"Arte Six": Quick Hits: SCI/TECH: Café Scientifique

Based on the Café Philosophique movement started in France in 1992 by philosopher Marc Sautet who wanted a place in which ordinary people could discuss topics in philosophy, Café Scientifique is an informal discussion forum giving like-minded people the opportunity to gather in bars and cafés all over the world to discuss the great topics in science.

Instead of one person lecturing others, Café Scientifique is designed to promote interactive discussion.

The evening is usually led by an invited speaker who talks briefly and off-the-cuff, then the topic is thrown open to debate over a few beers or coffees.

Some people see the evenings as a way of meeting new people and making friends, as networking events in which they can make new contacts, and some as part of the dating scene for scientists. Bring your pocket calculator. I’ll show you my theoretical equations, if you show me yours...

Read more about Café Scientifique in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


"Arte Six": Quick Hits: LIFE: Change the Disc

Oi! Get that metrosexual out of my bathtub...

Hardly looking ‘metrosexual’, a ‘shocked and awed’, rumpled-around-the-edges LSSU Word Banishment selection committee recently emerged from its spider hole with their annual ‘List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness’.

This year’s winners for words we never want to hear again:

METROSEXUAL - An urban male who pays too much attention to his appearance.
Bob Forrest of Tempe, Arizona, says it "sounds like someone who only has sex on the subway."

SHOTS RANG OUT - "I'm tired of hearing this phrase on the news. Shots don't 'ring' unless you are standing too close to the muzzle, and in that case you don't need the reporter telling you about it."
- Michael Kinney, Rockville, Maryland

CAPTURED ALIVE - "The news keeps stating that Saddam Hussein was 'captured alive.' Well, what other way are you going to be captured? Maybe 'found dead' or 'discovered dead', but never 'captured dead.'"
- Bill Lodholz, Davis, California

HAND-CRAFTED LATTE – (See also: Metrosexual)

PLACE STAMP HERE - Dennis K. McDermott of Oneida, New York, says: "It appears on 99% of the return envelopes provided by creditors with monthly billings. It's especially annoying when enclosed in a rectangle drawn in the upper right corner. What if you miss? And then they inform you that the post office will not deliver without postage.

"Can we legitimately claim to be a superpower if we need to be reminded to put a stamp on an envelope?"

Read the full post in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


"Arte Six": Quick Hits: ART: San Francisco: "Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts"

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents an interactive multimedia exhibition that explores the synergy between computer game culture and contemporary art.

The primary exhibition, entitled "Game Scenes", showcases the work of international artists whose works are heavily influenced by computer games and associated technology.


Katherine Isbister and Rainey Straus recreate the look of "The Sims Online" environment in the physical space of the YBCA complex. Visitors will be able to occupy the virtual and physical space of the location simultaneously.

Fur present their interactive "Painstation" console. Players use their right hands to control a bat on screen, and must keep their left hand on the console's "pain execution unit" to avoid ending the game. If a player's bat misses, his/her left hand suffers the consequences through the application of heat, electric shocks or a quick whipping.

In yet another take on ‘what is reality’, Jon Haddock presents his "Screenshots" series. Each visual stages a socio-political event(such as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) swapped with fictionalized events (such as the picnic scene from "The Sound of Music").

Italian artist Mauro Ceolin presents a series of portraits of videogame designers and portraits of electronic musicians who sample old computer game music in their dance mixes.

Artist Brody Condon presents "600 Polygon John Carmack", a 5-foot tall sculpture of legendary programmer John Carmack. The sculpture is not a portrait of Carmack, but a portrait of the low polygon game avatar of him that he developed for "Quake III".

Paul Johnson and Korean-based artist Sunny Kim present "Budaechigae", a collaborative videogame project (Budaechigae or "army soup" is a spicy dish popularized during the famine conditions of the 1950–53 Korean War). In this game, Kim and Johnson create individual avatars which function as self portraits. Although both artists have designed the appearance, role and behavior of their respective avatars in advance, the relationship between them will evolve over the course of the exhibition.

The Game Scenes exhibition will also include a machinima movie series, curated by Galen Davis and Henry Lowood.

Machinima are made and best viewed with the same software that is used to produce and play 3-D action games, usually "first-person shooters" like “Quake” and “Unreal”.

Just as software developers use game engines to produce the sophisticated graphics, lighting and camera views in their games, machinima makers take advantage of this sophisticated software as a found technology that can be applied to making animated movies.

Game Commons, an exhibition "plug-in" developed by the online floating work-space, Kingdom of Piracy (KOP), will accompany the exhibition.

KOP celebrates game culture as an open sphere of exchange, interplay and re-appropriation.

KOP was launched at Ars Electronica 2002 and keeps re-inventing itself in different arenas and on different platforms. KOP is co-curated by Shu Lea Cheang, Armin Medosch and Yukiko Shikata.

About: "Bang the Machine: Computer Gaming Art and Artifacts" is produced in partnership with the "How They Got Game Project" of the Stanford Humanities Laboratory.

