Thursday, March 31, 2011

César E. Chávez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993)

To celebrate César E. Chávez
(& the movement for farm-workers' rights, justice & peace)

---------Oración del campesino en la lucha

Enséñame el sufrimiento de los más desafortunados;
así conoceré el dolor de mi pueblo.
Líbrame a orar por los demás
porque estás presente en cada persona.
Ayúdame a tomar responsabilidad de mi propia vida;
sólo así, seré libre al fin.
Concédeme valentía para servir al prójimo
porque en la entrega hay vida verdadera.
Concédeme honradez y paciencia
para que yo pueda trabajar junto con otros trabajadores.
Alúmbranos con el canto y la celebración
para que se eleve el espíritu entre nosotros.
Que el espíritu florezca y crezca
para que no nos cansemos de la lucha.
Acordémonos de los que han caído por la justicia
porque a nosotros han entregado la vida.
Ayúdanos a amar aun a los que nos odian;

--------------------------------------------César E. Chávez

------------------------------Fundador del UFW (1927-1993)

by Robert Lentz

-----Prayer of the Farm Workers' Struggle

Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
thus I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others,
for you are present in every person.
Help me take responsibility for my own life
so that I can be free at last.
Grant me courage to serve my neighbor
for in surrender is there truly life.
Grant me honesty and patience
so that I can work with other workers.
Enlighten us with song and celebration
so that the spirit will be alive among us.
Let the spirit flourish and grow
so that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice
for they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
thus we can change the world.

-------------------------------César E. Chávez

----------------------------------UFW Founder (1927-1993)


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Archbishop Óscar A. Romero G. 8/15/1917 - 3/24/1980

31 Years Later

Let us remember and honor in our hearts the memory of Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero Galdámes, Archbishop of San Salvador murdered while he said mass in the chapel of a hospital March 24, 1980, El Salvador. He was killed because of his opposition to injustice, to cruelty; he was killed because he loved and tried to protect those he loved. He was killed for being a good shepherd.

------La Consagración Del Cafe

-----------------al monseñor Óscar A. Romero

Un día de dios
en mi patio tomando café
nada es normal —
------ni el alcatraz
------con su pene dorado
------ni el iris
------como lava morada
------que derrama un volcán.
Encuentro en el fondo de la taza
casullas bordadas
de mariposas negras
y guindas manchas —
-----el sol dispara
-----centellas de balas plateadas
-----y de cirios ahogados —
----------hay sangre en su brillar.
Pongo la burda taza en su platillo
con un tierno cuidado
como si fuera cáliz
y digo la letanía:
-------El Salvador.
Y un lado del corazón
me sabe blanco y dulce
como la caña
------y el otro,
-----------como el café,
------------------negro y amargo.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(Siete escritores comprometidos: obra y perfil; Fausto Avendaño, director;
Explicación de Textos Literarios vol. 34 anejo 1; diciembre 2007;
Dept. of Foreign Languages; California State University Sacramento;
derechos reservados del autor.)

------The Consecration Of Coffee

----------------------to Archbishop Óscar A. Romero

One day of god
drinking coffee in my patio
nothing is normal —
------not the calla
------with its penis of gold
------nor the iris
------like purple lava
------a volcano spills.
I find in the depths of the cup
chasubles embroidered
with black moths
& red stains —
-----the sun fires
-----a scintillation of silver bullets
-----& of candles drowned —
-----------there is blood in its shine.
I place the cup on its saucer
with a most tender care
as if it were a chalice
& say the litany:
-------El Salvador
& one side of my heart
tastes white & sweet
like cane sugar
-----& the other,
----------like coffee,
---------------bitter & black.

--------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

( Visions-International, no. 44, 1994;
author’s copyrights)

On this day 31 years ago, Oscar Romero, the archbishop of San Salvador, was assassinated, sparking El Salvador's 12-year civil war.

