Island Life 2003 - PART 1 - Jan- June
Welcome to the First Half of the Year 2003. This Page covers the 1st half of Year 2003 so as to allow easier page loading. To return to the present time, click on the image of the boats above. Use the Navigation bar to visit other years. Second half of 2003.
This site has been in continuous operation since 1998. Visit the archive to view other editions.
JUNE 29, 2003
This weekend is doubly, triply joyful for, just as the Supreme Court has indicated that it is no toady to transitory and repressive political trends, two classic symbols of Old Guard obstructionism against progress and human rights have passed away within days of one another, and, of course, there was the Gay Pride Parade.
After a long list of public disappointments and disasters in the political arena, the Supreme Court struck down the invasive and anti-American laws in Texas that allowed state troopers to invade homes and arrest people for actions performed in private between consenting adults that should never be regulated or overseen by anyone, let alone the State.
An entire Generation of Americans has been liberated from the stigma of criminality by this decision, and the joyous response in Babylon, as elsewhere, was, "Dudes! Let's party!"
Our special in-person reporters indicated that Babylon filled up with thousands upon thousands of lesbians on Saturday for the Dyke March, and added to these were yet more hundred thousands the following day. Official reports listed attendance at somewhere near one million persons in Babylon on Sunday, with over 700 of the always popular Dykes on Bikes leading the pack down Market to start off the festivities.
Meanwhile, the dissenters begin to gather steam and numbers even as the body count in Iraq rises and zero WMD get found. Slowly the tide turns. Months yet before an election and the economy is tanking. "You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
THE ARTIST IS NOT PAID FOR HIS LABOR, BUT FOR HIS VISION
Spent a joyful afternoon among the company of artists and other people with more ability, soul and joy than cash. The occasion was the open studio of Jim Kitson, Susan Laing and visitor C.B. Harris from Arizona.
Jim does mythic figures in iron, brass and wood, often working with natural and worked forms to shape objects that evoke some ancient culture that worshipped the essential and primeval forces of life through totems of extraordinary iconic power. He likes to call it "industrial strength neo primitivism".
His figures almost always combine an element of whimsy and lightheartedness with atavistic pre-Christian energy, as if his mythic gods and goddesses have acquired expressions of astonishment and wonder at the variety of life and the foolishness of man over thousands of years. He quite often will incorporate discarded parts of heavy machinery to form his archetypal figures, brazing the surfaces and then polishing them to a brilliant luster.
Susan works with textiles and has come up with a delightful implementation of design and felt that remind one of Tolkein's wood elves with their ingenious incorporation of natural forms with free-flowing structures.
C.B. Harris also works with natural materials, employing rare corals and amber to make deceptively simple creations that accentuate the wearer's attributes rather than call attention to themselves with busy detail. Shown is a necklace made of red coral that can be seen on her website at WWW.cbharris.com.
The Island is one place where the work of the soul continues in the workshop as well as the nave.
SING OUT A JOYFUL NOISE
The Significant Other and I managed to take in Los Hombres Calientes at Yoshis Jazz Club in Oaktown this Saturday after several misfired attempts during the week. We had first run across this remarkable jazz group playing in a Tower Records in New Orleans during the Jazz Festival two years ago and both of us were absolutely blown away by the music of this group, which has since gone on to gather extraordinary critical acclaim throughout the world.
The brainchild of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, a prodigy all of 22 years of age, and seasoned percussionist Bill Summers, this band has been cracking open preconceptions about jazz right and left while pulling in so much critical praise that Mayfield is starting to get tired of the Grammies, laudatory reviews and awards.
Yoshi's is one of those nightspots that performers just love for the acoustics and the intimate atmosphere. If you are good, then Yoshi's pulls out the best, and the best become superlative, while the superlative soar into the heavens. Los Hombres does a heavily Latin/Africano inflected mix that had the crowd stomping on their feet, dancing in the aisles, singing in Spanish, Portugese, various African dialects and clapping until their arms were sore.
Most definitively a "crossover" band, LHC has pulled in fans who would never have approached jazz in its chillier, more cerebral manifestations, while still holding true to the command, "make a different masterpiece every night". They included a nice bit of audience participation on "Foforo Fo Firi". The high point of the set might have been the longest tune: Mayfield's complex yet bluesy composition, "Creole Groove." All the soloists had plenty of opportunity to shine, including the other supporting players: pianist Victor Adkins, drum dynamo Ricky Sebastian (who replaced founding member Jason Marsalis a couple of years ago) and bassist Edwin Livingston. Adkins weaved some serpentine lines that evoked the complexity of the great McCoy Tyner. At a couple points, the players broke into a classic New Orleans second-line street-beat, bringing it all back to the place referred to as "the northernmost Caribbean city" by Summers.
There followed a playful "A Night in Tunisia", dedicated to Dizzy Gillespie, which had Summers blowing an eerie riff over the mouth of his shaker drum into a microphone before leading off into a grandstand performance that had him repeatedly tossing the drum into the air during the song. They concluded the two hour show with a segue from "Mardi Gras Mambo" into "New Second Line" (from their 3rd CD, "New Congo Square") evoking "The Duke" and good old-fashioned Dixieland jazz, but with the curious Cuban inflection that has been the signature for this band, the hottest to come out of the Crescent City in over 25 years and most certainly the hottest jazz ensemble in the world today anywhere.
Not surprisingly these guys have been touring all over the Caribbean, including Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica, playing and recording with some of the hottest and most legendary talents in Latin music. The power of Calle 57 and the Buena Vista Social Club goes out and hopes to erase those lines on the world map that senselessly divide people from one another. More power to The Hot Boys if they can even half-way succeed.
THE MADMAN OF LINCOLN STREET
That Harlan has been at it again, the impish boy. He's been slinging up those signs on the side of his house with so many changes that hardly two hours go by before another set of messages replaces what had come before. As always, there appears to be no relation between the various postings and absolutely no comprehensible subtext to any of them. Which does not preclude this artworks from being absolutely delightful.
IN MEMORIAM - LATE-BREAKING NEWS
she died in Old Saybrook, CT at the age of 96. During her 60-year career, she earned 12 Oscar nominations, which stood as a record until Meryl Streep surpassed her nomination total in 2003. She won the Academy Award for "Morning Glory," 1933; "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," 1967; "A Lion in Winter," 1968; and "On Golden Pond," 1981.
Despite her success, Hepburn always felt she could have
"I could have accomplished three times what I've accomplished," she once said. "I haven't realized my full potential. It's disgusting."
But, she said, "Life's what's important. Walking, houses, family. Birth and pain and joy - and then death. Acting's just waiting for the custard pie. That's all."
OH, INDEPENDENCE DAY, INDEPENDENCE DAY
The annual Mayor's parade - 4th largest in the country -- takes place for the 26th time on the Island this Friday, starting at 9:am with a 5k race and ending sometime around six pm. This parade, which features fleets of Model E and Model T Ford automobiles plus floats of every description is an affair not to be missed.
OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
In response to the recent upsurge on the Island of strong-arm robberies as well as numerous break-in attempts by unsavory characters, our in-house Ladies of Distinction have posted several admonishments about the premises. Herewith we present the injured backdoor:
It would be good to note that Julee, who recently celebrated her (2nd) 29th birthday, owns a Glock 9mm and a 12 gauge Mossberg is on order.
On the Island, you do not mess with our women. Period. Schick, Chick! Hear that sound? It means "Run you bastard!"
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a jolly week.
I'M DANCING BAREFOOT
Her once raven-black, tangled hair is gone burnished pewter over the years, and time the avenger has given her face a bit more character, but on Tuesday evening she stepped on stage at the Fillmore and I fell in love all over again. As the band blasted right into "25th Floor" -- without a warm-up act -- the crowd roared alive. Three songs into the show with Patti snarling the words to "Summer Cannibals", the control-booth strobes hit the famous overheard "disco ball" -- something usually reserved for the final crescendo of a carefully polished set.
The 60-year old proto-feminist, proto-punker simply did not let up, playing and singing with the energy and power of a teenager. Her voice projected with such power it reverberated over two electric guitars, an electric bass and amplified drums against the back wall. After a crunching start, she and the band -- including sole survivor Lenny Kaye from the original 1971 group -- went into a puzzling set of covers, featuring "Jumping Jack Flash", before returning to her own material: "Paths That Cross", "Redondo Beach", "We Three," and, of course, the chart-toppers "Frederick" with "Dancing Barefoot."
One high point among many was a supremely ecstatic "Beneath the Southern Cross" with both Smith and Kaye putting out a steady drone on acoustic guitars.
Born in 1946 in Woodbury, New Jersey of devout Catholic parents, Patti Smith survived a childhood bout with scarlet fever that left her with recurring hallucinations. She worked through college in a toy factory for two years, before dropping out to have a baby that she gave up for adoption. In 1967 she moved to New York with the intention, she stated, of becoming "an artist's mistress." The particular artist she found was Robert Mapplethorpe and the two of them journeyed for a while, living in the Bronx then Paris and then returning to New York where Robert's homosexuality probably put the kibosh on the "mistress" portion, although the two remained close friends until his death of AIDS. Many of her early album covers were composed from photographs done by Mapplethorpe. From painting and poetry, she segued into a bit of playwrighting with Sam Shepard, collaborating on "Cowboy Mouth."
Like a freight train gathering steam she put her hand to everything with frantic energy, writing gonzo journalism-style criticism, performing poetry, doing music, and painting. Her poetry, appearing on page quite often as beat-derived self-indulgent flamboyance, becomes truly "live" and effective when heard and seen in person, when the words become filled with musical nuance and the strength of her personality. She also allows her sense of humor to balance out the heaviness when performing, resulting in a very engaging performance which one cannot get from the relatively austere studio recordings. Her lyrical mentors -- Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Dylan, the Beats -- informed her style of composition and of performance.
As she moved into professional venues, a half-step above coffeehouses, like CBGB, she became lumped together with others in the "punk" aesthetic. Rolling Stone had this to say about her involvement then:
But by 1975, subcultural gravity converged on CBGB, attracted by a small group of rockers -- notably Television, the Ramones and Smith -- who had little in common besides a commitment to ignore limitations. Punk was not a single style, but a boundary-crashing attitude. You could be a punk journalist, a punk painter, a punk poet. Soon enough, of course, punk would be codified into a canon of stylistic tics, few of which Smith indulged in, but it's always worth remembering that the central motivation was to escape limits, not to invent a new musical cage. As she said once, talking about "Piss Factory," "What is punk rock, anyway? Is it like, I'm writing something just to make a bunch of people with weird hair happy? I wrote it because I was concerned about the common man, and I was trying to remind them they had a choice."
In 1978 she fell off of a stage and broke two vertebrae in her neck. While convalescing, she wrote a book of poetry, journeyed to Italy and the lady who would scream, "I have not sold my soul to god!" was granted a personal audience with Pope John Paul, which resulted in the surprisingly affectionate song, "Wave".
After a somewhat heady, albeit misguided and regrettable, attempt to depoliticize racial epithets, such as the word "nigger" -- claiming this title for herself as a start -- she married long time companion Fred "Sonic" Smith and retired to the Detroit suburbs to become a housewife and raise two kids. But life and music had not done with Patti, to her continuing anguish.
Robert Mapplethorpe died of AIDS in 1989, followed by band pianist and friend Richard Sohl. A number of other associates and friends died of AIDS about this time as well. Kurt Cobain, with whom she sympathized and was acquainted, committed suicide in 1994. In late1994, first her husband, then her brother, died of heart attacks within two months of each other.
She began giving poetry readings in New York again, and reformulated her band with the occasional assist from John Cale, dividing her time between music projects, book publishing and political causes, including an intense effort on behalf of Ralph Nader during the Stolen Election.
There were some reminiscences Tuesday night, as via the song "1959", but the fire in Patti Smith refused to be doused by grief as she proved Tuesday night. After an incendiary "People have the Power," to which the heavily produced studio recording does not give the slightest justice, she exploded with her withering version of "Gloria", in which the letters of the name become pre-verbal musical notes shouted into a maelstrom.
The audience, screaming and stomping, brought her back for a very appropriate "Distant Fingers (Pissing in a River)" before she ripped into a very self-consciously ironic and very punk "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star", which she turned into a typically Patti political statement while banging furiously and atonically on a telecaster as Kaye slammed his strat on the top of the Marshalls behind him. "Oh f--k the Rolling Stones! Who do they think they are with charging $135 dollars a ticket like they're in f--king Las Vegas!" This was especially pointed in view of Smith's penchant for calling up people for impromptu free concerts, which she had done only days before in Berkeley. She then launched into an excoriating diatribe against the present power elite in America. "F--k those people and their hatreds and their intolerance and their greed! F--k Bush and their stupid wars!"
Guys half MY age where shouting from the back, "Oh Patti! Take me home with you!" Well, we imagine that she would be more than a handful. Patti Smith is not one to be easily contained. That is one reason we love her still.
It's been ten years since we have been following Beck together, and longer since we have been following the career of this extraordinary musician individually. Me and the Significant Other brought the Teens out to see Beck at the Greek just to check on the boy. Well, he is no longer playing obscure little venues and the still-waifish guy still has the girls as well as the grrls eating out of the palm of his hand as the 10,000 strong crowd attested.
The big arena is a new experience for Beck and we could see him trying out new things in terms of performance and presentation, still with the whimsical sense of humor he always has possessed and which distinguishes him from the legion of self-important rockers.
It can be difficult to be a fan of Beck, for his impatience with pursuing formulas and his yen for trying out new things makes it difficult to describe what he does. From dressing in a big wooly animal outfit and attacking the Flaming Lips lead singer -- in mid song -- as he did last year, to the absolutely straightforward lyrics of his most recent album, "Sea Change" Beck has remained an artist who is hard to pin down while remaining perfectly himself. And for that we give him a great deal of respect.
"Odelay" and " Mellow Gold" feel like post-punk emanations from a weird crossbreed of Zappa, Eric Satie and Johnny Rotten, while "Mutations" segued into hallucinatory acoustic stuff and then he moved into straightforward, no-nonsense lyrics with "Sea Change" coupled with calm but authoritative rhythm work.
Sunday, he opened up with straight ahead Rock with heavy synth and electronica backing, while performing a series of joyous breaking and popping moves, before strapping on the acoustic for some of his newer material. At one point he waltzed around the stage with the electronic organ.
Unfortunately, holding the concert in the lens of that bowl at 3pm meant the airless space reached well over 100 degrees and we, who had experienced the Greek for more traditional times had prepared for bitter cold. We had to leave, regretfully, in the middle of his crossover hit "Baby I'm a Lost Cause". Heck, I had found a place up by the fountain under some bushes that felt a breeze and was willing to stick it out, but the gals wanted to boost out of there. So we passed by the legions of sunburned and water-bottled at least satisfied our boy has turned out well indeed.
All up an down the Coast, from Monterey to the Lost Coast, the locals held summer faires to bring in the new Season. The combined Marin-Sonoma county fair took place in Petaluma with Pat Benetar opening up the fest. Down in San Anselmo, the immense Marin Studio fair filled that small town for a stretch of about a mile and a half with art booths from virtually every artisan from Seattle to Los Angeles.
LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE
The things you find in the back pages. Now, I don't want to hear any more "only in Babylon" comments about this, but the PGE crews recently rescued a chicken that had been harnessed to over 100 balloons for flight over the City that wound up entangling power-lines endangering PGE workers, power to 11,000 customers, and the chicken. A police officer shot about 50 balloons with a pellet gun to help free the bird.
BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S
You may not immediately place the name -- George Axelrod -- but he wrote the screenplays for "the Seven Year Itch," "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?", "Breakfast at Tiffany's", and "The Manchurian Candidate". He also was the most highly paid scriptwriter in Hollywood for a time and he died at age 81 this Saturday in his home in the hills above Los Angeles. As we always wish for any writer who passes to the final reward, "At last man, you get some decent sleep for a whole night and more; enjoy!"
YOU COULD BE MY SILVER SPRING
The latest flap on the Island comes from the house on Park and Pacific where the owner is currently painting the entire structure -- walls, roof, windows, trim -- bright metallic silver. The vintage Victorian structure with a striking second floor bay window is being painted in protest over the imposition of fines applied for unpermitted remodeling. The owner, a Mr. Wright, wants to keep the building vacant so as to deny the City tax revenue. The 117 year old building was vacant for 30 years on the main drag and now offers a most imposing sight to visitors on entering the Island's main gateway.
Since no traffic ordinances are being violated, no further action against the owner is anticipated.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 15, 2003
MY FATHER'S EYES
There has been a run on cufflinks, ties, and golf-themed t-shirts, accessories and bric-a-brac lately. They only get one day in the year, but this is it for what its worth. It's all for the Dads. They start off by carrying this woman over the threshold of a little love nest, then
Picture a little love nest
Down where the roses cling
Picture the same sweet love nest
And see what a year can bring
He's washin dishes and baby clothes
He's so ambitious he even sews
But don't forget folks,
That's what you get folks, for makin' whoopee.
Ah but it doesn't stop there. Then its knee-patches, black-eyes and fights with the neighbor kids, Just Say No (and for girls, its "If you even THINK about a boy, just say, NO!"), loaning the car keys, paying for the car damage, paying for the other guy's car damage, paying for bail, paying for soccer/baseball/karate/tennis/music/football/volleyball/nerfball equipment and lessons for all of the above while fixing the porch swing, the heater for the house, the foundations, the wiring the roof and the windows yours or the neighbor's busted with an errant pop foul. Then, before you know it, its paying for prom dresses and tuxedos while the credit card still has the summer vacation installments and before you know it, he's sitting there in the easy chair before the (repaired) TV with the golf game finally down pat, a tom collins in hand, and there comes the now strapping lad/lassie for a visit across the well-embattled lawn (now free of crabgrass and dandylions after 25 years of struggle) to say,
"Dad, kin I borrow a few bucks for this ski trip? There's a girl/guy goin' I really really like . . .".
"It's really killin' that he's so willin' to make whoopee"
This day, hats off to the Dads.
A STAR FALLS FROM THE HEAVENS
Gregory Peck, 1916 - 2003
He chose a chancy career on the stage, dropping a nearly completed medical education in favor of footlights and applause. The boy from La Jolla bought a ticket for New York City and arrived without enough money to pay for acting lessons, secured parts in Broadway vehicles that tanked and then got discovered for the films only to return to his homestate to make over 60 films during the next half century. He played many Oscar-nominated roles, but he always wanted to be known for his portrayal of Atticus Finch, a stubbornly principled lawyer defending an African -American in a Southern small town from an unjust charge. His best roles were those of the quiet, determined American possessed by unshakeable ethics and sound convictions, which put him in the company of a now-vanished breed of gentlemen actors. In later life, however, he portrayed the "butcher of Lyon", Joseph Mengele in The Boys from Brazil, to great acclaim. In life he possessed the qualities of the Good Man, performing many acts of generosity and service, filling the post of the President of Academy of Motion Picture and Arts 1967-1970 and working tireless to combat racism and inequality in America. He lobbied for the election of Truman at a time when no one imagined Harry had a chance of winning and continued to work for liberal causes throughout his life.
He is an Actor and a Gentleman who will be sorely missed.
WILL THE WOLF SURVIVE?
His back is against the wall and the mindless hounds are baying all around him. Savaged but yet unbeaten, Gray Davis is fighting the good fight over a costly and foolish recall attempt by Rep. Issa, a GOP Representative who has chipped in $800,000 in an attempt to buy the Governorship for himself against the wishes of virtually everybody, including his own party, who see the acquisition of stewardship of a state facing a $39 billion dollar deficit shortly before crucial Presidential elections to be a disaster.
But the economy, certainly no fault of Davis, has many Calfornians eager for a change, especially in view of the fact that no one felt strongly about Davis' election the first time around, seeing him largely as the lesser of two evils. And not lesser by much at that. Now the Energygate, which sucked the vast majority of the State's surplus last year as billions got paid out to keep the lights on is causing some real pain even as the Federal government cuts back distributions to the states.
Over 700,000 signatures have been collected (of the needed 900,000) to force a recall election that analysts estimate will cost us $30 millions dollars and untold millions in campaign expenses.
But Davis is one of our own, a tough old bear who fights well when cornered. The ensuing melee will almost certainly cost the GOP heavily and, should Issa lose, will cost him his political career.
ALL IS NOT WELL ON THE ISLAND
Recently it comes to our attention that gangs of teens have mugged over 20 people over the last couple months, frequently with violence and severe injuries. At a bus stop on the corner of Lincoln and Bay a group of teens attacked a boy and smashed out his front teeth at 7:30 in the evening. On Thursday, a man was beaten by three boys who still took very little of value. On the previous week a man was robbed by two adolescents, one armed with a gun which was held to the man's head while the accomplice demanded cellphone or wallet. Our own garage was broken into and a bicycle stolen. Three days later, the boys tried to break into the other garage, which now possesses heavy, reinforced locks.
These events have all been characterized by teens in groups of 2-10 and by extreme incompetence on the part of the violent thieves, for they frequently beat their target without taking anything of serious value.
Unfortunately, since the perps do not appear to drive automobiles and no traffic ordinances have been violated, they have been getting clean away.
Officer O'Madhauen is as furious as a hornets nest however. "One a these days, they'll make a real mistake," he exclaimed before the press. "They'll run a stoplight on one of these here bicycles and THEN we've have 'em for sure."
GOUDY KIMBLE TO YOU
Under unexpectedly delightfully sunny skies graduations and BBQ's went off all over the Bay Area.
We celebrated the "2 decade Birthdays" out at Point Reyes with a gang of old friends. Congratulations to David for achieving his 40th and to Mary Beth for achieving her second 30th. There was all sorts of oysters cooking and salmon eating and wine drinking and climbing up the sand dunes and falling down and a good time was had by all. We lit a roaring campfire and watched the moon rise from the East at midnight over the dunes of Kehoe Beach and then, tired and drunk with wine we all wended our ways home and fell into beds and went to sleep and did not get up until the next morning.
That's the way it is in the Bay Area. Have a great week. And don't lose that receipt for the golf caddy-mounted silver-plated smoke-shifter with paper umbrella you gave to Dad. You might need it.
(Live version: voice over, quietly, Stevie: "This is for you, daddy."
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brought it down (Oh,)
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mm hmm hmm hmm
Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, I'm getting older too
Ah-ah, take my love, take it down
Ah-ah, Climb a mountain and turn around
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, a landslide'll bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, a landslide'll bring it down, oh-ohh
The landslide'll bring it down.
JUNE 8, 2003
A DAY IN THE LIFE
Lots of festivities this weekend all around the place. San Jose, once the bastion of MOR and Kiwanis with nothing more radical than the occasional Elks Lodge pancake breakfast held a Gay Pride Parade this weekend. Also rocking, was Babylon with the Union Street Festival, where all sorts of high-priced knick-knacks and tchotchkes could be had for almost half the price of too much in the Avenues of the Glitterati. On the other end of the rainbow, the annual Unannounced Haight Street Faire celebrated the Age of the Aquariums and tie-die. Somewhere Jerry is humming a little tune.