Find it: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
700 Howard Street at Third
San Francisco, CA 94103-3138
Metro: MUNI/BART to Powell or Montgomery St.
Get info: (415) 978-ARTS

Read about more art events in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Arte Six": Quick Hits: ART: San Francisco: "Thieves in the Temple"

"Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip Hop"
Slam poet Aya de León delivers her full-length hip hop theater solo show. Get ready for a scathingly funny, feminist take on hip hop culture. Aya embodies colorful hip hop characters on her personal journey from teenage fan to center stage, from victim to visionary.

Read more performance art news in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


"Arte Six": Quick Hits: TRAVEL: Mexico: Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead/El Día de los Muertos
by Marvin Perton

Every year, on November 1st (All Saints Day) and 2nd (All Souls Day), something unique takes place in many areas of Mexico: Day of the Dead festivities.

While it's strange for most of us to accept the fact that "death" and "festivities" can go hand-in-hand, for most Mexicans, the two are intricately entwined. This all stems from the ancient indigenous peoples of Mexico (Purepecha, Nahua, Totonac and Otomí) who believed that the souls of the dead return each year to visit with their living relatives - to eat, drink and be merry.

Just like they did when they were living.

Read the Day of the Dead feature, by guest columnist Marvin Perton, in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Arte Six": Quick Hits: MUSIC: San Francisco: "Other Minds Festival 10"

Redefining music – “Other Minds” is San Francisco's most eclectic, edgy new music festival. Innovative composers and performers take you to the brilliant (lunatic) fringes of contemporary music.

Aquarians must attend immediately; you will be among friends.

This year, “Other Minds 10” gathers participants from Canada, Armenia, Germany, China, Japan, Poland, Italy, South Korea, and the U.S., for three days of extraordinary, odd, often brilliant and flat-out wild music events.

What’s on this year: Armenian folk strains, driving jazz inspired by Jimi Hendrix, concerto for wind band and quarter-tone flute from the European new wave, multimedia opera with classical Indian vocals mixed live in soft chorus, cello electronica and surround-sound "acousmatics".

At Yerba Buena:
Amelia Cuni performs the U.S. premiere of her multimedia phenomenon “Ashtayama-Song of Hours”, a stunning combination of Cuni's dhrupad singing, Werner Durand's live electronic mixing, and Uli Sigg's video/light project.

Composer/sound designer Mark Grey and cellist Joan Jeanrenaud present “Sands of Time” for cello, with live electronic processing.

Dreamy “acousmatic” soundscapes from Francis Dhomont.

Avant-garde accordionist Stefan Hussong performs Dream, with dance accompaniment by stilt choreographer Pamela Wunderlich.

At Audium:
Composer Stanley Shaff weaves sonic sensations into a total sensory experience at “Audium”, his "Theatre of Sound-Sculpted Space" at 1616 Bush St. (@ Franklin).
The show takes place in total darkness. Bring a flashlight.
Show starts 4p.m. Get info: (415) 771-1616.

Find it: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater: 700 Howard St. @ 3rd
Get info: (415)934.8134, (415) 978-ARTS
Buy a flashlight: Try Amazon.com

PS: We’re only joking about the flashlight. If you bring one anyway and
get thrown out, it’s not on us.

Read more music events/reviews in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Arte Six": Quick Hits: LIVES: Fiona Robyn, poet

"My poems are usually 'born' when I notice something unusual that strikes me for some reason. This could be anything from 'the feeling of snow compacting under my feet in shudders' to a leaf falling on my head to noticing a girl on a train.

"I'll write a rough first draft of what I've seen/heard/noticed, and then I just keep re-writing it and re-writing so it gets closer and closer to the way I want to say it. I read aloud a lot and listen to the sound of the words, and will change words or the order of the words if they don't seem 'right'.

A lot of poems seem to get born when I'm traveling for some reason -- trains are best."

Read the full "Lives" profile of poet Fiona Robyn in the March 2004 issue of "Arte Six".

"Arte Six": Quick Hits: TRAVEL: Paris: Le Mur Des Je T’aime

Venice has the Bridge of Sighs, Agra the Taj Mahal. Paris, the City of Light, has Le Mur Des Je T’aime (The Wall of I Love Yous).

Artist statement: In a world marked by violence and dominated by individualism, walls, like frontiers, are usually made to divide and to separate people and to protect them from one another. The Wall is a link, a place of reconciliation, a mirror which reflects an image of love and peace.

The artist, Frédéric Baron, has collected more than 1,000 “I Love Yous” written in more than 300 languages and different dialects. In 1998 he wrote "The Book of I Love Yous" and distributed 50,000 copies for free.

Read more travel stories in archived and upcoming issues of "Arte Six".


Sixspace kicks off the 2004 exhibition schedule with mysterious and ooky renditions of possession, in “Risen: Tales of Golems and Voodoo”.

Artists Martin Ontiveros and Donovan Crosby present new paintings that explore the themes in differing folklores. Ontiveros’ work deals with the Jewish legend of Golem, an automaton created to do man’s tasks. Crosby will exhibit works based on the haunting tales of voodoo and magic that includes zombies, spells, and damned souls.