Romero was appointed San Salvador's archbishop three years before, in 1977, at a time when violence in El Salvador was rapidly escalating. The conflict was largely one of class warfare: the landed wealthy — who were aligned with the rightist government and paramilitary death squads — against the impoverished farm workers and other laborers who had begun to ally themselves with leftist guerilla groups looking to overthrow the government.

Romero had a reputation for being bookish, conservative, and even for discouraging priests from getting involved in political activism. But within weeks of becoming bishop, one of his good friends was killed by the death squads. His friend was an activist Jesuit priest named Rutilio Grande, who'd been devoted to educating peasants and trying to bring about economic reforms. He was gunned down on his way to a rural church, along with a young boy and elderly man he'd been traveling with. It was a clear moment of conversion for the previously apolitical Oscar Romero, who suddenly felt that he needed to take up the work his friend had been interrupted from doing.

Romero canceled Masses all around the country that week, and invited all to attend the funeral Mass on the steps of the National Cathedral, which he presided over along with 100 other priests. One hundred thousand people showed up at the cathedral for the funeral. He also broadcast his sermon over the radio, so that it could be heard throughout the country. He called for government investigation of the murders going on in rural areas, and he spoke of the reforms that needed to happen in El Salvador: an end to human rights violations, to the regime of terror, and to the huge disparity in wealth, with the landed classes getting rich from the labor of the poor. He announced to his congregation that he wanted to be a good pastor, but he needed everyone's help to lead.

He was called to Rome. The Vatican didn't approve of his activism. Romero had become a proponent of liberation theology, a way of viewing the teachings of the Christ from the perspective of the poor. Poverty and oppression came from sin, it argued — institutional sin or structural sin, such as an authoritarian regime or unjust government. In liberation theology, the Gospels are not so much a call to peace or social order; instead they're a call to action, even unrest, to eradicate the sin that is causing poverty and widespread suffering.

On March 23, 1980, the day before he was shot, Oscar Romero gave a sermon in which he pleaded with low-level soldiers and policemen carrying out murderous orders to choose God's command over their government's. The very next day — March 24, 1980, which was 31 years ago today — Romero was killed by a paid assassin while consecrating bread at the altar during Mass. A single bullet from an M-16 assault rifle was fired down the center aisle of the church, striking him in the heart.

Romero's funeral was attended by a quarter million people from around the world. The events galvanized many previously apolitical poor people, who then supported leftist guerrilla fighters trying to overthrow the Salvadoran regime. The 12-year civil war resulted in more than 75,000 deaths and more than a million displaced people. In 1992, peace accords negotiated by the government and leftist rebels were signed in Mexico, with the United Nations and Catholic Church looking on. It included a 70 percent reduction in armed forces, programs for economic growth and to alleviate poverty, and an outside observing system to monitor elections. The accord included a nine-month cease-fire, which began February 1, 1992. That cease-fire has never since been broken.



Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring Equinox & Aries


Spring Equinox & Aries



Al morueco de los comienzos
lo impulsa la estrella roja
que relumbra en sus ojos de diamante
y se refleja en sus cuernos de heliotropo,
sus pesuñas de hierro.
-----Guarda el fuego cardinal del anhelo
-----y sobre su cabeza
--------------giran el día y la noche
---------------------la noche y el día
--------------en el baile simétrico
---------------------del tiempo.

-----------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011


The ram of beginnings
is driven by the red star
which shines in its diamond eyes,
reflects in its bloodstone horns,
its iron hoofs.
----It guards the cardinal fire
----of ambition
----& above its head
-------turn day & night
-------night & day
----in the symmetrical dance
------------of time.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Saturday, March 19, 2011

full moon: Perigee Moon After Earthquake

Keinen c. 1900

---Luna en perigeo después de terremoto

-------(a mi querido amigo el Prof. Naoshi Koriyama
--------y a la gente del Japón después del terremoto
---------------y tsunami del 11 de marzo 2011)


Una luna de raro tamaño y belleza
sale arrastrando más altas las mareas.
¿Tal vez como las de Jokusai?
No es necesaria para eso
una luna en perigeo —
la Tierra es lo suficiente poderosa
en su inquietud violenta
para despedazar el suelo,
para sacudir las cazuelas de los océanos,
para batir las aguas
y causar estragos en la tierra
sin ayuda de la luna.

