Sunday, February 28, 2016


Scheduled appearances

March 8 at 4 PM. International Women’s Day. Omega Salvage, 2403 San Pablo between Channing & Dwight in Berkeley.
I will be sharing reflections about women’s role “saving the world.” connected with Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World.

April 5 at 7 PM. City of Berkeley Temporary Council Chambers, 1222 University Ave. . The City of Berkeley will honor Cecile Pineda for a life-time achievement as a literary artist.

April 7 at 3:30 PM Doubletree Hilton, Denver Colorado: NACCs panel
Colonialism, Environmental Justice, Land Politics within Chicana/o Studies discusses Apology to a Whale: Words to Mend a World.
April 20 at 5:30 PM  Ethnic Studies Library, 30 Stephens Hall,  UC Berkeley


With “Where to Invade Next” Michael Moore may have created a new form, the tragimentary.  From the point of view of an outsider, viewing this film struck me as deeply tragic. Coming from a world where there seems to be perpetual sunshine, where the best learning curve can be found where kids start out with fewer school hours per day, and no homework but score #1 of the world best educated children, (Finland—the US ranks 29th); where university is free, with 100 different programs conducted in English, (Ljubljana, Slovenia); where bankers whose hands are caught reaching into the till are sentenced to 21 years (because that’s the maximum sentence in Iceland); where prisoners are free to govern themselves as a preparation for civic participation on release (Norway); where women’s health is constitutionally guaranteed (Tunisia); and where workers enjoy 5 months paid family leave and at least 6 weeks annual vacation (Italy), viewing clips of a darkened place where the lights have gone out for decades, where prisoners are beaten and gang raped, where men are hanged and set on fire while crowds rejoice, where bank robbers run the banks, and where people are too “bought” to protest what is done to them, the only possible reaction is pity and terror. And that is the definition of what tragedy is supposed to evoke.

With the demise of George Carlin, Michael Moore has inherited the mantle of America’s last jester, but unlike the angry clown Carlin was, Moore is the tragic clown, the fat, ungainly, unkempt flatfooted fellow who braves the wind and the waves to bring the tattered American frag to where it is least needed: countries which are getting it right and making it work. But, as he makes clear, he’s coming to invade, and like good invasions everywhere, to steal that country’s resources (in this case their good ideas) and bring their policies back home.

And where did the ideas come from in this sunny world that gets it right? Ah, that may be the most tragic truth of all: from the country which now has more people of color incarcerated in the new plantation where they work for corporations like Victoria Secret, for as little as 21 cents an hour.

Most of the spokespersons in this one-man “invasion” are women. We watch their faces, we watch them fight back tears. Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, Iceland’s first woman president, states without qualification that if the world can be saved at all, it will be women saving it. One Icelandic woman CEO stares into the camera. She measures her words carefully before she speaks. We notice her visibly swallowing, we see the deep distress in her eyes. Her observation however is not measured. It explodes out of her: “I would never want to live in America. I would never want to live where people don’t care about their neighbors. I couldn’t live in a place where the sense of neighborliness is gone.”

We come to see Michael Moore because we know he will make us laugh. And he does at first: his vision of the joint chiefs sitting around the war room, is pure theater, the costumes, the mise en scene, the marks of the State’s heavy hand. All are clutching their crotches.  It is a no-fly zone but soon our laughter catches in our throats as the self-portrait is held up to our denying faces. We are number one at home and abroad: in cruelty and unusual punishments. And Michael Moore suggests it’s time to notice.

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