Read more art event coverage in the February 2004 issue of "Arte Six".


“Swapping Sides”
Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, novelist

"Reporters are the unsung heroes of the literary world."

When I was 15 years old, I wrote in my diary that I wanted to be a novelist.

I already knew at that age I was a writer. Not that I wanted to be a writer, but that I was born with a need to write and a love for the process of writing.

I stumbled into a career as a newspaper reporter because it was one of the few where you could get paid to write.

I enjoyed it, overall. But there were times when I realized I was different from many reporters around me.

Such as?

Sitting outside the house of a woman whose husband had just driven a city bus into the Charles River and killed himself.

I was sobbing at the emotional intensity and tragedy of the event, everyone else seemed impatient, annoyed that she didn't want to talk.

I didn't feel like my colleagues saw this new widow as a human being, but as a subject. They were more concerned with scooping each other and landing on page one than they were about her as a person.

It repulsed me to be in a pack of vultures like that.

But I learned some valuable skills as a reporter, that have served me well as a novelist.

First, that there's no such thing as writer's block; it's an excuse. When you're looking at a deadline and the paper must come out, you write. That's all there is to it. The most disciplined writers I know are newspaper reporters.

One in particular stands out.

Karen Avenoso, a brilliant, beautiful young reporter at the “Boston Globe”, was dying of cancer. She was undergoing chemotherapy.

And yet there she was, in the newsroom, typing away on deadline two desks away from me. She got up now and then, pale and haggard, to stretch, and at one point got down on her back, flat on the floor, because the pain was so intense.

After a while, she was up again, typing. She turned her story in, and then a month or so later, she died.

When I meet self-important authors in the literary world (and there is no shortage, trust me) who complain that it took ten years for the muse to bite their limited asses, I think of Karen.

And I have little patience for the "artists" who require adoration, rituals or alcohol, or whatever the hell they need, in order to write.

Reporters never have that luxury, and they don't complain. Reporters are the unsung heroes of the literary world.

I also learned fearlessness as a news writer. I covered horrible plane crashes, murders, rapes, hate crimes - all manner of bloody, toxic things no normal person would want to be around.

I interviewed human monsters who'd shaken babies to death, and looked into their eyes.

I learned to ask questions I dreaded asking, of people I feared and loathed, and I learned to distill from complex realities a truth simple enough for someone
with a fifth-grade education to understand.

I am mystified by literary writers - and critics - who think good writing means complicated, almost unintelligible writing.

As a newspaper writer, I realized the goal of all writers should be communication, clean and clear.

Before newspapers, I might have written in a showy, needy prose, so people noticed me, the writer, and my genius or something.

Now I can step aside, leave the curly writing to someone else, and simply write to communicate, my heart to the reader's heart, with as little clutter between us as possible. It is harder by far to write clearly than it is to write congestedly.

Another quality I think good journalists develop is a powerful sense of empathy. And empathy is a necessary quality in good fiction.

A good journalist learns to listen, hard. And to understand. Not judge. A good novelist should try to do the same.

Without empathy or the ability to listen well to people, a reporter doesn't get a story.

Without empathy and the ability to listen well, novelist has shallow characters and fake-sounding dialogue. I absolutely believe newspapers are the best training ground for writers, of any kind.

Journalism was limiting to me, however, in terms of truth-telling.

I feel more able to tell the truth, or at least my truth regarding race and ethnicity, in fiction than I ever did in newspapers.

Newspapers did not share my worldview, and they were arrogant in their own and unyielding. As institutions, newspapers did not listen well, either to their reporters -- particularly women and minorities -- or to their readers.

As a reporter, I did not believe in the status quo, did not enjoy the way the media stereotyped so-called minorities blindly and shamelessly.

I detested the way my editors defended this practice as if it were necessary, and the stupidity that permeated every aspect of the coverage of race and
ethnicity in America in the newspapers I worked for made my sick to my stomach.

That's why I left newspapers: There was too much lying going on in their pages, and I could not, in good conscience, perpetuate the myths my editors so passionately believed were true.

As a novelist, I am finally free, and I love it.

BIO: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez is a former journalist-turned-novelist. She was a staff reporter for the “LA Times”. She plays tenor sax. Her mother is a poet. Alisa’s favorite writers aren’t novelists – they’re journalists.

Valdes-Rodriquez was named one of “Entertainment Weekly’s” breakout literary stars of 2003. She quit her job to finish first novel. St. Martin’s Press bought it, and the book spent three months on the “New York Times” hardcover bestseller list. Jennifer Lopez and “Spiderman” producer Laura Ziskin optioned her first novel for Columbia Pictures. Valdes-Rodriguez is the author of "The Dirty Girls Social Club."
Her new book, "Playing With Boys" (St. Martin's Press) will be releases in October 2004.

Official site: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Read blog: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez

Find more books/writers content, in the February 2004 issue of "Arte Six".