Last updateFri, 24 Jun 2016 5pm

Deep in the rye: The Villaj Idiut

We had a death in our family recently.

My son became a teenager.

Light hearts and heavy metal: A Piece of My Mind

I am at the Caravan Lounge in San Jose, the darkest, smallest public space I have ever visited. I am surrounded by black T-shirts, black denim jeans and black leather jackets. A singer at the other end of the bar is screaming over the noise of two extremely amplified electric guitars and a snare drum set. I have earplugs in my ears, but the vibration of the bass guitar is still rattling my breastbone and echoing in my shoulder blades. I am wearing black slacks and a black T-shirt emblazoned with two skeletons, one of which is stabbing the other. My sister M is standing next to me wearing the same shirt. She turns to me with a wide grin and mouths above the din, “Isn’t this great?”

I am here basically because my sister’s husband was brought up in Brazil. When M heard that a trio of Brazilian women musicians needed a place to stay while they recorded their next album, she and her husband volunteered their spare bedrooms, expecting perhaps a nice string trio. Instead they got Nervosa, an up-and-coming Brazilian thrash metal band.

New 'York' values



As we have witnessed California suffer through one of its worst droughts in history over the past few years, all of us, I’m sure, have been keenly aware of our surroundings and have done a small part in trying to conserve water.

Death and life: No Shoes, Please

I like funerals. This isn’t to say that I’m happy when people die, or that I’m perversely attracted to sorrow and grief. But over the years, I’ve attended my fair share of services, and there are certain attributes – respect, gratitude, love and kindness – that in a funeral reach depths that I don’t see very often on display either in everyday life or on other special occasions.

You would think that given its commanding name, Thanksgiving is the day when cups runneth way over, or that Christmastime – with its governance over peace on earth, goodwill toward men – would be swollen with magnanimous behavior and serenity. But that’s not always the case. I’ve found that stress around major holidays often brings out the worst in people – in stores, seasonal parties and even at family dinner tables.

Other voices: Save our orchard, save our city


I stopped by the main branch of the Los Altos Library recently to do some research. What I found outside the building almost made me forget to go in. The mustard surrounding our civic center heritage orchard is in glorious bloom. We, the citizens of Los Altos, own this land. Stroll by. This golden assault on the senses lasts for just a few short weeks.

Six days left: Haugh About That?

Staring into the imploring eyes of the woman sitting across from me, I cringed. What she was asking was so beyond my comfort zone, I actually felt fear seep into every pore of my body.

'Between the World and Me': Black in America

Allyson Johnson 

Imagine a dolphin swimming through the ocean depths and suddenly becoming aware of the water being salty – something so normal it had never been noticed in the environment surrounding the dolphin every day – so normal it had assumed salty water as a universal fact. Then imagine that dolphin struggling with the concept of fresh water. That would be something of the way I felt on reading “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates’ award-winning exposition on what it is like to be “black” in America.

It had never quite gotten through to me, despite reading a fair number of books by African- and Afro-American writers, that the concept of “race” that so permeates our society is almost a uniquely American idea. Other societies also make distinctions by skin color, preferring light-colored skin to dark-colored skin in their ideal of beauty, but only America makes the abrupt unilateral distinction between “black” and “white” that places a segment of our citizens irrevocably on one side of a chasm that the rest of the citizens do their best to ignore.

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