La Madre, los antiguos sabían,
no es siempre amable.

Pero la luna,
protegiendo como pueda a la Tierra
de la lluvia de meteoritos
siempre lo ha sido
aunque nos guste culparle
-----de nuestra locura.

Ahora la luna se hace grande
como si para consolar
con un poquito más de luz.

-------------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Katsushika Hokusai 1760-1849

-----Perigee Moon After Earthquake

--------(to my dear friend Prof. Naoshi Koriyama
--------& the people of Japan after the earthquake
----------------& tsunami of March 11, 20ll)

A moon of rare size & beauty
rises pulling the tides higher.
Waves perhaps like Hokusai's?
There is no need
of a perigee moon for that —
the Earth is powerful enough
in her violent unrest
to tear apart the ground,
to shake the bowls of the oceans,
& churn the waters,
& wreak devastation on the land
without help from the moon.

The Mother, the ancients knew,
is not always kind.

But the moon,
shielding the Earth as she can
from the rain of meteorites,
has always been,
though we like to blame her
for our madness.

Now the moon grows large
as if to comfort
with a bit more light.

--------© Rafael Jesús González 2011


Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day

Fiesta de San Patricio

San Patricio echó las culebras
de Irlanda y Santa Brígida
era la diosa de las norias;
hadas residen allí y el trébol
explica la Trinidad;
la isla es siempre verde
y su don del habla
proviene de una piedra.

------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

------St. Patrick’s Day

St. Patrick drove the snakes
from Ireland & St. Brigid
was the goddess of the wells;
faeries dwell there & the clover
explains the Trinity;
the isle is always green
& its gift for gab
comes from a stone.

-- ----© Rafael Jesús González 2011


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Radio KPFZ reading, April 2, 2011


Lake County Community Radio KPFZ 88.1 FM presents

Spring Awakening Festival

California Poet Laureate emeritus Al Young
Clovis Lewis, Accompanist

Poet Rafael Jesús González
with Clive Matson

Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

2 ~ 5 pm

Galilee Lutheran Church

8860 Soda Bay Road, Kellseyville, CA.
(near the Riviera)

Tickets $10 Advance/$15 at Door
for more info call 707 263-3640
or visit

Advance tickets can be purchased at
Watershed Books, 350 N. Main St., Lakeport, CA

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Unsilent Spring reading Sunday, March 27



Poetry for the Earth, the Seasons, & Justice

a reading by

Drew Dellinger

Sharon Doubiago

Rafael Jesús González

Lucille Lang Day

Kirk Lumpkin

(preceded by an open mic on environmental themes)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

6:00pm - doors open
6:30pm - open mic on environmental themes

7:00pm - Featured Poets

Ecology Center Bookstore
2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley
(San Pablo at Blake St., just south of Dwight Way)

Cost: $4-$8 sliding scale
(no one turned away for lack of funds)

Drew Dellinger is an award winning poet, teacher, writer and speaker. He is also a consultant, publisher, and founder of Planetize the Movement. Dellinger's book of poems, love letter to the milky way is now in its fourth printing. He co-wrote the documentary film, The Awakening Universe which premiered at the United Nations. "Drew Dellinger is one of the most creative, courageous and prophetic poets of his generation. I love his spirit. Don't miss him!"—Cornel West

Sharon Doubiago is the author of two dozen books of poetry and prose including My Father’s Love/Portrait of the Poet as a Young Girl (a finalist in the Northern California Book Awards in Creative Non Fiction in 2010), Love on the Streets (2008) (received the Glenna Luschei Distinguished Poet Award), the epic poem Hard Country, the booklength poem South America Mi Hija (nominated twice for the National Book Award), and The Book of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes (listed by the Oregon Culture Heritage Society as one of the “100 most significant books in Oregon from 1800-2000"). She's the winner of three Pushcart Prizes, the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, and a California Arts Council Award.

