Island Life - JULY-DEC. 2004


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Welcome to the 6th year of this weekly column.   Issues published in past years can be viewed by clicking on the "Past Issues" hyperlink at the bottom of this page and by using the navigation bar below. 

Clicking the sailboat image returns you to the current issue.

The 2004 set of issues has been split into two pages due to its large size. The complete annual printout exceeds 500 pages of 8.5 x 11 paper.

ARCHIVES

DECEMBER 28, 2004

SPECIAL ISLAND-LIFE.NET REPORT - Southeast Asia tsunami

By now all of you have seen the TV and newsprint reports of the horrific disaster that overtook Southeast Asia and parts of Africa.

Island-life has obtained three home videos taken by tourists who filmed the tsunami coming in at their respective locations. This is not a joke report. If you download these videos, you will see honestly terrified people, scenes of violent destruction and you will see people die.

For a more controlled presentation, go to the photo sequence at http://www.pbase.com/issels/phuket_tsunami. The man you see being swept down by the water survived when another person grabbed him from the porch of the hotel and hauled him in.

Most of the tourist hotels, unlike the bamboo thatch bungalos, are built of concrete and thus managed to provide some temporary shelter during the tsunami -- as long as they stood three stories or higher. In one report a couple watched the wave hit from the third floor of their Thai hotel, but had to flee to the roof when water reached up to their ankles.

The wave was about 14 feet high -- as it hit the beach -- but that wave was followed by the pressure of several others piling water on top of what had surged in along a front several thousand miles long. One first hand account describes a helpless man desperately trying to back his car out to save his children and himself even as he watched his wife being swept to her death. The tremendous force of the water lifted the automobile up and burst the car like a grape, expelling the man and his children, who all miraculously survived by clinging to floating debris.

Here are the videos showing the awesome power of Nature. Rightclick and chose to download.

PATONG BEACH

SRI LANKA

PHUKET THAILAND

The initial report indicated that 37 people died there, but succeeding reports indicate that all of the people you see on the strand before the water hit have drowned.

Here are abstracts from the timeline, translated from German, as reported by Der Spiegel Online.

1:59 a.m. Central European Time (all times in CET): A severe earthquake strikes off the coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday morning just before 8:00 a.m. local time. A resident of the region alerts a local radio station and says that nine people were killed by a tidal wave. There was no immediate official confirmation but many coastal residents reportedly flee to higher ground.

The first reports concerning the strength of the earthquake are contradictory. While the Indonesian authorities report an earthquake with a strength of 6.6 on the Richter scale, United States geologists say the quake reached 8.1 on the Richter scale.
...
According to the press spokesman of the Meteorological and Geophysical Office in Jakarta, Indonesia, the epicenter was about 66 kilometers (41 miles)off the coast of Sumatra and about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) below the surface of the ocean and well below the ocean floor. Shortly following the main quake, several severe aftershocks followed.

Shortly afterward, a strong earthquake was registered in Bangladesh near the harbor town of Chittagong. According to geologists there, the trembler lasted one and a half minutes long and reached a magnitude of 7.3. Just as in Sumatra, the residents ran out onto the streets in panic.

4:43 a.m. CET: The number of victims is still assumed to be just nine; there still has been no official confirmation, however. The first reports of deaths from the tourist resort island of Phuket in Thailand come in. Exact numbers are not given.

US authorities communicate the exact strength of the first quake off the northwest coast of Sumatra: A magnitude of 8.9 instead of the original report of 8.1. With that, the quake becomes the most violent since 1964 and the fifth strongest since 1900.

Seismologists register yet another earthquake of 7.3 magnitude near the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. At roughly the same time, the tsunami slams into Sri Lanka and South India. (editor's note: about noon local time according to firsthand reports)

Firsthand reports from Southern India live on KPFA described unbelievable devastation, 40 foot fishing trawlers left resting on the crushed roofs of houses downtown and in the middle of city streets, thousands of bodies washing ashore. The inital reports of immediate deaths rose by the thousands almost by minute. At last report, we have over 80,000 people lost and that report is also considered to be an undervaluation of loss of life. No one is focussed upon Africa, but we have reports that entire villages have disappeared under a wall of water along the entire Horn of Africa, well over 2,000 miles from the earthquake epicenter.

A massive international relief effort is underway with everyone from Denmark to even the usually flinty-hearted George Bush offering millions in assistance. As we learn of relief efforts and the very important efforts to locate persons traveling in the affected region, we will post them here.

DECEMBER 26, 2004 (spellchecked & repaired)

RING OUT SOLSTICE BELLS

The sky is roiling up right now with a nasty look as if Sauron is brewing new devilment over the horizon even as chills winds come knocking about the jasmine and stripping all the remainder leaves from the oaks. Down the street the poplar stood disconsolately over the yellow gown which had been tossed down about her ankles on the sidewalk and blacktop in a fifteen foot circle all around.

If they had snow in Texas and Nebraska and Illinois, they sure as shooting are going to get another dock-walloper more of it for this storm is forecast to blow through for the next six days straight.

Took a walk the other night down by the strand, listening to the singing and parties and such floating out from the festively lit apartments that border Shoreline Drive. That side was all lights and music and laughter, but towards the ocean, the salt wind blew across dark sands. Now and then a seal or some other marsupial plashed away into the darkness. The tide was out, leaving pools shining under the nearly full moon, joined with causeways of firm sandbars that let one way out into the bay where the dropoff occurs and the water flickered in waves over to the glittering bulk of Babylon and South City.

The streets with their lamps and the holiday decorations stripped the black hills edging Hunters Point, which flared with its own industrial illuminations from the surviving port facilities. From the Crocker Amazon on north to the hump of Bernal Heights, over to the towers on Mt. Davidson and then across to the solitary Coit Tower, the lights all blended into chains of gold and gold beads. The outlines of the Embarcadero buildings appeared clearly like gold-edged boxes which seemed to join by depth illusion to the strands of pearls that defined the Golden Gate.

Have news from our sister, Beatrice, that the longest night of the year passed uneventfully and quietly, save for the occasional Wiccan and Druidical gathering. These things seem to have become less announced of late, given the present triumphalism of a particularly virulent brand of Xianity. Perhaps it is wise to keep a low profile during the ascendancy of proven bloodthirsty murderers.

Upstairs, our Wiccan in the House placed a fat stick of Toblerone with a nice card before the door of our Designated Tzadik. Not to worry: this chocolate is certified kosher.

There were a few celebrations here and there, but otherwise, this year was a very subdued time, with many of us scattered to smaller gatherings about the place.

Our resident Mother and Child both took the resident Dad up to Oregon, while our resident Republicans went to Illinois to enjoy the Conservative weather there.

Others split off locally to small dinners under candlelight in a kind of hush during wartime.

We had a small dinner with the kids and the assortment of dysfunctional family holiday movies that have become a tradition with us, save no one could obtain a copy of "Mixed Nuts" this time, which just means a fair number of others are starting to feel similar about the times. "Mixed Nuts" stars Steve Martin who runs a Suicide Hotline that is about to be evicted shortly after the Holiday for failure to pay rent. Madeline Kahn, in her final role, plays a coworker who gets stuck in an elevator on Christmas Eve, preventing her from attending her relative's dinner. Parker Posey skates through, dropping and ruining her family Xmas tree while a wildly pregnant and irrational Juliette Lewis throws her husband out on the street for being shiftless and losing his job as a shopping mall Santa. What else? Oh yes, everyone is terrified by periodic reports about a mysterious "Night Strangler" haunting the LA basin and the aforementioned husband, dressed in a Santa suit, has a serious accident, gets demented and accidentally shoots someone to death. The professional reviewers hated the movie intensely when it came out in 1994.

Did I say this was a comedy?

Its a family tradition and we missed it this time, but there was "The Ref" and "Life of Brian" to provide so all was not lost. The kids were delighted with their presents -- opened early on CE as they both had to retire to their variously separate families engaged in yet more and additional divorces (in California, if you have not been married at least twice, your neighbors begin to suspect you dislike people) and so with a flurry of wrapping paper and last nibbles it was all over and just as well for the heater has been broken for weeks and the landlord refuses to get it fixed properly.

