David Watts Barton

Japanology.org: The Meiji Restoration

Although Japan had been absorbing external cultural influences since the 7th century, especially from Korea and China, it spent many hundreds of years purposely cut off from the rest of the world. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that Japan began opening up to the outside world. While western history records this as the “opening”…

Stagetology.com: Wesley Stace

As an honest artist, Wesley Stace doesn’t mind a clear assessment of his 25-year career in music. As an optimist, he doesn’t struggle to find the bright side. “I’ve never been a household name, it’s true,” he agrees. “But that means I’ve never had a big song that I have to sing over and over….

Japanology.org: The geisha

As any visitor to Kyoto will soon notice, geisha are not just historical figures. With some luck, a visitor wandering in the city’s ancient Gion neighborhood may well catch a glimpse of one of these exotic, mysterious women as she moves quickly through the area’s narrow streets, on her way to work. But who are the geisha? What do they do? And in the 21st century, what is their role in society?

Japanology.org: The Samurai class

Warriors, nobles, scholars and ultimately outcasts, the samurai, or as the Japanese are more apt to call them, bushi, were crucial figures in Japanese history for nearly a thousand years. For a third of that time, they ruled much of the country, but about 150 years ago, they all but disappeared. To understand why, we must know where they came from.

Japanology.org: Shrines and temples

Unless you are going to spend all your time in Japan shopping, eating and drinking – and we could hardly blame you – Japan is one of the great cultures of the world when it comes to religious, or spiritual, expression. Much Japanese art and architecture is devoted to spiritual matters, and the country is loaded with artifacts from grand temples to tiny shrines, sometimes in the unlikeliest places.

Japanology.org: 5 types of noodles

Whether in the form of udon, soba, yakisoba, somen, the universally-popular ramen or others, Japan’s love affair with noodles is rich and varied. Given the many uses of the form, in a broth as soup, in hot dishes, or in cold salads with a variety of dipping sauces, the Japanese prove every day that they can do nearly anything with noodles.

Japanology.org: The Onsen

Japan’s position on top of a volcanic archipelago has clear disadvantages, so it’s important to remember one of its great benefits: Japan is home to literally thousands of hot springs, or onsen. The Japanese have a long and beautiful tradition of deep enjoyment of this natural advantage.

Japanology.org: The Tea Ceremony

Its name in Japanese is simple – chakai (tea gathering) – but to the rest of the world it is regarded as one of Japan’s greatest mysteries, and is known distinctively as the Japanese Tea Ceremony.
But the chakai (or more formal chaji) is not just about tea, nor is it simply a ceremony, something to be learned, performed and added to one’s list of accomplishments. Chakai is more than that. It is a way of life itself.

Japanology.org: Buddhism and Shinto

Japan is home to not one, but two religions, Shinto and Buddhism. Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples often stand side by side, and the Japanese see no inconsistency worshiping the Buddha and the many Shinto kami with virtually the same breath. After nearly 1500 years, they are deeply, culturally interconnected – though that was the result of a long, complex process known as shin-butsu shugo (Shinto-Buddhism coalescence).

Japanology.org: A Guide to Kaiseki

While many gourmands around the food world laud the current trend of “farm-to-fork” cuisine – with its focus on fresh, local, seasonal ingredients and simple-but-elegant presentation – the Japanese have been raising the same approach to a high art for centuries. Kaiseki, Japan’s multi-course haute cuisine, has been refined over the four hundred years since…

Japanology.org: 5 Things about sake

The word sake is actually a generic Japanese word, and refers to any alcoholic beverage. Vodka is, then, sake in Japan, as is beer, which now out-sells sake in Japan. What English speakers call sake is what the Japanese call seishu or nihonshu: “Japanese liquor.” But since English-speakers routinely call it sake, we will continue with that usage here.

Japanology.org: 10 Money-Saving Tips

Even if you have ample funds and a healthy credit card, there are good reasons to shop for bargains beyond simply saving money: Watching for bargains gets you out of your accustomed ways, puts you in the position to meet ordinary Japanese (and other travelers) and see how they live, introduces you to new habits, and gives you the opportunity to learn the value of a Yen. No one minds saving a little money.

Has Burning Man gone commercial?

As far from the “real world” as it may seem, Burning Man is a part of our world – money, income inequality and all. Does that make Burning Man commercial? Or is it a valiant and largely effective effort to balance a culture in which money warps our politics, our religion, even our personal relationships? The answer is yes. And no. Or, as in real life, somewhere in between.

Contradictions at Milan’s Expo 2015

The Roman ruins and Renaissance cathedrals are getting some competition for tourist dollars this year from something decidedly contemporary: Milan’s Expo 2015, this year’s international exposition. Having opened in May to great fanfare – as well as charges of incompetence and indictments for corruption in its construction – features acre after acre of spectacular national pavilions that focus on this year’s theme: Food production.

