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: