Sunday, October 23, 2016



Berkeley Fellowship
Cedar at Milvia
Saturday, November 19,  4 – 5:30 PM           

Book Launch: Cecile Pineda's Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being

Cecile Pineda touches on issues of displacement as she talks about 40 years of the writing life, the breakthroughs, the discouragements, and the daily practice. She will read and sign copies of Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being. Time will be set aside for questions and answers. 
Pineda is widely recognized as the author of nine published works of fiction and non-fiction. She is the winner of the Gold Medal from the California Commonwealth Club and nominee for the 2015 Neustadt International Prize. 



  This past Monday evening, over 500 citizens of Berkeley managed to work around the debate mano a mano by descending on the Martin Luther King Jr. High School auditorium to hear Chris Hedges’ assessment of where we stand in the presumed Republic we imagine ourselves to occupy. His assessment brought little cheer, besides the pleasure (albeit incalculable) of having avoided the set-up of a lying capitalist, and a capitalist liar, both of whom know each other and are mighty cozy with each other.

I listened with especially rapt attention to his account of offering instruction within the framework of the New Jersey correctional institution framework, a system I wrote about in 2010. That his remarks caught my attention followed my reading of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, required reading for anyone inhabiting any of the 50 states, 52 if we include Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C..

Stevenson is a criminal lawyer and founder & director of the Equal Justice Initiative, who has devoted his entire career to representing people on death row, many of them innocent, accused of crimes they did not commit, and to children condemned to life without parole. It  may take little imagination to guess that his clients—most of them—are black. In the U S the death penalty is probably one of the very few things favoring black people.

The Constitution of the United Sates of America, Amendment XIII. Abolition of Slavery Section 1. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Hedges summarized the situation in New Jersey, and in the U.S. prison system in general by stating that its function is to remove from the labor market excess labor, while at the same time, providing corporations with cheap prison labor remunerated sometimes with as little as ten cents an hour. Yes: Victoria’s Secrets servitude wear is manufactured in U.S. prisons. Prison voices may be taking down your plane reservations. Hedges reported on what today’s headlines (even the back pages) make no mention of: A GREAT REBELLION IS TAKING PLACE EVEN NOW IN THE UNITED STATES! At least 75,000 prisoners in jails throughout the country are on strike. #slavesnomore is the guiding concept behind their movement.

The more I listened to Hedges’ anecdotes in which he drew attention to his incarcerated students’ outstanding acuity in perceiving exactly where we are in the presumed Republic we imagine ourselves to be, the more it occurred to me that there was a curious imbalance Monday night. The audience was predominantly white, mostly people of the Left, many of them activists, some known to me in the various circles in which I personally contribute. We can decide what demonstrations we want to join, and in which free speech zones we want to hold forth. We can decide when we want to stay home. We imagine that such “choices” make us “free.” Yet we cannot decide who represents us other than the “choice” between a lying capitalist, and a capitalist liar.

I looked at all the white faces in the packed house.  It occurred to me: we need an education.  What better place to obtain one than by volunteering in U.S. correctional institutions such as San Quentin, Lompoc, Leavenworth, Pelican Bay and Corcoran to name a few. We would be able to contribute our white exemptionism  for inmate  entertainment, and in exchange we could obtain from them a clear, uncompromising picture of the American dream and the place we all occupy in it, those of us who know where we are, and those of us who don’t. And best of all, our education would be tuition free.
Anthony Ray Hinton: 'I had to watch 54 men walk past my cell to be executed.'



Wednesday, October 5, 2016



“Cecile Pineda’s novels include Face, Frieze, The Love Queen of the Amazon, and Fishlight. She is known worldwide among discriminating writers as one of the most enigmatic, sensitive, and sensual writers of the late 20th and early 21st Century.”

What do you do when someone claims your fiction is enigmatic?

You preen, congratulate yourself and you try to clean up the mess.
You offer multi colored literature—not multicultural—multi colored literature, and this is where you do it:

Rileystreet Art supply in San Rafael.  Take a look at this peacock’s tail of a full-spectrum emporium.  There it is.


What might be a suitable literary fit for such a venue?

The Love Queen of the Amazon of course.

Come to my reading. Meet the Rainbow Girls, color coded for easy selection in the dark. And take a virtual stroll through the repurposed convent that serves as their color-coded headquarters.