To live life unburdened by stuff

I really did love my stuff. I even used a lot of it. And I had a lot: My gorgeous Victorian home in downtown Sacramento held closets full of clothes, a kitchen crammed with utensils, a garage full of sporting gear, a formal dining room, a roomful of records, even a library, floor to ceiling with books. So much stuff. These days, I have a backpack and a duffel bag

On the media covering the Kings

If you’re sick of the Sacramento Kings drama, imagine how reporters covering this story must feel after spending the last four months—or four years or seven years or 13 years—poring over every angle. Each mayoral press conference, every new civic suitor (Anaheim, Virginia Beach, Seattle), city-council votes and arena studies, those task-force meetings or cryptic pronouncements from the brothers Maloof. This past week in New York City was just the latest twist in a winding, convoluted plot that is beginning to rival All My Children in its length, complexity and unexpected turns.

Mainstream media meltdown! (Salon.com)

David Watts Barton left the Sacramento Bee in 2007 to work at the Sacramento Press, a hyperlocal digital news operation. In the Columbia Journalism Review, he described the extreme difficulty of producing credible journalism based on volunteer labor. “Editing costs money. Citizen journalists are cheap and they can even be good. but even great journalists need some editing; citi­zen journalists need a lot of it. … Without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.”

I heart New York, I heart Sacramento

New York City was the dream. I visited here dozens of times, got married here in 1983 and came here to blow off steam when I was divorced 12 years later. I overstayed my welcome with some friends and pushed it with others. I took a year off in 2006 and sublet a place on the Upper West Side. So, when I finally signed a lease last fall, it was a beginning, but it also felt like the realization of a decades-old dream. After numerous tentative starts, I can finally call myself a New Yorker.

Hurricane Sandy & climate change

By the end of the week, this storm revealed the extent to which climate change may soon be affecting many millions of people—because it already has. The deniers will continue to deny—it’s what they do—but if Manhattan is not safe, if the “Capital of the World” can be plunged into darkness so quickly, so completely, what does the future hold for other cities?

A Life without Artifacts

Six months ago, I was living in a 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom 1880 Victorian, with a formal dining room, a huge kitchen and bathroom, a foyer, a parlor and a library. A library full of books. Beautiful books, some mine for 30 years, some my grandfather’s for much longer. But after two years of dealing with the twenty-first century American Nightmare—bad loans, unemployment, short sale, foreclosure—along with a perfect storm of even more personal losses of family and friends—I’ve had to learn to let go.
So I’m letting go with a vengeance.

Ex-Sacramento Press chief shares lessons in community journalism (Sacramento Business Journal)

Longtime Sacramento journalist David Watts Barton asserts in an article published this week in the Columbia Journalism Review that without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism. Barton talks about how the journalists “lit a fire under the local news media, focusing on stories that The Bee, the local alternative weekly, and the Sacramento Business Journal either didn’t notice, ignored, or couldn’t afford to cover.”

What I Saw at the Hyperlocal Revolution

Much of this piece, which was intended to be about journalism, is instead about money. Perhaps that’s the ultimate message, as journalists everywhere are discovering. As journalists, we’re nothing if we don’t tell the truth, backed up by solid reporting. But unless someone, somewhere, is bringing money to the table, our political insights or critical acumen or familiarity with the machinations of city hall are mere dinner party—or Facebook—fodder. Without the money, we don’t have jobs. And “citizen journalism” notwithstanding, without journalism jobs, we don’t have journalism.

Barton wins Arts and Business Council Award

By Michelle Alexander, SacramentoPress.com, Nov. 4, 2011 Arts Journalism Honoring journalists for covering the regional arts scene, during the past year with accuracy, vigor and relevance. David Watts Barton has been a part of Sacramento’s arts and culture scene for 35 years as critic, columnist, blogger, editor, radio host and performer. Starting with local music…

All Things Must Pass: A Farewell

Over my nearly three years at The Sacramento Press, I’ve written some nice farewells to folks who’ve left us, and I’ve even had to fire a couple of people. But now I find that the tables are turned: I was laid off yesterday as Editor in Chief of The Sacramento Press. It was a cost-cutting measure, done to get this young company to profitability. Not the way I wanted to help get there, but you do what you can.

Commentary: You can breathe now

This morning’s announcement that the Kings will be staying in Sacramento is unalloyed good news. Whether or not the Kings staying in Sacramento is ultimately the “right” thing for Sacramento is still up in the air; but today, it is very much a good thing. Whether that remains true going forward depends on a lot of things coming together.

