Jack Van Zandt

Jack Van Zandt

Posts by Jack Van Zandt

Everyday San Jose

Young Bay Area artist Wayne Jiang was born in Guangzhou, China, and came to the United States at age 15. He earned his degree in illustration at SJSU and works as a fine artist and graphic designer. He now lives in Pacifica, but his period of residence in San Jose has resulted in a group of loving images of the city that are now on display at the Leonard and David McKay Gallery at Pasetta House in History Park.

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Joan Baez Begins Weekend Mexican Heritage Festival Events

Having Joan Baez open the series of high-profile weekend concerts might seem an odd choice at first, but it turns out to have been a brilliant programming decision. Her bicultural background (her physicist father Albert Baez was from Puebla, Mexico), local residence and iconic stature as an international political activist and singer certainly provide her with the credentials to fit the festival opener role. However, the great service she performed for the festival as a whole in her concert was to strategically place the traditions of Spanish-language songs (from Mexico, Spain, Chile and other Latin American countries) firmly within the context of her explorations of the “Great American Songbook,” thus affirming her own dual cultural background while illustrating and informing the intellectual and philosophical cultural crossroads the festival has become. 

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Linda Ronstadt to Give Free Concert

It has been announced that 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival Artistic Director Linda Ronstadt will be singing with Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano in Cesar Chavez Plaza around 5 p.m. this Sunday evening, September 27, to close the annual, all-day Feria del Mariachi.

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San Jose Mexican Heritage Festival 2009 Is Making Connections

If there is one word to describe the theme of this year’s San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival, it has to be “connectivity,” and not just because the festival has landed T-Mobile as its title sponsor. At this week’s press conference for the lead-up to the festival that takes place Sept. 20-27, the word “connection” and its derivatives were uttered multiple times by all three participants: festival CEO Marcela Davison Aviles, artistic director Linda Ronstadt and headline performer for the Sept. 25 concert, Joan Baez.

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Good News: The 2009 San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival

I walked into the press conference announcing the lineup of this year’s San Jose Mariachi and Mexican Heritage Festival wondering how it would be possible to match last year’s excellent presentations. I needn’t have worried about it. Festival director and Mexican Heritage CEO Marcela Davison Aviles and the festival’s artistic director, Linda Ronstadt, have managed to exceed even the highest of expectations created by the 2008 festival.


Farewell and Good Luck

For more than three years, I have had the pleasure of being the editor of San Jose Inside. It has been a lot of fun and I have learned much about myself and our community and fellow citizens. That’s why today is a sad day for me as it will be the last time I will write as a regular contributor to the site. Alas, I must give up the editorship of SJI to make more time for other projects.


Life on the Home Front

New History San Jose Exhibit Portrays Santa Clara County’s World War II

Those of us younger than 60 usually think of World War II in terms of our fathers or grandfathers battling enemies in far-off Pacific island jungles and snow-covered European fields, or through iconic images of Iwo Jima, D-Day and the atomic bomb. We often forget that the last formally declared U.S. war also absorbed the entire population of our country in a massive coordinated effort to defeat ideologically driven enemies that really did threaten our very existence as a nation. A fascinating new History San Jose (HSJ) exhibition in the Pacific Hotel Gallery at History Park in Kelley Park shows how Santa Clara County, on the western domestic front of the war, played a significant part in that effort and how the war affected the everyday lives of people in the valley.

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Thanksgiving and the Ray of Light

Food for Thought

While you would be forgiven for thinking the national situation is looking pretty dark on Thanksgiving Day 2008, consider the bleak view President Lincoln must have had from the White House when he declared the national holiday on October 3, 1863.

After a period where it looked like the Union would not be spared, Lincoln finally had a few victories to celebrate, but at a terrible price. A year before, the worst single battle casualties in American history had been suffered at Antietam. The Union forces prevailed and Lee’s army was pushed out of Maryland. It gave Lincoln the strength and political will to issue the Emancipation Proclamation the following week on September 22, 1862.

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California’s Abused Referendum Process

Food for Thought

If there is one important lesson to be learned from the last election it is that the referendum process in California is broken and being abused. There is something wrong when any individual or group with unlimited funds to flood the airwaves with propaganda and the malls and grocery store parking lots of the state with petition signature gatherers paid on commission can attempt to either legislate morality based on religion or enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers. More to the point, many such measures violate both the spirit and letter of the fundamental documents of our democracy, the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as the structure and process of government in a federal republic. Let’s take three cases in point.