Overhead the low cloud / high fog draped all in a close blanket reminiscent of those summer days down in the ave's in Babylon's Sunset. Where we spent our misspent youth. Ah, memories of Drunk-Faced Charlie chasing Burnt Jake down 53rd with a tree he had uprooted from the City Beautification Project sinkhole with intent to employ as a weapon upon Jake's pate for having made off with the morning's sausages. . . . oh the sight grows dim with these memories over the years . . . . Oh fergeddit.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
As the consequences of the "New Federalism", not called that ever since a Bush called it "voodoo economics", now take serious hold of the throats of State and local budgets everywhere, we are all looking at a period of severe budget cut-backs even as the unemployment rolls begin to rise again. AC transit is set to ax 3 local bus lines on the Island and the City is looking to cut Police, Fire and Event Programs after letting go a plethora of teachers from the school district. Oaktown is fairing a bit worse with Police, Fire, School and Mental Health programs on the chopping block even as the Fire Season gears up and gangland crime swings on the uprise. Cuts necessitating the full closure of City Hall on Fridays have hit the front page.
In the meantime, increased spending for Shrubb's Army of Bums has been increased. No WMD's have been found in Newark. Or Osima Bin Lassie. Or Saddam Huskydog.
THERE IS NO SPOON: YOU ARE THE SPOON
Just caught the next installment of the Matrix trilogy, starring Keanu Reeves, Carrie-Ann Moss and Lawrence Fishburne. Hugo Weaving returns as the Agent, or should we say, Agents. Without revealing anything let us just say its a hoot of a shoot-em up with extraordinary martial arts, eye-widening special effects, and Ms. Moss careering in a Ducati 995 the wrong way down an Oakland freeway while being shot at by vampires. The film is 2.5 hours long and feels like 15 minutes, so breathtaking and non-stop is the action. No kidding. Includes kung fu, sai-fu, sword fu, chucks fu, spear fu, gratuitous statue-bashing, vampire-fu, Carrie-Ann Moss Fu, semi-automatics going full bore while doing 60 per on pseudo-Interstate 80, gratuitous multiple car crashes, shot of the Island tunnel during a chase with gunfire, one breast, aardvarking among the machines, gratuitous orgiastic bump 'n grind dancing to drums and Harold Perrineau saying, "Oh, Neo? He's doing that Superman thing again." Joe Bob says, "Check it out."
Oh yeah, the Oracle returns and reveals Herself. So does the Spoon.
I'M GONNA WAIT UNTIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine.
It's quarter to, and all the Island is asleep in dreams. Just got back from Kincaid's at Jack London Square. Man, if Jack London could see it now, he would have such a reaction. This place where he slung boxes aboard pallets to be loaded onto ships. Now a tourist attraction where casually dressed yuppies and Elders dine at fine restaurants where dives and cranes once stood.
Well, the place smells a lot better than it did back then when Jack loaded pallets for the docks and then went to down a few at the tavern.
Now casual daytrippers pull out from the marina on 30 footers to sail around Alcatraz and take in the sights before dining in splendor before ceiling to wall windows. What a world has changed.
Now, it's past the witching hour and here it comes: The long wind of the midnight train, winding its way through the darkness with a red eye, and a long wail, as if some keening for the dead comes echoing far across the flatlands and the dark and the scrub among the industrial waste.
This has been my Company for 45 years and why should it stop now? For I do it all for Company. "A voice comes to one in the dark. Imagine." I had only a brief conversation with the initiator of that Voice, but no matter. Less matter. Lost chances. Now Nothing. He is gone. In his old tramping rags meandering the trails outside of Paris no more. Now perhaps singing praises with some section of the blest at last. The train howl dwindles in the distance. Everything oozes to a full stop.
Now the fable too. The fable of one with you in the dark. The Fable of one fabling of one with you in the dark. And how better in the end labor lost and silence. And you as you always were. . ..
It's half past midnight now and we are into a new one. Another impossible day. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 1, 2003
HERE COMES THE SUN, LITTLE DARLIN'
Brilliant sunlight finally saved the last day of the long Memorial Day Weekend, resulting in numerous successful BBQ's on the Island. We had our own and many peoples gathered from far and wide, even from far off Livermore, to come and partake of mead and good things to eat. And there was jolliment and and laughter on the Island and all sorts of merriment and jumping up and down and BBQ and spitting of cherry pits at one another.
JUST SAY NO
Oh what will those wacky X-ians do next! Seems a number of parents are up 'n arms about a group that's been handing out christian-version bibles to schoolchildren at bus stops and the front doors of the local middle schools. On this island, which probably has more churches per square mile than Ireland and Italy combined, the most recent flap about proselytizing is particularly ironic, however it must be remembered that our churches cover the gamut of everything from catholics, protestants, baptists, jews, moslems, wiccans, mormons, and hebephrenics -- just about every stripe of jesus-follower there is and then some, plus a few Satanists and Santaria worshippers. Stay tuned for details.
LA BELLA MUSICA
Jesus don't want me for a sunbeam. But the month of June does shine with marvelous musical developments from Knocti Harbor down to Santa Cruz.
Slims, in Babylon, hosts Cheap Chick, all female tribute to punkers Cheap Trick, June 5. We can remember the Cheap Trick Guitarist standing up on the monitor in the massive Hampton Roads Coliseum to play in 1978 and the years fade into yellow images of celluloid.
June 6-7 at the Great American Music Hall, Daniel Lanois.
At the Fillmore, punk love starts it up with the Buzzcocks on the 8th of June, followed by the very gothic Cramps. Tracy Chapman brings some very fine guitar work June 13-14 for both Friday and Saturday and personal faves, Lifehouse wind up quite a weekend on Sunday. Hootie and the Blowfish have been selling out everywhere they go, so they earned the unenviable Monday slot with openers Luce. Yo La Tengo will burn the house down Wednesday and Thursday and the oddly named unknown band, "and you will know us by the trail of dead" takes over Sunday. Taj Mahal closes a fantastic month on the 27th.
Not to be outdone, the Warfield starts up with Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds June 16-17. Grand Master Lou Reed trundles his opera based on that wacky Virginian, Edgar Allen Poe, for a stay the 21st to the 22nd. Local boys done good, Train, steamrolls into home for the 26th in support of there third CD release.
Last night the Hoity Toity split from the Hoi Polloi to wander between seven stages in downtown Babylon, sipping champagne and dining on foi de gras over duck's breath. Imagine the Ruling Elite is still sleeping it off.
Personally, we got tix to see our favorite waif, Beck, at the Greek in Berzerkeley on the 22nd while the Significant Other has been so magnanimous as to allow me to see and hear my old undergrad schweet-heart, Patti Smith.
Oh, I know what you are thinking, but let me tell you this. Not for me those cashmere girls named Muffy and Violet, who are always "saving it" and who dot their i's with little hearts, who wore buckle shoes and bobby socks without irony and who eventually settled down with accountants and insurance salesmen.
No. Give me once again those wild nights careening in an open top BMW driven by a maniacal Christine from Jersey while the radio blasts "25th Floor", scattering sorority dates and debutantes in fear and loathing on both sides of the road. Friend of Robert Mapplethorp, photographed for album covers wearing "beater" t-shirts inside out with unshaven arm raised high over over her tangled mane which had not seen a comb since release from detox two years previously, ah, that was the girl for me. No one else could shout in the middle of rock and roll song, "Go, go go! Go Rambaud!" or sing quite so delightfully about "pissing in a river." Given a personal audience on a visit to Rome with Pope John Paul, she then composed a marvelously sweet song to the holy man, called "Wave". Am looking forward to a rare evening of poetry and music on the 17th at the Fillmore.
Finally we have the Russian River Blues Festival in Guernville - June 28-29. First day has Etta James, Susan Tedeschi, Zigaboo Modaliste from New Orleans, Dr. Loco and the Rockin Jalapeno Band. Second day has Robert Cray, Dan Hicks and Lonnie Brooks. Ah do believe this may be worth a visit.
ISLAND LIFE GETS RADICAL
A friend has compiled quite a website of antiestablishmentarianism, and herewith we helpfully supply copies of artwork from the abbiehoffmanbrigade.com webpage.
Poor old George. All he has been through, he does not deserve the present crisis. Crumbled as he is.
Eugene Shrubb, who has invaded Newark with an army of bums, has failed to find any evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction, or of the presence of Osama Bin Lassie, the notorious Terrierist. This has not caused a hitch in the pronouncements from his press secretary, Ari bin Fleishmann, a respectable butcher of local origin. In response to numerous and troublesome inquiries as to the justification for Shrubb's invasion of Newark, Ari has published the following photograph, clearly indicating the President's sentimental and honest origins as well as his well-defined family origins.
We hope this lays the entire matter of the relationship between the current regime and family values to rest, for once and for all.
In other news, Eric Rudolph, responsible for bombing the Olympic Games in 1996 as well as several other bombs that killed and injured several hundred other Americans, was finally apprehended while raiding a dumpster in South Carolina, where locals had sheltered the murderer as one of their own. Rudolph, a well-diagnosed psychopath, was regarded by locals as a "bonne comarade" and "one of our own". Many, who consider South Carolina as a basically psychopathic community deserving of ostracism from the world, felt this entire event was emblematic.
Any comparisons between Eric Rudolph and the Butcher of Lyon are purely speculative. As are relations between Georgie Bush and AH. Hey, George Bush ain't so bad: he loves ballroom dancingk (sic).
Oh its Springtime in Washington
The Homeland is 'appy an' gay!
THAT NEFARIOUS TERRIER STILL AT LARGE
Officer O'Madhauen has been pulling cars over right and left for all sorts of minor infractions, even leaving pedestrians stranded in the crosswalks in pursuit of his duties to preserve the speed law and dubious traffic-control devices. Clearly he is on the hunt for that elusive Osama Bin Lassie, as well as the arch nemesis Saddam Husky from Newark. Now, Husky never did much of anything wrong other than bite a few mailmen on the leg, however he is still wanted for harboring millions of WMD (Wet Mutt Doo-doo). Critics have indicated that all of Newark has been overrun by now and that millions of WMD would surely have made its presence known by now as the weather has turned quite warm and these things are known to stink to high heaven. Undeterred, Eugene Shrubb has indicated that the real reason they have invaded Newark was to free the Newark People.
As a public service we reprint a photograph of Osama Bin Lassie here.
If you see this infamous terrierist, do not attempt to apprehend him yourself. He is known to be armed and dangerous and an expert at the Stealth Turn maneuver. Notify the authorities and get out of the way.
As the sun sinks slowly in the west over the Island behind the palm trees . . . oh fergeddit. Just have a nice week.
MAY 22, 2003
Days have been gloomy with high fog out to the Altamont Pass, and here in the middle of this Marmorial Day Tallowscoop weekend, the misty cool threatens many a BBQ and all sorts of outdoor activities. Time to check out the newly released Matrix Reloaded movie in a nice warm theatre.
The Significant Other and I reunited for a meal at the local Biergarten on the Island. The Speisekammer has a large entrance foyer backed by the bar and stools for those looking to dine right at the taps as well as a couple tables for the overflow from the main hall. A hardwood bench rings the main hall with rustic sort of wooden tables and the occasional throw pillow to soften the load. A second hall featuring a stone fireplace contains more elegant tables for four but this area was closed when we arrived.
The menu featured predominately Bavarian-style dishes, with the usual Sauerbraten, Schnitzel, sausages, and the ubiquitous southern side of Spaetzel to go with everything. We started off with an appetizer of cured salmon on a bed of sour cream and horseradish, set in turn upon a flaky square of pastry and adorned with sprigs of fresh dill. This was quite good, although we would have appreciated the drinks to have been served beforehand. They were out of the featured venison medallions, so I ordered a venison osso bucco -- on a bed of Spaetzel -- and the Significant Other ordered a vegetarian dish that consisted of goat cheese, red peppers and spinach wrapped in that flaky pastry often found in strudels. Her dish arrived in a lake of orange carrot sauce that both of us agreed was more colorful than filled with flavor. She added horseradish which spiced things up a bit reasonably well. The stuffed pastry was quite good however, and could have used some other complement other than the bland carrot sauce.
The osso bucco was tender and the meat came away readily from the bone, which contained a savory marrow. Spaetzel is Spaetzel of course, but the brown mushroom/orange sauce was just a bit salty to taste and tended to overwhelm the venison.
The restaurant has gotten rave reviews with a "priceworthy" mark, which might pertain to lunch or breakfast, but certainly not to the $57 tag we experienced for two entrees, a beer and a Stoli martini. We were surprised to see some notable absences from the menu, including rabbit, more sausages, and a few other items. In general, the place is a fairly accurate representation of a typical south German eatery in terms of atmosphere and with the assortment of beers and liquours, but in terms of value, we would have to give it a thumbs down. Guenstig ist er nit.
OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
The shenanigans of Spring unrolled last week as We discovered several of our people up on the roof with fishing pole and verve. Seems one of our People has taken to flying his kite up there as a means of after-work relaxation, and had managed to hook his favorite B-2 bomber in the branches of an 80 foot Sequoia that has been slowly dying in the neighbor's backyard.
Undaunted, our Fellow attempted to free the kite by sending up another so as to tangle the lines and yank it loose, but only managed to get this one stuck as well -- on the opposite side of the building. Ingeniously, someone suggested tying a stone to some line and practicing a bit of casting. Well, this idea was more entertaining than practical and as others up on the roof, each had his and her own suggestion to make. Somehow the entire enterprise developed a sort of flair that we imagined was characteristic of the French, and so much bastardized gallicism was bandied about. Alors! Fait comme l'avion! Comme l'oiseux!. Ah non! Ah zut alors! Eventually, we managed to free kite number two, but the wind had died about this time and no amount of coaxing could get the old boy aloft.
It was a metaphor for Middle Age, it was.
As the end of the day we all descended as darkness fell upon the dying Sequoia with its captive still aloft. Le cerf-volant refuse categoriquement tomber à les arbres.
CRIME WAVE ON THE ISLAND
The Island Gerbil reported last week that a woman was cited for "indecent exposure" when a member of the Island Dogwalker's Association, out for a stroll with her Fifi, called in a report when she noticed two men and the woman engaged in a photoshoot for a swimwear ad. Ms. Bluhair-Huffington was reported to be absolutely "outraged" at the lack of decency which has increased ever since the development of the two-piece bathing suit.
Just wait until Thanksgiving, my pretty.
JUST A SIMPLE LINE TO OCCUPY MY TIME
Sincere consolations go out to the owner of the once stately mansion at 1011 Grand Street, which held original works by Picasso, Matisse and many other greats as well as a priceless store of one-of-a-kind antiques and sculptures -- all destroyed by fire two weeks ago. Rescued from the front porch was a 120 year old model of the first America's Cup sailboat winner. The loss is incalculable.
Also missed is the famed Cunha's General Store, built in the mid 1800's and something of a local landmark. The country store was one of the few remaining operations still owned by the original family on the west coast. It was totally destroyed last week in a massive blaze that pulled two dozen firetrucks from five neighboring cities to the site on Half Moon Bay. One could buy groceries, wind-up watches, cast-iron pots, oil lamps, washboards, long underwear, local fish catch and even the occasional venison, wild boar and wild turkey supplied from local hunters who live in the town of some 8,000.
An attorney from Burlingame, Mr. Joe Cotchett, has purchased the location and plans on rebuilding as soon as possible. "It'll be there another one hundred years," he said.
LET'S DO THE STEALTH TURN AGAIN
The local Non Compos Mentis chapter of the National Association for the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled will be holding a special Seminar on Perfection of the Stealth Turn. Seems some of your have been forgetting yourselves, and indicating your intended change of direction from the correct lane. Now everybody knows, who needs turn signals when you can drive a small truck! Of course we have noticed many of you practicing out there, turning left from the right-hand lane, signaling to go left or right before barreling straight ahead, leaping across four lanes of traffic to take an exit, changing your mind in the middle of a turn to go straight or even turn 180 degrees to the other side of the street with a great deal of pleasure. We even noticed one clever tactic in which a particularly deft lady slammed into reverse, backed into the right-hand lane and then turned left, after flashing her turn signals alternatively to go left and right.
Now that is initiative.
So, all of you dour sourpusses driving half-tons, lets see a bit more creativity from you! None of this mealy-mouthed wandering slowly across the lanes to casually negotiate a turn as a sort of afterthought. Let's see some bold U-turns across the median in the middle of 880. The result will surely be spectacular and we'll all really appreciate the results.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
We are looking at another round of BBQ on this extended holiday. Even Eugene Shrubb and his army of bums have taken a rest from their Occupation of Newark (see April 27). For its a lazy weekend by the Bay and there's all sorts of kite-flying, backyard grilling, happy jumping up and down this Memorial Day. Even took a wander out to the USS Hornet to think about them memorialized. Thankee fellers. For reminding us that War is not a fun thing and it does have its consequences.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 18, 2003
HERE COMES THE SUN, LITTLE DARLIN'
This weekend the weather finally moved into mellow California mode and the populace took to the beaches and the parks en masse. After months of cold -- well, cold for California -- and tons of rain, courtesy of El Nino, we finally got to have Spring. The freesias are busting out all over, the gardenias are exploding with such vehemence that our Italian neighbor, treading on a few, commented, "Ah well, they'll reseed. So what! Enjoy the others!"
The splendid weather happened just in time for the Annual Bay to Breakers, um, Extravaganza. Race is not exactly an accurate term for this walkathon that moves at stroller's pace from one end of the City to the other. Heard that of all the colorful costumes this year, the Naked Legion's au naturale display won hands over, well, whatever.
Down the street, Pagano's Hardware has been selling gas-fired BBQ grills by the container load. Seems the Island is firing up for a bit of backyard entertainment this year.
Also wish to report that the Island Ice Cream truck, a vehicle out of somebody's past beyond mine, continues to ply its trade in the vicinity. The Island, a place where children actually play in the streets and where an Elk's lodge continues to hold an annual pancake breakfast, and where the Annual Mayor's Parade remains a key Event in the City Calendar, is a shining artifact from some ideal Past of someplace that maybe never existed but surely exists now in all its multiculti splendor.
BORN TO BE WILD
Hearty congrats to Josh, neighbor and fellow Islander, for taking second place out of a field of hundreds in the first of the Corba Mountain Bike races, held this weekend at Big Bear in Southern California. Josh headed on down with loyal mate and noted Animal Shelter volunteer, Julee -- who whipped up several meals for about twenty team-mates and hangers-on at short notice. The CORBA races have international recognition and the presence of teams from Norway, Sweden and parts of the Central and South Americas competed for qualifying times to participate in the next five events. Josh manages a Starbucks on the Island when not launching himself up hills that most of us find difficult to ascend by walking, let alone by single-speed bicycle. Another piece of evidence pointing toward Island excellence.
MIDNIGHT IN THE SWITCHING YARD
Now is the witching hour when skull-ghosts scream and bats dodge in aerial combat around the lanterns. After a nice meal with neighbors at La Pinata's, though, one just wants to sit back and let the frijoles settle. Who cares about the ghouls right now -- go away ya gibbering idiot and get a tan or something. Leave me alone to digest. And there it comes, wavering across the flatlands from the old cannery: the midnight train blowing that horn like some sweet sound of Satchmo or Bird calling out a riff in blue and black. Not all midnight sounds are scary. Some can sooth your soul better than, well almost better than, that sweet honey in the rock joyful sound that you know so well, that butterscotch smooth gospel sound full of hope and praise and longing for that other world where peace, truth, beauty and justice are the norm. It might help to make a fellow feel a little less lonely, hearing that sound, knowing that all along both sides of the Bay, from the great salt-flats of Palo Alto up along the marshes of Fremont, the circular logic of Foster City, the zig of Newark, the zag of Burlingame, the docks of Oaktown, the contested shores of airport frontage in South City and all of its acres of factories and warehouses up to Babylon itself and north to Richmond's refineries even to the shores of the Sharkland -- Tiburon -- and Marin with its infamous State Prison, all along these waterways some stranger looks up from sewing needle or swing shift work or book to hear that same sound, knowing that everyone else who is awake hears that sound too and it cannot be denied.
That's the way it is on the Island. Sleep well and have a great week.
MAY 11, 2003
THE LANDSLIDE BROUGHT IT DOWN
As that lovely song, written by Stevie Nicks for one of her parents, wafts through the air, lets all take pause in the hurley burley and all self-important bother to recognize that Special Someone who got you where you are today. Vanna, the envelope please. Ahem. Ladies and Gentlemens of the Academy, I am proud to announce this year's winner of That Special Someone Award is . . . (drums, bated breath, tension, silence)
Now I know this column tends to the sardonic and dark-humored from time to time, but for the space of the time it takes to read this, please will you sit back and give some consideration and accolades to that special lady who cobbled you together, wiped your nose, fed you, clothed you, and kicked your butt when you needed it while offering the gift of the goddess, that warm and secure place to come to. Even you Eminem. Well, maybe not Eminem, for not everybody gets so lucky, but that's all the more reason to appreciate your special Mom. And if you be orphan, well then, consider the Great Mother over all of us, Gaia -- or Mother Earth if you will, for who else bears us up, carries us safely through cold and asteroid-laden space, feeds us, keeps us company with all kinds of living things and makes the corn grow? When it all comes down to it, there is no way you can come up with anything bad to say about Motherhood in general.
As George Carlin used to say, "We had every kind of take-down and insult known to man that we used on each other, but there was one subject that remained verboten and often the call would come up, 'Hey man, no mothers man! You don't talk down no mothers here!"
(Curtain closes as She takes bows, arms gathered about bouquets of roses. Confetti falling. Applause and fade out.)
A FINE WEEKEND
This Muthuhs Day weekend a number of activities took place to delight the Hoi Palloi. Over in Babylon, the annual KFOG KaBOOM! went off smashingly well by report with Susan Tedeschi, "newgrass" pioneers Nickelcreek, Keller Williams, and Steve Winwood delighting the huge crowds that turned out for food, music and the most spectacular fireworks display in California. Steve Winwood has been performing since age 15, giving him a respectable 30-year music career highlighted by his stint with the jazz-rock group Traffic. Heard a track of him doing "He's My Man (and I love you so)" last night that really rocks and seems destined for next year's Live from the Archives #10.
Catching the wave of good weather, the first Island Spring Faire took over Park Street for two days running and there was all sorts of tchotchkes for sale, BBQ chicken on a stick, and tacos at the marvelous and very rare price of $1 each. Noticed only one single, solitary, and sometimes silent music stage however and a singular lack of balloons, face-painting and DIY crafts, so hey, what's up with that? Howzabout a little glitter on the empty storefront windows next time fellas.
"I AM DOLL PARTS . . ."
Took in the new traveling production from the Canadian company that calls itself Ex Machina, produced in collaboration with Cabildo Insular de Tenerife, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA, Wiener Festwochen of Austria, the Theatre de Quat'Sous of Montreal, and Pilar de Yzaguirre of Madrid, Spain. The play was an original work call La Casa Azul by Sophie Faucher, who also performed the lead role of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Director Robert Lepage provided innovative staging and stylized visuals to exhume layers of meaning from the text, drawn largely from Kahlo's own writings.
