Island Life 2003
Welcome to the Year 2003. This Page covers the last 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 Archives to visit other years.
DECEMBER 28, 2003
A HOLLY JOLLY
Some of you may have noticed that the sixth day of Hanukkah and the first day of Xmas happened this week. I know just about everybody between the ages of 4 and 16 sure noticed. There was all sorts of scampering and jumping up and down and ribbons flying and squeals of glee all over the Island in the middle of the week. And so what if the boxes were fewer, matchbooks played on the dreidels instead of pennies, and the gee-gaws less shiny than in some other years. The stockings were still hung with care and the candles still twinkled just as bright, for it will be remembered in later days by the younger ones that "back then when we didn't have so much," the gatherings seemed better, warmer, more enjoyable than in the flush times.
Oh the cows have brain disease and they're closing the schools for lack of money and mudslides and rabid terriers on airplanes and jack frost is on the pumpkin and the whole world is going to hell in a hand-basket for sure. Well, as Aragorn would say, under different but similar circumstances we are sure, not today, not today. Today, humanity shines out, a pale and flickering victory in the darkness all around.
"And on the sixth day there was an end to fighting and there was no more war. They put down their weapons and entered the temple to pray and there discovered to their surprise the lantern remained lit and had stayed lighted the entire time although there had been barely enough oil for a single day. All who saw this were amazed and proclaimed this a miracle that the light of g-d had remained during the battle . . . ".
from Erinnerungen der Tzadikische Nebbish des Insels Mykonos
Because of the superior wisdom of the Islander, we do not depend upon PG&E with its flammable power stations, hence we confidently strung out our lights in secure knowledge that not one single penny of power went to line anything like the pockets of an Enron executive or a bloated Piggie bureaucrat. We had reindeer making ready for take-off . . .
We had entire houses draped with imaginative whimsy . . .
We had animatronic animals feeding in fields of light . . .
And even City Hall put on a "face" for the holidays . . .
It seemed every door had its own message.
No smugness here, Babylon. You too could take control over your own lights.
IF THE HOUSE IS A ROCKIN, DON'T BOTHER KNOCKIN
Aftershocks from the weeks 6.5 shaker keep rolling through, and almost certainly contributed to the mudslides in SoCal that really messed up one group's little religious retreat by killing about ten of the congregation. Up here, we all felt it pretty definitively as a short, sharp jolt, much like the pounding when Sean goes pounding down the back stairs at a gallop. We all laughed about it at the time; its those long, rumbling ones that start mild and then end up knocking your eyeballs around inside yer skull that we all dislike. Apparently, down south it was strong enough to toss a building onto a couple people with fatal results.
What a year. Nearly all of San Bernadino burns down, mudslides, privately funded governorship recall elections, earthquakes, and now we hear the 49ers are clear out of the running. Bummer, dude.
At least Cal is looking good. Go Bears!
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN
This is the last entry for the year 2003. Island Life has grown, in this edition, to some 342 single-spaced 8.5x11" printed pages for the year. Right now the rain is sifting down, getting set for another major blow-in. We have had non-stop rain for weeks with a couple dry days when the temps plummeted to frost-on-the-rooftops kind of weather, making us all wonder what they are doing to the heavens up there to make it so ornery. Now the warning bar is flashing on the com-pooper screen with a flashing red exclamation mark and all sorts of grumbling (my com-pooper is no ordinary appliance, I can assure you; it's so smart that pretty soon, it won't need me any more, like HAL in 2001).
Lookin' in here we see warnings of whoop-ass winds at 50mph developing tonight along with hella rain, although the reports are phrased somewhat differently. Earlier yesterday we watched the seabirds coming in for landings, which is something they don't hardly ever do unless a Big One is coming in from the North.
Now we can hear that midnight train go rattling down by the waterfront, while all the streets run wet and long in the dark under the falling drops. Its another winters night in the Bay Area. Even the foul-minded are tucking out of sight and looking for shelter on a night like this. We are kind of hoping the Fat Man who sits swaddled in miles of blankets over at Jack London has found a dry nook beside the Men's Room in the parking garage there. And Jackie Jack, our House Stray, has found a humongous SUV under which to huddle during the onslaught.
Right now, it has been uncannily warm, with a dense fog cloaking the hills, completely obscuring the golden towers of the Mormon Temple up on Grizzly Boulevard. The lights of houses on the slopes just march up a black wall and then vanish into a pale Other World. There is a cold breeze that has started blowing and you can hear the moan in the high trees beginning. The Old Man behind the house, a coastal Sequoia that has stood their probably since General Potrero first dipped his scarred hands into the San Francisco Bay, has started to move his fingers a little bit. Sometimes he likes to swing and dance in the roughest storms, for the roughest storms are nothing to what the Old Man has been through.
Many times I have seen the moon rise, accompanied by Venus, first among the stars and among the best and tried to capture on film or some other method the silhouette the Old Man makes in partnership with the Moon. Many times I have sat out there in the back in the pseudo-chaise lounge and talked with his shadow arising from among the lemon trees and fences beyond. Oh there's a few who would like to do away with the Old Man, just chop him down as an inconvenience and a possible danger. "Just look at him, all scraggly and broken. He could fall any day and crush a house or two. Better to end it all now." Well he may be a danger and he may be not. If he is, I still will be sorry to see him go for there where over 100 feet of tree fills the horizon, his absence would leave a hole in the sky. Imagine that: a century and more of tree leaving a hole in the sky.
The Old Man stands in someone else's backyard and his fate is held in other hands than mine. Perhaps they would enjoy having a large flag-tiled patio instead of this immense tree trunk, but it seems quite clear that they have tended the Old Man, shaved his dead branches and tried their best in their human way to buck up the old fellow and have no thoughts of the lower kind. We Islanders love trees. And if Treebeard would ever have found himself here, he would have been welcome, here especially, in a world that seems driven mad by some demonic power of destruction. On this Island, however, Love remains a virtue, raised above pragmatism, honor, patriotism, and all those lesser values that some confuse as being important. It took my Significant Other, Sharon, to point out this obvious value to me. And so, I dedicate this last column of the year to My Significant Other, Sharon. I can only hope that you who read this, also have someone who can remind you of what is really important when the world comes rushing in with all its winds of confusion.
The casements are rattling now. The big wind had begun. Time to get down. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great New Year.
DECEMBER 21, 2003
Rabbi Langer drove in on his one-and-only kosher Motorcycle to oversee the lighting of the Official City Menorah in Union Square Saturday, although the annual Hanukkah festival began officially by calendar Friday evening. Good thing somebody lit a candle for Babylon plunged into darkness around 6pm on Saturday, after a mothership power station caught fire, knocking out the lights to some 120,000 customers and throwing the entire City into a tizzy during the busiest shopping day of the year. Power stayed out well into Sunday morning, late, ensuring a major financial hit against the local retailers.
Understand that Babylon, for some reason, tossed down a measure only a year ago to free itself from the oppressive PG&E structure. Many shall be saying, "I told you so!" come Monday morning.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS
This night is the longest night of the year, the official start of Winter -- if the local weather has not reminded you of the fact as yet. Locally, we have had Michelangelo skies: the sort of skies that boil with gods and sun-gold among the massive clouds, while the rain has let up for today. Everyone today was scurrying about with packages and ribbons down at the Mall, and -- since Babylon has proved untrustworthy -- all up and down the Nimitz freeway, hatchbacks and sedans scuttled like bugs with firs and ornaments strapped to their backs in mossy abandon. Night falls and the steaming mugs come out behind the cozy windows of light and their is chatter and natter among the boxes and wreathes.
The flu season has done a major smackdown to all of us, and we are all slurping those zinc Hall's eucalyptus menthol whatevers like crazy while chicken soup is being gulped down by the gallon.
By late nightfall, the presents are all tucked away in the closet or the garage, the kids are all tucked into their beds or away on visitation, and the mugs have all gone cold by the cupboard. Stars begin firing off incendiary rounds and so begins this winter's solstice, the longest night of the year.
WALK THE DOG
The local political climate has gotten pug-ugly with sentiments running high against almost everything. A group has gotten together a petition to recall the entire City Council, and is aiming to replace the entire County Board, with a slate of contenders from the Island Animal Shelter, Canine Wing.
Clearly, the feelings of the common voter have turned against "business as usual", and have turned to the most extreme alternatives. This is hardly to wonder, since neither of the main parties has been exactly honest in its dealings with the public. The Democrats have hemmed, hawed and equivocated on every issue, largely to avoid offending anyone with any comment no matter how innocuous. The GOP has flatly lied about everything because that is their nature and we have come to expect it of them because they don't care who they offend as long as they get what they want for themselves and their friends.
So the choices have been historically somewhat limited.
As a consequence, the Island has given up on people entirely as any species worthy of governing the body politic. The dolphins were approached initially with an offer of 20% for running the human show, but being an intelligent species, quickly rejected the contract. Some genius glommed onto the phrase "man's best friend" and so the newly formed Canine Ticket came into being. A strong coalition was developed among the inhabitants of the Island Animal Shelter and there is strong hope for success. For one thing, no dog has done nearly as much damage as any human being in power has done, and this is a strong selling point which cannot be denied. If you would put up the most savage Alaskan Malmute or low-bred pitbull against the likes of George Bush, the Butcher of DC, or Saddam Hussein, you would have to agree that the hounds have it all in spades.
Who was it who came up with the phrase "Butcher of XXX City" anyway? Where did this phrase come from? Certainly no dog.
Look into the eyes of a dog, even a bad doggie, and you will know that a dog cannot lie. For this reason, proponents claim, a dog would make a far better President than any human being. Certainly a dog would have been far more successful as sniffing out the location of Hussein than Bush and would have certainly tracked down and cornered that odious Osama Bin Lassie by now.
Of after all, if the President is only a figurehead anyway, a sort of stand-in for powers that already control the Government, well, a better representative than the hapless George, who has never been successful at anything we can see in his personal history, would be a better symbol to the rest of the world. George Bush, you must understand, allowed his Texas oil company to go bankrupt even when it owned a preferred contract with the Government of Saudi Arabia.
It is very difficult to imagine how a Texas oil company that held a preferential contract with Saudi Arabia could go broke, but George Bush is no ordinary mortal and he makes his money when others typically lose theirs.
The present national economy is a good example. Are you making any money right now?
So it goes. Dogs don't invest in offshore dealings. Dogs don't hump their pages in the Oval Office in secret -- they do it in public. Dogs don't lie about the reasons they invaded the neighbor's backyard. A dog is an honest dog and always will be. So we in Island-life take this opportunity to endorse the Canine Ticket for the Island and for the Executive Office. And while we're at it, lets reverse a few gender roles. Our motto for '04: "Put a Real Bitch in the White House!"
Nancy Reagan wouldn't mind at all, we feel.
This brown cube, bounded by the pale lights of the monitor and the reading light, becomes in these hours before dawn a kind of ship's cabin, sailing forth on the seas. The midnight howl of the through-passing train is the foghorn of nearby Cape Fear. We are sailing out on the seas of the darkness of our times in our little boat, while above us the eternal constellations wheel in the everlong dance of the ages.
And if feels now as if the wind outside against the panes has become the pound of waves against the keel.
It is said that when you see the Southern Cross for the first time, then you will know why you came this way. For us, Orion has provided the guiding path for many a year. But whatever constellation that you choose, or whatever constellation chooses you, let the light guide you through the gathering darkness to the brighter day. And a brighter day will come for all of us, after this darkest night, we are sure, even as we guide our bowlines through dark hawsers by starlight.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 14, 2003
I'VE GOT A LUST FOR LIFE
Me and the Significant Other renewed what has become a sort of family Tradition of attending the annual Not So Silent Night concert, promoted by Live 105 this year. Thankfully, the venue has shifted from the execrable "Shark Tank" in San Jose, where poor booking, pitifully lousy sound and difficulty of access threatened to kill a series that has been running for well on fifteen years. It quickly became clear that the entire gang, including the performers and the audience was very glad to be back in the home area again. This time up the agents booked Black Eyed Peas (replaced by the Outcasts, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Rancid, The Offspring, a reformulated Janes Addiction, and, special coup none other than the Godfather of Punk himself, Iggy Pop.
We came in late to catch the end of BRMC, which ended up with a scorching finale which made me wish that we had managed to catch this very talented trio earlier. Rancid surprised us with a very professional and very capable set, showing this ur-punk band has staying power, despite the accusations of sellout and the obvious disadvantage in punk -- they all have managed to learn to play their instruments. I was a little put off by the personalized white track suit on lead guitarist, Lars, but they have returned to more of the ska-based Clash-influenced material and indicate development, rather than concession. Rumors that the band sold to Warner Brothers after performing on MTV are wildly unfounded and a short visit to their Hellcat shows why, for these guys have setup their website in such a way as to send fear into the all the old guard of the RIAA. From singles to entire CD's can be paid for and downloaded together with loads of multimedia content the old guard has yet to respond to in any effective way beyond suing 10-year olds for piracy. We wish Rancid all the best and earnestly exhort old fossils defending the ethic of Punk, a movement that essentially died a decade or more ago, to kindly evolve for music must develop and change if it is to remain vital.
The Offspring took the stage for an all too brief 30 minutes in which they ripped through all their old favorites, doing only one promo song from their new CD. Of note was a dual drum-set arrangement with an additional backup percussionist. Clearly, these guys from Orange County have evolved also, and Dexter has stated in interviews that he never expected the band to continue as long as it has.
An announcer for Live 105 came out to announce, "I was going to lead the pit here in a round of Jingle Bells, with maybe the left side doing harmony with the right, but instead, I should just let Iggy Pop take the stage. Whaddya say?"
The answering roar left no question as to what the sold-out crowd wanted. Iggy Pop, born James Jewel Osterberg in 1952, started out playing R&B but sometime during the flower-power and poppy time of the Beatles, things went seriously awry. Collecting a couple of his high school buddies in Michigan, the group titled itself The Stooges and commenced to tear apart the fabric of music itself to the extreme vitriol of music critics everywhere, who said the music was stupid, as were the musicians who did not appear to have the slightest idea how to play an instrument. Instead of layering on Phil Spector-styled orchestration and tossing in minutes-long solos of musical virtuosity, the Stooges stripped the third chord from three-chord rock and assaulted the ears of everyone within hearing with punishing guitar riffs and slamming backbeats as well as lyrics that ranged from the superbly inspired, calling for revolution of the heart and mind, to extraordinarily, well, stoopid. Their performances became legendary by the ferocious intensity that burned down the house with spontaneity to which the wildest stomper today still cannot hold a candle. For a time, Iggy became rather notorious for throwing his body on broken glass and scoring his torso with razorblades during performances.
In contradiction to all this manic activity, Iggy remained inwardly a highly literate, well-spoken and extremely intelligent individual with qualities usually associated with the term Renaissance Man, capable of quoted Kierkegaard and Sartre. David Bowie picked up the band on his own label when contracts fell through due to lack of volume sales with Electra, but by 1973, the band had fallen apart. Iggy did several solo projects before descending into the usual hell of heroin and alcohol through the 80's, even as the underground was picking up on his once-shunned music. They started calling this stuff by the name of "punk" and added trappings of their own, capturing the unruly and unrestrained music that Iggy Pop has often stated stemmed from the wild and discordant sounds of the old bluesmen, such as R.L. Burnside, also a music that was derided for atonality and "primitivism" in its time.
In the early 90's, he had gotten bored, apparently, with heroin and simply stopped using. Probably the first and only man ever to kick the habit out of ennui. He then astonished everyone by recording "Candy" which went straight to the top of the charts for 42 weeks, propelled by surprisingly cool and controlled baritone. We all knew he could really sing; it just had been hard to tell from what when before.
By surviving, contrary to all expectations, Iggy Pop stands as a marvelously irritating link between two traditions that appear at first glance to be wildly at odds with one another, but which share essential aspects of spirit. There is absolutely no doubt that Howling Wolf, who liked to climb the draperies in the middle of his sets would have understood what the Stooges were all about.
Into the mid 90's, believing his music career had no more chances, Iggy Pop embarked on a film career and has acted in well over 20 films, including works by respected directors such as Jim Jarmusch. But as the world in general appeared to grow more and more "stoopid", there has been a resurgence of interest in politically-charged music that avoids the misty-eyed romanticism of the 60's and Iggy Pop, at age 51, has come roaring back, having basically fathered Punk , heavy metal, garage rock and grunge with a 30 year background behind him.
Friday night the man hopped and skipped and danced about the stage with the energy of an 18-year old, pausing only to hurl his body from the stage into the sea of the pit, where loving fans caught him and passed him back over the barricade. He then shouted to the band, "Play louder, harder, faster!" In another "moment", during "It's Lonely", he suddenly shouted, "Everybody up here! Right now! I'm not finishing until all of you are up here with me!" and we then were treated to the spectacle of just about five thousand people in the pit rushing at and over the barricades while security struggled vainly to toss people back and Iggy had one fan by the waist hauling upwards while security had the fans legs hauling downwards. Fortunately nobody was killed and Iggy finished up several songs as the people on the stage began realizing that there was only one way off -- take a stage dive.
Notwithstanding the mayhem, the concert was remarkably pacific, with Rancid lead, Tim Armstrong halting the set mid-song to breakup a fight down in the pit. "Hey, any of you want to fight, you can just go out there up front, collect your money and go home in the rain."
For all their mohawks and tattoos, we personally, both I and the Significant Other, have always felt safe and comfortable with the punks, who usually have more real concerns on their minds than starting wars and picking fights. We had the Girls with us, and M., the Onetime and No longer Teen, spotted Iggy walking around out on the concourse. "Oh I saw Iggy! I saw Iggy!" exclaimed her friend.
"Oh that's nothing," said M. "I saw Iggy when I was just a fetus."
Iggy finished up with a rollicking "Lust for Life", waved at the crowd and then the Godfather of Punk was gone.
Sorry to say we missed Dave Navarro with Janes Addiction, as the Present Teen, Shelly, had started to snag a touch of the flu, but the word has it the closers for the evening really rocked the house.
CONCERTS FOR KIDS - KFOG
Copies of the annual Live from the Archives Vol. X are still out there and we really recommend snapping up copies as once they are gone, these rare collections of live performances will be gone forever. And besides, all proceeds go to Bay Area Food Banks, which, like a lot of service charities are severely overwhelmed these days. The number of Down and Out seems to be increasing exponentially lately.
Also this past week and this weekend, the annual Concerts for Kids took place, with the Barenaked Ladies having turned in a stellar performance on Tuesday in downtown Babylon. Robben Ford shared the stage with Blues Traveler and Los Lonely Boys at the Flint Center in Cupertino, which we would have attended but for the quadruple knockout of double-shifts at work, the Live 105 event, an office party at the Fat Lady and financial limitations. Word has it concert-goers filled two trucks at each venue with toys for under-privileged tots.
YOU SHALL NOT PASS!
In a couple days, we'll all be treated to the final installment of Peter Jackson's version of Lord of the Rings trilogy. Word has it that tix for combined viewings of all three in a sitting, in director's cut versions running to a total sit time of 14 hours, have been selling out on each announcement of yet another added show. Talk about dedicated fans!
We recently had the opportunity to review the DVD Platinum version of the Two Towers, the second in the series, with its 43 additional minutes and sets of explanations from the makers -- which turned out to be far more interesting that the usual "how we made the film" sorts of montages.
The Two Towers has been simultaneously attacked and praised with surprising energy, so much so that poor Peter Jackson had to sigh more than once during his interview segments.
For those sitting on the side of all this, an English linguist by the name of J.R.R. Tolkein wrote a set of six books, plus a sort of introductory novel aimed at the children's market, which were compiled by the publisher into a trilogy -- largely to save paper during wartime rationing. This trilogy, intended by its author to be a sort of subject treatise for linguistic specialists and mythology experts, described a pre-historic, pre-christian world of powerful wizards, dragons, trolls, goblins, elves and other creatures all doing battle in the last days of something called The Third Age, with intimations that this world was already quite old and the enmities had been continuing for quite some time.
Tolkein wrote the books during the two world wars and the material borrows very heavily from a wide scattering of the very martial-oriented ancient literatures of the Volsungsaga, the Icelandic Veddas, the Teutonic minstrel lays done by vates lauding this and that warrior chieftain, various Anglo-Saxon and Old English poems (including Beowulf), a scattering of Germanic folktales and legends that got made into the Wagnerian Niebelungenlieder, plus a smattering of Homer and more than a few of something called pastoral eclogues. Among other things.
The interests of those early poets focused largely on earning a place at the king's table by praising the good deeds of the said king up the wazoo, which usually involved descriptions of the king being victorious in battle -- against enormous odds, of course. Consequently, the old stories tended to have quite a lot of war in and about them and this is reflected in the makeup of the trilogy. It also should be mentioned that we have evidence that the notes for what became The Lord of the Rings were initially composed in the middle of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 -- without a doubt in a very committed attempt to preserve sanity amid colossal and murderous stupidity.
We also note that the writing temporarily halted as the "Moria" section was half complete -- during the London blitz. During which, Tolkein's own house was destroyed. Which may account somewhat for the darkness of that particular passage.
That said, the books do present a definite anti-war viewpoint, heavily stressed by the accounts of the tremendous losses suffered by the "good" side, which is not presented without attention to shades of grey in the morality of actions by its principals, while still including elements from the book's origins in pageantry.
In any case, the books turned out to be a fabulous best seller right from their release in 1949. They've been translated into well over 30 languages around the globe and have sold untold millions of copies. Some publishers estimate that this collection is only bested by the Bible in readership.
No wonder Peter Jackson had such an onus of responsibility upon him. Especially since the first movie -- estimated the fourth time someone has tried to adapt the work to film -- turned out to be wildly successful. Publishers have been rushing to fulfill orders for book copies in the hundreds of thousands while the internet is all abuzz with several thousand websites, chats, and BBB discussions taking up discussions on this and that arcane aspect of Middle Earth, indicating that Peter has glommed onto a powerful need in people to have some sort of mythic grounding in an age of violent uncertainty.
The second movie, however, has had mixed success, with accusations of "rampant warmongering", "incompetent dramaturgy", "miserable deviations from the text", and "changing the whole damn ending: what was he thinking, the idiot!" sorts of things. So powerful was the vilification that rumors of character changes that hit the internet actually caused Peter and the cast to re-shoot entire sections involving the character of Arwen, the main movie love interest. This had to have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
On the other hand, vigorous ticket, DVD, and spin-off sales as well as the obvious sellout of tickets for film #3 -- which has not even come out yet -- obviously indicate the man must have done something right.
This next paragraph is for those who have read the book, so skip on down for the look at the "warmongering" charge.
So now we go to the Two Towers. And the DVD version. Are the added minutes worth it? Well, more than the Extended version for film one, the minutes return segments to the story that were actually in the original book, but are "hooked" in to the story with a sort of hit or miss success. The elvish rope is presented in a nice humorous vignette, for example, but Gollum still is not given the line, simple enough to have added, "it burns -- it's Elvish. All things Elvish burn. . .". The Uruk-hai section is emended a bit, and the burning of the Westfold is extended, so as to highlight some of the horrors of war, but the terrible defeat at the Fords of the Isen never is presented in its enormity (conflating the battle with the death of Theodred), although the DVD does at least present some of the aftermath with soldiers searching desperately through piles of their own dead for the king's son. The battle is listed in the DVD chapter listing as a "massacre" and is described as an ambush, assumed as small in scale. In the DVD, as in the theatrical version, "bare 300 defenders hold Helms Deep", which is patently ridiculous in minimizing the power of the enemy who has a counted 10,000 well-armed troops who also have the weapon of gunpowder.
As one viewer noted after seeing the theatrical version, "These orcs are awful easy to kill, aren't they?"
The elves still send a contingent to assist the defenders, which works as a theatrical device in the DVD as in the movie version.
Treebeard fans will delight in the additional footage of the giant reciting poetry and the more ent-like extension of the entmoot to what appears to be two days. Fangorn is showed as arriving to aid the battle, as in the book, but Erkenbrand has been excised entirely. Faramir still takes his charges to Osgiliath, but the rather abrupt decision to simply send away the most precious weapon -- as the movie version would have had it -- is mollified with masterful edits, so at least the actor is not made to appear a foolish clown as he did in the theatrical version. The DVD ties up with "Gollum's plan", leaving Shelob for Film 3.
So, for those of you who saw the movie and feel something was missing. Well, something was. And still is in the DVD, which no amount of "additional footage" can replace. We think. First of all, let us remember that Jackson and Co, with New Line Cinema, which in fronting the bill over seven years of production to the tune of several million dollars, have absolutely no obligation to adhere to the book at all, for making a movie is a business enterprise after all with its own criteria for success. A movie "adaptation" must necessary be a creative work in its own right, as writer XX indicates in the "appendices". The fact that the cast, the director, and all principals involved felt a mission to be true to the book in spirit and look and feel is a testament to their artistic and human integrity.
Jackson and the writers admit that the Two Towers presented "difficulties" and then there is a fair amount of discussion on the part of all parties as the reasons of cutting this and adding that, ultimately deciding that the entire ending would be cut, for, according to the chief writer, "We already had a screen resolution at Orthanc with the Ent battle and then again at Helm's Deep. It would have been a mishmash, movie-wise." She also mentioned one telling thing in her rationale for having Faramir hold on to the captives for a while -- this was to show character development and preserve the aura of the Powerful Ring. "You just spent all this screen time showing how terrible and powerful is this object, so you can't have a new character simply turn his back on it and say, as Tolkein has him say in the book, 'I would not pick up this thing if I found it by the wayside.'"
Another tipoff that something went wrong early on in production was screenwriter Phillipa Boyens' description of her attempt to yank sunlight out of the darkness after basically writing themselves into a corner -- a common and very unenviable place to be for writers. "We had them saying to each other, "How can we ever go back to the way things were after all that's happened? . . . Why are we going on?" Well, Fran and I looked at each other and we were stumped. What on earth were we going on for? And then I simply had him say the corniest thing imaginable. 'There's some things worth fighting for, Mr. Frodo.' And it worked."
The writer really said worlds about what is missing from the Two Towers, what really irks the "true believers" beyond quibbling about missing scenes or whether one actor or another is a "believable Gandalf", and what really sets people off about warmongering. In the end, the material, pulled from something as widely read as the Bible (!) is well above the abilities of the principals to adapt. Boyens is, after all, a novice writer who has never written a movie and chief screenwriter Fran Walsh is known more for schlock horror pictures. When push comes to shove, when choices come down to hard, cold decisions, the film makers fell back on conventional movie tropes where radical and innovative choices needed to be made. This is what is bothersome about the some total of decisions regarding presentation minutia, which could have resulted in all sorts of allowed departures. Unfortunately, the film makers erred in playing safe.
