Sunday, April 17, 2016



“Pineda’s singular books perform dazzling literary feats of technique, history, and political responsibility. They display a range of technical sophistication that is hard to compare. To read Pineda is to touch on the miracle of humanity.”

                                                                                                —Marcus Embry



 I’ll be talking about Apology to a Whale in April and May at U.C. Berkeley, at the Ethnic Studies Library, 30 Stevens Hall, on Wednesday April 20 at 5:30, and in May at Oakland’s Main Library, 125 14th Street at Lakeshore Drive in Oakland on Saturday, May 7, at 3:30 PM.

I love talking about this book, because it asks questions. For example, to create a life-sustaining world, how radically would we have to change our thinking? As I wrote it, section by section, its discoveries kept surprising me. Its central theme, the encounter between the Mind of the West and the indigenous mind, runs through it much like an underground river, silent at times, at other times making its rumbling felt.

February 1, 2016 I shared some thoughts about Apology to a Whale with S.F. Occupy Forum in San Francisco (view video here):  


The comparative linguistics work of Benjamin Whorf anchors Apology to a Whale, lending it the kind of underpinnings that pull the themes together; it suggests some ways we might re-envision our thinking about the world and how we live within it.  Whorf based much of his study on indigenous languages, Hopi in particular.  As an alternative example of world view, he describes how the Hopi see clouds as alive. Lately this 2014 NASA video “The Earth – a Living Creature” a came to my attention. Maybe the Hopi have a point.  

The Effects of Good Government


 The City Council of Berkeley saw fit to honor my work as a literary artist on April 5th, going so far to proclaim it “Cecile Pineda Day.” The statement I prepared took more than my allotted “3 minutes” to read because of frequent interruptions by the clapping and cheering of overflow crowd of outraged Berkeley citizens, there to oppose this council’s latest plans to demolish entire flatland sections of Berkeley in their relentless pandering to developers:
Watch video at 12:35!

I am  quite happy to accept this honor from the City of Berkeley for my efforts as a cultural worker, especially from a council which recently passed a resolution urging the closure of a nuclear reactor—Diablo Canyon—which sits atop a fine network of connecting faults, a fact  PGE knew as early as the 1960s but kept secret from the public till last year.

But if the Berkeley City Council is serious about honoring its artists, it must remember that the role of a true artist is to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. It must reconsider its draconian approach to homelessness; it must take responsibility for the library directors it appoints, insuring that 39,000 more books—books which are the commons of the citizens of Berkeley—have no more chances of walking out the library back door to be pulped. It must guard and preserve the lungs by which it breathes and moderates its climate by protecting the 600,000 East Bay Hills trees designated for the FEMA ax, and Monsanto’s herbicides. It must quit selling out its city block by flatland block to the vulture flock of developers who settle in for a killing; it must regulate rents now so that people unable to afford the new “market rate” apartment rents are not evicted from existing housing stock because of rising rents. It must provide affordable housing for those displaced by the stampede to build market-rate apartments; it must not permit the Zoning Adjustment Board to rubber stamp 18-story-high-rise projects without having so much as looked at the engineering report. It must understand that one of Berkeley’s last remaining cultural vestiges is the Shattuck theater; it must protect its citizens from gross incursions by the university of California; and it must learn to value its Black community by not displacing it under the veneer of gentrification. It must understand finally that the concepts of wise government go back to the 14th century where its effects are vividly laid out in the council chambers of the city of Siena by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, an artist whose work was deliberately commissioned by its citizens to remind the council it must govern wisely and well, in the interest of promoting a healthy society endowed with both compassion and civic responsibility.

Thank you very much.
Cecile Pineda, Berkeley, April 5, 2016

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