Northern California’s East Bay Coffeehouse Culture: Transformative, Unique, Challenged, but Probably Here to Stay


“Bars don’t invite activism. They invite, well, drunkenism. So repressive regimes don’t always go after the beer bars, but they do shut down the coffeehouses and teahouses.”

Tim Holmes, owner and manager of San Leandro’s Zocalo’s coffeehouse, explains the transformative cultural and social role he hopes his business and other community centers play in Northern California’s East Bay neighborhoods. We discussed this over a sweet specialty Kahlua-flavored coffee, while tickling the feet of Juliet, the nine-month-old baby for which barista Sarah Hammitt is a nanny.

To Holmes, city council and school board positions are pivotal for shaping local society and also training grounds for creating broader-scale change. For these reasons, Zocalo’s hosts candidate forums and other nonpartisan events related to local city and county elections.

Several other gathering places, such as Alameda’s Crosstown and downtown Oakland’s It’s a Grind franchise, also facilitate and encourage community involvement in ways that make sense for the local residents of their distinctive areas.

Many people associate Northern California coffeehouse culture with San Francisco’s North Beach, Beatniks, hipsters, and artists and college students either independently wealthy or living off their families’ cash. However, diverse and distinctive neighborhoods throughout the East Bay’s commuter and family/bedroom community areas feature their own versions of these gathering places, which offer unique blends of entertainment, conversation, and empowerment.

A dispute over their building lease and economic pressures may force Crosstown out of business, and they already have to vacate their current location by Friday, July 24th. Alameda has a few other independent coffeehouses, along with a Starbucks and a Peet’s, but most close earlier and are smaller than Crosstown.

Several Crosstown baristas and managers said they invite the landowners to come in and visit their place and try some coffee, see how nicely they keep it up and how many community events occur there.

Zocalo’s and It’s a Grind’s management admit to also feeling the effects of the economy – people have not necessarily stopped coming, as some are forgoing expensive out-of-town vacations, but regulars tend to buy fewer items.

Nurtured by the dreams of an innovative faith community, Crosstown replaced a run-down, vacated High Street bar with the help of dozens of local volunteers. Initially, everyone, including their upper management, was officially a part-time employee, and people put in many hours of unpaid overtime.

“We all believed in the project,” explained now-general manager Faith McRory. “It doesn’t seem like work when you really get excited about something.”

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Petition to free the imprisoned journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Help Release Laura Ling and Euna Lee

Target: The government of North Korea
Sponsored by:

Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two American journalists, were recently sentenced to 12 years of prison in North Korea.

On March 17, 2009, Laura and Euna were shooting video along the China/North Korea border for a story they were working on about the trafficking of women in the region. They were stopped by North Korean border guards and arrested immediately thereafter. Both women were transported to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, where they remained under arrest until their trial.

A verdict in their closed trial was reached on June 8, and both Laura and Euna were sentenced to 12 years of reform through labor for illegal entry and grave crimes against the North Korean state.

Since the sentencing, the families have been able to receive calls on a few occasions. During the second call received on the evening of July 7, Laura and Euna reported that they are being treated fairly and are being seen by physicians. In the most recent call, they asked for continued support from our country and its citizens for their amnesty.

Urge the government of North Korea to grant amnesty to Laura Ling and Euna Lee!

New place to go for feedback on your work and local event announcements


Announcing that Synchronized Chaos Magazine now has a Facebook group and a blog to announce literary, cultural, artistic and human-rights and freedom of speech-related events going on in particular places. So there’s now a place to go to find out about, say, something in Chicago or Paris or Castro Valley that might be interesting, and to post announcements of events in your area.

The Facebook group is also a writers’ workshop where people may post pieces for virtual feedback, and events will be posted in the ‘Recent News’ section. If you’re interested in local events going on in your area or in getting feedback on your work before submitting it to Synchronized Chaos, please do read and comment on the blog/Facebook group.

We encourage anyone and everyone to join the free Facebook group and read the blog (no registration required for the blog.) This way we can keep the magazine for articles, interviews, professional and charitable calls for submissions, professional training opportunities, and of course, everyone’s work!