Here's another example: the entire chapter on Helm's Deep occupies about 16 pages of writing out of a book that is well over 730 pages long. Quite obviously, other things were going on. Go figure.
Tolkein was not a professional writer, as the film makers indicated, but his resulted in his breaking all kinds of rules with amazing success. One of his favorites was the introduction of likeable bit characters which developed histories and connections only to be violently killed off. Even the enemy orcs had names with distinctive personalities and histories. What this does is personalize the combat and render it far more terrible and risky. Tolkein's Helm's Deep was not Roark's Drift by any means -- it was as he personally experienced it during World War I, and as he mentioned in the Foreword to the Second Edition, "By the end of 1918, all but one of my close friends were dead". War, according to Tolkein, was never glorious, but always stupid slobbering about in the mud and destroyed landscapes once clothed by his beloved trees.
The Lord of the Rings contains a profound pessimism, as Viggo Mortensen indicates in his DVD interview. The world of Middle Earth is in a state of unavoidable decline, with the elves slain or departing, most of the dwarves driven out of their once enormous cities, and signs of ruined civilization dotting the corrupted landscapes. In fact, the whole process of the book can be seen as the process of this world destroying itself, including a spectacular battle in which the elves and the dwarves allied with men actually lose. The Appendices describe how each character eventually dies and you can't have that depicted and expect lines around the block. That's bleak and true enough, but hardly makes for light movie entertainment -- or even a very good movie, unless you happen to be Wim Wenders or Petersen filming another tragic sea story. People go to see Ian Holm smacking his staff down on the bridge in Kazad Dum and shouting up at the fire demon, "You shall not pass!" That was a real "movie moment".
Tolkein's point was simple enough, besides the construction of a mythology for England that would last. The effects of the Industrial Revolution -- predating the Wars which were symptoms of it -- were destroying man's relationship to the natural world. Much of this does come out in Saruman's factories of war and Sauron's depiction in the films as a sort of electrical field between the "electrodes" of Barad Dur's tower.
Given their professional limitations, the writers performed admirably well, largely due to a sincerity and earnestness so often lacking in Hollywood productions and the look and feel of the books is captured faithfully, while avoiding some of the linguistic issues that simply would not have worked at all in a contemporary movie environment, for much of the dialogue in the books was couched in a form of Shakespearean courtliness that would have been tedious on film. As would have been the many songs and poems, which reflected the source material for Tolkein's stories. You really have to hand it to them, as at least four other productions have failed miserably to such an extent that the reels are no longer obtainable. Burnt most likely. They did, however, obtain someone to write quite a nice little ditty called "Gollum's Song", which plays as the final credits roll.
Not to be a complete apologist for New Line and Peter Jackson, let us add that there is no reason to have the king and a passel of knights scampering down the causeway with what appears to be about 12 men into a press of several thousand enemy spears, blithely knocking goblins aside like paperweights without a care -- as we have already seen in just about a thousand other epic movie "spectacles." That scene, Peter, is called being pretty damn lazy. And that scene was in the book. It just could have been set off better with more effort. And by taking a few chances. Beyond transporting the hobbits and Gollum to the wrong side of the biggest river in Middle Earth, thus confusing the audience as to geography in a really big way. But even these are relatively minor issues.
So much is good about the project, and Jackson, well, the Director looks so damn Hobbit loveable in person, that we really want to see it succeed. In fact, everything about Peter Jackson, from his pudgy stature to his curling black hair and beard reminds one of hobbits, so he just seems built for the task. The special effects, the magical brought-to-life Gollum, the irrepressible and delightful nature of New Zealanders in their appearances in the films, the dedication of the actors -- who have turned in a few performances easily the equal of any Shakespeare production done at the Theatre in the Round . . . it just goes on and on. So we just have to say to the "defenders of the Book", you are not ever going to get a pure and unadulterated Tolkein except by picking up the book and reading it one more time. So just be quiet and sit back and enjoy the movie. Maybe it will be good. Then go re-read the books.
Images here are all from the Extended/Platinum DVD versions of Lord of the Rings. Yes we have a picture of Shelob. No, we are not going to show it until after the 17th. Go see the movie. And visit www.lordoftherings.net .
THIS ISLAND LIFE SEPARATES RIGHTS FROM WRONGS
We trust you are all fixed for the Hollar Days. A series of storm fronts moving through here have dumped a fair amount of rain, indicating that the East is going to enjoy some real Weather. Good news is that the snowpack is already 107% above normal in the Sierra, giving this State another reprieve from drought. Officer O'Madhauen reeled in a fine fish the other day when the teller at the drive-up window at Carl's Junior had fallen asleep at the wheel. No, the service was not that slow. When the good officer showed up, the man launched his vehicle forward and attempted to shove a baggie out of sight. Turned out to be chock full of heroin. Let that be a lesson to all of you: no Junk food.
In other news some kids slashed the tires of Mike Ramsey's prize truck and a dog bit Ms. Ferguson on the hiney. So things are just about normal around here these days. Mr. Dominici finally took down the illegal storage racks that were blocking out the sun over by Paganos and the boys have been scurrying about ferrying the stuff over to the warehouse. The building next to this pile, in celebration of losing several thousand pounds of manure and liquid propane stacked three stories tall as a neighbor, held a party where there was all sorts of food and wine and jumping up and down.
Just over the wire, we hear that soldiers finally got a hold of that Saddam feller, and, much to the dismay of the White House, brought him back alive. Which gives rise to the lovely prospect of a trial in which we learn there never were any WMD at all, for the money to make them did not exist. But that is another story.
I WANNA BE YOUR DOGGIE
Here on the Island, flush with the success of ousting the Gubernador by referendum, a group is planning on replacing the entire City Council for reasons that are largely unspecified and confused. The weather has been blamed a good deal, as well as the nature of the electron and that most elusive of subatomic particles, the Prion, known for occasioning Mad Cow disease and quark dancing phenomena.
As a replacement, the ousters have proposed a slate that is entirely without reproach. There is only one group here that is entirely without reproach and that happens to be the present inmates of the Island Human Shelter, Canine Wing.
You may have heard of bad little doggies, but everyone has to admit, the worst little doggie -- poodles excepted -- hardly causes the extent of damage and loss of life our present politicians have.
Meanwhile, the local chapter of the Not Insane Party is once again gearing up for a go at the Executive Office. It's been several Administrations since we have had someone in the Oval Office who was officially Not Insane, so these folks feel they really have a chance. Especially given the latest blather coming from all sides. Remember this slogan: Papoon for President! Not Insane!
It should be an interesting Election, all things considered.
It's a jolly place, this little Island. Full of sound and fury, signifying everything. We have artists and businessmen and real people too. Things are not well in the World at large and the Kids are Not All Right, to paraphrase Townsend, but here there is a sense of timelessness and a suggestion that some good persists in the world. The oaks have all turned and let their leaves fall like embers, burning red and gold, just like moonbeams in our eyes. All up and down Webster the City has put up the same bedraggled wreaths they have been putting up for the past ten years, wtih each year those wreaths getting a little more homey and battered and unrecognizable. And somehow comforting for all of that. For if the Town hung up Perfect Arrangements, it would necessarily be a lesser town for it.
The House has been putting together donation packages to take over to the Senior Center, the Humane Society, the Salvation Army and such like places. Somebody left a bag of soup and popcorn outside the door of somebody else in the building who is having a hard time finding work. For in these small gestures, we earn the title of Humanity. Somebody has to take up the slack of so much neglect while the ones in charge are busy robbing the Treasury, after all. And we are all talking about Jen, whom we love very much, who has gotten herself married in Las Vegas before moving to Michigan, there to make a brand new start.
We are a human bunch, we Islanders. For us, to be anything else would be terrible. That's just the way it is on the Island. And if you want to fight, get your money back at the door and go home in the rain. Leave us alone. And have a great week.
DECEMBER 7, 2003
TIS THE SEASON
Oaktown held a holiday parade which filled the streets with 20,000 people braving blustery weather and threatening skies. There were all sorts of New York-sized floats and marching bands and such, which pulled people from as far as Los Angeles despite the threatening weather. Maybe Oaktown has gone Uptown.
Sunday was the scheduled Annual Lighting of the Yachts. When captains and crews get well lit up. Unfortunately, rains poured down and it is unknown how the event went, although it can be assured that the alcohol flowed freely in any case. Heck, if they reschedule, 'twill be only another glorious excuse to get royally soused.
Island-Life notes there are fewer lighting effects this year due to the poor economy and general uncertainty as to things. All down Lincoln and Grand, the houses are going dark this year. Seems for many there are few reasons to celebrate, but we'll be out and about this week snapping pix of the lights that do hang from the more festive houses, including that of our Significant Other, who, we may say with some pride, has the best on her block.
MEAN PEOPLE SUCK
Some Grinch tried to cover up attempted thefts from the marina by turning on the water hoses in an attempt to sink two boats. Someone passing by on the docks noticed one of the boats listing severely, and so alerted the Harbor Patrol. In true Island fashion, the would-be thief failed to consider the extremely large volume of water that would be required to fill and sink a sloop that was well over 60 feet long.
In another incident a group of five mugged a fellow trying to hold a phone conversation in the 500 block of Central on Thanksgiving day. They punched the victim, knocked the man down and kicked him several times before making off with his wallet and passport. He was more fortunate than some. In a similar attack in Oaktown a man was beaten so badly that he remains in a coma and as all identification had been stolen, the police are still trying to determined the man's name.
STARRY STARRY NIGHT
The nearly full moon hangs over the silver-chopped Bay this evening in a sky swept clear of cloud, leaving the harsh sparkle of stars to cut the wind keening over the hills of Babylon across the Bay. It's a Durer print sort of evening, with a cold so chill after the sunny day today that even Mad Mary has dragged her drunken reel from the street into a downtown flop among the smells of sweaty stew and grumble. The weatherbug says its dropping to the mid 30's before the dense fog rolls in tonight. All up and down Lincoln, the mists will come ghosting in through the trees, chasing all the fiddlers into snugs like McRath's Pub where the windowpanes will ice up on the outside while inside it stays warm with good company and music and beer.
The pair of raccoons that live across the street under the premises of the old Julia Morgan house have gathered into their dry huddle to grip each other and chatter in the universal chatter talk of raccoons amongst themselves.
In the windows of Paganos, the little Holiday Town that lives only for a while, with its snow-dusted houses and streets and train tracks shines with lights behind tiny windows in a miniature reflection of the larger world.
This evening, this town could be your town moving into the creaky depths of winter in the usual way of towns everywhere. But this town is our town; it's where we live. And everything down to the last detail, including the large man who always sleeps in his wheelchair in the entrance to the Jack London Parking Garage beside the bookstore, all this belongs to us in a very intimate way. For if this man would suddenly disappear -- which is entirely too likely these days -- we would say to ourselves, "Where has he gone, this figure larger than life with his smell and disturbing accusation of presence? He has always been here with his dreadlocks and his immense cloak; he was here even as I grew up and watched the tiles being glued to the wall outside. I hated to see him, but now that he is gone, I feel that every time I pass this stairwell something is missing." And because the people of Jack London recognize this simple fact, as do the legions of shoppers who pass this way, the man is left alone. To stink or not as may be his bent or his brand of madness. For we would not wish to make ourselves less than he by casting him out into the wet darkness to die.
Down by Buena Vista flats, Officer O'Madhauen nurses a coffee cup in a dark cruiser opposite the tricky traffic light. But nobody is coming down this way at this hour on this night and that is just fine by him. And no calls are coming over to howl over to the West End to resolve yet another methamphetamine argument. It's quiet even on the airwaves. Tonight is a night when nothing happens. And for a lot of people, that is just fine.
Outside the borders of this little Island, the Big World is engaged in all sorts of Big tasks: Invasions, Occupations, Wars, Troublesome Events . . . But here, tonight, on this Island, it is enough to be warm and snug, knowing that in this time, we are huddled together for warmth and protection in a temporary haven while the bombers scream overhead with explosions against the sky as if to outrival the stars in their sinful pride. Here we are like the raccoons in their huddle while outside its a knocking. Outside its a knocking. And we may find that the scattered stars have become the shattered glass of a new and more terrible Krystalnacht.
A dear friend of ours fled the northlands for the Socal regions, only to watch his mother die of cancer and live through the first ice-storm the southlands have experienced in memory. There are no more safe harbors. We survive now only what we have made ourselves.
But for now the keen wind blows calm over the grasses of Buena Vista flats under the cold glitter of distant stars and all is calm here, for the moment. And the witching hour has come at last. And here it comes: the long howl of the midnight train passing through the Jack London waterfront to places unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 29, 2003
THE POODLESHOOT THIS TIME
This November marks the 5th Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. This year the Event was enlivened by the introduction of live decoys employed by the mother-son team of Lynn and David Lindberg of Pleasanton, assisted by David's lovely wife, Patty. A notorious Black Mambo Poodle was brought in restrained and under a phalanx of armed guards to a specially prepared holding tank. A large percentage of East German Schnapperhund and South American Cogere-Cojones Whippet in its bloodlines made the beast nearly tractable with higher than average intelligence, otherwise the entire affair would certainly have to have been called off due to the breed's natural atavistic viciousness, developed and preserved from prehistoric times as a consequence of its onetime habit of fighting dinosaurs for scraps.
It is an animal little changed since those times.
The plan was to stake the Mambo near a walking path in Washington Park while Patty was to feign involvement with a special Reese Witherspoon Vanity, done in shocking pink and set upon wheels for mobile deployment. David and Lynn were to crouch with flamethrowers and explosive nets nearby. Our dear Patty was not left undefended in these seemingly precarious circumstances, for a secret compartment was prepared beforehand with a loaded Smith and Wesson .45 caliber pistol and a 500,000 volt electric riot baton. The Mambo was kept quiet in the meantime by feeding it liberally with live Corgi's, which the Mambo devoured most daintily.
Everyone else made their respective preparations according to their own likes and dislikes, as well as taste for BBQ, and so the time led up to the start, delayed only by several lengthy toasts proposed on the part of Jim Kitson, of Santa Clara Avenue, in honor of the USS Hornet, the American Armed Forces, Our Island Home, his good friend Thomas, Mexican Independence, Nancy Pelosi and the staunch Democrats, each one of the Kennedys, plus a few causes too arcane to remember, the whole affair jolted forward and was announced via a hearty blast upon the Traditional Silver Kazoos.
The line of hunters then moved out into the field under a grey sky and the day began quietly while a selection of musicians performed at the main stage bandstand located in the middle of the baseball diamond. A real crowd pleaser was the Barbershop Quartet that performed selections from the works of Tom Waits and Captain Beefheart. Musical accompaniment was provided by Tobi Tucker on tuba, Eugene Gallipagus on kettles, Professor Schickele on Hardart with Inflatable, Robert Fripp on broomstick-washtub bass, and Chad Chadwick on the Banjo-Bandsaw Anomaly. Mr. Chadwick's 20 minute solo on the Bandsaw Anomaly can only be described as sublime.
All were well supplied with liberal portions of warm toddy punch, supplied by O'Brien's of New Orleans.
Once again, the Island Yappydog Walker's Association had been redirected by stratagem. This time, it was let out at the Eagle's Hall that a Benefit to Free Martha Stewart was holding a raffle for a donated life-sized portrait of Elvis as Jesus, holding a big-eyed doggie with one arm and embracing a sad-eyed clown with the other. All done tastefully in velvet fabric. Raffle was to be held in the newly dedicated Brittany Spears Shopping Center in Turlock and word had it that the Famous Dame might appear.
They fell for it like rats on moldy cheese and the Island was free of trouble for a while.
And so the day passed pleasantly to the sounds of live music and the occasional shotgun blast, hand grenade, and the particular report of the Mac-10 going full throttle, as it is wont to do in East Oakland and other parts.
Mr. Neil Tarkieff brought in a nice one impaled upon a saws-all from Johnson Tools and Julee Coover came successfully out of a melee that erupted in Pagano’s illegal parking-lot/storage facility when a brace of Norwegian Blues cornered her and Toni Savage behind the new illegal fence. The plucky pair climbed up onto the towering stacks of manure and cement -- also illegal -- with the snarling hounds snapping at their pumps. From this vantage point, Toni proved the vigor of her name by hurling sacks of hardware stock down at the curs, managing to brain three of them before John Maio, Director of the Altadena Playhouse, came out of the house dressed and made up like Kagemusha, which so astonished the enemy they fled before him and the tide of battle turned in favor of the armies of the White Rose and the enemy fell as leaves of grass before the wind.
At the end of the day, all the tired little hunters came trundling back with their kills or their wounds, as happened to be their luck. Jim Kitson smoked a fine one stuffed with a goose inside his special Poodle-smoker, fed with fires stoked by bundles of cigars from Cuba.
The odor was curious, to say the least, but at the end of the day, a fine time was had by all and we all had a Thanksgiving Dinner that couldn't be beat and we all went to bed and went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning. When we got a call from Officer O'Madhauen.
But that is another story.
HONEY, DON'T TELL THE KIDS
Island-life has come across some extremely shocking footage and of paramount importance to all of us. Recent reports that, due to budget deficits and Homeland Security measures (Heimatsicherheit Geheimdienst Schutzbefehlen) have indicated that this year, there will be no Xmas.
In fact, the situation is much worse than that, for we have learned that Special Ops agents working directly under John "The Butcher of DC" Ashcroft have killed Santa Claus. Yes, that's right, Neo-Cons have killed Santa Claus.
Apparently, a handful of trigger-happy fellas implementing a few rather rusty components of the antiquated "Star Wars System" (which had been discarded by Edward Teller) observed an unidentified aircraft flying over Pennsylvania near New Hope. Mindful of Saddam's still missing missiles of Mass Destruction, and concerned about a repeat of the abominable breach of national security that took place on 9/11 when three aircraft of substantial size managed to wander about the National airspace for several hours before destroying the financial center of the country's largest city and nearly wiping out this country's central military command center. The third plane was brought down entire through the efforts of a few of its heroic passengers, but almost certainly would have polished the White House clear off the face of the earth without any hindrance.
Seeking to avoid a similar disaster, our heroic Neo-Conservatives launched a pre-emptive strike, much as was done in Iraq, by just blasting any old thing right out of the sky with all justifications to follow afterward should the object turn out to be a Korean passenger jet with the results as seen below.
Realizing their mistake, the Neo-Cons responded in typical fashion by denying there was any mistake made, that the Fat Man dressed in red was clearly a Communist bent on a Socialist program of anti-capitalist free distribution, that the sleigh had violated certain No-Fly Zones over Latrobe, and that a plan to replace the regime at the North Pole had been devised by the best thinkers at the Hoover Institute. In other words, no free handouts for you, my boy. A secret funeral was held and the animals were converted to MRE's.
Of course the whole affair is quite regrettable, and we confess we really enjoyed the old feller with his hearty laugh and generosity of spirit. He will be sorely missed and there really is not another quite like him. Naturally, the Neo-Cons have replacements in mind, as outlined in documents published in 1994 by the Center for the New American Century and as suggested by then-Secretary Baker under the Reagan Administration many years ago. Herewith, the recommended Neo-Con Symbols for the New American Xmas.
Since Neo-Cons have embraced these same two characters in the past, extolling their virtues, emulating their morality, and lauding their accomplishments, it seems only fitting that they become the proper symbols for the New American Century.
THROWING ROSES IN THE RAIN
A lady performed the Mother of All Stealth Turns Wednesday when he clipped a Mercury Capri with his Accura in the intersection of Oak and Lincoln -- coincidentally the corner that hosts the Island Police Department -- causing the Capri to veer into Nasira's flower shop, pushing the entire building into a city-owned vehicle parked behind it and spraying the area with shattered glass. The driver suffered only a slight glass cut on the hand. The shop was empty at the time.
Unfortunately, a pedestrian happened to be standing in front of the shop at the time and got pinned between the Capri and the building. The 61 year old female victim is recuperating with a broken clavicle and cranial hemorrhage at Highland Trauma Center. The Island hospital has no Trauma Unit and no telemetry, so traumas are usually taken to the County facility.
This is the second time within two weeks that a vehicle has crashed into a building on the Island due to an intersection contratemps.
NIGHTTIME IN THE SWITCHING YARD
We hope that you all enjoyed a jolly Holiday. And if you happen to live in SoCal, where the bitter labor strike against Albertsnobs continues, we hope you found someplace to get a bird to stick in the oven. Here, it is just past the witching hour again. The rain that has moved in for a good, long stay has let up and the lights of the Oaktown hills, so far away, glitter through the drifting fogs. Its the time of night, and the kind of night that it is, when Officer O'Madhauen huddles over a warm coffee cup down in the dark by Buena Vista where there still are open fields, albeit surrounded by fences. All the dealers and the addicts have taken the night off to sleep in under covers and even the stray members of the Yappydog Walkers association snuggle down in their blankies with their pets snoring contentedly beside or at the foot. Only the stray hookers stroll up and down their 20 feet of "turf" on Oaktown's San Pablo, looking for that infrequent pickup from Fremont to drive out of the mist and into warmth for a short while.
This is not a night to hold a grievance against anyone, for who really can afford to waste their inner lives on inner vengeance that ultimately goes nowhere? And there it is, the sound of the through-passing train, echoing long and lone across the flatlands from the chattering tracks at Jack London waterfront, across the estuary, through the tall grasses, over the roofs and finally to this little cubicle, another Island in the night all around us.
We are a forgiving lot, us Islanders. We have to be, since we are such great Sinners ourselves. And maybe are a little bit wiser because of it. And we are thankful for what we have for the moment: a gathering of very good friends, a warm place to rest and talk about old times, plenty of food to go around for the time being. In the long run, that is good enough for us. And that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 23, 2003
OOH I PUT MY SMILE IN A POCKET
Various reader comments provoked a revision in the Camping section that entailed a more specific declaration of adherence to State Department rules regarding pets in the wilderness. Domesticated animals are forbidden throughout the wilderness areas because their presence degrades the environment. The animals that live in the alpine regions have no natural defenses against your pooch -- neither do other hikers. And nobody who goes to a wilderness area wants to have some yapping hound turning the experience into a traipse through some white-trash backyard.
In addition, should something happen to your pet, inevitably the consequences fall against the wilderness and its natural inhabitants. If your dog happens to sniff up a rabid marmot, a woodrat carrying spotted-fever ticks, a bear carrying virtually anything, it can become a vector for all sorts of nastiness back in civilization -- or even throughout the rest of the wilderness area and adjacent parklands, resulting in the inevitable backlash of killing and extermination of native species. And of course, you just might have to add the weight of the dog to your pack in carrying out your pet, fo I have seen this situation more than once. With the current organized threats against wilderness areas throughout the US, we don't need any more nonsense behavior ruining what may escape the wrath of the Machines.
The Season really heats up in the coming weeks as KFOG and LIVE 105 both conduct their respective fundraisers. KFOG has its annual Live from the Archives sale going on, in which they put out a CD containing live cuts from various performers at their intimate "playspace" venues. Proceeds from these collector's edition CD's support Bay Area Food Banks. Only a limited number of these are pressed each year, and they typically sell out within days. Copies are available online at Walmart.com and in Good Guys brick-and-mortar outlets.
Not content with this bit of public-benefit activity, KFOG also hosts a series of annual Concerts for Kids. The first one takes place December 4 at the Masonic Auditorium and headlines the quirky Bare Naked Ladies with Rooney. The all-male BNL is known for lively and non-formulaic lyrics that describe offbeat situations that reveal a little bit about people under the skin. Their latest hit concerns a troubled man who receives a barrage of postcards from all around the world, all featuring images of chimpanzees.
The second concert takes place December 11 at Cupertino's Flint Center where guitar-god Robben Ford, Blues Traveler, and Los Lonely Boys while host an evening of rocking Blues. Robben Ford is known to present incendiary sets whenever he performs, so the rapid-fire harmonica of Blues Traveler ought to blow the roof off the house that night.
Not to be outdone, Live 105 hosts its annual Not So Silent Night of alternative music on the 12th at the Bill Graham Memorial in Babylon. Janes Addiction, Black Eyed Peas, Offspring, and the Grandfather of Punk himself, Iggy Pop, are slated to appear and ring the ears. It's been a family tradition ever since the event was called Green Christmas to attend. We missed the last couple years, due to the distance of the selected venues and the execrable quality of sound, but this year, for Iggy, we return to the Tradition. Yes, this is the same Iggy who used to throw himself on broken glass onstage. Also the same Iggy who quixotically worked with the light jazz trio, Medeski, Martin and Wood and who inspired David Bowie during his Ziggy Stardust days. His deceptively simple lyrics have tended to withstand the test of time, much unlike the vast majority of his legion of followers.
THE ANNUAL ISLAND POODLESHOOT REDUX
What it is. This is the fifth year which has seen the riotous celebration known as the Island Poodle-Shoot and BBQ. You may want to know more about this spurious celebration. Then again, you may not. But if insouciance and irreverence happen to be your bent, as well as a sense of humor this far side of Edward Gorey, well, then, check out the rules for this year at Poodleshoot Rules. For reports of previous Poodleshoots, especially the Infamous Poodleshoot of 2001 click here for 2001.
We promise a hyperlink document later on so as to enjoy the mayhem and joy of the other years.
We have noticed a significant increase of late in what can only be termed "Dementia Driving", which has given Officer O'Madhauen a tremendous amount of work to do. On the return from obtaining Basic Sunday Night Dinner Supplies (limes, tomato juice, tabasco, Stoli), we noted a hatchback come to a stop, blocking traffic in the far left lane down on Otis Street. After a pause, the fellow found a hole somehow and darted from where he was across two lanes into the left turn assignment at a traffic light. No signal.
Hey, let's do the Stealth Turn again!
In the meantime, the Good Officer has been busy cracking down on the really serious malefactors. Herewith we provide evidence of his sharp-eyed, astute, and persistent vigilance in defense of Island safety.
That'll be the last time little Toby Tucker breezes through a stop sign without putting both feet down, you bet. Formidable is the long arm of the IPD.
In other crimestopper news, a retired West End man stopped to offer advice on how to change a tire to two men who were driving a Toyota with a flat tire. When the man indicated he would not obtain tools, jack the vehicle and replace the tire himself, the two men attacked the elderly man and beat him up. Officers eventually arrested the two men after a traffic stop for missing a rear license plate.
A woman was pushed down and her purse snatched on the 12th of November at a bus stop in the 900 block of Central Avenue. The mugger escaped in a primer-grey Ford Bronco, but since no traffic laws were broken, the perpetrators got clean away.
Not such a credit to the Department is one Edward Jaime, who resigned November 5 after investigators found he had removed 94 grams of methamphetamine from the evidence locker. When challenged, he returned most of the missing drug, absent 3/4 of a gram, which he stated had been accidentally spilled onto his computer terminal and under his desk while "contemplating snorting some of the drug". Forensics found no traces in those places. Jaime worked in the narcotics division for about three years.