Needless to say, we do not have much in common with the white-shoe tennis club crowd which never travels beyond the boundaries of its own perceptual limitations, however we may share an earnest desire for Peace, albeit differing in the means and the actualization.

To all our readers then, laughter with a tear in the eye, Peace on Earth -- ALL of Earth, and good will and best wishes to you.

"ROY, YOU DON'T LOOK SO GOOD. YOU ARE A VERY SICK MAN."

This item came courtesy of the World Health Organization which has itself received advance notice of an epidemic warning from the CDC.

"The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a warning about a new virulent strain of sexually transmitted disease. This disease is contracted through dangerous and high risk behavior and is called Gonorrhea lecthim (pronounced "gonna re-elect him"). Many victims have contracted it after having been screwed for the past 4 years, and in spite of having taken measures to protect themselves from this especially virulent strain.

Cognitive sequellae of individuals infected with Gonorrhea lecthim include, but are not limited to: Antisocial personality disorder traits; delusions of grandeur with a distinct messianic flavor; chronic
mangling of the English language; extreme cognitive dissonance; inability to incorporate new information; pronounced xenophobia; inability to accept responsibility for actions; exceptional cowardice masked by acts of misplaced bravado; ignorance of geography and history; tendencies toward creating evangelical theocracies; and a strong propensity for categorical, all-or nothing behavior."

This warning was issued worldwide sometime during the month of October, but due to the present Administration's policy on disease, which restricts free information flow in favor of strict chastity practiced along Xian Fundamentalist lines, along with abnegation of science, medicine and common sense, the warning is only now coming across to Americans.

This forwarded message courtesy of fellow Islander Mike Rettie.

IN OTHER NEWS

The latest flap is over the Main Street Ferry Terminal going out of commission due to a boat collision December 13th with the ferry dock. An Army ship docked nearby at the ship repair facility caused the damage. There are only two ferry terminals which carry people off of the two bridged islands that form the City, and the situation has been declared an emergency by the City council. About 500 people commute regularly to and from that terminus, in addition to occasional riders going to and from The City.

The Council has responded to voicings from the community to protect Islanders from large scale evictions such as the one recently executed at Harbor Bay Apartments where nearly 1,000 tenants got 90 day notices on the 3rd of November. The City dropped its lawsuit against the Texan company which owns the complex when a federal judge ruled that a municipality has no standing to file claim on behalf of residents. The rather obnoxious Fifteen Group, current owners, have filed a countersuit to the tune of $188,000 and they are pursuing. Mayor Beverly has publicly deplored the behavior of the Fifteen Group and its recalcitrance on cooperation. The F Group has responded that all actions have been entirely within the limits of the law.

With the Texans behaving so badly, it does appear they will earn rancor and difficulty from the City as the property owners pursue ambitious remodeling schemes that require detailed City permits.

As you sow, so shall you reap. Y'all.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: 2004 MARKS THE NEW AGE

We have thought and we have thought and we have drunk endless cups of coffee in deep philosophical discussion in re: the shorthand character tag of This Age with respect to the prime movers and shakers. We know the 60's were tagged, "The We Generation." This segued through the "Me Generation" which lasted well into the 80's. Then we were treated to "Generation X" the Undefined Market -- according to the advertising wonks. No one having any money, and the savage conservatism of the Reaganites having destroyed all sense of taste, we moved into the Age of the Bad Haircut, with the Mullet ruling the low end of the spectrum, and the soupbowl appearing dangerously near the higher seats of power, while many gave up entirely and shaved it ALL off, preferring to go Cranial Nude.

Now we enter the new millennium with wars being fought over petroleum deposits even as people insist on driving preposterously dangerous and antisocial vehicles like the SUV and the Hummer. We have abjurement of solid science in favor of nonsensical pseudo-medicine, inventive environmental studies which claim to reduce forest fires by cutting down all the trees, and creationism of the atmosphere which denies bald facts. B movie actors, professional wrestler entertainers and blatant numbskulls get elected to the highest offices in the land who sincerely hearken unto the message that sending all the jobs overseas is really good for labor and the economy at home and tossing "shiny pebbles" in the sky will protect all of us from ICBMs. Which no one has anymore except us and possibly the Chinese who know better.

Its quite clear, this is

There can be no other label more appropriate for the term "Dada" was already appropriated in the 20's.

And this year marks the pinnacle of moronic behavior as a retrospective reveals. But on to the retrospective.

First the national and international bad news. In 2004 the following public personalities passed on their respective rewards.

Christopher Reeve, famed actor who portrayed Superman and who continued the good fight after total paralysis that occurred after a bad fall from a horse, devoting millions to resolving the medical problems of paralysis. He was 52.

Marlon Brando, the Method actor above all others who made a name for himself playing tough guys in the movies and Stanley Kowalski in "Streetcar Name Desire", and who continued to provoke and challenge in any number of ways the increasingly staid Hollywood movie business up until the last hour of breath. He died this year at age 80.

Lose your appetite? Julia Child, the Epicurean with a zesty sense of humor passed on age age 91. "Always use fresh ingredients and remember: No snacking!"

Rodney Dangerfield, the stand up comic with bug-eyes, and one of the last of the old time "schmaltz circuit comics" finally earned some respect before his death at age 82.

Greatest loss this year was arguably the incomparable Ray Charles, a musical genius who fused gospel, blues, jazz, rock 'n roll and country music to blend the diamond and the pearl, earning himself accolades, worldwide honors and complete admiration from everyone he met. He is commemorated in the CD "Genius Loves Company" which features collaborative work between the great master -- blind since age 13 -- and many of the great musical lights of today. He was 73.

You may not know the name right off, but Eddie Adams was honored after his passing this year by virtually every newsprint media outlet around the world, for this photographer captured the nuances of the age from his informal photo of Louis Armstrong pondering with a sax in his lap before a performance in 1970, to the shocking photograph titled simply "South Vietnam's Police Chief Executing a Viet Cong Lieutenant," and which shows a man shooting another man in the head with a pistol on a city street. This photo garnered a Pulitzer Prize for Adams in 1969 and was instrumental in turning the tide of public opinion against the war in Southeast Asia.

And now for the really good news. They finally entombed the Great Confabulator so hated by so many for so long. It seemed he would drag on forever, drooling into his med cups and providing an inarticulate icon to conservative hatemongers everywhere. He was such an inarticulate chucklehead during his lifetime, it was easy to attribute any success, any victory, any rescue from disaster to him by the highly developed propaganda machine which had rammed its way like a juggernaut into every pressroom in the country, excepting the officially defined Opposition, defined characteristically as Liberal with attached perjoratives. They attributed the most preposterous and outlandish events upon him, including the economic fall of the Soviet Union, even though such fall occurred only from internal stresses and the efforts of millions of people working long before Ronald Reagan happened on the scene to take advantage of the press opportunities.

He was widely hated in California, which dumped him from his 2nd attempt at Governorship and which he revenged by so savaging the state budget that the consequences reverberated well into Gray Davis' ill-fated term, a length of time of some 35 years. He continued to punish the Golden State by withdrawing federal funding from thousands of programs, yanking support for its senators and congressmen in every proposed project and shunting lucrative projects, such as the atom supercollider, to conservative states.

When he died, it was said they had to finally bury him in an imperial aboveground tomb for every time they tried to lower him into clean California earth, an earthquake would erupt his rotten guts out again. And the night of his announced death, countless champagne parties were held across the state, as evidenced by this photo of an empty bottle of Moet, which runs for some $42 per magnum.

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In the east bay, the year began warmly within site of the Island when The Crucible held a Fire Opera Extravaganza with a pricey $100 per ticket opening night and presenting the opera "Dido and Aeneas".


A bit further from home, the entire country goggled and glommed over the spectacular success of the Martian expedition. Looking at this island-life exclusive, we can see clearly why, for the existence of Life on Mars is undeniable.