Frida Kahlo, subject of a recent movie starring Selma Hayek, lived the sort of white-knuckled artist-in-pain existence upon a life-canvas slathered with such violent broad strokes as to give any prospective wannabe artist the blue-horrors just thinking about it, and the sort of mythic scope as to inspire a legion of "Frida-maniacs" for the next half century, including one group of "Kahloists" that worships Frida as the One True God. Where other artists claimed, sanctimoniously, to "suffer for their art" or derive "art from pain," Kahlo had them all beat in the pain department hands down. Nobody but nobody wants to compete with what she went through, creating this eternal "art from pain schtick that just will not go away, no matter how much reasonable living enters into the picture. Which is unfortunate, as the lady could actually paint well.
Briefly: Frida survived an early childhood polio attack that withered one of her legs (not mentioned in the play) and then, at age 18 survived an horrific tram accident in which her pelvis was crushed, her leg broken in seven places, and her spine in three. A handgrip bar impaled her through the abdomen, emerging through her vagina and, thus impaled, she held on for about six hours before rescue. Not expected to survive, she was placed in a full-body cast after being freed and so taught herself to paint with a kit supplied by her mother while in the hospital.
In 30 subsequent operations upon her legs and spine, she entered into a world of eternal pain without end. Eventually one of her legs -- the polio-stricken one -- was amputated below the knee. Despite these obvious problems, the always scrappy and tomboyish Frida cultivated a flamboyant and life-loving lifestyle, well-fueled with demerol and liquor, that featured passionate affairs with numerous men and women, including a notable marriage to the internationally famous Diego Riviera and to one Russian in Exile -- Leon Trotsky.
"I suffered two grave accidents in
my life. One in which a streetcar knocked
me down.....The other accident is Diego."
The extent of carnage inflicted on her body would have shoved just about anybody into a sanitarium, but she continued up to her death in 1953 to produce a series of vibrant self-portraits as well as a handful of gory surrealist curiosities.
Usually she is treated as "Suffering Artist Wronged by Everybody". This has led to the further victimization of the woman by every special-interest group with a grudge from here to Seville. While the Art part has often been overlooked in favor of the Cult of Personality so well known here. In truth, Frida minimized her efforts in painting self-portraits, preferring the notoriety of the Personality Cult as her avenue to fame. Her peasant dresses and bright scarves were more intended as calculated diversions to hide her withered leg and her operation scars than any addition to the native Mexican aspect of her painting.
Nevertheless, as portrayed in the play, and as realized in real life, Frida Kahlo did possess genuine talent and her work does contribute significantly to the history of western art. Likewise, her paintings, rooted in 19th-century Mexican portraiture, ingeniously incorporated elements of Mexican pop culture and pre-Columbian primitivism that, in the 1930s, had never been done before. Frida Kahlo, in this area, was the first. Usually small, intimate paintings that contrasted with the grand mural tradition of her time, her work was often done on sheet metal rather than canvas, in the style of Mexican street artists who painted retablos, or small votive paintings that offer thanks to the Virgin Mary or a saint for a miraculous deliverance from misfortune.
Nevertheless, the Cult of Personality grinds on long after the artist's death. And in the case of female artists, the result is the sad switch of the Woman as Author to Female as Subject once again. In this reversal, the Female becomes the Object, not any different from a 4-color spread in Playboy or Penthouse. And in this sad switch the feminists take such a gleeful part, portraying Frida as Victim, instead of highlighting the value of the woman's work, which Frida valued above all else, as she stated in her Diaries.
"My painting carries with it the message
of pain.....Painting completed my
life.....I believe that work is the best thing."
The play works as a simplification of ideas to stark visuals and the translation of the events and facts into a dialogue between the Frida character and a figure that has accompanied her lifelong and only realized in the last year of her life as the Figure of Death. In the production, when Frida realizes this life-long discussion has been a kind of courting by Death, which she has desired with equal measure to Life, the stage became intense with vibrant antagonism. In a punk moment, Frida shouts through a mirror frame at the figure of death, a bald-shaven and enigmatic Lise Roy, Oh fuck you Death! Just fuck you! Fuck you!" It was a moment entirely in keeping with the earthy product of an Hungarian Jew and a Mexican-Indio as well as a great moment of theatre. Who else could say such a thing to Death so convincingly and be in such character? It was also the production's high point, other than the introductory description of the primary colors and their basic correlatives in terms of emotional states.
There were some additional high points, in which the scrim, behind which all action took place, variously hosted video, fresco projections and animated works in progress, and in which lighting projections filled a bathtub with smoke or blood, evoking the famous painting of Marat's murder while simultaneously presenting the events of the streetcar, however the best moments took place with simple, old fashioned dramaturgy and use of physical props. A nice scene evolved when Lise, portraying Leon Trotsky, removes the moustache and beard and glasses and toupe, applying them to the sugar skull given Trotsky during the annual El Dia de los Muertes, while becoming in the same process -- once again -- the figure of Death.
It is interesting to note, that not mentioned in the play, Frida repudiated her affair with Trotsky in favor of her lifelong attachment to the figure of Joseph Stalin, whom she continued to extol long after it was commonly known that he had casually murdered millions of people.
The play is not, ultimately about the "real" Frida Kahlo, but a take off from factual events into a place where the human spirit contends against an all destroying power and needs to be seen as such to be appreciated. Real people are far too thorny and conflicted to be used as convenient symbols or predictable characters for theatre. Critics have stated that actress Selma Hayek looks "too pretty" to represent the real Frida with her scars and deformities. Well, that is the nature of film these days in what it does. To some extent, that is also what happened to this production, which became the presentation of an Ideal Frida that is not "real", so as to present this conflict between the death and promised release that is longed for and the urge to fill all that is with the color of life.
If the dynamism of this conflict is Frida's legacy, then it is a worthy legacy indeed, and transcends as such all the pain that went before. Rather than think about an innocent lamb led to slaughter time and again, I would rather consider the fiery rebel shouting in face of Death, "Oh fuck you Death! Just fuck you! Fuck you!"
Perhaps the most meek of us should take heed to this: What is remembered is the defiance, and not the surrender.
THE WITCHING HOUR AGAIN
Across the flatlands of the Island comes the howl of the midnight train. On the stereo Ani Di Franco's band is "Reckoning" with jazz horns. Segue into Beck's Mutations. All across the Island sleepy eyes are sleeping. Except I am not sleeping. Not fade away. Except the sound of the train sound at the crossroads now fading across the flatlands. If you know I could / You know I would / Let it go. And let it fade away. / I'm not sleeping. . . ".
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 4, 2003
LIKE THE WEATHER
El Nino continues to send lashings of rain under these globally warmed skies. This past week everyone has had the terminal "sleepies" with people staying embedded in dozing traumerei while the skies boil overhead. One day, however, "these sleepers will awake and flee to another America." Ah, Genet, today our sleepers dream the miracle of the rose over and over, but there is no end to this new Occupation.
Meanwhile, the rain falls steadily upon the great salt flats of Palo Alto, the alluvial marshes of the Bay and circular streets of the Industrial Park of Foster City. The rain sluices among the stars of Brisbane and pings upon the roofs of the dingy factory sheds of South City. It washes the gravel pits that scar the insulted side of the San Bruno Mountain where foxes once hunted among the long gone ferz. Over the sea-washed and fog-shrouded Pacifica the rain mists down, bridging effortlessly the long wind of 101 along the cliffs to the ticky-tack of pastel Daley City clapboard and pseudo-adobe concrete walls. Over sleepy Babylon the rain washes indiscriminately the grubby houses of the Sunset as well as the glittering chandelier-lit palaces of Pacific Heights, of Glen Park and the Richmond. Without paying toll, the rain marches north to the well-matriculated hills of Marin as well as the industrial wastelands of the Port of Oaktown and its warehouses, body shops and methamphetamine factories., now silent beneath the same susurration of constant rain. Onward to the massif of the Altamont Pass marches this rain, hushing all in its path, bringing all under its dominion, a kinder and gentler Empire than the one that it now brushes with washes of grey.
The rain falls endlessly through the universe, bringing together all, the Bear flagger and the Native Species Defender and the Shrill Radical as well as the Stolid and Loudmouthed Republican.
Jimmie Vaughan delivers Blues you can use with John Mayall May 20 at the newly reopened Avalon Ballroom. Same night sees Gillian Welch at the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre. Michelle Shocked lights the campfire at the Fillmore on May 9. We have always had a soft spot reserved for Michelle, ever since she threw over the rock 'n roll in favor of making music -- what a concept. She's come a long way, she's come a long way, she's gone 500 miles today . . .". Bet she has left LA by now.
Everclear follows up May 10 and Charlie Hunter smoothes out the vibes with le jazz hot May 16. But we are saving ourselves for our dear high school shweet heart, the ever lovely and thoroughly punk Patti Smith on June 17, unshaven pits and all. June 13 sees Tracy Chapman telling stories in the same venue.
At the Warfield, Trey Anastasio comes back from a daddy-break May 31, ready to jam and jam and jam some more. Nick Cave sows his Bad Seeds June 16-17 for you depressed bad boys out there. Just come that greasy ducktail just right for Nick and wear black. No stranger to bad behaviour, Lou Reed takes over June 21-22 in a literary vein, pushing his latest project: an operatic opus focused upon the work of that famous bad boy Virginian, Edgar Allen Poe.
Just picked up -- belatedly -- Buddy Guy's "Sweet Tea", wherein he went down to Oxford MS, to work over the Old School with some local boys who had to have been tickled black and blue to sit in with the man who showed the Rolling Stones how to do it some 40 years ago. Gotta say the disk rocks. Word is the latest project from 65 year old Mr. Guy is a really sweet all acoustic disk due out July 3rd. I am on Amazon.com's "notify list" for that one, my friends.
Too late to warn you: Extreme Elvis did the Stork Club on the 3rd. Apologies to anyone who got bodily fluids on their party clothes that night. EE is a concept devised by a perverted and somewhat demented guy who postulates what Elvis would be like today had he lived and continued to push the envelope -- past the Rolling Stones, the Sex Pistols, all of punk rock and beyond even Marilyn Manson (shudder!).
The one thing we can be grateful for: his kind of madness does not commit itself well to CD or vinyl.
Down, down on the docks of the City -- what's left of them -- KFOG's annual Kaboom celebration holds forth next weekend with tons of food and music and the most exciting fireworks display known to man -- supposedly inspired by a mysterious UFO visit to the technical engineer. Highlighters will be that phreaker by the speaker guy, the extraordinary Susan Tedeschi -- who beats the pants off of that wimpy Grammy-winner, Nora Jones, in every category including talent, skill, and pure chutzpah -- and Steve Winwood, he of Traffic fame.
Big Names, Pearl Jam and Coldplay open June at the Shoreline, the huge outdoor venue in the East Bay. Big crowds and open spaces are an unwelcome mix for us so be sure to see us check in to the Beck show at the intimate Greek in Berzerkeley June 22. Tix are a hefty $40 per, so "flip your finger at the rock 'n rock singer / as he dances upon your paycheck." Still, it's nice to see the waif we followed from age 18 has done well.
THAT NEW YORK KIND OF FEELING
This is a report from a correspondent from the Big Apple. Not a word has been altered.
Saturday 03 May 2003
"A month ago I experienced a very small taste of what hundreds of South Asian immigrants and U.S. citizens of South Asian descent have gone through since 9/11, and what thousands of others have come to fear. I was held, against my will and without warrant or cause, under the USA PATRIOT Act. While I understand the need for some measure of security and precaution in times such as these, the manner in which this detention and interrogation took place raises serious questions about police tactics and the safeguarding of civil liberties in times of war.
That night, March 20th, my roommate Asher and I were on our way to see the Broadway show "Rent." We had an hour to spare before curtain time so we stopped into an Indian restaurant just off of Times Square in the heart of midtown. I have omitted the name of the restaurant so as not to subject the owners to any further harassment or humiliation.
We helped ourselves to the buffet and then sat down to begin eating our dinner. I was just about to tell Asher how I'd eaten there before and how delicious the vegetable curry was, but I never got a chance. All of a sudden, there was a terrible commotion and five NYPD in bulletproof vests stormed down the stairs. They had their guns drawn and were pointing them indiscriminately at the restaurant staff and at us.
"Go to the back, go to the back of the restaurant," they yelled.
I hesitated, lost in my own panic.
"Did you not hear me, go to the back and sit down," they demanded.
I complied and looked around at the other patrons. There were eight men including the waiter, all of South Asian descent and ranging in age from late-teens to senior citizen. One of the policemen pointed his gun point-blank in the face of the waiter and shouted: "Is there anyone else in the restaurant?" The waiter, terrified, gestured to the kitchen.
The police placed their fingers on the triggers of their guns and kicked open the kitchen doors. Shouts emanated from the kitchen and a few seconds later five Hispanic men were made to crawl out on their hands and knees, guns pointed at them.
After patting us all down, the five officers seated us at two tables. As they continued to kick open doors to closets and bathrooms with their fingers glued to their triggers, no less than ten officers in suits emerged from the stairwell. Most of them sat in the back of the restaurant typing on their laptop computers. Two of them walked over to our table and identified themselves as officers of the INS and Homeland Security Department.
I explained that we were just eating dinner and asked why we were being held. We were told by the INS agent that we would be released once they had confirmation that we had no outstanding warrants and our immigration status was OK'd.
In pre-9/11 America, the legality of this would have been questionable. After all, the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated; and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized."
"You have no right to hold us," Asher insisted.
"Yes, we have every right," responded one of the agents. "You are being held under the Patriot Act following suspicion under an internal Homeland Security investigation."
The USA PATRIOT Act was passed into law on October 26, 2001 in order to facilitate the post 9/11 crackdown on terrorism (the name is actually an acronym: "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act.") Like most Americans, I did not recognize the extent to which this bill foregoes our civil liberties. Among the unprecedented rights it grants to the federal government are the right to wiretap without warrant, and the right to detain without warrant. As I quickly discovered, the right to an attorney has been seemingly fudged as well.
When I asked to speak to a lawyer, the INS official informed me that I do have the right to a lawyer but I would have to be brought down to the station and await security clearance before being granted one. When I asked how long that would take, he replied with a coy smile: "Maybe a day, maybe a week, maybe a month."
We insisted that we had every right to leave and were going to do so. One of the policemen walked over with his hand on his gun and taunted: "Go ahead and leave, just go ahead."
We remained seated. Our IDs were taken, and brought to the officers with laptops. I was questioned over the fact that my license was out of state, and asked if I had "something to hide." The police continued to hassle the kitchen workers, demanding licenses and dates of birth. One of the kitchen workers was shaking hysterically and kept providing the day's date -- March 20, 2003, over and over.
As I continued to press for legal counsel, a female officer who had been busy typing on her laptop in the front of the restaurant, walked over and put her finger in my face. "We are at war, we are at war and this is for your safety," she exclaimed. As she walked away from the table, she continued to repeat it to herself? "We are at war, we are at war. How can they not understand this."
I most certainly understand that we are at war. I also understand that the freedoms afforded to all of us in the Constitution were meant specifically for times like these. Our freedoms were carved out during times of strife by people who were facing brutal injustices, and were intended specifically so that this nation would behave differently in such times. If our freedoms crumble exactly when they are needed most, then they were really never freedoms at all.
After an hour and a half the INS agent walked back over and handed Asher and me our licenses. A policeman took us by the arm and escorted us out of the building. Before stepping out to the street, the INS agent apologized. He explained, in a low voice, that they did not think the two of us were in the restaurant. Several of the other patrons, though of South Asian descent, were in fact U.S. citizens. There were four taxi drivers, two students, one newspaper salesman -- unwitting customers, just like Asher and me. I doubt, though, they received any apologies from the INS or the Department of Homeland Security.
Nor have the over 600 people of South Asian descent currently being held without charge by the Federal government. Apparently, this type of treatment is acceptable. One of the taxi drivers, a U.S. citizen, spoke to me during the interrogation. "Please stop talking to them," he urged. "I have been through this before. Please do whatever they say. Please for our sake."
Three days later I phoned the restaurant to discover what happened. The owner was nervous and embarrassed and obviously did not want to talk about it. But I managed to ascertain that the whole thing had been one giant mistake. A mistake. Loaded guns pointed in faces, people made to crawl on their hands and knees, police officers clearly exacerbating a tense situation by kicking in doors, taunting, keeping their fingers on the trigger even after the situation was under control. A mistake. And, according to the ACLU a perfectly legal one, thanks to the Patriot Act.
The Patriot Act is just the first phase of the erosion of the Fourth Amendment. From the Justice Department has emerged a draft of the Domestic Securities Enhancement Act, also known as Patriot II. Among other things, this act would allow the Justice Department to detain anyone, anytime, secretly and indefinitely. It would also make it a crime to reveal the identity or even existence of such a detainee.
Every American citizen, whether they support the current war or not, should be alarmed by the speed and facility with which these changes to our fundamental rights are taking place. And all of those who thought that these laws would never affect them, who thought that the Patriot Act only applied to the guilty, should heed this story as a wake-up call. Please learn from my experience. We are all vulnerable so speak out and organize, our Fourth Amendment rights depend upon it."
After this, we would expect another "Night of Broken Crystal" and teams of thugs wearing brown shirts and black armbands. For this is all too familiar.
LIFE IN WARTIME
Here on the Island, the latest flap has been the rebellion of the Island HS against the reinstatement of a retired F-16 Warbird upon the school lawn. The plane, which flew sorties in Vietnam through the late 70's and early 80's was decommissioned and placed on the the school lawn while the Navy still maintained a large military base here. The base itself was decommissioned and the property turned over to the City, loaded with soil contaminants and pools of murky and dubious liquids as it was. The plane remained perched there on a post in front of the school admin building for years until its removal for a bout of seriously needed repairs against the effects of corrosive salt-air and Bay area industrial air-quality index. Turns out that a bevy of parents and students rejected the return of the school mascot on account of its clear warlike nature.
Of course there are always some who insist on Tradition, no matter how recent the past, and so the flap continues.
Anybody in need of an unwanted, decommissioned F-16?
Things have gotten so damned awful -- with every indication of things getting even worse -- such that the atmosphere here is turning to hilarity as a form of coping with the impossible. After all, we still have to deal with the new public library here and what to do with the old building, as charming as it is, and as earthquake-susceptible as it remains. We still have the school system and the property taxes to deal with, besides all of these grander things.
There goes the midnight train, its horn echoing across the Buena Vista flats. While Tuck and Patti play in the stereo background. While Tuck's effortless fretboard work flow out and mingle with Patti's jazzy vocals: "Everybody dream / turn our dreams into reality / Dream that peace Dream / Dream that healing Dream / Dream that justice Dream / of a Loving Dream / Dream of a Spirit Dream / Dream that Glory Dream /... Everybody dream / turn our dreams into realty . . ." .
One day our sleepers will wake and flee to another America. One that is governed by peace, justice, truth and freedom. Until then, in the night, let sorcery burrow in every direction, from thousands of senders to thousands of unsuspecting recipients. And this writer will continue to open windows into that other world where truth, justice and beauty are the norm.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 27, 2003
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN, FALLING ON MY HEAD LIKE A MELODY
It's the witching hour and the rain is lashing down while the midnight train to Georgia goes howling on by far down by the old cannery. Shades of Humphrey Bogart slouching under a streetlamp. All the cats are huddled under porches and cars and the lo-riders are perched in front of tubes. Even Officer O'Madhauen has stopped issuing spurious tickets to the unwitting, in favor of warm donut shops and coffee. All is quiet this rainy Sunday evening.
UN SAISON D'ENFER
Spent the last week on a business trip to the Imperial Valley -- what there is of it -- in a town called Calpatria, which is located about 15 miles from the Mexican border, about 200 feet below sea level, and no less than -2 miles from Hell. This is a place featuring average daily temperatures of 135 degrees, miles of scraggly weed tufts embedded in sand, and an immense lake filled with water so caustic that it blisters the skin on contact. The fish swimming in this murk have become so filled with poison that birds who eat them will die. The soil is crusty with alkali salts and nothing will grow in it without assistance. The nearest movie theatre is 90 miles distant and the only entertainment consists of running up and down sand dunes. Motion picture companies come there to film desert scenes, such as the one in "Star Wars," with the huge stilt-legged machines and the Jawas. Work is work, they say, but the best part of the trip was turning left on the last day coming out of the parking lot.
Kiss the ground on our return to the Bay Area we did.
PICTURE A BRIGHT BLUE BALL SPINNING SPINNING FREE
Saturday bloomed most promisingly with gorgeous weather as the Island celebrated Earthday in typical Island fashion, with a fair and all sorts of dancing and jumping up and down over alternative energy sources that will reduce our dependence on terrorist fuels. Go ahead you SUV driver: drop a few more pennies in the till for the likes of Osama yo' Mama next time you fill up. Fill 'er up deep and good 'cause grenade launchers ain't cheap my friend.
Our roving reporters, they of the Greens, came back with blessings for the Department of Parks and Recreation who put together an excellent festival in honor, celebration, and preservation of our dear Mother.
Mayor Beverly came out for a speech -- what politician can resist that -- and there were kids and families running about and a fine time was had by all. You will notice in the photograph the slide and playset that featured so prominently in the Island Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot and BBQ a couple years ago. The blue and tan memorial seen to the left of the speaker's podium is a commemoration of those who fell on that day during the infamous Battle of the Bog.
Failing to discover any Weapons of Mass Destruction, or that nefarious character Osama Bin Lassie, Eugene has taken his army of bums in Newark to the outskirts of Hayward, where several hundred troopers armed with tear gas, riot batons, face shields, pellet shotguns and doberman-poodles persuaded Eugene that Hayward was not Syria-ous. Eugene then turned back to wanton looting and pillaging of liqour stores in the name of freedom. Rumor has it that the populace is getting restive, even as much as they enjoyed the paddling of the City Council in the nude and subsequent enforced performance of Swan Lake by all members -- none of whom is known to have even the slightest knowledge of the foxtrot, let alone classical ballet.
Many have called this institution of "freedom" at the point of the sterno can and the imposition of such an absurd congress as a total charade and a debasement of democracy as we know it.
Eugene Shrubb's chief advisor, Newt Green-Grinch has indicated that anyone who disagrees is anti-America and that settles that. All is not well, however, within the Administration, for the Plate Department -- in charge of Pawn Shops and Quik Cash Outlets -- allowed that a senior official declared over the evening round of MD 20/20 that Newt was, quote, "A goddamn idiot not worth listening to." End quote. Much is amiss between the Plate Department and the Executive Branch these days.
Meanwhile fires rage unchecked down Mission Boulevard and the looting continues unabated, as mentioned before. As a measure of consolation and to indicate a bright spot in this otherwise dismal picture, Shrubb's Press Secretary, Ari Toad, indicated that the flow of decent ale has been restored to 90% of capacity and the hard liquor pipeline is once again flowing.
Shrubb has indicated that the bums will leave "when stability is assured." Whatever that means.
A red glow hovers over Newark tonight, despite the pouring rain. Stay tuned for updates.
FALLING LIKE A NEW EMOTION: IS IT RAINING WITH YOU?
The midnight train winds through the wet dark, far off like an old melody. Somewhere a world away our boys are learning hard lessons in politics and reality. Each time a rocket grenade thumps on the outside of the turret, the gunner wonders, "This time it held. How many more?" In another country, supposedly freed some time ago, vicious firefights claim another American boy's life. Along the ridgeline of the Sierra, the treecutters sharpen their axes, looking forward to another Gold Rush in the form of a massive cut of trees along the Sierra foothills. And yet another Great Marysville Flood as a consequence. A dream of disaster to hold in check rebellious California. And that is what they want: a California held in check by Disaster.
