Alto is the New Rideshare Company in Town

My latest article for L.A. Taco is now available! It’s an interview with Will Coleman, co-founder of Alto, a new rideshare company that is operating differently than its competition (y’know, like Uber and Lyft).

An excerpt:

A critical aspect of Alto’s brand is that it hires drivers as employees as opposed to its competitors, who work with drivers as independent contractors. In addition, the company provides them with a uniform, including PPE, hours of training in defensive driving, and training in the “culture of the service model,” as Coleman describes it.

Employment also provides peace of mind to drivers who continue to contend with the efforts of many rideshare and gig economy companies to limit their pay and benefits. The fallout from the passage of Prop. 22 last year in California hasn’t been pretty, as noted in The Guardian (“‘A slap in the face’: California Uber and Lyft drivers criticize pay cuts under Prop 22”), Protocol (“California gig workers say Prop. 22 isn’t delivering promised benefits”), VICE (“Uber Shuts Down App That Told Drivers If Uber Underpaid Them”), and Business Insider (“Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig companies said California’s Prop 22 would create opportunity for workers of color. A new study says it ‘legalized racial subordination.’”).

Read my full story at L.A. Taco: https://www.lataco.com/alto-rideshare-new-app-will-coleman/

A New Wave of Souldies Artists

My latest for KCET is my interview with a half-dozen artists who are part of a new wave of souldies artists. Souldies, a.k.a. Chicano Soul, has a distinct flair and sound that’s also connected to a specific cultural context, which I write briefly about in the story.

The familial connection to the music and the culture is one shared by nearly all the artists involved in this resurgence of oldies music. Samano recalls his parents putting artists such as The Delfonics and Brenton Wood on heavy rotation during his childhood. Lane grew up on gospel and studied “the pillars of northern soul” while studying music in college. Garcia’s father had a record collection that included Smokey Robinson, Mary Wells and Brenton Wood plus dozens of doo-wop artists.

The same goes for Vicky Tafoya, founder and singer of Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, who grew up surrounded by the sounds of doo-wop, big band and Motown. As the youngest of 12 children, she inherited the vinyl records that each one of her siblings left behind as they moved out. She became completely enamored with the music and had a life-changing experience in 1989 when she joined The Doo-Wop Society of Southern California. It was there that she would spend years watching and even performing acapella doo-wop on the same stage as the artists she listened to obsessively at home: Vernon Green and The Medallions, The Teenagers, The Six Teens, The Chantelles and many other legendary artists.

You can read the story in full here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/a-new-generation-of-musicians-are-revitalizing-chicano-soul-music

Optimus Prime Comes To Life As A Collector’s Edition Programmable Robot

My childhood just died of joy, went to heaven, and was promptly resurrected just to enjoy this news all over again. Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, is now a real-life, 19″ robot toy!

Optimus comes to life thanks to the talented minds and hands at Robosen Robotics via license by Hasbro. This Optimus is based on the Generation 1 version, a.k.a. the BEST version, and features 80 different sound effects, 25 voice-activated commands, and TRANSFORMS like in the cartoon (maybe better?!). It also includes an app that is fully customizable to command the toy with.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Hasbro and look forward to ushering in a new standard of robotics with the most advanced TRANSFORMERS robots for consumers ever created,” said Sean Tang, Director of Robosen USA. “The team is working hard to deliver an amazing user experience for fans of this esteemed franchise and produce TRANSFORMERS that will be a premium addition to their collection with its superior functionality.”

Robo Optimus won’t be availabe until October 1st. Pre-order here for $699: https://hasbropulse.com/collections/hasbro-pulse-fan-fest/products/transformers-optimus-prime-auto-converting-programmable-robot-collectors-edition

5000+ components, 60 microchips, 27 servo motors, 1 badass robot!
Transform and roll out!
The app command screen.
Beautiful collector’s casing and protective travel case.

Life As Undocuqueer

My latest piece for KCET Artbound is my interview with artist/activist Julio Salgado. His work took off nearly a decade ago when he created his series of portraits of queer, undocumented activists titled “Undocuqueer.”

An excerpt:

The purpose behind the series is to remind people that the bulk of the work in pushing the national conversation on immigrants’ rights, in planning and executing protests and all the other unglamorous, behind-the-scenes work was done by UndocuQueers. It’s also to expand the conversation behind the perceptions of who these immigrants affected by these laws and policies are.

On multiple occasions, Salgado has had to educate numerous people about the diversity of people who identify/are labeled as undocumented. In one such instance, he and others traveled by bus from California to Washington D.C. for a massive march on the capitol.

“A lot of them were faith-based groups,” recalls Salgado. “There were some immigrants who were very homophobic that would say homophobic things and, like, how do you navigate those spaces? You have to educate people, which I don’t have a problem with that. Working in kitchens with a lot of immigrant men and their machismo, you learn how to use humor.”

“That’s why I started making those pieces,” he continues. “It was for our communities to understand that if we’re talking about accepting people or creating policy that doesn’t criminalize us, we can think about other folks who are also part of our communities.”

Read the full story here: https://www.kcet.org/shows/artbound/julio-salgado-undocuqueer-immigrant-artist