In Visalia, Pizza and Poetry Mix at Howie & Son's

Aug 23, 2013
Howie & Son's

If you want to hear poetry on a Friday night in the San Joaquin Valley, stop by Howie & Son’s Pizza Parlor in Visalia.

You’ll find us in the back room, by the video game machines.

This isn’t your standard poetry reading. It’s poetry slam, the competitive art of performance poetry. We write our own verse and then deliver it, forcefully and in our own distinctive style.

Commentary: Does Teaching Yoga In Schools Promote Religion?

Aug 14, 2013
Flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/lyntally/ / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

Is teaching yoga to kids a form of religious indoctrination? About a month ago, a California judge ruled that yoga could be taught at the Encinitas Union School District without violating the constitutional separation of church and state.  But the plaintiffs will probably appeal the decision. The story hit home for me, because I’ve been one of those skeptics of yoga—and I’ve also been a yoga instructor.

How A Marine Biologist Learned to Live With Shark Week

Aug 7, 2013
David Shiffman / https://twitter.com/WhySharksMatter

When I was a little boy growing up in Pittsburgh, hundreds of miles from the ocean, the only sharks I ever saw were at the aquarium or on my TV. These early images helped inspire me to become a shark biologist. I’ve now interacted with thousands of sharks up close, including a face-to-face with a 12-foot sand tiger shark that formed the basis of my college admission essay.

Commentary: Is Juicing an Eating Disorder?

Aug 1, 2013
Flickr user shutterbean / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

Los Angeles is the only place I’ve ever been invited to someone’s house for a meal and been served a glass of juice, period. That morning, I sat on my host’s patio, sipping a small, bright glassful of antioxidant-rich juice, listening to the gentle crash of waves, and thinking that surely the plate of bagels must be coming. It never did.

Flickr user bob_in_thailand / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

There’s a nasty California disease spreading so fast that even our baseball teams have caught it.

Flickr user http://www.flickr.com/photos/joeshlabotnik/ / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

A riddle. If you land at a big-city airport and there’s no train there, where are you?

Answer: California.

Yes, San Francisco, I know you’re the exception, with a BART train stop inside San Francisco International Airport (SFO). But the California rule is that we’ll invest billions in our airports and billions in our trains, but we wouldn’t dream of directly connecting the two.

Instead, we taunt those who dare to dream.

How I Started an Opera Company in Visalia

Jul 29, 2013
Visalia Opera Company

How did I, of all people, end up starting an opera company? The answer has to do with being willing to forget about credentials and just take that first step. The answer also has to do with the open culture of my hometown.

I grew up in Visalia, singing Gloria Estefan and Selena songs at county fairs. All I wanted to do when I grew up was to be a pop singer—to shake my booty on stage and wear glittery outfits. I didn’t know the first thing about opera.

Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user bredgur / http://www.flickr.com/photos/bredgur/2925876954/sizes/l/

To the distinguished California Public High School Class of 2013.

I’m sorry James Franco canceled at the last minute. I’m even sorrier that you wound up getting me as your substitute commencement speaker, but I was offered gas money plus a free lunch.

Flickr user etotherock / Creative Commons / http://www.flickr.com/photos/etotherock/4660009137/

Last week, I watched a debate between Los Angeles mayoral candidates Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, and a clear winner emerged: Warren Olney, the moderator. I’m not saying that Olney’s fine grilling made the experience worthwhile, though, because nothing could. The California political debate is dead. When was the last time you heard one with an argument that convinced you of anything? Heck, when was the last time you heard an argument made in any political debate anywhere?