Meanwhile over in Babylon hizzoner Gavin Newsome gave everybody a turn when he let the city clerks proceed with same sex marriages and then prodded the city attorney to file suit on behalf of the couples provoking a national storm of controversy that continues to this day.

There was no love lost with the Saudis as gas prices shot up here in Feb. to 2.92 a gallon and to $3.02 in some places for a gallon of special 92 octane.

Locally the old Linoaks Motel went through a hiatus after condemnation before they finally tore the darn thing down by turning loose a bunch of teenage metal heads with big bass speakers and unlimited beer supply.

March also saw the fruition of the grassroots movements happening all across the country and in all manner of means, some, as here, simply to make a statement by the freeway, some more directly by volunteer phone banks and canvassers collecting a record number of new voter registrations that would culminate in one of the most contentious and divisive presidential elections in history.

Into April it became increasingly clear that Iraq was not going to be a walk in, walk out type of situation. Instead of flowers and songs, the Iraqis responded with stares and glares and, eventually, complete and total revolt. After the president declared "an end to major operations in Iraq", the bad news to the tune of 70 attacks a day, together with the grisly consequences began to flow back to the US through a choked sewer line of information.

Every time more bad news broke it seemed the entire world knew it before we did. Finally, the insult of propaganda censorship reared its head when a New York times photographer was canned in retaliation for publishing this photograph of American soldiers returning home.

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On the upside, the east bay began to consolidate its hold upon the bay area arts community as more and more artisans flee the high rents and intolerable attitudes of Babylon, where it seems only the already "successful" artist has venue and place. We had many gallery openings and celebrations, including this one in Oaktown at the ProArts Center, which featured live music and dancers in the gallery space.

In June we have a forgotten story in the massive dam break which flooded some 12 thousand acres of valley floor, destroying 250 homes and endangering the main water supply for the 10 millions living here in the bay area and surrounding metro areas for the main aqueducts from the mountains then lay underwater. Just as suddenly as it happened, the news disappeared from the front pages.

Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 came out to take advantage of the summer crowd and really put people into a political move such that if you did not have an opinion one way or another you had to be a shellfish.

In August we reported dismal job growth and presented this graph pulled from the API website. The Bushies were claiming there was no recession in 2001.

It was quite clear at that time that the economy was stumbling and the usual culprits were to blame. The GNP was terrible. The deficit was horrific. But the Bushies insisted on a hands-off approach, allowing the "market" to determine the future. Even then Europe was beginning to turn its back on the dollar.

The RNC came and went in NYC with all protests stifled vigorously and proactively. One need only appear on the street with a questionable T-shirt and one was hustled to a long abandoned pier in the Battery which seeped virulent chemicals that seared detainee's skin. People reported being held their without charge for well over 48 hours. No one was allowed to see an attorney or contact anyone outside. Then, when the convention was over, everyone was summarily released without charge.

By contrast the DNC convention in Boston in August was a shouting, exuberant celebration with no arrests at all and was highlighted by the rising stars in politics. One, Barack Obama, had conquered all odds and taken his homestate of Illinois by storm, helped somewhat by the revelation of sexual misconduct in his opponent Republican.

The other was the young Illana of our own Oaktown, who, commenting on Cheney's cursing "F--- You!" in the hallways of that august building The Capitol, said "When I say bad things I must do time out. Time out for you, Dick Cheney!"

September followed gloomy after the glorious celebrations in the Blackrock Desert at Burning Man for we inexorably crossed the morbid 1000 killed mark in Iraq, referring only to American soldiers. Some 8,000 had been horribly wounded and some 10,000 Iraqis had died, still not including the smattering of "coalition troops." Nationally, the mood begins to turn.

Here in conservative Alameda, a vigil was held for the first 1000 to die for Halliburton balance sheet, joining millions of others around the world.

In Brighton, England

In Copenhagen

In Washington, DC

In Dusseldorf

In Mexico City

In Leh Ladakh India.

In Paris

In Swarthmore

In Hong Kong

Spain withdrew its troops after a disastrous terrorist attack blew up a commuter train, and causing a major defeat to that nation's conservatives as the liberal party swept into power on the heels of popular outrage at the unpopular invasion.

October ratcheted up the political energy as tempers rose and fists flew and allegations of misconduct were flung in both directions at once.

Island-life joined a massive effort to see to it that this election went as it was supposed to. Several separate entities held their own monitoring efforts, with several foreign countries sending representatives of what before the year 2000 had been considered a sacrosanct process. We were part of the Common Cause/People for the American Way/Working Assets team which included some 10,000 volunteers from Working Assets alone, plus some 2,000 people from the Bay Area and an unknown number from New York, Detroit, Washington DC, Chicago and all of the various states plus yet more several thousand attorneys from all fifty states working pro bono. Never before had such an effort been undertaken on such scale.

At the end of the day, the common worry that the individual ballot machines were subject to tampering yielded to the fear that the central registries had been hacked and that various registries were compromised the old fashioned way -- by excluding observers until the results had been "secured". Island-life did a Blog with an hourly report from Miami Florida up until November 3rd.

Here you see the basic tools of the dedicated blogger: telephone, computer, glass of whiskey, digital camera and one familiar raven.

We still have the raven who has this to say about the RNC in power: "Nevermore!"

GWB claimed victory with a mandate, having only a preliminary advantage of some 1%, and stated that now he could do anything he wanted.

The rest of November and December involved itself with sad reiterations of the consequences of political failure. Scads of people fled the sinking Cabinet of Bush, expecting indictments and jail terms at any time. The ideologues who had promoted and theorized the whole construct fled in horror at the terrible realization of their demonic dreams, including Pearle and Wolfowitz from the Project for the New American Century. The death toll from Iraq now tops the 1300 mark and approaches the awful 2,000 mark even as 10,000 boys return, thanks to the protection of kevlar armor, without limbs, faces or any expectation of normal lives due to horrific war wounds that killed all only a few years previously.

Meanwhile the investigation into the terrible outing of an agent (Valerie Plame) working undercover has been buried beneath an official snowball of denial, allowing hundreds of people to die and allowing Al Qaida operatives to praise Allah for the wonderful gift given them in this revelation. And still the horrible war went on. And on. And on. Here a father calls out over the coffin of his 10 year old son, "He was 10 years old! Was he such a terrorist!"

And no one but no one has found the slightest indication of any Weapons of Mass Destruction which were the main public excuse for attacking a basically innocent country to begin with. It was all for money.

That was then the Year 2004: a dismal year of military and electoral and intelligence failures. Lets hope 2005 proves to be somewhat better. But we think not. Unless you yourself get involved and do something about it.

Or go a bit "off", like Harlan, the Madman of Lincoln Street. His latest offering on the art wall of his house remains as inexplicable and indecipherable as all the rest, but its somehow comforting that a fine madness can continue to prosper here or anywhere for that matter. Harlan is one who does not pretend to make "reality", for he does not bother with the concept at all, which is clear enough.

HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN

The end of year stats will have to wait until next time for we had to hustle on over to the apartment of the Significant Other to deliver a portable heater -- the landlord still has not fixed the damn thing and the place is an icebox with the wind and rain lashing down now. Can't hear the midnight train for all the banshees howling about the eves. Had to turn old Elwood off during the House of Blues Radio Hour, for the theme this evening was "Xmas Blues".

The casements are all rattling and the surface chop on the Bay is probably going crazy over the sands where we walked only a short time before down at the Strand. Harlan's signs are probably down in tatters, or he could be out there for all we know, with wild hair flying in the storm like some demented Lear furiously hammering plastic sheeting or some such thing over the latest creation of his. At least he doesn't hurt anybody and that is a good thing many saner types cannot claim. Across the street, however, the immense lighted wreath at Vines coffeehouse still shines through the murk and next to it the lighted frames of the plant nursery glow protectively about their invisible green charges like a distant temple of Shangri La.