News and Notices, the Educational Edition

First of all, this coming week the Women’s Ministry of Neighborhood Church invites all women, regardless of faith or church affiliation, to a free celebration of Chocolate, Coffee, and the Arts. The event, part of their Summer Nights Out with Women (SNOW) series, takes place at 7pm Thursday July 23rd in D-3, a large upstairs meeting room at the Neighborhood Church of Castro Valley (up the hill at 20600 John Drive, people will happily direct you to D3 or you may call 510-537-4690.) Local artists, writers, designers will host participatory workshops teaching others the fundamentals of their craft in a fun, low-stress setting…and there will be a chocolate fountain, gourmet coffees and snacks. I know most of our readers live thousands of miles from Castro Valley – but this type of event could be replicated elsewhere to celebrate local artists…and we at Synchronized Chaos acknowledge this effort at bringing artists of different disciplines together for mutual education and networking and outreach.

Synchronized Chaos takes the opportunity to pass on information and an invitation to enter the International Songwriting Competition – Festival 4 Stars!

From the organizer, Julia Brunton, and publicist Deana Burke:

Now in its 5th year, Festival 4 Stars is a contest where everybody wins. Every entrant receives written feedback by a panel of music industry heavyweights. Meaning your song will get in front of the right people, even if you aren’t chosen as a finalist.You may learn more about the contest at the official website,

Finalists compete for cash prizes and a trip to London to co-write with professional songwriters and producers.

This year Festival4Stars is delighted to welcome the great songwriter, Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees’ and John McLaughlin, famous songwriter, manager & BBC’s Fame Academy judge.

Festival 4 Stars accepts song entries in the following categories, pop/rock, singer/songwriter, country/folk, and r&b/soul/rap. It is open to anyone in the world with the stipulation being that the lyrics are in English. There is a small processing fee ($30) that gets fed back into the program to handle admin fees.


Northern California’s Public Art Academy hosts a professional training series for artists seeking their first public art commissions! Sessions discuss how to apply for a public art commission, concept development and schematic design, documents, contracts, and other legalities. For artists living or working in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties…six classroom sessions on Saturday mornings, three afternoon bus tours, held in different Bay Area cities close to public transit, led by leading public artists and administrators. $150 per student, limited to 50. Online applications due 11 am August 3rd, visit and view a prospectus at

The Hawaii Writers’ Conference, one of the leading industry events, announces the Writing Channel, full of podcasts, streaming videos, audios, conference transcripts, a chance to learn from published authors including Wendy Wasserstein, Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen Coonts, Nicholas Sparks, etc. Available for less than $20 –

I don’t know about the networking opportunities available through the website…Synchronized Chaos is an attempt at free online networking to replicate that aspect of professional art and writing conferences. However, it seems to be at the very least a valuable educational resource…we’re putting the link out there for everyone. Also we’re working on providing more in the way of advice and professional instruction for writers ourselves…we’d love to speak with you if you’re interested in mentoring other writers or being interviewed for a regular column where published authors share advice on craft and business.

Announcement – Award-winning Independent Documentary on Burma’s Independent Journalism Movement – opens this week


Documentary on Burma’s Saffron Revolution – the 2007 national uprising against a fascist government, led by Buddhist monks and ordinary people. Opens this week in the San Francisco Bay Area, check your local area for screenings and/or contact the filmmakers to request a showing.

Synchronized Chaos Magazine stands with writers and journalists everywhere persecuted for nonviolently carrying out their artistic or professional pursuits, and supports the production and showing of this film.

**International Documentary Film Festival 2008 (Amsterdam)**
Joris Ivens Award
**One World Human Rights Film Festival (Prague)**
Vaclav Havel Award
Amnesty International Award

       This award-winning documentary shows a rare inside look into the 2007 uprising in Myanmar through the cameras of the independent journalist group, Democratic Voice of Burma.
In 2007, 100,000 monks took to the streets in Burma’s Saffron Revolution. The Democratic Voice of Burma, a collective of 30 anonymous and underground video journalists (VJs) recorded these historic and dramatic events on handycams and smuggled footage out of the country, where it was broadcast world-wide via satellite Risking torture and imprisonment, the VJs vividly document the brutal clashes with the military and undercover police– even after they themselves become targets of the authorities.

This film has received rave reviews and multiple awards. See never before seen footage of the Saffron Revolution.