Meanwhile the rain falls as it always has. It falls down on the roofs and turrets of the Island, upon the ribbons of the estuary, upon the Oaktown hills once forested with sequoia, upon the sweet headlands of Marin and down to the salt flats of Palo Alto along the swerve of shore and bend of bay to Hercules and the biker bars of Martinez and the boxing gyms of Stockton and even to the parched fields of the Great Valley that extends for four hundred miles to the Tehachipi Pass. Softly it falls, swooning slowly through the universe, the rain such a beautiful rain.
Such a beautiful rain
Such a beautiful rain
I'm an alien
You're an alien
Such a beautiful rain
Such a beautiful rain
Gavin Rossdale, Bush
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a dry week.
APRIL 20, 2003
THE MADMAN OF LINCOLN STREET STRIKES AGAIN
Harlan has been at it with brush and paper again. For a time the cryptic message "REMEMBER ME" showed up on the artwall he has been maintaining for some fifteen years or more. Today we saw the following sign with the word "old" obviously scratched out above the rest.
Harlan has been posting these signs for uncounted years on the side of his house facing the main artery that cuts lengthwise through the Island. Typically they are painted or applied with magic marker on plain butcher-block paper which is then affixed to a picket fence about his yard. His signs almost never make any discernable sense and for this we grant him much honor.
YOUR EASTER BONNET WITH AN EGG UPON IT
Took a gander this morning at a six-foot tall rabbit riding a BMW convertible -- top down -- with a dubious carrot streaming green cellophane down Lincoln way this morning. Went back inside and poured myself another stiff one even though it was ten o'clock in the morning. The rabbit waved to all and passed on to whatever rabbit hole these creatures venture down. There was no Alice and I do not know if his name was Harvey, but I will go and ask the door-mouse presently, I don't remember what he said, but I think he'll know.
Rumor has it that the White House has cancelled the annual Easter Egg Hunt, because the Insiders did not want to add to the list of Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and tons of "weapons of mass destruction" the simple item of "eggs" which they cannot find.
No, not anywhere.
Have report that the Island Easter Parade, sponsored by the local Business Association, went astonishingly well on a cloudy day. Kudos go to the noble volunteers who made all things happen at minimal cost. There were jello eggs and and fun rides and glorious antique cars galore and a grand time was had by all.
HOW IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER NIGHTS?
"How, tell me, is this Passover /Different from other Passovers?" And it seems that Primo Levi speaks from beyond the grave to those who dwell here in this afflicted world. The old way has it that the youngest asks these questions at the seder, where is set the shank of lamb, the marmor, the haroset, and concealed, like the truth of our lives, is the afikomen. Strange how, after all our wanderings in the desert we come back by simple signs to the old paths.
This time we ate a common meal with those who have come in through the door, wanderers in whom perhaps the guise of the Prophet lay hid. There was wine and many questions. There was horseradish embedded in the cheese. Sweet mint sauce lay upon the lamb shank. Salt passed from one to another to remind us of those years of exile. Another presented a bowl of something called "cob", which is a mortar made with earth and straw and now used by yuppies to build houses artistically in the southwest -- no better reminder of the Egyptian bricks need be made. A sour salad was made and dipped in salty dressing. In fact, all the elements to make yontif for Pesach were there. This is the glory of California, which can mix the Old and the New so well. And in this time of sorrow, such binding is badly needed.
"And time reverses its course,
Today flowing back into yesterday,
Like a river enclosed at its mouth.
Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
and crossed the sea dry-footed,
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and justice."
That's how it it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 13, 2003
"WHAN THAT APRILLE WITH HIS SHOURES SWOUTE . . ."
"Hath bathed ev'ry vein in swiche liquour . . . ". April is certainly doing more than bathing every vein with sweet liquour. He is inundating the Island with torrential downpours that promise to extend to the middle of next week and bode no good tidings for a weary East that is still shoveling snow in some places. Expect hail and donnerwetter coming your way guys.
Meanwhile, Spring is postponed for a time and the birds, instead of "peeping with open eeyen" are glaring askance under grumpy, sodden pine boughs. Even the ducks are hunkered down for this one.
THE MADMAN OF LINCOLN STREET STRIKES AGAIN
He's at it again. For every sign that gets storm-lashed from the fence, another goes up in its place. And he is back to painting the large fence facing the main drag.
As Sunday drivers navigate down the main artery, this is the sign they see.
Um, yeah. It might be patriotic. Then again, maybe not.
HOW SOUR SWEET MUSIC IS WHEN TIME IS BROKE
The Oaktown Tribulation reported that this year's Bridge School Benefit, assembled each year by Neil Young's wife, Peggi, was to take place at the Shoreline Saturday and Sunday. Now the Shoreline, is an outdoor amphitheatre, and we are not sure that even for the impressive lineup Peggi assembles each year that there was much rocking on the cold and soggy slopes of grass this time. In past years, when it rained, at least it was warm and people were known to create a new version of the mosh pit, in which maniacs would run and leap into a belly flop at the head of the bowl, so as to toboggan down on their stomachs to the base of the stage.
Also heard Tori Amos did the intimate Paramount Theatre in Oaktown. The extraordinary Tori, who is equal parts waif and grimacing hatchet-wielder, has been known to write extremely sophisticated lyrics too intelligent for the usual AM format, which she sings in a piercing high voice that makes you want to prescribe haldol or some such antipsychotic while she plays heavenly, accomplished piano straight out of the best Julliard class there ever was.
She is known as the only lady capable of rocking out on the harpsichord. And yes, she does use her piano stool in a manner that is outlawed by Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, and the Church of Rome. Lately she is riding high on a poppy crossover hit called "A Sorta Fairytale with You." All the best to you, Tori.
FIGHTING THAT FOO
Escorted the girls to Friday's punkfest at the Kaiser Auditorium in Oaktown and came away well pleased that the Spirit Lives. That Special Goodness, a new project band started up by Pat Wilson, drummer for Weezer, opened the show at 7:30 pronto.
Wilson showed high professionalism and demonstrated superb song-writing skills, but remained consciously at disadvantage in opening two hours before the enormously popular Foo Fighters. It's a shame that his band tends to be slotted into the "opening act" and "also playing" role, and we feel that, given some time, his three-piece unit will develop into something more significant. Also, we all tended to agree that his songs would have benefited from a fuller instrumental backing, as three guys can only do so much in the format he has chosen. Far more disciplined and tight than a real full-bore thrash-punk band, the sound seemed oddly thin, although loud enough, at times.
Local faves, The Transplants, are at present entirely unknown beyond the punk aficionado group and that is just about to change radically when the Matrix II comes out, for these boys did the soundtrack. Judging by the reaction, this group is destined to skyrocket for they have combined the diamond with the pearl by successfully combining punk spirit, American street authenticity stripped of British mannerisms, well-crafted rap lyrics, rough and tumble melodic rock lines, and well-orchestrated instrumentation.
A big problem at many of the rap/thrash/punk concerts has been hearing the words of what was said while the instruments tended to lose themselves in a mixing board mush of undistinguished yammer, resulting in a long set of noise with no point and a lot of histrionics and stupid grandstanding.
The whole point of rap was and is to get the message across and bands that forget this wind up playing only to drunk friends and girlfriends in basement clubs sticky with stale beer until that last angry night when the bassist finally kicks in the drum set out of clueless frustration.
There are many who Would Be Heard, but if you sound just like Joe Lizard and the Dynatones, you will either die an ugly death on stage or wind up playing Vegas before a lot of middle-aged middle-class folks wearing mono-color polyester and sipping tropical drinks out of glasses with paper umbrellas and it don't matter how angry or righteous you feel, or how many tats you bear or how loud and long you can scream, because music is business, baby. Or its the Clash. There are no other alternatives.
I have seen that night when the drumset gets kicked in, during some atavistic howling rage over the door take, leaving the band logo down there with the paper cups and the beer puddles and it is not a pretty sight.
The Transplants, however, are about to blast upward out of all this to the Land of Limo chauffeurs and pink champagne on ice and for these homies we wish them all the best. Their debut CD is a killer, loaded with hooks and smart lyrics and no compromise, reminiscent of the early days of Social Distortion and all of us in Oaktown, singing along with track #12, "Down in Oakland", wish them the very best.
Following a band that has completed the soundtrack to a major motion picture on the verge of release would give most lesser mortals some pause. But Dave Grohl, former drummer for Nirvana -- yes, that Nirvana -- is one who has stared at death more than once, has faced adversity in his career that has destroyed others and has, amazingly, come out on top, "smelling like roses." After frantically cementing a band together while its lead singer and Star -- and his best friend -- self-destructed on heroin, after his friend and bandmate blew his brains out with a shotgun, after his band-mate's wife savagely tried to destroy herself, the band and everyone around her in a long, drawn-out public display of inchoate fury, we can say that Dave Grohl perhaps deserves some pats on the back just for staying alive, let alone coming together well enough to form a kick-ass band that has attained world prominence.
By the time the Foo Fighters took the stage, the place was sold out, with every seat taken in the massive auditorium, people standing in the aisles and the entire floor below packed wall to wall. The FF did not fail to deliver, managing to launch into hyperdrive with the first song and never letting up until the last notes of a furious "Everlong" echoed some 90 minutes later. Unlike many thrashing punk bands, the Foo Fighters manage to modulate the delivery with dramatic pauses and songs of intense quiet, which brought out the starlit "bic tribute" at least twice. Grohl also shows his experience in that the vocals contain melody in counterpoint to the instrumentation, which craftsmanship other bands can only yet dream of. Yes, he can scream with the loudest of them, but the difference is that Grohl can do it on key, and, stay on the downbeat, while still conveying the sense of uncontrolled, all guns blazing, take no prisoners emotion.
In the translation from studio to arena, obviously some exchanges needed to be made, for this was a venue for full-bore rock 'n roll and punk, not effete musicianship. The jazz-like nuances of the studio, and the smooth musical bridges with accompanied overdubs, had to give way to the high-voltage showmanship of the big stage, but the results were not disappointing at all. Visually, the show pulled out the stops for a stunning light show that complemented the head-banging quite well. A number of drummers expressed envy at the bright light display built into the drum dias.
A special high occurred during an extended seven-minute jam on Stacked Dead Actors, where Dave managed to put in at least five of his signature howls, a kind of scream that seems to come from the depths of some animal born sometime around the time of the saber-tooth tiger.
Grohl has a canny sense of dramatic energy, as well as a charming sense of self-deprecation, thus he saved the crossover hit, "Learn to Fly" for starting the encore, claiming , "Actually, [I think ] it's a pretty stupid little song."
Some critics have claimed that the FF are working over territory already covered. If so, then play it again. The SRO crowd, clearly loved it.
If you did a TV appearance on Jay Leno in Burbank one night, played a concert in Bakersfield the next and followed up with a concert in front of 20,000 fans in Oakland the next, you might be inclined to sweat a little like this, too.
All pictures here of the April 11, 2003 show taken by David Smith, courtesy of the Foo Fighters. Visit www.foofighters.com for more information on future show dates and merchandise.
One thing we did notice, was the elfin look of the kids that showed up for these "hard rock" concerts. Clear skin and clear eyes predominated over the drug-addled, swamped-out look of previous years and one could not help but feel some sense of things having somehow gotten better in this age group, even as the world has gotten harsher and more brutal around them. These are elf children, born of the starlight age. Even Dave Grohl, for all the horror he has witnessed in person, he remains innocent and powerful in that innocence.
Unfortunately, this does not exempt one from being beset by demons.
As previously reported, Eugene Shrubb came across the border between Hayward and Newark with an army of just about a thousand bums, intent on disarming the wayward municipality of chemical weapons. Many bums landed upon the shores of Newark with the aid of inflated innertubes and thence commenced an assault intended to liberate the people of Newark from an oppressive tyranny.
The vast majority of the bums were arrested for disturbing the peace and singing in an offkey -- which is a local ordinance peculiar to Newark -- but many succeeded in taking Town Hall and reducing the edifice essentially to rubble.
The Army then liberated a key distribution point for MD 20/20 which led to a chaotic stall-to-stall battle for control and a total breakdown of social order that was applauded by many who waved Old Glory with great zest. It appears as of this point that, although the military may have lost, the political battle may have been won. But no one can decide which side has secured what.
It does appear that a large number of drunken bums roam freely about the town of Newark and that the residents are quite peeved at all the hullaballoo, blaming both city council and the invaders in equal measure.
Stay tuned for further developments.
SAVE ME SAVE ME SAVE ME FROM THE TAXMAN
We understand that this most terrible of seasons is upon us. The deadline approaches and the forms remain unfilled and unfiled. Oh rue the day, April 16th, for the taxman must have his due. No matter what the rebate, no matter what promise of "relief", it seems this "relief" trickles down not ever to those of us who need it most.
If you drive a car
I'll tax the street.
If you try to sit
I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold
I'll tax the heat.
If you take a walk
I'll tax your feet.
How odd it is that in this time when there are those who promise "read my lips: no new taxes!" that we wind up paying more and more and more. And for all of that we get the burden of rebuilding a stone-age country we have just bombed into cinders into a computer age example for our own security. What a nice trade.
That's a special Californian Special: Pay more and get less.
Think about these things when you write that check. Dude.
But for now, all of us roll in communal suffering beneath this sulfuric rain known as Tax-time.
Across the Island, many sit hunched over their desks, pencil and calculator in hand, trying to figure the amount of that last deduction, trying to weasel out of the inevitable.
As for ourselves, we always pay the maximum each year: it's easier on the psyche and the soul. Besides, they are going to take it anyway.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 06, 2003
WHEREIN A GATHERING IS RECOUNTED
Intermittent thunderstorms gave way to brisk winds and chilly nights, banishing the spring for a time. In defiance of the chill, a delightful couple hosted a BBQ for our apartment building, which gathered the tribes from many places and there was feasting and merriment to banish dull care in this time of severe hardship and many tidings of things as they are and how they are changed were brought to this diverse company, all met beneath a gay banner of red, white and blue.
It was told to the Company how a Member had attempted a Border crossing into Canada but had not her Passport and so was turned sorrowfully back although this demand had not in former times been required. This Member then lay abed, grieving of a migraine most injurious afterward, whilst her consort proceeded northward upon his dubious journey in search of work.
Conservatives there were, and Men of the Badge and of Arms, as well as the gentle folk of field and stream who care not for war and its alarms, preferring the sound of gentle speech and music to that of drums and cannon. Nevertheless the Company was well met and made merry with good meats and strong hops and there was jollity and merry talk upon the Island that Saturday Eve.
Anon it came to pass that the chill drove the party indoors wherein was held a "New York Party" in the halls, where wine and beer and companionship was all to be had as well as a "bundt cake", which is a manner of sweet-Kuechen baked so high and verily with a hole in the middle which much astonished the Company by its make. This Cake is known among those people called the Wasps and is considered a delicacy and thereby much esteemed. The Bundt cake was consumed -- with much wine -- and the talk ranged free among the guests, for this was California, with Asians and African-Americans and Swedes and Jews and Scottish Presbyterians, and Heathen all gathered in Company for having Company is a good thing on a cold Saturday eve, and eases much the anguished soul.
THE BASHFUL BOY
We know those devoted few want to gander at the Bashful Boy reported earlier. Well, here he is.
He is the Bashful Boy and he appears from time to time without warning. No one knows why he hides his face this way or what he may be ashamed of -- if ashamed he is. Shout if you will and stomp, he will not respond, for he is the Bashful Boy and he has been this way for some 50 years at Pagano's Hardware Store. Discerning observers have indicated that a possible Influence Stands somewhat Behind. Here, our dedicated staff of Technical Specialists have exhumed an important, hitherto ignored detail in the photograph.
Well, speculation is, as they say, worth only the air it is printed on, but nevertheless it does appear that something seems to be going on a la Rites du Printemps. Stay tuned for developments.
MUSIC DO I HEAR? HA HA, KEEP TIME
Our Roving Correspondents attended the recent King Crimson concert with Belgian Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp appearing as chief stars in a decidedly "heavy" sonic presentation. They (the correspondents) reported a visually stunning show with solid "walls of sound". Fripp, characteristically, requested the lighting engineer to "leave me in the dark", and so the tech resorted to shrouding the prime mover of KC with an envelope of purple haze. Belew, veteran of Laurie Anderson, Talking Heads and similar excursions, enjoyed playing the ham under the brights.
The venerable Fillmore has not much lined up for this Spring except for George Thorogood this Thursday. The Warfield, on the other hand, has Guster opening the 6th, followed by Sum 41 on the 19th. Pete Yorn fills in on the 21st and Journey completes the month of memories.
Heard that the Starship performed at Marin Civic this weekend for a Peace benefit, but have no word on who showed up and what happened. Wavy Gravy was supposed to MC. We are still waiting for Roy Rogers to issue his in-camera work with Norton Buffalo. Hey, dudes, Shake yer Moneymaker!
Kudos to the Dixie Chicks who recently made some bold statements while traveling in Europe. We are looking to buy a CD ASAP. Seems some narrow-minded jerks have been holding CD-burning parties because of political disagreement. Hey, dude, if you don't like free speech, just leave the country, Okay? Go someplace like China.
We plan on buying the Collected Edition of Dixie Chicks, if one exists. You go girls!
FROM THE CITY THAT BEARS HIS NAME
Fremont is a curious burg of some half a million souls clustered from the Alviso salt marshes along the bay to the dry mountain range that is bisected by Altamont Pass. Former home to a GM auto plant, its city streets still boast a 35mph speed limit. It was, and is, still home to a breed of gunrack, flag-totin', deer huntin', baseball cap wearin' fellers of the Ford pickup persuasion. Nevertheless, Rep. Pete Stark hails from this district and he came to the Island to speak last weekend. He and a few others voted against supporting the President in his latest mad endeavor and so the Hon. Stark spoke in defense of his actions. One Islander asked if it was patriotic to to criticize the President in time of war.
"Absolutely, I do," Stark replied. "I don't know that we should be muzzled -- quite the contrary. To cut off debate is not what I consider democratic principles. It is incumbent upon us to criticize the President or administration."
Methinks another great Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, said very much the same thing.
"To announce that there must
be no criticism of the president, or that we are
to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and
servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. *** Patriotism
means to stand by the country. It does NOT mean to stand by the President or
any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself
stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he
efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the
exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand
by the country."
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 2, 2003 - IMPORTANT MIDWEEK UPDATE
We hope that those of you who check in mid-week will take special heed of this update. A roving correspondent has delivered a most important message from a most important Personage. This message resides physically on the main highway through New Mexico in the form of a billboard some 15 feet high and 50 feet long, but appears to be genuine as the Source is impeccable.
Here are also some images from news agencies outside of the US networks.
"Over which one do I grieve . . ."!
"Suffer the children . . ." .
"Please stop . . ." .
These images come from Le Monde, Der Spiegel, Jordanian Daily, and Al Jazeera. There are many more, including the shot that the entire world is seeing -- except Americans -- of the child whose brains were blown out by a cruise missile.
Representative Pete Stark has recently joined the increasing numbers of American Representatives who are now expressing outrage at this inexcusable war and gave a speech here on the Island decrying the senseless agony caused by this foolish excursion.
MARCH 30, 2003
LIKE THE WEATHER
High winds petered out Friday to give birth to two gorgeous, cloud-free days with temps hovering close to eighty inland and the first day of shorts 'n sandals all over the Island. World troubles were put aside, sometimes for entire minutes, as throngs jogged and windsurfed and BBQ-ed down on the Strand. And all the ground squirrels scampered like mad after the long, dank winter.
THE BASHFUL BOY
Signs of the Season changing appeared in the windows of the Pagano's Hardware. The Disastrous Holiday Dinner was swept away overnight with the spilled wine, ruined turkey and smashed crockery. The Old Queen remains, however, to sit in a pleasant arbor with an old friend, wearing a sporting cap and leaning upon his walking stick while the (porcelain) cats gambol underfoot in a sea of daisies.
And in the side window, who should appear after a long absence, but the Bashful Boy, leaning his head of luxurious curls topped by an old wide-brim hat in his arms against a pillar. This is the Bashful Boy who has never shown his face in all the long years of Pagano's whimsical storefronts. Why is this boy bashful? For what sin does this boy hide his face? Is he hiding? Is Betty Sue, a reluctant paramour, somewhere near? Is he ashamed? Or is he playing? Ask all you want, but you will get no reply, for the Bashful Boy is back in baggy jeans and checkered shirt and he never speaks, but stands there, silently through the years. Sometimes he appears upstairs among the curtain rods. sometimes he appears in a corner window. But he never ever appears in the big centerpiece window, for he is the Bashful Boy and he does not like attention at all.
And if you do not believe me, go and see for yourself.
Harlan has cycled out from his Pink and Blue Period and now has another sign up behind a most curious construction.
The sign on the wall reads CONSTITUTION HILL.
There the flowerpots stand, gathered about the base of the pillar, silent and emblematic. Emblematic of what, none of us can figure, but we feel its a good thing someone like Harlan exists to make these puzzling things.
THERE'S NO SEX IN VIOLENCE
Well, its the task of this space, among other things, to engage in a bit of media criticism. This week we have certainly gotten a fair amount of material. Clearly, during any struggle involving violent conflict in dubious battle, each party has an interest in telling its own version of things, while earnestly suppressing the opposing viewpoint.
This has never been so evident as recently. We had the opportunity to survey two American TV channels, one Arabic TV channel, Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Comical, CNN, The Island Journal, The Island Daily, plus a variety of "independent" agencies as well as a web-based "blog" published by an Iraqi citizen who is no friend of the governments for either side.
We found a fair amount of bias and meretriciousness in just about all of them. Disappointingly so in the American agencies with their "embedded" reporters. Frankly, we found the coverage from the standard agencies to be quite horrible, with words and pictures that appeared to have been handed out by Army Press Corps in plastic packets labeled "Intended for Distribution". We actually have a confirmed report of the Army expelling a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor for "overly detailed reporting." The formerly embedded journalist was escorted to the border and told not to return.
Rather than detail the numerous inaccuracies, distortions, truth-twisting and outright lies coming from the US Army Chief of Staff (which is what we would expect from good soldiers anyway) as well as the once-Free Press, we are including here an assortment of images culled from foreign sources. There were a number of rather graphic images of children's bodies which we decided not to include, but you must keep in mind that a cruise missile does not discern between a soldier's guts and those of a six-year old.
Detainees at Nasiriya.
Girl hit by bomb shrapnel. Civilian casualty hit by stray bullet through window.
Iraqi soldiers killed? Those shoes are military issue?
While its all fine and noble to show big cannons and powerful aircraft and distant buildings exploding and burning, this kind of thing shown over and over does not do the actual business of war much justice.
We did try our best to locate any images from either side of cheering throngs, celebrating some victory or liberation, but could only put our hands on pictures of starving people grabbing at food packages from the Red Crescent or Military trucks. Nobody seemed to welcome this Freedom coming in at the point of a gun and nobody seems to be rising up against this cruel Saddam. Nor do we have any pictures or any more evidence than we had at the beginning of any outlawed "weapons of mass destruction". Which surely would have been used by now.
