About Me

Credit: David Lance Goines

I've lived in Berkeley for over 20 years: I'm the girl in shabby black clothes who is always carrying a book. Hmm, that could describe half of Berkeley.

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Neil Marcus: Playwright, Performance Artist, and Disability Culture Activist

Neil MarcusNeil Marcus is an artist and an activist: his performance art is a political act and he lives his life as ongoing performance art. He describes himself as being “creatively endowed with disability”. If the power to change perceptions is what makes art important, Neil Marcus is one of the most important artists living today. His life takes place in  another world – “disabled country”, but his work offers outsiders a bridge to that world. In 1992, Marcus was awarded the United Nations Society of Writers Medal of Honor, Outstanding Achievement in Play Writing. Just about everyone who was watching TV in the late 90s saw Marcus’s revelatory guest appearance on ER.

Marcus is best known as the author and auteur of the play Storm Reading (excerpt here). Storm Reading was noted as one of Los Angeles’ top ten plays of 1993 by the L.A. Village View and toured around the U.S. for nearly a decade. Storm Reading was filmed for television and ultimately performed at the Kennedy Center. According to Wikipedia, “Storm Reading challenged audiences to reevaluate conventional ideas about disability and set a standard for performing artists with disabilities, and for performance access technologies.”

For those interested in Marcus’s background and how he surmounted the barriers that have traditionally blocked people with significant disabilities from participating in the arts, here is an in-depth interview conducted for the Artists with Disabilities Project archived at the Bancroft Library Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. This interview underscores the defining aspect of Marcus’s life that he uses art to redefine: each word must stand in for a hundred thoughts. Oral communication must be focused to a pinpoint, and body language must provide maximum support.

Marcus’s performance of his poem/play Disabled Country is available on YouTube.

This piece asks why the terms set by the “abled” world should be the standard for a disabled person. The experience of disability generates its own world, which is a disabled person’s home. Traversing dimensions to reach the alien world of the “abled” involves all the crafted gestures and deliberate distortions of art, which makes all disabled people de facto performance artists. What a profound truth.

Neil Marcus’s oeuvre also includes The Art of Being Human, PHreaksMy Sexual History, and Cripple Poetics. All of these works, like Marcus himself, defy convenient categories, but they are usually performance pieces involving dance, poetry, and abundant challenges to the audience’s preconceptions. Marcus also produced a wonderful book/zine called Special Effects: Advances in Neurology (available here) that was inspired by the ideas of Buckminster Fuller and modeled on Fuller’s experimental book I Seem to Be a Verb. An online “interactive” version of Special Effects collects ongoing annotations from readers. Marcus’s current work – dubbed Salamander – explores how the context of disability, and the opportunities for communication, changes in a different medium – under water. This is amazing, brilliant work.

You might notice love and sexuality as a persistent theme in these works. The physical expression of love has been a strong theme in the disability culture renaissance of the last two decades, and the work of Neil Marcus helped crystallize the issues and brought them to the attention of the general public. While researching Marcus’s work, I learned that my friend Larry Buchalter was one of the performers cast in a San Francisco performance of My Sexual History. Larry never told me about his adventures as an actor! I’ll have to interrogate him about this later.

In many ways Berkeley is ground zero for the Disability Rights Movement. I live only a few blocks from the Ed Roberts Campus which houses the Center for Independent Living. I’ve had to come to terms with my own physical challenges, and I realize how lucky I am to live where I do. It was important for me to bring up Disability Culture and the Disability Rights Movement as central to Berkeley’s cultural communities. I’m grateful to Neil Marcus for hosting my exploration of Disability Culture.

Neil Marcus requested that I write an article instead of posting my standard interview. I’m neither a journalist or practicing artist, so I can only pray this sketch does Marcus’s life work justice. Better yet, I hope this piece inspires a few people to investigate Marcus’s work further and to become advocates for Disability Culture themselves.


A video of Neil Marcus’s Storm Reading is available on Amazon.

Storm Reading 2

Paul Herzoff: Photographer of a Nomadic Era

Paul Herzoff is a Berkeley/Emeryville photographer who is particularly well-known for documenting the nomadic lifestyle of the late 60s and early 70s. He is from a notable generation of photographers associated with U.C. Berkeley’s ASUC Art Studio that included Richard Misrach, Roger Minick, and Steve Fitch. I discovered Herzoff’s work at a Gallery Show at The Good Life Chiropractic in Berkeley.

bus1. How long have you lived in Berkeley?