  Riley Street Arts Supply, 1138 4th St. 
San Rafael
Saturday, October 8, 3:00 - 4:15 PM        

Sunday, October 2, 2016


Clumpton, an octannual form of popular entertainment, replaced football last Monday night, allowing Americans to wallow in yet another orgy of their favorite once-every-eight-years bear baiting contest.

Clumpton is a corporate-designed “look at the birdie” program calculated to shield the people behind the scenes while they rob us blind: Of our lives in the streets of Charlottesviille, Ferguson, and Staten Island; of our homes on the steps of the Alameda County Court house where the Oakland homes of black and brown people are being repossessed, people who the banks sold down the river with subprime rate mortgages and who are becoming homeless, harassed and shot by America’s finest men in blue; of our schools being privatized, by our soils and waters being killed by fracking, pipelines, and presidents; and of our air by the entire apparatus scheming to put “free” trade agreements and fossil fuel in place while mountains in Alaska crumble, and slime coats the surface of our seas.

But never mind, we will have our trashy million-dollar make-America-great corporate circus on Monday nights, an even glitzier display than football!

Here’s the bottom line: While folks were leering, beering, cheering, and popcorning before the screen, all the triumphant yahooisms of racism, misogyny, homophobia, patriarchy, and packing (gun carrying) are crawling out of the woodwork where they have been waiting for their triumphant trump moment from before the civil war. Harriet Martineau, first woman sociologist and America-observer rivaling Tocqueville writing about Americans in 1834 the year she visited the U.S. had this to say: “they are self-congratulating and wedded to their own ignorance and there is no way of changing them.”

Things have not improved very much since then.

November 8 this “selection” season will finally grind to a screeching halt: the privately-held “debate” “commission,” the media, the pre-determined slate, and the Republican-owned voting machines will do their guaranteed dirty tricks to make voting in this US of A a travesty, gaming whatever shreds of democracy may remain to us. The rich will get richer, and the poor will sleep under bridges, and the planet will suffer more death blows. Drones will splat children and adults indiscriminately all in the interests of corporate profit, and someone or other will move into the Whitewash House. Who or whatever it is will emblemize everything the U.S. loves and worships: money, murder, international chaos, and global suicide. It will NOT represent the  planet or the people.

And nothing much will have changed EXCEPT, the yahoos have been let loose, and this time they mean business,  AND THEY ARE NOT GOING AWAY.

Monday, September 19, 2016


I’ll be launching my new book, Three Tides:Writing at the Edge of Being  starting this month, with more appearances scheduled in October and November as follows:

2090 Kittredge Street
Saturday, September  24,  2 - 3:30 PM   
San Rafael Litquake
  Riley Street Arts Supply, 1138 4th St
San Rafael
Saturday, October 8, 3 - 4:15 PM  
Cedar at Milvia
Saturday, November 19,  4 – 5:30 PM



Yesterday afternoon I took my latest book, Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being out for a spin.  I had a good time and the audience did too. What is it like to take a new book out for a spin?  It’s fun. Especially if you discover that there are new ways to talk about a book—especially if it happens to be yours.

When all is said and done, audiences like stories.  They help relax things, let a bit of air into some occasionally airtight spaces.  Stories are signals to audiences that there are points of entry for them, too.  They awaken the mind of story in other minds. 

Yes, we say. Yes, everyone has stories, and they’re fun to tell, and fun to listen to.

Talking about Three Tides, I pulled some stories out of the hat: Each one has a title, and each title has a direct relationship to what we talk about when we talk about writing.

Story One: What do you do all day? (or what do you as a writer do with all that free time while other people are really working). That allows me to open up a whole can of worms. I have two main sub-occupations it turns out, and one doesn’t even involve writing directly. (Hint: It’s making sure you NEVER have to write for hire. Free to tell it like you see it, and damn the torpedoes—or the editors, or the conglomerates which now decide what gets published and what doesn’t.)

Story Two: The punch line is wool gathering. The question is not What do you do all day, but What is all you do all day really like?

Story Three: Are you Inside? or Are You Outside? You might have to go as far as India to find out. I certainly did. But I am saving that one because if you are in the Bay Area, Saturday, September 24 and free to travel, please come to the Berkeley Public Library conference room, at 2090 Kittredge Street just two blocks south of the Downtown Berkeley BART station at 2 PM sharp to remind me to tell it in case I forget. Just say “Mr. Bihari.” The guy will let you in.