The storm has begun, clearly enough, and bad weather is upon us all, with no sign of letup for years to come. On this Island we have a few lights and imagination to get us through in this time. We do not pretend to "make Reality here" for we all know well enough that if anything were to happen beyond control, step on a landmine or pass an IED for example, reality will make you, and its enough just to deal with what is. If we make anything, we make sculptures, felt scarfs, glasswork, music and other beautiful things. For that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

DECEMBER 19, 2004

SANTA GOT A D.W.I., DODGING AND WEAVING ACROSS THE SKY

"Santa got a D.W.I, dodging and weaving across the sky
They pulled him over on a little housetop
And there they caught him with a bottle of peppermint schnapps
They impounded his sleigh
I don't know what to do
the reindeer will probably wind up in the old County Zoo
'Cause Santa got a D.W.I. . . ."

lyrics by Sherwin Linton


Well its that time of year again. All kinds of people are on the road at times when they otherwise would be sitting behind office desks, hunting for that special tchotchke for Aunt Mable and that fantod encased with a bell jar they remember last seeing at Zaks, or Cost Plus, or Zabars, or maybe Costco has it and it would be perfect for Emund, Oscar and the Zatopec family down the hall.

The net effect of all this rambling about on the Nimitz Freeway is an unfortunate and worse than usual consternation of the roadway. That is really the only way to put it. Last Friday we had a marvelous pileup of 14 cars in a series of related accidents. It was so bad that the KFOG Traffic Copter stopped listing all of the trouble spots and said simply, "Well if you are planning on driving anywhere right now in the Bay Area, you can forget it; its bad all over."

Many of the most classic traffic entertainments and obfuscation tactics have been observed lately. There was the Stealth Turn, the Rambunctious Triple Lane Change maneuver, the Slow Down in the Fast Lane and the Devious Freeway Meander, as well as the Clever Divider Hop, not to mention the Left Turn Lane Refusal to Proceed until Driving straight forward through the intersection Tactic.

Leave it to Pagano's Hardware to make light of the Season via their famous thematic display window.

Here we have the Old Guy and the Grande Dame, once again engaged in a convivial gathering. It appears, however, that both of them seem to have had a trop du vin, and the dignified lady has passed out into the plate of cheese and crackers.

A closer look reveals the Grande Dame has company which does not sleep up on the table with her (arrows mine).

Mice running loose in the house! Well are there not safeguards here against such invaders? Let us examine the condition of the mousetraps.

Good heavens! The wiley rascals have not only made off with a baked potato, peas and corn on the cob, but they have filched all the traps and stolen the bait! And they are carrying off the goods to where? A closer look reveals an entire world below the floorboards. A Mouse food processing plant, houses, legal courts, automobiles, furniture and even an ice skating pond! All just beneath the feet of the Old Man and the Lady.

Proving that even mice have a sense of legality -- if not of justice -- a very very close look reveals this barrister trying to drum up business.


SOMEBODY STOLE MY SANTA CLAUS SUIT

"Somebody stole my Santa Clause suit
Somebody ripped off my beard, hat 'n boots.
Some joker is running around dressed in red
If I catch him he'll be better off dead!"

lyrics by Dan Hicks

A long-standing tradition on the Island is the cooperative lighting of Thompson Street by the inhabitants there with the participation of Island Power and Telecom. Most of the old neighborhoods around the Bay Area also have similar events, and the results never fail to be spectacular displays. This year there were more than the usual assortment of Grinch figures along with the reindeer, snowmen and jolly St. Nicks.

A post office box is located on the median with clear instructions to good boys and girls that all letters dropped therein will be sent posthaste to the North Pole and marked For Eyes Only.

Most of the light animals seen here are animatronic, and so will move their heads back and forth or up and down as pedestrians pass by.

And for some odd reason, flamingos appeared in great numbers. Here we have a troop of them rigged with antlers, pulling a sleigh through the "Reindeer Intersection", while a small polar bear wearing a red cap chugs on a bottle of coca cola.

And here we have a teetering Santa flailing wildly as he struggles to regain his balance on the roof.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC

Without further ado, here is the official Bill Graham Presents concert calendar.

Just Added Shows!

Ashlee Simpson
Event Center at San Jose State University
San Jose, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207036&source=EWKLY
Tuesday, February 22 at 7:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

Phil Lesh & Friends
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207096&source=EWKLY
Saturday, February 12 at 6:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

Scissor Sisters
The Warfield
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206426&source=EWKLY
Sunday, January 30 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

The Naked Trucker and T-Bones Show
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207113&source=EWKLY
Saturday, January 29 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

Luna
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206728&source=EWKLY
Saturday, February 5 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

Soul Sirkus featuring Neal Schon
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207194&source=EWKLY
Thursday, January 13 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 19 at 10:00 AM

The I'm Rich Biatch Tour with Charlie Murphy
Punch Line Comedy Club - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207197&source=EWKLY
Wednesday, January 12 at 12:00 AM
On Sale Monday, December 20 at 10:00 AM

This Week's Shows!

SF Comedy Showcase
Punch Line Comedy Club - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207015&source=EWKLY
Sunday, December 19 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Monday Comedy Sessions
Punch Line Comedy Club - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207016&source=EWKLY
Monday, December 20 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Upcoming Shows!

Ngaio Bealum
Punch Line Comedy Club - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206685&source=EWKLY
Wednesday, December 22 at 12:00 AM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Bobby Slayton
Punch Line Comedy Club - San Francisco
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206798&source=EWKLY
Sunday, December 26 at 12:00 AM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Joe Satriani
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206846&source=EWKLY
Sunday, December 26 at 8:00 PM http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206852&source=EWKLY
Monday, December 27 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Will Downing
Paramount Theatre
Oakland, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206630&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 7:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

The Les Claypool Frog Brigade
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206674&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

New Years Eve Comedy Countdown
Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206794&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 9:30 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Black Comedy Explosion!
Paramount Theatre
Oakland, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206759&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 11:30 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

VNV Nation
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=205837&source=EWKLY
Thursday, January 6 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Handsome Boy Modeling School POSTPONED
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206758&source=EWKLY
Friday, January 7 at 9:00 PM
Postponed
______________________________

Bill's Birthday Party!
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=207056&source=EWKLY
Saturday, January 8 at 7:30 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________


If you must know, we will be attending the Ledisi concert on Xmas Eve at the intimate venue of Yoshi's at Jack London Square.

A HARD RAIN IS GONNA FALL

If that lunatic in the White House thinks he is going to cakewalk through another four years he is sadly mistaken, for the outrage is growing and the forces mobilized to defeat him at the National Election are now rolling up their collective sleeves. People are starting to come together like they have not come together in a very long time and the next item on the agenda will be collective protests at the Inauguration in January. Several thousand people are planning on showing up, only to turn their backs to the Pretender when he perjures himself again on a stack of bibles. Code Pink is planning a large protest march and has obtained the necessary permits. While the Secret Service and DC police likely will prevent forcibly any repeat of what happenedafter the 2000 election fiasco, when the Presidential Motorcade was pelted with eggs, there are many who are doing there best to send a loud and clear message to the World that this country is by no means solidly behind the ideas and policies of a bunch of incompetent maniacs.

THIS SCEPTERED JEWEL SET IN AN EMERALD SEA, THIS ISLAND

In other news, the latest flap is over the planned Indian Casino, which Oakland City Hall wants badly for economic reasons, but which the Island and local Oaktowners revile by reason of the subsidiary social problems anticipated to be caused by the new facility. Opponents cite potential compulsive gambling, domestic violence, traffic, liquor problems, suicide and environmental damage to the neighboring wetlands. Planners are budgeting only 2 million dollars to handle the increased traffic anticipated by the Casino, which is "about 100 million short" as stated by former Planning Board Member Lee Harris at a recent meeting. This is, after all, an Island, with limited means of access and the Casino will sit directly opposite one of the main bridges. Stay tuned for developments.

In the news regarding the troubled Harbor Bay complex, from which over 400 tenants were evicted recently, the proposed plans for the renovation -- the entire reason the people were supposedly evicted -- have drawn the ire of the city Council with unappetizing fencing and landscaping designs that seem bent on turning the place into a collection of upscale condominiums instead of a reasonable rental location for moderate income tenants.