Click here to view the trailer.  <>

Landmark Shattuck
July 17-23

2230 Shattuck Ave
Berkeley, CA 94701-1416

(510) 464-5980

1:40 pm, 3:40 pm, 5:40 pm, 7:40 pm, 9:40pmSF
Landmark Lumiere
July 17-23  (2:40 5:00) 7:20 9:35  
1572 California Street at Polk
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 267-4893

Works Gallery – San Jose – Art Workshops

The Works Gallery in downtown San Jose hosts free interactive workshops this week, open to everyone and hosted by experienced artists. Works collaborates with artists of all types around Santa Clara County to feature and promote creative development through mentoring, shows, lectures, etc.

Will keep everyone posted about future workshops in advance, as they plan to continue with the series in later months.


TUESDAY JULY 14, 2-4pm, Come paint with artist Brande Barrett!

    WEDNESDAY JULY 15, 2-4pm, Create a ‘zine’ about yourself with Amy Anderson & Claire Tero!

THURSDAY JULY 16, 2-4pm, Experience sculpture with artist Alfred Preciado!

    FRIDAY JULY 17, 2-4pm, Mixed Media art with artist Anne Taylor!

SATURDAY JULY 18, 10-2pm, Everything goes! Art tables, games and worshops to choose from!

    QUESTIONS? Write Stephanie Battle, Gallery Coordinator at or call (408)286-6800 or cellphone (520)245-7821!


Announcement: Independent Artists’ Company Annual Songwriting Competition


IAC announces the KIAC Best of 2009 Songs Competition, a combination judged/voted open competition in 15 genres, plus a Songwriting “genre” for demo quality, with the Category winners moving on to an Overall competition, and featuring fabulous first, second, and third prizes in the Category competitions as well as the Overall.

Each Category contest will accept entries of songs deemed by the entrant to be appropriately placed. Songs may be entered in multiple Categories, and must be entered by persons possessing the relevant rights or specific permission. Songs must be available for judges and the general public to listen to during the entire competition period, on an artist page at, with such pages to be either a page for the individual artist of the song, or for the management or label.

A Category contest will be held in the following Categories: Alternative, Alternative Pop Rock, Blues & Jazz, Classic and Retro Rock, Classical and Easy Listening, Country, Electronic/Industral/Ambient, Folk/Acoustic Rock/Americana, Hard Rock & Metal, Hip Hop/Rap/Dance, Pop, Punk/Emo/Ska, R&B/Soul, Rock, Songwriting, World. Cover songs may not be entered.

More information and entry process (free to all comers) available here:


Pocket Opera: Where the Director Plays Piano, Where There Are No Nosebleed Seats



“Nice music, but everyone sang all at once.” “Hard to understand.” “They were the soap operas of their day.” “So terribly tragic!”

Many people have opinions about the opera, whether they attend performances or not.


The Pocket Opera company, founded in the sixties by Artistic Director Donald Pippin, strives to make the shows varied, fun, and accessible and thus expose more people to the art form. Originally presented in the Old Spaghetti Factory with wine and pasta, their operas range from old favorites (Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Carmen) to formerly overlooked shows, sometimes translated and produced for the first time in the United States, but which still draw crowds.


“Every opera company brings their own approach to the same shows,” explained production manager Nicolas Aliaga. “We choose to bring the narrative storyline to the foreground by minimizing the sets and translating the entire piece into English.”


Translation involves constant choice and compromise when going from one language to another with different rhythms and root words. Internationally recognized for their abilities, the Pocket Opera’s translators work to balance literal meaning, syllabic count, alliteration, poetic allusion, and contextual background when bringing the lilting Italian lyrics down to their often shorter and rougher-sounding English equivalents. More about that process here: “Turning Opera into English” under the Donald Pippin section.

The performances also offer an explanation of the storyline before each act, so that viewers may concentrate on the musical experience without simultaneously attempting to decipher plot. Singers can put more energy into the vowel sounds than the consonants, which, while enhancing musicality and melody, can make some words difficult to make out.


Pocket Opera also intentionally encourages creativity and resourcefulness among its performers. “We don’t rehearse on location,” Aliaga said. “And we put on shows in a variety of small theaters all over the Bay Area, so we have to adjust and figure out how to work with each new setting a few hours before each performance. Make sure everyone’s there, load all the props and sets out of our U-Haul, touch up anything that needs it with a glue gun.”