Rafael Jesús González, is a poet, Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing & Literature, & founder of Laney College's Mexican and Latin American Studies Dept. In 1996 he was named Poet in Residence at the Oakland Museum of California and the Oakland Public Library under a "Writers on Site Award" from Poets & Writers, Inc. and was chosen for the Annual Award for Literary Achievement by Dragonfly Press in 2002. In 2003, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing. His most recent book is La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse.

Lucille Lang Day is the author of eight poetry collections and chapbooks, most recently The Curvature of Blue. She has also published a children’s book, Chain Letter, and her memoir, Married at Fourteen, will appear from Heyday in 2012. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in such magazines and anthologies as Atlanta Review, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, and New Poets of the American West.

Kirk Lumpkin is a poet, performer, and works for the Ecology Center as the Special Events and Promotions Coordinator of the Berkeley Farmers’ Markets. “ . . . solid real illumination...”—Michael McClure, Beat poet & playwright; “. . . one of my favorite performers.”—Avotcja, poet, band leader, KPFA/KPOO radio host; “No matter what, he will make sure the sidewalks are shaking before you go home.”—

Accessibility: Public transportation—
Buses on San Pablo Ave. and Dwight Way,
street parking, wheelchair access,
bicycle parking on street and in the building.

For More Information: (510) 548-2220 ext. 227


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ash Wednesday


------Ash Wednesday

From the color-blind church
thrusting a finger to a sky
with a hangover,
the worshippers come
bearing celestial status-symbols
on their foreheads.
Clouds spill water tongues
on streets leading to nowhere.
A car chokes —
a sparrow falls —
no one really believes in death.

------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(RiverSedge, Vol. IV no. 2;
Author's copyrights.)

--------Miércoles de Ceniza

De la iglesia daltoniana
dándole un dedo al cielo
con resaca,
vienen los devotos
con símbolos de estado
en las frentes.
Las nubes derraman lenguas de agua
en calles que no llevan a nada.
Un carro se ahoga —
un gorrión cae —
nadie realmente cree en la muerte.

--------------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(Above Us Only Sky, Michelle Rhea, Anita M. Barnard, Eds.;
Incarnate Muse Press, Santa Bárbara, CA. 2003; author's copyrights.)


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mardi Gras


Antigua fiesta pagana, griega, romana, la dionisíaca, las saturnales, las bacanales celebrando la igualdad entre los hombres, las mujeres, celebrando la embriaguez del estar vivos, el festejo del cuerpo y del alma.

Ahora se le llama carnaval (carne vale) porque es despedida a la carne antes de que se le mortifique durante la cuaresma. Se celebra la carne, los apetitos del cuerpo, sensuales, libres de mandamientos y prohibiciones.

Por eso el antifaz, la máscara que tras el anonimato nos da licencia para romper las reglas, por un momento vivir fantasías. Tras el antifaz, la máscara, una persona aun puede desnudarse y bailar por las calles. Persona, del latín significando máscara, especialmente cuando se lleva en la escena. Y ¿qué es la vida sino diversión de los dioses?

Entonces quitémonos las máscaras del corazón y pongámonoslas sobre la cara si tal es preciso para ser libre, y en vez del rosario, digamos las cuentas de carnaval.


Ancient, pagan, Greek, Roman feast, the Dionysia, the Saturnalia, the Bacchanalia celebrating the equality among men, women, celebrating the intoxication of being alive, the celebration of the body and the soul.