Anyone with web access can read about the early days of the invasion from inside Bahgdad a blog published by a pseudonym "Salaam Pax",. A blog is a website devoted to daily observances of what is happening -- sort of a public electronic journal. The entries stopped abruptly and the author is no longer responding to email inquiries. Several international agencies are now trying to find out if he is still alive, for many of his entries have been sharply critical of Hussein.
His most affecting entry goes as follows:
The entities that call themselves “the international community” should have assumed their responsibilities a long time ago, should have thought about what the sanctions they have imposed really meant, should have looked at reports about weapons and human rights abuses a long time before having them thrown in their faces as excuses for war five minutes before midnight.
What is bringing on this rant is the question that has been bugging for days now: how could “support democracy in Iraq” become to mean “bomb the hell out of Iraq”? why did it end up that democracy won’t happen unless we go thru war? Nobody minded an un-democratic Iraq for a very long time, now people have decided to bomb us to democracy? Well, thank you! how thoughtful.
The daily entries for Salaam Pax can be found at http://dear_raed.blogspot.com/. Itha allah khalana taibeen, Mr. Pax, whatever your name is. "We will see you tomorrow if god keeps us alive." (old Iraqi saying)
Peace Vigil at Swarthmore
THE ISLAND RESPONSE
The Island was until recently home to a US Naval base, and as such, tends toward the Pro-America flag-waving sort of nationalism found in Norman Rockwell paintings and Illinois. It is surprising, therefore to find louder and louder dissent coming from increasingly angry residents about what is going on. It may be that the worsening economy is having some serious effect here as the For Rent signs increase, prices go up and jobs get scarce. The war situation is being seen as quite a major distraction -- bad enough it happened, but had it really lasted on 100 hours as initially predicted, people probably would have shrugged it all off.
Here is a fairly typical letter to the editor that nowadays outnumbers the pro-government notes about 5 to1. The Islanders -- many of whom can remember WW II and the Korean War -- have a strong sense of history and often refer to the past in their letters as this gentleman does.
The final judgment of war is written in the blood of those who suffer as a result of it. And those who suffer most are always the same, whether combatant or non-combatant, they are always the ones with the least power to change the course of events.
The process of war is also always the same. Beginning with a call to stand for principles and ideals, it marches gloriously forward to devolve into a state of barbarous horror that instantly repudiates its own rationale for prosecution.
It's always easy to sit back behind the lines, at a cool distance from the theater of terror, letting blood be spilled by proxy and thus separate one's support of war from the responsibility of committing its brutalities. How different things would be if each of those who support the war had to constantly experience the results of their support first hand with the visceral clarity of pulped children, the ugly stench of charred flesh and the lonely, aching screams of the dying. How long would it take for them to waver and, if they did not waver, how would we then judge them?
In the face of its horror, the history of war proves nothing but our refusal to learn its lessons.
The Island Journal also had front page stories about prominent citizens decrying the scandalous behavior of the White House in recent days.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a human week.
MARCH 24, 2003 – SPECIAL REPORT FROM IRAQ
From time to time this space finds itself called upon to provide public service
in the form of information and commentary not available commonly elsewhere.
From our roving correspondents we have obtained images taken from the independent
Al Jazeera news service of captured American POWs and of KIA servicemen.
Here is a statement from http://www.truthout.org/.
Sunday 23 March 2003
There is no suitable measurement for the horror we at truthout.org felt upon viewing these photographs. We have seen a great many wretched things come to pass in the last two years, but little of that - perhaps only 9/11 itself - can rival the woe brought by these images. These are our American children, our sons and daughters, lost in a conflict far from home. The editors and writers of this publication have stood, since the first rumbles of war were heard this past summer, staunchly against an attack on Iraq. Our reasons are myriad, and have been carefully and meticulously detailed on these pages. Manifest among our reasons was a dread that images such at these would become all too common.
There are few areas of service to America more honorable than that of military service. Our sons and daughters step to the line and take their oath because they believe their nation to be the best on earth. Implicit in that oath, however, is a leap of faith on the part of these troops. They trust that they will not be used, that their lives will not be spent, in actions and wars that do not merit the shedding of their blood. They trust their leaders when they put on the uniform. In this matter of war on Iraq, that trust has been betrayed, and these children of ours have paid the highest price for that betrayal.
We take no joy from showing these images. We mean absolutely no disrespect to the brave soldiers who have lost their lives, to their families and friends, and to those who continue to fight. We honor them in our souls, and thank them for their sacrifice and trust. At the end of the day, however, we are an information service. These pictures vividly demonstrate the cost of war in Iraq upon our beloved children. If you would know what war is, what this war has become, then you must look and understand.
May God be with these men and women, and with their families, and with us all.
Here is an image of a demonstration at the Nation's Capital against the war.
War is a horrible thing and never to be taken as a calculated path as this present American regime has done. We have also in our possession documents from GOP thinktanks that clearly indicate the planned strategy of an Iraq invasion extending back to 1996. The fact that American boys must die for the sake of political expediency turns the stomach and it is our hope and wish that these horrible images will do the same. And turn the heart against a most hard-hearted enemy that lives among us and claims to act in our best interest when it acts purely for its own gain.
MARCH 23, 2003
LIKE THE WEATHER
March finally roared to life last week, with several days of drenching rains and high winds -- sure portent for the snow-embattled East.
DANCING IN THE GHOST TOWN OF MY BRAIN
Took a walk this week under a full moon down by the strand in the wee hours. For some reason, sleep "that knits up the raveled sleeve of care" failed to come. Found the tide well out, and so had to skirt flickering tide pools for some 200 yards well out into the Bay before the sound of breakers eased the soul. Far across the water the lights of Babylon glittered like a huge golden bracelet draped over the hills while overheard the shining moon shed what light it could on this dark waste with a slight smell of sea wrack. A fine moment to share, but since there was none there but myself, I had my brain prove the female to my soul, like a character in a Shakespearean play, and the soul acting as father beget a generation of thoughts that bred yet more "in humors like the people of this world: for no thought is contented. . . ".
A friend had recently remarked on the similarities between the Current Administration and Richard II, and so my thoughts were naturally guided this way.
Far off the lights of Babylon glittered. Far off, in the cradle of civilization, insane death rained down upon the people despite the pleas of most of Belle Europa and the protestations of an estimated 25 million people. You might say, I felt a bit out of sorts that evening.
Then, dancing across the water, who should appear on that dark shore but that Irrepressible Pair, Oog and Aag. Not any representation of their descendents, whom we have described here previously, but the original pair, straight out of the Pleistocene Age, clad in bear skins and mammoth hide.
Clearly, as anyone you could imagine, I had numerous questions to ask of this gentlemanly pair who, at last estimate, stood about 20,000 years old and had been dead for quite some time. For these were the original settlers of the SF Bay Area.
But instead of answering my inquiries, they had only questions for me. Why were the People enslaved in Missions and killed indiscriminately, reducing the population from some 250,000 souls to about 20,000 and what on earth had happened to the water.
My mind was distracted by other issues and I had no answer for these sudden questions.
Then Aag spoke in some long forgotten language, but as in a dream I seemed to understand him there and this is what he said, "Don't take yerself too seriously mate. Empires come and go." And with that, the pair disappeared.
Feeling not a little bit cheated of a Magical Moment I picked my way back across the mud flats under the full moon and returned to my snug harbor where I broke out a fifth of 12 year old Scotch and promptly got about as drunk as a boy can be, grieving for a lost and once noble Country, now degraded, soiled by vermin passing as Leaders, and about to pass through an agony it cannot foresee. Then I remembered the full moon shining on the tidal flats stretching out to the golden bracelet of the City. At least that they can't take away from me, no, no.
MUSIC DO I HEAR?
Next week the major event will be the Grace Cathedral "Stained Glass and Guitars" which will host two performers per night over the next week. Each performer has proven himself to be a world-class artist on acoustic guitar, blowing audiences sky-high and thusly any one of the evenings is sure to be well worth the cost of attendance.
It might be said there is no other event next week which compares, and probably no event will match it for the entire year.
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Only hours before bombs launched on to Bahgdad, the Island Council voted to condemn any military action or projected invasion, much to the astonishment of local media. The Island, a flag-waving center of pro-government sentiment was long a military base for the Navy and the Council vote should send a clear message to somewhere deaf that things are not okay in the heartland.
FOR EVERY TERN THERE IS A SEASON
We are approaching the most dangerous Season of the Year on the Island. The temperature warms, the skirts go higher and all nature cuts loose like Charlie launching another Tet offensive. The Birds start coming in low to strafe the meadows in chevrons, while the bees dive-bomb the buttercup-sprinkled fields now erupting with blue-bells, asters, hyacinths, freesias and godknowswhatnot geysering up from the seed-pocked earth. The ground squirrels renew their underground activities with the moles and suddenly Councilperson Wilma can be seen chasing Councilperson Ray down on the beach with one heel broken and all hell to pay back in the Chambers. Mayor Beverly saunters into Chambers whistling a high tune. The SF Bay Curmudgeon Chief editor gives up his "read my paper, dammit" campaign to take cover beneath the flowered quilts with his second lieutenant, who turns out to be a spy for the SF Bleakly. Formerly happy, maladjusted and pleasantly discontented males are seen ambling about in pathetic distress, wounded, leaning on the arms of comrades or worse, done right through the heart. Glimpsed a sight of Bear walking along the strand, hair neatly combed and shirts tucked in, hand in hand with a towseled yet happy Susan.
Someone has finally disassembled the Holiday Dinner Awry in the windows of Paganos and the Bashful Boy figure has reappeared in the corner window, his face hidden to the pillar, under his crossed arms, hat and exuberant curls
Yes, Spring hath sprung.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a peaceful week, insofar as possible.
As a courtesy to new readers of this column we reprint here a scientific graph proving just why dolphins are the more superior species.
MARCH 16, 2002
THE ROSE OF TEXAS
When I think of Texas, I remember fondly the memories of sweet Austin and the sturdy folk of the hill country, as well as the delightful -- and straightforward -- hospitality of the cosmopolitan people of Dallas. I was treated well there as a Wanderer, a kind of Ranger. These people have labored long under the onerous image projected by the more arrogant and blustering citizens of Waco, where so much evil was born and burned. And where our unelected President bases his power. For these people, the swaggering "cowboys" of Waco and the oilfields have imposed on the Nation a vision of what Texas is much against the will of Texas itself.
Texas is huge, and in that vast territory, there is no one hegemony of culture, albeit a hegemony of power does exist. There remain the durable Hispanic people and the never to be forgotten Indios as well as the present and dominant white Anglo invaders, plus an host of others. These Anglos brought with them the culture and rule of the old Southern Aristocracy, by which power and wealth was achieved via subjugation and immediate assumption of an inherent superiority over other races.
These traits are quite clearly visible in George Bush. Just as the frontier independence, maverick attitude and sagebrush toughness is demonstrated in that other Texas that Bush and his ilk have long treated with disdain. For the people of Dallas are well-traveled and well-versed in what is happening around the world. And in the hill country, the people know that there is no excuse for discourtesy or self-serving range-wars.
I love these people, for they seem very like my own, and that is why in this troubled time, my heart bleeds for Texas.
Many of us will suffer greatly before all of this is over.
THOSE WHO FORGET THE LESSONS OF HISTORY
Behold the shady arbor of what was once a pleasant tree-lined walk in France. I was shocked when discussing the writing of the Lord of the Rings by Tolkein, I mentioned that the original notes for this work were composed during the Battle of the Somme, where Tolkein served as a Lieutenant and no one there knew what the Battle of the Somme was about or any details about its circumstances. That the entire WW! existed as a fiction in some various magazines and a few old movies.
There must be something seriously wrong with us.
For your information, the Battle of the Somme, which began on July 1, 1916 and which ended in the torrential downpours during the month of September of the same year, claimed somewhat 1 million lives in the midst of the most insane butchery known in history and which remains to this day a pure example of extreme military stupidity and unexampled horror. The idea was that the Allied forces would launch such a marvelous barrage of artillery upon the Germans, that the trench lines would be broken, the defenses entirely destroyed and the offense would simply walk through the opened positions with no problems whatsoever.
Did we hear this same song sung again in Vietnam time and again?
Naturally, the plan did not work a damn. The British and the French launched well over 1.6 million shells at the German fortifications along a 15km stretch and then began to walk slowly toward certain death before intact machinegun emplacements. Historians estimate that over 57,000 casualties accrued to the Allied side on the first day alone as the German machine guns simply popped up out of deep fortifications and let loose like kids on tin ducks at a circus. By the end of the horror, over 450,000 English and French soldiers had been killed. On the other side, it is guessed that some 650,000 Germans were slaughtered.
All for a gain of about 5 miles in territory.
And this insane war would drag on horribly to the end of 1918, much in the same fashion as described above.
JUST SAY NO TO WAR
Around the world, demonstrators took to the streets to protest the war that Bushy, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld are pushing forward in defiance of International Law and common sense. Here in Babylon, threatening skies over a weekend of periodic downpours and a general sense of despair reduced the number gathered to about 100,000 marchers with about 65,000 remaining to hear music and speeches at Jefferson Park in The City. Thousands gathered in other parts of the country as well.
About 30-40 people gathered in support of the Bushy policies in Pennsylvania as a sort of "counter-demonstration."
AND NOW A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR
All the weird energy has our friend Harlan running through signs up at the Arthouse like a, well, like a madman. Here is the latest posting on the wall of his house:
Well, nobody says it like Harlan. And that is probably a good thing.
I BELIEVE IN MIRACLES, OH YEAH
As the entire country knows, 15-year old Elizabeth Smart was unexpectedly returned to her ecstatic family this week after a year-long disappearance that followed from her abduction at knifepoint.
As previously related in this space, it is generally assumed that if a missing child is not located within 48 hours, they are dead and will never be found at all. This is one marvelous and happy event.
On our last check, the DOJ has reversed its previous position on child abductions and is now collecting stats on nationwide trends. In addition, a proposal has been put before Congress to create a national "Code Amber Alert" modeled on the California program in which media of all kinds, including am radio and electronic billboards saturate an area within hours of an abduction. This program has successfully worked to rescue children and teens, with one notable rescue pulling two SOCAL teens to safety who were minutes away from death. "He was drivin', looking for a place to kill and dump us when you showed up," the one teen told police. The abductor, a two-time felon with a violent history, was killed in a furious gun-battle with police.
DA WEARIN OF DA GREEN
The Island is gearing up for that traditional American Holiday that celebrates the Irish as they are in our hearts, not in reality. Over in the City they started slinging that foul concoction, Irish Coffee, by the gallon, as well as poisonous green beer. St. Putrick is famous, as we all know, for driving all the politicians out of Eiranne. Nice try feller, but you were about 500 years too early.
We plan on staying in on Monday, for St. Paddy's day is one of the two days that we remain stone, cold sober. The other is New Years. It's rough staying schlockered 362 days a year, but we have our reputation to think of. Friend Jim calls us "contrarian."
That's the way it is on the Island, this blustery and rainy weekend. Have a great week.
MARCH 9, 2003
THE SWEET AND LOWDOWN
Went to Yoshi's Jazz Club in the middle of the week to catch Bireli Lagrene and his Gypsy Project incinerate the house with Django Reinhardt-style jazz. Lagrene, native of Alsace in France, began playing guitar at age 4 and was winning competitions by age twelve. His father was a well-known gypsy-style guitarist in pre-war France, and the talent has been passed down as well as amplified in the son. After a foray into jazz-fusion with Larry Coryell, Lagrene has returned to his roots with the fast and furious style of Django Reinhardt.
Reinhardt, born in 1910 and died 1953, is often called "The World's Greatest Guitarist". Maimed by a caravan fire early in his career, Django still could play better than anyone before, or since, with the use of only three fingers on his left hand. In the Woody Allen movie Sweet and Lowdown the "World's Second Greatest Guitarist" (Sean Penn) falls down into a faint every time he catches sight of Reinhardt who formed the Jazz Hot Club of France with violinist Stephane Grappelli, playing a lively, bouncy jazz throughout Europe until the Second World War, when Grappelli fled to England. Miraculously, Reinhardt survived the war while the Nazis systematically exterminated the Gypsies as target #2 for the KZ camp ovens, continuing as well to play the proscribed jazz during the Occupation.
Lagrene, born in 1966, easily mastered the style, playing with an eerie similarity to the great master. Bireli has played with Stephane Grappelli, Benny Goodman, Benny Carter and many other jazz greats. Thursday night was expected to be light in attendance, as the gypsy style of jazz is not as well known in this country as in France, where the form has the same kind of following as bluegrass here. The show sold out, however, and, when word of the jazz explosion that happened mid-week at Yoshi's got out, every succeeding show sold out as well, even as Yoshis (understandably) jacked ticket prices another $15 on top of the original $17.
Instead of sticking to a dour note-for-note transcription of classics, Lagrene clowned and mugged with violinist Florin Nicolescu (Romania) and traded licks back and forth like two old friends having the time of their lives. Bireli demonstrated a dazzling array of techniques on his Django-style tenor guitar, easily flowing bends, hammer-ons, trills, harmonics, slides, and rapid-fire scale runs in perfect time with not a single note amiss for one and a half hours. At one point he played 8 bars of a piece entirely with the ringing tones of harmonics, managing to coax the distinctive sound everywhere on the fret board from the 12th to the 3rd fret. Another time he created a descending scale on the low E string by quickly detuning the guitar, while holding the fast beat, in mid-song!
When the quartet left the stage after 90 minutes, the entire audience rose up in a thundering standing ovation. He and Florin returned for a nice little "guitar and violin outdo" before leaving to yet another standing ovation and loud cheering from the audience.
ISLANDERS: "JUST SAY NO TO WAR"
The Island is a bedroom community with no major industry and a large percentage of homeowners living on property valued well over three-quarters of a million dollars each. Formerly a Navy base, the Island hosts nothing more martial than the Elks Club and a solid Masonic Lodge, both on the same street. The Bay Area Girl Scouts have their headquarters here. So this place is not exactly a hotbed of radical left-wingers and neo-Stalinists. Nevertheless, recent world events have pulled everyone, from silver-haired madams dressed in black to throngs of schoolchildren, to demonstrate in a variety of ways their opposition to a ruinous and very stupid war in the Middle East. In addition, the City Council is convening a special session to discuss issuing a special anti-war resolution, joining with 120 other cities around the country.
These people are not a minority "focus group"; they are average Americans who are expressing a very real concern about the path an unelected and, to this point ineffective, leader is pursuing with dogged stubbornness. We are hearing many Republicans here bemoan also the total abandonment of the GOP's commitment to balancing the budget. It should be very interesting to see how things play out in the coming months. My friends, we are cursed now to be living in interesting times.
JUST WHAT IS THIS ISLAND-LIFE ALL ABOUT ANYWAY?
I live on an Island situated in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, located somewhere between the Serenity Tradewinds and the Vortex of Befuddlement with an oddball collection of about 75,000 misfits, artists, inveterate gossips, busybodies, blue-haired ladies, stiff-necked gents, wannabe Napoleons, and some nice people too.
Periodically the ferries bring us news and provisions and take some of us to work in the Big City. We have a Mayor who also functions as the town Barber and our police chief likes to fly model airplanes in his spare time.
A local artisan, going by the name of Buford Innomminable, recently completed a fine example of lawn art with his nine-foot painting of waterfalls set before a bucket with a bunch of spray-painted bed-springs sticking out in honor of the Season We All Love and Fear and titled accordingly.
The most recent public works project, completed with great fanfare, was a large cement mixing bowl and griddle set on the island's far northern edge where the island youth could go and engage in all sorts of ramping and crashing and getting stoned and fistfights and jumping up and down to loud music and all sorts of real cool nifty things out there on the far northern edge of the island there with the wind going through about 40 knots without bothering the slightest blue-hair about the noise and the peeing in public. And everybody had a great time going out there building the place -- the kids did most of the work after all -- and the mayor gave everybody a free haircut and cut the ribbons and they all went home to have a nice sleep there in the south part of the island. Of course we have no buses to go out there so the kids who aren't allowed to drive can't get there without riding their skateboards which they are not allowed to do seeing as skateboarding is illegal everywhere on the island except at the Mixing Bowl Park, but hey, you can't have everything.
Here in Island-Life we have our annual events marked by the seasonal calendar and the chief ones are as follows:
· January: New Years Drunken Orgy
· State of the Onion Address by the President of the Bums.
· February: My Sucky Valentine anti-celebration, or Commemoration of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre
· March: St. Padriac's Pub crawl
· April: First warning of Spring
· Annual Meeting of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled
· August: State of the State Watershed. Done live from the Sierra peaks.
· October: Bay Area Hedonist Festivals and Samhain. Seldom clothed and always jolly.
· November: Annual Island Poodle-shoot and BBQ (this is the real high point)
There are others, but these are the chief ones.
And now for something completely different. Widespread demand impels me to introduce the cast of characters that inhabits these pages. Well, all right, not widespread demand, but my parents asked me to. So here they are, the inhabitants of Life on the Island. Unlike Zippy, we do not boldface the famous, as everyone here is already a Star.
First, let me introduce our genial ex-host, the ex-Island Mayor Ralph, part-time Barber, or visa-versa.
Let me indicate the obvious here, in that this representation is not a photograph. Mayor Ralph was too busy to sit for a photo op at the time we did this -- and now he is dead -- so we had to resort to the next best thing. Just try to imagine him with a bit more hair and a little less paunch and there you have him to a T. Our current Mayor is Mayor Beverly, a delightful lady. You may wonder why we included an image of an ex-mayor who is dead and not one of the current Mayor.
You may continue to wonder.
Bolstering the Island Security with firm enforcement of the traffic laws -- amongst the most strict in the Land -- we have Officer O'Madhaun, a beefy, brawny sorta feller, nemesis of unwary drivers everywhere. and fond of his stewed cabbage and beef. He is not so good at catching thieves and murderers, but highly effective in issuing traffic citations.
Then, there is Opus. Presenting Opus:
As you can see, Opus is a penguin. Actually, Opus does not really live on the Island. He lives in Bloom County, which is another state of mind several hundred miles away from here,
but we like Opus and will make him welcome for visits. If he so wishes.
Next we have Madame Loupe-Garou, shown here in her capacity as Acting Chair pro tem of the Island Blue Haired Ladies Association for the Preservation of Historic Modes of Behavior. It is largely due to the efforts of this group that the Island remains the remarkable cultural backwater that it is. Their most notable achievement was, albeit temporary, in their successful bid to outlaw dancing on the Island.
Here we see a subcommittee enforcing some of the Island's regulations.
Presenting some other characters characteristic of Life on the Island:
We have here your Basic ground squirrel.
and a typical Island Hausfrau named Edna. Say hello, Edna.
There are two characters we cannot portray here for they lived here some 20,000 years ago and so, consequently, they are difficult to represent in any graphic form. Imagine sloping foreheads, lots of hair and voices sort of like Van Halen or Tom Waites. These two irrepressible fellows are Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area. They and their descendents will serve to illustrate critical points of history that will be unearthed here, much in the manner of that august musicologist Peter Schickele, the discoverer and perpetrator of PDQ Bach.