Performances come out of short periods of intense preparation. At the beginning of every season Pippin selects five operas, then holds auditions and begins rehearsals in January. This readies the company for its first public productions in February, which continue throughout July in San Francisco and outlying regions. To give an idea of the time frame, La Favorita involved 4-5 weeks of rehearsal, while Carmen required closer to seven.


The structure of the presentations showcases each participant’s talents, as normally there is one person on stage for each of an opera’s voice parts: one soprano, one alto, etc. Pocket Opera is also known in the opera world for sensitivity to its vocalists: the costumers work together with the singers to make sure the outfits allow performers to move freely enough to reach the highest and lowest notes of a piece. They attract a wide variety of singers – people fresh out of the conservatory looking for a break, people in the midst of successful operatic careers who don’t want to travel far from the Bay Area.


Located directly behind the singers, the orchestra contains eight instrumentalists without a conductor. Several of the company’s stalwarts multitask to perform music – even Pippin, who also plays piano in between managerial and directorial duties.


When asked about the future of Pocket Opera in these difficult times, Aliaga replied, “We keep attracting newer and younger people every year.” He explained that they offer a unique experience, and so far people continue to show interest. “Here people can afford tickets without getting stuck in the nosebleed section, and actually see the performance.”


Born in a barroom amid the clutter of dishes, nurtured on wine and pasta, the Bay Area’s Pocket Opera presents Carmen, the final show of this year, this July. You may visit them online and read about their history and approach to production here:

News and Notices, Second Edition – includes job opportunities!


Some more announcements and opportunities for our readers and contributors:

Heart and Soul, an organization of, by, and for those living with mental illness (, seeks people to write and briefly share their own stories – about themselves and their interests, how they cope, where they would like to go in life – during short presentations to a variety of civic groups. Participants earn $25 and a free dinner and the chance to network and help educate others about mental illness and discrimination. I do not know if there are any residency requirements or if you have to physically be present to speak or can have someone else read a piece you email in – but will ask if anyone is interested.

STAMP OUT STIGMA is currently looking for individuals who are willing to share their life story of struggle and hope with others as part of an SOS presentation.  A stipend of $25.00 is offered to those who make a presentation and dinner is also included.   If you’re interested please contact: Carmen Lee, (650) 343-8760.   

  The Pacific Environment group works to enhance treaties and laws creating and maintaining natural preserves in northern regions of the world: Siberia, Alaska, Canada, etc. They’re online at and are hiring communications and development staff – including China and Russia program managers, development and fundraising people, and interns to manage their social media presence, who can work from home. If anyone is interested, please comment and we’d be happy to take a look at your writing and/or website and pass on a recommendation to contacts within the organization.

Note: Synchronized Chaos Magazine provides information on employment and exhibition/submission opportunities we come across which may interest our contributors. We offer this as a public service and to build community – and within reason we publicize all opportunities as we come across them. Synchronized Chaos Magazine itself takes no political/religious/cultural positions and does not necessarily endorse the work of any organization. Please let us know if you or anyone else you know is hiring or seeking people with skills similar to any of the Synchronized Chaos contributors (copywriting, media management, photography, etc.)

Finally, the folks from the Local Shopping Rewards TV show are producing a new sister show educating people about how best to enjoy and protect the natural environment and also providing job-search and employment information and affordable advertising for environmentally sustainable businesses. The show will feature all over the Bay Area in working-class, middle-class, and educated upper-class neighborhoods, and seeks to be interesting and informative to all types of people of all cultural backgrounds.

Please provide feedback to Kim Ryle, Community Relations/Marketing Director, concerning how to best shape the direction and style of this show! He’s reachable at or 510-427-6935…and the upcoming show is intended as a sister show to

If you particpate and send him feedback, please comment and let us know – if you provide your email address we’ll send a short story as a free gift.

They would like to know your thoughts on any or all of a variety of questions:

What kind of content could have the greatest impact on the local economy?  

Which large environmental or other organizations that many local people respect could donate to or underwrite the show?

What organizations can be considered for job information, resources, or inspiration?

 Who are the stakeholders/participants in this effort and who should be consulted and involved no matter what to keep the show relevant?

Who could be featured on the show (at least semifamous, well-known people?)