ARS LONGIS, VITA EST COMEDY
Harlan has been at it again. This time he has used the entire 100-foot fence facing Lincoln as well as his usual spot. For your delectation and amusement, we present the latest edition of Harlan's House on Lincoln. Lincoln is the main thoroughfare bisecting the entire Island.
The newspapers pasted to the wall consist of full-page items on the war in Iraq. Harlan's signs frequently refer to current events, but the commentary is usually inscrutable. We have no idea what "1610" refers to.
EUGENE SHRUBB GOES STUMPING FOR SUPPORT
Report has it that Eugene Shrubb recently visited various foreign Heads of State so as to garner support for his continuing invasion of Newark. Long time readers know that Eugene, self-acknowledged President of the Bums, invaded the town of Newark last April so as to forestall usage of Weapons of Mass Doodoo and to root out the embedded presence -- suspected at the time -- of the notorious terrier, Osama Bin Lassie. Its been a number of months now and no WMDs and no Osama have been found and the invasion is proving to be quite costly day by day. Far from being welcomed as aesthetic liberators from strip-mall ugliness, certain recalcitrant grannies have formed a surprisingly vigorous Resistance Movement which features such highly innovative tactics as sneaking up behind bums and wacking them on the head with cast iron skillets.
The qualities of the bums and their superlative discipline under fire cannot be questioned, but certain unpatriotic individuals have begun mumbling about the expense, the veracity of WMD claims, and the basic silliness of the entire endeavor.
Eugene has gone to Hayward, where he was rebuffed by the City Council, and Sacto, where they said they had enough bums already living there, including a brand new Austrian of the most dubious qualities every bit as unsavory as anything Eugene had to offer. In far off Butte County The reception was quite otherwise, for the Council, headed by Tony "The Tiger" Snare, greeted Eugene's delegation in the marble rotunda of the County Seat with great fanfare for this was the biggest occasion Butte County had ever had opportunity to enjoy, being the poorest and most overlooked of all the 29 counties. Not to say the historic meetings did not occur amid protestations. The editor of the Butte County Journal went so far as to call the Butte County Administrator "Eugene's poodle", which provoked challenges of honor and demands of "satisfaction." Eugene got himself out of there with his buddies on the Amtrac livestock express headed south, leaving quite a hullaballoo behind.
Stay tuned for further developments.
'TIS THE SEASON
You know when the seasons change around here when Pagano's hardware swaps out its main display window. The displays occupy a good 20 feet of sidewalk frontage and almost never feature hardware items, but almost always entertain. Andy Pagano sold the onetime shoe store he converted into a little hardware place some ago before passing away earlier this year, but the owners have kept up the tradition of meeting the seasons head-on. Here we have a set of sleepers. Beside the Man in Red's foot is a note before a beverage glass, which reads, "Dear Santa Claus, we were good. Here's your warm spirits. Love . . ." .
On one side we have the Ancient Queen and the Old Guy.
On the other, we have Santa Himself.
Hope the old guy wakes up in time to make his rounds.
And please god, don't go driving that sleigh while Under the Influence.
NOVEMBER'S GOT HER NAILS DUG IN DEEP
The days are sunny with walls of cloud in the distance, or deep, high fog bringing a bone-deep chill and the seabirds that have come in to escape the winter storms complain with loud squawks about the crowding. Nights, like this one, are dewy hereabouts, or frosty inland. Every once in a while the little masked bandits hump across the road on basic raccoon business in the shadows. Newspapers bring daily reports of lunatics and we read about them while clutching steaming mugs of coffee and tea sweetened with thick milk and sugar, maybe to wash down the jagged little pills a little better. Here on the Island the City Council has denied everybody's request for money from the General Fund, on the bet that hard times are gonna continue and that reserve will be needed for emergencies. It's a practical set of decisions based on realities and a certain vote of No Confidence to the Powers That Be. Even the City Council is huddling down under financial overcoats these days, getting set for a long winter with no relief in sight.
Ah well, but to paraphrase some over-popular and underrated songwriter, hard times, we are used to them. The speeding planet burns: we are used to that. Our lives are so common they disappear. But the cool, cool river sweeps the wild, white ocean.
This weekend we had a chance to talk with old friend, Bea, who, it happens, is personally haunted by a ghost that goes by the name Imogene. Imogene was a klepto in life and this trait persists in the afterworld, much to the constant irritation of Bea, who is always losing personal items only to have them return at the most inopportune moments -- sometimes years later. A gypsy discovered the name of her personal ghost. That night, in fact, Imogene decided to swipe Bea's glasses -- worth about $700 I might add -- and there we were, with Bea blundering about in the darkness, and all of us blathering to one another with failing flashlights while hunting for this pair of glasses that steadfastly refused to appear in the spot last laid on the veranda. "I left them right here on this table," Bea said. Her glasses, possessed of black rims would have stood out quite well against the bone-white marble surface. Hours later, after a rather fine dinner prepared by long-term friends, Bea discovers the glasses on a last walkthrough. They lay upon a three-foot section of garden hose that we had personally picked up and examined not thirty minutes previously.
All we can say is that Bea is quite lucky, for here she has not only constant companionship, with all the attendant irritations of marriage, but also rather solid and convincing proof of an afterlife.
This is disappointing only if you are expecting choirs of angelic blondes with huge feathery wings -- something I personally find rather objectionable and somehow redolent of the worse of Russ Meyers combined with Broadway musicals. Which I detest. How much better to be accompanied by an aggravating ghost with a recognized character flaw. She just cannot help herself, this Imogene. She just swipes things. What she does with these objects in the Otherworld god, or the devil, only knows. But sure enough, everything always comes back.
We suppose you could always wring your hands eternally about adverse fate and whatnot. Life is certainly crappy enough to warrant that. But on the Island, we simply go about our business, keeping company with ghosts and each other, trying hard enough to keep body and soul together. We have madmen and saints who walk among us to remind us of these verities. And now, here it is again, the long howl of the midnight train steaming out of the Port along the flatlands rimed with ice this chilly November eve.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 16, 2003
LIKE THE WEATHER
The winter rains have settled in at last, but freak storms keep reminding us that All Is Not Right. SoCal reports floods and a bizarre ice storm that heaped up mounds of hail in downtown Los Angeles. So you still think this Global Warming is all a lot of who-ha, eh? Kids in Watts have been having snowball fights when not digging out cars from piles of slush. Something tells me something is going on down there. . . .
LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE
So rare is the appearance of anything natural in East Oaktown such that people will perform the even rarer act of calling the police. There was all kinds of commotion and hullaballoo and nervous jumping up and down when It Happened. As usual, news reporters arrived to take pictures and the event was all over by the time constables showed up. The event in question? A Canadian goose landed on the corner of 85th and D streets. And as usual, the trouble had flown south before the Authorities could arrive. Maybe something is going on down there.
LIKE STEVE MCQUEEN ALWAYS NEEDS A FAST MACHINE
People doing laundry at the Washboard V on Park Street got rudely interrupted when a woman driving a 1988 Honda Accord smacked right through the windows, splashing glass everywhere, and taking out a main building support stud before winding up against a washing machine in the back. Island-life has noted an increase in the number of "stealth turn" maneuvers of late, which usually announces prior to the official announcement of the annual meeting of the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled.
The stealth turn, as some of you may know, is the practice of signaling to go left, entering the left hand lane and then, abruptly yanking a 3,000+ pound vehicle of death and destruction to the right. There are variations on this theme, but you get the idea.
Last week a woman managed to duplicate the curious feat of launching her Honda from the foot of A Street as a pair of gentlemen had done about a year ago. Fortunately for the woman, her feat was observed, for A Street dead ends -- literally -- in the Bay. Pulled alive from her bubbling vehicle, which proved to lack hybrid floatation qualities, she was found to have a blood alcohol level twice that of the legal limit. Police estimate that her speed on take-off was approximately 60 mph after hitting the brakes at the last minute.
Whoa! Something went on down there!
THIS MEMORY IS JUST A DEAD MAN MAKIN' TROUBLE
This Tuesday it will have been 25 years to the day since the afternoon when San Mateo Rep. Leo Ryan, accompanied by aide Jackie Speier paused before boarding an airplane with NBC and Chronicle news-people after completing a firsthand examination of conditions at a religious enclave in Guyana where 1200 Bay Area residents had gathered to lead a sequestered life of the spirit under the aegis of a former Pentecostal preacher who was best known for being half of the first White couple ever to adopt a Black child.
The Temple had begun under idealistic and innocent-enough terms, with some ideals that featured attractive goals of racial and gender equality for the world at large. In those days, people believed that group action could change the world for the better and the general movement was in search of a vehicle to help fellow man. But as the decades rolled on, and the ideals ran up against some fairly harsh realities, the Temple moved from Ukiah with some 200 followers to San Francisco (in 1972) and there developed significant political clout with thousands of adherents and somehow some of the idealism ran into rough managerial waters. The Temple became a self-enclosed entity, acquired the status of a cult and by 1977 was under investigation by the IRS, the FCC, the SSA and a variety of other government agencies. Pressured by these agencies, the leader moved a large number of followers to a jungle compound in a small country bounded by Brazil, Venezuela and the Atlantic Ocean. Representative Ryan flew down at the behest of a Bay Area opposition group called Concerned Relatives to conduct a survey into allegations of illegal detention and violence.
After an overnight stay within the compound, Ryan departed with 16 defecting members who wished to return with him. Even at that point, at approximately 3:48 pm while approaching the airplane to take them all away, no one knew how bad things had gotten. Speier remembers seeing a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer across the landing-strip. The tractor stopped and several men stood up from the trailer a short distance away and began firing automatic weapons at the group, killing Ryan, NBC reporter Don Harris, NBC cameraman Robert Brown, San Francisco Examiner photographer Gregory Robinson and defector Patricia Parks. Nine others were severely wounded, including Jackie Speier, who fell with five bullets in her body. Survivors who could run fled into the jungle.
"I remember lying on that airstrip thinking, 'Oh my god, I'm 28 years old and I'm about to die." she says today. It was a trip she had not wanted to take, but, ironically, finally assumed as responsibility so as to show a female presence during a serious Congressional inquiry. She lay on the strip until near dawn, when Guyana soldiers found them.
These soldiers then moved on to the compound itself and found there a scene of horror that has not been seen since the days of 1945. The soldiers kept coming across hundreds upon hundreds of bodies. The entire compound was filled with corpses -- all of them were dead. All of them. Including men, women and hundreds of children, all gathered around vats of cool-aid that turned out to be laced with cyanide. Apparently the cult leader, Jim Jones, had ordered all 1000 remaining inhabitants of the People's Temple to drink the potion -- as had been previously practiced -- and to administer the potion first to the children. Anyone who refused was shot to death. Barely half a hundred escaped into the jungles about the encampment, listening to screaming and gunfire. A married couple who had come to reclaim their son and take him home survived in a makeshift jail where the cult followers had put them. The body of Jim Jones was found among 913 others. He had shot himself in the head.
The effect upon the Bay Area was catastrophic. Well over 400 dead hailed from Oaktown alone. Many more had come from San Francisco and outlying districts. If the disco me-first tenor had not eradicated utopian idealism with its drug-addled excess consumption, this event scorched the earth free of it and more besides. From then on, flower-power and hippies became anathema, hated symbols of lost sons and daughters, sure signs it must have been bad logic all along. From there the Nation moved into the savage social Darwinism of the Reagan-Bush era in which consideration for that pitiful trash, fellow man, became a jellybean joke and California became the Home of Nuts and Fruits within the increasingly Conservative Press.
It would take disaster in Waco, Texas, heart of Bush-Country, to suggest the real problem lay not in the ideals but in their lapses. They certainly can't blame geography any more.
Jackie Speier survived a year of surgeries and became a senator. She still carried two of the bullets in her abdomen. The adopted child of Jim Jones was attending school in San Francisco during the massacre. He has grown up to be a reasonably successful salesman for a biotech firm. 25 years later we are still dealing with religious fanatics who justify crimes in the name of a god that seems to talk to only a select few at everybody else's expense.
Oh yeah, 17 American boys died yesterday in a foreign. But that's not a matter of religion, oh no. It's not a Faith-based Initiative at all.
MUSIC IS A STRANGE BROOCH IN THIS ALL-HATING WORLD
Music heals the spirit like nothing else. And it is toward music in these times we move. The next few weeks have some real nice events coming up.
YOSHIS - Tuck & Patti - 11/25 - 11/30 - Tuck and Pattie are the salt and pepper of the acoustic world, granting the seasoning of Soul to an otherwise dry steak. The quirky pair have performed on the Island for a few bucks a shot and here they appear in the West Coast's premier jazz spot. Go figure. Get a CD and check them out live.
Also at Yoshis - Taj Mahal Trio - Dec 7, 8 - We cannot say anything bad about Taj, because the gravel-voiced Blues Master cannot do no wrong. At least, he has not up to now. With a definite I'm African-American Attitude that persuades, rather than hammers, Taj is the consummate cosmopolitan American. Would that he represented us in more places than he can go, we would do much better in the world.
At the WARFIELD - Counting Crows led off by the Wallflowers, 2 favorites - Dec 8, 9 12, 13 - We have always felt a certain affection for Adam Dewitz, lead singer for the CC., and are pleased as punch he and his band are going great guns now after long years in the pipeline. The Wallflowers are headed by Dylan's son, which fact everyone pointedly ignores even though its of prime interest. No, he's nothing like his dad, but you would not want that anyway. Should be a very tasty week over there.
Eric Idle - Dec 10-11 - Greedy Bastard Tour - You can count on a former Python to give you the Truth, straight up with no chaser. Eric ought to deliver, just as the forthright title of his tour package promises. No promises of exploding penguins however, everyone might be subject to a punishing roundel of "I'm a Lumberjack, I'm Okay." You know you deserve it.
Either the booking agent has gotten very good at very good blowjobs or extraordinary luck has hit the Fillmore with a non-stop lineup of top-rated acts after Indigo Girls earlier this week.
Nov. 12 - Rusted Root - As close to the root as blues can get.
Nov15 - N. Mississippi Allstars - Blues as close to the root as you can get.
Nov 16 - Indigo Girls - The V-twin engines of the acoustic world are back. Hey, you have not lived until you have stood close to the stage while just about 10,000 radical lesbians are shouting the words to "Closer to Fine" right behind you. These gals rock like nothing else, and prove that nobody needs be weepy and sentimental on an old OM Martin to move the House.
Nov 20 - Lucinda Williams - 'nough said.
Nov 23 - Damien Rice - Ireland's newest phenom scorching the airwaves with his "Volcano".
Nov 28 - Bela Fleck and banjos to die for.
Dec 5 - Los Lobos. Will the wolf survive? Only the man with the heart and the pistol knows.
Dec12 - Dan Hicks - Dan plays a smooth sort of jazzy thing reminiscent of 1950's smoky bars and long overcoats in the rain while women with pompadours stroll with silk stockings past fountains stocked with goldfish and memories. If you don't know how to dance, better learn how to fake it or she'll be gone, leaving nothing but a memory like the smoky image in a gin-soaked daydream. "Live music, live music: my baby felt like steppin' out . . . ".
KFOG has its annual fund raiser CD for bay area food banks, Live from the Archives, now in vol. 10 is selling out at Good Guys and Walmart.com. Early December KFOG will host the Concerts for Kids with Blues Traveler, Los Lonely Boys and Robben Ford. These concerts have typically been monstrous sells with memorable performances.
LIVE 105 Not so Silent Night holds court this year at the Bill Graham Civic with Jane's Addiction survivors, Rancid, Black Eyed Peas, and Black Rebel MC Club. Show is December 12. Late news over the wire is that Iggy Pop and Offspring are late additions. Oh Mah Gawd! We got our tix already, so we expect to see you tossing your underwear up at Iggy in December. No razor blades this time, please.
Freight and Salvage hosted the always impressive Roy Rogers and long-time sidekick Norton Buffalo Friday Night. We had another engagement that night, but it had to have blasted the old roof off of the 30-year old hall. Jackie Greene, blues prodigy fills in the slot on the 20th. Box Set takes over for two days Dec 17-18 and Dave Grisman plucks his mandolin on the 28th.
SING OUT A JOYFUL NOISE
In a long season of disaster, we take comfort in small victories of Common Sense. Louisiana has elected its first ever female Governor over the Bush Administration supported Jendal. Kathleen Blanco defeated the favored challenger by emphasizing her Cajun roots and extensive experience over the far younger and more inexperienced Jendal, who would have been the first Southern non-white Governor had the people chosen him. Louisiana has suffered significantly under the economy as ruled by the present neo-con administration. New Orleans, which has tended to favor conservative GOP candidates voted overwhelmingly against the Bush-endorsed candidate this time out.
NIGHT TIME IN THE SWITCHING YARD
A high-pitched whir starts up, filling the entire room. Everybody looks at the clock: The nightly Backup is beginning. Must be well past the witching hour now. Time to take a stroll along the landing, take a smoke, gaze at the stars. In a few hours, the new week begins. In the far distance, the long howl of the through-passing train echoes across the flatlands. Here comes the rain again, sounding like a melody. Is it raining with you?
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Haven't seen the sun for seven days
November's got her nails dug in deep
Haven't seen my son for seven years
and the chances are we'll never again meet
If truth be told I don't even know his name
If truth be told he doesn't even know my name
I spend my spare time with my rosary beads
although I never learnt to pray
but you don't need the light
and it's best to pretend
that you've seen the errors of your ways
The darkness in here
is as heavy as a judgment
This darkness, heavy as a judgment
My dreams are now filled with Gilead trees
and other sights that I've never seen
They used to be filled
with the fears of tomorrow
and the horror that it might bring
His eyes felt to me
as cold as a stone mason's chisel
His eyes fell on me, cold
like a stone mason's chisel
Strange how a mind can always recall
what the senses eagerly leave behind
I can remember his face, rage,
disgust and distaste
but to my fear I have grown blind
Memories are just dead men making trouble
this memory is just a dead man making trouble
NOVEMBER 9, 2003
DOWN IN NEW ORLEANS, WHISKEY IS STREAMING JUST LIKE WINE
Just got back from N'awlins with the Significant Other, where we took in the festivities for Halloween. The Crescent City offered the usual displays, as well as temps ranging about 15 degrees above normal. The town is now an average 7 feet below sea level, but still holding its own. how can you presume to encapsulate an entire City with a paragraph the way so many guidebooks claim to do? if that were possible, the city would not be worth visiting.
As for Louisiana, and the world outside of our Bay Area Bubble, Island-life brings this Special Report.
The mythical "recovery" touted by nameless statisticians has not touched the Land of Bayous. Tourism is way down, conventions are not convening, and the lumber industry upstate has entered the doldrums, which should be sharp news to those expecting to make a profit on logging the Golden State foothills. In short, people are hurting and the bad economy is endemic everywhere, not just California. The announcement of the End of Recession in November 2001 turns out to be a wash, without any more truth to it than the End of Major Combat in May.
Louisiana holds its own elections for Governor, following Mississippi and Kentucky, but sensibly holding the polls open on the 15th - a Saturday, so as not to warp the already poor economy. The two main contenders feature a female moderate Democrat (LA has never had a female governor) and an ultra-conservative shoe-horned in from the Bush administration. In fact, the man had to quit his DC job so as to fly back and run. The only catch for this self-styled Christian appears to be that his parents hailed from India. A Huey Long look-a-like he is not, but he did fly in with a 15 million dollar war chest from his former boss, George Jr. The general tenor is one of dissatisfaction.
As of this writing, the GOP has successfully purchased the MS and KY governorships, so it does appear likely that common sense will take back seat to $$$$'s.
As for Halloween in the Big Easy? Let's just say nobody down there uses the term. But even if you are dead tired. Or dead, the party goes on.
Halloween has some of the same cachet there as here in the sinful Babylon Bay Area. And some of the same things go on.
Here we have a parade of "slaves" led by an obliging Mr. Pope, who directed traffic at the intersections. Pity the gal in chains, for she had no way to hold her "go-cup." The bare-back fellow was a common sight this humid and over warm holiday.
Religious figures were popular in this very Catholic city, but no monks.
But of course, there were the usual plethora of vampires in the city that counts Ann Rice as Writer in Residence. Here's a pair that was part of the annual Firehouse Parade.
You have to wonder about the poor suckers who would encounter this sight if the House had to respond to a 5-alarm.
Also present were a number of versions of California's new governor, complete with thick Austrian accents. Fellow on the left here claims he "vill investigate zeese claims of ze gropingk."
We journeyed out to the Faubourg Marigny and it did appear that the delightful madness extended from the Garden District far to the west of the Parish, where Ann Rice hosts a Monster Bash, all the way up to City Park, where the Sheriff holds an inmate-constructed "Haunted House", and all the way down to the end of the Esplanade at the river. Everywhere throngs of people filled the streets in a gay assembly of dreams and fantasies. There must have been easily a quarter of a million people out all at one time. Locals told me that the usual violence New Orleans is notorious for: car jackings, muggings, strong arm robberies, murders -- well, maybe not murders -- all seemed to come to a stop for a marvelous couple of days.
New Orleans, the real New Orleans of which Bourbon Street is but a ludicrous parody, can be a rough place with lots of rough trade. Louisiana is not a wealthy place and a large institute for the insane sits not far to the west, consequently the tourists tend to cluster like bees about the relative safety of the rather soul-less French Quarter. Nevertheless every city does have a soul and the genuine part of New Orleans every so often shyly reveals itself like a Spanish lady behind a fan.
Shortly before we left we went down by the river to enjoy the cool breezes and the itinerant musicians and the reason we all really come here: the voodoo of what happens versus the gouge for $$.
Even though a few proprietors and businessmen have usurped swathes of the city for sake of the All Mighty Dollar, and various shopkeepers and restaurateurs have given over to raping the wallets of the unsuspecting, the essence of the city cannot die. In the final analysis: N'awlins lives, despite the fake "Crescent City" and "Big Easy nonsense", much as Babylon here persists over time despite the industriously self-destructive efforts of its native sons. New Orleans remains a canny survivor, for this is the city that survived the Battle of New Orleans with savvy through the simply stratagem of turning all its lights off, fooling the British into thinking the actual city lay on the other side of the river.
WHEN THEY HEAR THOSE BONGOS DRUMMIN' THE OLD FOLKS UP THE BAYOU SAY A PRAYER
While down there we noted the newly expanded edition of the Voodoo Festival, now in its 5th version. The organizers always manage to acquire top notch acts for this event, which drew 80,000 people for the Counting Crows last year. This year they expanded the fest to three days with non-stop music on three main stages from ten am to the early morning hours. They also assembled a lineup that read like a who's who of the Alternative world as it stands right now, including Godsmack, POD, Subdudes, Marilyn Manson, Staind, Cowboy Mouth, Revis, Ballzack, White Stripes, Queens of the Stone Age, Galactic, and Fuel, plus a bevy of acts that covered the gamut, including Paul Oakenfold, Better Than Ezra, Gov't Mule, Cypress Hill, String Cheese Incident, slide wonder Robert Randolph, Rusted Root and Marc Broussard.
Iggy Pop appeared on a spontaneous showup on Saturday.
So much for the good stuff, for you had it all right there -- acts that could make almost anybody salivate. Unfortunately, the festival had virtually nothing at all going for it in any other aspect and we would warn people away from this, both performers and listeners, for it became evident these promoters and organizers have not a god damn clue how to run an event and this ignorance will almost certainly cost somebody their life. For organization and infrastructure these sorry dudes earned an "F".
Granted, the weather was an execrable 88 degrees with a murderous humidity, which sapped people to the point that they walked about limp armed and stumbling when not energized by the acts -- which all were limited to exactly 55 minutes each.
To begin with, not only was no information provided with the $80 tickets, but it became impossible to obtain information of any kind whatsoever. Their glitzy, busy website refused to display contact information numbers and impishly prevented any attempt to download or print meaningful data, such as driving directions.
The venue was a section of the immense City Park, a three-mile long stretch of bayous, lagoons, islands and forests set neatly about with some of the most violent housing projects in the nation.
We took a cab, whose driver certainly knew of the park, but we searched for the venue entrance for 20 minutes before finally just hopping out at a place where throngs seemed to be entering. Well, it turned out this point was at the south end of the park and the venue's single entrance lay at the north end at Harrison Street. We got there at night and found no signage and no informed people for the length of the park other than mysterious barricades that separated lines of marchers to the front from lines of motorcycle cops checking us out.
Well all right we all finally found the unmarked entrance because that is where the lights were. Our daily ticket got us one admit per day. Now, this is an event in a tropical environment that starts at 10 in the morning and it was now ten at night -- what on earth were people to do should they want to see the main acts in the evening after being admitted in the am is anybody's guess. No information about this had been provided anywhere. Okay then, where do we pick up the shuttles to go back through these notorious neighborhoods? No one had a clue. In fact none of the volunteers knew of any shuttles at all.
We then entered the entirely pitch black park, which had no lights whatsoever other than what hazed out from the beer concessions.
We understood there were 30,000 kids in the park and we certainly could feel them for there was an awful lot of bumping into people. So okay, time to move to precautionary mode. I had a sort of map I had ripped from a local newspaper of the grounds -- otherwise we would have had no moorings whatsoever -- and we concluded that we would meet at the Lost and Found if separated. We did not locate this marvelous spot until leaving the park a bit later, largely because the map was wrong, or they had moved the table, and, of course, there were no lights to see it in any case.
There were no signs at all, the volunteers had no clues as to where anything was and there was no information booth -- in any case, the volunteers and Security did not know of any such animal. We also could not find any of the First Aid Stations.
We gave up on Authority and began asking attendees for locations. No one knew of shuttles. No one knew of an information booth. And it turned out that the lineup also was changing hour by hour, with numerous cancellations.
All right then. We paid $80 and we will see at least just one act. I had never seen Iggy Pop and I wanted to see the man perform so we set off in search of the main stage. Our directions were, "find the laser show and turn into the darkness to the right. Go over the bridge."
Through a thicker and thicker press we passed until we got sight of the bridge, which turned out to be the only entrance to the main stage -- which was on an island surrounded by a bayou. This bridge, the main passage for 30,000 people, was twelve feet wide. It also was partially blocked by a policeman mounted on a horse. Which moved agitatedly back and forth in the sea of humanity.
At the base of the bridge we looked at one another and agreed, this was f---g crazy. What was going to happen when the last act wound up and this spot became packed with clumps of people at two am? In soggy disgust we left, passing the occasional lost soul huddled in the middle of the path with head between knees.
