David Byrne at CELLspace (video)

At the CELL Events meeting several months before this event, we looked at the proposal that City Lights had filled out. Woah… David Byrne, Dave Eggers, and Michael Chabon reading at the CELLspace! I had read Eggers and Chabon, and loved house managing these type of events (you know, the events that end by midnight and have sober, adoring fans that don’t destroy things or fight). So I instantly offered to work this event.

When the day rolled around, I showed up a bit early, thinking that this was going to be a great opportunity to hang out with some amazing artists and writers. I was correct in thinking this: City Lights was well equipped to handle this event and showed up early as well to get things set up. The line of fans started early too, possibly three hours before the doors opened. Because of the stars in the house, I had a great crew of CELLspace folks helping with the set up. Pod was on tech and I can’t recall who was on the video. Actually, I think everyone who was working at CELL showed up to help out. Deborah even showed up and helped with the set up (she’s always good with event aesthetics).

When Byrne, Eggers, and Chabon rolled in, they were the most laid back bunch. David Byrne had no ounce of pretension on him. I introduced him to Pod, who got to work intimately with Byrne’s laptop. He was here to do a PowerPoint presentation after all. The line kept growing outside. I kept checking on them, making them laugh, answering their questions. They were extremely happy to be there, so that they could see David Byrne in an intimate warehouse setting. Local celebrities started showing up prior to doors. Beth Lisick and Lawrence Ferlinghetti were there, probably a pile of other people I have forgotten. Lisick wrote a great account of the reading portion for the SF Chronicle:

David Byrne was wandering through the capacity crowd at CELLspace last Sunday trying to find the bathroom, looking like somebody’s cool dad who’d gotten a little lost. The cavernous performance space was the perfect spot for the hundreds of fans who showed up to check out the triple-threat lineup of lit star Dave Eggers, Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon and the visionary Byrne.

Eggers got things started with a few pieces he’d written under pseudonyms, immediately wrapping the crowd around his little finger, while Chabon read an excerpt from a story published in The New Yorker last April. (I was struck by the fact that when Chabon uttered the phrase “orange and purple velour” during his reading, no one made a sound, but the exact phrase, if uttered by Eggers, would have drawn a ripple of laughter from the room.)

But Byrne’s PowerPoint presentation about his new book, “The New Sins,” a written and photographic examination of religion, love, the afterlife and the human soul, was definitely the highlight. Funny, far out and gratifyingly profound. As he presented his ideas about virtues that are actually sins and why graphic designers have their own place in hell, I imagined a future with David Byrne as some sort of universal leader.

Lisick must have left after the readings, along with hundreds of other people, because she failed to write about the most amazing part of the night. As Byrne hung out with fans, some of whom gave him pieces of art, I stood at my usual by-the-bathrooms House Manager perch. Paradox Pollack, a caretaker living in 2048 Bryant, ran up to me from the main entrance. “I’m sorry! I can’t stop them!” he yelled at me in a pleading tone. “What are you talking about?” I asked.

Just then, from outside, a snare drum ratatatted loudly, echoing through the gallery. Then about 15 drums started, along with maybe a dozen horns. I looked at Paradox with surprise. “Extra Action Marching Band,” were the four words he told me, just when the motley crew entered the gallery space loud as hell. I turned around and considered running to Eggers and Byrne, apologizing for the anarchistic intrusion. Instead, I decided to let things run their course. Whenever Extra Action rolled into CELLspace, they did whatever the hell they wanted to do.

David Byrne loved the interruption from the fans. He’d been super nice to everyone who stood in line to meet him, but now he got up on the table where he was signing autographs and danced to the marching band. I walked over to stand with Pod and enjoy the moment. Paradox told us that Extra Action had gathered at 16th Mission BART and played all the way to Harrison Street. They then got quiet and walked to CELLspace so that they could make a surprise entrance. Paradox just happened to be on the sidewalk when they rolled up. So here they were, hurting our ears and making David Byrne laugh and dance.