A candlelight vigil was held before City Hall on December 7th to send a message to the owners and an appeal to allow the remaining few tenants remain.

GOING TO WAIT UNTIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

The Putamayo World Hour has gone off the air and Rosalee Howarth has so long and safe travel with Dan Storper and we are now into the Sunday Night Jam Session with a bit of Phil Lesh and Friends on the stereo. Taking a walk through the dark apartment to refill the glass and clear the head, all is silent out there except for the burble of the aquarium pump. At the window looking out, all the color has left the world, which renders itself into the chiascuro lines of walls and the outlines of trees. After all the hectic bustle of the last few days no sirens chirp in the distance, no horns honk, no one is screaming. The Island sleeps tonight as the fog begins to roll in.

Next week, obviously is the last issue of the year and we will have some treats for you good girls and boys. Like all the rest of the tedious Media, we will do a retrospective of the year in words and in pictures and some updated stats on the visitors to this site.

Last we checked, we had become searcheable by google.com, altavista, and a couple other search engines. Over 400 people were visiting on the weekends and Verisign became interested enough to begin courting us with a special assigned customer service rep.

As Curly used to say, "Oy, hoity toity!" Nyuck, nyuck, nyuck.

It's the end of another dreadful year and tomorrow the sun comes up at the start of another impossible day. But I like to remember the marvelous words and voices of the Thrills when they sang, in barbershop quartet style, "the only measure of a man at the end of the day / is the love you leave behind when you're gone." Or like Gimli's words near the end of the Lord of the Rings, "An impossible task and sure to kill us all. Well then, what are we waiting for?"

Even now, like another Mount Doom, Shasta has come alive again with flowing lava and poisonous jets of fume. A sulphurous reek lies on the land. Torture practiced and permitted. Wholesale detentions without cause and without legal recourse and with no limit set on length of incarceration. The most contemptible behavior is now encouraged and the rule of law cast aside. In the coming days, whatever your part may be, each of us must play his and her part well for we have given over to others our rule and they have not done well.

One day I believe this Nation will once again hold up her head high with pride among the other nations of the Earth, with pride and not arrogance. We must fight for that day for that day will never come if we allow the present fools and madmen to continue as they have, slaughtering the innocents and ruining the birthrights of succeeding generations in every way imaginable.

Ah, there it is, echoing across the flats and sedge grasses growing along the old Beltline rail, now idle and long unused. There it comes, a long peal, a howl, a cry in the night, the blast of the through-passing train departing the Port after midnight and gliding through the dark and empty Jack London Square, clack-clacking across the water with clear snaps and muffled rumbles. That call comes each night and I sometimes stay awake just to hear it. Sometimes sad, ripping memories from the stain of tear-soaked years, reminding me of lost opportunities and friends who have died, sometimes terrible, like the inexorable Judgement of a vengeful God reminding me of death and all things I cannot change, and sometimes, like tonight, the honking call of an old friend gone phlegmy in the throat but still there after all these years, reminding of the comforting persistence of things over the telephone of distance and fog.

Those of you out there beyond the circle of light cast by the reading lamp in this small cube, may you also find such a voice, such a friend. If you seek, surely, you will find.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

DECEMBER 12, 2004

INCIDENT AT SEAL ROCK - ISLAND-LIFE EXCLUSIVE !

Got insider info this afternoon a few hours ago about a contratemps between overly officious Officials belaboring the Homeland Security Act and injuring the rights of honest Americans engaged in a regularly scheduled sporting event in the Bay.

Appears that round about three pm, the monthly Bridge Crossing swim which involves members of the Seal Rock Swimming Club began winding up its activities as usual by finishing its customary long distance swim under the Golden Gate Bridge -- an energetic swim through frigid 50 degree water which has killed every attempted escaper from Alcatraz located not far off.

The organizers of the event typically arrange for permits with the Coast Guard and local police authorities before hosting the actual event and in this case there was no exception in the required paperwork.

But as exhausted swimmers, who had just swum some two miles in virually open ocean and notoriously choppy water were being assisted to the Rock, an official ordered everyone -- via bullhorn -- to evacuate the Rock immediately. To leave the remaining swimmers to flounder in the suddenly deadly Bay. The assistants refused and shouted that they had Coast Guard permission.

To their great astonishment, the Voice announced that "the Coast Guard had no jurisdiction here." !

We at Island-Life felt this to be a bit beyond belief -- that the Coast Guard, which is required for any and all boarding of any vessels by any US entity (including the US Navy) has no authority over a rock located in the San Francisco Bay. So we checked with an official of the Coast Guard who stated that the bullhorn probably belonged to someone part of the Golden Gate Park Authority and that it was patently nonsense to say the Coast Guard "had no authority" on or in any coastal waterway as the Coast Guard is the nominated official Police Protection of the coastline.

We asked him what the people should do under such circumstances and here are his words verbatim, "Heck, I would have turned my back and continued about my business and if he persisted I would have told him to kindly f---- off."

The Golden Gate Bridge operates under a quasi-State-Federal agency as both termini result in federally controlled parkland while the bridge itself is a component of the State's Caltrans, which handles all the highways and connectors. Consequently, responsibility for security over the Bridge has hopped from agency to agency and several parties assert final authority -- whatever that might mean -- even as an already existing entity was supposed to handle "preservation" affairs. This latter agency is called the GGNRA and has liberty to solicit funds from the public as a nonprofit entity.

On last report, all swimmers were successfully pulled from the water which is likely to get quite hot after this affair, for the Coast Guard does not like being told it "has no jurisdiction" even as it sends men in harms way into the maelstrom of the Middle East. Stay tuned for further developments.

Various local groups have performed this swim for some 150 years here.

BENEATH THE SOUTHERN CROSS

All hearts here are with the 170 man crew of the Coast Guard cutter Monro which departed here December 6 to support the miliary effort in Iraq. The Coast Guard is required -- due to statutes that go back to its inception in 1790 -- to be present to board any and all foreign vessels no matter how far from national borders. The Navy has no authority to board and search a suspected vessel -- unless a member of the Coast Guard is present. The Navy may fire upon and sink a ship with local impunity -- however that clearly has implications reaching beyond authority.

Such is the nature of Law. It may be cumbersome and labyrinthine but it may be the Navy possesses the last vestige of Law as it was meant to be.

For Maritime Law is very old, far older than the United States or even Great Britain. The origins of this law go back to the time of the Vikings and the Icelandic Sagas and beyond. Maritime Law may be the most pure form of the Law that we have.

On the confines of a ship bound only by the limitless confines of the Ocean, only Custom and Law has kept order and control for some three thousand years.

As it was said to another in different circumstances a long time ago, "What if you were to chase your Devil down, hacking down all hedges of law and all borders of protection, and tear down all walled encumbrances of the law and all the god-given gates and finally to face your Demon you have hunted down the ages, alone and without all those protections and this Demon turns on you at last, this Demon who was great enough to oppose God and all the angels, what would you do then? You who are nothing. You alone without the protection of the Law you have torn down. What would you do then?"

Law bedamned. Women and childrned stood on the dock in tears to say good bye. The cutter is likely to spend the next eight months providing maritime security, interception, and protection. Here then, was the ultimate cost of a wayward diplomacy and a headstrong policy. Families crying out across the deepening water as the ship that should have been protecting local waters sailed off to a distant, quesionable war.

In barely two months even the "extended deployments" will have exhausted all time devoted to this foolish enterprise.

OFFICER KRUMKEY GIVE ME A BREAK

Well, you cannot fault Officer O'Madhauen of the Island PD for the same indolence practiced by Officer Krumkey of West Side Story. A 63 year-old woman was abducted in Richmond, assaulted and then abandoned in the Island South Shore Parking Lot. Various people were caught carrying various illegal drugs and a woman was booked for assault with a deadly weapon after stabbing her boyfriend in the shin with a knife -- she must be either very short or have an extraordinarily tall boyfriend.