49 years. Arrived in 1964 as Cal freshman. (Just in time for the 60s)

2. How long does it take you to produce a work of art? Was there anything you needed to accomplish first?

1/15th of a second. After 55 years of practice. I’m not sure that any of these are “works of art.” I’m a fellow who uses a camera to take photographs.

3. Do you interact with other artists in Berkeley?

I have a live/work studio in the Emeryville Artists’ Cooperative. I have artists for friends and neighbors and occasional clients. The relationships are mostly neighborly rather than artistic. Visual artists are of less influence on me since I started playing music as my main outlet.

4.How did the local community of artists or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influenced your work?

In 1968 I wandered into the ASUC Studio (now called ASUC Art Studio) and spent a dozen years working there with a changing crew of photographers, mentors, and workers in other media. This group was serious about photography in ways that I never imagined, and was a major influence on my life and my work. My first documentary project started while I was walking to campus for work and classes. It was a study of a counterculture phenomenon of mostly young people living in handmade mobile homes and moving through our town. While doing that project I received grants from the NEA and the work eventually made its way to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

5. What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

It’s a rich environment. I take my nourishment where I find it. Mostly unplanned and unexpected. I play a lot of acoustic music and interact with that community in new and interesting ways.

6. Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more opportunities that invite broad inclusion?

Yes.

7. Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

Not really. Do the work. Meet people. See where it leads. It’s a rich environment, and opportunity seems to knock when you are ready to answer.

As for the unasked question of “what makes Berkeley so special,” I think every cultural community is special.  Berkeley is perhaps the ultimate college town, with a constant flow of brilliant and creative people and a history of being on the leading edge of social, political, and cultural change.  Yet, to me all humans are artists and every scene is a locus of creativity and creative energy.  The Berkeley scene is a part — important but hardly isolated — of an artistic milieu that extends past every local border.  My world includes Emeryville, Oakland, Piedmont, Richmond, Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Danville, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pacifica, Marshall, and so forth.  Creativity moves around rather easily and no one locale is really the center anymore.

 

Michael Parenti: Author and Public Intellectual

Michael ParentiMichael Parenti is a well-known Berkeley author and man-about-town. I often spot him at Crixa Cafe, holding an impromptu salon. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities, in the United States and abroad,  and he was a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. Parenti’s work has been recognized with awards from Project Censored, the Caucus for a New Political Science, the city of Santa Cruz, New Jersey Peace Action, the Social Science Research Council, the Society for Religion in Higher Education, and other organizations. In 2007 he received a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Representative Barbara Lee. He is the author of 23 books, and his articles have appeared in scholarly journals, political periodicals and various magazines and newspapers. He is often invited to discuss current issues and ideas on radio and television talk shows. His books, which have been used extensively in college courses, include Superpatriotism (2004), The Cultural Struggle (2006), God and His Demons (2010), Democracy for the Few (9th ed. 2011),and The Face of Imperialism (2011).

How long have you lived in Berkeley?

A little over 21 years.

How long does it take you to write your books? Is there anything you need to accomplish or prepare first?

The time needed to write a book varies with the length of the book, the amount of research needed, and the scope of topics. One or two of my books have taken only 6 months; other ones 10 months; other ones over a year.

Do you interact with other writers in Berkeley? How did the local community of artists or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influence your work?

When I wrote The Assassination of Julius Caesar, I consulted with two authors who had special training in classical studies; one lived in Berkeley, the other was just passing through. I usually work alone.

How did the local community of authors or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influence your books?

Not much with the possible exception of the two mentioned above.

What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

Using the UC Berkeley library and Berkeley downtown library main branch for scholarly materials. That’s about it. My work is mostly solitary; though I do have people read the finished manuscript to catch bloopers, offer suggestions, etc.

Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more opportunities that invite broad inclusion?

Not sure I know the answer to that.

Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

Not really.


Michael Parenti’s most recent book is Waiting For Yesterday: Pages from a Street Kid’s Life.

David Lance Goines, Celebrated Artist and Writer

dlgDavid Lance Goines is a celebrated Berkeley artist and writer.  His artwork has appeared in numerous professional publications, including American Illustration, Communication Arts, Graphis, How, Print, and Step-By-Step Graphics. His writing and artwork have garnered many awards, most notably the 1983 American Book Award for his book, A Constructed Roman Alphabet. His artwork is represented in both public and private collections, including  the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Smithsonian (Washington, DC), MOMA (New York), Hiroshima MOMA (Japan), the Louvre (Paris), and the Library of Congress (Washington, DC). His artwork has been exhibited in more than one hundred one-man and group shows, both national and international. He lectures nationwide  and has taught at the University of California, Berkeley and the California College of Arts and Crafts, Oakland. He has authored five books, collaborated on three, and his work has been the subject of four other  books.

How long have you lived in Berkeley?

I moved from Oakland to Berkeley in 1963. and have lived and participated in the community ever since.

How long does it take you to create a work of art? Is there anything you need to accomplish or prepare first?

The hard part about a poster design is the idea, which of course is the submerged part of design, that nobody sees. When that is done, the actual drawing and printing takes around 2 months.

Do you interact with other artists in Berkeley? How did the local community of artists or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influence your work?

I am much more a part of the Bay Area’s printing community than its artistic community, although I do have a number of friends (such as Stan Washburn) who are fine artists. Berkeley is and has been a vital part of my artistic and graphic success, as it aggressively encourages and fosters its own sons and daughters–you don’t have to leave and make a success of yourself and then come back, you can stay right here and never leave and be a success. I am inextricably entwined with others in Berkeley, who have similarly made adventurous forays into the unknown and have similarly been rewarded by our city–Acme Bread, The Cheeseboard Collective, Chez Panisse, Peet’s Coffee, Berkeley Rep (& other theatrical venues) Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and the California Bach Society, the Center for Independent Living, and of course our great University and all the vigorous political and social activism that so distinguishes us from the great grey mass around us.

What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work? Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more big events that invite broad inclusion?

I think that Berkeley (and by this I do not mean  the city government, which–like all government– blunders along almost always pissing in the soup) does a fine job of including rather than excluding, encouraging rather than discouraging.

Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

My suggestion for building cultural community is simple to say but not easy to do: cheap rent. Look at what’s happening in the Temescal, and around Broadway and Telegraph in Oakland: that’s cheap rent at work, making a slum into a vibrant birth-place of culture.


David Lance Goine’s most recent book is The Poster Art of David Lance Goines: A 40-Year Retrospective.

PosterArtGoines

David Weinstein, Author of 'It Came from Berkeley'

David Weinstein writes a popular series about Bay Area architects for the San Francisco Chronicle section, and he also writes about modern architecture for CA-Modern Magazine. He spearheaded the effort to preserve the long-abandoned Art Deco movie palace, the Cerrito Theater, and he is chairman of the Friends of the Cerrito Theater. His most recent book is It Came from Berkeley: How Berkeley Changed the World.

Dave WeinsteinHow long have you lived in the Berkeley area?

I live in El Cerrito and have done so for about 30 years. I lived in Berkeley for three or four years back in the 1970s. My house in El Cerrito is just a few blocks from the spot near Colusa Circle where Berkeley, Kensington and El Cerrito meet, so I feel sort of like a Berkeleyan.

How long does it take you to write your books? Was there anything you needed to accomplish first?

A year or a little less, at least for It Came from Berkeley.

Do you interact with other authors in Berkeley?

I know quite a few of the authors who write about architecture and history and am friends with several of them. We share tips on research, share bits of useful knowledge, complain about publishers.

How did the local community of authors or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influence your books?

My books are about the cultural milieu so they wouldn’t exist without it. I’ve learned a lot from the works of other local writers and try to build on what they’ve done while doing something different.

What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

I get inspired by going to local art venues and hearing live music.

Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more opportunities that invite broad inclusion?

I think there are both already. It would be nice if Berkeley had a real jazz club. I know there are some informal venues that feature jazz, but I remember when there were more. Blues too would be nice.

Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

It would be useful if some publication, even an online publication, would keep track of all the musical and other such events happening in this area and present the information in a clear, concise way. In the old days the East Bay Express did a fine job with this. Today no one does.


David Weinstein’s most recent book is It Came from Berkeley.

It Came from Berkeley Cover 098

Elizabeth Wagele, Enneagram Expert

Elizabeth Wagele is the author and cartoonist of  The Enneagram of Death – Helpful Insights by the 9 Types of People on Grief, Fear, and Dying, The Enneagram of Parenting, Finding the Birthday Cake – Helping Children Raise Their Self-Esteem, and The Happy Introvert – a Wild and Crazy Guide to Celebrating Your True Self. She has also co-authored The Career Within You with Ingrid Stabb and both The Enneagram Made Easy and Are You My Type, Am I Yours? with Renee Baron. As a well-known pianist, Elizanbeth created a music program, The Beethoven Enneagram, that demonstrates the Enneagram through performance of excerpts from Beethoven’s sonatas.