Byrne liked them so much that he had Extra Action play with him at a concert in SF. He then took them on tour for a while. Eggers’ McSweeneys and City Lights had several more events at CELLspace around this time, mostly with authors that I’d read.

Once again, another amazing moment at the CELL.

Please Consider Donating to CELLspace

If you have ever wondered what I do with all my time that is not centered around stencils, then CELLspace would be one of the things I’d mention. Started in 1996 by a group of crazy, radical, creative artists, CELL has weathered many a storm as a funky underground arts facility. It became a nonprofit about ten years ago, and over $250,000 has been invested in building out the space to (slowly) meet code compliance with all the various government agencies in San Francisco. Right now, on the cusp of CELL’s 15th anniversary in March, the space is as close as it has ever been towards becoming a legit events facility. And it is still run by a bunch of crazy, radical, creative artists.

I started volunteering at CELLspace in 1998, soon after I had gotten hooked into documenting and making stencils. My love for stencils were encouraged during all my other projects at CELL, so I made stencils for shows, props, and eventually became a shadow puppetteer throwing negative space shadows on screens. I co-curated three stencil-specific shows at CELL: Negative Spaces, For the People, and Stencilada. Many of these other projects, shows, and productions were incubated and presented at CELL. Other artists like Swoon, Jef Aerosol, Scott Williams, and Peat Wollaeger have also added their art to CELL’s exterior walls over the years.

And I have been curating and making murals on both of CELL’s walls these past few years. Long before I took interest in CELL’s outside walls, many artists have sprayed and painted their art. Spray graffiti has a long tradition at CELLspace, and it’s former satellite annex the Mission Village Flea Market (this is where the Bike Kitchen began). There is still a bboy and bgirl night every Monday at the CELL.

Right now, San Francisco is cracking down hard on any space that is not 100% legal. The locals here call it the War on Fun, which has been waged for the past two years. Add a shitty economy and an internal re-organization (CELL transformed back into an all-volunteer run space about three years ago), and you have an amazing warehouse space in a tight fit.

And we’re so close!

Below is the email that we are sending out to help raise $$ for the space. I hardly ever ask for your financial support (beyond the book links at the top of this page), but now is the time to help an amazing art project get over the final hump. I have already written a check and $6,000 has been raised so far.

If I ever had an inspiration to be an artist, then it is the CELLspace and all those amazing people who have walked in the doors (David Byrne, Extra Action Marching Band, Flaming Lotus Girls, Dave Eggers, Perry Ferrell, Bassnectar, Yard Dogs, Bishop Joey, Matmos, Point Break Live, Michael Franti, Chicken John, Cardboard Institute of Technology, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, Art and Revolution, and many many more).

thanks for all your support,

Russell

…………………….

CELL NEEDS YOUR FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO MAKE EMERGENCY REPAIRS AND KEEP OUR DOORS OPEN!

Those of you who have been to CELLspace know how magical and unique our 2050 Bryant Street location is; it is one of the last spaces of its kind in the Bay Area.

For several months, in a joint venture with San Francisco IndieFest, CELLspace has been preparing for the final stages of installing a new fire exit as required by the City of San Francisco Planning Department. This new fire exit is critical to becoming an adequate Place of Assembly. Without it we will not be able to host any large events of any kind. Event rentals pay 75% of our core operating expenses.

Unfortunately as we were prepared to start construction in December, new ordinances requiring us to add additional new features to the construction stopped our progress. These additional features will cost us much more than our initial required renovation. Of course, we have also lost valuable time and opportunities to earn revenue through events. Now more than ever we are feeling the blow of this lost income during the construction period, when we are so close to expanding what CELLspace can provide for the community. Any further setbacks, and CELLspace will be significantly crippled in its efforts.

We now turn to you, our friends, our community. Please help us to raise $25,000 by January 31, 1011. This $25,000 will help to cover the costs of new plans and permits as well as cover lost event revenue during this now prolonged permitting revision. This past week we raised $5000 in donations from our own active members, but is still not enough to keep our doors open.

