Children's Fairyland, the mid-century storybook theme park that inspired Walt Disney and where Frank Oz got his start

Oakland, California is home to a real gem of a storybook theme park. Located next to Lake Merritt, Children's Fairyland has been delighting families of young children since 1950. As the story goes, Walt Disney himself visited Fairyland in 1955 and soon after built Disneyland, incorporating ideas he learned at the park. He also hired Fairyland's first director, as well as one of its puppeteers, to work at his new amusement park in Anaheim.

While Disney's parks went the commercial route, Fairyland turned into a nonprofit after many years of being managed by the city. It remains the charming, lakeside mid-century park where no adult is allowed in the park without a child** and no child is allowed without an adult.

How do I know all of this? Well, I'm excited to share that I've started working with Fairyland. When I first moved to the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, I lived across the street from Lake Merritt and, as a childless young person, I often wondered what was going behind the giant (Old Lady in the) shoe. I remember devising ways to get in, eventually waiting until I had a baby to pass through its gates for the first time. When my daughter (who's now a teenager) was little, she and I visited many times together. Believe me when I say that it's a great thrill for me to be on the "inside" of this Bay Area institution.

Bert, Fairyland Master Puppeteer Lewis Mahlmann, and Frank Oz in August of 1970. Read the rest

The World’s Smallest Post Service to open a magical brick-and-mortar experience in Oakland

After ten years of making and sending custom tiny mail for people via her online transcription service, Postmaster/artist Lea Redmond is dreaming big. She is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter to bring a magical brick-and-mortar World’s Smallest Post Service to a vintage storefront in downtown Oakland. Yes, you'll be able to experience the joy of tiny mail in person!

The installation will feature an early 1900s oak post office counter (which she scored off of Craigslist), a bank of brass eagle P.O. boxes, and other delights such as dioramas and letter-writing nights. Back her Kickstarter project to send tiny mail and to get some gorgeous commemorative faux postage stamp sheets by Oakland artist Michael Wertz (shown above).

The World’s Smallest Post Service started out as a quirky roaming postal office around the SF Bay Area, and since then Lea and her postal pals have crafted and sent tens of thousands of tiny letters and packages to loved ones all over the world. In addition to single custom tiny letters and packages, they offer DIY tiny mail stationery kits, tiny serial stories called “Keep Me Posted,” secret admirer Valentine’s chocolates, and other charming wee things.

I'm a huge fan!

(RED) Read the rest

Save the Vulcan! 200 working-class Oakland artists are crowfunding to save their homes and fight the-rent-is-too-damned-high

[Editor's note: Xeno Evil is an Oakland artist fighting to save their home; I'm happy to help them with their campaign -Cory]

The historic Vulcan Lofts in Oakland, CA are up for sale and nearly 200 working-class Bay Area artists are at risk of losing our homes. In order to save the Vulcan, we’ve founded a tenant’s union, hired several attorneys, and petitioned the City of Oakland to put the building under rent control. Our hearing with the rent board is coming up very soon and we need to raise $50k in the next month to cover legal costs. Please support us by donating to our cause and sharing our crowdfunding campaign with your network. We love you. Read the rest

Oakland teachers' union declares total victory after seven-day strike

Well, that didn't take long: after seven days on strike, the Oakland teacher's union has received an offer that they say capitulates on every major point at issue in the strike, including the stealth privatization of Oakland schools through vouchers and charter schools. Read the rest

Striking West Virginia teachers won swift and decisive victory; Oakland next?

2019 has seen a string of bold and successful teachers' strikes that built on last years' #RedForEd strikes: the new wave of strikes goes beyond paychecks and funding, though, and takes aim at charter schools as a system for the stealth privatization of public education. Read the rest

Oakland's tech startups are reportedly being gentrified out of their spaces by deep-pocketed marijuana growers

Former Wired editor-in-chief and drone entrepreneur Chris Anderson tweets: "Hearing from tech startups getting priced out of Oakland warehouse space because of soaring demand for indoor hydroponic pot farms. Yes, because it's 2019 and everything is nuts *techies are being gentrified out of neighborhoods by drug dealers.*" Read the rest

Leafcutter Designs' mini mailbox is made for the tiniest of letters and packages

Leafcutter Designs of Oakland, California now has adorable mini metal mailboxes ($18 each) made to stuff full of their tiny letters and packages. Wee key included. You may already know that Leafcutter's founder Lea Redmond is behind the popular World's Smallest Post Service.

