! As you can see, he's had quite the life...from shredding the ramp back in the 1970s P*Land days, to chillin' poolside, to engaging in some international diplomacy down in Mexico. And he does it all with style. (Nice hat, man!)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Happy Birthday C.C.!

My beautiful niece is six years old today! WoooWhooooo! We love you C.C.!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Hey Amigo, Lighten Up

Here are two pictures of me taken in Mexico, the first in 1987 in San Miguel de Allende (when el mustache was still cool, thank you very much) and the second in 2003 in Mexico City. Perhaps it's the arrival of spring, but there's more light today, I'm listening to Mana's "Revolucion" (a brilliant rock-en-espanol album that rivals anything that U2 has done in my opinion), and I'm wishing I was in Mexico again. I've had some of my sweetest and saddest times there and I'm sure I will be back. When, I'm not sure, but soon I hope. I will always consider it my second home, even if I am confused about what the first may be.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

"Sleeping" Beauty

Here's a screen shot from a video I made of Amadisto sleeping, using the night vision function on the camera. It proves he's an extremely fidgety sleeper, swinging his arms, kicking his feet, and generally moving all over while making the funniest sounds all night long (well, at least during those times when he is actually asleep!). All of his sounds used keep us up in the night more than they do now. These days we are more apt to get up and check on him with flashlight if we don't hear any gurgling, huffing and puffing, sighing, gasps, shrieks, sneezes, or other baby aspirations.

Friday, March 17, 2006


Baby lovers! There's a load of new photos in the Flickr tab at right...

P.S. Wendy wants everyone to know that Amadisto's nostrils aren't always so flared. He can be REALLY cute. [Editor's note: I think he IS really cute in this photo. But who am I? Just the lowly editor of my own blog.]

Straight from the museum of MOMART

Here's one of my Mom's latest works of art. Wow! Get this woman a gallery! My Mom and Irene have a whole bunch of these creations, made of found materials mostly from Santa Cruz's flea market I think, along with some of my Mom's original ironic, iconic poetry, in this case, sketched near the bottom. Being surrounded by so many artistic, creative friends and family has really made me question my career path as an office-a-tron. There's a weird world out there ready for the taking.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A half note may sometimes be the whole song

If anyone gets bored with my blog, I highly recommend you check out "At the Half Note." It's wonderful, creative blog by Katie, who I blogged about below. If there were a soundtrack to Katie's blog, it would be "What a Wonderful World," by Louis Armstrong. No doubt about it.

Here's the link:
At the Half Note

Blowing my Top

Popocatepetl, which you can see on a clear day overlooking Mexico City. I love this volcano. Sometimes my life feels like a volcano. So much pressure, ready to bust a gasket....pour a bunch of lava all over the place. No biggie really :-)

Sorry for once again playing the absentee blog owner. I've just been so busy. Did anyone know that being a new dad really occupies a lot of time? Of course, I don't do it all myself, but after 40-something years of doing pretty much what I want, there's been a bit of a transition in my life of late. Not to mention I've been really busy at my job at well. Emerging Spirit, which is the project I am the producer for at The United Church of Canada is a major campaign for the denomination, and I would say for the country as a whole. I like to tell friends (we're all friends here, right?) that Emerging Spirit's focus is the same focus I've had throughout my career in faith-based work....which is to change the church. No biggie really :-) It's really exciting to be a part of, but as you might imagine, there's also a lot of work to be done.

I---who nobody would mistake for being anything but a behind-the-scenes type---ended up doing a big (for me) presentation to a room full of executives of the United Church a couple of days ago. In my opinion it went really well, proving that 1) even a goofball like me can give a halfway decent presentation using PowerPoint, and 2) the material Emerging Spirit is producing is really good quality stuff and worth spreading the news about. In a nutshell, the Spirit is creating change in Canada--but are believers ready to accept change themselves?

Anyway, I have a million blog entries in my head (you know, like a volcano ready to blow it's stack), but I don't have time to post them all. I'll try to get some up in the next couple of days...we will see how I do.

(Hey, did I just set myself up for failure again?)