And hopefully you won’t disappoint because you’ll have an amazing question to throw into the discussion pot.

*Raymond Carver’s famous story, “What We Talk About When we Talk About Love” was loved to death by his editor Gordon Lish. But it was published posthumously exactly as Carver intended it to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2016



I’ll be launching my new book, Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being  starting this month, with more appearances scheduled in October and November as follows:

2090 Kittredge Street
Saturday, September  24,  2 - 3:30 PM   

San Rafael Litquake
Downtown San Rafael
Fourth St.  

Saturday, October 8, 3 - 4:15 PM  

Berkeley Fellowship
Cedar at Milvia
Saturday, November 19,  4 – 5:30 PM           



Displacement is the subject of the newsletter this week. Displacement is what
my soon-to-be-published book Three Tides: Writing at the Edge of Being is all about.  All three sections deal with the pressures acting on people everywhere to leave home: leaving an unsustainable way of living (mine); leaving flooded New Orleans (Katrina); and destroying a culture and leaving ancestor graves yawning empty because a toxic waste disposal company lays claim to village land (Japan).

Much closer to home, two crises crowd all other stories to the back pages (except for the selection circus), namely the global refugee crisis brought about by climate collapse and resulting military hostilities (the Middle East) and all European countries  trying to close their doors to the flood of displaced people. It may bring the crisis more clearly into focus to know that one out of every 200children  in the world is now on the run, vulnerable to drowning in the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas; vulnerable to being incarcerated in jails for months on end because refugee camps are already full to overflowing. 


And in the Untied States, the Standing Rock Sioux have been joined by hundreds of other First Nations in a last stand to defend their sacred burial grounds and their drinking water from contamination by the proposed Dakota Pipeline. 

Our people have strived to protect Sacred Sites from the beginning of time. These places have been violated for centuries and have brought us to the predicament that we are in at the global level.

Private security forces have turned the dogs on them, injuring one small child with horrifying facial wounds.   A local judge has ruled against their case.   Governor Dalrymple has called out the national guard, and Jill Stein and her running mate, Ajamu Baraka have been threatened with arrest and warrants have been issued by the Moran County Sheriff’s Office for criminal trespass and vandalism in connection with their weekend trip to Standing Rock, to stand in solidarity with indigenous tribes resisting oil pipeline expansion through their sacred native burial grounds. It’s the first time in U.S. history that a presidential candidate and her running mate have been targeted for arrest. 

To quote Ajamu Baraka: What we need… in North Dakota [is] authentic decolonization. …Indigenous people don’t have full control over their sovereignty,…We are not going to have social justice as long as there’s continuity in this settler colonial project. …All of us are implicated.

As of yesterday, September 10, the federal government stepped in to ask the pipeline company to “pause” action, to voluntarily halt construction temporarily within 20 miles of Lake Oahe, a sacred site of the local tribes.  The snake doesn’t shed its scales easily. The government’s ploy acted to diffuse the threat of more violence by hired security forces and the national guard; and by initiating a delaying tactic, it attempted to disperse the massive resistance gathered together at Standing Rock. 

But this issue will not go away. This newsletter  believes the Sioux stand in the front lines of all the displacement now threatening every one of us: 

We have been displaced by the subprime mortgage crisis from our homes; we have been displaced from our universities by massive tuition hikes; we have been displaced from a reliable banking system now that U.S. law has determined that all monies on deposit are property of the bank, not depositors; we have been displaced from our jobs by offshoring and by trade agreements such as the TPP and the TISA, and by the disproportionate incarceration of people of color for minor drug offences, providing slave labor for the prison/corporate complex; we have been displaced from our streets by free speech zones; we have been displaced from our lives by the use of drones to target/assassinate even American citizens, and by militarized police  who kill people of color with impunity and without judicial consequence; we have been displaced from our wombs by the anti-abortion  agenda of the neocons; we have been displaced from our DNA by continued used of nuclear technology, not only  in lands affected by the use of  uranium tipped ordnance, but on our own soils by nuclear contamination from testing, and from accumulating nuclear waste. 

We all need to pay attention to Chief Arvol Looking Horse’swords:

In our prophecies it is told that we are now at the crossroads: Either unite spiritually as a global nation, or be faced with chaos, disasters, diseases, and tears from our relatives’ eyes.