Please give anything you can today. Donations are tax deductible. Every bit helps, and we can do this together to make sure CELLspace can continue to offer it’s diverse programming for the people of the Bay Area to enjoy. We hope to have a celebration and thank you party for all our supporters at the conclusion of this drive.

Until we meet this goal, we will not be able to allow event producers, community groups, or art patrons to rent our wonderfully versatile and affordable main space. Please donate via this PayPal link.

Thank you in advance for your years of support and involvement. We wouldn’t be the same without you. Please forward this email on.

With hope and gratitude,

CELLspace

GIVE

what more can i say today. found this stencil on the bike ride home from Alcatraz.

sf-soma-give

Giving Thanks on Alcatraz

The last time I got up early to take the ferry to the Indigenous People’s Thanksgiving, I had many things weighing heavy on my mind. This 2005 day of thanks gave me little room to be thankful beyond the fact that I was alive and able to feel all the intense emotions coursing through me. Getting up that early didn’t brighten my mood either, until I was on the ferry and able to feel the power of community, song, and radical native medicine. As the ferry trolled over the Bay, I thought of all the troubles that the Native North Americans had seen over the generations. I thought of the troubles my Irish ancestors probably faced against the English occupation forces. I thought of all the many struggles for justice and peace that take place every day across the world. This opened my heart up a bit, just a small amount, allowing me to sit with my own present struggles and fell the common thread of humanity’s suffering.

Continue reading “Giving Thanks on Alcatraz”

BBC Picks Mission Dist. Murals in Top Ten

“Why wait in line at a gallery when these splendid works are on offer in the street? And they can be enjoyed for free! We have picked 10 of the best for your viewing pleasure,”

reports the BBC in their Travel section’s list “The Best Public Art in the World.” Though I think lists are marketing devices (Marketing studies have shown that consumers’ eyes catch numbers and lists, which is why you see lists on magazine covers, Websites, etc. Wish I found a source to support this claim! Here’s a TIME article about lists.) This BBC list has Mission District murals down for number 9. Since I spent last year painting, curating, organizing, and documenting the murals at CELLspace, I thought I’d share this honor. Wonder how it will impact tourism in San Francisco?

A Trip Down Market St.

Sit patiently through the Viagra commercial(s) and you will be in for a treat. “60 Minutes” journalist Morley Safer shares a film, and some new historical twists, about San Francisco’s Market Street. Back in 1906, two brothers put a camera in front of a street car, hand-cranked the box as they moved down the “Slots”, and caught an amazing sight of everyday San Francisco. You’ll see anarchic traffic patterns, random pedestrians, no traffic lights, teamsters, newsboys, and a bike or two. You’ll also see a city center that sprung up in mere decades thanks to the Gold Rush of 1849.

Biking down that street every week for the past dozen or so years, and still feeling the residue of an older time, the thrill of seeing this film never diminishes. Now Safer has connected the past to the present, lovingly filming 2010 Market Street and the City I call home while giving the old film new perspective. New proof shows that the film was made a week before the earthquake and the huge fires that burned the whole area to the ground. And, now that we all know it captured buildings that would soon be destroyed, and San Franciscans who would soon perish and/or suffer, “A Trip Down Market Street’s” mystique grows deeper.I was biking down Market St. in 2005 one Sunday morning on the way to open up the Box Office at Teatro ZinZanni. I had cut over to Mission Street to get on to Embarcadero, and I saw the oddest sight: a roofless, antique street car that looked like a maintenance vehicle. Perched on the front of this odd machine was an expensive digital camera. I biked by with a shrug, and thought it was a Hollywood film shoot. A few months later, I was treated to my first viewing of the original film (thought to have been made in 1905) as well as the new one that commemorated San Francisco’s Market Street a century later. Of course my friend Chris Carlsson is in the new film, and had invited me to see the public premiere just off Market Street at the Embarcadero. Here is the video from 2005:

Pema Chodron’s “Smile at Fear” : Sun. Notes

Summing Up, and “The Education of the Warrior”

KEY THING – teachings broaden our toleracne for all pervasive, unavoidable uncertainty. TR: If fear and doubt arise towards fundamental uncertainty, then humans react and start to go into a cocoon…. We hide ourselves in caves and jungles.

