Posts tagged ‘community’

November 8, 2014

The List No. 3

It occurs to me that it’s high time I make a new list. I started the lists to share interesting cultural developments(usually) in Ventura County, stuff that currently impresses or moves me in some way. Here’s some stuff that has my attention at the moment.



1. MAKE Ventura

Once referred to as hacker spaces, maker spaces are community-centered, membership-driven industrial environments for nerdy creatives and other people who like to get their hands dirty and their minds expanded. Members of MAKE Ventura are afforded rare access to a variety of industrial tools and machinery related to woodworking, jewelry making, mold making and metalsmithing, including a 3-D printer, laser cutter and vinyl cutter in a cooperative setting. Sharing of tools, methods, ideas etc. is central to the ethos of these collaborative spaces that draw inspiration from the open source movement. MAKE Ventura is open to the public on First Fridays. Visit it online to learn more, or drop by.






2. The HUD

A newish art gallery with resident artists and an in-house graphic design studio, the HUD is a cavernous showplace for up and coming regional artists. New artists are showcased every month during a First Friday reception but the venue is slowly incorporating other events such as a juried exhibition on Nov. 15. I especially like the street-inspired contemporary works I’ve seen and purchased there, but the curating is truly eclectic. Run, don’t walk.






3. Sanctuary of Butterflies

There are 28 days left to raise $64,000 in crowdfunding for this massive film project spearheaded by photographer Cole Smothers and musician/artist Luis Perez. Smothers, who is directing the musical documentary “Sanctuary of Butterflies,” will shadow Perez as he travels way off the beaten path in Mexico’s back country to explore, document and ultimately preserve indigenous art forms that are on the path to extinction. Though the proliferation of crowdfunding campaigns has made many of us weary, this one is truly worth a few of our hard-earned dollars.

michele serros






4. Michele Serros

Oxnard native and literary wunderkind Michele Serros has been a little under the weather lately. Actually, she’s been quite heroically beating the hell out of cancer, with the undying support of her beloved husband and loyal fans. Despite her cultural influence, the author of the critically acclaimed Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death Identity and Oxnard as well as How to be a Chicana Role Model, is by no means rich and the cost of medicine, allopathic and alternative, is almost unfathomable for an extraordinary female from a city most famous for Nardcore the sugar beet and her. It’s not easy to ask people to pitch in on your healthcare, but she’s done so with her characteristic grace and humor. So maybe buy a book, throw a few dollars in the hat and help a sister out. A Latina en Lucha Needs You Mucha!

5. Linda Ronstadt

Early in my journalism career, I regretfully referred to her as part of the Holy Trinity of Trite (which included the Eagles and Jackson Brown). I made a friend out of that faux pas and I learned a lesson about shooting my pen off. Fifteen years later, I caught  the Eagles documentary on Netflix and found myself mesmerized by Ronstadt’s charm and talent. Sadly, she’s suffering from Parkinson’s and no longer able to sing, but wow hers is a voice for the ages.

October 28, 2013

The List: No. 1.

The List is something new I’m playing with to show my appreciation for people, places or things in a given week, usually in Ventura County but not always.

brian parra

1. Brian Parra of Saturday Night Sound for his generosity, especially toward local youth attempting to play and promote music.


2. Kapeesh. Talent and integrity in equal measure and that measure is large. I’ve known about his lyrical and performance chops for a while, but this weekend I became privy to his character and it only made him more awesome. If you like hip-hop or you can appreciate a great entertainer, go see him. He will be at Bombay Bar on Friday, Nov. 1.


3. Zan Ferris. Zan is a yoga instructor, skateboarder, UFO expert and baker of delicious treats. She is a one of a kind who keeps it real in a culture that’s increasingly threatened by fakery. If you’re a fan of authenticity, intelligence, whimsy or moving your body for health and happiness, please take one of her classes. Ready, go!

ventura avenue

4. Ventura Avenue. Good people staying strong and being community under challenging conditions. I heart you.

marie shannon

5. Marie Shannon Confections. For a while now I have loved their pastries and loathed their service. But quite suddenly it seems, they have raised the bar on their service to match their gorgeous desserts. This is good news for downtown Ventura. Long live the mom and pop bakery.