Now it is called carnival (carne vale), Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), because it is the farewell to flesh before it is mortified during lent. Flesh is celebrated, the appetites of the body, sensual, free of commandments and prohibitions.

Thus the mask which behind anonymity gives us license to break the rules, live fantasies for a moment. Behind the mask a person may even undress and dance naked in the streets. Person from the Latin meaning mask, especially when worn on the stage. And what is life but the diversion of the gods?

Let us take the masks from the heart and put them on the face if such is needed to be free, and instead of the rosary, let us say the carnival beads.
-----Cuentas de carnaval

De las calles
de Nueva Orleáns
--------en pleno carnaval,
me llamaste;
tu voz un hilo
----de cuentas lustrosas
me engalanó de encanto
y me hizo bailar el corazón.

Sobre la Bahía
de San Francisco
el cielo amanece
----color de cenizas,
pero mañana en vez del rosario,
diré esas cuentas de carnaval.

------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

-----Carnival Beads

From the streets of New Orleans
--------in full Mardi Gras,
you called;
your words, a string
----of lustrous beads,
adorned me with joy
& made my heart dance.

San Francisco Bay
the sky dawns
----the color of ashes,
but tomorrow instead of the rosary,
I will say those carnival beads.

-- ----© Rafael Jesús González 2011


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Latin@ Printmakers Show: Grabados de Paz y Guerra


Latin@ Printmakers Exhibition:
Grabados de Paz y Guerra

This exhibit is part of BCC's college-wide project
"Sorrows of War, Struggles for Peace."

Curated by Juana Alicia Araiza

The Jerry Adams Gallery

Berkeley City College

March 14 through April 30, 2011

Opening Reception, March 18, 6:30 to 8:30 PM

renowned Berkeley poet Rafael Jesús González
will be reading his poetry


---Ester Hernández ---------Jesús Barraza
---Juan Fuentes--------------Melanie Cervantes
---Tirso Araiza----------------Emmanuel C. Montoya
---Aretemio Rodríguez-----Gabriel Martínez

Latin@ Printmakers Exhibition: Grabados de Paz y Guerra
The Latin@ Printmakers Exhibition: Grabados de Paz y Guerra, features the work of respected Latina/o printmakers on the topic of war and peace, and is scheduled to take place this spring at Berkeley City College’s Jerry Adams Gallery. Curated by artist and BCC visual arts instructor Juana Alicia Araiza, the show comments on war, violence, immigration, international movements of resistance and peace.

The Jerry Adams Gallery is located on the first floor of the college, and the artwork is visible through plate glass windows that face onto Center Street, in downtown Berkeley. The six-week exhibit will be part of an eighteen- month long project at Berkeley City College, entitled Sorrows of War: Joys of Peace, which will include a lecture series, exhibits, curricular offerings and other important activities and events. The exhibit will take place March 14th through April 30th, with an opening reception on March 18th, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Berkeley City College is located at 2050 Center Street, between Shattuck and Milvia Streets, one half block from the downtown Berkeley BART Station. We are honored to announce that renowned Berkeley Poet Rafael Jesús González will be reading his poetry for the reception.

Featured Artists: Ester Hernández, Juan Fuentes, Tirso Araiza. Artemio Rodríguez, Jesús Barraza, Melanie Cervantes, Emmanuel C. Montoya, Gabriel Martínez


Gabriel García Márquez — March 6, 1928

----Lunas de los arcángeles

-------------a Gabriel García Márquez

Dice Gabriel el arcángel
que por cada minuto
que uno cierre los ojos
se pierden sesenta segundos
de luz —
por eso vigila de noche
y enciende velitas de azucenas,
las estrellas sin cuenta,
con su lámpara redonda
de la luna plena.

Dice Rafael el arcángel
que por cada minuto
que uno duerma
se escapan sesenta peces
de ensueño —
por eso vaga la playa nocturna
para coger los peces de azogue,
las estrellas sin cuenta,
en redes con el flotador
de la luna plena.