Commentary: Auditing the Auditors

As we in the Sacramento Press newsroom digested the news that a newly hired deputy city auditor was resigning – as a result of one lunchtime phone call to auditor Gerald Silva from our city hall reporter, Kathleen Haley – I marveled at several things. First, that the Sacramento Press’ inquiries had caused a city official to resign. Despite what people might think, that’s not the most rewarding thing a journalist can do. But when the official and his boss have hidden damaging information from city staff and the public – in this case that Silva was fired for his role in a sexual harassment lawsuit while working for San Jose’s city government – well…that’s good stuff. But there’s more to marvel at.

Living, working downtown (Sacramento Business Journal)

David Watts Barton, 50, editor in chief of the online Sacramento Press, lives in a restored Victorian house in Alkali Flat, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods. He’s just a few blocks from City Hall.
“I can walk everywhere,” he said, running down a list that includes cafés, restaurants, the post office, live theaters, movie theaters, clubs, nightclubs, concert venues and the library. Because he does some writing for some national wire services, he also can walk just a few blocks to get files or cover cases at the county and federal courthouses.

Commentary: Choosing Reality Over Dreams on K Street

One sign of a world class city is that its citizens don’t sit around dreaming up ways to hit that one grand slam that is going to instantly vault it into the status of “world class” cities. Ideas like the Saca twin towers. Like Aura. Like the Sacramento Boqueria. Big projects that promise much but ultimately come to nothing. I believe in dreaming big. But right now, in this town, we need a success. And success isn’t going to come in one fell swoop, with one grand gesture. It is going to come with something that is already happening on K Street: critical mass. The Promenade on K project offers just that.

Ratings Agencies Seek a Dismissal

Moody’s Investors Service Inc., Standard & Poor’s and Fitch Ratings asked a judge today to dismiss a lawsuit filed by two California investors who claim the companies gave inflated ratings to inferior bonds. The companies named the bonds “investment grade” to achieve more sales of their rating services and didn’t downgrade the bonds until Lehman filed for bankruptcy in 2008, plaintiff Ronald Grassi said.

Commentary: A “Strong Mayor”?

Sometimes you can want something so much, and push for it so hard, that you end up creating the opposite of what you wanted. Which is perhaps how we’ve ended up with such a weak mayor. That was never more clear than on Tuesday night, when Mayor Kevin Johnson’s dogged pursuit of a “strong mayor” remake of the city charter went down – spectacularly – at the hands of a city council united against him.

Online news site hires pros

Managing editor David Watts Barton said the publication is still primarily driven by community journalists. He said the Web site aims to be something of a “hybrid” with a combination of professional journalists and community contributors. Barton wants the two full-time reporters to anchor the site with “real quality journalism,” with coverage of business and development matters and city government, and hopes their stories inspire more involvement from community members.

Commentary: In These Hard Times

These are the times that try men’s souls, it’s true. And you see a bit about people in their reactions to the bad news, not always appealing. I admit my own vascillations between hope and despair, particularly in the way I talk – one day I’m quoting terrible news, the next I’m sayin’ it ain’t so bad. Strange times. But I had a conversation with some good friends the other night, outside the Torch Club, and the conversation turned to the economy, and the gloom. And several of the conversants – all guys in their 30s and 40s – opined that, in times like these, the cops were spread thin, and the best insurance against hard times was a shotgun.

Black September at The Sacbee

A Bee Business story on this week’s buy-outs was long on numbers, but it didn’t mention a single name of the very real people who are leaving The Bee this fall. So I’m going to drop the commentary and just list those who are leaving. Read the names, remember the people – and the stories. These are the people who made The Bee what it is…was. And the names say it all.

Sacramento’s Hottest Blogs

So you want to know what some folks really think? Check their blogs. For better and worse, bloggers can say whatever they think—and they do. Prolifically. Bloggers generally aren’t pros—their work often lacks professional editing and fact-checking—but there’s little question on where they stand, and that’s their appeal. Local bloggers who write about Sacramento give a street-level view of the city with an aura of authenticity that more managed media can lack.

Proposition 8 can go to voters

A ballot measure to ban gay marriage in California can go to voters in November, a judge ruled, over
the objection of an advocacy group that said state Attorney General Jerry Brown improperly changed its wording. A group opposed to same-sex marriage sued the state claiming Brown’s changes to the measure’s title and summary — the first words voters see on their ballots — could sway Californians to vote against it.

NorCal’s Greatest Outdoors

Sun, sand, trees, trails, water, wildflowers, wildlife. Many such words come to mind when we daydream of summer in all its coming glory. And now it’s here. In our guide to the outdoors, we explore a variety of ways for you to put our region’s great weather and ample natural amenities to good use. From hiking and cycling to swimming, kayaking and more, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So let’s take it outside.