September 18, 2013

Best Of Ventura County 2013

Here we go again.  A few of my personal choices.

Best Customer Service Moment
Jessica at United States Postal Service Downtown Ventura office

Dear Jessica,

Though we never met face to face I wanted you to know, hyperbole aside, that you single-handedly restored my  faith in humanity. Of all possible places to receive THE BEST customer service of the past decade, the post office would not have been in my top 100. Yet it happened. You were friendly, understanding and helpful. You took down my phone number and called me back (!). Best of all, you happily helped me solve my problem. I never got around to writing a thank you note, and for that I apologize.

Best Event I Didn’t Attend
A Flavor Trip Around The World

My colleague Michael Sullivan logged more than a few hours coordinating and facilitating this event to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society a cause very close to her heart, or more accurately, her blood.  The premise: Various ethnic restaurants from around the county set up table tents with samples of their specialties. There was also multicultural live music. I had every intention of attending but due to an evil heat wave, I was forced to stay in my cave with a spray bottle of chilled water. I do hope she reprises the event next year, and the sun behaves itself.


Best Progressive Idea That Didn’t Catch On
Connect Ventura

Josh Addison, founder of Bell Arts Factory, is one of those rare pioneering people who is not driven by self-interest; which makes it extra unfortunate when one of his projects doesn’t quite take off. Case in point: Connect Ventura, a co-working space he established in West Ventura. Co-working isn’t an entirely new idea but it might be a bit outside the cubicle for Ventuckians to embrace.  As the workforce becomes increasingly mobile, the workers find themselves bereft of company. Being alone, while appealing to a degree, is not natural for humans and therefore not healthy. A co-working space provides a comfortable, quiet place to work in the company of others. Connect Ventura had everything the mobile businessperson could want: fast Internet, private space, conference rooms, common areas for networking, a kitchen and complimentary coffee. It’s possible that the fee for using the space was a bit high for many people, it certainly was for me, but its success could have ushered in a new era for Ventura. Rumor has it that Addison will give it another try, this time using the Bell Arts Space. Fingers crossed.

Best Overhyped Job Creator
The Collection at Riverpark

Oxnard finally has the shopping center it deserves. For all the hype, the public art, the fancy stores, the plush movie theater, the restaurants and the Whole Foods Market everyone is so ga ga for, it’s really just another uninspired generic way for hard working people to support the status quo at the expense of small business, the environment and originality. Meh.



Best Disaster
The Springs Fire

Brush fires in spring or Camarillo Springs are not the norm, but neither is fog in August. Weather patterns are changing (with or without your permission) and the Springs Fire had all the drama of a typical Southern California disaster with a price tag to match: $7.6 million. I remember this day well because I was trying to stay cool during a totally uncharacteristic May heat wave as I prepared for the VCReporter Local Music Issue Party that night.  I watched the fire’s progression live on television. As a 50-year resident of So Cal and witness to countless large brush fires, this was the fastest moving fire I’d ever seen. I mean, it made it all the way to the ocean in one day! It was also a huge victory for firefighters who managed to put it out with no loss of life or property and only a few minor injuries. There’s a reason everyone loves these guys.

Best Event Fail
The Parking Lot Summer Concert Series

After jumping through endless hoops to get City Council approval for a potentially lucrative (for himself and the city) summer concert series in the unused parking lot behind City Hall, exasperated fat cat Mark Hartley was forced to fold the whole idea. Poli Street residents were relieved; yuppies and hipster music fans, not so much.

Best Place to View Tweekers and Hot Construction Workers
Red Barn Liquor

Since moving to the Ventura Avenue area earlier this year I have spent a substantial amount of accumulated time at Red Barn Liquor. Whether I’m waiting in the car while my son fills our water bottles or running in for a quick candy fix, I have come to rely on three things there: the Russian owner calling me and every customer, male or female, “baby”; haggard old tweeker chicks on bicycles making deals out front; and hot, sweaty construction/oil field workers cruising in after work for a 12 pack and a taco. The people watching (read: eavesdropping) opportunities are phenomenal and one day I will park myself there to write a book. Bonus: across the street are a laundromat, party supply and Santeria shop.

December 27, 2012

…………………..2012: A List………………

(Hope you don’t get seasick) p.s. it’s all local


Cassettes were all the rage this year. Massenger was my favorite band.

