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PostHeaderIcon Artist Wears Her CHOICE on Her Sleeve

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Michele Pred is a Swedish-American conceptual artist who works with found and confiscated objects and technology, and breathes new life and meaning into them through creative reconstruction—an unforgettable marriage of art, ecology, and social commentary.

Her latest works, “Pro Choice” expresses her frustration with the growing national attack on women’s health care and access to birth control—from restrictions on abortion in dozens of states to reduced coverage for women’s preventative care to the upcoming Supreme Court decision on the availability of conception.

The works include a vintage hat case with “Choice” spelled out on it in neon letters, as well as a series of portable battery-operated neon purses. The purses are for sale, and are meant to be carried to promote a pro-choice statement on reproductive rights. Pred will donate 5 percent of sale proceeds to a local organization that provides women’s services.

It’s not the first time Pred’s concern for the subject has been showcased in her art. In 2012, Pred was part of the contemporary art fair, Art Miami, with her provocative exhibit, “Miss Conception, ”in which she stood for two hours wearing a birth control pill-studded gown, tiara, scepter, and sash.

"My art is really about igniting dialogue," she said. "Whether you agree or like what I'm doing, it's about provoking a conversation."

Her studio is filled with boxes in which she sorts her found and repurposed items. Pred says of her materials, “The diverse array of assembled ‘dangerous’ items may be regarded as the cultural residue of a particular moment in history…each small tool, like each of us, bears some weight of the changed world.”

Pred’s work has been exhibited internationally, and is in the permanent collection of the 21st Century Museum, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) New York, The Contemporary Museum in Honolulu, the Di Rosa Museum in Napa CA, and is held in numerous corporate and private collections. Pred received her BFA from the California College of the Arts, where she is now an adjunct Professor.

Pred is fearlessly political and material inventive—a truly unique and wholly modern artist.--SF

Last Updated (Friday, 23 May 2014 04:38)


PostHeaderIcon Berkeley Activist Shares Positive Spirit

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Humanist Hall is a Humanist Church in downtown Oakland, founded in 1935 and conceived in that decade's enthusiasm for socialism as the answer to poverty and economic depression. An unassuming brown shingled building on a relatively quiet strip of 27th Street, overlooking its warm and simple sanctuary is a depiction of the earth and a paraphrased quote by Thomas Paine, “The World is my country, to do good is my religion.”

It is a fitting setting for last month's launch of a new do-good enterprise by long-time social justice activist and former executive director of Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS), Boona Cheema, along with co-founder and fellow BOSS alum, Janny Castillo.

Cheema retired from the helm of BOSS, a large East Bay homeless services organization, in February 2013. but continues her social justice activism on Bay Area Boards, including Just Cause and Western Regional Advocacy Project)—though retirement is definitely a relative term.

Along with Castillo and local artist Damon Guthrie, Cheema envisioned the new venture as a catch-all service to help individuals, organizations, and communities design multi-media products and services to share their messages or solve community problems.

“My vision for boonachepresents is that (Castillo) and I can model a presence in the community which is conflict free and thrives on compassion,” she said.

It is a model the long-time activist is passionate about, having championed work in peaceful communication and compassionate social activism throughout her four decades in BOSS, and her whole life. Her family were refugees across the new India-Pakistan border when she was just 2 years old: social activism is in her DNA, as the daughter of a Sikh family in which all members—political father and brother, sister working in U.S. AID, community involved mother—were actively engaged in the social justice.

“Relationships are important to me,” she said. Boonachepresents is designed to support and nurture many of the relationships she spent forty years cultivating in the East Bay, as well as develop new ones. “The community needs to smile more and work with good-natured, informed, and very creative people.”

Special events, trainings, consulting work, audio-visual production—the boonachepresents team are a Jack-and-Jill-of-all-trades, eager to share their positive activist spirit in a new way in the community.

“It is my dream to help make the dreams of others come true using our experience and creativity,” says Castillo. “We bring the community’s ideas to divine fruition.”

Formerly homeless herself, Castillo sought assistance in BOSS and was taken under the wing of Cheema, who helped  her buy a computer and start her own graphic design company. Castillo eventually went to work for BOSS, and honed her skills in graphic design, video production, photography, and multi-media work. Today, she works at St. Mary’s Center as well as boonachepresents. She also conducts spiritual readings and Reiki healings, and coaches her granddaughter, an aspiring photographer.

As a sampling of what the dynamic duo have to offer, the March 10th event proffered international foods and décor, warm-hearted multi-cultural networking, Indian dance (by Priya K. Nykan, www.indiandanceartist.com), and an inclusive non-denominational spiritual invocation as the venture-launching red ribbon was cut by boona’s 90-year old mom visiting from India.