Dice Miguel el arcángel
que por cada minuto
que uno olvide
se marchitan sesenta flores
del recuerdo —
por eso va por la noche
segando con su espada de plata
los jazmines de llama,
las estrellas sin cuenta,
que recoge en su escudo
de la luna plena.

------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

---Moons of the Archangels

-------------for Gabriel García Márquez

Gabriel the archangel says
that for each minute
one closes the eyes
are lost sixty seconds
of light —
that is why he watches at night
and lights votive candles of lilies,
the stars beyond count,
with his round lamp
the full moon.

Rafael the archangel says
that for each minute
one sleeps
there escape sixty fishes
of illusion —
that is why he roams the night beach
to catch the quicksilver fish,
the stars beyond count,
in nets with their float
the full moon.

Michael the archangel says
that for each minute
one forgets
there wither sixty flowers
of remembrance —
that is why he goes thru the night
reaping with his silver sword
the jasmines of flame,
the stars beyond count,
he gathers on his shield
the full moon.

--------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Michelangelo Buonarroti, March 6, 1475 – February 18, 1564

Tríptico para Miguel Ángel

I — Pietro Torrigiano

El principio se origina en la quebradura—
un corazón, un himen, una nariz.
El duende mora en las heridas —
la raja en el limón, la fisura en el higo.
El dolor no es necesidad, pero es—
indudable como la piedra, maleable como el oro
para hacer faunos o aretes.
Recordémoslo si por ninguna otra cosa,
el contraste, la sombra en la luz,
la amargura en la miel
en que las abejas encuentran sustento y muerte.
Alabémoslo, lengua en mejilla,
pero correctamente, grave y respetuosos,
porque muchas veces inicia el baile, grave y medido.

II — Vittoria Colonna

La alabanza es muchas veces oblicua —
la luz se sesga para ablandar la piedra,
esconder las marcas del cincel
o sacarlas como los pizzicatos en el violonchelo.
Hay miel en esa luz,
más liviana de que la miel tiene derecho ser.
Alabemos a esa luz —
espejo que suaviza, que enriquece
una esperanza desolada, demasiada llena
de posibilidad, imposibilidad, pavor.
Hay perfección en lo incompleto
que la saciedad jamás podría tener.
¿Qué en el arte no es pretensión?
Pretendemos a la luz, a tronos.

III — Tommaso de’ Cavalieri

¿Y cuando la luz es más allá de nuestro alcance,
la iluminación un amor demasiado anhelado?
El amor llega tarde y templado
aun cuando el deseo guarda su filo.
Los filos le prestan sabor,
el filo del limón, de la espada del necio
que penetra la armadura innecesaria
y esculpe mantequilla.
Que entonces sea, pues forma estrellas
y engendra perlas —
una tontería, un bufón,
cuando uno debería saber mejor que eso.
(¿Debería uno?) ¿Qué es lo mejor?
La comodidad es mezquina cosa.

© Rafael Jesús González 2011

Triptych for Michelangelo

I — Pietro Torrigiano

Beginning originate in breakage —
a heart, a hymen, a nose.
The duende dwells in wounds —
the crack in the lemon, the fissure in the fig.
Pain is not a necessity, but it is —
indubitable as stone, malleable as gold
to fashion fauns or earrings.
Let us remember it if for nothing else
the contrast, the shadow in the light,
the bitterness in the honey
in which bees find sustenance & death.
Let us praise it, tongue in cheek,
but correctly, grave & respectful,
for it often opens the dance, grave & measured.

II — Vittoria Colonna

Praise is often oblique —
the light slants to soften stone,
obscure the chisel marks
or pluck them like pizzicati on a cello.
There is honey in that light,
lighter than honey has a right to be.
Praise that light —
a mirror that softens, that enriches
a stark expectation too fraught
with possibility, impossibility, dread.
There is perfection in unfullness
that satiety can never have.
What in art is not pretension?
We pretend to light, to thrones.