What are some businesses or organizations who may want to sponsor the show?

Thanks very much for reading Synchronized Chaos Magazine!

Early July’s resource list…free giveaway for signing up for the RSS feed or cross-linking!


Now for a new weekly feature of Synchronized Chaos Magazine…we’re putting together regular lists of resources and opportunities for our contributors and for all journalists, writers, artists, and creators. We’ll mention a few we’ve come across…please feel free to comment with anything you have found (books, websites, tips and advice, resources) which you think may help others.

For journalists and anyone who may use interviews as a tool for fiction or nonfiction writing – we came across a wonderful-sounding book by Lawrence Grobel and coauthor Donleavy called The Art of the Interview. Here’s a link to the book and to some responses its techniques actually elicited in interviews:

For those interested in getting their names out there while raising funds for worthwhile causes, there’s the Sweet Charity site, which hosts periodic short-story auctions. Everything is conducted and moderated online, and causes include RAINN for rape/incest survivors, Invisible Children (children affected by Uganda’s civil war), and the Los Angeles area employees (hairdressers, custodial staff, etc) out of work during last year’s writers’ strike.

You may put up any short story, including fanfiction, so long as the piece is your own creation…also you may sell tangible crafts or offer to pinch-hit for those unable to fulfill their obligations. Basic information is online here: and the next auction is in September, cause to be announced – so now’s a great time to start writing a new piece!  

The site has a young-person feel…but it works for everyone, I have sold several pieces myself through Sweet Charity.

Also, we are offering a free gift, an emailed short story from our archived collection, to people who sign up for Synchronized Chaos’ RSS feed (link is on the right hand of the main page) or host it on their websites. Please email us at if you’re signed up!


Transformative creations: Invitation to Project Focus’ Long Beach art showcase and community development benefit

Synchronized Chaos invites our readership, newcomers included, to attend the Project Focus exhibition in Long Beach the evening of Saturday, July 18th. Project Focus is a grassroots cross-cultural network of Americans and rural Ugandans working together to produce and participate in art and human-development projects which empower local communities. This event showcases international art produced through their work and benefits sustainable development in the country village of Lyantonde.

A group of friends and classmates with art and psychology backgrounds, Project Focus’ members visited Uganda initially to offer art therapy to children affected by violence. The art-therapy project involved its share of growing pains, but through these challenges the group developed genuine friendships with those abroad and chose to stay involved and continue dialoguing and learning from their cross-cultural interactions. Their subsequent creative projects came out of those friendships…spoken word events and auctions to benefit elementary schools, reclaimed community artspace in Chicago, open to everyone, elementary school cross cultural pen pal programs, and various  Ugandan artists’ depictions of how AIDS has affected their communities.

Project Focus integrates art, education, strengthening communities, and environmental sustainability into a holistic approach to transforming lives in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Lyantonde.

Project Focus’ blog (from their website represents the best of the organization… Unique, descriptive entries which draw readers in, great storytelling, reflections of each member’s personality.

Event details:

Project FOCUS + Phantom Galleries LA would like to invite you to our Los Angeles Premier where we will unveil the artwork generated by the people of Lyantonde and Project FOCUS artists in an effort to educate and inspire audiences. Project FOCUS will be fundraising for a sustainable development initiative in rural Lyantonde, Uganda.

This multi media exhibit features photography, digital audio and video, writing, fabric collages, painting, interactive installation, reaction art, and more.

Project FOCUS: Los Angeles Exhibition
July 18th
6pm Meet Project FOCUS

7-10pm Exhibition
170 The Promenade North
Long Beach, CA 90802

Femina Potens’ call for visual art submissions

Femina Potens is holding a call for artist submissions for our annual visual art exhibition ‘Bust ED’.  This show honors breast cancer awareness month addressing breast health. ‘Bust ED’ celebrates the lovely and erotic nature of the bosom, while reminding everyone of the way breast cancer affects our lives.


This October 2009, Femina Potens will be hosting the second annual ‘Bust ED II’.  We are asking for submissions from artists to take part in this powerful show.  If you have  artwork or a project proposal inspired by the breast please contact us.



Apply by sending:

– bio

– artists statement, or project proposal

– 5 jpg images


to Michelle Rothman at 


Thank you, we look forward to viewing your submissions.