Herewith is our diss:
lighting extremely poor or non-existent
alcohol served in quantity with no controls
poor and non-existent signage
no info on shuttles
no info on maps, locations, medical tents, hours, in/out privs set at 1x only (19 hour event !)
no programs, no information booths, no way to download the spastic information on the flashy web page
last minute act revisions
We can only add these organizers were extremely
lucky due to the nature of the attendees - voluntarily well behaved, albeit
very, very drunk. The N.O. police were well disciplined and obviously
had a lot to do with the lack of fighting in a venue that mixed hard core
rappers with the ultimate in white trash.
In any other location, these organizers would have been eaten alive and destroyed by violence given the lack of care. Personally, we think even Marilyn Manson, for all his antichrist faults, deserved better treatment than this.
FOOD FOR THOT
On the plane ride back who should accompany us but one Mac Rebenack, otherwise known as Dr. John. We thought it would be a hoot to extend our New Orleans experience by finding out where he was to play, and to our immense pleasure we discovered he was just blowing into town for a five night run at our favorite venue, Yoshi's at Jack London Square. Tix were selling out, even with no advertising, but we managed to snag the late show on Friday.
The good Dr. has had his ups and downs over the years since coming into the world in New Orleans in 1941, but with his latest CD release, Creole Moon, he returns to the funk and voodoo styles that launched him in the mid-sixties, but with the musical sophistication developed by years of experience in the business. At Yoshi's we saw a master really hitting his stride at the top of his game once again, performing effortlessly and with economy of motion, simultaneously trilling the electric organ with one hand while pounding a full sized grand piano with the other.
Like his new CD, the show featured a fair number of Doc Pomus collaborations as well as some funky Caribbee and West African rhythms. The man has become such a stylized icon that he can move the entire room by shifting his eyebrows with consummate cool
Here is a shot of the good Doctor in an earlier incarnation. Would that he would have known then he would become a giant of jazz.
Once again accompanied we by guitarist Renard Poche plus drummer Herman Ernest III and bassist David Barard as the band called "Lower 911", Dr. John brought the crowd to its feet and had them dancing in the aisles in true New Orleans style. He opened with a very catchy "Now that You Got Me", moved to "The Wrong Side of the Tracks" and settled down for a tender "I'll Always Love You" before getting funkified with "Boop Boop Be Do." Then followed his famous "Gris Gris" and the old standards "Right Place Wrong Time" and "Tipitina".
Dr. John, many were healed that night.
WAITING ON A TRAIN
It's not much to look at from the outside - just an unpainted rough warehouse wall with a door, and the interior hardly rises above its origins as a storage and distribution center for produce. Just a big room that holds about a hundred people, set with a motley assortment of cafeteria chairs, remnants of old kitchen sets and a bank of salvaged theatre seats. But this venue, the venerable Freight and Salvage, is the premier place for acoustic music on the West Coast, and probably the entire Country.
The Significant Other repressed her Punk instincts long enough to accompany us to the Freight and Salvage in Berzerkeley, there to enjoy one of the most interesting blues guitarists to come out of New Orleans -- Chris Smither.
You might never have heard of Chris, for he has never been somebody who marketed himself well or aimed at the Top 40 slot. But this is a musician whose lyrics have been compared to those of Dylan and whose distinctive guitar sound, which blends melody and rhythm in a Lightning Hopkins/John Hurt manner -- has long held a devoted following among those who play and appreciate acoustic music. He has, in fact, managed to successfully establish a continuation of the blues idiom without being slavish to shuffles, I-IV-V progressions, and predictable tropes. He plays contemporary blues about things that matter to us today without trying to be a museum of past techniques and ideas.
He has a new CD out called Train Home which is another instance of a master who is once again hitting his stride. Free of all the cumbersome orchestration that flagged some of his other productions, this is one hell of a keeper from the bouncy title track, the crunching power chords of Call Time to the funereal version of Dylan's Desolation Row.
Smither in person, in live concert is quite a treat, for the man's immense good humor and laughing sensibility really comes out to counterbalance the songs of lost love and stolen cars. In fact, Smither appears to really enjoy himself while performing, which is a rare thing in someone who has near thirty years of experience on stage. Saturday night he caused the audience to break up several times with ribald jokes and appeared to forget himself a couple times while singing. But then, that is the wonder of watching a master work, for when Chris Smither made an obvious mistake he would buckle down and get it all back in moments. It actually was quite amazing to see him juggle balls in the air, drop one, then deftly pick up and get going until the dropped ball somehow found its way in the air again by virtue of sheer concentration.
Also performing were John Mulvey and producer David Goodrich -- who did things with a mandolin no one ever thought possible. At one point Goodrich lifted his electrified instrument to his face and blew across the bridge, producing the most eerie effect through the amp.
We have to say, Chris Smither is a delight to see, even on an off night, for an off night for Smither is wildly successful beyond the dreams of the average hack. And if two standing ovations from the very critical Berkeley crowd were any indication, Saturday can be counted as one of his many successes.
THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE ONE I LOVE / JUST A SIMPLE LINE / TO OCCUPY MY TIME
On returning from New Orleans we obtained 1st hand reports from the southlands - rains of ash, closed freeways, walls of flame. This was disaster on major scale and is not just another "fire this time" issue. Over 20 real people died and real people were destroyed with all their possessions in the thirteen fires that marched over 800,000 acres of land.
Interesting to note that since much of this land was private, and all of the public land hosting useless for timber trees, George Bush's proposed clear-cutting fire hazard reduction would not have helped these people one bit. Since the trees had been worm-holed by pests, no logging company in its right mind would have bothered to clear so much as a quarter acre of land.
The Island's contribution returned up the long valley from fighting the good fight. A Novato fireman lost his life and three brothers are hanging on with severe burn injuries. Best of luck to you, boys.
HAPPY HAPPY. JOY JOY
The Tube opened and night closures have stopped and all is well in the West End after the long and extended tube retrofit has concluded its nightly closure phase. The tube, first underwater tunnel of its kind ever built, needed retrofitting to prevent collapse or float-away damage in the event of an 8.5 or lesser shake.
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
It's that season when the wind turns crisp, blowing fallen leaves like so many embers. The sap rises and young people of all stripes have thoughts that turn to fancy imaginings, reveries with the chin in hand. Memories of past celebrations drift like gun-smoke across the cratered surfaces of the mind, recalling pungent scents, savory delicacies prepared over the open fire, and further mixing metaphors in a grand gallumphery of purple stew.
Yes, this is the time when every red-blooded soul dreams about taking down that thirty-ought six and blowing Fifi clean into the sky with one good shot. For it is time once again for yet another Annual Thanksgiving Day Island Poodle-Shoot and BBQ. Some of you may have never experienced the wonders of hunting down a petite and cute-as-a-button Toy Poodle and there, on a terrace laid with ornate French furniture and decorated by statuettes of the finest neo-classical style, spattering the brains of the little yapper hither and yon. For you we offer commiserations and sympathies. But its not too late to sign up for the premier event of the Season. Here are the rules.
Personally, we are itching to try out the effect of our brand new Mossberg 345. Ah, the joys of the season.
WAITIN' FOR THE SOLDIER TO COME BACK AGAIN
Nathalie of the Dixie Chicks sang that song, and time has vindicated the woman against the catcalls and boos when she stood up on that stage almost a year ago and said, "Because of that (President Bush) I am ashamed to be a Texan today." Now, more than then, the song of the soldier returning home is more relevant than ever as yet another war rages in a distant land where none of us can hope to ever understand the ways and the customs of that place.
Tuesday is a special day this time around. Our sons and daughters now are pitched in dubious battle in some foreign land and the numbers daily report the news. Over 400 American dead and well over 2,000 coming back wounded -- to live lives without fingers, toes, arms, legs. And all for what? Dollars in the pockets of friends of the powerful. Halliburton and Bechtel are becoming fat while our boys wear useless Vietnam-era flak jackets. Should we have done nothing at all instead of something really stupid? History already has the lines even while 18-year olds die in a place that does not even use the alphabet they learned in school a short time before enlistment.
Still, Tuesday is not just about the politics of today. There are plenty here on the Island who remember the Battle of Okinawa, the Battle of the Bulge, the bloody Choisin Reservoir in Korea, Ba Ap hill in Vietnam, the Saigon racetrack, Grenada, Somalia and many other places where boys became men and girls became women in the worst manner imaginable.
Had a conversation some months ago with a feller working for the County in a technical capacity. Somehow the talk came upon the ineptitude of people In Charge, and his example pretty much reduced anything I had to offer to small change. "I was a captain at the time and was sent to patrol an area near the racetrack. Suddenly we came under fire -- very heavy fire -- and, although we did not know it at the time that was the start of the Tet offensive by the VC. Something went through my right leg -- right here about the thigh -- and I only found out later that it was shrapnel from a grenade. Don't know whose -- everybody was firing everywhere in all directions and throwing everything thing. In minutes all of us -- the entire platoon -- had been hit by something. I was standing there with my weapon just screaming f---g hell and emptied the clip -- fortunately in a few seconds I guess, because I didn't get down until then. I lost my radio operator and grabbed the unit . . .".
"You lost your operator? The man was killed right there?"
"Oh yeah, he was standing right next to me. Nice guy -- can't remember his name. Bob or something. Any case I got on the line and would you know there was a chopper circling over head reporting on everything going on. A--h--- just watching all of this and reporting back. I just screamed at him using every word I could think of, 'Get offa the f--g line you g-d d---d son of a f---g b----!' All this time my leg was hurting so I really laid into the guy. I couldn't call in support until he was off. But man that got me steamed."
We have not seen the man since that day he told us that story. As for Bob the radio operator, we suppose somebody sent a letter back, saying, "The soldier's coming home".
November 11, the war that was to end all wars came to an end. Somehow the best of intentions went astray. Still, we commemorate the day which became the minimal acknowledgment of service by those who have done the worst work known to mankind. Wherever you are, Radio Operator Bob, all the best.
GONNA WAIT UNTIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
Rain-slick streets susurrate under the rubber wheels of passing cars and the day ticks over into the next this quiet Sunday eve. The Significant Other dreams under a hump of covers while the windows let a chill breeze blow the scent of waterproofing through the house. Travel is all very fine, but its great to be back home where the women are as comprehensible as the species can be with no trace of Blanche du Bois confusing the accents. The languorous ladies of the Deep South with their languorous ways have their points. But we long for the vigorous California women who leap upon their stallions and digging their spurs in deep go galloping across the hills. . . . Um, well, yes. Let's change the subject.
Like an old friend, the sound of the midnight train clacking past the cannery down by Buena Vista greets me with hale fellow well met tones. Travel, they say, is only meant to make you appreciate home all the more. We aint fancy here on the Island. Because that's the way we like it.
It's great to be back. Have a great week. And a stuffed mirleton on me.
OCTOBER 26, 2003
THE MONSTER MASH
We are well into the one and only Main Event in the Bay Area, a series of parties that lasts a good two weeks long, culminating in that fabulous Holiday known in some places as Halloween, Samhain, All Souls and One Hell of a Good Time.
Oaktown's City Council caved in to widespread protest when it was learned that the City would make no exception to the Closed on Fridays arrangement that many municipalities here have pursued as a policy since the current Recession has worsened. As a result of common sense and general holiday euphoria, the City is keeping open the 26 recreation centers for activities intended to keep the kids off the streets during the party time.
We had the Exotic Erotic Ball already. Upcoming this week is the Hookers Ball, the Nymphomaniacs Ball, the Fence-Sitters Ball, the joyous anarchy of Halloween in the Castro and about fifty other major events throughout the Bay Area.
This evening even the House of Blues Radio Hour has Elwood creeping about with a black fedora over dark sunglasses and a somber dark suit with black necktie . . . oh, he always does that. Well anyway, the theme tonight is the Scary Blues. "I feel so uneasy. You got to pick up every stitch. Oh no! It must be the Season of the Witch!"
MUSIC DO I HEAR? MUSIC IS A STRANGE BROOCH IN THIS ALL HATING WORLD
The big news around here is the total cancellation of the entire West Coast component of The Waifs tour. Tix for the SF show this Tuesday at the Great American Music Hall sold out quickly as the buzz on the incredible Simpson sisters from Australia got around. The official word is that Vicki and Donna have headed back Down Under due to "family bereavement".
Also a shocker is the recent announcement that Yoshis, the premier jazz venue on the West Coast will open a new house in Babylon in '04. The date coincides with the expiration of the lease at the famous Jack London Square location. The Port of Oakland, which leases the space, is eager to keep the hot nightspot in town, but as of Sunday, Omar Benjamin has not been given a sign as to what the owners plan to do. The City of Oakland paid $2 million towards rent under the original agreement and the Port kicked in another 2.8 million for the initial construction of the club. Currently, Yoshi's pays $20,000 per month for the space that holds a restaurant and the 120 seat intimate club where giants of music have played for many years. They also contribute another 10% of the annual profits to the City. Owner Kaz Kajimura was out of town for the announcement and unavailable for comment.
This weekend has been a music-lover's delight for those who still have cash during this Recession. Annie DiFranco played a solo show at the Greek and Neil Young hosted once again the annual Bridge School Benefit held by his wife Peggy at the Shoreline. The Bridge School is an academy for severely disabled kids, which his wife has had a hand in organizing and assisting with. At least one of their children is an attendee.
Galactic does the Fillmore before heading back to the Crescent City for the Voodoo Festival.
At the Fillmore, Micky Hart and Marley's Ghost usher in the penultimate month. Rusted Root shows up after resting from the Voodoo Festival, on the 12th. the Indigo Girls, those V-twin engines of the acoustic world, rock the house on the 13 and then again on the 16th, allowing the North Mississippi Allstars to hold forth on the 15th. Lucinda Williams takes over for the 20-21, followed by wunderkind Irish boy Damien Rice.
The Warfield shall not be idle in this time, as Jonny Lang holds forth on the first of November with his scorching guitar work. King Crimson with their straight-back chair type of intellectual rock played with lighting effects covers the following night. New faves, Guster, handle the 7th while Jason Mraz takes the following day.
Especially not to be missed will be the amazing lineup on the 15th, featuring Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffith and Dar Williams, all playing strictly acoustic material. Not surprisingly, tix are going for $45 per seat on the floor. Can you say, "Estrogen Overload" four times fast?
SOIZIC RESTAURANT REVIEW
Took Shelly, the Demon Child no longer, out for her fifteenth with her sister, who is no longer a teen. Went to a nice little cosmopolitan place on the edge of Jack London Square called Soizic. Atmosphere there is Vague Mediterranean in a single room decorated with contemporary postmodern paintings that evoked a mixture of classical France, Greece, Italy and Art Nouveau. We arrived at five-thirty and the place filled quickly after that with groups of four and six. Style of menu and food preparation was California Cuisine.
The wine list contained some moderately good to poor wines, all wildly overpriced by the glass, so we would recommend splitting the bottle if wine is a necessary.
We had for appetizers: smoked trout salad with cranberries and vinaigrette, Portobello mushroom with spinach, and the marinated and seared asparagus under spinach and pesto. Everything was prepared well with attention to detail and each dish continued to provide pleasant surprises with each bite. The smoked trout proved to be surprisingly tasty, with yummy crumbles of trout mixed in to greens with nuts and cranberries. The miniature asparagus spears lathered with a subtle pesto and sprinkled with pecans also was quite delightful.
As main courses we had lamb with potatoes au gratin, stuffed eggplant with spinach and polenta and a basic fettuccini with white wine sauce.
The best success for the entrees was the lamb, which was served as boneless strips of delicately braised meat in a savory brown sauce accompanied by a flaky potato cube stuffed with aromatic cheeses. The eggplant consisted of layers of seared eggplant with tomato and mascarpone cheeses with basic spinach drenched in a tangy vinaigrette and sided with a lake of polenta. The fettuccini with bacon in wine sauce is a difficult dish to prepare and the wise tend to avoid this one. In its favor, we can say that this version did not appear to have the heavy cream treatment that so often ruins the dish.
The general consensus is that the place is very good on the standing of its appetizers, which, true to the California cuisine style, match the entrees in bulk and quantity. If you want to chow down, we suggest going down the street to the considerably more informal Everett and Jones BBQ joint. In fact, any one of us could have dined exclusively on the appetizer menu and been quite satisfied. Soizic proved that Oaktown can compete with the best of them in terms of quality and in service, which remained prompt and courteous in spite of an obviously full house. Two thumbs up on this one.
BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A DIME
The City Council recently voted to deny granting a $7 mil loan to AP&T for completing the Island-wide cable system and their reasoning is most interesting to examine. It is quite clear that the public utility needs the money to complete the necessary work, but the Council is predicating their decision on the assumption that hard times will continue to worsen and they will need to dip into the General Fund reserves to keep the city running during emergencies.
This is a clear vote of no confidence from some very flinty-eyed pragmatists as regarding the new Governator and the general economic outlook. Since the man was a total failure as an actor, they probably feel he won't be much of a Governor either.
That Putnam, formerly a major BofA brokerage partner, just fired four senior employees for bad behavior that risked the assets of its mutual fund clients indicates that the troubles in the Market are not over. On the plus side, so many people are out of work now, the retailers expect quite an immense pool of labor from which to pull to get them through the "Holiday Season". And since everyone is making thousands of dollars less this year than last year, the taxes on income will be -- of course -- vastly reduced. It took a bit of figuring to find out what Bush meant by lowering taxes but now we know -- all of us now fall into a lower tax bracket because we all make much less money now -- hence, our taxes are much lower.
But then, if everyone is working these seasonal "desperation jobs", who is going to be doing the shopping?
THE BIG EASY AIN'T THAT EASY
As some of you recall, something happened a while back on the 11th of September. Prior to that time, the Significant Other and I had some plane reservations to hie out to New Orleans. Well, life and Terriers have a way of interfering with the best laid plans. But the good hearts of the airline industry allowed a slight delay, but some trips cannot be put off forever and the time came to finally reschedule the damn thing. Consequently there will be a delayed Island-Life next week while we cover the Voodoo Festival in New Orleans. Hopefully we shall not encounter any of them damn Terriers running loose on airplanes.
In recompense, we have in mind a sort of retrospective of one of California's less-esteemed Native Sons, the former Governor and failed President, Ronald Reagan. Even as Ronny Raygun now drools in a cup and pisses his pants while the entire State waits for news of his death, some revisionists are attempting to recast the story of his injuries to America as some kind of period of Enlightenment, while most of us recall extended soup-kitchen lines, staggering unemployment and disastrously failed public policies coupled with vindictive destruction of life-sustaining programs. Look forward to this: an evaluation of California's former Governor.
So now its gone to the midnight hour. The clack clack of the train down by the old cannery snicks across the fields. A little later, the through-passing train sends its howl against the darkness of our times through the night and across the Buena Vista flatlands. Someday, my friends, we will live again in a place where we elect our leaders and the leaders follow our wishes. We will live in a land free of Concentration Camps run without supervision by the Executive Branch, we will be free of unreasonable search and seizure, we will be allowed to speak our dissent against government policies without fear of reprisal, we will once again enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of choice. And we will enjoy prosperity again and the fruits of peace in which no mother need fear that her son not return home again from some foreign war that has no purpose other than to line the purses of a few selected people. We will live again in the Land that was our own.
But this time and these circumstances do not yet exist. And we wait for them patiently by the River where we hung up our lives.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
When I look out my window
Many sights do I see
When I look in my window
So many different people to be
So very strange
You got to pick up every stitch
You got to pick up every stitch
Must be the season
The season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
When I look over my shoulder
What do you think I see
Some other cat looking over
His shoulder right at me
And it's strange
You got to pick up every stitch
Beatniks are out to make it rich
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
When I look out my window
So many sights do I see
When I look into my window
So many different people to be
You got to pick up every stitch
Rabbit's runnin' in the ditch
Beatniks are out to make it rich
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
Must be the season of the witch
OCTOBER 19, 2003
SHINING STAR WHAT YOU SEE
As mankind struggles through its darkest night, its a pleasure and a joy to report some bright happening in the gloom. Long-time readers know that this Editor subscribes to the Langalist Plus, a technical weekly that is distributed via the internet to computer professionals all over the globe. Not content with helping us drones in the computer trenches, Fred Langa decided the following and here are his words.
Those of us with computers and Internet access are vastly better off than most of the world's population. Because of this, I decided that a portion of the LangaList Plus! subscription fees would be donated to registered/legitimate charities helping the underprivileged around the world. The contribution does not increase the cost of a Plus! subscription in any way; the donation is taken "off the top" of any profits. (This is described in the pages at http://www.langa.com/plus.htm )
LangaList Plus! subscribers also have collectively contributed to emergency earthquake relief efforts in India and to funds to assist those hurt in the Sept 11th terrorist attacks on the US. (To see all the donations so far, click to http://www.langa.com/plus2.htm#kids )
As the year goes on, and as more readers sign up for Plus! subscriptions, I hope we'll be able to sponsor more children and assist other charities around the world.
Graham Greene once said, "There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in...."
The latest addition to the group sponsored on an ongoing basis by LangaList Plus! subscribers is Elder.
Eder Elizandry Gonzales Monzon is a 10-year-old boy living in a small village in Guatemala. The local aid project describes his life this way:
Eder comes from an indigenous family that speaks only the Spanish language and wears westernized clothes. Eder has two brothers. Both parents are literate. His father works as a merchant, and his mother does the house chores. The family's monthly income is below US$100.00. Their salary is not enough to provide their basic needs. They live in their own three-room dwelling, built of adobe walls, tile roof, and cement floor. They have running water, a rustic latrine, and electricity. Meals are cooked on a rustic stove. Eder's health is good, and his nutritional statue is normal.
DON'T FORGET TO LET LOOSE THE BIRDS IN THE HILLS
The Significant Other and I managed to secure "rush tix" for the Berkeley Rep's production of Mary Zimmerman's The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Zimmerman works out of Chicago as part of the much awarded Lookingglass Theatre. We had been much taken by Zimmerman's very exciting adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses which performed on Broadway and toured here last year to standing ovations every night. You can read a review of that production in the Island-Life 2002 section. Just do a search in your browser for the word "Ovid".
This time around, Mary has once again selected extraordinarily difficult material to dramatize with wildly innovative set design and dramaturgy. The piece consists of original music, a couple pop songs, and a few fragments of original dialogue performed entirely in Italian, all built around the notes Leonardo da Vinci wrote to himself over a long career. These notes were grocery lists, financial accounting tots, philosophical musings, scraps of dreams, mechanical notes for machines never built -- in fact all the scrap "postits" that you or I would keep next to the telephone or the computer. Except these notes were the notes of the premier genius of the Renaissance.
DaVinci was born out of wedlock in the mid 1500's in northern Italy as the sire of a middle class tradesman and a peasant woman. From this modest beginning he went on to become an extraordinary polymath, developing advanced skills in music, astronomy, physics, mathematics, structural engineering, mechanical engineering, biology, draftsmanship, architecture, military defense, as well as the painting for which he is most famous. He apparently invented the bicycle, significantly advanced our understanding of gross human anatomy, invented the helicopter, designed the first geodesic domes with such integrity that those designs are still employed today,
Typically quixotic and addicted to procrastination, the gifted daVinci would drop major projects, never to be completed only to come a cropper with the most astonishing discoveries. One of his casual notes casually describes the following: " . . .ah yes, the sun never moves. The earth does that. Makes it appear the sun moves." With that rather important observation he dropped the entire subject, apparently never finding it worth mentioning to the rest of the world. But then, perhaps word of Galileo got through to him.
He performed dissections upon more than 18 human cadavers in secret, writing copious notes and creating hundreds of detailed anatomical sketches that vastly increased our knowledge of human anatomy.
Zimmerman's presentation could have been a rather dry and wearisome pastiche, but with the aid of Scenic Designer Scott Bradley, who created a wonderworld of a set combining walls of old-fashioned file drawers flanking an open space over which a tubular U-shaped structure was used by actors as trapeze, ceiling, and prop hanger, and fronting a balcony with drops and projections.
Zimmerman chose to employ the methods and style of the old Commedia dell' arte, an Italian cabaret genre that features music, outre masks, broad gestures, and bawdy badinage. The result enlivened what could have been rather dry musings of a master on rather dry subjects. For example, in one sequence, Mariann Mayberry, describes daVinci's ideas on relative weight and mass physically with the imposing form of Paul Oakley Stovall. Now Stovall, standing some six foot four and well muscled must weigh somewhere near 300 pounds while the lithe Mayberry probably checks in around 160, assuming higher than average muscle density due to physical conditioning. She calmly kept up her academic lecture while slinging Stovall around like a basket. Then, never taking a break, she repeatedly threw herself from across the stage at Stovall who tossed and threw her and hung her in various positions as she maintained an earnest lecture on physics until, as she continued to speak, he was swinging her about in a circle like a slingshot faster and faster.
The display sort of stopped the House.
The physical demands for this kind of thing are extraordinary. We counted actor Doug Hara, last seen as a pudgy Cupid in the previous production, do at least 50 pull-ups to the overhead structure while talking non stop and performing bicycle moves with his legs. He finished up with a cartwheel across the stage. Of course, nowadays he does look quite a bit leaner. In another case we watched Lucia Brawley haul herself up, revolve backwards on the bar and hang with her arms behind her for a good 20 seconds before reversing the turn and dropping down. In order to do this, the actress must need to "desocket" her arms within the rotator cuff and then resocket without injury.
Zimmerman has an enviably talented company on which to draw for her works. Jane Cho conversed easily in Italian and sang exquisitely, turning the old Vera Lynn song "We'll meet Again" into an aria. Brawley alternated easily between gymnastics as described above and a regal falcon, before becoming the comic victim of daVinci's attempts at mechanical flight, pratfalling across the stage in a delightful sequence that ends with daVinci's realization "We have everything here of the Bird . . . except its soul . . . I have wasted hours."
It is difficult to mouth the words of a genius, especially words never meant to survive beyond a days shopping or a trip abroad. Mayberry and actor Christopher Donahue had the best success in speaking the lines naturally without falling into a sort of pseudo-Shakespearean attitude. Leonardo recalled in his notes coming across a cave in the hills which both attracted and repelled him with somber seriousness. This cave of mystery is what pulls him throughout his life -- he lived to about 69 -- and it is Mayberry who, as Leonardo, finally enters the darkness at the end and it is Donahue who speaks the final words of the piece, also as Leonardo "All this time I thought I had been learning how to live, when, in fact, I have been learning how to die."
The cast would have taken more than two curtain calls, but they were understandably fatigued.
As for Leonardo, we would ask you to follow the reminders he often wrote to himself, and "Go into the market and buy all the birds you can find. Then set them free in the hills."