III — Tommaso de’ Cavalieri

And when light is beyond our reach,
enlightenment a too-sought-after love?
Love comes late & softened
even when the desire keeps its edge.
The edges lend it savor,
the lemon edge, the fool’s sword
that pierces unnecessary armor
& chisels butter.
Let it be, then, for it fashions stars
& engenders pearls —
a foolishness, a scaramouche,
when one should know better.
(Should one>) What is better?
Comfort is a paltry thing.

----------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

(El hacedor de juegos/The Maker of Games by Rafael Jesús González,
Casa Editorial, San Francisco 1977-78; Author’s © copyrights)


Saturday, March 5, 2011

On computors


--------An Ode to Apple

Steve Wozniak once said that,
“Apple is a good name.
our computer [sh]ould be friendly —
everything an apple [is],
healthy, personal, in the home.”

Like perhaps a wife should be,
healthy, personal, in the home,
&, always, the apple of one's eye.
Ah, the image!

Yes, but on my computer
the apple is bitten
& you know
what that means.

--------© Rafael Jesús González 2011

[Remember to be ever watchful and protect
the freedoms brought us by the instrument
by which you are reading this,
but also beware the tool it can be
for our enslavement.]

It was on this day in 1975 that the Homebrew Computer Club first met. It turned out to be an enormously influential hobby club: its existence made possible the personal computer.

Not so long ago, computers were not for personal use. For one thing, they were gigantic in size — a computer easily took up an entire room. And they were very expensive, costing about a million dollars each. So computers were owned by big corporations, or by government agencies like NASA — not by individuals. Not even computer engineers or programmers who made a living working on computers had access to their own personal computers. They just did not exist.

But many of these tech-minded people wanted to build personal computers for fun, to use at home. And they decided to start a hobbyist club to trade circuit boards and information and share enthusiasm. The first of its kind, the Homebrew Computer Club first met 36 years ago today — in somebody's home garage in the Silicon Valley, of course.

Among the early members: high school friends Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who would later co-found Apple Computers, as well as Lee Felsenstein and Adam Osborne, who would later create the first mass-produced portable computer, the Osborne 1. Other legendary figures in the computer world, including Bob Marsh, George Morrow, Jerry Lawson, and John Draper, were Homebrew members.

The Homebrew Computer Club began meeting many years before personal computers were a profitable venture, and the group's mission statement was "Give to help others." Every meeting began with a "mapping" period (in computer jargon, an exchange of data) where each person would stand up and talk about some new interesting thing that they had heard, and the group would discuss each person's contribution.

Then there was the "random access" period (in computer jargon, being able to access arbitrary elements of a sequence at once). During this part of the meeting, people got up and wandered around and talked and traded integrated circuits and other devices and information. There was a third part to the meeting too, when everyone traipsed over to the Oasis Beer Garden around the corner in Menlo Park.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak designed the Apple I and II to bring down to the Homebrew Computer Club and show it off. They were hoping they might sell it to other members there at the Homebrew Club, and then they got their big break. A local store placed a $50,000 order with them. They were making the computers in their garage, and they didn't even have enough capital to complete the order, so they had to convince someone to lend them money for the month.

When they started marketing the product, an ad agency kept telling them that Apple was not a good name, that they needed to choose a name that "suggested technology, number crunching, calculations, data bases." But, as Wozniak wrote in a 1984 memoir article called "Homebrew and How the Apple Came to Be," "We took the attitude that Apple is a good name. Our computer would be friendly — everything an apple represents, healthy, personal, in the home. We had to hold our ground on that one."

The Homebrew Computer Club last met in December 1986. Since then, computer clubs — amateur and professional — have sprung up in large numbers all over the world. One of the best known is the German community of hackers Chaos Computer Club (CCC), which has about 4,000 members and is regularly making news for the German media.