art Archives - The Jose Vilson


Short Notes: Why We Shouldn’t Grade Schools

by Jose Vilson on November 25, 2012

in Short Notes

Before I proceed, dozens of people from various school districts have told me that my site is blocked on their school computers. In the event that it is, you can always get my articles via e-mail by signing up on the right-hand side of this blog or by subscribing via RSS for my savvy readers, also on the right-hand side.  They can block my site’s URL, but they can’t block your e-mails or your RSS reader.

A few notes:


“Yesterday, we had a nice conversation on Twitter [with regards to] experience, newbies, and challenges in teaching profession. It’s been a busy semester and what I share online is to try to bridge understanding as to what’s happening on the ground level, the ground zero of education reform, [namely] the school. So I share this: whose fault is it that a rambunctious classroom wreaks havoc on a campus? The teacher, the admin, the school, the system? We have a math/science shortage in the U.S. so we import teachers in these areas from the Philippines where [their education] system is vastly different. They arrive in South Central [Los Angeles], shell-shocked. The district mandates struggling readers to take a prescribed curriculum, READ 180.

Students are grouped together because behavior issues are strongly correlated to reading difficulties. By end of the day, kids are up to no good. The teacher new to the country struggles. [There's no money] for mentors, no money for appropriate number of admins to supervise teachers adequately, plus a language barrier. Do we expect such students to not throw chairs, not say f**k you to staff members before eight in the morning, or not throw bloody maxi pads around? So, in conclusion, experience matters, but so does a well-funded educational system, community resources to combat poverty and empathy by all.

- Martha Infante, emphasis and brackets mine



Why It’s OK To Work Behind the Scenes, Too

by Jose Vilson on September 2, 2010

in Jose

Bill Zahner

Recently, I’ve subscribed to Wired Magazine, a fascinating magazine that I wish I subscribed to earlier. In the alleged denouement of the printed word, mags like Wired still keep nerds like me enchanted with the quirky and the electric. In their last mag, they had the audacity to feature a guy named Bill Zahner. When I first saw him on page 28 of the August issue, I said, “Who the …?” Then, I noticed the structures right below him holding a piece of metal in his warehouse.

If you’ve ever heard of names like Mayne, Stout, or Gehry, then you should know guys like Zahner. In a time when pseudo-intellectuals praise the art of the people with the ideas, it’s equally important for the rest of us to praise the people who set that idea into motion. In the next year, there will be doctoral students frustrated with their teacher for taking all their research and putting his or her name on it with no accreditation, ghostwriters annoyed with figureheads who boast about the excellent paper they wrote, and chefs disappointed with patrons for tipping the waiters and complimenting the manager for their delicious meal while the chef gets burnt every half-hour or so.

Sometimes, it comes with the territory, and people revel in their sub rosa lifestyle. Yet, this is a post to celebrate you just for that. It’s hard to point a finger at who doesn’t deserve credit when people still fall for images and veils. There’s something to be said for someone who works hard without homage, who’s so good that they’ll do it for free (knowing it’ll pay dividends down the line). Then, when they get the pat on the back or their just desserts, they take a small breath, and get back to work on their job. We owe a debt of gratitude to the people who ensure there’s heat in our stoves, there’s quality food in our bellies, and we get to work on time. The sort of stuff we take for granted keeps people up through nights when their own families miss them.

They listen to the average person and make life easier for us, as if we thought of it ourselves. That sort of “natural” feeling takes immense amounts of backbreaking labor and intuitiveness, but I’ve come to see that many people have many ideas, and a good fraction of them might be great, but the idea-makers, the alchemists who condense gas to solid, deserve props, too. People like Zahner is an artist in his own right, because it’s hands like his that make those pretty drawings into toering structures.

And his efforts take and transcend time and space.

Jose, who knows a little about work.


Play The Soloist

by Jose Vilson on April 27, 2009

in Jose

<i>The Soloist</i>

The Soloist

When your voice finds you, it doesn’t matter how you express it: your signature’s all over it.

I write this because, after seeing The Soloist, a movie about a Los Angeles-based writer who finds a homeless cellist / prodigy and a must-watch for any writer I know, I’ve given tons of thought about where to take the writing “thing.” Not to spoil the movie (as it is a biopic of sorts), we have the contemplative Steve Lopez, a man committed to a beautiful but dispassionate view of the world and a raw and soulful writing style that garners him success, fans, and everything except a positive relationship. On the other hand, we have Nathaniel Ayers, who also has an excellent talent with his violin (and later on, we find out, he started with the cello).

Superficially different from the writer, but distinctly similar in that they’re both looking to get out a message carried deep within them, and trying to battle themselves just for the chance to reach that higher ground. After the movie ended, I found myself inspired and in the throws of the same feeling that seems to connect all writers / poets /  musicians / artists as a whole. We draw upon some force within us and draw out the very best of us to express some message or say something truly inspiring. We go to great lengths within our person to make some of our greatest pieces happen.

Personally, I know some of my best pieces came after 2-3-4-5 hours of reading around and looking at research, and reaching into the bottomless pit of my mind to clean thoughts out. Yeah, it got that deep at times. I look back at the revelatory nature of them, and wonder whether others can understand the madness it takes to be that kind of writer, but people’s loyalty to the work indicates a more positive reaction. If I can even elicit a fraction of the care I put into my most prized work, I’ve done my job.

And that’s where the musician and the writer really find their common ground. We can concern ourselves less with the works that garner our mainstream / commercial successes and focus on the works that influence the conversations we have, then we’re truly artists in that respect. Whereas conversation is the bridge from one to one or even one to some, art is the bridge between the one and the many.

Whether you’re writing or you’re playing, your voice carries.

Jose, who wonders how you express your voice …


In The Heights and Why I Hated/Love Musicals

January 12, 2009 Jose
In The Heights

On Saturday night, I saw the exuberant, Dominican-New Yorker-inspired In The Heights on Broadway, a musical about a young Dominican man trying to discover his life’s purpose with the backdrop of a romanticized version of Washington Heights (around 181st St, Manhattan, NYC). First, I’d like to say that this was a really good musical: good […]

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Mr. Boombastic (or A Profile on Santiago)

December 10, 2008 Jose
Santiago Coors Ad

My first interaction with Santiago’s artwork came on MySpace, the social network where rock stars, porn stars, wannabe musicians and groupies, and the rest of us converge under one buggy but rather influential hub for the most random of reasons. There, someone had a pretty interesting profile picture. It had a lady with headphones, with […]

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