This mailbox “bank” is perfect for sending tiny mail within your household, or for use as a keepsake box. Children and adults alike can have fun redistributing tiny mail by way of this super cute, sturdy collection box.

Image: Leafcutter Designs Read the rest

Mother of Ghost Ship fire victim pens moving opinion piece

Two years ago Sunday, a fire broke out at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, California. By the time it was extinguished, 36 people -- friends of friends from the Bay Area art and music community I know and love -- had died. I saw the fire that night, as I was driving to my home just a mile away, but didn't know until the next morning what tragedy had taken place.

Now, a mother has written a brave, though haunting, piece that describes not only what it was like to find out that her child had died in the fire, but also what it's been like to live with that unfathomable loss. A warning: As a mom myself, I found it to be an extremely difficult read and it may be for you as well.

Colleen Dolan lost her daughter Chelsea Faith Dolan (aka Cherushii) on December 2, 2016:

I burned my thumb this afternoon. The oven mitt I used to remove a cookie sheet from the oven must have grown thin in one spot, and the heat immediately seared my flesh. The pain was so severe that I dropped the pan on the oven door and rushed to the faucet to run cold water over my blistering thumb. In a flash, I saw 36 young people trapped on the second floor of a burning warehouse in Oakland, screaming in desperation, “Help us!”

My hope is that those beautiful young people passed out from the smoke before experiencing the scorching flames.

Read the rest

Oakland to expand managed homeless shantytowns of prefab sheds

Oakland, like San Francisco, has an out-of-control homeless crisis fueled by out-of-control housing prices; like San Francisco (where aid for homelessness can include tents to make outdoor sleeping more comfortable and safe), Oakland is supplying "temporary housing" for homeless people that institutionalizes a kind of living that has heretofore been viewed as a problem in and of itself. Read the rest

Must-see bizarro viewing: Boots Riley's 'Sorry to Bother You'

This isn't a review, but I'd regret not giving you a heads up about Sorry to Bother You, Boots Riley's first feature film. It's an absurd black sci-fi satire shot in Oakland and it's the off-the-wall dystopian summer indie flick we all deserve.

At the last minute last Friday, I put my hands on some tickets for its sold-out nationwide opening night at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. And wow, am I glad I did.

It was a real happening. People cheered and laughed. Plus, the movie was simply fantastic. After the show, folks with tickets for the late show (which had the bonus of an after-show Q&A with Boots himself) were already lining up. Lots of people posed with the shitty Tercel featured in the film, which was parked right in front of the theatre.

Hilariously, you can buy that shitty Tercel for a mere $23,999.40 on the STBU website:

(I got my eye on that Mr. Bobo collectible plate myself.)

If you want to read what reviewers are saying, here's a good start:

Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You,’ but Can I Interest You in a Wild Dystopian Satire? by A.O. Scott of The New York Times:

"If Mike Judge’s “Office Space” and Robert Downey Sr.’s “Putney Swope” hooked up after a night of bingeing on hallucinogens, Marxist theory and the novels of Paul Beatty and Colson Whitehead, the offspring might look something like this."

Film Review: ‘Sorry to Bother You’ by Peter Debruge of Variety:

"Nearly as deranged as it is politically engaged, Boots Riley’s sui generis “Sorry to Bother You” is the kind of debut feature that knocks your socks off, tickles your bare tootsies with goose feathers for a while, then goes all Kathy Bates in the final stretch, ultimately taking a sledgehammer to your kneecaps."