Artwork from a soon-to-be released children’s book written by cheema and illustrated by Damon—boombin and lama—was on display at the launch. The book is the first in a planned series of eco-educational children’s books, casting Cheema's long-time travel companion Teddy Bear boombin as the protagonist.

boonachepresents is targeted to individuals and organizations alike—anyone who wants a highly creative and uniquely personalized rendering of their project, with the soulful spirit that is the defining M.O. of the trio: the company’s slogan is “at the heart of our presentations is your essence”. To showcase your essence, visit www.boonachepresents.com. --- SF


Sonja Fitz writes regularly for allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 14 April 2014 04:04)


PostHeaderIcon Pack Up the Moon Dispatched to Bookstores

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The latest release, Pack Up The Moon, from Internationally best-selling romance novelist, Rachael Herron is on bookstore shelves nationwide.

When she isn't writing, Herron works as a dispatcher for the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District, where she handles 911 calls for police and firefighters. In her daily work, the Oakland resident is often not far from tragedy, and while pursuing her novel writing career, she spins a riveting yarn.

The theme of Herron's most recent novel evolves three years after a horrible tragedy took the son of artist Kate Monroe, tore her family apart,  leaving her to pick up the pieces of her life and move on. At a gala showcasing of her triumphant return to the art world, Kate's world is rocked again when the daughter she gave up for adoption 22 years ago introduces herself.

Pree is the child Kate never knew and never forgot. But Pree has questions that Kate isn't sure she's ready to answer. For one thing, she never told Pree's father, her high school sweetheart and ex-husband, Nolan, that they had a daughter.

For another, Kate hasn't spoken to Nolan for three years, not since the accident which took their 9-year-old son from them. But to keep Pree from leaving forever, Kate will have to confront the secrets that have haunted her since her son died and discover if the love of her family is strong enough to survive even the most heartbreaking of betrayals.

A product of  National Novel Writing Month, (NaNoWriMo) Herron wrote a book during the month of November, 2006. NaNoWriMo challenges writers to put down 50,000 words in 30 days, about 1666 words a day, with the goal of completing a book.

To become an author had been her life-long desire since childhood, writing stories through grade school, high school and into college.  With a bachelor’s degree in English from Cal Poly and a masters of fine arts from Mills College, she had the credential, but Herron admits the month-long writing marathon really shifted her into high gear.

Still, she has learned to pace herself in sensible intervals of writing and taking breaks into the reality of life: walking her dogs, knitting, napping and spending quality time with her wife, Lala.  Ever eager for new adventures, Herron is taking on the accordion as a challenge, and can strum along a songfest on the ukulele.

Herron is also passionate about knitting and that passion is evident in many of her books:  How to Knit a Love Story, Wishes and Stitches, How to Knit a Heart Back Home and A Life in Stitches.  The colorful book covers display balls of yarn and knitted pieces, finished or in progress. The prolific writer also authored a collective of books, the Cypress Hollow series.

The significance tempts one to research the definition of YARN:  a lengthy, continuous string of wool or cotton (maybe even acrylic), used to knit or weave.  Or an alternate translation:  a narrative of adventures, a tall tale.  Example: A storyteller who spins yarns will keep an audience riveted, a clearly conceived connection.  The optimistic quote professed by Herron is “When life unravels, there’s always a way to knit it back.” .

From her early days in the dorm at Mills College, she connected with a group of young crafters  and described knitters as creative, examples of generosity in sharing, helping one another and warm, like a sweater pulled around her.  A peek into her memoir reveals her expression “My life can be measured in lengths of yarn:  what kind I held, at what time.”

On her blog, yarnagogo.com, Herron offers to teach at writing conferences and seminars.  Her expertise is an outreach to aspiring writers, advising them of how to advance into the world of writing, finding an agent and the discipline of a day at a time composing, editing and rewriting.  “Write a little bit every day and make friends with other writers …. they’ll be your salvation.”--KRB

Karen Balch is a retired nurse, freelance writer and avid reader. She writers regularly for allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 17 March 2014 21:27)


PostHeaderIcon Food Writer Wants to Become the iTunes of Recipes

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Nadine Argueza grew up on a farm in the Philippines. Amazing recipes full of fresh local ingredients filled her childhood. “Any time our family got together there was always great food,” she remembers fondly. So it was only natural that a meandering path away from the Philippines and through college and a new life in the Bay Area sent her, ultimately, back home—into the realm of food, love, and the intersection of the two.