I DO BELIEVE THERE IS SOMETHING GOING ON DOWN THERE
We all jumped up and milled about with all the efficiency of deranged army ants last Sunday when a powerful acrid odor wafted into the building. After much knocking on doors and public inquiries, We called PiGgiE only to find that the report was already in: Bad stink all over the Island. Turns out a couple homeboys tearing out some old fridge equipment severed a line that held something other than coolant. And, it seems, something other than propane or natural gas. The Experts tell us it tested out as Hydrogen Sulfide, not exactly a friendly thing and something more often found around a heap of dead stuff. Nobody has been allowed back into those apartments and a number of folks have taken trips to the hospital for respiratory inflammations.
Now however stuffed his dead wife into a one-inch diameter pipe about a hundert years ago is sure in for it now.
But since no traffic laws were affected, no one has been apprehended and the perpetrators remain at large.
Some of you may recall that Eugene Shrubb invaded Newark some time ago looking for Weapons of Mass Doo-doo with his Army of Bums, not to be confused with the State Legislature, whom they greatly resemble in the opinion of many. Its been a few months now and no weapons have turned up in spite of some serious looking about and some high-falutin' studies. Furthermore, the Occupation has run into a stubborn -- and entirely unanticipated -- resistance from the Newark Geriatric Ladies Who Drive Association. Many of these members, we have discovered, do not drive at all but attend meetings entirely out of a social pursuit, calling into question the validity and legality of the entire organization.
Well, now Eugene has gone to the City Council so as to appeal for the grant of 87 billion cans of sterno. It was a solemn moment for which Eugene had taken the extreme trouble of bathing. When pressed on this extraordinary and absurd request, Eugene has responded that the 87 billion are needed to rebuild the Newark infrastructure after the damage of War and Occupation and the deposition of the Tyrant who remains to be found.
"Newark Infrastructure!" snorted Councilperson Dingus. "Newark was named appropriately after the armpit of the Country! It never had no infrastructure!"
In truth, the streets of Newark resemble their namesake quite well, for down main street flows the vomit of America in the form of fast food joints, crooked body shops, linoleum centers, strange retail outlets that never seem to offer anything useful, really minor methamphetamine labs, and fantod factories of ill repute, as well as a factory reek of some unknown origin. They have always been this way and even the Occupation has changed little in the nature of things. Like many parts of the world, the people of Newark make stupid geegaws of little use, trafficked in drugs and otherwise got by with only the occasional invasion, largely a function of invading somebody else more useful. Why Eugene insists on remaining for a time seems utterly incomprehensible to everybody.
In a moment of dementia or lightheartedness, the Council agreed to give Eugene Shrubb, a proven liar of the first degree, 87 billion cans of sterno with which to rebuild Newark. Newark, it should be noted, cannot hold 87 billion cans of anything anywhere within its borders at any one time. It can only be assumed that friendly kickbacks will occur and business will resume as usual, somewhat to the detriment of the taxpayer, but at this point, it seems obvious nobody gives serious fuck-all concern about them. What good are they anyway?
In the meantime, a few querulous old fogies have noted that the recent reports indicate that Newark never had WMDD, never had the capability to make them, never had the intention of making them and that the Newark Council is incapable of making a system of city-wide toilets, let alone an advanced and intimidating system of atomic weapons. In response, Eugene has responded brilliantly by declaiming, "See! I was right all along!"
This has succeeded in confusing his enemies to an inordinate degree.
It should be noted that his enemies have not shown really much to speak for them. Victor Camejo, of the Greens, has been most forthcoming in stating emphatically, "Eef he disturbs one seeengle tree in Newark, I will mess up his hair reeeel bad!"
Arnold, has this to say, "Vot? Get out of my light. You prevent the populace from admiring my bulges."
So there you have it. California politics at its finest hour.
We also note that the recent issue of Popular Science described an airwar, complete with maps of targets and such, against a formidable enemy: Southern California. Vandenburg AF Base is show most spectacularly in flames.
Now really people, we think California bashing has gone far enough. After all, we do provide most of your food, dude.
NIGHTTIME IN THE SWITCHING YARD
Down in SoCal they are making a nice present for the new Governor, a paralyzing transit and grocery strike that is crippling the southlands. Friends on Catalina say they need to sail across the sea for groceries now in this time. It's a terrible time we all face now, and none of us will come through unscathed. Families will lose their sons in some terrible war fought far away. Many of us will lose our jobs. Because there is no money for police or fire, many of us will lose homes and possessions. And Time, the great Avenger, will take many of our friends. There is nothing you can do about these vicissitudes. Any more than any soul whose hut just happened to sit in the path of Attila or Xerxes or Alexander or Napoleon or Bush. They are all the same and there is no difference.
Now I am thinking about Ed Ricketts. Ed was a marine biologist and he had his idiosyncrasies and his charms, living down in Monterey on a street that became famous later as "Cannery Row". His closest friend, as close as any he had I guess, was a writer type by the name of John Steinbeck. Steinbeck did all right and he wrote about Cannery Row and a number of other things, and he eventually got famous and lionized. Ricketts remained an obscure biologist who developed this idea that things in the sea were interrelated in complex relationships, which are now described as "environmental concerns" but he died in a freak accident with a train without publishing anything. So he lives on now only in Steinbeck's writing.
And in the loving memory of those who loved him a great deal.
And now I am wondering what, among all these accomplishments, was the greatest.
In answer to these questions only comes the long howl of the midnight train across the Buena Vista flatlands. Must be past midnight. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 12, 2003
DON'T BE A GHOST, BULWORTH
Over in Sacto, recalled Governor Gray Davis is not slacking one bit during his final days. Rather than kick back put up his battle-weary boots on the desk soon to be occupied by the Governator Arnold, Gray has been furiously signing bills, kicking out new legislation and appointing term-limit officials right and left. Which has the Austrian mighty pissed, for suddenly the rude and obnoxious GOP has decided that one should be graceful and modest and retiring of speech. Arnold requested Gray to stop and Gray flatly refused.
Welcome to Sacramento, dude. If you think politicians are gallant and chivalrous and honest, you got another thing coming.
In any case, Arnold will get his chance to practice his new profession in about a month and it does appear that his mixed bag of advisors, including both Dems and GOP, indicates that there may be some sort of reality principle somewhere in his sack of governmental idears. It is quite clear to everyone that if this neophyte imagines that he can simply dictate major revisions in California government to a largely Democratic legislature we would be facing three years of lame duck inactivity.
Examining some of the specifics in his promises -- and in a welter of ambiguous vagueness there are not many -- it does appear that the man's approach to the environment is quite liberal and not a danger to us at all. Of course his position on logging the Sierra foothills is diametrically opposed to Bushy and his rapacious crowd, so we shall see just how strong on principles the Strongman turns out to be.
We are not sure what George Schultz is doing there as an advisor -- and there are a number of other curiosities -- but the Dems appear ready to give the guy a chance.
It does appear that, along with a general "dumbing down" of politics at the Executive level across the country, this election indicates a profound dissatisfaction of the electorate with the way things have been run. Voters have chosen World Wrestling Federation champions, unaffiliated independents, and overt bozos over well-qualified and clearly intelligent choices as if to say, "Y'all just figure it out. We are sick of you."
In the case of the Golden State, the general response in the Bay Area, which was fairly unanimous in voting against the recall and against the B-movie actor even if voting for it, has been disappointed astonishment. As Will Durst has said, "We are out of goose-step with the rest of the State."
The Bay Area is inhabited by people who generally are extremely well-educated, well-traveled and well-disposed towards the disaffected from the rest of the country. People gather here because living somewhere else is really uncomfortable and -- frequently -- life-threatening. We are extremely well-informed by necessity, as a constant stream of folks from all over the world passes through.
It does appear that the rest of California, with a 6% unemployment rate to the National 9%, a moderately growing GNP, a per capita income well above the national average and a high standard of living has got its panties in a twist and is "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore."
Get ready for a wild ride, Mr. Toad.
WE'RE ALL BOZOS ON THIS BUS. ARE YOU A BOZO?
The Justice Department and the White House are continuing what has been a long-running squabble. Latest victim is Larry Medford, a 24 year veteran of the FBI -- which also is having its troubles with those guys in the Oval Office. Medford served as anti-terror aid for about three months before resigning to take a position guarding a casino in Las Vegas.
It sounds like you have been retired, sir.
BABY YOU CAN DRIVE MY CAR
The Island held its 10th annual Car Show on Park Street this weekend and the main street was taken over by inefficient, dangerous vehicles of all description and atrocious canned music from the 50's era that reminded us just why we needed to have the 60's, if only to free our ears. Pictured above is a 1931 Model T Ford, somewhat altered from the original design.
They sure looked nice, though. Hey Norma Jean, lets go for a spin . . . .
BORN TO BE WILD
All up and down the East Bay, dealerships for The Motor Company, held shindigs and hooplas to beat the band in celebration of Harley-Davidson's 100th. In Oaktown, Bob Dron did a Blues, Burlesque and BBQ with free food. There was all kinds of rolling thunder and black leather and vests and colors, and we were pleased to see that the Oaktown Black MC Association came out in force with gentleness and love. Caught sight of only one "colors" featuring the Red 'n White skull and that was on the Island, believe it or not. Mayhap he was lost. Any hoot, it was a jolly crew which also held a raffle to raise funds for MDS.
The blues was excellent. Sorry to say, we missed the burlesque.
I HAVE MY SHIP AND MUSIC IS HER NAME
We have some really tasty treats coming up.
The Starry Plough celebrates its 30th Anniversary October 17-18 with Chuck Prophet and the Naked Barbies. The SP is not much to look upon from the outside and the interior is fairly modest as well. You know where the direction lies by the 29 flags of Ireland's counties hanging about the place and the 12 foot high broadside occupying one entire wall and featuring the words of Michael Collins. For years there was a tip jar at the end of the bar, not for the barkeep or the help, but for funds to send to the IRA. One year we managed to catch a speech and discussion with Q&A hosted by reps from both the political and the army end of the long disputatious IRA. Hard men, they were.
In the more peaceable end of the spectrum, the Plough has hosted the longest running Bay Area open mike series for musicians of all kinds, as well as an immensely popular poetry slam. Cake, Sun Ra Arkestra, and Jonathan Richman (the offbeat singer who gets pushed off the pier in There's Something About Mary) all have performed there as unknowns among many others. We rather look forward to seeing Patty, lead singer for the occasionally renamed Naked Barbies, who went through a litigious dispute with Mattel's unsmiling attorneys before finally deciding that, since they never would become famous anyway, why bother. They have been together performing for more than fifteen years in the Bay Area.
October 28, The Waifs at the Great American Music Hall. One of Australia's as yet barely known secrets, the two Simpson sisters have been astonishing American audiences in the know with acoustic pyrotechnics heavily infused with the blues. Put on a tape for a friend who owns a 12-string Martin and the guy's response was "Wow!" We think you will be pleased.
November 7 - Chris Smither at Freight and Salvage. Chris has a new one out called Waiting on a Train, but the live performances from this New Orleans native are invariably SRO, foot-stomping, rafter-shaking affairs that the studio recordings fail miserably to capture. All we know is that he mikes his foot to keep time, but how he manages to destroy the opposition, well, that is a secret my friends. We have gotten our tix three months in advance.
November 13 -- Those V-twin engines of the acoustic world, the Indigo Girls, will rock the Fillmore. You have not experienced nothing until you have been surrounded with just about 10,000 lesbians all yelling the words to "Closer to Fine". For those who think the acoustic guitar is a wimpy instrument for sentimentalists and weepy love songs, we beg you to be disabused at one of their high-voltage concerts.
SF Jazz Festival kicks off October 23 and runs to November 9. Highlights are sure to be Omara Portuondo with Virginia Rodrigues, Omara from Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club and Virginia from Brazil. Talk about caliente, man. In a cooler vein, the Kronos Quartet premiers a new work at the festival, done in collaboration with -- of all people -- NASA. Yes, that's right, jazz will take flight in a literal fashion. On the keyboard, McCoy Tyner will perform solo at Herbst theatre. With Etta James and Joe Louis Walker added bluer touches to the scene, the only thing a music with afficion could want might be Lavay Smith providing some jump and swing or Kitty Margolis some verbal fireworks. Be satisfied.
The year of the Blues - official by Congress and without a hint of irony -- slides into its tenth month with all kinds of events. In the year 1903, a guy named W.C. Handy heard a roving musician make some keening noises on his guitar in a railway station with the back end of a clasp knife. Handy called this music "the blues". It had been around a long time before Handy and that railway station, but any time is a good time to celebrate the music that became, well, just about everything else.
"Some people say these blues ain't bad, but I must say these walkin' blues is the worst feeling I most ever had."
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
One of the glories of living in the Bay Area is its passion for things strange and beautiful and a little bit terrifying, and if something can be all of these at once, well, so much the better. Halloween is less a seasonal event for kids than an entire Season in itself all for adults, complete with holiday spirit, joy and feasting, loads of parties and, of course, costumes. The premier event each year is most certainly Perry Mann's Exotic Erotic Ball, now in its 24th iteration. It is most definitely a keep-the-kids-at-home kind of thing, with this year's Special Host, famous actor Ron Jeremy.
Never heard of the guy? Well, you would need to hang out in the sort of all-night places where the movies cost about a quarter for five minutes of time, for Ron is known as the Loveably Schlub of porn, a guy so homely that only one asset could possibly get him a date.
Top notch "mainstream" acts vie to perform at the gala with such curiosities as Portia Surreal "The Topless DJ", the evocatively named "Thunderpussy", The Devil-ettes burlesque revue and White Rats Morris -- the country's largest, and only, queer, leather, pervert Morris Dance group as well as a gaggle of strippers from various local gentlemen's clubs.
This year we note that there is a new rule: all ticket-holders must wear something. That's right, you must at least wear socks. Or gloves. Where you put them is your own business.
STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT
Fleet Week sent the Blue Angels rocketing over the Bay this weekend. Each year the fleet comes in about this time to honor the vets and let the lads play ashore a bit. This time around we had the 1000 foot USS Midway, flagship for the Navy since the end of World War II. The ship is being conditioned at the P. Howard Terminal in Oaktown for reassignment in San Diego as a floating museum.
INDIGENOUS PEOPLES DAY
Some of you may be taking Monday off in commemoration of that Italian navigator who is remembered for one enterprise in which he set out one year to find something that did not exist, arrived at something he did not know what it was, and returned not knowing where he had been for over two years, but which caused an unholy uproar and the eventual near extinction of everybody already living in the place he claimed to have discovered.
Never mind Columbus; in Berzerkeley they celebrate the people who were already living here with a pow wow. There was all kinds of dancing and drumming and singing and lots of feathers of course. Now a party that features people from all over having a great time and eating and having feathers to boot is a sure fire winner of a shin dig and a fine time was had by all.
Thought we recognized the ghosts of Oog and Aag wandering there among the folks, just pleased as punch.
BEDTIME FOR BONZO
An acquaintance, knowing of my strong affection for tyrants, fools, liars and demons that combine all three, found a legacy item from the infamous Depression of the 80's left in someone's postmortem storage unit. Our household, humble as it is, was the beneficiary of this magnificent foot-wiper.
We can only say there is no face that Dr. Friederich enjoys sitting upon most.
Well, it has been a most curious week and we expect the coming days to be curiouser and curiouser, as Alice used to say. Out on the strand the ebb tide went out under a full moon, leaving the great mud flats open for exploration by a new Dr. Ricketts. Who was Dr. Ricketts you may ask? Well, therein lies a story for next week. Full of joy and mystery. For that's the way it is on the Island. Have a curious week.
OCTOBER 8, 2003 - SPECIAL POST ELECTION ISSUE
This is a special post-recall election issue of IslandLife. We have here a couple comments on the recent GOP-orchestrated recall election that was intended to seize a public office from the Democrats. The GOP has not held a major office in California since the days when Ronald Reagan was ousted in a humiliating defeat. In revenge upon the people of California, Reagan -- as one of his last acts as Governor here -- emptied the lunatic asylums of some 100,000 critically ill inmates and turned them out on the street.
You can see the effects.
Here are a couple items from the LA Times.
We rather like the new flag. That bear was soooo childish.
OCTOBER 5, 2003
AINT NO WAY TO DELAY THAT TROUBLE COMING EVERY DAY
The long-running trial of four Oaktown police officers, known as The Riders, ended with all charges tossed by a very contentious and long-deadlocked jury. For those of you who have not followed this intense local drama the story goes as follows: a rookie policeman broke the ranks of "no snitch" by informing on his fellow officers, accusing them of roughing up suspects, planting evidence, threatening witnesses, and, even more alarmingly, executing spontaneous "frontier justice" on suspects they felt were guilty but who probably would never face trial.
The suspects were uniformly from the black sections of Oaktown and two of the Riders were White, one was Hispanic, and one was of Philipino background.
The rookie claimed that as part of his "initiation" into the group he was asked to plant spurious evidence and beat-up suspects. When the investigation broke cover, one of the Riders hid out in Mexico and could not be located until well after the main trial had begun. The Riders claimed that the rookie, who quit the police force to become a security guard, could not face the realities of the streets where Oaktown drug dealing, prostitution, and murder had created a corrosive atmosphere requiring severe preparation beyond the book learning provided by the Academy. All members of the "Riders" were long term veterans with exemplary records.
Well, much of this so far has played like the usual sort of thing we have come to expect. Cops face a wild situation, get a little out of hand, people get hurt, and someone complains. And, always, always, the people that get hurt are the usual suspects.
Notice people like Enron's Ken Lay never seem to get their hair mussed.
In any case, there is a disturbing coda to this story we snatched from the back pages of the Oaktown Tribune. One of the jurors, disturbed by the outcome of what was a very corrosive, and as he claimed, "dysfunctional process" called a reporter up to play Deep Throat. Apparently, the long deadlock, which lasted two years, was due to the prejudices of the assigned foreman and the secretary, who had decided that the police were to go free, guilty or not. Their rational, which was adopted by three other members of the jury who had come in from the suburbs and who had never lived in an urban environment, stated simply that the end justifies the means.
In other words, to these people, it did not matter that persons sworn by the People of the State of California and the City of Oakland to Serve and Protect had beaten, threatened and suborned witnesses and suspects, because the daily problems of the City were so severe as to warrant such behavior. And that all charges should be dropped without further discussion, without a trial.
Here we have a city descending daily into a spiral of escalating murder rates, proving such tactics do not work. But even if they did, the idea that such activity should be condoned in what used to be known as the Free World is absolutely astonishing.
The Deep Throat commented, "The jury was entirely White. If there had been even one Black woman of Color on the panel, those jurors would have been shamed, shamed by these foolish ideas. And they would have been forced to face the realities of experience. . .".
In broader terms, it does appear that this "Dirty Harry" and "Terminator" movie-justice, which has no real basis in reality, prevails in the Country today against common sense and common decency.
As you go busily about destroying this "beast" that seems to haunt the mountains and forests somewhere else, what will you do when, after defoliating all the vegetation cover and the mountain hideouts, you discover only a mirror? What if the beast, like the original "Alien" has been inside you all along.
FIELD OF DREAMS
Tonight, there is no celebration in any dugouts, for the hopes of the Boston Red Sox kept alive through a dismal 8 game slump in which the Oaktown A's have failed to demonstrate championship potential. The A's lost a sure game away 4-5 to let Boston show the world that nobody slacks on a team that wants the gold -- and the A's slacked a good deal, desperately attempting to rescue a tie run in the bottom of the 9th in the previous game by the cheesy trick of trying to ram the catcher on the home slider, hoping that the boy would just, well drop the ball. Monday has both teams flying back across the divide to duke it out with nobody in on a sure thing until the last out is called on Monday. Stay tuned for developments.
SOME PEOPLE SAY THESE BLUES AINT BAD
PBS just finished off its epic seven show run of Martin Scorsese's series on the blues as part of its own participation in the Congressionally declared "Year of the Blues." Well, there are many reasons to call this year, and many another, a "Year of the Blues," and there is no small irony in having congress make it official.
Long time readers and close confidants should know by now that this train always stops for the Blues at every station where we have not been already kicked off for drinking, smoking, cussing, lewd behavior and general bad behavior, so it should be no surprise that we managed to catch at least a part of the series -- on TV sets not belonging to us of course.
In front of the New Orleans House of Blues we paid a tribute to Jake Blues, who stole our gal, wrecked our car, took our money and smeared our reputation all over town -- treated us just like a brother, he did, god bless his rotten carcass. If he hadn't died, we'd still be in prison for crimes only he could have committed.
Now there may be some who would just like to indulge in their own theatricality about the blues, especially anything that focuses upon their own personal history -- with some ignorance of the history of where the blues came from. And we noticed some of this present in the last program, where performances just seemed to emanate out of some "talent ether", like only those with mysterious special "gifts" can really perform the blues. And these blues are only important within the memory of some people. Who happen to be White.
Chuck D of Public Enemy mention in the penultimate episode that "The kids pay no attention to where the music came from. Shit, they don't even follow the Artist they like for more than five years. . .".
I take exception to this. For this idea, that talent is all, seems to say that the Blues is just another genre like ballet or comic books, with some people who are good at it and some better at it than others and it is all a matter of degree of talent that is natural somehow. And that the feeling is something that follows after. And that where it came from matters not really a damn. Because that turns history into a mere pastiche of self-involved memories, limited by personal ideology.
Now I say this, Mr. Eastwood, you show me you have the slightest inkling of where this Blues came from and I will listen to you. But until then, I say your music is without soul, is empty technique, is maundering and self-serving sentimentality that insults the artists involved, and is a vampirish sapping of the strength that is America.
Mr. Eastwood, I humbly request you address these issues.
TWENTY-FOUR MORE HOURS TO GO / I WANNA BE SEDATED
Only one day remains before California finishes fully debasing itself before the Nation. It only remains to show whether California will allow a fool and a johnny-come-lately realizer of problems to rule over a misogynistic, B-movie ignoramus who is an obvious tool that will be employed as a paradigm to stealing elections.
What on earth could possibly have informed such idiots as a porn mogul, a stripper, a schizophrenic and a hebephrebe -- among 180 others that they have the abilities, the knowledge and the savvy to run the world's fifth largest economy beats all reasonable attempts to fathom, especially when all reasonable candidates have already withdrawn.
The fact that the incumbent has not even been accused of any crime at all by anyone has failed to attach itself to media attention. Or the fact that the present incumbent was duly elected by the people already.
Now I ask you, what is this when someone not elected by the majority gets appointed President of the country by five people, and someone who was elected by the majority gets yanked from office by a minority? What is this usually called in other countries?
WHISKEY RIVER TAKE MY MIND
We managed to take in the last day of the totally free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park on Sunday. Man, were we blown away. So, apparently, were the organizers, who we understand featured top billed acts, supplied private shuttle transport and 30 porta-sans and who apparently made not one red cent with any anticipation of any return of any kind whatsoever.
Originally anticipating a smallish crowd of some 400 persons, the event pulled in 40,000 people on the less popular day.
Bluegrass, once the province of Grand Ole Opry parodies and the occasional closet connoisseur, plus a handful of isolated rural musicians has recently seen an upsurge in popularity as White Americans go now in search of their roots, the roots they had disdained and abnegated during the me-first decades of the Reagan era. Movies, like "O Brother Wherefore Art Thou" have highlighted this new interest in origins, resulting in career revivals for the Long Neglected. Crossover bands and musicians have especially benefited by the recent nationalist resurgence.
Much dismayed, we learned too late about the bill for Saturday:
Steve Earle, Gillian Welch, Ricky Scaggs, and Joe Ely were among the plethora of bands hosting three stages in Speedway Meadows. Any one of which could nowadays be a mainliner on any of the main stages in the City, charging $30 per head.
Steve Earle has earned considerable notoriety for his recent politically inflammatory "Jerusalem" and Gillian Welch has shown her hand in too many projects recently to mention, including artistic director of the O Brother Wherefore Art Thou film.
This was the first time we had managed to catch Willie Nelson live as well as the famous Emmylou Harris -- due to previously impecunious circumstances.
This time the entire crowd that had filled the meadows for the three stages gravitated to the main stage for the last two acts were the only ones that mattered. 40,000 people packed up to the proscenium.
Were we impressed? Willie played songs we did not know, but which were obvious old favorites with some, such as "Whiskey River". He also played old folkie standards such as "Me and Bobby McGee". Then there were the songs that stood out somehow, such as "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain" and "On the Road Again". What impressed us was a combination of sincerity about the music, genuine hooky melodies, and an obvious virtuosity with a variety of musical styles that encompassed bluegrass, country, folk and pop. We had no prior impressions of Mr. Nelson, but we found afterwards that his music and his approach to music to be infectious, attractive and energetic without a trace of pretentiousness or "yee-haw" obnoxiousness that is sometimes typical of "country style" music. It also was clear that 40,000 people of all ages heartily approved of his approach.
Nelson continues to play and record on the same guitar that he bought as a replacement for one he accidentally broke between gigs. The story goes that he stepped on the guitar to be used, and then had to call all around Memphis until a friend connected him with a shop that had only a classical Martin for sale which could be made ready in time for the evening performance. This particular model, designed for soft fingerpicking of Bach and Brahms had no pickguard. Willie simply asked at the time, "Is it a good guitar?" and the shop owner, of course, stated, "It is a Martin and therefore is an excellent guitar."
As you can see from the photo, the lack of a pickguard has done some damage to the soundboard. Several people have attempted repairs but Nelson has refused to replace the guitar for some 35 years and the guitar has acquired a personality all its own, quite well known in acoustic circles.
Emmylou Harris had the unenviable position of closing a very popular show that featured gorgeous weather as the fogs descended in fading light to chill the crowd. Her band was top notch and she deserved much better treatment than that. At one point, she congratulated people for staying, despite the chill and begged them to stay a bit longer. This is a performer with an extraordinary voice of significant power, who has seen quite a lot of history and who has a crack backup band. Her material ranged from the ethereal to crunching three-chord rock n roll and she never missed a beat during her energetic performance. We would look forward to hearing her in a warmer atmosphere. The lead guitarist, Buddy Miller, turned her "One Time in Babylon" into a very tasty piece.
Let us say, for the record, that the weekend of the first week of October, 2003 was filled with peace and music and love the way it always should be and it was all a good thing. A guy stopped by with a case and gave us a couple of Coronas and life was good for a while. Imagine that: a guy hands you a couple of beers to share what he has and tells you, "Just enjoy."
We returned to the Island satisfied and happy. For those who choose to remember only the bad things, let sorrow be their master.