Purple Heart Memorial

Dan Gehweiler, accompanied by his wife and toddler son, as well as by his parents, accepted the award quietly. It was more than two years in coming, but it was welcome nonetheless. Speaking the day before the ceremony, Gehweiler recounted the afternoon of Aug. 29, 2005, when his truck hit an explosive device on the road back to his base. The shrapnel tore through the floor of the truck he was driving and “a hunk of metal the size of a golf ball” lodged in his right arm.

The Paul McCartney interview

You’d think that people would have had enough of Paul McCartney. But you look around you and you see it isn’t so. With a sold-out show at Arco Arena on Wednesday, yet another album in the Billboard Top 40 and a seemingly endless stream of books being published about his first band, the Beatles, McCartney is the object of enduring interest, especially for baby boomers who grew up with the Fab Four.

Taming and Marketing John Lennon

John Lennon been turned into a soft-focus pop icon, a pinup for peace. A driving force behind that, all agree, is Ono, who, as Lennon’s widow, creative partner, business partner and manager of his estate and legacy, has revised the man. Now, he comes across as a dreamy house husband, not as the firebrand who wrote the raw, violently emotional “Yer Blues” and “Working Class Hero.” Instead, we get the Lennon of clouds and dreams and childish doodles, widely available as lithographs – “limited edition,” of course.

Room To Grieve: A memorial hike

When she set out to hike 200 miles of the John Muir Trail, Anne Arthur, 57, wasn’t aiming to make a statement. She just wanted to go on a hike, the kind she and her husband had planned to do. “We’d been trying to get back to backpacking,” she says of her hiking plans with her husband of 22 years, Jeff. “It was an activity in which we both felt alive; it was something that we shared.” But that was before Jeff, 58, died unexpectedly last November. And before Anne was forced to think about her life and her dreams in a new light.

Jerry Garcia, 10 years gone, 2005

From the time he first stepped on stage with the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, dubbed “Captain Trips” by his following, exhibited the kind of charisma that would make him a revered cultural figure. Even after his death at 53 from heart failure 10 years ago today, his influence echoes among the younger musicians and fans of the booming jam-band genre. The same is true for older fans who – long ago won over by the music – sport J. Garcia ties with their business suits and drink J. Garcia wines at suburban dinner parties.

Nature’s prodigal children

Nature is disappearing, and not just where we notice it. Certainly, the natural world is going under the bulldozer at a frightening rate, from the Brazilian rain forest to North Natomas. But that’s not all that concerns Richard Louv.

What worries the journalist and author is that nature is disappearing from inside us. People are spending less and less time in natural settings and, he says, are losing touch with nature in many different ways.

Amateurs drive Infineon Raceway

Someday, anthropologists will be able to explain the human fascination with speed. Until then, we’ll just keep driving fast, faster and faster still. It’s how some of us are wired. Last week, several dozen NorCal members of the Rocklin-based CFRA, including Wong and others from the Sacramento area, brought their search for thrills to Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point Raceway), just off Highway 37 in Sonoma.

Brian Wilson Wows S.F. with ‘Smile’

To say that a well-known artist was ahead of his time is a critical cliche. It might seem doubly ludicrous to say that about Brian Wilson, whose songs and productions for the Beach Boys in the first half of the 1960s virtually defined his time. But Wilson’s greatest work, largely written and recorded in 1966, got too far ahead of his time, his band and his audience, and even of Wilson himself. But Thursday night at Davies Symphony Hall, Wilson, his music and his audience finally all caught up to the music he dared not release in 1966: “Smile.”

Underground Dining in Oakland

The Host greets us at the door. We’ve met him before, when he was wearing a T-shirt, handing out handbills at a music festival. But now he’s wearing a black dress shirt and colorful tie, and his manner is gracious and welcoming.
He is fairly beaming with pride, for we have arrived at our undisclosed location. The air smells of onion, cumin and candle wax. We have found The Restaurant.

A day on Angel Island

Angel Island looms large in the geography of the Bay Area, but it also occupies a special place in time.

It’s been revered by early residents, such as the Coast Miwok tribes, and used by various branches of the U.S. military for nearly 100 years. It was the first place many Asian immigrants touched ground upon arrival in America.

Climbing (a little of) El Capitan

If the goal is to get to the top of a granite tower such as 3,000-foot El Capitan in Yosemite and get a workout doing it, there are good trails to the top. Pulling oneself up a sheer rock face seems, well, inefficient. Not to mention difficult. And dangerous. But as I discover during my first day of rock climbing, the sport has an advantage that outweighs all these disadvantages: It is a thrill.

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