But the big news in the Island Gerbil's Police Page was the outrageous escape of a middle-aged man from a traffic stop just as the officer was walking up to the driver's side window to speak to the scofflaw who had been clocked going 40 in a 25mph zone. Police say, however, they have a good lead on positively identifying this extraordinary felon and may God avert his eyes when they catch him.

In the case of the abducted woman, the speed limit was maintained on all major and minor roads and no traffic ordinances were violated, hence the perps got clean away.

THERE'S A PHONE BOOTH IN HEAVEN

Been listening to the latest Jim White CD and its a toe tapper. Jim White is the former fashion model, Evangelical Baptist preacher and classical guitarist whose right hand was mangled in a particularly horrifying factory accident. He went through a spectacular reverse-conversion of sorts and had the remains of his hand fixed in a permanent position to hold a flatpick. Lately he has had a hit on heavy rotation in the form of a duet with Aimee Mann called "Static on the Radio". His live performances have tended to be quirky as well as delightfully infused with a fresh sense of humor. The title of the new one is called "Dig a Hole in the Substrate and Tell Me What You See".

HAVE A BLUE XMAS/SOLSTICE/CHANNUKAH/KWAANZA

Yes we all deplore the rabid commercialization of the Holiday time, from Jew to gentile it seems there is no escaping it. Buy if you must, but there are alternatives to feeding change to the maw of Moloch besides buying gifts exclusively from artist tables on Solano Avenue or the Craftwomen's Fair at Fort Mason or any place where worthy handmade things can be gotten.
One enterprising group has compiled a list of big donors to the two biggest political parties in the US and his site can be found at http://www.buyblue.org/bluexmas.html.

The list is clearly and succinctly tabled into two columns by category of Departmen Store, Retail Chain, Grocery etc. No need to deplore the effects of a single Election Day, for you can vote with your pocketbook every day of the week all year every year now.

There are other lists like this one for you to make your comparisons, usually featuring environmental issues. And on an extended note, Working Assets has a credit card, as does REI, which chips in profit percentages to worthy causes. So cut up that old, irresponsible Chase/AMEX or whatever -- call and tell your bank what you are doing and why. Tell them you want to use, instead, "A socially responsible card", then hie on over to Working Assets and apply. And feel good about spending for once.

IF JESUS DROVE A MOTORHOME

Well the remains of the day have been swept under the rug and the week is starting all over again as the big digital clock on the wall clicks over to 00:00. It's a serviceable 24 hour clock which never fails to unnerve people who happen to drop by around 14:04 in the afternoon. Lately the frosty nights have yielded after some big wind to heavy fog, but the weekend was glorious and sunny here. The booth has been set up out next to Pagano's Hardware, selling the new line of T-shirts. All over the Island, people are putting our their festive displays, albeit more subdued this year than in times past. Its the fifth night of Channukah, the Festival of Lights and we all like light here.

That's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

DECEMBER 4, 2004

CORRECTION

The photo of the imaginary computer of 1953 posted last week was an hoax -- but we don't feel so bad about being taken in, for the photo was posted inside Popular Science magazine.

The photo is actually of a present day mockup at the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC of a engineer's control room for a submarine.

Here is the original, undoctored photograph.

The hoaxer replaced all contemporary visual cues with 1950's era images and added the image of the man wearing period attire. And for your information we have always liked Dan Rather. But we certainly can sympathize with the fellow more than ever now.


ARS EST VITA, FAMA BREVIS, DICTA LONGA ET MALA

No jokes about the proper gender of "dicta", please. This is a family column.

Toddled up to Montclair with emissaries from the House to check out the new opening of a show involving 20 glass artists.

The show featured a range of the more interesting forms from artists who take conventional ideas and turn them a bit sideways to obtain suprising results. Glass as a medium is unusual in that its luminosity renders the hard and brittle into fluid shapes filled with air and light.

The artists appeared to derive their shapes from the tapered bottoms of ancient Greek amphorae, when working with vessels, and from woodcuts, when working with panels. In this layered piece, a luminescent moon is embedded into a half-inch thick plate with other opaque shapes slumped into the uneaven surface.

Here, the artist has merged geometric designs seamlessly into a nasty simulcrum of humanity, creating the illusion of 3-dimensionality, indicating a cold heartless barren soul bereft of human connection. All indications are that this fellowis a sociopathic, diseased Hitler baby facist who practices torture on small animals, longing for the day he can do the same horrible things to people.

The brittle quality of the material lends a special fragility to the artworks. No wonder these vases here are hung up well out of reach of housepets and toddlers -- each piece will set you back a cool $1,500.

Outside the streets were packed with carolers and revelers of every description attending various events taking place in this tiny village nestled in the Oaktown foothills, despite temps that were dropping to a frosty sub 32 -- cold for this part of California.


CALLING ON FOR COPSHAWLHOLM FAIR

The good folks up in Albany are again hosting weekend promenades for the Holiday Season, featuring craft booths and tons of music up and down the length of Solano Avenue. It promises to be smaller than the stupendous summer "Solano Stroll", which has been known to bring in folks by the hundred thousands, but there shall be all sorts of jugglers and dancers and music and food and jumping up and down and revelry of all descriptions.

Why shop in a stuffy old Department Store when all your senses can be gratified at any one of the Bay Area's festivals.

Here's the 411 from the Press Release: "Make your holiday experience fun! Delight in lively street performers -- jazz bands, carolers, talking trees, and toy soldiers during the holiday season on the weekends all along Solano Avenue in Berkeley & Albany. Santa will take time out of his busy schedule to stroll along upper Solano on Saturday, Dec. 11 and on lower Solano on Dec. 18 from 1-3PM. For a real treat on Dec. 24, ride the free cable car up and down Solano and along San Pablo Ave. 1-5PM. Visit www.solanoave.org for entertainer's schedules & locations."

Here are the performers and times scheduled for next week on Solano Avenue.

Saturday, Dec. 11
Alan Smithline - Guitar 1 1631 Tibetan Gift House
Berkeley-EB Humane Society 1 1561 Peralta Park
Fine Art Face Painting 1 1230 Five Little Monkeys
Pete Olson - Guitar 1 1249 Ray's Tree Lot
Santa 1 1561 Arrives/Strolls up Solano
Squirrelly String Band 1 1274 Casa Oaxaca
Tinker's Damn 1 1850 Andronico's
Trish NiGabhain-Irish Harper 1 1749 Sarber's Cameras
AHS Trumpet Quartet 3 1394 Long's Drugs
Pete Madsen - Guitar 3 1749 Sarber's Cameras
Michael McMorrow - Guitar 3 1127 Royal Ground Coffee

Sunday, Dec. 12
O-Face! A Cappella 1 1744 Pharmaca
Rev. Rabia - Guitar 1 1127 Royal Ground Coffee
Gassy Bones - Trombones 1 1561 Peralta Park
Tinker's Damn 1 1865 KNA Copy
Con Alma 3 1230 Sweet Potatoes
Devin Hess & Mark Zucker - Guitar 3 1249 Ray's Tree Lot
Ole & Eliot - Banjo, Fiddle, Clarinet 3 1820 La Farine
Teresa Yu - Violin & Viola 3 1741 By Hand


Never heard of the most famous Copshawholme Fair? Well, here is an excerpt from the song of that name. It is to be sung with a rousing, lusty voice to the strong beat of a drum while carrying a full tankard of very good ale.

Copshawholme Fair

On a fine eve'n fair in the month of Avril
O'er the hill came the man with the blythe sunny smile
And the folks they were throngin' the roads everywhere
Makin' haste to be in at Copshawholme Fair!

I've seen 'em a-comin' in from the mountains and glens
Those rosy-faced lasses and strappin' young men
With a joy in their heart and unburdened o' care
A'meetin' old friends at Copshawholme Fair!

There are lads for the lasses, there's toys for the bairns
There's jugglers and tumblers and folks with no arms
There's a balancing act here and a fiddler there
There are nut-men and spice-men at Copshawholme Fair!