NIGHT TIME IN THE SWITCHING YARD
It's well past the witching hour now, and the long howl of the midnight train has died off into echoes across the Buena Vista flatlands by the old cannery. Occasional dog barks knock through the silences. Over in Babylon the roadies have finished doing the teardown and the loadout and the streamers from the Bridge to Bridge run lay stacked in boxes and the fog has come rolling in, much as it has for the past six thousand years to take over the houses and the trees with moist dreams of ghosts. Down by the airport a single red-eye takes off with people going somewhere to some place. Bottle still has two fingers left, but this tired puppy is heading off to bed with Sweet Thursday in hand, there to dawdle a while in search of the feeling that beyond the little pool of light in this small cube somewhere out in the darkness a like mind may persist.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 28, 2003
IF YOU GIVE ME WEED, WHITES, AND WINE, AND YOU SHOW ME A SIGN
That wild and wacky Harlan is at it again. He's gone and dug up his front yard, banked the dirt into a low foxhole and lined up flowerpots pointing out like cannons. On the other side of his walk, we find pieces of an old Pontiac draped with shreds of an American flag.
LIVING WELL IS THE BEST REVENGE
Me and the Significant Other did brunch at the new jazz bistro called Kelly's on Park this morning. Kelly's is a sophisticated little bistro set on the end of Park which hosts live Jazz on Sundays and in the evenings, and we find this addition to the Island to be sophisticated, intelligent and well considered. On Sundays, the venue hosts an all-you-can-eat buffet for about 14 bucks. Given that everything in the buffet is to be had for half the price on the ala carte menu, we opted for item choices. Specialty there is the apple-chicken sausage, which did not disappoint.
The jazz, provided by a duo on piano and bass filled the spaces quite well. We felt the buffet needed some additions to make it worthwhile, especially considering the cost, but we wish the best for the new venue for music and food on the Island. Both of us have found that in the places of the world, where music is lacking there also is lacking a certain amount of soul. And where music abounds, there also abounds the vibrancy of life, decency, good health and salubrious intentions.
With the possible exception of a Marilyn Manson concert.
NEWS CLUES AND RUMORS
Phil Lesh just wound up a three night run at the Fillmore, and all reports have it as a smashing success . . .
Michelle Shocked is haunting the environs. Heard she has a gig in Santa Rosa on Tuesday promoting her remastered classic Short, Sharp, Shocked CD.
Personal fave, Chris Smither will roll into town for two nights at Freight and Salvage to promote his new CD, Waiting on a Train November 7th-8th. We already got our tix in advance and surely expect an SRO crowd for this fellow with a very large underground following.
Sacto boy, Jackie Green, appears to be riding a sure comet to the stars these days and we would expect you all will hear a lot more from this amazingly talented blues performer. Don't have a local performance date for him yet.
Wunderkind Johnny Lang will be putting off his CD promo concert at the Warfield for November 1. Hey, you could always run a red light, Johnny.
We have no reports at all on the annual SF Blues Festival at Fort Mason, indicating that the "Reserved Seating" for the Hoity Toity who can swing the $65 ticket price probably just expanded to fill the rest of the available space, leaving the people who sprung $25 to sing the blues on the other side of the wall. Taj Mahal deserves better than this.
ITS THE SEASON OF THE WITCH
Dr. John surely must have meant NorCal, for we have the highest ratio of witches per capita anywhere and this fact is never more evident than in the upcoming holiday season of fun, frivolity and costumes. And as if to welcome the New Year, the great fogs returned to blanket the hills, relieving a sweltering Bay Area unused to triple digit temps. Also indicating the change in weather, Paganos storefront has made its annual change in the Big Display.
For those of you new to Island Life, Paganos was a hardware store established by Andy Pagano's in 1952 on the corner of Lincoln and St. Charles. Nobody knows exactly when the practice started, but with the change of each season the long twenty-foot street-front display would change to reflect the seasons, with imagination and props to rival the much tonier Union Square Macy's storefront. Andy retired from business, selling to an Italian family that resides in Marin's Kentfield, but the tradition continues. Various mannequin "characters" inhabit the store yearlong, including The Duchess, the Spry Old Man, Smiling Sam, the Bashful Boy, the Mysterious Woman in Black and others.
A little row has developed in the Eagles Hall on the Island, where the elected Eagle Gubernador has a mighty flap among his wings. Seems Isa Pferdediebe upped during one pancake breakfast and accused incumbent Eagle Supreme Grey Double of basic Shenanigans and being a Political Animal, and furthermore causing a crisis of Global Warming.
Well, the upshot of this tremendous uproar was the movement to recall the Gubernador by election, even though the incumbent had already been elected by due process. The Island Eagles Hall has long regarded itself as a mainstay of Island Life and Politics, so this entire issue is considered to be Very Important. Turned out, however, Pferdediebe had been convicted of swiping stallions from a Palomino farm in Texas some years ago, which disqualified him from replacing the Incumbent, but the damage was done and pancake syrup flew everywhere. Subsequenly, one hundred and eighty people have stepped up as possible replacements for the governor of the the Island Eagles Hall. Now, this is a mighty position, involving hundreds, if not thousands of people of all different cultures and backgrounds.
The chief contender, after the initial contender retired after a history of shoplifting was excavated by reluctant journalists, turns out to be a man born on foreign soil, one Arnold Schwarzgenug. As qualifications Arnold highlights his stint at Chief Island Cheerleader and Beauty Pageant Standard Bearer. He furthermore denies most vehemently the previously promoted qualification of Fluffer at an orgy in the Buckhorn Tavern on Park Street. Arnold now says that all that was exaggerated to make his reputation and besides, the girl was hardly even real - she has been paid off and knows better at this point to say a damn thing.
In support of his bid to run a complex, multicultural organization with an immense budget - somewhat in the red at present -- Arnold has presented the following Qualifications: Charming accent, looks good in a bathing suit and acted well in the recent Altadena Playhouse production of Sweeny Todd as the Butcher.
In a desperate bid to retain power, Grey Double's Secretary, Carlos Bustanutt, collected several Eagles and invaded the Masonic Temple across the street, but found stronger resistance than anticipated and so were driven back after a brief Occupation.
Stay tuned for further developments.
Sutter VNA and Hospice will be instituting the annual flu vaccine program this year and no shortages are anticipated, according to the CDC, so if you are over 50, you oughta get yourself over there and get pricked. Number to call is 1800-500-2400 to find a clinic. Shots are free for those on Medicare.
VICIOUS DOG ATTACKS OFFICER
The Island Gerbil misreported an attack upon one Officer Ian Bumble by a vicious dog. The dog was not a Rottweiler as reported, but a far more dangerous breed known as the Black Mambo Poodle. Rottweilers have been much unjustly maligned, for their temperament is normally sweet, forgiving, obedient, and docile to a fault. The BM Poodle, however is a devious, sneaky, cruel and vicious mongrel bred for its antipathy towards neighbors and children. It has been known to bite its owner, destroy the flowerbed, tear apart smaller house-pets and then urinate upon the pieces, and leave swathes of chaos and ruin when let loose from its natural environment, the Poodle Fashion Show.
It is not difficult to see how the Gerbil reporter was deceived, for the BM Poodle is a known Master of Disguise, and often will mimic the behavior and pelts of more socially acceptable breeds. It is not unusual for a particularly meretricious specimen to flay the hide off of a canine victim so as to further conceal its intentions.
Officer Bumble responded to an incident, cleverly called in by little Toby Tucker, of a vicious dog instigating stop sign violations in the 300 block of Coral Reef Road. The animal bounded at the Thin Blue Line with fangs all aslaver and all abark and the Good Officer dispatched him clean with a single shot to the hip. The dog, being a typical poodle, refused to die decently, and so was shipped to a local animal hospital under proper restraints.
Committees are now examining the issue with the usual paper load. Stay tuned for developments.
THE ANTI SUV PROLIFERATION BRIGADE REDOUX
The ongoing discussion about the curious attachment people have to the extremely antisocial vehicle known as the SUV, in which owners claim that, of course, they fully intend to destroy anything they happen to hit rather than themselves, provoking the natural question, What if you hit something bigger than yourself? Lets, for the sake of argument, exclude tractor-trailers and semis.
Still think your AWD conquers all and compensates for lousy driving? How about that superior "handling"?
Of course you are still protected by that massive bumper and front end against those smaller than you. What about houses?
If a tree falls in the forest, what are the chances it will hit your truck?
What if the air in your airbag catches on fire? After your passenger has flown through the window to relative safety?
We trust that your sense of inviolability may be somewhat touched, for these are a selection from several thousand photos available online. I do believe the Good Book does say, "Do not presume."
Perhaps drivers of SUVs, the most filthy, antisocial, badly designed vehicle on the planet -- with the possible exception of the suburban Hummer -- should read their Bibles more often.
Or at least replace the bad tires and pay attention to the road.
SUNDAY NIGHT FISHWRAP
The fog lies heavy on the hills. The midnight train winds through the darkness. The Occupation Army huddles in camps throughout Newark about their sterno stoves and more than a few Bums are longing for a return to home in the grassy areas of the former Beltline railway and the panhandling spots off of Park Street. Where sniping grandmas won't sneak up behind them with cast iron pans to whack somebody over the head. But Eugene Shrubb, self-appointed President of the Bums, remains adamant still -- even at this late date -- insisting that there be Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo in Newark. Somewhere.
There you have it: the Island Situation. Occupation of Newark, vicious dogs, political unrest, SUV drivers, and music. Never a dull moment. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 20, 2003
LIKE THE WEATHER
Indian Summer indeed! Tropical heat has hammered the Bay Area in a post-El Nino tail-snap. Days have sweltered in the 90's along the coast and inland has seen temps rocketing into the triple digits even as fire teams race from one burning hillside to another. Last week we watch first Richmond, then Marin, hilltops burst into flames, jamming up traffic for miles in all directions. Meanwhile, report has it that things are somewhat damper in the East after a visit from tropical storm Isabel.
Right now all the windows are open to the max and every opening has a fan going full blast, trying to pull in some cooler air.
THE POETS DOWN THERE DON'T DO NOTHING AT ALL
When The Boss sang that line, he surely did not mean the poets of Babylon, for this week saw the annual "Litquake" hold forth with verse and bad behavior in the Dirty Old Town. Heard through the grapevine last time that personal fave, Kim Addonizio, left her underwear at the bottom of a swimming pool in an incident involving a number of sailors on shore leave. We must also mention that Kim, a well published poet of some renown, has a child of some years and we cannot confirm or deny this rumor. We do know that Kim is very Italian, very passionate and very inclined to sleep with wolves, so anything can happen. Litquake has tended to feature the more raucous of the Babylon Bunch, so anything can, and does, happen. Poetry, as Neruda once said, is a very risky enterprise.
INTO THE FIRE
The 911 memorials and commemorations that took place on the Island were largely somber and quiet. A large peace action group held services in front of City Hall and placed candles on the sidewalk. A huge cloth dove that has been seen about made its appearance. Leon Wofsy, author of At 80: An Old Bird's Eye View of the Year Following Sept. 11, 2001, gave a talk filled with surprising critiques of the government response to the 911 tragedies.
Also this week, a local commemoration was held for firefighters injured during the fireball explosion that took place at 1100 Grand Avenue. While fighting a fire at the three-story Victorian, an explosion tossed five men down a stairwell, severely burning all of them as they became entangled in debris and fire hoses. The fire, which destroyed two stories of priceless art, was eventually contained by the well disciplined teams.
Here's to the valiant Island Firemen.
THE LUNATIC IS ON THE GRASS
The Madman of Lincoln Street has been going to town with his signs. Lately, in an obvious nod to the High Holy Days, he has the sign reading,
ESTHER MEMORIAL HIGHWAY
You have to wonder what Mordecai would have thought about this.
IN GOD'S COUNTRY
Speaking of Esther, the High Holy Days begin the 24th with Rosh Hashanah. Over at the Temple, the Rabbi Lerner is gathering the fold for some serious soul searching for those who reject the politics of Israel while still holding to the faith. Meanwhile, Lynn and Sherri, two of the most scrumptious Jewish Lesbians you ever met, are cooking up a fine mess of baby back ribs in celebration. Even Woodie has a new movie out. Hey, everybody makes yontif in their own way.
Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and the start of a ten day cycle of days ending with Yom Kippur, when all unfulfilled vows and obligations are remembered and resolved in some way.
SOME PEOPLE SAY THESE BLUES AIN'T SO BAD
But I tell ya, these walkin' blues is the most terrible feelin' I ever had. The Fort Mason meadow once again hosts the annual SF Blues festival, this time on the 27th through the 28th. Headliners on Saturday feature the incomparable Taj Mahal, now becoming a silver-haired international statesman for the Blues. Also appearing is Roy Rogers reunited with old sidekick Norton Buffalo. Rogers, probably the best slide guitarist on the West Coast, and maybe in the world, never fails to deliver a powerhouse show crackling with energy.
Sunday brings a tribute to Mike Bloomfield in an ad hoc band that will included Robben Ford, Al Kooper, Joe Louis Walker, and Nick Gravenites. The eminently danceable Roomful of Blues takes over later in the day.
The Festival was for years the preeminent showcase for blues talent, and many were the times we spent listening to the bands from the other side of the fence while settled on the grass in the "free" area while industriously starving as an Artist. Recent years, however, have seen such a swelling of the "VIP Seating", which has grown to usurp a third and more of the meadow, that loyal attendees have started to drift away.
DON'T BE A GHOST, BULWORTH
With the recent postponement of the Recall Election and the flurry of court appeals associated with it, California's political circus has only gathered more notoriety. As the days pass, the swing appears to be more definitively in favor of the incumbent Davis, much the same as when he first was elected as the lesser of two evils. There are 180 candidates who have registered to apply for what must be surely the most unattractive position in the nation. Why anyone would want to assume the post of Governor over a tumultuous, multicultural state facing record deficits in the midst of a national recession is anyone's guess. Local Dems, Pete Stark and Dianne Feinstein have taken the opportunity to address folks on the Island and thereabouts, excoriating Washington and the President, as well as his Enron cronies, while indicating that California's jobless rate is much better than the rest of the nation. While things are bad, it does appear that the Golden State's troubles stem less from gubernatorial errors than Federal misdemeanors.
THE ANTI-SUV PROLIFERATION BRIGADE
Report has it that a fellow up in Oregon was sentenced to 20 years for torching three gas-guzzlers in a sales lot. This was the minimum sentence under Oregon's new anti-terror laws, which appear to be directed more against local Earth Firsters squatting in trees than foreign religious fanatics. Meanwhile, down here on 880, people driving these immense, unwieldy tanks -- because they want to destroy anything they happen to hit -- continue to hit the one thing bigger than themselves with disastrous consequences: The Earth.
Most of these Me Firsters swerve out of control on their insulated suspension systems and strike abutments, embankments and retaining walls with appalling frequency, proving that you cannot replace cautious driving habits with sheets of metal.
Saw another variation upon the Stealth Turn Maneuver the other day. Fellow signaled to go left, got in the start of the left turn lane at a light, swerved out of the lane as if to change his mind, then quickly changed his mind again to finally turn left at the end of the turn lane. Takes quick reflexes to do that sort of thing. Sure a candidate for the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 14, 2003
This week marked the 2nd anniversary of the 9/11 disaster in New York City. Numerous memorials were held all over the Bay Area, with the predominant tone being one of determined sadness, as opposed to last year's rending anguish. Local author, Leon Wofsy read personal memoirs on the Island to commemorate the tragic events.
I'LL SLEEP WHEN I AM DEAD
Roland the Headless Thompson Gunner roams through the night and the Werewolves of London sip cocktails with perfect hair, but their singer shall no longer sing their praises, for Warren Zevon, a bad boy even among rockers, died this week in his home in Los Angeles. He was born January 24, 1947 in Chicago. One of the sharpest satirical folksingers of his time, Warren Zevon battled family instability, delinquency and alcoholism during his rise to fame in the '70s and '80s. Possessed of a keen wit and a sharp mind, when not fuddled by toxic substances, Zevon earned both critics' praises as well as fan accolades for writing sharp, incisive lyrics which actually said something -- a rarity among pop musicians. Knowing that his fight with cancer was soon to end at Terminal Station, he pushed forward a last project titled "The Wind" which has come out only days after his death and which reportedly contains a cover of Dylan's "Knocking on Heaven's Door."
Word is that REM has found new life and put in a fantastic show at the Shoreline last week. Where we anticipate personal faves, The Red Hot Chili Peppers to run about, causing havoc somewhat later this year. Remember to wear socks, guys.
Dropped by McGrath's pub on Saturday for a quick peek at Borderline, the latest up and coming bluegrass band. Found the vocals to be superlative and well backed by multi-instrumentalist Rick Grant, who limited himself to mandolin and violin this time out, as well as the very capable Kris Hare on banjo. Peter, the proprietor of McGraths, has always been a good friend to musicians, and the venue is an excellent place on the Island to occasionally catch the nationally-known Name in an intimate setting.
DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
At least we have some good news to report here: we lost another of those not-to-be-missed contributors to the general foolishness of the human race when Edward Teller died recently near the notorious Hoover Institute where his outlandish ideas were usually received with great seriousness and where he served as a senior research fellow. He was very fond of drinking slivovitz, a strong spirit from the Balkans made from rotten plums. He also was fond of cream-filled pastries that would explode to his great pleasure when he pierced them with his fork.
He would often sit in the faculty lounge, looking a bit like a frog that had taken on a bit too much water, flashing a V for Victory sign at mystified passers by.
Teller is best remembered as the proponent of nuclear power and strong military defense rooted in the concept of Total Annihilation, based upon atom-bomb technology. It was he who convinced Einstein to introduce the idea to Franklin Roosevelt of employing nuclear fission to make an atom bomb during World War II. When Enrico Fermi proposed that fusion would produce a much more devastating weapon, Teller quickly adopted the concept, earning him the sobriquet of "Father of the H-bomb", although it does not appear that he ever produced any original research of his own; in fact, his main claim to fame during the Second World War was the calculated destruction of the career of Professor Oppenheimer. Teller continued to push for atomic defense initiatives for the rest of his life, finally persuading the increasingly feeble President Reagan, at that time beginning to suffer from early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, to adopt the now discredited Star Wars Defense System.
Some of his ideas were satirized in the Stanley Kubrik film, Dr. Strangelove.
THERE'LL BE PEACE IN THE VALLEY
The Man in Black, music legend Johnny Cash died this week at 71 after a fight with pneumonia and neurological disorders. He was still in mourning from the loss of his long-term wife, June Carter Cash, who passed away in May of this year. John R. Cash was born Feb. 26, 1932, in Kingsland, Ark., one of seven children and went on from humble origins to win 11 Grammy Awards, many platinum albums, Country and Western Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry awards, and the profound respect of musicians spanning five generations. Punk rockers would sing his "Ring of Fire" and his life-long friend Bob Dylan exchanged musical tributes with him over the years, while cowboys and truck drivers would be driven to tears in their beer by his songs about the blue-collar working stiff. Staying artistically vital into his later years, he won several awards with a cover from the young heavy-metal band Nine Inch Nails song catalogue. Rough and idiosyncratic, his two best albums were recorded in federal prisons although he never, personally served time. As for his habit of wearing black, he stated his black clothing symbolized the downtrodden people in the world.
"Everybody was wearing rhinestones, all those sparkle clothes and cowboy boots," he said in 1986. "I decided to wear a black shirt and pants and see if I could get by with it. I did and I've worn black clothes ever since." Cash had been "The Man in Black" since he joined the Grand Ole Opry at age 25.
WELCOME TO NEW COUNCILPERSON
They finally got to agree on the person to replace Al DeWitt: Planning Board President Marie Gilmore, albeit not without some contention. Gilmore, an attorney specializing in labor disputes and litigation comes with formidable qualifications which DeWitt would have found very satisfactory.
RECALL ELECTION UPDATE
There is no update. Everyone is still acting
like damn fools and no one shows any sign of demonstrating good will, basic
decency or common sense.
We all note that traffic "calming measures" have been put in force on 8th avenue. This involves reducing the driving lanes from two to one in a bottleneck near a main park entrance and yet again near an exit from a large recreational facility as well as the loss of between five and eight parking spaces.
On the upside, the new lane striping is really spiffy.
We had not noticed enraged traffic in the vicinity before this, but we would suppose this is a case of Better Safe and Weird than Sorry.
THE HOUSE ON THE CORNER
Harlan is at it again in a big way. The Mastermind of Lincoln Street has really gone to town with his signs this time.
Not seen is the front end of a '74 Pontiac laying, split open, just below the "Italian Dish" sign. Also not displayed is a tattered American flag -- some nine feet lone -- which is hanging on a large white wall to the left. Words can be seen beneath the flag's strips. There appears to be a reference to Netanyahu there, but we are not sure. Actually, we did not want to pause very long here. What happened in 1490? What do the Timucuans have to do with Benito? The mysteries of the Universe unfold.
OUR SPECIAL CRIMINALS: SNAKES EATING THEIR TAILS
Sometimes it seems we breed them like they don't anymore anywhere else. A man was taken into custody for breaking the jaw of a teen on the Island because the boy refused to sell the attacker some reefer. The teen has never had any contacts with the drug culture and it is unclear why the man demanded sale of a non-existent product. when the perp was arrested, he let drop a bag of rock cocaine. Hey, if you were holding, why aim for something so mellow as pot, dude?
A local man was arrested for providing "an obviously fictitious driver's license" to officers during a traffic stop. The man, a passenger in the vehicle, stated that he carried the fake ID because he did not want to get arrested for an outstanding traffic warrant. He was booked into the new City Jail for both the outstanding warrant and Obstructing Police. sometimes you just cannot win.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The Island oozed through the recent hot spell here, with folks clustering along the beach and hovering by the swamp coolers. Heard the A's finally redeemed themselves against the Angels in the 4 game series. A few families dragged out the crusty BBQ grill for a last one before the Inevitable and yards all up and down Lincoln had Tchotchkes and knick-knacks for sale at special, End-of-Season prices. A woman with the most vivid scarlet hair took her two huge pit-bulls for a walk by the house today. Followed by an elderly gent being guided by his daschund. Tasty morsel, that. For its the Dog-days of the end of Summer, while the livin' is still easy -- if you have not been laid off by this persistent recession.
Down in Newark, the Occupation continues. Eugene Shrub appears to have moved in with his army of bums for the duration and with no sign of leaving. Encampments dot the main drag down to the vestigial shoreline. But since Newark always had a sort of down-at-the heels look with no concern for aesthetics anyway, nobody cares. No Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo have been found, but people have forgotten all about that.
Tomorrow starts another week and all the booze has run out for the weekend and all up and down Park Street the shops are shuttered and the bars are closed. The sidewalks have been rolled up under the waning moon. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
SEPTEMBER 7, 2003
I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN AND TURNED AROUND
Long-time Island Life readers know that the Annual Sabbatical pix get posted each year. This year is no exception, and images of the High Sierra can be found -- this time with human figures for dimensional contrast -- in the Camping Section. Enjoy.
A 3.9 shaker rocked Oaktown this week, reviving unpleasant memories of the '89 shaker that killed over 50 people when a mile of freeway collapsed along Cypress Boulevard. This time the jolt came rumbling with a quick roar, then finished with a quick rock without serious damage around 6:05pm.
Down along the Cypress, they finally found the funds to fix up the former freeway connector site with memorial gardens and the whole area is lined with concrete abutments while the place gets made real nice like.
As nice as the warehouse district ever was, in any case.
TAKE ME TO THE RIVER
The Russian River held its 27th annual riverfront jazz festival Jazz on the River this year and Island-Life sent a pair of reporters to check on the scene on Johnson's Beach in the tiny hamlet of Guerneville, which also hosts a long-running Blues Festival in early Summer. We have to say, the Festival provided a mix of responses, especially as we interviewed a number of locals and long-term attendees, including one couple which has attended every festival for the past eighteen years.
As we filed onto the beach area, hearing the first act, Lavay Smith and the Red Hot Skillet Lickers come and go for their 90 minute set (from outside the gates) and officials announced that this was the largest crowd in the 27-year history of the festival to the long line waiting to enter, it became clear that the event has outgrown its venue limitations or requires serious revamping of its procedures.
In a typical misunderstanding, our photographer left his equipment behind for the first day, with the understanding that "no recording equipment of any kind would be permitted".
On the second day, the organizers were forced to postpone the event start for an hour and rescind a major rule against "high-back" chairs when a number of ticket-holders ($50-$100 per) practically staged a riot at the gates.
On entering it also became quite clear that booking to the max in this once tiny and little-known venue was a serious mistake, only mitigated by the fact that jazz fans of this type are extremely accommodating and willing to suffer all kinds of indignities "for the sake of the music."
Well over 6,000 persons got admitted to the beach on Saturday and everyone said that this was the largest crowd ever assembled. Well, the lineup for Saturday ran as follows: Lavay Smith (Swing jazz), Bobby Hutcherson with Cedar Walton and his Quartet, Ledisi, Stanley Clarke and George Benson.
Quibbles aside, the organizers did an amazing job of conducting a first-rate affair up along the Russian River in an area more known for redwoods and fishing than sophisticated jazz, and putting 6,000 people into a town that is four blocks long and two wide is no mean feat.
The venue itself is a virtual donation of property by the local Harris family. It is a small gravel and sand beach about 150 yards long and about 50 wide, terraced up into trees on a hill. The far boundary of the river has a low dam. A line of canoes is tied into a broad arc to shield swimmers from people renting canoes and kayaks to view the music from offshore. A portion of the beach has been bulldozed out to make a "kiddie pool".
No glass of any kind is allowed and this is probably the only restriction that is seriously enforced.
People along the beach have easy access to the water, but almost no one there -- probably about 2,000 people -- can see the stage. A very large VIP area is assigned for the best view positions before the stage. Security kept the aisles in front and to the stage clear at all times with amazing efficiency.
On to the main purpose of the event. Lavay Smith performs regularly in Babylon at Cafe du Norde, so we can always catch her energetic and subtly self-ironic take on jump-swing at any time. Smith, master of a musical style popular when her father was but a gleam in her grandfather's eye, has a rich, warm contralto reminiscent of Vera Lynn and possessed of such a natural quality that most singers attempting such material use electronic means to alter the sound. Still, it would have been nice to have seen her in action again after her CD and the sudden popularity instead of standing in line to enter the grounds for 2 hours.
Fortunately, we did arrive in time to see and hear the amazing Ledisi perform as well as the Bobby Hutcherson Quartet.
Hutcherson and the quartet finished off with a ten-minute long improv jam that rocked the crowd, with Cedar Walton, Eddie Marshall and Ray Drummond.
The relative newcomer, Ledisi, had quite a formidable task in following such masters as these, but she quickly stormed the crowd, dressed in cool white under a beating 95 degree sun.
Ledisi had been recommended to us by insider Tom York, but this was the first time we had the opportunity of observing this extraordinary talent demonstrate the fire within.
She comped well on an up-tempo version of "Yesterday" then went into a funk-heavy "Get Out of My Kitchen", a song from her new CD "Soul Singer", getting the crowd to sing along with her after she taught them the words. During a spirited "Looking for Jamaica", she jumped into the air and spun around several times and really got the crowd moving on "Free Again." Long lines formed in front of the booth where she signed copies of her latest work.