We’re trying to find something to hold on to. Pain arises when we go into that cocoon to avoid uncertainty. A fearful society can develop because of this.

This weekend is a plea to relax into that uncertainty. Manifesting a healthy world starts with human’s courage to turn towards uncertainty. Worst of times are best of times because that makes uncertainty become unavoidable. We need to begin to engage in what we’ve been avoiding our whole lives. GENTLENESS cannot be written big enough when facing uncertainty. If we transform ourselves personally bases upon compassion-based living, then society will follow.

Touch in briefly, starting with the body. Then with emotions. Come to know fear itself, “sip by sip.”

Great Eastern Sun – arises as confidence in your heart that you can dispel your own darkness. Not protecting yourself from uncertainty. TR: what it is like to live outside the cocoon.

Pema then analyzed the following poem by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (I will just post the poem):

The Education of the Warrior

That mind of fearfulness
Should be put in the cradle of loving-kindness
And suckled with the profound and brilliant milk
Of eternal doubtlessness.
In the cool shade of fearlessness,
Fan it with the fan of joy and happiness.
When it grows older,
Lead it to the self-existing playground of
various displays of phenomena.
When it grows older still,
In order to promote the primodial confidence,
Lead it to the archery range of the warriors.
When it grows older still,
To awaken primordial self-nature,
Let it see human society
Which possesses beauty and dignity.
Then the fearful mind
Can change into the warrior’s mind,
And that eternally youthful confidence
Can expand into space without beginning or end.
At that point it sees the Great Eastern Sun.

Pema Chodron’s “Smile at Fear” : Sat. Notes

Pema’s morning talk had to do with Chapters 10 and 11 of “Smile at Fear”

Chapter 10: Tools of Fearlessness – all about expanding the heart

What would it look like to live completely from an open heart?

First, discipline (icon is the sun): of openness (notice that you’re closing, trying to get ground) and then open, notice tightening, lighten up. Notice wrong and then let go – like the sun because there are no exceptions.

Second, meditation (icon is the echo) – meditative awareness – you begin to notice when you’re closing, shutting down, etc. “I’m no quite sure how, but I can to it.” All actions produce an echo. They come back to you. Heed the echo to expand rather than close.

Third, psychological accuracy (skillful means, prajna) basic goodness. Clear seeing beyond “what bout me?” Icon is bow and arrow. Must have curiosity, inquisitiveness, undivided attention of something unpleasant. Act and speak out of it – it manifests as sanity. Breaks down polarization and dualistic concepts. It is expansive. Have to put prajna (arrow) into action (bow)

Chapter 11: qualities of fearlessness

TR: Pain is not a punishment, pleasure is not a reward… kindness, kindness, kindness

First, Trust (icon is the reservoir) you can trust that whatever you say, or do, you will get a response from the world. The world will always give you messages to practice openness. The world will never run out of messages and so is rich for this. The reservoir of trust in the world never dries up.

Second, Joy and Appreciation (icon is music/hum) – comes from realizing that whatever is happening is a dynamic process, a fruition and seed of what is to come. Eternal doubtlessness. “No feeling is final” – Rilke – a fluid way of opening up to the world.

Third, Ability to hold your seat (icon is saddle) – living with ourselves is like riding a fickle horse. Staying present in present time. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t escalate. TR: Success and failure are the path Continue reading “Pema Chodron’s “Smile at Fear” : Sat. Notes”

Pema Chodron’s “Smile at Fear” : Fri. Notes

I will be at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA all weekend sitting with the venerable Pema Chodron. The topic of the urban retreat is “Smile at Fear” which is a book written by Pema’s root teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (henceforth called TR in these blog posts). I will take notes during the talks, and will post them here in their raw form. They are basically jottings of what Pema, and teacher/editor Carolyn Rose Gimian, have said. Pema mentions TR often, so when you see those letters, it is a jotting based upon something he said.

Pema spoke on Friday night, and I found her to be witty, comedic, and extremely to the point. After getting a laugh, she’d get to the heart of the matter and gently tell us what we have know our whole lives.