Know that you yourself are essential to this world. Understanding both the blessing and the burden of that. You yourself are desperately needed to save the soul of this world. Did you think you were put here for something  less? In a Sacred Hoop of Life, there is no beginning and no ending.



                  OAKLAND, OSCAR GRANT PLAZA  5:30 PM

                  ALBANY,  SAN PABLO @ MARIN 4 PM

Tuesday, September 6, 2016



“Writers, readers, teachers, and creative writing classes, take note: Cecile Pineda is an American original, a literary treasure.... Her prodigiously inventive and important work ... deserves a place in the forefront of  American Literature.

                                                            —Jeff Biggers in Bloomsbury Review

“Cecile Pineda has the nerve to ask the one simple question that eludes our public posturing: What is it, at the root of our culture, that sets us against the rest of creation.”

                                          —Joanna Macy, author of Coming Back to Life

I’ll be launching my new book, Three Tides: Writingat the Edge of Being starting this month, with more appearances scheduled in October and November as follows:

Saturday, Sept  24,  2 - 3:30 PM         Berkeley Public Library
                                                                                      2090 Kittredge Street

Saturday, Oct 8, 3 - 4:15 PM               San Rafael Litquake    
                                                                    Downtown Fourth St. 

Three Tides, Writing at the Edge of Being (my ninth) was born a twin in disguise. It addresses displacement, personal, environmental, and cultural (one of the sweeping themes of the anthropocene) to talk about the writing process, geared to folks who like to read, who want to write right now, or some time in the future.

In many ways we are displaced, from our homes, from our streets, from our jobs, from our right to health care and education, from our bombed out countries, from our wombs with the neocon antiabortion agenda; from our bodies by militarized police, from our DNA by the use of plutonium tipped (DU) weapons, from our landscape through arctic melt, and fire, drought and deluge and fracking, and from our truth by media, by surveillance and by incarceration in the prison/labor complex.

In Three Tides, Writing at the Edge of Being a theater work, oral histories, and personal memoir tell the story of humanity at the edge, dispossessed of its culture (Japan); and of its environment (Katrina).

You’re invited to be part of the Three Tides discussion at the book launch September 24 at the Berkeley Public Library.  Come! Enjoy! Ask questions! Meet new friends!

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Disruptive Technologies & The AI Race

Just as the advent of the Atomic Bomb has been considered the greatest threat to humanity, the coming of  an Artificial Intelligence (AI) computer could very well be our last techno race.  Elon Musk, the founder of Pay-pal and Tesla motors was inspired by this article on AI to do his own take on the subject.  AI first surfaced as a serious possibility in the early 90’s with the idea that we could all have an Einstein on our desktop.  The race for its development has slowed, with some estimates for its roll out  projected as early as 2022. At the same time Musk’s goal of using Moore’s exponential growth law for solar energy, batteries and a cheap electric car form part of a growing number of Disruptive Technologies that could either take us into a dystopian nightmare or give us a chance to mitigate the climate disaster we’ve dug ourselves into.

Will our future be a matter of cultural collapse or a climate survival race where we must deploy a growing number of technologies that Elon Musk and other like-minded proponents believe could save us and are just around the corner?  We certainly know where much of America’s far right stands on this issue, not to mention the complex technical challenges that haven’t yet been solved (see Germany’s Energewende).

Thanks to the mainstream media’s gate keeping, most people still don’t believe there is any need to change their lifestyle.  Many still cling to the value that former President George W. Bush articulated when he said “our lifestyle is not negotiable.”  The fate of the Earth is riding on who wins, the election and, sadly, the Democrats barely has one redeeming value left – their shallow support for renewable energy that would be rolled back with renewed support for coal and nuclear energy, even the promised reorganization of the EPA and NRC.
Musk and many others who were inspired by Lester Brown’s Plan B campaign (that closed last year)  is gambling billions of dollars with his plan to scale up production for a Tesla electric car costing less than $20,000 within 6 years, with the ramp up of his robotic-powered Gigafactory making batteries that just opened near Reno, Nevada.  Musk’s video presentation of the scale-up he is looking to promote has people concerned about whether there is enough lithium on the planet to carry it out his vision for battery- driven cars.  Others point to the potential of other breakthroughs capable of competing with lithium.  But wait!  Are we all being taken in by Musk and a growing number of scientists that believe we are living in some kind of cosmic simulation? Here’s the vision up close – Quantum Physics anyone?
It’s difficult for us or millennials to imagine what it must have been like to live between 1870-1920 when most of Americans at that time went from an agricultural society with no electricity, no cars, no telephones, radio or TV – let alone cell phones or computers!  A mere 60 years ago, this author remembers sitting on his great grandmother’s lap who was born before the civil war – that’s over eight generations ago.  Exploring her house showed the signs of electric wiring in the rooms, rather than between walls, a phone system right out of Petticoat Junction, a still operating outhouse, hand pumped water, and a coal chute and bins in the basement.  In other words, the society we live in is full of disruptive technologies and values contrary to the those my ancestors instilled in me about frugality and civil behavior.  