Nadine entered UC Berkeley as a nutritional sciences major. New to Berkeley, she wanted to learn more about her community and joined UC Berkeley’s Bonner Program, which connects activist-minded college students with local nonprofits in need of assistance. “I wanted to know why parts of Berkeley and Oakland were more dangerous to go to—why the inequality,” she says.

As a soft spoken but curious and empathy-driven Bonner Leader, Nadine recruited volunteers and helped with outreach for Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency, a nonprofit that helps Alameda County residents overcome homelessness and rebuild their lives. She saw how food was part of that inequality—poor neighborhoods with a liquor store on every corner and fresh produce nowhere to be found, or in limited quantities at exorbitant prices.


As she interacted with fellow UC Berkeley students, faculty, and community members from around the world, her interest in diversity blossomed. “I veered off my original path into cultural anthropology,” she says. The course study required a lot of interviews. She enjoyed connecting personally with people and eagerly absorbed their stories. Gradually, she found that while studying the systemic causes of inequity was interesting, but unsatisfying. “I was more interested in fighting inequity through tangible goals that could be achieved in small steps.”

She wasn't quite sure what those steps would look like, but a campus Iron Chef competition gave her a clue. “I won first prize,” she smiles. “And I thought, I may have something here.” She started a food blog, gave cooking classes to friends, and began catering friends’ events. Her blog started getting readers and comments from around the world. Realizing she had a growing audience, she wanted to see if she could make a d

“What excited me most,” she says, “was not the numbers of people who were reading it, but how engaged they were.”eeper impact.

Nadine Cooks is the first in what she plans as a series of self-published kindle cookbooks. Released just before Valentine’s Day, it is full of romantic recipes. Part of the proceeds will be donated to typhoon relief in the Philippines. Her second, currently being written, will be a more comprehensive cookbook, with food stories, memories, and recipes from people in different fields—with a focus on young entrepreneurs. Part of the proceeds will be donated to charities fighting poverty.

“I want to become is the iTunes of cookbooks,” she proclaims. Her website offers some free recipes and some for sale, and uses the Tom’s of Maine model of donating 50 percent of what she raises to charity.

To get there, she’s focused on growing her business—increasing her participation in local food journalism, beefing up her catering service, and bringing her cooking classes to a wider audience. She recently teamed up with CHAA (Community Health for Asian Americans) to offer free cooking classes on-site, and hopes to apply for grants.

“I realized that the best way I could make significant change was to make personal connections,” she smiles.

Connect with Nadine at facebook.com/nadinecooks -- SF

Sonja Fitz works as the development director for Building Opportunities for Self-Sufficiency in Berkeley. This is her second story for Allnewsnoblues.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 10 March 2014 07:05)


PostHeaderIcon Locals Seek Help for Philippines Relief

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A group of local volunteers will fly to the Philippines to assist with disaster relief on Dec. 1 and seeks community support for a mission of mercy.

Following the super typhoon Haiyan which devastated the Philippines and claimed more than 5,200 lives earlier this month, Castro Valley native Dan Johanson will lead the group that aims to provide support to the island communities of Leyte and Samar.

“We intend to reach the most underserved locations where relief has yet to arrive and to bring resources to bear that will allow needy families to regain their livelihoods and begin to rebuild their lives,” Johanson said.

Most of the group hails from Castro Valley and Hayward and several of the volunteers are affiliated with First Presbyterian Church of Hayward, including Rev. Toby Nelson.

The volunteers are bringing supplies to help the Filipinos of Leyte and Samar revive their fishing and agriculture industries, which are the communities' primary means of support. They will also deliver and help to install solar-powered communication equipment to help local leaders coordinate aid and development on the remote islands which may not regain electricity for a year, Johanson said.

Despite the outpouring of international support since the typhoon struck, the needs of Leyte and Samar are dire, Johanson said.

“UNICEF, the Red Cross and the big organizations are effective in providing a certain bandwidth of support but we are attempting to reach the smallest, most needy communities," he said.

Johanson lived in the Philippines for more than ten years and founded Badjao Bridge, a nonprofit organization that provides poverty relief to the impoverished Filipinos known as the Sea Gypsies on the island of Panglao.

Volunteers are paying about $2,000 each for expenses of the 11-day effort. They would welcome donations.

"Our overhead is minimal and our donations are completely used for the purposes of relieving the greatest amount of suffering that people are enduring right now," Johanson said.

Badjao Bridge is accepting donations through its web site, www.BadjaoBridge.org.--MJ

Last Updated (Thursday, 28 November 2013 03:07)

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