There are peddlers and potters and gingerbread stands
There are peepshows and poppin-darts and the green caravans
There's fruit from all nations exhibited there
With kale plants from Orange at Copshawholme Fair!

traditional


EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC SWEET MUSIC

Somehow we got press credentials without the benefits -- i.e. free drinks backstage. Any hoot Bill Graham Presents has been gracing us with the official concert calender each month and by revision.

So here goes, from BGP comes the straight dope on upcoming events.


Sting
Event Center at San Jose State University
San Jose, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206695&source=EWKLY
Friday, April 1 at 7:30 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 05 at 10:00 AM
______________________________

Just Added Shows!

Joe Satriani
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206852&source=EWKLY
Monday, December 27 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 05 at 10:00 AM
______________________________

New Years Eve Comedy Countdown
Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206794&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 9:30 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 05 at 10:00 AM
______________________________

Black Comedy Explosion!
Paramount Theatre
Oakland, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206759&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 11:30 PM
On Sale Friday, December 03 at 12:00 PM
______________________________

Handsome Boy Modeling School
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206758&source=EWKLY
Friday, January 7 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 05 at 10:00 AM
______________________________

Ani DiFranco
The Warfield
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206733&source=EWKLY
Friday, February 18 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, December 05 at 10:00 AM

Yes, its far in advance, but if you have ever had a chance to catch this lady's act, you know why you want to get your tickets ASAP.
______________________________

Everclear
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206231&source=EWKLY
Wednesday, December 8 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Dave Koz and friends
Nob Hill Masonic Center
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=203927&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 10 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Los Lobos
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206104&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 10 at 9:00 PM http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206105&source=EWKLY
Saturday, December 11 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

The Hives with special guests The Bronx and The Deadly Snakes The Warfield San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=205594&source=EWKLY
Saturday, December 11 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Joe Satriani
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206846&source=EWKLY
Sunday, December 26 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

Will Downing
Paramount Theatre
Oakland, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206630&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 7:00 PM
On Sale Now!
______________________________

The Les Claypool Frog Brigade
The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA

http://cc.com/cc-common/events/buy_ticket_cce.html?eventID=206674&source=EWKLY
Friday, December 31 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Now!


The first of the KFOG charity events in the Concerts for Kids went off well by all report. The second show will feature the New Orleans powerhouse family The Neville Brothers paired with the exquisitely talented Shawn Colvin. Rumor has it this show is gonna rock.

Also upcoming this month is the annual Not So Silent Night, featuring Modest Mouse with about eight other bands in a blessed return to the Kaiser Aud from the execrable and echoing San Jose "Shark Tank".

We have tickets to see and hear the incomparable jazz artist Ledisi at the intimate Yoshi's Nightclub on the 24th. The last time we saw this woman perform, swear on a stack of bibles, the woman levitated and spun in the air in mid song. I am not joking!

Your money spent on live music will help starving artists, improve the economy, and lower crime -- for while they are performing and practicing they will not be breaking into your house to swipe your precious TV set. Live music is fun, it fosters general good vibes, it improves the environment and besides, its good for you.

THE OPD HAS A BLOND MOMENT

Got word from the Clinics down in Fruitvale that the OPD picked up and incarcerated a man who had made suicide threats to his sister. Reason for detention: Homeland Security. Under the new law, the man had threatened to kill someone -- nevermind that the person referenced happened to be himself -- and therefore was automatically a terrorist suspect.

When, after 24 hours it became clear the man was neither Middle-Eastern in descent nor a terrorist in any way shape or form, the OPD turned him out onto the street without ceremony.

His body was found at the base of the Park Street Bridge not twelve hours later. This was clearly a case for Officer O'Madhauen, for the process of suicide must almost certainly held up traffic after the act.

ALWAYS LOOK ON THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF LIFE

When times are troubled, one turns naturally to consolation in the words of the great man, Brian. The Life of Brian was not nearly as nasty, bloody, brutish, and violent as anything depicted by Mel Gibson -- which I take to be a significant advantage, however I realize many do not agree with this opinion -- however Brian kept his wits and his sense of humor about him and that is always a very good thing. Or things. Whatever.

The Putamayo World Music Hour is winding up -- this evening's show highlighted the music of South Pacific Islands which are disappearing under the rising seas caused by the global warming which Bushy and Co. refuse to acknowledge. Yet more losses we hear about in a litany that seems these days to be never ending. Outside the windows, the cold starless sky smudged with cloud, yielding occasionally to the blinking lights of a plane taking off from Harbor Bay Island to the southeast. Lately the cold has set in with a vengeance and the reports had warnings of snow coming down to the 3,000 foot level. Well, this is California after all and cold is not something that agrees with us any more than the extremes of heat and humidity so endemic of the East.

Well, there are some things to be thankful for around here. Count your blessings, after they are hatched, for it does no good to complain -- nobody will listen anyway.

Walking down by Crab Cove among the cinders of the last Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot, kicking aside the stray spent bullet cartridges and dodging the yet undefused ordinance which failed to explode, passing the still threatened Courts and the tatters of various bibles, its difficult to find solace knowing that several poodles escaped and much good whiskey was spilt. Still, nobody got seriously hurt or ex parte excommunicated and we'll all live, god willing, to see another famous Poodleshoot another year.

And now I am thinking of religion and of spirituality -- two very different things. For one, the recent disaster of the national elections have brought up the issues of Church and State seperation and for two, Angels in America -- in the HBO version. Based on the award-winning play, the movie uses the AIDs plague, as set during the dark ages of the 1980's when there was no hope in sight, to present a modern morality play. Yes, it is an eight hour long movie, but it should be required viewing by everyone and anyone who claims to have an interest in matters of the spirit.

Why this concern about Angels and the Spirit right now? Well, I have this closet full of shirts given me by a guy named Robert. They fit me perfectly and Robert has excellent taste in clothes. Robert gives me his shirts because at six two he weighs now 102 pounds and is wasting rapidly, so the shirts no longer fit and he has adjusted to the fact that he will never wear them again. I have never met Robert and I probably never will because Robert will be dead by the end of the year. His shirts come to me via Julee who lives, as a sort of den mother/Florence Nightingale on the first floor.

And thinking of Robert gets me thinking about Michael and many others whom I did know and who have passed on because of the plague. So there is a kind of continuity here. Medical marijuana probably would help Robert -- as it has helped others -- but he does not live in California where such a medication is allowed for the time being. Robert lives in a "Red state" and the courts are under attack and so he will die. He will die the same way people died by the thousands in the 80's -- via neglect, ignorance, intolerance and stupid discussions of stupid and useless "chastity" efforts overshadowed by the imbecilic chuckles of an incipient alzheimers-affected B-movie actor.

On the bright side, I am well outfitted with excellent shirts for the next quarter century. When the Revolution comes, I will be very well dressed. Always look on the brighter side of life.

I have another friend named Lin. "Lin," I said one day, "How is it that they beat you with baseball bats, breaking your arms and your legs and your skull and then left you to die on a Boston street in the snow, putting you into a coma for three days, and you still can invite me, a man, into your house as a friend?" Her response is purely pragmatic as it is filled with revelatory light. She is admirably unapolegetic about being a lesbian, but she has brothers and they are guys and not gay and the world is what it is. Better to live life to the fullest and savor the moments given than wallow in bitter despair.

And one can take some measure of comfort in recognizing one's own moral values. In my case, my values do not include attaching battery electrodes to a guy's genitals while making him stand on a box, hooded, and with arms outstretched for hours at a time. My values say this sort of thing is really sick and for anyone to even consider such a thing for any reason is repellent.

When the roof cracks open under the terrible Light and the immense Angel descends with a voice of thunder from Heaven to announce, "Prepare ye and arise Prophet! The Messenger has Come!" then you too, whoever you are, must recall your own morality or die groveling like a pitiful Roy Cohn who betrayed himself, denied the essence of who he was, and proved traitor to his own soul.

Now it seems it has gone past the witching hour and the midnight train howls across the wind-swept flats of Buena Vista and the old Beltline railway tracks. There is a tinge of frost on the air as we return to this place and this time. Lately, because of the winds, the air has been crystalline perfect and the sharp edges of the towers of Babylon have etched themselves clean against the sky across the water. In this time, the dock workers set up lights on the biggest cranes down at the harbor and the Embarcadero lights up the five buildings in outline as they do every year and the whole City sparkles with pearl strings of lights visible across the Bay.