At this point it is almost impossible for American baby boomers to contemplate the dramatic changes predicted for the near future. Technologies such as 3D printing and nanotechnology will completely change the planet on a scale right out of Star Trek, from its “food dispenser” to communications already here. From its start as an agrarian society right up to the 1980s China has now been able to construct a 30-story high rise in 15 days, and its about-face on coal use, forced it to spend over $100 billion last year on wind and solar, including initial plans for a $50 trillion global super grid. We are watching from afar as the world’s largest country attempts to navigate out of the trap the West’s reliance on fossil fuels created.

Will the Artificial Intelligence Race Be Our Last? 


Early AI conceptual design models included simple bots capable of carrying out routines, like Wall Street trading, Ebay bidding, or news-gathering systems that evolved into entities like Google. Sadly, their innovative book- scanning project has been commercialized, or worse, being threatened by business versions that recently forced the take down of the free Milwaukee library.

One of the lessor known potentials should have been the mining of links summarizing content. A box such as the one on the right could pop up with a mouse hover (and a key or voice command) over a link on a webpage showing details for that link. Such a link summary tool would create a sophisticated online review of materials extending far beyond anything Google does.  Imagine a librarian organizing your bookmarks automatically for you in tandem with your automated browser’s built in history.  As computing power advances, the image to the right reveals just some of the tools that such a web resource could automate.  Similar examples of AI include mapping tools as shown in the image above, that could also be used to mine down into complex web content like this link.  When covering news that doesn’t just end after a single article, content could then be organized into visual maps broken down by subject and timelines. Using models similar to those used by paralegals it enhances the ability to track and summarize complex news or legal content sometimes over months or years.

As the introduction above suggests, there is a global tech race by either a corporation or a government to build the first AI computer. With its ability to mine the internet.  Giant corporations like Google are looking to create an AI entity capable of exponentially becoming thousands of times more intelligent than any human. As depicted by such Hollywood movies as the Matrix, I-Robot, or the 13th Floor, its arrival has prompted immense concern.  

Disruptive tech like drones, already in use by the U.S. abrogates international law. By using them to invade over a dozen sovereign countries, the U.S. incites the kind of reaction other countries are bound to have. Similarly, the Stuxnet super virus implanted in Iran’s uranium processing infrastructure affords an example of what a capricious AI entity is capable of doing.

Tony Seba’s presentation (33 minutes into video) of the radar system required to run an autonomous car demonstrates the exponential changes projected for disruptive technologies. In 2004, the computational power for the autonomous car radar system required a large super computer to run; by 2014 that design was reduced in size to half a PC motherboard. 

How hard will it be for a hostile entity to inject an AI device into a sovereign nation’s government or civilian computer network to undermine every computer-driven system, ranging from nuclear destruction, damage to financial organization, health programs, information theft, ad infinitum.
Or more than likely would the AI program go rogue on its own as it evolves its own sense of ethics or lack of them. What was science fiction a decade ago is exemplified by an article authored by UC Berkeley exploring the problem of robotic morals

Just as the ethical concerns voiced by Albert Einstein and even Robert Oppenheimer were pushed aside in the name of national defense, there is no doubt that the perceived values/ethics/morals of scientists will more than likely be swept aside by the alpha-male-driven military industrial computer complex already sweeping the planet. Maybe it’s time to do more than make another Matrix movie, and to start preparing a serious call for some kind of limitation on just how far this culture is prepared to go.  Rapidly expanding disruptive technologies are resulting in such unfortunate consequences as trapping 40% of Americans in independent contractor jobs by 2020.

Given the fact that nuclear weapons opposition hasn’t been able to stop nuclear’s continued evolution in over 50 years, there would seem to be a pressing need to look at where this next wave of disruptive technologies is taking us.