Ledisi also was featured performer at the recent AIDS walk.
When Stanley Clarke took the stage, he had quite an act to follow, for Ledisi had nothing to lose in anything she did. Clarke, who is the pre-eminent jazz bassist in the world, had no problem blasting the crowd with a high high voltage performance featuring an extraordinary electronic violinist and a second bassist from the Camaroons. At one point, the man from western Africa said simply, "Everybody stand up now."
And all 6,000 people did so. All at once. Even the people in canoes and in the water.
People that stayed for mainliner George Benson reported that Benson preformed better than he had in years with awesome energy.
For the second day, the organizers postponed the start of the music, realizing that people would have rioted over missing large portions of a concert paid for half a year and more in advance. Consequently, we got to enjoy the end of the set by the Orquestra La Moderna Tradicion, the only band in the United States devoted to classical Cuban dance music.
After settling in to our spot with our low-back chairs and non-glass containers, we enjoyed the smooth jazz of Joyce Cooling, who was finishing up her long tour with this event.
Brian Culbertson, another newcomer to the jazz scene has been scene as a proponent of that illegitimate child called "smooth jazz", which is also sometimes termed "elevator music."
Let us say only that Culbertson blew the doors off of the place with such an high voltage display of energy, you could have powered Brooklyn Heights for a year with the amount of electricity the guy put out. He was all over the stage, jumping off of the drum dias, blowing a trombone at the backdrop, at the bass player, at the clarinet player and the at the crowd with such industry you had to wonder where the devil did anyone come up with such a label as "smooth jazz" for such frenetic activity.
When the bass player said, "It's time for you to get up now," it seemed like the roof was going to lift off of the sky. These were people waiting for Al Jarreau to show up, and this band made them forget all about it, no question.
Our investigation team had to leave before mainliners Norman Brown and Al Jarreau, but reports have it that this was the most successful Festival ever with unexpectedly high energy performances turned in by all comers.
I FELL IN TO A BURNING RING OF FIRE
By STAFF REPORTS
SAN CARLOS -- More than 100 people packed
into a small chapel Friday to honor a beautiful and talented young woman who
had the misfortune of being the first person to die at the Burning Man festival
in its 17-year history.
Katherine Lampman -- Kathy to family and friends -- died one week ago today after she was hit by an art car at the week-long counterculture festival held in Nevada's Black Rock Desert. She was the first participant to die in the long history of Burning Man.
Visitors create a seven-mile square city
from scratch on a dry lake bed about 120 miles north of Reno. The creation
and utter destruction of what for a time becomes Nevada's seventh largest
city is part of the annual ritual that evolved from a spontaneous San Francisco
beach celebration of the 1986 summer solstice.
A record 30,500 people turned some of the nation's remotest real estate into a hedonistic utopia where everything is recycled and participants are told to bring what they need and carry out everything they bring in. In its early incarnations, there were no vendors or money changing hands in what also is known as the Republic of Burning Man. Residents create hundreds of interactive "theme camps," competing to offer the most elaborate and alluring desert oasis -- or mirage.
Lampman's death and series of other accidents marred the otherwise peaceful gathering. Five people were taken to area hospitals after two plane crashes at the festival's temporary airstrip.
The weeklong festival officially ended Saturday night with the torching of a 70-foot-high wooden effigy of a man, the colorful ceremony for which the festival is named. The second-largest structure, a "very big temple'' scheduled to be torched Sunday, was dedicated to the Belmont woman, Thompson said.
Pictured above is the 70 foot-high statue that is destroyed at the end of every festival. In the early 80's the event was a kind of catharsis that arose out of a romantic breakup suffered by one of the founders. The original statue grew to some 20 feet in height over several years, and was kept in someone's garage until its destruction at Baker's Beach during a rather informal ceremony. In 1986, the event became a kind of public occurence with formal admission fees and such, as well as codified rules of behavior that became even more codified as the event grew in size.
As the event grew, it became acknowledged that additional artworks would be created to exist for a week, only to be destroyed at the end, some of which artworks were quite elaborate, as the "temple" indicates. The last Temple was 80 feet, or three stories in height. Some of the artworks are augustine in nature. Some less so. But all created in 108 degree daily heat and sub-freezing nightly temperatures in a vast open desert area.
In the end, everything, ash, debris, trash, all is carted away to leave the desert as pristine as when found.
It may be said that nothing like it has ever existed and nothing like it ever will again, if the recent death has any effect on things. It may also be said that it will be a sadder and more impoverished world when the festival no longer takes place.
OH DON'T YOU EVER GET ELECTED: YOU SURELY WILL GO TO HELL
Island-life has an exclusive on yet another new contender in the misbegotten Recall Race. Herewith we present an election HQ promo shot from the latest member of the gubernatorial contest.
This raises obvious questions as to who in this entire charade is more Evil.
FOR EVERY SEASON THERE IS A TURN
Fogs are beginning to hang high in the Bay Area, making the nights cool and the mornings heavy with dew, while the day becomes warm with sultry indulgence. The Canadian geese are gabbling about in crowds and chevrons are seen flying across the sky. Furthermore, the display at Pagano's has changed -- the two Old Ones have disappeared from their Summerlong tete-a-tete in the main storefront display. Must mean that the seasons are changing.
The annual Peanutbutter and Jam festival went off without a hitch, as we heard. More power to Skippy, we say.
Now the hour approaches the witching hour. The long drawn-out wail of the midnight express will come wafting over to our rooms from the old cannery warehouses, just as it always has and the dense fogs will blanket the Oaktown hills seen from the window. Only a few lights pierce this gloom of night. They are the Lights of Earth. Precious lights in this time of Darkness, when all reason and all humanity seems to have pulled back in ebb flow.
In this time we call to the Lights of Earth to guide us through this night while the sea pulls at us from all directions Far out across the bay, a ship's horn sounds across through the emptiness, calling, calling for light, for a guide through this time of passage.
In the night we dream our travels and choose our ends, so says a friend of mind. When the Great Nemesis comes at last, we choose the manner of going and the time in some way, and we have seven choices given to us.
But yet another friend says all of that is nonsense -- we have no choice at all. When called, we must go and that is that.
These are the things we talk about on the Island. For that is the way it is here. Have a great week. And do not forget to sing.
AUGUST 31, 2003
GROUND CONTROL TO MAJOR TOM
We should take this time and space to acknowledge the fact that Mars passed the closest to Earth in some 60,000 years last week. Of course we have noticed, in our nocturnal perambulations round about three am or so, that some unusual bright star blazed in the heavens.
Of course, bright spots in the vision have tended to be frequent occurrences when pattering about the house at that hour for different reasons.
Whilst rambling about the High Sierra, disturbing the bears and otherwise causing the rocks and hillsides a great deal of umbrage, I and my companion had noticed the bright visitor without proper identification.
Oh yes, the camping pictures are now up and you all can witness our high altitude debacle at Camp 2003. Enjoy.
THEY CAME FOR THE GOOD CRAIK
A household was busted on the Island for manufacturing crystal Meth by the ton. Apparently our ever vigilant IPD glommed onto these Big Time Drug Lords via the routine pull-over of a member who was driving a stolen vehicle -- for the infraction of driving with only a single plate on the rear.
Now I tell you, isn't that something?! It's a long way to Harlem, it's a long way to Hazard, just to get a little brew. Oh buddy won't you roll. How can I roll when the wheels just won't go!
T4: THE SEQUEL TO THE PREQUEL
Gov. elect, Gray Davis is in the battle of his political life against quite a gamut: a b-movie star of action thrillers, two porn actresses, a porn magazine publisher, and a bevy of lunatics and knickerbockers. Latest has the Terminator outed in an interview with the defunct porno mag Oui in which the body-builder inveighed against gays and whatsoever with a flood of obscenities that no family newspaper has dared to reprint.
We shall not buck the trend here, my friends.
APPARENTLY HE WAS IRREPLACEABLE
The city council is having a devil of a time selecting a successor to fill the shoes of the late councilperson Al DeWitt. To this point the Council has not agreed on a successor after three meetings on the issue. Appears there is something behind the scenes on this one. Stay tuned my friends.
DeWitt died recently after a long bout with cancer.
OAKTOWN HOSTS THE ART AND SOUL FESTIVAL
On the Labor Day Weekend, Oaktown proved that it was the Destination of choice, as thousands thronged the downtown to catch Guster and Ziggy Marley in what turned out to be the most be-ingest and must-be-there festivals in downtown Oaktown, dusting Babylon with talent and sophistication on a beautiful weekend.
While others braved the crowded freeways and gas prices starting at 2$.30 per gallon, the mellow and the cool enjoyed the good life right here at home.
Record crowds packed the City Center Stage area to catch Guster and Ziggy Marley up close and intimate. The crowd before the City Hall stage overflowed from the tile mosaic "pit", encircled the huge oak on the green and flowed along 14th Street to the far side of Frank Ogawa Plaza. Had to have been well over 8,000 people there watching Guster without including folks at the three other stages or the food concessions.
This marks the last time that this festival will be held so informally, for with last year's Joan Osborne and this year's bang-up lineup, Oaktown has gone Uptown with its festival, and surely will be demanding entry tix for next year's headliners.
The alleys were packed with folks and the main stage area was filled well over capacity for Guster, let alone the headliner Ziggy Marley.
We roamed about and caught the end of a very exciting set with Red Archibald and the Internationals, which fairly set the crowd on fire with Red's award-winning harp and the crunching background of the Internationals. Red, recent winner of the Bay Area Blues Society Musician of the Year Award, also has a CD that was featured on a recent HOB radio show.
Red recently won the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame award for Best Harp Player and he was in fine form on what turned out to be a marvelously sunny day after ominous morning fogs threatened to chase the crowds away.
No question this was by far the largest and best attended of any of Oaktown's streetfests, indicating that the Family City by the Bay has finally come Uptown with its vigorous collection of people of all kinds, all demographics and all tastes. The Festival continues Monday with Zulu Spear wrapping up another Labor Day Weekend.
JUST LIKE A VIRGIN
The pop star was anything but when she sang that song, and has continued to raise eyebrows and, well, other things, with no sign of mellowing out. Recently she caused a minor uproar at a music awards ceremony attended by Brittany and Christina Aguilera -- both of whom are not exactly known for demure behavior. Much to the dismay of parents with daughters everywhere, who really enjoy emulating the wardrobes of the latter two. Or lack thereof.
Our remaining Teen has taken to a pink dye job, which we assume is a healthy interest in Chemistry and science so as to avoid outrage. But then, the chemistry involved probably has less to do with science than that of just being a Teen.
In any case, our roving Radical Reporter has captured this shot of two Madonnas in action at the Met.
As Austin Powers would say, "Oh behave!"
THE ISLAND'S CLAIM TO FAME
Few know this -- perhaps few care -- but this Island sheltered the first Skippy Peanut Butter factory. In fact, Skippy was invented on the Island and manufactured until 1974 on the corner of Webster and Atlantic where the Rosefield Packing Company had its main plant. Skippy was invented in 1932 by Joseph Rosefield who was the first to apply modern hydrogenation methods to what was then a fairly unpopular melange of oil and peanuts. The new process made the stuff more palatable and also attracted the eyes of the feds who saw the stable peanut schmier as a useful battlefield staple during WWII.
As a sort of celebration of this factoid, the West Island Business Association hosts an annual street party, this year to take place the first weekend in September.
PACIFIC RIM ART SHOW
We attended an art exhibition hosted by the Pacific Rim Sculptors Group in Babylon's SOMA area recently, proof that the American Artist refuses to die out. The PRSG, founded in 1988, currently has over 150 members and its juried shows attract national renown. Our Island Sculptor in residence had a piece titled "Generative Matrix" included in the show at 600 Townsend.
As is often the case with contemporary art, a bit of whimsy and humor made its presence known. This was no stuffy highbrow affair with Locust Valley accents. There was all kinds of wine drinking and cheerful chatter and lots of really neat things to look at and marvel. You could touch anything and not even get arrested.
We may not know what it "means", but it sure is fun. We heartily recommend art and artists as a sure-fire panacea for anything that ails you.
We are a jolly lot on the Island, full of all kinds of talents for making noise and strange objects that puzzle the mind and free the soul. We like to make beautiful things, foster peace, and jump up and down when we are happy. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 24, 2003
YER GONNA MAKE ME LONESOME WHEN YOU GO
Early this Tuesday we got a phone call that one of our inner circle, one of the best and most loved, was found dead of an apparent heart attack. Quick arrangements were made and, on Sunday, the family and friends of Pennie Voorhees (10-16-52 - 8-18-03) met at Hogen, Sullivan and Bianco in Babylon to pay last respects to an extraordinarily well-loved and talented woman.
Born in Kentucky to parents of modest means, she worked her way through the University of Kentucky to both Bachelor of Arts and of Science degrees. She then joined the Army and rose to level of Captain, cashiering out with sharpshooters' medals and high recommendations as well as a nursing license that she employed for thirty years, taking on the most difficult and emotionally taxing assignments, along the way gathering a legion of friends and admirers.
She came to California and added a Master of Arts to her credentials at SFSU, where her work was published three times by the famous arts magazine, Transfer. She stayed in Babylon in a flat on 500 Guerrero Street in the Mission, and proceeded to hook up with the likes of Kim Addonizio and Thoreau Lovell, performing readings in cafes during the heyday of the Reagan-Bush Depression years, when so much exhuberant work came out of the Bay Area. The Five Fingers Collective, a famous local consortium of poets, critics and prose writers granted her an award as "The Most Significant Young Poet" in the late 80's.
During this time she worked, first as a Traveling Nurse for AIDS Hospice, then as a resident Nurse for SF Hospice, and finally as the Acting Director of Nursing for Hospice by the Bay. The Hospice systems are setup by various agencies to care for the terminally ill.
While doing all of these, by no means inconsiderable achievements, she also managed to take up skydiving, downhill skiing, surfing and parasailing, taking out her little cousin for her initial trip only one year ago.
Virtually every life she touched, glowed with incandescence, for her zest for life was so huge, so indefatigable -- it seemed -- that she infected everyone she met with joy and zeal and this became very evident as person after person stood up in the little chapel to remark on a very remarkable life.
But, as is too often the case, the realities of the Hard World exacted their payment from a beautiful soul and a lovely heart that eventually gave out supporting and serving thousands of AIDS patients, their families, her own family and a large circle of friends. She was found, it is said, sitting up in bed with a cup of coffee, bracketed by her two cats and the book she had been reading. Death took her instantaneously -- the suffering afterward is all left to us.
Her brother said it best and most movingly, after casting aside a prepared speech. "It doesn't matter whether you believe she is in heaven now, or . . . or, being reincarnated. Or whatever. She is gone and she is done. It's up to us now. We are the one's who carry on and it is in us that she lives on in each of us some way."
As for me, as suggested by her brother,
I've seen love go by my door
It's never been this close before
Never been so easy or so slow.
Been shooting in the dark too long
When somethin's not right it's wrong
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
I'll look for you in old Honolulu,
San Francisco, Ashtabula,
Yer gonna have to leave me now, I know.
But I'll see you in the sky above,
In the tall grass, in the ones I love,
Yer gonna make me lonesome when you go.
IN THE SUMMERTIME. SWEET, SWEET SUMMERTIME. WITH AUTUMN CLOSING IN.
It's the end of the summer of '03, and lord, are there reasons aplenty to party. Everything is leading up to one Powerful Labor Day Weekend.
Oaktown finishes things off August 31 with its fine Art and Soul festival, featuring personal faves Guster on stage. Joe Bob says, check it out for this one.
Edging into September we noted, in fine print, Daniel Lanois performing at Cafe du Nord on Sept. 3-4. Now , dudes, this is DANIEL LANOIS, in small print! This is the guy who made U2 into Monsters, who has engineered virtually every significant album by any artist of any name since 1979. This is a guy who can command Mick Jagger to KNEEL AND HE WILL KNEEL!. Dudes, I strongly suggest you check out the show, okay?
Okay, I am done being a Kritic for now. We recommend the following shows for the sheer fun factor: surviving Sex Pistols do the Warfield with Reverend Horton Heat. Leather and safety pins de rigeur.
Curtis Mayfield just might liven your nights at the Boom Boom Room in Babylon. Curtis is the helmsman of the hottest jazz group out of New Orleans in 25 years. He just might blow your ear off.
For the marvelous Labor Day Weedend, we have the following:
The personal faves, Naked Barbies at the Cafe du Nord in Babylon. So glad they got the name back from the Evil Mattel lawyers.
At the Shoreline, REM backlights a KFOG picnic with wine and sausage and Superglide gel.
For those preferring the more enclosed feeling, Arlo Guthrie takes over the renovated Avalon Ballroom
In Babylon, the annual Ala Carte Ala Park festival features Susan Tedeschi, Luce, and a rumored appearance by Chuck Prophet. Well worth the 10gs just to catch Susan. And the chow aint bad either.
Konocti Harbor and Mtn View Winery seem to be having a booking contest recently as to whom can book the heavier acts. Take advantage my friends.
The Island shall not be forgot for the Peanutbutter and Jam festival kicks off on Sept. 6 at the same time as the end of the summer concert series on Webster.
HUNK OF BURNING LOVE
Needless to say, next weekend is the weekend of the annual Burning Man Festival -- the annual and inexplicable Orgy in the desert. Now, we can say we have an Insider Reporter this time who will relate -- as long as they are physically able - point by point details of this extraordinary event. Since waterless and wasteless expanses have frightened us prior to this opportunity, we await the results of the sendings with bated breath. Yeah!
Nowadays, the Burning Man thing becomes a temporary city of some 35,000 people with water, buslines, named streets, symphonies, and multistory dwellings -- all to be removed to the last scrap of paper and roach butt according to the terms set with the National Park Service. Not a trace is to be left behind. Typically, the immense multistory structures are torched. A friend let me in on the secret to cleaning up the debris of a 3-story temple made of puzzle scraps. The structure sits on a blanket of flame-retardant material which is then covered with sand trucked in from outside. The blanket, with the sand and all debris is then wrapped up afterwards and loaded into a dump-truck.
We remember when the Burning Man was a hunk of 20-foot scaffolding kept in somebody's garage until being dragged to Baker's Beach, but that was a long, long time ago.
That must have been one hell of a Relationship.
TOO MUCH REALITY
A bomb device found on the steps of the IPD shut down the entire block last weekend. Turned out the taped canister labeled "Muriatic Acid" was empty. But it certainly did show how times have changed with the entire BPOE building emptied out as well as the business all around the IPD. Put a serious kink in the Elks Lodge garage sale, too.
The citizens of Newark are still chafing under the bootheel of one President Eugene Shrubb, who invaded, with his Army of Bums about six months ago, claiming that the municipality was harboring Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo in the form of poodles, as well as a storehouse of sterno cans.
Well, any poodles that may have resided in Newark have long since fled as Eugene and his band have been ransacking the liquor stores all up and down El Camino Real. At first, this provided some amusement to the locals, who, it must be admitted, have labored long under a cruel government sadly lacking in aesthetics. El Camino Real has turned into a real garbage strip of knick-knack stores and body shops which do not appear to sell anything of value to anyone. Even a pretentious statue of some self-inflated dictator would be an eyesore relief.
In any case, the locals have taken to sneaking up behind the bums and giving a good wallop to the backside of the head before scampering off into the underbrush. Not a few have even set loose their hounds. Mutilating the britches most unmercifully. Again the terrible specter of Terrierism haunts the Nation.
One local, speaking in the local dialect put it thusly, "Ah taint a horse-thief. Git outta mah yahrd!"
Words to ponder indeed with lessons for all of us. Don't accuse a man of stealing your horses unless you have solid proof and don't invade his country unless the hoof-prints lead to his door.
Well, that's the way it is on the Island, where every man is innocent until proven guilty. Have a great week.
AUGUST 17, 2003
I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN AND TURNED AROUND
The staff of Island-life returned this week to their posts
from the Annual High Sierra Mountain Sabbatical to find that life has not
changed, unfortunately, in our absence.
The tab for the willful circumvention of the will of the people in form of a wasteful and foolish recall election now stands at $60 millions, further crimping a savaged state budget.
Middle Easterners continue to murder one another with appalling frequency.
The economy continues to tank, the energy situation hit a new low with a multistate blackout (o when will they realize that Enron and company are a pack of traitorous thieves) and young American boys continue to die in Occupied Iraq.
Makes us want to hi on back up into the mountains where life has the simplicity of brook trout in a meandering stream.
Check the Camping section next week for the trip report.
DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
Here is some good news: Idi Amin, one of
Africa's most infamous, twisted and brutal dictators, finally died Saturday
in exile in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. He had been in coma from kidney failure
since July 18.
Amin seized power in Uganda on jan 25, 1971, instituting a reign of terror amid a Grand Guignol carnival of comedy and horror that lasted 8 years.
During his rule, he made many outrageous statements, including "Hitler was right to burn six million Jews," and offered to be king of Scotland if asked. He challenged his neighbor and frequent critic, Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, to a boxing match, and wrote to Richard Nixon wishing him "a speedy recovery" from Watergate. Jimmy Carter stated that "his acts disgust the rest of the civilized world."
Amin declared himself president-for-life of his landlocked country of 24 million, awarded himself an array of medals and ran the country with an iron fist, killing real and imagined enemies while driving a previously prosperous economy into subsistence-level poverty.
Human rights groups say from 100,000 to 500,000 people were killed during his 8-year rule. Bodies were dumped into the Nile River because graves couldn't be dug fast enough. At one point, so many bodies were fed to crocodiles that the remains occasionally clogged intake ducts at Uganda's main hydroelectric plant at Jinja.
During his rule, terrorists hijacked an Air France airliner to Entebbe airport until Israeli commandos rescued the hostages in a daring midnight raid. Although Amin claimed to be negotiating with the terrorists, evidence points to his complicity with the hijacking.
The 250 pound former general made himself the symbol of ridiculous pomposity with mirrored sunglasses and self-indulgent public acts including the insistence on the right to mate with any woman in the country upon puberty. He had at least four known "official" wives.
After a failed attempt to annex parts of Tanzania in 1978, counter-attacking Tanzanian troops drove his forces back to the capital. Amin was forced to flee to Libya. Eventually, he settled in Saudi Arabia under condition he remain out of politics. He continued, however, to outrage his hosts with pronouncements that threatened to return to Uganda in force.
After years of further turmoil, Uganda returned gradually back to peace and normality. Even now, many many souls breath easier as somewhere in a special hot place a particular sinner squirms on a lake of fire.
SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE LIVING IS EASY
As the season winds down, local events gear up to take advantage of the last days before the winter fogs move on in. The Boss held forth for the first time in the Bay Area since 1978, destroying the sold-out crowd at Pac Bell park.
Buddy Guy, one of the last and the best old school blues musicians is finishing up a Bay Area series of appearances in the company of Los Lobos before heading off to Europe where he is better appreciated by knowledgeable audiences. Guy is one of those musicians adulated by the early Rolling Stones, and who has played with virtually every significant musician since 1958, always subsuming his considerable talents behind such noteworthys as Muddy Waters and Junior Wells.
Born on a sharecroppers farm in Louisiana with no electricity or piped water Guy is about as authentic as they come, and man, does he know how to wring the blues from his instrument. His "Sweet Tea" album was long the standard against which to measure electrified playing, influencing two generations of players. Now he has come out with a brilliant acoustic CD called "Blues Singer", with guest visits from the likes of Eric Clapton, that again sets new standards on how the blues ought to be played. He will be playing at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga in October. Joe Bob says, "Check him out!"
If these poor scribblings should do anything to ease you on your way in any manner, then god bless you Buddy.
Also in October, a surprise meeting of guitar gods Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and Yngwie Malmsteen will scorch the earth on the 17th at the Chron. Pavilion. Billed as G3'03, this summit promises to send fast-fingered virtuosos into 7th heaven.
Those of us in the slower lanes will be attending the Russian River Jazz Festival in the first week of September. The Russian River events have acquired significant attention recently as the booking agent has managed to snag some very significant acts for the Blues and Jazz festivals, rivaling Montreux, New Orleans and Rhode Island.
BORN UNDER A BAD SIGN
On the Island, the recent spate of violent crime seems to have slacked off a tad since the arrest of three on a spree in July. A seventy-year old man was mugged for $3 earlier in the week, which may have discouraged further attempts, given that one could earn $3 for about 20 minutes of slinging burgers at Mickey D's.
Family friend Cole Cloren has been upgraded from critical to serious after his brutal attack. He remains in Intensive Care at Highland Trauma Unit.
Some wag has set fire to the maibox on Encinal twice this month already. And in another case, a fellow decided to evade yet another traffic ticket by abandoning his car on Buena Vista after a stop by IPD. You have to ask yourself, just how bad things have come to pass that a man would rather abandon his car than suffer another frivolous citation.
That cruel Officer O'Madhauen.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT
That wild and wacky Harlan has been at it again with his signs on Lincoln Street. The latest in a series reads,
To be fair, there have also been references to "God Bless Yeshua!" and Be Be, which is a further reference to Netayanhu, we are told. Whatever.
SWEET HOME ALAMEDA
Firing down the flatlands this week, we were grateful to see the weird forest of windmills on Altamont Pass for that meant that the cool coastal fogs would relieve the stultifying heat of the inland valley. Bay Area home at last, with all of its traffic and stupid freeway arrangements and idiosyncratic drivers and ugly prisons, but home at last. Its all fine and good to be up there among the bears and the rim rock and eagles, but give us some Flint's BBQ, some fresh cornbread, and some down home blues at Jimmy's with Stix Boyette on drums and we are just as pleased as can be to be home again. On the Island we note that one of our own establishments made "Best of the Bay" in the category of "Happy Hour". Congrats to the Silver Moon.
We got Howlin' Wolf howling about "That Spoonful" on the radio and the House of Blues keeping us company tonight. Hey, its the Year of the Blues, man. And another Bush is in the White House while things spiral down and down in another film loop. Again.
Ah well, the Island has always been a place where the Past has found a refuge of sorts. Kids still play in the streets and the ice cream truck still trolls along with a merry song on the summer afternoons here. Sometimes it feels like we are living in a Hollywood version of someone's childhood that never was.
But for all that, people are born, grow up, marry, have families here, same as any other place. It's a place for things to happen slowly, in the old way. Vinnie hands a bowl of homemade pesto to Julie over the fence amid a pleasant burble of Sicilian dialect. "Hey Giacomo! Andjamo . . .!" The other night, the house had a BBQ for Mikey's 50th. Old hippies and cops, Jews and Lesbians and right-wingers and gospel singers and multi-colored punks all sitting down to table with wine and good food and talk.