Of course we have new characters coming in all the time, such as the infamous terrierist, Osama Bin Lassie, who orchestrated the attempted hijacking of City Hall. Here is a photograph of the Evil One.
Notice, if you will, the fey look underneath the turban, the cold eyes of a killer, the atrocious grooming of the beard. Chills the heart, it does.
Lately, we have been following one Eugene Shrubb, unelected President of the Bums and self-appointed King of Refuse. Eugene has massed an army with an intention of invading Newark any day now. Many see this action as mere guise for seizing control over the massive stores of Thunderbird and M/D 20/20 fuels. Stay tuned.
Well, we have just about run out of time here, so it remains for next week to introduce the rest of the cast, including such possibly fictional characters as Bruce Brughman, the chief editor of the SF Curmudgeon, the soon to be unemployed journalists for the SF Exasperator, the Artist on Central, who has converted an old VW van into a TV set, the unknown editors of the SF Bleakly, the disastrous editors of the once-acclaimed East Bay Excess -- which now sucks -- and Sir Reginald Bafflement-Quirk, President of the local chapter of the Traffic Enfeebled and Directionally Challenged Persons Association. As an old friend used to say, "The West has a million stories in the Naked City, and you can go crazy listening to them all." But I cannot leave today without introducing my lifelong steady companion and master of the healing arts as well as loyal pet, the noble Herr Professor Doktor Graf Friederich von Oakland an der Meer, sometimes called "Friedie" for short. Say "Hello", Dr. Friederich:
Any resemblance to any other cats, cartoons, physicians or research clinicians is purely coincidental.
Well, I see that once again we have made a bloody hames of the whole business that we had meant to clarify and if you have stuck with us this far, you must be totally confused. Entertained, we hope, but confused nonetheless. It will take an entire year's worth of writing just to straighten all of this out. Bear with us.
That's how it is on the Island. Have a great week. And for crissake, don't take yourselves too seriously.
MARCH 2, 2003
QUIRKYALONES UNITE !
Haven't seen much of Bear lately, and no one seems to be answering the phone, so we'll just have to wait a bit to keep you posted. It occurred to us (journalistic "we" in all cases here) that we need a new term for those cases when two quirkyalones hang together, but pretty much keep to themselves regardless, as a sort of relationship pro tem, ie. making do for the time being in a state of anticipating the Big One still to come along. Well, we would call that quirkytogether. There is another term that some wag coined for us the other day, the meaning of which we leave up to you: quirkyslut.
For a description of what this is all about, scroll down to February 23rd and the subheading A VISIT FROM BEAR.
LA BELLA MUSICA
This month holds pleasures a-plenty for music-lovers of all stripes with the new Season kicking off at the Fillmore with guitar wunderkind Derek Trucks. The perceptive will note that the liner notes to many an Allman Brothers effort featured Derek and now he's out on his own. The Pretenders finish out a two-night run at the Warfield tonight, and from all accounts, the band rocked the house. Chrissie Hynde is one of those people so dripping with talent that it makes you want to burn your ES335. She plays kick-ass guitar, has a vocal range that travels easily from sexy/sultry to rock n' roll bulldozer, and she also writes lyrics (in two languages) that can alternatively caress, cut, brutalize and exalt. Oh way to go Ohio: if you gave us Chrissie, you can't be all that bad.
Those of the Dead clan will stream into the Warfield on Tuesday in all their tie-died glory to spin wildly to the sounds of Bobby Weir's Ratdog. Joe Jackson completes the Names list at the Fillmore on the 24th on his successful comeback tour. Also this Fat Tuesday, the 6th Annual SF Mardi Gras Ball swings into Bimbos 356 with the decidedly Cajun Zigaboo Modaliste with keyboard legend Henry Butler. We caught Henry playing a little place in the French Quarter and were absolutely blown away by this innovative player who continues to bend the rules well into his sixties. His show is a Do Not Miss for all piano players and you heard it here. Allez! Lassez les bons temps roulez!
Also in Babylon, the NoisePop festival continues into this week at the old Bottom of the Hill. Tuesday (what is going on with this particular date) local faves Ex-girl headline with Bangs and Subarachnoid Space.
For those of you with, uh-hem, finer tastes, Concerts at Grace Cathedral will pull out all the stops -- and we really mean ALL the stops, for an incredible series titled "Stained Glass and Strings". From the 24th to the 28th the absolute best acoustic guitarists in the world will be appearing on double-bills sufficient to make any classicist salivate. Here is the line up starting Monday night: Brian Gore with Peter Finger, Peppino D'Agostino and David Tannenbaum, Alex De Grassi and Micheal Manring, Doyle Dykes and Chris Proctor, Pierre Bensusan and Laurence Juber.
Every one of them has written books on the subject of fine guitar and every one of them has filled immense concert halls in the US and Europe. Peppino was a child prodigy, beating the pants off of classically trained musicians five-times his age at the age of 8 and has grown into a very accomplished and very respected musician. De Grassi, of course, is known for his work with the Windam Hill label and his ability to evoke the most unearthly beauty from the six-string. Pierre Bensusan has displayed an extraordinary range of talent and is deservedly holding the anchor-date with former Wings guitarist Laurence Juber. Tix are available online at www.gracecathedral.org. Hope to see y'all there.
Oh yes, all of this follows what was a remarkable performance of the Bulgarian women's choral group Kitka which took place Friday. Sorry, you missed it.
First Saturdays on the Island took place at Rosenblum Cellars right on time -- unfortunately for us, as we got the dates wrong and so missed a delightful evening with Fergus, an acoustic Celtic duo.
THE DOGS OF WAR REDOUX
Now that the Mayor and City Council of Newark have responded to Eugene Shrubb's accusations (February 9) with definitive proof that the city harbors neither stinkbombs nor killer poodles, and has furthermore no provable connection to terrierists, you would think Eugene would have disbanded his Army of Bums by now. Not the case. The encampment remains down by the airport and San Leandro still refuses to allow them a parade permit to pass through and attack Newark, much frustrating Eugene's aims. Hayward and Fremont have both responded that they desire to prevent war under any circumstances, and that this whole flap is really very silly.
Meanwhile, the town of Sunol continues to express its desire to form an independent Republic and secede from Alameda County, taking with it all the parkland, which has provoked the Sheriff's Department to teargas everybody, innocent and guilty alike, at the Sunol Bar and Grill.
Tensions remain at the precarious "Beige Alert" status.
Eugene Shrubb, from the beginning a born-in-the-blood Bum of signature stature and breeding, and who seems to have secured his post without benefit of general election, appears to be losing friends right and left. His response has been, as usual, caustic, inflammatory, and inebriated. "I will defend this Island against all enemies, real and imaginary, by any and every means necessary. This includes the possible employment of nuclear families." On Thursday evening, Shrubb had himself crowned King of the Bums in a solemn ceremony full of many Latinate phrases, atrocious music and grand toasts by the light of burning sterno. The President was then seen to mount his dias of old tires to where someone had placed an ivory Regal of porcelain and trimmed in faux ermine. There he took his seat (lid down) with firm countenance.
Terrible is the visage of ungoverned Power.
THE ARTWALL ON LINCOLN - HARLAN DOES IT AGAIN
Well, with everything going on in the world you would think that our mad artist of Lincoln Street would have something to say about it all. Indeed he does, for Harlan has been putting up signs on his house and fence for 20 some years and neither Ashcroft nor reasonableness are likely to stop him now. Although we hear that signs which do not meet with his mother's approval get torn down immediately. Herewith we present Harlan's say"
And on the side facing the main drag, we have this:
Um, yeah. Not sure what the sign in Hebrew says, but knowing the translation probably wouldn't help much either. Gotta love that Harlan. What a guy.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The days are loaded with cool sunshine and the evenings have been relatively crisp with the occasional rainburst to startle the sleeping bulbs in our garden. If March is coming in like a lion, then this lion happens to be napping beside the radiator. The day's sky, muscular with clouds and sungold from a Michelangelo painting, cleared by nightfall to show the legions of stars swimming in schools through the clear sea overhead and Orion does cartwheels over the Pagano's parking lot. Frisky fellow, that Orion, and a special friend of ours. Rumor has it he was hit by friendly fire, but there he is, for all the world to see, mischievously flicking his belt or sword or whatever you call it from side to side.
We're a couple months behind our usual recap of Island characters and plotlines here, but we'll be getting to that one of these days. Meanwhile, it's enough to breath the wonderful air of freesias about our neighbor's house while the constellations wheel in their eternal round above the Island as they have for centuries, depicting all our foolishness and greatness at once. You need no greater examples than these.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 23, 2003
We had just settled into the Easy Chair after the ineffable 2nd Movement of PDQ Bach's Variations upon the Erotica Symphony No. 3 with its sublime employment of slide whistle and windbreaker -- in short, we were thoroughly enjoying a pleasantly middle-class and middle-aged afternoon with the soothing pleasures of classical music -- when who should come a rap, rapping upon our door but our dear friend and bro', Bear.
Bear rushed in with his beard uncombed, his unwashed shirt-tails flapping in the breeze, his pants unzipped, his tennis shoe laces thrashing about untied and his mismatched socks down at the ankles-- appearing, as he usually does in fact -- but with an added sense of distraction. Well, it turned out that Bear had discovered the meaning of his miserable life and he was not only there to tell me all about it but also there to take me away and show me.
It being a sort of local holiday with nothing to do -- St. Valentine's Day actually -- and there being no beer left in the house, I agreed to go with him for the sake of journalistic professionalism.
While scrounging for beer at his place -- his storage system consisted of equal uses of space under the bed, in the fridge, between the seat cushions, various clothes closets, pantries and several lamps -- he told me all about a new group he had discovered which had given him the name and reason for his being: quirkyalone.
Now, it appears that a group of people has banded together in a kind of social club for those who have refused to engage in mindless and socially-dictated romantic pairing for whatever personal reasons the individuals have chosen. While the rest of Western Civilization launches maniacally into these relationships, leading to lifelong entrapments, children, stultifying careers and halitosis -- according to Bear -- entirely because this behavior is expected, the quirkyalone prefers to remain individual, unbonded and unfettered for personal reasons, which may vary, it appears, from career dedication, pursuit of achievement, or something as simple as the fact the right one just has not come along yet -- after about four or five decades of waiting.
It's not that the quirkyalone disbelieves in Love or dislikes people in general -- far from it. The quirkyalone adores people, socializes readily and always keeps at least one eye out for that Special Someone who just might trot along any day. These people make enduring friendships, go to parties and social events and occasionally pair up for economic or social purposes -- with no commitments of course -- but they just do not marry, do not have children and generally are identified on the 1040EZ as Single.
Well, we can understand reticence towards rash jumping into things of course. And there needs be some sympathy for the lady fielding those calls from mother, the entire subtext of which reads inevitably "How come you are not married? When am I gonna see grandchildren . . .". Bear, however, could never be concerned with these sorts of things; he was constitutionally unable to comprehend. What he did have, was a problem with relationships and with women in general. At least in our humble opinion.
While looking (somewhat admiringly we admit) at the six-foot poster on Bear's living-room wall of Linda "Juggs" O'Reilly perched most fetchingly on a gleaming Harley Davidson we commented in our usual dry journalistic style that perhaps his issues needed to be otherwise addressed. What, after all, was he saving himself from marriage for, as it hardly seemed sufficient to count restoration of a 1957 Panhead to be worthy of lifelong achievement.
Upon this, he called me an insensitive lout and momentarily without reason, although the exact phrases he employed were somewhat rougher than that. After sulking a bit and acting hurt he pulled himself together and we went off to the East Bay Quirkyalone Social, which appears to have been a counterpart to a more glitzy affair over in Babylon.
At this affair, like the one across the Bay, the chief party game involved composing a list of true past quirkyalones as distinguished from such people as Emily Dickenson -- who was definitely quirky and most certainly alone, but not one of the club by reason of being such an antisocial, um, prig (Bear's words, not mine).
We circulated among the people there, finding quite a mix of people and an even wider mix of reasons for being what they were, running the gamut from an accomplished Epidemiologist and member of Mensa named Diana (obvious reasons) to a guy named Hal, who didn't seem to mind having relationships with pretty much anyone and/or any gender, but didn't seem to be able to latch onto anyone because his socks, well, always smelled like they had missed the hamper. Then there was Susan, a neatly coiffed and immaculately dressed blonde who would like to enjoy sex, but for one problem.
"It's the fluids," she said. "If it weren't so damn messy all the time. There you guys go firing those things off all over the place ruining the sheets and then (shudder) there's the sweat . . .".
Still, in general, there were a fair number of attorneys, doctors, and a good helping of painters, musicians, writers, and a plethora of actors and performance poets who had very clear reasons for staying focused.
On the last circulation about the room I found Bear and Susan sitting close together on the couch, their heads almost touching while engaged in some very intense, and, at least for Bear, meaningful discussion. I thought it best not to interrupt and I let myself out into the cheerful, rainy chaos of Chinese New Year. Hope, it seems, springs eternal.
So, wending our way between dripping urchins, small, papery explosions and one very soggy dragon, we travel home in jolly spirits to pour a stiff one or two and flip over the CD to play Bach's Pervertimento for Bagpipes, Bicycle and Balloons, Opus 66, all the while wondering just what is Susan going to do when she sees the Linda poster on Bear's wall.
IMAGINE NOTHING TO KILL OR DIE FOR
Various event organizers and peaceable folks have called for a "Virtual Protest" to take place on the 26th of this month, on which day everyone is requested to kindly notify the White House and district Representatives how people feel about the impending -- potential -- ruinous war that would ensue from an invasion of Iraq. Interested folks can go online to http://www.moveon.org/winwithoutwar/.
Here is a brief statement from one of the organizers:
The Virtual March on Washington is a first-of-its-kind group effort from the Win Without War coalition. Working together, we'll direct a steady stream of phone calls -- about one per minute, all day -- to every Senate office in the country, while at the same time delivering a constant stream of emails and faxes. Think of it as a march -- one by one, we'll be passing through our Senators' offices and the offices of the White House to let them know how we feel about this war.
At this point we seem to recall that Congress has passed a law requiring the President to publicly make a formal report to Congress for commitment of US military forces in any foreign territory within a certain period of time and this report is to state clearly the rationale, limits of use, and the full objectives for such use of the military. This time period is coming up for those forces currently stationed in the Middle East.
THIS ISLAND LIFE SEPARATES RIGHTS FROM WRONG
Some of you have expressed concern as to when the Annual Meeting of the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled will be taking place. For good reason as these people have children they want to keep indoors during the conference. Many others have requested the full text of the Stealth Turn Song. Well, not many others, really. Just my nephew Joshua, who at the age of three and a half finds these sorts of things -- cars going BUMP! and men dressing up as women rather amusing. Actually, these things are amusing but anyway, here is the full lyric, with music to be played moderato energetico in 4/4 time, aka rock tempo.
THE STEALTH TURN SONG
Time is fleeting
Madness takes its toll
But listen closely
Not for very much longer
I've got to keep control
I remember doing the stealth turn
Driving those times when
The blackness would hit me
Riff Raff & Magenta:
And the void would be calling
Let's do the stealth turn again
Let's do the stealth turn again
It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Whistle with your lips and avoid giving a tip
You bring your knees in tight
But it's the signal flash that really drives you insane
Let's do the stealth turn again
Let's do the stealth turn again
It's so dreamy
Oh free me from Courtesy
So you can't see me, no not at all
In another dimension
With sneaky intention
I see all
With a bit of a steering-wheel flip
You're into the turn slip
And nothing can ever be the same
You've spaced out of sensation
Like you're under sedation.
Let's do the stealth turn again
Let's do the stealth turn again
Well I was driving down the street just having a think
When a snake of a guy gave me an evil blink
He shook-a me up, He took me by surprise
He had a pick up truck and the devil's eyes
He smacked into my bumper and I felt a change
Time meant nothing, never would again
Let's do the stealth turn again
Let's do the stealth turn again
It's just a jump to the left
And then a step to the right
Give the steering wheel a big spin
You bring your knees in tight
But it's the signal flash
That really drives you insane
Let's do the stealth turn again
Let's do the stealth turn again
Rogers and Hammerstein would be so proud.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT
In efforts to demonstrate their commitment to the Commonweal and National Security, the local gendarmes, led by Officer O'Madhauen and Bunny Matthews, have launched a vigorous program to snag anybody and everybody who violates, or contemplates violating, a potential traffic ordinance. "Them Terrierists are such an evil bunch that its sure they'll slip up with a left turn off of Park Street sooner or later. Then, we'll a have 'em!", Spokesperson Officer O'Madhauen remarked at a recent City Council meeting.
When a reporter indicated at a press conference that the Island already has the most vigorous traffic enforcement among the five Bay Area Regional Governments, but still has the most pathetic record of traffic accidents in the metropolitan area, and rational alternatives existed to simply issuing more tickets for trivial offenses, calls of "anti-Island degenerate" and "minority peacenik" filled the air. Officer Popinjay was seen to blow a distinct raspberry in dignified response and the matter was closed. On to the next topic.
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
It's the French Revolution and three men have been brought to the guillotine, the royal priest, the royal surgeon, and the royal engineer.
First up is The priest, and when granted a final request before execution, asks to die while looking upward to Lord In Heaven. This wish is granted and they lie him on his back. But, when the blade falls it stops just inches from his throat.
The executioners and the crowd are amazed, and conclude that not only had God saved the priest but had prevented them from committing a terrible sin. So they let him go.
The surgeon, next in line, figuring he has nothing to lose, professes his strong belief in God and makes the same request. And, once again, the blade stops just short. They let him go too.
All this while, the engineer has been watching the proceedings carefully. He knows that the malfunction means he will not die, and that if he makes the same request as the others he might even be set free. Accordingly, they stretch him out on his back and position his neck across the block. Then, as he looks up at the apparatus above, he says "Oh. Now I see the problem."
Down by the Strand the skies are clouding over after a weekend of magnificent weather. Which we are sure our East Coast readers really don't want to hear about right now as all of the snow and ice that recently shut down several states starts to melt into swollen streams. We are a jolly bunch on the Island and we prefer to laugh at foolish people doing foolish things, people like Saddam and George Bush and, sometimes, ourselves. Tragedy is always what happens to you; Comedy is what happens to others.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 16, 2003
WAR WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR
This weekend the entire world took to the streets to give voice to the growing numbers of people firmly opposed to any invasion of Iraq by any parties, whether they be UN sanctioned or purely American forces. Saturday saw demonstrations occur in over 600 cities around the globe for a combined turnout of well over 15 million people. In Barcelona alone, three million people turned out to demonstrate for peace while massive turnouts in Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Prague, and especially Bonn -- which hosted fully two million Germans opposed to another world war -- all saw crowds of well over 750,000 persons each by conservative estimates. In the British Isles, the Labour Party dealt a serious blow to Tony Blair's drive for a joint British/American invasion by gathering over two million people in London. One of the chief organizers, MP and head of the Youth Section of the Labour party hopped aboard a plane to SF to arrive in time to deliver an impassioned speech on Sunday before a crowed estimated by the conservative Chronicle to be around 200,000. Police issued an official estimate of about 150,000 -- not bad for a day following torrential downpours that were forecast to continue through the following 48 hours.
The SF demonstration was pushed one day back by organizers to avoid interfering with the traditional Chinese New Year parade.
Lowering skies periodically threatened to drench the thousands who turned out for the march, but the skies held back and the extraordinary mix of young, old, grey and colorful walked under delightfully mild weather. Unlike many of the peace protests that occur in Babylon, this one consisted of a wide range of Americans from all social strata and all age groups. While waiting for friends to gather beneath the statue of Ghandi that stands down by the Ferry landing we watched as boat after boat unloaded hundreds of people of all ages, including silver-haired grannies and young couples pushing strollers.
It is also important to note that, although the usual "radical groups" showed up with bandannas and socialist slogans, the mixture of people included a far wider selection of the country than has been seen at these kinds of things for a very long time.
The march, led by folksinger Bonnie Raitt, started from Halliday Plaza near the Ferry Building and took a full three hours to wend its way up Market before splitting into streams to fill the Civic Center. Bonnie sang a beautiful duet with Joan Baez, whose astonishingly powerful voice has lost none of its timbre over the years. Barbara Lee and other local politicos gave speeches as well as the aforementioned British MP for Labour.
With many walkers bringing toddlers in tow, the march was largely peaceful along Market Street, although there were reports that about 1000 boys wearing bandanna masks tried to split off from the main route and cause havoc by Union Square.
From our insider reports, it appears that this group attempted to push through a police blockade several times after wandering from the main artery. Some of them vandalized a police car and smashed at least one shop window before arriving at a final confrontation around 5th or 6th Streets. There it appears that the group was split into two with a sizeable group hemmed in by police to the north and the south. They were told to disperse, but, in sealing in the group, the northerly line prevented any reasonable response -- and these people were not inclined to be reasonable from the start in any case. It does appear that some did manage to escape towards Chinatown, leaving about two hundred or so left. So the trapped group started throwing things at the riot police and the affair degenerated into a local melee.
Unsurprisingly riot police mounted on horseback responded vigorously when pelted with food and rocks and about 30 people were arrested. No teargas was used and, although armed with rubber-bullet guns, these were not employed although we have some reports of clubbing and some "pain restraint" methods that were employed. No injuries were reported by anyone.
These people had their own agenda and, early on, were actively dissuaded by some fairly heroic organizers from causing more damage and tainting the march's goals. The broad cross-section of the peaceable contingent indicates that the quite lunatic plans that have been proposed by our unelected President are finally developing some serious opposition across political and economic boundaries. While Hussein certainly should be removed from power for the betterment of the world in general, war at this time is not the answer and the entire world feels at one on the issue.
At the end of the day, we all went home, had a dinner that couldn't be beat and went to sleep and did not wake up until the next morning. And none of us got a call from Officer Obie.
On the Island, we accountants, computer professionals, soccer moms, shopkeepers (hello Thin Man, I saw you there!) graphic artists, temporary clerks, all love peace, democracy and our Country. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 9, 2003
Our roving correspondent reports from The Inside that Matrix II, the next part of the Sci-Fi series about a post-apocalypse world in which humanity has been enslaved by machines comes out in May. The first Matrix burst from the B-movie circuit -- where all had thought the film would stay -- to a super-cult status. Taking visual cues from the old Analog magazine covers -- popular amongst those pre-boomer teens -- and riffing ingeniously on a slew of standard magazine science fiction tropes while managing to toss in a bit of Hegel, Kant, and Philosophy 101-style of aporetics mixed with a good dose of Zen Buddhism, the original film racked up impressive numbers, filling the theatres with its peculiar and severely pessimistic view of life.
As we all remember from the "cake class" Philosophy 101 in college, one of the main objection to basing your existence on the senses was the apparently absurd notion that you just might be a disembodied brain being "fed" stimuli in perfect illusion. Well, the Matrix realized this perfect nightmare perfectly in a world where that is precisely the truth. For everybody. Except for a handful of rebels, of course, who opt out of the program. And then are forced to run around beneath the surface of the earth where all life has been exterminated following a "nuclear winter", that effectively turns the surface of the planet into something like Venus: 900 degrees on a good day and bathed by the occasional downpour from clouds of ammonia and sulphur.