Recorded Music
The Pullmen
D on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers



Live Music
Wussy at Zoey’s
Pangea at Indie West Fest
The Pullmen at Bombay
Kapeesh at Red Cove
Alexandra and the Starlight Band at Zoey’s
Miguel Garcia & the Vaquetones at Yolie’s
OFWGKTA at the Ventura Theater (for the sheer spectacle of it)


Outstanding film! Bob Forrest actually remembered me from the old days.

Bob and the Monster at Indie West Fest


Shenanigans at the Scavenger Hunt. (Appropriately, I stole this photo.)

The Local Rock Picnic
86 Scavenger Hunt (I was a secret weapon. Plus, I sacrificed my son’s innocence. See pic.)
Westside ArtWalk

comics comics

Comics and Comics at Hypno Comics

Comics and Comics at Hypno Comics


I purchased one of these pieces from Sean Tully. Can you guess which one?

Sean Tully at The WAV
Stacie Logue’s guerrilla bluebirds
Paul Lindhard’s gateway to Ventura
Evan Ames’ and Lauren Mosinka’s yard sale
Everything at Sylvia White Gallery
Michael Pearce at Carnegie Art Museum
Art of Autism at Westside ArtWalk
MB Hanrahan’s Scabenue Calendar


End Transmission: The Life and Death of the People’s Radio

September 20, 2012

VCReporter Best Of 2012: A few unfit for print and a couple others

Tabitha spits out her yogurt at Chill.

These are my personal picks. Categories not fit for the publication, but appropriate enough for this blog.

Best Remote Location For an Impromptu Punk Show
The End of Perkins Street in Port Hueneme
Punk rock has always been relegated to dark places on the outskirts of nowhere, so what could be better than a parking lot, across from a sewage filtration plant at the end of a very long street adjacent to a neighborhood you don’t want to find yourself in at night?

Best PR For Ventucky
 Tabitha Takes Over: The Chill Episode
Um, like, how are we supposed to keep the floor clean AND help customers AND text our friends at the same time?  What’s a  dry cappuccino? What are repeat customers? What’s market research?

Best Facebook Troll
Jody Lotus
Denied, reported, deleted.

Best Comeback From Bureaucratic Assault
Green Art People
Proof that organic tastes better and community works.

Best Place to Find an Obscure Used Tire in a Pinch
Avenue Tire
Nice people, fair prices, saved the day.

Best Pirate Radio Station
KSSR: The People’s Radio
The shit.

Best Phone Call From a Musician Pitching a Story About Himself
The man who insisted he was the “best oldest living legendary saxophone player with a regular gig at Rusty’s in Oxnard.
A phone call so good, I kept note of it on a post-it for six months.

Best Rapper to Put Santa Paula on the Map
He said it on the Internets so it must be true.

October 1, 2011

Why Occupy?

Read this.

Watch this.

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” Abraham Lincoln

September 22, 2011

Room for everyone

My sort of mantra for the last few years, mostly privately, has been, “There’s room for everyone.” I say this to myself when I’m being unnecessarily critical or dismissive of someone’s artistic ability, and I say it aloud when I sense a discussion is leaning in favor of exclusivity or elitism.

Case in point: Not long ago there was some discussion about who should live at the WAV and who should not. More than one artist suggested that only “important” artists, people with a recognized body of work who are constantly producing should be able to live within this experimental, affordable housing complex for creatives which the city partially financed.

I couldn’t help but recoil. Who defines importance? As far as I can remember, during the rigorous meetings that preceded ground breaking for the WAV, it was determined that the subjectivity of such things would make it nearly impossible to create criteria for application approval, therefore attitude trumped “talent”  when it came to deciding who would make the cut and who would not. A desire to live to some extent communally, to ride out the challenges of such a social live/work arrangement would be more important than an individual’s perceived talent.  In other words, regardless of your medium, your experience or your potential for bringing national attention to our fair city, you will be considered for this affordable housing project if your life’s work is arts-centered.  Whether your focus is installation, music, textiles, poetry, plein aire  or toothpick sculpture–there is room for you.  And not only at the WAV, but in this world.