JOTTINGS:

We need to reach out, be global. Spiritual practice can be selfish. But a spiritual warrior can work on themselves, cultivate their capacity to love ourselves and others, and be of help for the world and other people. We are needed at this time on this earth because of all the mass suffering.

Pema can almost smell the fear in the USA. TR calls it “ubiquitous anxiety.” The ground we walk on is always shaky, but fear makes the shakiness more obvious. Fear is like a dot or doorway that can be good or bad. Avoid the feeling of fear and actions will escalate into violence. Turn toward fear rather than harden against it. Feel its vulnerability and tenderness.

How do we smile, touch into fear, and be present with it?

Time Magazine had an article about fear, stating that science proves that people are more afraid of uncertainty than physical pain! Pema observed uncertainty in herself and others and saw two ways that uncertainty affects us. First, we speed up. Second, we get lazy. These are both ways we express our powerlessness and our avoidance of fear.

TR: “fundamental uncertainty manifests as doubting/not trusting/ not loving ourselves.” Continue reading “Pema Chodron’s “Smile at Fear” : Fri. Notes”

In the Strike Zone

In the Strike Zone

Standing in the outfield of the Field of Dreams, Iowa (2006)
Standing in the outfield of the Field of Dreams, Iowa (2006)

I was having strange premonitions at ATT Park three Tuesdays ago. Just a week prior, the SF Giants were having a hot September. Whenever their bats woke up, supporting their great pitching, they would just barely win. Feeling the post-season interest that I have always had for Major League baseball (going back to my days living in Atlanta during their amazing early 1990s post-season hot streak), I went online to take a look at the Giants schedule. Just two more teams to play, the Diamondbacks and the Padres. The Giants and the Padres were both about tied in their division, but I couldn’t make those games. Looking at my schedule, I saw that the September 28th game with the Diamondbacks worked, and so pulled up a great cheap ticket in the left-field bleachers. Even then, I had a feeling that I was going to see a great game.

With the idea of where my bleacher seat was, I told a friend that I would bring him a home run ball back. He laughed and said “I hope you don’t catch it on your head.” I had a hunch I might actually catch a ball. Getting ready to bike down the hill to the ballpark, my friend Eleni biked by. “You’re going to a baseball game?” she asked. I must admit that few people know that I like to go to a game at least once a season, and always follow post-season Giants games. “Are you going to drink a beer and eat a hot dog?” she asked. Again, Eleni had no idea that I would indeed consume both. Not a great fan of hot dogs, if I go to a MLB game, I’ll eat one. “It’s part of the game for me,” I told her and she looked at me slack jawed. She just couldn’t understand how excited it is to see some end-of-season play, especially when the Giants are doing well.
Continue reading “In the Strike Zone”

Feeling the Game

Look for a longer essay on the 19th Cent. past time that is baseball soon. For now, a brief anecdote:

Before leaving for the Giants game last night, I told my room mate’s boyfriend that I was going to bring back a home-run ball for him. “Hope you don’t catch it with your head,” Erik replied. With the Giants in the running for post-game play, I was surprised to see that the last home stretch of games wasn’t sold out. So I bought a cheap bleacher seat in left field for the opener with Arizona. I must’ve been feeling the game, b/c I actually pointed to a few places in the field where Giants batters dropped balls (one just behind 2nd base, another was a great drive to center field). In the 4th inning, Juan Uribe knocked the first pitch out for a home run… three rows in front of me! What an amazing site to see a tiny, white ball way up in the air heading straight for me. After the game, I went to MLB.com and found the video of Uribe’s HR. Here’s a screen grab of the moment the ball landed. The red arrow marks the ball and the red circle is yours truly (glad I wore a green tee) screaming and waving and watching the guys fight for the ball. more later….

Sept. 28: Uribe's 4th inning HR lands right in front of me! Giants go 2 games up for Div. lead.
Sept. 28: Uribe's 4th inning HR lands right in front of me! Giants go 2 games up for Div. lead.