And o, the singing telegram, and the lady who sang dressed like a Hollywood hula dancer who had such hopes once with her mighty voice of beating the odds and who made me a little sad that this is what she was come to in favor of a birthday for someone she had never met instead of opening at the Met.
Its no small thing that half century mark, not for anybody, let alone a Medal of Honor winner and a guy with a temper to match a triple bypass. We should all be so lucky. Maybe we are all survivors anyway, glad of the days left to us. Like Lynn down the hall, defeating the Big C or like Garfield, mousing about and defending his yard at age 16, which makes him about 106 for a cat who has known many days.
Sometimes I love everyone here so much I want to embrace all of them with immense arms I do not have, gather them safe into a fold. But because my arms are small and weak I cannot.
I would stand before the door with a shotgun daring any fool to approach and the hula dancer lady would sing a great aria that would be heard by an impresario and she would go on to become a really great singer of opera or ballet or something like that.
But the Island is a small place, and not destined for any great things and that is perhaps just as well. Not since Doolittle's Raiders left the West End in 1945 has any great thing happened here. Only the personal triumphs and tragedies of the individual.
Now here comes the midnight train whistle across the empty flatlands. We are all, actors, producers and audience alike just motes blown across the desert. No one is more great than the other. Only the Editor decides who stays and who goes.
And that's the way we like it on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 27, 2003
ITS A BUGS LIFE
The local Starbucks was filled with green walking sticks, enormous hissing cockroaches, foot-long centipedes and a variety of strange beetles the other day. No, it was not a lapse in hygiene or a movie based on a William S. Burroughs novel.
The local manager of the coffeeshop is an avid outdoorsman and dedicated environmentalist. It was his idea to put together a little visit from the good folks at the Center for Ecosystem Survival with a bit of promotion. The CES sent over some people from its Insect Discovery Lab with briefcases full of strange creepy-crawlies, which they took out and passed around to all that would let curiosity overcome, um, anima-adversions.
The Center for Ecosystem Survival (CES) is dedicated to creating global partnerships to inspire broad-based participation in the preservation of biological diversity through ecosystem protection worldwide. CES works in partnership with schools, universities, zoos, aquariums, botanical gardens, natural history museums, and science centers worldwide to protect wildlife and nature.
The Center for Ecosystem Survival's Insect Discovery Lab seeks to instill a sense of awareness, wonder and appreciation of insects and nature and its importance to us. In addition, we endeavor to inspire changes in people's day-to-day attitudes and activities, encouraging them to take actions to protect the natural world.
The Insect Discovery Lab is the leading education outreach facility in the San Francisco Bay Area for hands-on learning and the conservation of invertebrates worldwide and has been highlighted on Evening Magazine, Bay TV, and Bay Area Backroads.
At the end of the day, the kids learned a lot from the Expo and everybody had a great time. Even the whiptailed scorpions, who got to take walks outside of their cages. Just another average day on the Island.
DON'T BE A GHOST, BULWORTH
The last obstacles to unreason have been removed and the recall election of the recently elected Governor of the State of California -- instigated by a known horse-thief -- has been scheduled for October 7, when about 30 million dollars will be pulled from the State's hard hit budget to finance this partisan attempt by individuals to thwart the will of the people that was so clearly demonstrated during the last election.
At this point in time, Rep. Issa is the only contender against Gray Davis.
In D.C, the GOP descended to new lows when they called the police to evict Democrats deliberating on key legislation in an anteroom of the Capitol building, while discussion on provisions of the Pension Preservation Act descended to shouting between Rep. Pete Stark (D) and Rep. Scott McInnis (R-Colo). The GOP chair of the committee simply suspended reading of the bill and halted debate -- going against the House Rules that have been followed for at least one hundred years. Well, so that's the way it is.
Signs are that the Bear is waking up from a long sleep to face the harassing dogs. It will be a battle royal, my friends, and already the blood lust is on the air with streams of mercenaries pouring in from all directions. The recall will pump serious interest into the following Presidential election, making it less and less likely that Bushy and crew will take the 50 electoral votes from California.
THE LUNATICS ARE ON THE GRASS
Harlan has been at it again with more statements less obvious than thought-provoking. His latest comes after a period of total whitewash on the sign area, perhaps a comment of sorts in its own right about the current political situation.
As you drive down Lincoln Street, just past the local AA headquarters, you will see the following signs
Well, the weird thing about these things is that, after a while, they start making sense.
THE MOUNTAINS WIN AGAIN
There will be no issues for the next two weeks, due to the annual Mountain Sabbatical. This time the Chief Editor of Island Life will lead a small expedition over Alpine Col in the Sierra Range of Light into the Evolution region. There to assault the trout with earnest entreaties and outright deception. Here now, bite down on this nice tasty woolybooger. Oh where did the fishy go? Oh Fishy, Fishy! Fishy Fish!. Be back with lots of pix and stuff to tell in mid August.
PRETENDIN' TO BE DEFENDIN'
Some unfortunate soul discovered the earnest intentions of Officer O'Madhauen to Protect and Serve in coming out of the Tube and over the hump of the Constitution Way feeder bridge. It's been the Officer's wont to park at the base of the 100 yard bridge with radar guns pointing up at the crest to nab people coming out of the Tube -- which has a speed limit of 45 MPH. There is a single sign at the crest stating -- as of that point -- speed limit is 25, giving visitors who look sharp about 50 yards to haul down the speed limit from 50 MPH to the legal limit.
In this case, the victim was a would-be shopper from the town of Berzerkeley heading for the new Trader Joes. After getting cited, the man turned his car around and headed back out the Tube, figuring enough was enough for the City coffers, and then wrote a letter to the editor.
Hey fellas, ever wonder why the Southshore Mall is dying?
In other news, two drunk toughs punched a couple of local teens, stole money and a cell phone and attempted to jack their car before fleeing, duplicating similar events that have occurred throughout the week here. In another case, a man was chased by robbers into the supermarket at Southshore, beaten and pelted with eggs. In yet another case, a sixty-year old man was punched and knocked down at the Valero Station on Park street. The suspect rifled the man's pockets before fleeing with the victim's cash register receipt. The victim sustained a head gash.
In yet another case, a man was held up at gunpoint at the troubled Harbor Island apartment complex. He lost $180.
In all cases, no traffic ordinances were violated, hence Officer O'Madhauen could do nothing and the perpetrators got clean away.
But let there be no mistake: one day those bad boys will make a real mistake and turn left off of Park Street between the hours of 3:00 pm and 6:00. Or they'll shuffle through a stop sign. "Then we'll have 'em for sure!" exclaims Officer O'Madhauen. Oh Officer, you are so brave and honest.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great two weeks. And watch for the makeup issues later on this year.
JULY 20, 2003
Among those who like it hot, this lady sizzled hotter than habanero juice. Celia Cruz, the universally acknowledged Queen of Salsa, died this week after a 40 year long career in one of the most energetic genres in the quite demanding business of music. She came to the US one year after the Cuban revolution and went on to make more than 70 albums and several major motion pictures. It is not known exactly how old she was for she coyishly held to the old-fashioned concealment of birthdate right up to the end. Music historians place her birth in Cuba as being between 1925 and 1929 in the month of October.
AIDS WALK PRELIMINARY REPORT
The House sent a contingent, captained by Julee and Tobi, to the annual Aids Walk in Babylon and came back with glowing reports of a massive turnout as well as a general sense of optimism, despite the nearly half-million Americans now positively identified as living now with the disease in their systems. We will provide more details as well as photos from this year's walk in next week's edition.
A particular high point in the walk was a personal greeting to our contingent by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, who remain irrepressible. scrumptious and loveable after more than fifteen years of street actions. Also present were the (in)famous Devilettes, a campy neo-burlesque group who tried to draft Tobi, a grade-school teacher, into their ranks of fishnet stocking-clad dancers.
Tobi politely declined.
Worldwide, AIDS has untold millions, perhaps billions, of infected victims and it is currently ravaging entire nations in Africa, as indicated by our President in his last State of the Union Address. The promised billions of support for fighting this disease have yet to materialize.
Please bear in mind that the HIV virus is a mutagen, and it is NOT known when the next variation will choose a simpler and more effective mode of transmission than physical contact. We already know you don't have to be sinful to get it and die of it.
There are a number of tax-deductible contributions you can make to any number of organizations, but our personal local favorites have been www.shanti.org, Project Open Hand, and the UCSF AIDS Project.
HEADIN DOWN THE HIGHWAY
This week, we all enjoyed the annual Ride to Work day, created to generate notice about the value of motorcycles and motorcyclists in society today. The founders hope to highlight the positive aspects of motorcycling and the benefits of safe driving habits. These guys seem like harmless enough chaps, without the stupid Wild Bunch kind of mentality. And anything that gets this country using less Terror Juice, aka gasoline, is fine by me. This is their credo pulled from their website.
ONE MORE LIFE FOR THE TAKER (CHICKENMAN)
Some of you may recall that we repeated a news story about Dolly the Chicken, who was rescued after a balloon stunt sent her sailing into a tangle of high-voltage powerlines (June 22). Our in-House animal shelter contact reports that Dolly was adopted by a very nice lady in Babylon who already has three fine hens who make quite fine pets. The lady beat out a field of some 120 contenders, who lined up outside the Mission Pet Hospital to apply for rights to adopt the normally flightless bird. The people who tied the animal to some 80 mylar balloons will be subject to arrest for public endangerment, for this stunt could have caused someone serious injury, to say nothing about the potential early demise of the bird.
The moral of the story is this: don't imitate jackasses you see on television. They get paid for acting like idiots. Therefore, doing something stupid for no gain is twice as dumb. Get it now?
BOY IN A BUBBLE
Cole W. Cloren, an 18 year old teen and friend of the family, remains in a coma and is not expected to live after one of the most brutal attacks within Island memory. The three perpetrators have been arrested and may be charged with manslaughter or murder with special circumstances -- that is murder while engaged in a felony crime. One offender is over the age of 18 and will be tried as an adult. the other two are 17 years of age and may also be tried under new court rules as adults.
While sitting on the steps of Washington Elementary School at 12:35 am last week, Cole was approached by the three. One of them swung a "Razor scooter" -- which had been stolen some hours previously in another strong-arm robbery -- at the head of Cole without any provocation or even a word. The blow crushed the victim's skull. The three then stole the boy's cell phone and jumped into an SUV which clipped a fire hydrant in speeding off.
The scooter had been stolen from a 17 year old boy on the corner of Willow and Santa Clara, not far from the Island-Life offices, around 11:45 pm. Three men jumped out of an SUV after cutting off the youth and knocked him down before taking the scooter.
In a separate incident, allegedly the same SUV cut off a skateboarder who abandoned his board when three men approached him, one holding a Razor scooter like a weapon. The motorless Razor scooter has become popular among local teens because of its compact size when the handle is folded to the running board after use.
Because numerous traffic ordinances were impacted, the three were quickly apprehended by IPD, who have connected the three to at least three other street robberies.
GONNA WAIT UNTIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR
An eerie sirocco has come blowing in over the Island, starting in the late afternoon. It's the remnants of that Mexican hurricane we have been hearing about for a while. Right now, Cole Cloren is fighting for his life in the ICU of Highland General Hospital. In Saudi Arabia, another man of much lesser worth but greater infamy, Idi Amin, lies in the same position. The late wire carried the info that the bloody former dictator of Uganda fell into a coma with failing vital signs this morning.
Across the flatlands of Buena Vista and the huge old cannery building made of brick comes the long wail of the midnight train. Officer O'Madhauen sits in his squad car nursing a coffee while waiting for some idiot to blow the light on Grand. In the House, each of us nestles in the comb like sleepy bees racked up in some huge hive on Lincoln Street. The AIDS walkers are all snoring away now after a long day. Toni, who works in television, has been long asleep and is well into the last edges of dreams in the couple hours before waking at dawn. Jen dreams of Boston and 747's streaming across the country. Shawn tosses beneath Cubs pennants and dreams of smacking a homer right out of the stadium while pipers play "The Bonnie Lass". As Kenneth sleeps, his fingers move in a bass rhythm, the rhythm of the saints and he dreams of joining a tremendous choir singing with one voice that is the voice of God.
John rests peacefully, the flicker of stagelights and neon under his eyelids and he's watching the shadows of actors strutting and fretting upon a world's stage until all the world erupts into one great ovation and he's up there taking bows with Julia who, does a small courtesy with a golden statue in hand.
Neil, dressed in his usual paint-spattered shirt and workpants, runs his hand over a set of colored windowpanes set into leaded molding, smooth as dream silk and shot through with fire from within, while Michael runs across a meadow, barefoot, with an orange cat named Garfield towards someone he seems to recognize. Kathleen simply takes a walk in her dreams with an older man who wears an old coat, an honest shopkeeper who could be anyone's father who is proud of what his daughter has done with her life and her life's choices.
The long wail fades into the distance and the visions of other dreams evaporates. Perhaps they were all imaginings, fables told to one fabling to one in the dark. And no one dreamed any of these things or anything at all. But that would be a pity, not to dream.
We caught the DVD version of Les Amantes sur le Pont-Neuf the other night, wherein the character of Juliette Binoche says to the character of Alex, "I used to sleepwalk through life. Then love wakened me. . . . I dreamed of you almost every night. I then resolved that one should always try to speak to those of whom we have dreamed when we finally awake."
You who are out there beyond the circle of light made by this little lamp, do not forget to dream. And find the person of your dreams. And speak to them.
Oh but this is all the foolish fabling of an old man who has had too much wine and too little wisdom to stop meandering.
Down at the shore, the ground squirrels dream of infinite stores of nuts. And at least one of them lives here in this House. Out goes the pool of light and to bed and an end to this fable of one fabling to one in the dark. For now.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 13, 2003
MEET ME IN THE BACK
It's another close to a gorgeous weekend that turned out moderate and sunny against the weatherman's prediction of triple-digit scorchers. Got a KFOG live concert with Melissa Etheridge on the sound box and a beer in hand. Down on the strand the families have the BBQs out, the ground squirrels are frolicking, and the windsurfers scud offshore behind their colorful para-sails -- kite-flying while surfing; now that's the way to do it.
I FOUGHT THE LAW, AND THE LAW LOST?
Another bank got rolled down on Otis by a takeover robber, who entered and demanded cash or he would kill everyone in the building, including the customers. The cashier handed over the $1500 that was in the drawer and the guy scooted out.
In other incidents, a man robbed a victim who had just withdrawn cash from an ATM at 4:00 PM at a Wells Fargo in Marina Village. The robber simulated having a handgun in his jacket and got away with $350 as well as the victim's cell phone.
Indicating that not all Islanders are genteel, or very smart, two men beat another man with a brick on Everett Street on July 4. The victim refused hospital treatment, in spite of a fractured cheekbone, and refused to cooperated with police, probably due to severe intoxication.
Since no traffic infractions occurred in the process, Officer O'Madhaun could do nothing and all malefactors got clean away.
ADIEU COUNCILPERSON AL DEWITT
The flags on Constitution are all at half mast this week in memory of Al De Witt, City Councilman and civil gentleman, who passed away July 3 after a long bout against stomach cancer. He was 70 years young and all of us would have wished to have had him for many more for he had served well many many years in public service. He had degrees from Babylon's Golden Gate University and George Washington University. He served in the Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserve before retiring as a Colonel in 1993.
Its hard to find an influential organization in which he did not have a hand, for he served a member of the governing bodies for American Legion, the Boys and Girls Club, the Library 2000, the Kiwanis, the Island Historic Society and Museum, the Island Council for the Boy Scouts of America and served as president of the NAACP to boot.
When not working directly on Island issues he served as a deacon for the Love Center Ministries in Oaktown, where he was ordained in 1994.
Everyone who worked with him remembers him as a bulwark of calm, steady, persistence which earned him legions of supporters. His genteel but firm righteousness in the midst of stormy political scenes earned him mountains of respect as well as genuine results.
THE CRUCIBLE OPEN HOUSE
Went over to The Crucible Open House on Saturday with Jim, our Island Sculptor-Artist Guy, and Erika, our Island Amelia Earhart and basic graphic artist.
The Crucible, in this case, is not the play by Arthur Miller, but a collective of artisans who have banded together resources to operate a communal space for making amazing things out of glass, metal, wood and clay. Fire features prominently in the production of their works, for these are not your effete lay-abouts casually daubing canvas in the off-hours according to some abstract deconstruction theory. Like gut-bucket Blues to Music, these guys are to Art. Each one of them puts in a minimum of some 20 hours a month just to build and maintain the new Space and then each one puts in another 20 plus hours a week making things while holding down full-time forty-hour a week day-jobs. There probably is not a harder working bunch of artists in the entire world.
This is an excerpt from their mission statement:
The Crucible is a non-profit educational collaboration of arts, industry and community. Established in 1999, The Crucible is the Bay Area's only nonprofit sculpture studio, educational foundry and metal fabrication shop offering classes in fine and industrial arts. From cast iron to neon, and from large-scale public art to the most precise kinetic sculpture, The Crucible is fast becoming the best-equipped public industry & arts education facility on the West Coast.
The vision of The Crucible is to be one of the premiere art centers in the country: a place where art thrives, is accessible, and inspires everyone in their everyday lives. It is a place where forges roar, sparks fly, glass bends, molten metals fuse and pour, clay and cement take on form, neon glows, and creativity explodes!
Once located up in Berzerkeley, the driving costs of rent drove the group out of their long-term home out in the flatlands. Well, it is not just anyplace that you can plop down with a full-sized iron foundry, so it began to look bad for this talented group of people, some of whom had been working metals and wood for 20 years and more. Fortunately an Angel, of which we have a few in the Bay Area, stepped in and purchased and gave an entire factory building located on Oaktown's Seventh Street to the collective.
The collective is now busy building out the former cardboard tube factory into a set of working stalls centered around a full-sized foundry for pouring molten metal for casting, including gold, silver, iron, brass and whatever. Even during the Open House, construction by collective members continued in full swing.
In the past, the Crucible's famous "Midnight Pour" would draw Wiccans and Artists of all sorts to celebrations at solstices and equinoxes. The intent is, as always to raise money for more resources to make more incredible things that have never been seen.
We spent several hours talking to artisans and gawking at spectacular displays of electronic and metal wizardry to shame Harry Potter. And all of it was real, handmade, and there to touch. Also present was a 12 foot tall fountain discovered by artists scavenging for material in an empty lot in Oaktown. This fountain turned out to be well over 130 years old and the City has since commissioned the group to restore the fountain to its former glory.
It is impossible to describe the kind of energy present in such a place where some many people are gather together to do the thing that keeps one awake at night until the stars give way to the streamers of dawn. Extraordinary works made of glass, iron, aluminum, clay, wood, appeared before our eyes. Here, a woman pulls a cup from flaming wood chips to finish a prized raku ceramic.
In this shot, Nessa, from Nigeria, works on wood he had personally imported from Africa. Nessa creates remarkable sculptures from exotic multi-tonal woods.
The Crucible is always in need of more tools, more man-hours, more money to complete their object of becoming the premier resource in the world, not just the West Coast, for artisans. You can find out more at their website www.thecrucible.org. If you are not making something to last, then what are you doing with your Life?
WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW IS LOVE
The latest flap on the Island concerns the residual outrage over the obnoxious "Fleet of Hatred" that entered into the July 4th Mayor's Parade. The Independent and the Island Gerbil both carried banner headlines about the group that drew boos and hisses along the entire path by painting crude signs proclaiming that JESUS HATES YOU! Scores of letters to the editor in both papers protested vehemently against this small group of idiots. Because of Freedom of Speech rules, the controversial group was allowed to participate, but certainly not to anyone's satisfaction and the sponsor of the parade, APT&T, had to issue a public disclaimer, disassociating itself from the fanatics.
On the Island, we can be tough and fair. We are genteel and sophisticated and, for the most part, well educated and well-traveled. We love the Arts and music and good food and all good things. We are generous, sentimental and compassionate to a fault. There is no room for hatred on this Island and the uproar is a good sign that, even though we will give voice to those we disagree with, they better be damn sure whoever makes an outrageous statement will get an answer back in full measure. For we are a peace-loving people above all, and loving and tolerant of one another. And of all living things, including kitty-cats and dogs that wag their tails. Even of Officer O'Madhauen, in spite of his obvious defects.
Now it approaches the midnight hour and the start of another week. Across the weed-choked Buena Vista flats comes the howl of the midnight train going past the ghostly cannery, long abandoned now and rusting under the full moon. It's a night of memories and ghosts.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 6, 2003
Much to our dismay we discovered that last week's visitor hails from Tucson which is in Arizona, not New Mexico, as previously reported. Arizona is a fine state, even though its mountains are burning down right now due to the lack of federal funds due to the irresponsible tax cutbacks for the rich and wealthy who do not live in this part of Arizona. But we won't go into that. We just want you to feel guilty about people losing their homes because of greed. . . .
Furthermore, our artist friend we have known for what seems like 30 years spells her name LAING, not LANG. All we can say is that the responsible parties have been caught and suitably punished. The Bush family remains at large, however.
O SANDY, THE FIREWORKS ARE HAILIN' OVER LITTLE EDEN TONITE
This has been a most remarkable July Fourth in terms of celebrations everywhere. Here on the Island, improbably, one of the largest July 4th parades in the world wended its way from Park, down Otis, up Webster and into the old Naval Station for about 2.5 hours, containing some 195 entries. Stood there in the sun cheering the Kiwanis, the Masons, the Elks, the Moose, the Whatever. Fleets of Model T's, Model E's, Sparrows (the electric car by Corbin), Cub Scouts, and the most fetching assembly of Lutherans you have ever seen trolled by with music and cheers and lots of fun -- even the guy who endured the parade in a gorilla suit and one bald Eagle who danced the zydeco.
Stood with some artist friends and one feller kept announcing, "Here comes another cult!" Along rolls the Ba'hai float. "Here comes another cult!" Your basic snake worshippers. "Another Cult!" It's the Episcopalians. "Cult!" Along comes the local Catholic school.
Those Lutherans, though. Man, they had every male along the route hanging out their tongues or whatever.
Have to tell ya, the Teen used to go to Sunday school over there and eventually got thrown out for questioning the recruiting ethics. You go girl!
The Parade developed an hiatus in the middle of some 400 yards, but we heard that the tail end got usurped by a bunch of hateful hate-mongers who attached themselves with banned floats that carried signs that read, "JESUS HATES YOU!" and "YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE AND BURN FOREVER IN HELL!"
Man, we thought this Jesus dude was all about Love and stuff and was an original party animal. Even turned water into wine -- now how cool is that? Maybe these folks oughta spend a season in the some place like Saudi Arabia or Syria to learn a thing or two about peace, love and understanding.
Any case, after the Parade we all went down to Jim and Sue's and had a BBQ that couldn't be beat. There was all kinds of wine and frolic and stuff and then we carried the party back to the House where the 2nd BBQ was in full force. Well, we just could not pass up another helping of steak, burger and franks so we had another round. And another round of wine. In memory of that Jesus dude who was so badly misrepresented.
And Lynn and Sherry, who are Jewish and the most adorable Lesbians you could ever be neighbors with, served up a massive helping of baby pork ribs cooked perfectly to a turn.
After another round of wine all the sinners went up to the roof with our Sicilian neighbors Franco and Giacomo and had some more wine in memory of our house manager, Mike, who had strictly forbid everyone from stepping up on the roof because of insurance liability. Mike was doing duty with the Coast Guard until midnight. On the roof, we watched the most spectacular collection of fireworks displays ever seen. Of course, we had clear view of the dual display on both ends of the Golden Gate Bridge as well as the main show from Oaktown's Jack London Square, but we also had a view of the Lake Merritt display behind the Oaktown skyline and the big one over the Coliseum some 5 miles south. The really big shows happened, though, after eleven PM, when all the illegals went up from Point Richmond to San Leandro along the estuary and the hills for a viewable stretch of some 20 miles.
Now we have to tell you that the last ships that came into the Port came in from Hong Kong loaded to the gunnels with tons of major-league fireworks for municipal displays that the cities never bought. Instead locals snapped them up at the docks for some $300 a shot. And for some 20 miles along the East Bay shoreline, all of these illicit Works went up about the same time. It was, to say the least, quite spectacular. And dangerous. Two houses burnt down before our eyes and, later, we heard somebody threw himself into the bay from a cruise-ship. But we all had fun up there on the roof, being illegal and all the girls sang "Star-Spangled Banner perfectly.
All kinds of shenanigans were going on and we all went down to the street and commenced our own for Franco and Giacomo began lighting M-180's and Firedancers in front of the building. Now, an M-80 used to be the King of kings among firecrackers, but the M-180 packs the punch of about a quarter-stick of dynamite and when that sucker went off, every car alarm for four blocks in all directions went off as well.
Just about then our neighbors to north and south considered it a very good idea to launch their very own fireworks, which were of the County size, and the sky above exploded only a block away with immense fire chrysanthemums and bottle rockets that shot whizzing down the block to explode just above the roofs and utterly terrify the cats and dogs and raccoons. More car alarms went off and we went back to have more wine and yet another BBQ that couldn't be beat and then we each went to bed and went to sleep and didn't get up until the next morning.
It turned out to be a jolly July 4th. During one conversation with a feller who is a teacher for AP classes in Babylon, my fellow commented that "Oh they all believe that this is the greatest Country on Earth you know. Well they are entitled to their opinions . . .".
Certainly it seems of late that this Country, an experiment now some 227 years old, lacks a fair amount of Integrity, Honesty, Humanity and Moral High-ground as well as some other big words. We, here on the Island, would maintain that there is nothing wrong with those kids believing that this Country is the Greatest on Earth, just as I would imagine the Turkish or the Serbians imagine the same thing about their own countries. For this Country can be seen as great in the magnanimity of its Power and the use of it in defense of justice and of Truth, the equitable Justice it administers to others as well as to its own people, the honest and direct manner of admission of fault and quick readiness to address the consequences of making mistakes, the generosity of spirit in sharing equitably of its impressive wealth, the way it has in the past been a bulwark against tyranny.
Although it is none of those things now, having been a supporter of execrable tyrants like Pinochet in Chile, having harassed and persecuted its own citizens, and having prosecuted illegal and immoral wars in the recent past, this country which can be so great can be great again for it stands before the gates of history now with clear choices in mind It can pursue a narrow and intolerant path typical of past Empires and can fade and fold as those Empires did without anyone sobbing a single tear for hateful tyranny brought down at last or this Country could make a new Era of Pax Americana that is informed by intelligent, humane and well-considered decisions, giving our national symbol once again the dignity it deserves instead of the sneers of the cynical who find the concept of "habitat" and "environment" and "justice" mere obstructions to raiding the national treasury for profit.
We are the People, of course. We can decide these things.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.