Last night I was watching one of those hideous talent programs on television, and an old couple got on stage and sang a standard love song from the crooning era (the title escapes me), and despite their lack of technical ability it was beautiful.  It made me smile to know these two traveled who knows how far, and endured who knows how many evil eyes from Hollywood types, just to get on that stage and sing in public because they love singing. This made me feel as good as seeing Coldplay perform or listening to Marcia de la O read a poem or a piece of art I recently saw at Sylvia White Gallery.

There’s room for everyone–to express, to create, to discover.

I may find as much beauty in a fall leaf wafting past me or the graffiti in my alley as I do in a Kandinsky. I value my old Black Flag fliers drawn by Raymond Pettibon the same as the painting that hangs over my bed.  Anyone courageous enough to step on a stage, face a blank canvas, page or wall,  and then place the result on display, is praiseworthy and not any less relevant than those who perform in stadiums or whose work hangs in prestigious galleries.

Let’s remember in our fervor to champion localism or a certain aspect of the music scene or innovative projects like the WAV—there’s room for everyone!

September 15, 2011

No accounting for taste: Best Of Ventura County


Today we published our 26th Best Of issue and I think it looks pretty damn good. (And let it be known it’s a bitch and a half to put together mainly for our managing editor Michael Sullivan and our tireless production staff, Christy Sisneros and Enrique Candioti, who did an outstanding job.)  It’s always important to reiterate the fact that the winners are not chosen by VCReporter staff, they are determined by readers. Had the results been a representation of our opinions, they would have been different in many categories.

For instance, I think Rey Fresco is a great and promising band, but I would not have chosen them for first place, although We Govern We and Sideshow Preachers seemed very appropriate for second place, and I will never understand the adoration for the Shoemaker Brothers who placed third.  There are some I absolutely agreed with: B. on Main for Gift Shop, Wild Planet for Shoe Store and Lucy in the Sky for Children’s Haircut, to name a few.  For manicurist, chiropractor and veterinarian, of course I would have chosen the ones I use, and being that I’m not in the right tax bracket to belong to Pierpont Racquet Club I would have picked a different winner for Best Tennis Courts.  But while some results I don’t agree with simply as a matter of taste or preference, others bordered on injustice, the most glaring being Best Visual Artist. (Relax, before you assume I’m dissing MB Hanrahan.) Though I can’t even begin to imagine what the criteria for Best Artist would be, MB was an excellent choice, even if only for her fierce dedication to community service–the woman’s fingerprints are literally all over this town. But, with all respect to those who “won,” so many serious, important and stalwart artists were left out entirely.  This is why, it’s important to take the results with a grain of salt (or a shot of whiskey) because

A: there’s no accounting for taste

B: the reader’s poll is, for better or worse, a popularity contest, and as with elections, people often vote for names they recognize, not names they have first-hand familiarity with

C: this city has become too big for its britches anyway so breathe.

All that said, I put together my own list of Ventura County “Bests” just for the hell of it.

  • Band: Jeff Hershey and the Heartbeats
  • Tennis Court: Ventura College
  • Veterinarian: Mission Animal Hospital
  • Manicurist: Raechelle Prado (regular manicures last me a solid week and that’s saying a lot.)
  • Chiropractor: Dr. Daniel O Schneider (An Irish Jew? I have no idea, but this man is a magician.)
  • Breakfast: Art’s Corner Cafe (For the Corner Cakes and scrambles. Yum.)
  • Italian: La Trattoria (Never mind the decor, the food is the shizzle).
  • Mexican: Tacqueria Tepatitlan and Cuernavaca.
  • Sandwich: Meridians (Why do they never win anything? So wrong.)
  • Jukebox: Ventura Bowling Center
  • Art Gallery: Sylvia White (I mean, seriously. . .), followed by Vita Art.
  • Artist: Because I believe this is a ridiculous category and that artists (and musicians for that matter) really shouldn’t be included in competition, I couldn’t pick a winner, but the following artists I would have at least liked to have seen in the poll results somewhere: Paul Benavidez,  Larissa Stowe, Sean Tully, Gerd Koch, Paul Lindhard, Joe Cardella, Hiroko Yoshimoto, Norman Kirk, Monica and Matt Furmanski, David Pu’u, David and Linda Elder,  and the list goes on.