Brother Can You Spare a Dime?

Food for Thought

Now that the excitement, tears, and post-election euphoria of the presidential election has receded, the headlines have returned to the country’s very serious economic woes, and the news gets worse by the day. It is becoming more evident that the “top-down” bailout of Wall Street pushed by the Bush Administration is not working at the current funding level and the lame duck and his banking-insider treasury secretary will soon be asking for more. Already, AIG—whose executives continue to enjoy lavish getaways, now at the public’s expense—got yet another nearly $40 billion in the past few days. The corporate capitalists that control our government who constantly whine about “socialism” for ordinary citizens every time a new program like universal health care is proposed, have no compunctions about seeing that the rich get it in a sleight-of-hand inversion of the Robin Hood method.


Who We Are

Food for Thought

Last week I asked the question: Is our national nightmare nearly over? I don’t think we know the answer yet, but come Jan. 20—which can’t come soon enough—we may see the beginning of the end. One thing is for sure, the landscape of American politics has been significantly and permanently altered for the better. With the decisive election of a mixed race African American as our president, we have finally exorcized the demons of centuries of racial intolerance and bigotry. We have shown the world that we really can live up to the promise and potential of our democratic ideals and doctrines, and that we can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.


Is the Nightmare Nearly Over?

Food for Thought

I have been on vacation the past week and the one question going through my mind as I sat on the beach has been: Is our eight-year-long national nightmare nearly over, or has it just begun? One thing is for sure, the Bush II era will end at noon EST on January 20, a massive failure by any standard of human history. The inheritor of the Bush Republicans’ terrible mess will be faced with the daunting task of pulling the country back from the precipice it has been driven to by the horrendous misjudgments of a shallow president, his deregulatory-feasting party of the wealthy elite, and international political theories of a small group of neocons led by a vice president who has hacked our Constitution and international treaties to bits in pursuit of empire and brutal, Roman-style dominance of the less powerful.


Traditional Arts Lost and Found

“She Made It!” Exhibition at History Park

One of San Jose’s most precious possessions is History Park—located in Kelley Park—under the direction of the good group of people at History San José (HSJ). It’s a great place to take your family for a weekend visit. I learn so much every time I go there, which isn’t nearly often enough. We can never know enough about our past and History San Jose is doing an excellent job of bringing that point home with small but very interesting exhibitions. A new exhibit, “She Made It! — The Tradition of Women’s Arts and Crafts in Santa Clara Valley,” that opens on October 24 in the Leonard and David McKay Gallery at the Pasetta House, is a good example of what I am talking about.

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Whatever It Is, I’m Against It

Food for Thought

Your proposition may be good
But let’s have one thing understood—
Whatever it is, I’m against it!

With the approach of every election with state propositions to consider, I start hearing Groucho Marx singing “Whatever it is, I’m Against It” from Horsefeathers in my head. That’s exactly how I feel when I look through the 12 propositions on this year’s ballot. Why are we even being asked to consider most of them?


Numbers Don’t Lie

Food for Thought

What number is 10,217,023,029,529? No, it’s not the largest known prime number recently discovered by mathematicians using powerful computers. It was the amount of the gross national debt at the moment I wrote the number and in the meantime it has grown by almost $10 million. If you are like me and have been trying to make sense of all the big numbers being thrown around these days, it’s nearly impossible. Thanks to my good friend Gray Maxwell, a senior US Senate staffer on Capitol Hill, I have a way to bring the enormity of the situation home by casting the numbers in terms of our city and as individual citizens and thinking about what we could buy with that money.


SJ Mariachi Festival an Artistic Triumph

By any measure, this year’s San Jose Mariachi and Latin Music Festival was a triumph. As a cultural event, it was world class, one of the best ever in our city or anywhere else in the world I have been. People attended from far and wide, including New York, Las Vegas, Tucson and Florida. The workshop students came from San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Bakersfield, Gilroy, Oxnard and, of course, San Jose. It was expertly programmed, well organized, drew large crowds of people of all ages (35,000 in total), colors and backgrounds, and it was entirely peaceful. The festival’s producer, Marcela Davison Aviles, and artistic director, Linda Ronstadt, deserve the high praise they are getting from everyone I talk to.

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