Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Zac Efron: Who's Efron and Why Isn't He Black?


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Ok. Maybe I'm being a grump but who the heck is Zac Efron? All of a sudden I'm told through the media that some guy named "Zac Efron" is a star, an idol, and - like I care because I'm straight and male - a hunk.

So what! Why him? And why not someone who's Black?

I'm concerned that we as a society don't think critically about what institutions push at us to consume -- Zac Efron's a great example. I fail to see why he's star and I am very derisive of the system that tells me he is.

Zac's not the product of a vote on American Idol and if he were on it, he would not win. I learned that Efron's voice was digitally blended with that of Disney singer Andrew Seeley for the album for High School Musical. So if he needed that kind of help, there's no way he'd survive "Idol" at all.  Simon Cowell would eat him alive!

In fact, I'm surprised Simon Cowell actually offered him a record deal and Cowell can thank God and Efron, for Efron's rejection of the offer. The failure of his record would have made Cowell look real bad.

The fact is Zac Efron's the product of a Disney PR machine that's produced Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Miley Cyrus, Vanessa Hudgens, and other famous singers, and all either White or "of color" but light-skinned. The only exception is "Raven", the star of "That's so Raven."

If you're saying "Why the focus on race?" my counter is because Disney's focused on race, and in fact a commitment to diversity, while more desirable, is still an emphasis of race - you can't escape that fact.

But I'm tired of having a certain kind of look pushed at me and in the collective face of the industrialized World without a vote. That's what makes Susan Boyle's story so cool! The World voted for her 30 million times if you consider the video views as votes.

And if you think of the rise of Hip-Hop and Rap stars, that could not have happened without a vote by dollar: white guys and white girls buying their albums (and without Disney's influence.) That dynamic has produced many a Black sex symbol and yes to White women: LL Cool J is a great example and he's performed for over 22 years!

In fact, I contend that Hip-Hop and Rap caused an integration of American society through music with Whites and Blacks enjoying popular "Black music" together and in such a way that a whole generation was essentially mentally prepared to vote for Barack Obama for President.

What's that you say? Disney's promoting White talent because they're seen as wholesome? Yeah. Ok. Then explain the whole Vanessa Hudgens sex tage episode? Don't tell me the Disney PR machine wasn't involved in that; I won't believe it. And besides, Zac Efron's got a crush on Tyra Banks and she's Black.

just don't tell Disney!

Police Officer Abuses Reporter In ElPaso, Texas

This was presented by CNN's Rick Sanchez and if you watch what happened to this KVIA-TV El Paso, Texas reporter and cameraman, you have to agree the police officer was so drunk with power he didn't give them a chance to get in their car. This also happened to Oakland Tribune photojournalist Jane Tyska in Oakland last year. Something has to be done to inform officers to treat journalists better than this.

Oakland: Lake Merritt People On A Saturday


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Have you ever walked by a group doing something interesting and yet never stopped to, or perhaps feared to, inquire what they were doing?  If so, this video-blog is for you.  I'm in Georgia as I write this and visiting my Mom, but two Saturdays ago I saw a YouTube video of people playing drums under the "Columns" at Lake Merritt in Oakland, where I live for those of you reading this in, er, Japan.  I said to myself, and wrote on the Oakland Focus Blog , that if I ever encountered that group I was going to have my camera at the ready and interview them (if they let me of course).

Well that's what I did on that Saturday morning.  The group is called "Emeryville Taiko" at, and as Sensei Susan Horn informs us in the video, they were located in Emeryville, but are now at 27th and Harrison St, near the Whole Foods Market and near Lake Merritt.   But on Saturday's they have this Taiko class and jam session at the Columns.  Many people love their activity, except one Lake dweller that seems to have a problem with the sound, according to Sensei Horn.  Frankly, I love what they do; they're an example of why the Lake is such a fun place to live, with the vibrant energy of people creating art.

I suppose prayer could be considered an art form as well.  For those who need a prayer in this time of economic disaster, Melena and Bruno of the East Hills Community Church have set up a table near the corner of MacArthur and Lakeshore just for you to stop by and have a prayer said for you or share a prayer of your own.  The couple shared an interesting account where one man they prayed for didn't look well, so they flagged down a fire truck that happened to be passing by and the firefighters determined he was having a heart problem.  They got him the treament he needed.

If you want to help the Church visit their website at

After that conversation I walked over to visit Scotty who runs the Hawaiian Coffee Roasters booth at the Lake Marritt Farmers Market.  Hey, Scotty makes the best coffee and the market's a hoot.  I just wished the organization responsible for the market was based in Oakland and not Marin County.  But that's for another blog post and I digress.  Scotty's more right of center than I, so I have to challenge his libertarian beliefs just to keep him intellectually honest, but it's all in fun and worth the price of the coffee.

As I walked through the market, which you should do on the hot days that are before us in Oakland, I noticed that two groups of people were standing on opposite ends of Lake Park in front of the legendary Grand Lake Theater and thought "they're back".   The "they" are two organizations that have opposing views on the Mid East.  If you've seen the women dressed in black they call themselves "Bay Area Women In Black" and are against the "occupation of Palestine" as one of them explained to me.  The group on the other side, "San Francisco Voice for Israel" was once led by my friend Dan Kilman who I met in 2007 on a video-blogging walk around the neighborhood where he gave this interview:

Part One:

Part Two:

Kilman organized at the corner to counter Bay Area Women In Black, which led to what I described as a "culture war" played out right in front of the Grand Lake under the collective nose of Lake Merritt dwellers (who sometimes don't stop to talk to each other, though that's changing).  Unlike many, Dan was always ready with not just a comment but a full explaination of what's happening in the Mid East and a strong defense of Israel's postion. As happens with my life, Dan and I were later in the same debate club in San Francisco called "SF Debates." 

But sadly, Dan fell to his death on November 25th and was found December 1st 2008 at the bottom of an elevator shaft in downtown San Francisco in an act that many friends feel was deliberate because Kilman was so outspoken, but was officially ruled an accident.   Dan's energy is missed, but his work lives on in the presence of San Francisco Voice for Israel in front of the theater each Saturday.

Finally there was a cool Capoata dance-off that spontaneously started by the International Capoeira Angola Foundation on the park lawn near MacArthur and Grand Avenue.  As they were so into their movements, I didn't want to interupt them with questions.  But if you want more information, their website is

The Lake Merritt neighborhood is a place rich with fun activities and interesting people.  I have to share that the majority of these group activities call for a fee if you want to participate, so one can say it's a way of making money in a recession.  At any rate, stop and talk to them this Saturday when you're down there rather than just walking by.  It may change your life.