Whoever the three dozen or so of you are who are checking this blog daily, well....God bless you.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Video grabs from our day in High Park

Another great hair day!

Amadisto upon waking up.

Sorry postings have been on the rare side lately. I've been really busy, but that doesn't mean we aren't having fun too. Yesterday was really warm in Toronto and Wendy and I took Amado out to High Park in his pram, along with a million other parents and their kids. We discovered he finds the squwalking of Canada geese ("Canadian geese" to Americans) distrubing. We have some great video of the outing. I'm sure that when Amado is older he will get a big kick out of watching his parents figuring out how to be parents.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Not your average red carpet showoff.

But he's still our little movie star.


I always found it interesting that the primary deity of the mighty Aztecs was a hummingbird. Certainly beautiful, but perhaps not the fear-inspiring god you might expect to have had thousands upon thousands of human sacrifices made to. I guess big surprises sometimes come in small packages.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Gone to join the ancestors.

"Africa is my source of inspiration, my home base, my joy."

The great Malian musician Ali Farka Toure has died. His powerful music is an organic blend of the traditional music of Mali, American blues, and Islamic influences. Like John Lee Hooker, Ali Farka Toure has a haunting soulful voice whether singing or playing guitar that arises from a very profound place, somewhere close to humanity's source. He was also a great humanitarian, spending a lot of money to make his region of Mali a better place. His album, The Source, has been one of my longtime favourites. Talking Timbuktu, the collaboration he did with Ry Cooder is also a fine piece of work.

I'm been very aware in the past few years that the earth has lost some amazing spiritual and artistic giants like Ali Farka Toure, John Lee Hooker, Babatunde Olatunji, Mongo Santamaria, Elvin Jones. Sadly, I don't see people of their stature being replaced. Who will be the next generation of spiritual resources for the world?

Here's a short bio of Ali Farka Toure:

"Contrary to many African artists, Ali Farka Touré was never tempted to exile himself in the West, during the seventies and eighties when the expansion of World Music drew many of them to Europe. Quite the contrary. This musician, whose musical culture is impressive, respected and revered throughout the world, is truly closer than any other to his own land, Mali. To such a degree that today, after winning over the international music scene with his sensitive, inspired blues, he now spends most of his time farming. One reason for this is his passion for farming and his personal investment in great agricultural irrigation projects. The father of many children, Ali possesses 350 hectares of land, mostly rice fields, in his native Niafounké."

"Ali Farka Touré was now one of the biggest stars of African music, both on his own continent and in the West. The man who said of American blues music "I am the root and the trunk, all they have is the branches and the leaves", had the opportunity to play with John Lee Hooker in summer 91. Their highly symbolic duet represented the long road taken by African music over the centuries. But his greatest international success came when the album "Talking Timbuktu" came out in 93, based on the mythical theme of Timbuktu. This work, full of blues themes, was the result of collaboration with the American guitarist Ry Cooder. The critics were over the moon and the album, recorded in Los Angeles, won the Grammy Award, the supreme prize of the recording industry."

"In 1997, Ali declared that he wanted to retire from the stage to devote himself to farming in his village 200 km from Timbuktu. The man who says "it is written that I am an artist on my identity card, but in fact I am a farmer", announced his intention to provide work to young people in his region to stop them from abandoning rural areas."

Our friend John is all screwed up.

Proof that running and icy trails do not mix. Ouch! Get well soon John!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Maxium Minus 20

Everyone out on a sunny (and COLD) day in High Park. Amadisto slept through his first trip to the park, but we all had fun! We have the frostbitten ears to prove it! (Diane & Sol, Amado in pram, Mom, Irene, Wendy)

What? I'm part Californian?

Mother Drum

In our tribe, it's the matriarchs who pass the drum to the next generation. Above, Grandmas Coop & Bean present Amado with a pint-size djembe from California. A couple of years ago they gave me my two conga drums. When Amado gets a bit older I'll teach him all the Afro-Cuban rhythms I know--admittedly not much, but enough to get him started.

It's been a very busy few days, with all the Gallegos family in town to meet the baby. But it's been really fun showing folks around Toronto, with it's exotic weather and all. :-)