The rebels contact potential "candidates" by jacking into the "matrix" -- the artificial world that exists entirely of 0's and 1's in a massive computer system, but is the apparent "real world" we all know. Author William Gibson explored this concept as did a number of others. Far from resulting in pure corn, the resulting film starring Keanu Reeves as the new recruit wandering bewildered through the world he thought he knew, acclaimed and accoladed actor Laurence Fishburne as the rebel leader, Carrie Ann-Moss as the kick-ass woman who downloads a program to learn how to fly a helicopter in 30 seconds, Joe Pantoliano as the thoroughly greasy betrayer who murders two rebels in an effort to "go back" to the illusion because the food in the real world (remember there are no cows anymore) too horrible to exist, and Australian actor Hugo Weaving as the delightfully evil construct always on the lookout within the matrix for rebel appearances, managed to assemble an intelligent and thoughtful film that entertains while it comments on the absurdity of modern urban life with all of its bloodless inanities.
The original came out in 1999 and it appears that release was delayed due to injuries of principal characters Moss and Reeves, who were required to perform serious acrobatics a la Jacky Chan during shoot. Chan, who never uses stuntmen or special effects while filming has broken every bone in his body and surely must sympathize.
It's another 10 months until Return of the King comes out, so this release will have to satisfy your jones until then.
THE DOGS OF WAR
In other news, Presidential Bum, Eugene Shrubb, is persisting with his plan to invade Newark on grounds that the little municipality is stocking stink bombs and tear gas for use against bums sleeping under overpasses. In addition, Shrubb has levied the quite serious charge of harboring known terriers and poodles, especially the notorious Osama Bin Lassie. Devoted readers will recall Bin Lassie was responsible for destroying the Bicycle Bridge and the attempted hijacking of City Hall with the intention of crashing the building into Jack London Square. Many suspect the attempt was a misdirected attempt to seize control of the Presidential Yacht formerly owned by Woodrow Wilson which is docked on the opposite side of the estuary.
In any case Shrubb appears hell bent on gathering an army and causing hella havoc in Newark and neighboring San Leandro. No one can deny that the leadership of both places demonstrates remarkable lack of imagination, as well as a singular disregard for the populace and its social needs -- and this has resulted in an ugly unliveable sprawl extending 20 miles north and south, nevertheless definitive proof for these charges remains to be delivered. It has also been noted that a sterno factory lies within Newark city limits, and as everyone knows, sterno is a favored fuel among bums whose demand for such has increased astronomically due to the heavy employment of Special Underpass Vittles, otherwise known as SUV's.
But it can be said that only ignorant bums use SUVs -- which are smoky, foul polluting, energy consumptive, dangerous to passersby and otherwise highly antisocial -- and so the whole issue should be shelved. Nevertheless, Eugene has amassed quite a formidable force of junkyard dogs to combat the anticipated poodle-force. Stay tuned for developments.
IF YOU WANT TO GET TO HEAVEN, STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF THAT BLOOD-STAINED BANNER
Down at the Arthouse, Harlan has put up another one in blue and white. This is what it says on butcher-block paper on the white picket fence of his house.
Righteous words oh Harlan. Yea, righteous indeed. And filled with memory.
February 14th the entire nation celebrates that astonishing day symbolized by red, bleeding hearts and winged boys armed with projectile weapons. Yes, we mean the day that commemorates February 14, 1929, when thugs from Al Capone's gang lined up six mobsters -- including one Frank May -- plus an unfortunate optometrist, before a brick wall at 2122 North Clark Street in Chicago and gunned them all down.
Make no mistake: this love business is a bloody war with serious consequences. We earnestly advise everyone not to fall in love -- it will stick to your face.
There are events taking place all over the Bay Area, preceded by a lovely concert series by Willie Nelson at the Fillmore from Monday to Wednesday. The SF Curmudgeon has come out with a handy guide neatly divided into the categories of Basic, Holistic, Kinky, Extravagant, and Impecunious. We do notice that this year there appears to be an absence of the Return of My Sucky Valentine event. Maybe the original founders finally got lucky?
It is reported that Frank May's dog was tied to a bumper outside while the killing went on, howling through the entire business. Historians have charted the course of the investigation, the alibis, the eventual demolition of the building and even the eventual fate of the bricks that formed the bullet-pocked wall, but what I want to know is this: What happened to the dog?
DON'T BOTHER TYING YOURSELF TO THE MAST
It's said that Ulysses tied himself to the mast while passing the fabled islands of the Sirens so as not to pitch himself overboard at the sounds. This Wednesday, the Island entered the Age of Alarms, now that we have Orange and Red national alarms and the new alarm system for abducted kids here, a new alarm system was implemented and tested at high noon when the Alert and Warning System ran a test of what used to be called "duck and cover".
Well, to nobody's surprise, nobody paid attention. Except about 50 people who gathered from various agencies to toot the horn with kids from the 5th grade class from Franklin School. They all had cake and cookies and punch and everybody had a fine time ringing the bells and a rep from the IFD, Rick Zombeck stated, "This marks . . . a new era in public safety." Yes, Rick it is a new Era. In a very real sense.
How many times have we been shaken awake late at night in the hours before dawn because of an earthquake or some callous neighbor pounding down the stairs, thinking inside, "Is this the Big One?" And now all of America will now return to a previous time of such vague fears just like this. Of inanities like "duck and cover". Of course getting into a building or a car in the event of a gas attack will be just about as useful as ducking under a table during an atomic explosion. Avoiding war, especially war conducted by proven idiots, seems eminently preferable to years of living in fear.
We on the Island choose not to live in fear, but in celebration. Because that's the way we like it. And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a peaceful week.
For your edification we reprint a simple diagram of why dolphins are a superior species.
FEBRUARY 2, 2003
THE STATE OF THE ONION ADDRESS
It was during the Midwinter's Convocation of the Island Congress of Bereft and Indigent that Eugene Shrubb stood up upon a pile of old tires and delivered the annual State of the Onion Address. This Convocation is a hallowed institution here upon the Island, to which the footloose and hapless are wont to wend their ways from all over the Bay Area so as to hear words from the sages while gathered with such poor company and tattered rags that may give some semblance of warmth and humanity, fueled with Maddog 20/20 by the light of the oilcan fires beneath the brand new crescent moon.
From all over the Bay Area they came: from the white trash foggy avenues, from the notorious Valencia Gardens, from the toxic sumps of Bayview/Hunter's Point, from South City's industrial slums, from Marin's forgotten City, out of the chemical fugs shrouding Richmond, from the delta and biker club-houses of Martinez, from the rough and tumble boxing fields of Stockton, from the trailer-parks of Pleasanton, from the rowdy bars of Sunol, from the great salt flats of Palo Alto and the marshes of San Carlos, from the half-way houses of Berzerkely and the Projects of West Oaktown the bums tottered in on hitches, on the rails and by foot and at least one motorized perambulator as well as an host of stolen shopping carts. Finally, not to exclude the most august of the assembly, the greatest bums of the Legislature of Indolent appeared in ragged glory, the Congress and the Senate.
"Friends, fellow hoboes and tramps, Congressmen and Judges, consider the Onion as it is today!" Shrubb began after taking a hearty swig of liquor.
His speech was too long and full of too many fine words we cannot comprehend, let alone spell correctly to reproduce in its entirety here, but we provide a summary for our dear readers.
Shrubb opened up with a comment about his regime's notable success in handling environmental matters. He pointed out that bums who pissed on valuable property were roundly condemned. Instead, the populace was exhorted to piss upon trees instead, so as to lower the serious fire danger and prevent tree-huggers from honorable and profitable clearing of brush. As a plan to reduce the country's dependence upon oil, he proposed the issuing of 220 million pogo sticks -- about as serious a proposal as any he could think of -- and he firmly derided any association between his own holdings in major oil company dumpsters with the course of his actions.
He next proposed a major relief effort to the bums of Africa on the matter of the massive HIV crisis unfolding there. Now, this is no laughing matter. Not at all. Almost a quarter of the massive Continent is infected and people are dying without care by the thousands and millions more are destined to perish. In answer Shrubb proposed a massive drug and assistance relief effort -- which seems reasonable at first glance. Until he mentioned that it will be paid by every bum donating a quarter and an hour of volunteer time.
Shrubb next addressed the economy -- always a sore point with a bum of any stature. In answer to his critics and the obvious present day condition of the economy, Shrubb proposed doing away with taxes for anybody who had money. Instead, this genius proposes that we tax only the people who have only a little money. This is a major revision, you will note, as in the past the IRS has sicced its dogs of war on people with no money at all -- clearly a foolish endeavor doomed to failure. By not taxing those making $300,000 per year, jobs will appear by magic.
Concurrent with this is a massive spending increase for the Military for some 100 billions.
When asked just where he planned to obtain funds to pay for anything like the Africa Relief program, Shrubb replied, "I intend to perform Voodoo. Thereby our children will not inherit the evils of our profligacy."
Shrubb next moved onto the most pressing matter regarding the handling of Osama Bin Lassie and the anticipated invasion of Catalina, suspected of harboring terriers and assembling secret weapons of mass destruction, such as the infamous Poodle Stinkbomb. Many have queried Shrubb over this matter in the past few months, demanding better proof that Catalina Island, a place better known for singles flings and orgies than poison gas, is secretly building an armory of forbidden weapons.
In answer, Shrubb replied succinctly: "I am not going to tell you. But my friend Arthur Ashe will in a couple of weeks. But not directly to you. Instead he will tell the ABAG Board of supervisors all about it and I expect you liberal press types will hop all over it like fleas."
At this point, Shrubb, who had had a bit too much of the MD20/20, fell over backwards and the ending of the affair was not pretty.
ABAG is the Associated Bay Area Governments, a consortium of members from various county and municipal entities around SF Bay.
REQUISCAT IN PACEM
To die at any time is a hard thing and to die coming home from victory in dubious battle or success in great enterprise is hard indeed. Let it be known also that if one passes while engaged in the work of dreams that extend the boundaries of what we as a species had first set for us, then those noble few earn a special apotheosis.
NOW STOP THAT!
An Island resident investigated her own tool-shed one day to find a bag containing a Tec-9 assault pistol, ammunition, a ski mask and gloves. In another incident a member of the Island Dog Walker's association discovered a pistol underneath some bushes. All credit to the Weimariner is given. And in yet another case, a curious boy fished a marvelous toy from the shores abutting the Harbor Bay Bridge: another pistol. But since no traffic laws were broken, no arrests have been made. Although the tool-shed owner is being watched carefully for deviations from the Vegetable Code.
In further reports from the field, the "Stealth Turn" appears to be developing momentum as a Movement.
We previously reported that the fireworks observed on Saturday last were Raiders-related celebrations, but we were wrong. The sudden outburst last Saturday evening was part of a wake for the wife of the owner of the Encinal Yacht club. Some Residents were up in arms about the noise, but hell, any occasion is a grand occasion for decent fireworks. Even the 111th birthday for Bilbo Baggins.
LIKE THE WEATHER
This week, suddenly, we had the tule fogs come sweeping in, leaving behind crystal-clear skies but oddly cool sunshine. There is a ring of kingsfoil about the old statue's head and the tomatoes are coming back after surviving the winter. It appears that a change in seasons is in the offing. Once again the old king's statue is crowned, albeit with flowers. Bush has not yet invaded like a simpleton from another age and so it is possible that truth, justice and beauty will prevail. One can only hope.
A PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
Recently we heard through one of our newsletters about a special take on the flap over Napster-like downloading of music and the bootlegging of music CD's. Janice Ian, songwriter and performing artist wrote an article, a very angry article on the subject with a surprising viewpoint that we feel it is our duty to share with you. Regardless of your stance on her music and song-writing abilities, this article should be read by everyone with industry involvement. The hyperlink is provided below:
As an aside to her statement about use of blank CD's, let me say that I go through about 500 of the puppies each year, with about 10 or so devoted to music. Music I have already bought and paid for in a legitimate establishment. The rest are used purely for file backups.
Here on the Island local artists Jim and Sue are not concerned with digital piracy. Jim makes his work out of hundred-pound hunks of ship-iron and railroad ties and pity the fool that tries to make a copy out of the result. Sue does felting -- which does not involve hamsters or acts of deviancy, but soft cloth -- and so is impermeable to any of the flack. As for Harlan, the madman of Lincoln Street, he welcomes any digital photography of his mutating works that hang outside his house, for anyone who takes the trouble to capture his words in Arabic, Hebrew and English must surely have an inkling of just what the devil it all means.
Meanwhile the kites are flying down on the strand beneath clear blue skies on a jolly Sunday afternoon. And some are surely listening to music while digesting a fine picnic BBQ, for we like music and art. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 26, 2003
THE RAIDER NATION DOES NOT REJOICE
As of this writing the streets of Oaktown remain unearthly silent after the Super Bowl of Soup. The Silver and Black have not prevailed against the Buccaneers of Florida and sad is the wailing in Gilead. Across the street here the various BBQ and celebrations have fallen silent in the pall of defeat There is no joy in Mudville tonight and there is no raucous shouting from the house next of doors as was wont in times of earnest travail in hope.
As a prelude, we were launched from our positions by the sonic boom of preliminary celebration last night.
Unfortunately, the high hopes and spirits did not bear fruit in victory and the Buccaneers, captained by former Raiders coach Gruden, won the field. Raider mistakes in the first quarter piled up one after another, providing Tampa Bay with two interceptions, four major penalties and an anemic 48 yards to Tampa's 140 on offense. At one point, an announcer declared, "It's almost as if the Bucs know exactly what Oakland is going to do on each play." Which is probably true enough, as the coach for the opposition had been coach for Oakland for many years before moving to Tampa. There is no joy in Mudville tonight.
A TREE JUMPED IN FRONT OF ME, OFFICER
Perambulators and Flivver-operators be notified: The annual meeting of the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Organization for the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled takes place at the end of this month, as usual, at the Holiday Inn, the Marriott and the Hilton. The three venue situation occurs because not all the participants can ever manage to be in the same place at the same time, and many have been known to wander the streets for days, communicating with the seminars via cell phone and closed circuit TV. This year's main topic will be The Stealth Turn: How to change directions radically with out prior informing of anyone around you.
As a special treat, Jonathan Adams, the actor who portrayed Dr. Everett Scott in the Rocky Horror Picture Show, will perform "The Stealth Turn Slide" on opening night.
Its just a jump to the left
Move your Hips side to side
Stay away from the Turn Signal!
Let's do the Stealth Turn Again!
Um, well, you get the idea. This area hosts some of the most notorious practitioners of this remarkable display of driving pyrotechnics. Not a sunny day goes by without some fellow shifting to the far right lane before suddenly leaping across three lanes of traffic to dart left. Gets your blood going, it does.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Old Harlan has outdone himself this time. On plain brown wrapper paper he has hung a sign outside his house with an exhortation in Hebrew to
Next to that is the usual butcher-block paper sign with a sequence of six arrows pointing up at the single talismanic word
Yeshua? Chihuahua? More than a coincidence? There are stranger things on this earth, my dear boy than you have ever dreamed of, if we may be so ungrammatical.
That's the way it is on this enchanted Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 19, 2003
Apologies for last week's incorrect date. The responsible parties have been caught and punished.
JOY IN MUDVILLE
They were rocking in the Projects and howling from a hundred-thousand sofas in front of the TV as long-struggling underdogs, the Oakland Raiders, finally smashed down the last fence in the path towards the Superbowl. Tennessee never had a chance in the infamous Black Hole as the ball was repeatedly stripped from their quarterback while Oakland repeatedly took to the air, punching through passes like the other side was not even there. Afterwards, there were trucks and vans fluttering the team emblem all over Alameda County.
Afterwards,on a ride down to Milpitas, caught sight of a huge broad-backed man riding a Harley sporting about a thousand dollars worth of airbrush artwork featuring the game of football - done in silver and black of course -- and sporting custom metal filigree on the panniers worked into the shape of the name of the team. And the team again appearing stitched into the back of his leather jacket. Raiders fans are like no other.
Congratulations to the Silver and Black.
THE MADMAN OF LINCOLN STREET
Down by Harlan's place, he has replaced the usual sign with a black baby's carriage. Must mean something.
IMAGINE THERE WERE NO COUNTRIES
Wonder if you can. Sunday, all across the USA, hundreds of thousands of Americans from all walks of life, all political parties, all economic strata, gathered in the Nation's largest cities to protest the current path to world war in the Middle East. Even as Bushy, Baggot and Green ship another 37,000 troops to swell the powderkeg there -- further provoking already hot-tempered and unreasonable parties -- the demands grow louder to allow the UN inspectors to accomplish their mission in peace.
In San Francisco, well over 350,000 protesters gathered to insist that International Law be adhered to at all points. Moveon.org has collected well over 500,000 signatures to a petition to Bush and Co. that they allow the UN inspections to work, while also taking out full page ads in the New York Times and the Washington Post. Many news agencies inexplicably downplayed the protests, reporting attendance at a tenth of actual persons.
In Washington, all persons, of all stripes, reported the Mall was "filled", but some reported only 10,000 appearing, which -- in our experience, is wildly off the mark by about 500,000 -- as we have personally observed the Mall only half-filled at some 300,000 persons. That means that the Mall protest had to have included, easily, some 500,000 persons, voters, whatever.
Here is a personal report from a roving correspondent:
I just got off the 24 hr. bus-ride from the rally in D.C. and there were people as far as I could see filling and overflowing out of the Mall. In your editorial you mentioned that the SF paper said that there were only 50,000 people there. Well, papers around the nation are saying that there were "tens of thousands" in D.C., even though in truth, it was more like 700,000 (Oh, and the majority of newspapers got their information from one of the anonymous machine gun and riot stick wielding paramilitary officers that were giving the COMPLETELY peaceful protesters the evil eye and batting their batons in their hands when we so much as went on the street curb 20 feet away from them).
You can reach me with any comments about the D.C. March, the San Francisco March, or any of the 30+ other pre-emptive peace marches across the globe at firstname.lastname@example.org
And here is another report:
I wish you could have been in two places at once! We needed pictures of the DC rally and march so that the Associated Press couldn't willfully and maliciously underestimate the crowd. There were 4-500,000 in DC, not the "tens of thousands" reported in my local rag. A helicopter hovered over the march the entire time - there are aerial photos, but the mainstream press doesn't want us to see them. Good work, Lisa!
Posted by: David Lynch on January 20, 2003 04:23 PM
We obtained footage shot of the SF gathering, but the file was 22mb in size, and thus too large to post here. You can view the file yourself if you go to
Lisa posted this footage in response to the paucity of coverage from "official" news networks.
ONE, IN THE NAME OF LOVE
Monday is Martin Luther King Day. And to this end I have little in my poor experience to add. I can say that, of 1,500 students in my graduating high school class, only two persons invited me into their homes to meet their mothers and see their personal rooms. Both were African Americans. The first man, and I say he was a man in spite of his age because in all aspects he was truly a man among boys, was Eric. We were team-members on the cross-country/track teams, and competed many times in the 800 meters, in which he invariably blew off my doors, with a time of 1:52. On a pre-race jog, one of those day-before-workouts, we jogged on over to his home, where I met his mother and was offered a glass of water in the kitchen. I can remember her comment to this day, "So it looks just so plain: like any other kitchen." Of course she was well aware that this was a rare and exotic experience: wow, a white boy in a black family's kitchen.
The memory still can bring tears this many years into the future, even now.
I can remember the five-foot high poster of Malcolm on Eric's wall. I asked who he was and Eric told me, but much later. My education took place under the bleachers of the gym, where I learned about Malcolm X and Franz Fanon and many others and there it was began my departure from the sham of cultural life that was Virginia and most of America.
For my departure, my payment was fortunately very mild. On the high school football field I defended my friend in word and otherwise and was immediately surrounded by about twelve angry Southern whiteboys and -- in hindsight -- barely escaped with my life. About the most they did was take an old hat I used while running and excrete on it as such animals are known to do before trying to return it under the irate auspices of the Administration. Crosses were burned on our lawn -- and I can remember quite well the admonition to STAY DOWN BEFORE THE WINDOWSILL UNTIL THEY GONE! Something I would encounter later, again, when my room-mate outed himself at college.
Burning crosses. Bricks through the window tied to angry notes. Excrement left on the doorstep. These things are real and part of my own history and that of others and still does not cover not nearly the whole of the rabid hatred and horror that went before.
In a letter from a friend I read that Eric was shot while covering a Panther rally in DC, and thus ended what could have been a life-long association. In a visit back to this cursed region, in the company of a woman of color, I was advised, "You best not think about buyin' a house around here." Well, that's okay. I don't much like you and you don't much like me and good riddance. I will never go back.
When I think of King, I think of a tremendously courageous man who found himself thrust into the spotlight against his will by pursuing the solid thrust of his faith and belief. He was a man of the Cloth, primarily, and only by default an unwilling revolutionary. My god, if you will not worship god, will you please learn to live among one another? And if you really read the bible, then you have no damn excuse.
Eric said so.
On the Island, we have a mixed bag of people who all live here because they don't like the noise and nervous jumping up and down of the society at large. It's what we have in common. King helped this Island become what it is in a big way and we are all grateful for that. There is no other choice: we must learn to live together or we will all die together.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 12, 2003
THE TWO TOWERS
Just caught the second installment of The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers with the Significant Other and can say the company has produced another triumph, although with some puzzling omissions.
By now, you should have read or re-read the whole thing and it seems that Wingnut and company have this in mind, for, while remaining absolutely true to the look and feel and ideological center of Tolkein's masterpiece, some scenes felt -- even in a three hour movie -- a bit cursory. But why pick nits on what has turned out to be a fabulous project.
Tolkein based his Trilogy+1 (The Hobbit) on the hodgepodge of Icelandic Veddas, Teutonic and Norse Sagas all wrapped up in Old English folktales and pre-English epics of the British Isles. His theme, point and thrust throughout - while steadfastly avoiding charges of allegory (political or otherwise) remained a lamentation for the loss of pre-industrial culture in the English countryside, with its elevation of the natural world in everyday life. Simple as that.
Of course suffering through all the issues of World War II with the London Blitz driving the old linguist from home did add some poignancy and he must have seen the mechanized warfare of the Nazis as one prime example of forces against nature in service of the Machine. But to the end of his days, he insisted on no parallels, holding only to his rather limited point. And for all that, he still came a cropper with one hell of an epic.
Some people have commented about the filmed Two Towers that there is an awful lot of warmongering and killing. Well, hell yes. That's what the Icelandic Veddas were all about. And the truth is that the alternative title for the epic is, if you recall, "An Account of the War of the Rings." As put by a conversation in the last 40 minutes between Theodred and Aragorn, the King of the Rohirrim laments, "That I should come to this at the end of my days! I do not wish for this war at all!" Aragorn retorts, "Well war is upon you whether you wish for it or not and you must fight now."
It may be that the dream sequences and flashbacks highlighting the love between Aragorn and Arwen provide the counterbalance of beauty and nature against the images of war and perversion assaulting us practically from the very first ten seconds of the movie. In a truly bizarre departure from the book, Aragorn is shown being dragged off of a steep cliff by a Warg (mutant wolf). To all appearances, he has died and his companions trudge off to Helm's Deep without him. Then ensues the odd dream sequences when Arwen appears to kiss him and breath life back into his body -- alleviated somewhat by his wakening beside the riverbanks to find that not Arwen, but his horse is the one nuzzling him so romantically.