And as an afterthought, the Best Ad in the Best Of Ventura County issue goes to Cafe Zack for its minimalist call to relaxation and simplicity. As soon as I can scrape together some dough, I’ll be right over for dinner.

August 5, 2010

A sad week for Ventura preservationists

The sudden and shocking losses of both Suzanne Lawrence and the Foster House this week were especially painful for the historic preservation community.  Lawrence, a longtime historian and living history actor was very involved in the arts in Ventura County and many friends and colleagues are mourning her departure, among them, her daughter Gwendolyn Alley and preservation consultant/San Buenaventura Conservancy co-founder Cynthia Thompson. According to the Star, Lawrence passed away from a heart attack.  Her contribution to preserving Ventura County’s rich history and cultural legacy was well-known and her absence will be felt. She was in the process of cultivating an oral history library at the county museum. A memorial for Lawrence will be held at the Museum of Ventura County on Sunday, Aug. 8, at 2 p.m.

While unfortunately there was nothing we could have done to prevent Lawrence’s passing, the complete destruction of the Foster House due to fire, was entirely avoidable. Despite valiant and tireless efforts by preservationists over the years, both the city and the school district (which owns the property where the Foster House stood) failed to take any steps toward restoring the home of pioneer E.P. Foster, despite the potential value to the community.

Perhaps an eyesore to the casual onlooker, the boarded-up and fenced-in 130 year-old house was a gathering place for many of early Ventura’s most notable citizens and a treasure to be cherished.  I toured the exterior and a tiny bit of the interior many times, but never had the opportunity to really explore it as i would have liked to. There was no shortage of ideas for restoration and resuse of the home for educational and tourism purposes, yet for whatever reason, no one with authority was ever able to make anything happen–and now it’s gone forever.

Of course the city never seems to have money to put into such a project,  but shame on the school district for allowing a structure of great historical importance to fall into obscurity, disrepair and the hands of vandals, eventually leading to its destruction. I don’t know when this city will truly grasp the significance of our historical structures, but if we don’t take seriously our roots as a city and the economic/educational potential of preserving our treasures, they will all go the way of the Foster House, the Ban-Dar, the Mayfair Theatre etc. etc. …

R.I.P Suzanne Lawrence–someone who understood–and goodbye Foster House: may your ghosts find their way.

June 3, 2010

The NEW new art city

Long ago in a galaxy far away, some people in that cool old building on Poli and California streets, decided it would be a good idea to give the city of Ventura an identity.  At the time, (pre-911, pre-economic disaster) cultural tourism was a fairly new concept and people governing the city were beginning to realize how dominant a force the arts were here.  Two plus two equaled California’s New Art City and a marketing plan/identity was born.

Not coincidentally, this came at a time of redevelopment downtown– the Laurel Theater (Rubicon Theatre Company), Ventura Music Festival, the Artists Union Gallery and the Century 10 movie theater, materialized during this period.  At the same time, historic preservation was being embraced as a crucial element of downtown Ventura’s cultural, and was folded into the cultural tourism plan.

All these years later, we have some amazing accomplishments to show for this change in direction: most notably: Bell Arts Factory/Vita Art Center, Working Artists Ventura (WAV), Ventura Film Society and the ongoing county museum expansion (which will partially unveiled on July 3).  Add to that a couple handfuls of art galleries and studios, festivals and a local music scene that if properly fertilized could yield big dollars and national recognition for Ventura, and it becomes difficult to understand why there  is so much empty commercial space downtown.

Clearly it’s time to reassess and reimagine.  We should be proud, we’ve accomplished much, but if we are to survive this economy and a changing market, we need to wise-up.

Recent changes within city government reflect both the need to reshape our vision and the willingness on the part of city officials to adapt. Eric Wallner, formerly the Cultural Affairs Manager for Ventura, is necessarily molting in order to respond, to this somewhat urgent need for a new phase. Wallner, along with others, will be turning his focus to the creation of jobs that will help sustain us culturally and economically. This means finding ways to court businesses that employ creatives and others.

This will undoubtedly be a big part of the discussion at the second annual economic summit “Partnering for Prosperity” to be held Saturday, June 12 at 8 p.m. Anyone interested in taking this city to the next level, artistically, culturally and economically, should consider attending.

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