Elizabeth_WageleHow long have you lived in Berkeley?

I moved to Berkeley in 1950 with my parents and sister. I took six years out to live in Orinda CA from 1960 to 1966. I’ve been back in Berkeley ever since 1966.

How long does it take you to write your books? Was there anything you needed to accomplish first?

The book I just wrote, on the Enneagram for adolescents, only took 4 or 5 months. It was the fastest. Usually they take around a year, although The Happy Introvert took a few years. I didn’t start the adolescent book until I had spent 6 months marketing The Enneagram of Death.

What are your other creative endeavors? Do they contribute to your writing? How?

My first love is music. Right now I’m playing the piano with a couple of different violinists. I just taught one session of a class on my CD, The Beethoven Enneagram. Understanding music contributes immensely to understanding how to write my books and create the drawings I put in all my books. Some of the unifying principles are similar and music is a source of knowing for me.

Do you interact with other authors in Berkeley?

I belong to the California Writer’s Club and go to the critique sessions. The criticism is very helpful.

How did the local community of authors or the cultural milieu in theBerkeley influence your books?

The local community educated me on the Enneagram and the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) systems, which are the material I write about. I took classes from several Enneagram teachers in Berkeley. A lot of what I observed about personality types came from  Berkeley residents who were friends, neighbors, and other associates.

What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

Something like an Enneagram Club, where we could gather to discuss the system, would be great to have here in Berkeley. I used to drive to Stanford for the group who studied the MBTI.

Do you feel that people in Berkeley need opportunities targeted to their niche interests to participate in culture, or should there be more opportunities that invite broad inclusion?

I think more niche interests would be a good thing. I believe they could be inclusive as well.

Any other thoughts on how to build cultural communities in Berkeley?

One of my resources is the French Hotel Cafe, where a group of us gather to discuss all manner of subjects. It’s not organized – people drop in and drop out as they wish. I find it stimulating most of the time.


Elizabeth Wagele’s most recent book is The Enneagram of Death.

Enneagram_of_Death

Robert W. Fuller, Author of the Rowan Tree

Robert W. Fuller, former president of Oberlin College, is an established nonfiction author and public thinker who recently published his first novel, The Rowan Tree. The adventures of his life include consulting with Indira Gandhi, meeting with  Jimmy Carter in regard to the President’s Commission on World Hunger, working in the USSR to defuse the Cold War, and keynoting a Dignity for All conference hosted by the President of Bangladesh.

How long did it take you to write The Rowan Tree? Was there anything you needed to accomplish first?

RWF: I’ve been writing The Rowan Tree for 19 years, adding to it year by year till one day I realized it was done. Before I could finish it, I had to express the ideas in it in non-fiction form (Somebodies and Nobodies and All Rise). Only then were the intellectual foundations clear enough to me to dramatize them properly.

Do you interact with other authors in Berkeley?

RWF: Yes, I know a half-dozen other writers in the Bay Area, but truth be told, in this day of the Internet, I interact as often with people who are far away as who live in town.

How did the local community of authors or the cultural milieu in the Berkeley influence The Rowan Tree?

RWF: The Bay Area is a place that gives permission to explore possible futures. I doubt that the East Coast would have been as conducive to conjuring up a pacific global future as was the Golden State.

What other activities, events, or other cultural resources could support and encourage your work?

RWF: I wish there were potlucks for writers, say about 3 a year, where published and aspiring writers could congregate and share tips about how to get the word out using social media and other internet tools. Publishing, as we’ve known it, is no more. It would be good to explore its future together in person. Would successful writers show up? I think so.

Do you feel that Berkeley would benefit more from promoting niche opportunities or from encouraging broader participation in cultural events?

RWF: Both are useful.

Do you think social media helps or hurts local arts and cultural communities?

RWF: It does not matter if social media helps or hurts. Social media is a fact, and here to stay till something offering even more participation and recognition comes along. The focus should be how to use social media to make the work of local artists known in the Bay Area and elsewhere.


The Rowan Tree is available as an ebook or in print format.

The Rowan Tree