The other major departure from the book involves the whole sequence with Faramir's enticement by the Ring. In the movie, he takes the hobbits and Gollum -- who is a masterpiece of work down to every gesture and facial nuance in the film -- to what seems to be Osgiliath at the fords of Anduin, intending to haul his great prize back to Gondor. The place is under the attack described in Book III, but no matter. A Ringwraith appears riding the "naked worm-like thing" that also was described vividly in Book III and appears moments from seizing Frodo or the Ring or both when arrows shot by men of Gondor drive off the flying worm and good old Sam Gamgee does a neat flying tackle on Frodo to take him from the parapet. Sam then shouts at Faramir the truth about his brother -- that he died treacherously attempting to take the ring -- and this one-liner is enough for Faramir to simply let the hobbits go. The hobbits book out of there (how they managed that while apparently on the wrong side of the ford is another nit) and the movie ends.
What? Well You-Know-Who got left out. Plus a good forty pages of the most spell-binding events in the Trilogy. The only consolation is Gollum's little speech to himself behind a tree while leading the Hobbits to Cirith Ungol: "Oh we hates them nasssty hobbittsss! Yessss. SHE will take care of them! We'll let HER do it. And when they're dead, we'll take IT back!" The presentation of Shelob is just too much an FX man's wet dream opportunity to cut her out, so we expect Her Highness will have top billing in Part III.
Minor omissions include: no Huorns at Helm's Deep, no eagles (although we can perhaps forgive this as a deliberate avoidance of political overtones), and no reference to reforging the Sword of Elendil. Also omitted, understandably so, were the numerous songs, puzzle rhymes and lays composed by linguist Tolkein which formed so much of a musical background to the books. Including these would have been a major distraction. There is one nice inclusion in the film when Gollum is happily fishing in the pool at Emyn Muil and sings a little nonsense song to himself with comic effect.
One other major omission: we leave the victors at Helm's Deep, leaning on their spears and that's it for Gandalf and Co. Merry and Pippin are still astride Treebeard -- quite literally in the old boy's hair -- just as the dam at the Entwash breaks in the middle of what is a full on pitched battle outside Orthanc. The resulting tidal wave smashes up everything most picturesquely, but still is flowing in at fade out and the Ents are still fighting a fair number of orcs. The whole Flotsam and Jetsam sequence has yet to happen as well as the breaking of Saruman's staff, plus the missing Palantir that Merry just by a hair's breadth avoids blowing the whole enterprise on when he -- alone of all the Company -- confronts Sauron eye to eye, so to speak. Well, we have heard that the editors are looking at a four hour cut for Film III and no wonder.
No matter. The three hours of the Two Towers passed like a lightening bolt, with much of the action galloping along at a brisk pace, and if film #3 goes for 5 hours, I'll still stand in line for tickets. I can't wait I can't wait I can't wait. But we all must. Release is slated for December 2003.
ORCS ATTACKING HELM'S DEEP
TRIUMPH OF ARTISTIC INGENUITY: SMEAGOL/GOLLUM
THAT 'OLE SILVER AND BLACK MAGIC
Just watched the 9'ers give it up in a last minute heartbreaker against Tampa, meaning there will be no Battle of the Bay this year at the Stupor Bowl. SF gave up the ball on an interception which took the Tampa man into the endzone. The goal was reversed due to an extremely unnecessary shove to the back of a 49er from an overeager Tampa blocker. Given possession at the far 30th, Tampa actually got shoved backwards within two minutes for the 49ers to regain the ball. They had two chances for two passes into the endzone --both incomplete -- before Father Time called for the End on the 10 yard line. Ouch.
Heard through the grapevine the Silver and Black stomped all over the Jets today in a 30-10 game many had predicted to be a too-close-to-call kinda thing. The Raiders next face Tennessee at home, whom they last humiliated with a 52-25 score on their own turf. There is joy on this side of Mudville tonight.
Just over the wire: the Harlem Globetrotters steam into town to cover the end of January in SJ, SF Cow Palace and the Oakland Arena. Now that's entertainment. Besides, the Warriors get real mad when we laugh at 'em.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR RETURNS
And another curious pair with them: Joseph Reddeford Walker and Charles C. Fremont.
Now, for this goback, we return to the revolutionary days of California in the year 1845. But as a prelude for this year, let us examine Mr. Walker and Mr. Fremont. J.R. Walker, born in Knoxville, Tennessee about 1798 lived most of his life on the Missouri frontier. Apparently, he never could hold a steady job, although he did serve as a capable sheriff for a time. For self-support, he basically farmed himself out as a spy for various quasi-military exploration parties over several years, becoming in the process both knowledgeable about the Sierra and ruthlessly efficient in his response to human obstacles, which sometimes included indigenous peoples. He is credited with being the first white man to view Yosemite Valley and the first to observe the immense Sequoia trees.
Long after various members of Congress had decided they wanted the California lands for America, Walker led at least two expeditions over the Sierra, ostensibly to map the frontier, but actually to map the coastal fortifications some fifty miles further west. Which he did capably and well. A number of localities are named after him, including a mountain pass, a river, a town, and a county. He stood at least six foot eight inches tall and terrified everyone who met him.
Except for Fremont, another thoroughgoing careerist. Fremont, now, was a college drop-out, and an adventurer in all senses of the term. He latched upon one Jessie Benton, daughter of Senator Hart Benton, was refused association by the honorable Senator, and then promptly eloped with the dame who met all of fifteen years of age. Senator Benton responded quite honorably in further degree: He sent Fremont on all sorts of Expeditions to get him as far from his pure daughter as he could so as to make her a decent and marriageable widow. Fremont did not die, contrary to expectations, but ascended several peaks, which were subsequently named after him, crossed the Sierra in the dead of winter with no guide, reducing his men to skeletons and 30 horses to hamburger, and created any number of reports that delighted the fellows in Congress who had avaricious intentions upon California. Astonishingly, they promoted the fellow. Then sent him back. To explore what was really sovereign territory of Mexico.
About this time, the local government had gotten really sick of people just wandering over the hills and talking up space. Mexico had long since given up any pretence of defending or providing for Alta California, so a number of local revolutions sort of sputtered and died. The typical California revolution went like this: the two primary combatants gathered formidable armed forces and set down to face one another. Then they discussed who would have won had they actually fought, and then, agreements in hand, separated and behaved as if an actual war had been conducted but without firing a shot. It was a far more reasonable situation than anyone has ever been able to come up with then, or since.
Hence it was that in 1844, Walker found himself leading Fremont over the passes. Oddly enough, Fremont requested permission to enter from General Castro, which, of course, was promptly refused to him and his army of about a hundred soldiers on behalf of Mexico. Fremont, typically, refused the refusal and setup a fort on Hawks Peak near Monterey. Castro then marched on Fremont with a force of some several thousand and, true to the usual California standards, sent messengers offering cessation of hostilities and such. Fremont, expecting him and his men to be slaughtered to the last man, had decamped north. Where he ran into messengers from Washington urging him to head south again. What is a careerist to do? He headed south and setup another fort, safely distant from Monterey, and this time settlers from the region flocked to his camp, swelling his army by hundreds. Well now, well now.
In June of 1846 a group of drunk fellers "captured" the town of Sonoma and raised the "Bear flag" of the California Republic. Yet another Revolution and another announcement of independence. They put old General Mariano Vallejo in prison in his basement until he made it clear that he would not feed the revolutionaries until they let him go, so then they let him out again. Meanwhile Kearny and Sloat were doing the actual work of conquering California by taking control of the seaports.
Down in Los Angeles, the ever practical Pio Pico fought the only battle against the Americans and trounced them thoroughly with a troop of horsemen armed only with lances. He then had to suffer the indignity of surrendering to those whom he had just defeated in battle. Then, as now, Southern California did things its own way, quite apart from how the North went about business.
How did Oog and Aag come to play in all this? Well, it was none other than Festus Jacinto Xanthippe Julio McPherson DeOog who negotiated the little-known "supper terms" of the Bear Flag Rebellion in which General Vallejo was freed from his cellar so that the 90 rebels could get a decent meal of rice and beans and thereby provided the path towards formation of the California Battalion.
As for Aag, his descendent, one Harvey Carlos Castile Henderson McAag, facilitated the formation and conduct of the Mormon Battalion, which arrived mistakenly in San Francisco Bay, expecting to find the New Jerusalem. The presence of all these armed fellows so impressed the locals that capitulation was made an easy matter without firing a shot -- and McAag ensured this by issuing muskets that could not fire for the pins had been long rusted shut. The Mormon Battalion never saw action -- fortunately so as their guns could not fire and they all eventually wandered eastwards to Utah, where B. Young had parked himself beside a lake, having determined that anyone further west had to be even more crazy than he was -- and encountering such people would not be to his liking.
McAag eventually formed a company that made shovels for miners and made thereby a killing. DeOog founded a chain of restaurants based in miner's tents called Taco Swill. The name apparently never caught on. Walker eventually retired to an estate in what is now Contra Costa County. Fremont continued to act like an idiot, becoming the State's first Senator, then conducting more expeditions filled with unnecessary hardship and animal cruelty, then losing a fortune from gold diggings by investing in railroads, fighting in the Civil War, issuing the first Emancipation of the Slaves Decree (then denounced by Lincoln), then performing his most singular accomplishment in refusing to run for President, "because it would harm the GOP", before becoming Governor of the State of Arizona. Finally, he settled, as all fools and madmen seem to do, in California, where he lived until his death in 1890.
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN, FALLING LIKE A MELODY
After a brief respite of intermittent sun and cloud-wracked skies, rain is once again sussurating on the window ledge and making my 3-season tomatoes retreat into themselves with Huorn-like murmurs. Listening to Nora Jones on the radio: its one of those moody, mid-winter evenings. The Huorns were the talking trees herded by the Ents in Tolkein's book -- there are none in the movie, but its a Concept.
Sometimes it seems, with the misty rain falling, that this place is like Lothlorian, a place out of time and separate from the concerns of the outside world. The people seem oddly innocent, devoid of guile and preserved from the troubles and nervous jumping up and down of the Outside World. Sometimes I fear for these people, for they seem too gentle to meet the hardness of the world I have seen. But in other imaginings, they seem more like the hobbit-folk: tough and with unexpected internal resources.
Outside, the rain falls with no other comment to my musings, the musings of an old man, grown old without the magic of magician to benefit him or his visions.
Against the piers, the lapping of the water laps as it has against piers for centuries. The rain falls as it always has against the window panes. Some things have not changed.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 5, 2002
PRELIMINARY INVOCATION AND APOLOGIA
Welcome new reader and old friends. This weekly is dedicated to Northern California culture and life as well as California History in general. What is the "Island" some have asked? Well, we reside here in a little way-back community possessed of much small-town atmosphere on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, a curious bundle of anachronisms hearkening to a previous, more uncluttered age of the mind, yet surrounded by the ultra-modern devices, problems, noise and nervous jumping up and down of a metropolis that is now home to well over eight million people.
We have a new Mayor, named Beverly, and a City Hall that somehow lost its bell tower almost a century ago. A council member still keeps the bell in his garage, but if anyone should note an errant bell tower, please do inform us.
We have a Kiwanis, a Boy Scout troop, a Girls Club, a powerful Elks club and a Masonic Lodge, so you can see we are well-equipped. Needless to say, all of our children are above average in something.
In addition to the usual accoutrements of small towns, we have a perfectly marvelous Police Force, which, although it has some severe problems catching robbers, preventing murder and arson, assault and pistol-whipping, car theft, and public inanity, nevertheless is a formidable traffic enforcement agency with a deserved reputation.
It may be that events that happen in microcosm on this Island reflect events in the world at large, such as the terrible attempted hijacking of City Hall by a group of Terriers, however we leave such conclusions to the reader, for we merely report the facts. With a bit of embroidery. But we swear, some events, such as Bobo Tush's State of the Onion Address on top of the dumpster was not made up in the slightest.
As our last function, we report on the media and its foibles as well as successes, few they may be. In keeping with tradition, and with earnest entreaties from our attorney, we seldom report actual names, feeling that such organs as the SF Bleakly, SF Curmudgeon, SF Exasperator, and The Comical can fully trumpet their own foolishness in the usual manner. We have noted that the new format for the East Bay Excess, with its lurid covers, its rambling, verbose articles no one reads, its impotent and useless Calendar, basically sucks. We are masters of the obvious.
So there you have it. Reportage with a bit of humor and maybe some wit, if we are lucky, appearing fresh each week. Because that's the way we like it on the Island.
ROCK THE CASBAH
By now, everyone knows that Joe Strummer, founder of the Clash, passed away a week ago. Born in 1952 in Ankara, Turkey as John Mellor to a British Diplomat, he went on to attend the Center School of Art - an experience that apparently displeased him no end. He formed a little pub-rock band after busking in the London Underground for several years. In the mid-seventies, after watching a Sex Pistols show, he joined with Mick Jones to form the Clash, which went on to perform heavily punk-infused rock with a strong bent to the Left in politics and with no apologies whatsoever. When Jones left the Clash in 1983, the band lost most of its drive and subsequently dissolved. He acted in a number of films in the mid to late eighties. Strummer then formed the Mescaleros and achieved some success, but he is best remembered for the strong political statements made by the albums London Calling and Sandanista!
THE NEW YEAR AT YOSHIS
The Significant Other and I hopped over the water to Oaktown to watch Taj Mahal usher in the new year at Yoshi's Jazz club. The venue had been sold out within days of its announcement in early December, and as the ticket grants you only general admission, we stood in a long line at six pm to reserve seats for the first set. beginning at nine. Got our seats and then headed across the square to dine at Kinkaids with a view over the water. the entire Square was hopping with packed houses in all restaurants and we got sat in the bar area -- which still was not too shabby as we had those fifteen-foot high windows looking out on the marina.
Hustled on back to take our seats and watch a real master of the Blues take the stage. But not before a representative handed Taj the Congressional Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement. This show was also broadcast live on the KPFA Coast to Coast network, so a special excitement filled the air.
Mahal came out dressed in a black baseball cap, trademark shades, colorful Nigerian/Camaroons shirt and baggy pants. His ax throughout the first set was a custom Gibson f-hole archtop semi-hollow body with a jet black finish and fingerboard of what looked like ebony inlaid with mother-of-pearl. If you didn't understand his position from this, the large silver medallion of Africa that hung about his neck would cinch the look.
But man, did that man play. Sixty years old, from Springfield Mass., born of a Jamaican father and Afro-American mother, Taj shook and shimmied and pranced like a boy half his age, getting the audience to shout, clap and stomp along with him after a cool reception. Moving easily across the vast breadth of his musical encyclopedia, he played regga, ska, funk, and old school blues, starting with a definitive Wes Montgomery jazz sound. Mahal, who plays over 20 instruments is entirely self-taught, but you would think he graduated from the Conservatore du Paris, such was the extent of his musical knowledge.
With over 32 albums to his credit, playing over 200 dates a year, Grammy-winner and frequently honored, the man can play. He took the old chestnut, "Staggerlee", and turned it into a Django Reinhart groove with not a hitch. For the second set, he moved from the cooler jazz style to a more funked-up blues set with nods to Chicago. Playing a blond ESS-335 styled f-hole guitar similar to the black one, he proceeded to rock the joint, not forgetting to remind the people, characteristically, that this music comes from a huge world that includes the Caribbean, Central and South America and Africa -- a world that most Americans appear dreadfully ignorant of to their peril.
"Man, just look at your breakfast table in the mornin'," he said. "You got coffee from Ecuador, pineapple from the Central Pacific, bananas from Costa Rica and nuts from Nigeria. Wake up!"
He then launched into a gumboots thing called "Where ya gonna run to?"
Of course, preaching to the mixed cultural crowd at Yoshi's was hardly necessary, as the room was filled with people from all those places and more -- one reason Taj likes to come play the East Bay.
THE ART WALL AT LINCOLN
The feller we talked about last year, who has been putting up mysterious signs outside of his Victorian on the corner of the main cross-island artery is back again with more revisions. He has added some Arabic script to the picket fence -- rather tasteful use of blue and white for some fifteen feet or so -- and some Hebrew, painted on what looks like old grocery bags. In the spot of Honor appears this inscrutable message:
Some people celebrate the New Year by eating and drinking too much. This fellow is quite different, it is clear.
Yes, we are a little different on the Island. A little laid-back, a little small-townish, a little strange, and a little wonderful. (pat, pat, pat on the back). But that's the way we like it here on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 29, 2002
DO NOT GO GENTLY
Capping an already excremental year, we received with sadness news last week of the passing of Stan Rice, accoladed poet, husband to Ann Rice, and former mentor at San Francisco State University to the Creative Writing Department. He was 60.
Born in Dallas, Stan met his wife to be in a high school journalism class. Together, they attended SFSU in 1961, where Stan later became Chair of the department of Creative Writing. Mr. Rice became an accomplished painter, but refused to sell his work in spite of pleas from Victoria Wilson of his publishing house, Alfred Knopf. Rice's seven poetry collections attracted numerous honors, including the Edgar Allan Poe Award of the Academy of American Poets, the Joseph Henry Jackson Award and a writing fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is survived by Ann Rice and son Christopher, who live in New Orleans, the city which has provided the backdrop for many of Ann's vampire novels as well as her highly praised Feast of All Saints.
DAY OF THE LOCUSTS
More like entire year of locusts, it was. The seasonal retrospectives are upon us like a brood of harpies with hissing hair of head-snakes, descending from every newspaper and magazine with talons to remind us of the boiling venality and slavering viciousness that has infected our putrid corporate boardrooms like some Eisenstein nightmare of Mephistopheles appearing before 40 to 50 Faustus wannabes, crawling with maggots over rancid flesh.
Excessive language, you say? Hell, these b****ds were not only thoroughly evil, they were goddamn inept to boot. In corporate America you can forgive cruelty with ease, but never, never, never with another nine-Lear-like nevers, can you forgive stupidity, ineptitude, and bumbling f***ups. Remember, Waksal (Imclone), Rigas (Adelphia), Kozlowski (Tyco) and Fastow (Enron) not only looted their companies of millions, not only got caught, but also destroyed the companies they robbed by acting more idiotic than any droolin half-wit fool of a backwater Czchekoslovakian village riding a mule to town, as well as tanking the jobs of some half a million Americans in the process while sending their families into purdah.
Hey, if you want to feel better about yourself, just yell at Berardino or Duncan, former CEO and auditor for the once prestigious Arthur Andersen, "Hey dumb sh*t!", knowing you are not half wrong.
Company after company, from E-trade to General Electric and even Martha Stewart , the revelations of corruption began to resemble more the unearthing of an undisclosed burial ground. Bernard Ebbers stood abashed before the People in court, manacled like common thief as his underlings plead guilty to fraud one after another in the face of the largest bankruptcy in history when Worldcom went under. It's said that his various mistresses ran out into the street naked and screaming at the news and videos of humans copulating with pigs found in Kozlowski's briefcase made his AA shoot himself -- but, of course, even this sordid act was botched beyond belief, for the bullet only broke his spine and then lodged in the posterior of Elias Cortez, appearing before the court in the next room for brokering slimy deals between Oracle and the State of California. Which is getting mightily pissed at being jerked around by power companies and the like.
During the Reagan-Bush Depression, the cronies of the Power Elite looted the public treasury with aplomb, shocking even the most crusty Conservative and plunging the Nation deep into economic pathos, but as a consequence, sharp laws and sharp weapons to keep watch over this sort of bad behavior developed behind the scenes. Now that Bushy is back in town with the same crowd of ne'er-do-wells and convicted criminals, many in the Power Elite imagined that the Good Old Days were back. Like big fat trout they chomped down on that juicy worm that looked so defenseless. But the People had learned once before about this kind of thing. We will give you leeway to get the job done, but if you stray, we gonna smack you down. Well, Martha Stewart strayed and now Martha decorates her grey little cell in Ossining, New York. Yes sir. Do the crime, you do the time.
DON'T LOOK BACK
Last feller I heard say that was John Lee before he passed away. In an interview, Mr. Hooker said, "Some people see me out and they say, "John Lee, what you doing in a place like this?' Well, I just tell 'em, I am just like you. I ain't gonna sit at home and dream away the time thinking about the good old days. I wanna get out and have some fun! Get out and see the people and hear some good-old, down-home Blues . . . ".
Here on the Island, we are all looking forward now. We have mourned the passing of Mayor Ralph, dead by his own hand in September, and we remembered those lost 9/11 by displaying the world's largest American flag at the Point, held aloft by 5,000 volunteers, but we also celebrate the newly elected Mayor Beverly and the ground-breaking for a new cell-tower to improved the execrable cell-phone reception. We lost Mr. Island, Andy Pagano, in May, but not before I scored a couple videos made by the avid history buff and film collector, which include footage of the building of the Bay Bridge. And our resident Poet, Mary Rudge was proclaimed Poet Laureate at the last City Council Meeting for the year. It's as if you were on a Styrofoam board down by the Beach, Playland or whatever. Floating in the ocean. A wave comes up, pushes you away from the things you were playing with, and, suddenly, you are scooting forward on this crest that looks so big to you while your parents are lying out there on the sun-backed sand, laughing at some joke a neighbor has told. "And then she said, "It fell up!" All the laughter and there you are, shooting forward with tremendous speed, the speed of time, in fact, among the laughter and you want to scream out, "I am going forward! Without stopping!" And of course. Of course, they will say, they will all say, "Of course you are going forward."
"History is a rubbish heap. And there is this Angel. Who is always trying to go back and fix things. But a storm keeps blowing her backwards. This storm is called Progress."Walter Benjamin
ON THE BEACH
But on the other hand, the Raiders look really good this year. Down by the strand, El Nino has taken a break from pounding the shore with wind and rain. A stubborn cold has set in and everybody seems to have taken on the flu. It's windbreaker and sweater weather here while the lights of Babylon twinkle over the water. Another year has passed and we are still here. In a couple days we will go through the motions of pushing this very bad year out and ushering in new hope. Hope for peace. Hope for all the unemployed. Hope that some miracle will happen and things will get better. And they will get better.
The Ashcrofts and Bushes of the world are temporary blips in the radar that maps the great wave we ride forward. There will always be an Ebbers acting like a naughty little boy with his hand caught in the cookie jar. That's just the way it is. We do not live our lives with microscopes on each life to make sure each "behaves" because we know that is wrong. And furthermore, rather stupid. Inevitably, some misbehave. That is when we stop them, arrest them, try them in court and then throw them in jail and these steps in this order are important.
They are sort of constitutional. Without them, we might as well hand it all over to the wild-eyed Islamic Fundamentalists.
Meanwhile, I keep my radio tuned to the blues, for the blues is where I am from, if you care to know, and where I care to be. All subjective loci with preconceptions can subject themselves to this. And this time is surely the time of the Blues, more than any other. Across the dark strand the radio belts out the sounds of Eric Clapton. "Are you gonna help me? Are you gonna let me down?... Help me up. Don't you let me down. I'm gonna wake up in heaven -- not the cold cold ground."
Another Colt 45 and I think I will be over the edge. Have a great week . That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great year.
FOR PREVIOUS MONTHS AND YEARS GOTO THE ARCHIVE BELOW