This one might make more sense AFTER you've seen the movie:

In 'Sorry To Bother You,' an Alternate-Universe Oakland Rings True by Janelle Hessig of KQED Arts:

"The “don’t sell out” moral of the story is delivered with all of the subtlety of a circus clown with an erection, but appropriately so—there’s nothing subtle in being a person of color fighting to survive capitalism."

Go see it. Read the rest

John Waters introduces DEVO at Burger Boogaloo: "Trump is a feckless prick"

DEVO headlined Burger Boogaloo this past weekend in Oakland. John Waters introduced them to the stage in an epic nearly four-minute-long speech that attacked Trump and celebrated the band:

...Originally from Ohio, why-oh-why-oh-Ohio, they started their careers like I did: pissed off. And they had a real reason to be nuts, their fellow friends were killed at Kent State University by the police. So they started a De-Evolution that we're still feeling. They challenged illegitimate authority, they said, and so should YOU. It's worse now than it ever was. Trump is a feckless prick. A shithole of a president. An orange anus, as Rosie McDonnell called him. Who kidnaps children. Tosses paper towels to hurricane victims. It's so dumb he stares at the eclipse with that stupid wife who's a clueless dresser who no drag queen would ever imitate. What better band to protest his stupidity and first-degree asshole-ism than our boys tonight from outer space. But our political situation is not science fiction, it's real. Before New Wave, ahead of Industrial, "alternative" way before the word was coined, this band was no media invention, it was a grassroots movement that everyone here has embraced. David Bowie loved them, Iggy loved them. I loved them. One of the bandmates even told me once that I was in a titty bar with them doing coke. I thought, "What was *I* doing in a titty bar?" I was under DEVO's spell, that's it. And tonight even more so, with my friend Freddy Armisen playing the drums.

Read the rest

This #PEANUTSBBQ t-shirt shows Marcie of 'The Peanuts' gang as the BBQ snitch

So THAT'S what happened to Marcie. She became the BBQ snitch. Read the rest

White woman calls cops on black family who barbecued in Oakland Park's barbecue area

On April 29, a black family set up their charcoal barbecue in the designated barbecuing area in Oakland, Californias' Lake Merritt, only to have a hostile white woman come and demand that they move on or face arrest, because they were using charcoal in one of the areas designated for gas grilling. Read the rest

Oakland passes groundbreaking municipal law requiring citizen oversight of local surveillance

Oakland, California -- a city across the bay from San Francisco whose large African-American population has struggled with gentrification and police violence for decades -- has a long reputation for police corruption and surveillance. Read the rest

Watch 'The Lyft Rapper' co-create music with his passengers

Shakespeare wrote that "All the world's a stage." But for Oakland, California-based Ashel Eldridge, he's made his car his stage. Dubbed "The Lyft Rapper," he invites his passengers to choose a topic and style of song and he'll make up a song about it on the spot.

KQED Arts writes:

Elridge, who also goes by the emcee name Seasunz, says his mission is to elevate the consciousness of his community by helping people understand the forces that may be manipulating them.

His passengers say they’re startled at first when their Lyft driver begins rapping to them. But after the song, they admit the Lyft Rapper has turned a typically mundane trip into an unforgettable experience.

Here's his most recent video:

Yes, he has his passengers sign releases. And no, I don't believe he's sponsored in any way by Lyft. Read the rest

Dynamicland: a collaborative programming environment inside a whole building that you modify by doodling on paper

Dynamicland is a new nonprofit based in Oakland, where they are building a collaborative computing space, kitted out with cameras and projectors that allow people to work together to compose computer programs by scribbling on ordinary paper, have those doodles parsed by an interpreter, and then have the programs run as projections on the flat surfaces of the rooms. Read the rest

Oakland elementary school students resist Caltrans' insistence on taking copyright to their mural

Rogue archivist Rick Prelinger writes, "Oakland students planned to paint a mural on a dark freeway underpass in their city. The project is stalled because Caltrans asserts copyright to murals on its property. The details are a bit sketchy, but there's a petition here. Read the rest

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