Next weekend is the official opening of Xmas lane here, when the Official North Pole Postbox will be set up for expedited deliveries. Few know this, perhaps intentionally so, but every letter deposited in that box will be personally answered by The Man himself. For that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

NOVEMBER 28, 2004

ART FOR SNARKS SAKE

Island-Life is ramping up its T-shirt line and production facilities. We are obtaining a large assortment of white and colored blanks, composing fresh designs and otherwise upscaling the operation. We have obtained a professional quality heat press and expect this will standardize as well as upgrade the quality of the multicolor designs. Stay tuned for further developments in this area.


ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE

Local celebrity, Natasha Miller will perform her distinctive brand of jazz on Saturday, 12/17 at the first Presbyterian Church in a benefit for the Midway Shelter for abused and homeless women and children. Suggested donations are $15 for this worthy cause and some original live music.

We at Island-Life encourage live music wherever it crops up, for its manifestation is a sign of life, vitality in the Commonweal, outbursts of sanity, and healthy good will persistent among the populace. And besides, its good for you.

HEAVY I SAY HEAVY

Rack up another point of fame for the island for local Art Ramsey just won the masters class world bench press title in a competition held in Athens Georgia. Ramsey pressed 513 pounds to claim the 45-49 age group Masters title.

Ramsey's victory is all the more remarkable in that he is recovering from a serious torn tricep injury suffered two years ago, resulting in a lower max weight for the competitor who still holds the record for the only person over 40 who has pressed over 600 pounds in a sanctioned meet in California.


HOW MANY WAYS CAN ONE SAY, "LADY, YOU ARE REALLY REALLY STUPID."

A woman has confessed to starting a blaze that swept through four apartments at the Bessie Colman Court complex, displacing over 20 people. Investigators finally got the woman to fess up to accidentally tossing a lit match into a filled brandy snifter instead of the intended ashtray. She had been partying with her brother-in-law with the brandy -- plus rock cocaine. Her relative had left when the woman made her mistake, so high and/or drunk that she did not even realize what she had done until some unspecified time later she noted that heat had shattered the glass, starting a small fire.

Which this genius then attempted to extinguish with a glass of water. Which of course only spread the alcohol-fueled blaze to furnishings in the apartment.

The woman was arrested at the scene for being publicly drunk. She has an outstanding warrant against her for use of illegal narcotics.

Firefighters got the situation under control after a stiff twenty-minute battle and 1 injury for second-degree burns.


I, ROBOT

Being a computer professional over an extended period of time does provide occasional sources of spectacular humor, especially when hindsight comes violently into play. In one of our newsletters we came across this gem of a photo from a press briefing to Scientific American in 1952. At this affair, a mockup of the projected look of the Home Computer in the year 2004 is photographed with an appropriately nerdy official from the Rand Corporation. The caption mentions that the machine will be "easy to use with a teletype interface and FORTRAN language." Now the little bit of FORTRAN we learned in school caused nausea, hives and a powerful desire to throw over computing in favor of becoming a fish counter employed by the National Forestry Service.

Unfortunately no one is left alive to explain what the devil was the purpose of the big steering wheel.

POODLESHOOT REPORT

The Sixth Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ began sedately with none of the wildness experienced in prior years. Please note the events of the tumultuous year 2001. The shoot began promptly at dawn at the usual starting point out on the West End ferry landing with a nip from the flask, a toot from the official Horn of the Hunt and a rousing rendition of A Nation Again by the Homophile Boys Symphonic Orchestra.

Vicious rumors had been circulating that the grand old tradition of the Fox Hunt was about to be abolished throughout the British Isles by Parliamentary Order, had produced its own ripple of concern here for there are some, surprisingly so, who maintain that the notoriously vicious, savagely destructive, and inane poodle is actually an animal possessed of intelligence as well as complex feelings, although no one has gone so far as to allege any serious utility for this creature.

Its hideousness is generally acknowledged, for the atrociously barbered poodle is recognized by every sound and sane gentleman to be an affront to Nature, aesthetics, and the eye of God and therefore worthy of destruction.

Nevertheless, there are some, such as Reverend Rectumrod, who have asserted that the means is as questionable as attacking and destroying a foreign country solely to obtain control over its oil reserves.

Strike that last comment as being entirely inappropriate for the avowed nonpartisan Poodleshoot.

Still, there are those who have wondered just what do we have against poodles in particular. Surely the yappy Chihuahua or the unnecessarily surly and unpredictable pitbull are more contemptible.

No, the faults of these dogs reside with their contemptible owners, who deserve to be exterminated without appeal, and not in the nature of an animal which began free from taint. Note how the Chihuahua will attempt to finger-paint messages with the only medium available -- its own excrement -- in desperate plea for an SOS when constrained in a public kennel. But ownership is not the fault of the dog in this case. What sort of idiot would consent to ownership of such a foolish thing is beyond me and therefore we see the entire problem resides in the ownership. Left to themselves, it seems plain that the yappy Chihuahua would have long since either exterminated itself by way of nerves, or developed more sophisticated means of communication than described above.

As for pitbulls, a cursory examination of their owners reveals the lowest segment of society: criminals, vagabonds, lowriders, litigation attorneys, and such ilk. Is it any wonder that any animal turns bad in such vile company? Look ye upon a baby pitbull and you will not discover a more adorable creature in the Creation of Goddess. As in the Doberman, who starts off life well enough until some asshole has his ears clipped, the pitbull means no harm on the outset. Perhaps we should rename the breed to Fuzzy-Wuzzy, instead of the obvious vermin-magnet "pitbull".

The poodle, however, is born vile and develops with care and feeding into an abomination that encourages the worst aspects of human behavior, for wherever the poodle holds sway among humans, one finds intemperance, intolerance, poor artworks, viciousness, saccharin sentimentality, miserable aesthetics, and general inclination to foolishness. Here we have the unusual occurrence of the Animal corrupting the Human and we firmly believe that the poodle is not a true animal, but a third category to be called Spawn of Satan, among which we list poodles, Neo-Conservatives, and the Ebola Virus.

But to continue, the Poodleshoot began without a hint of trouble. Lately the air has turned crisp -- for Northern California -- turning all the leaves of the oaks along Grand Street and the evening air is scented with the smoke of long dormant fireplaces all over. Soon the air was filled with the sound of 12 gauge shotguns, the distinctive pop of 45 caliber rifles, the calling of hunters, "Poodle here!", and the occasional CRUMP! of the hand grenade and other surplus ordinance. One enterprising fellow used aluminum siding to fashion a couple mortars used with great effect down at the Point.

Mortars were forbidden within 1000 yards of the marina, owing to various errors of trajectory in previous years resulting in depletion of the Hunt Funds to pay for the unfortunate damages to several boots. One can only imagine the shocked surprise of all concerned at the time due to errant mortars.

Things went swimmingly until the BBQ started, when a contretemps developed between Rev. Rectumrod and Father Persnickety over the issue of Moral Values in re poodles. The Reverend maintained that 'twer better to say grace after the dispatch of the pup and before dining per Tradition, whereas the good Catholic Father Persnickety maintained that it were better to perform orisons prior to dispatch -- when possible -- in respect to a life taken (no matter how vile). The dispute soon fell to blows between the principals -- as so often happens between the followers of Martin Luther and those of the Pope -- and the matter required sturdy intervention by members of the party.

Meanwhile, down on the strand a brace of hunters headed by an enthusiastic Eugene Gallipagus encountered a party of UltraRight Neocons embedded in a party of Island DogWalkers and there ensued a pitched battle nigh unto 8th Street with the Neocons employing the usual methods of deception, subterfuge, feint and bother, against the straightforward cut and thrust of the Hunters, who resorted in close quarters to cutlass, rapier and impermeables.

A brace of Silvers, guarded by a stout resistance of Dogwalkers, took shelter as rain began to fall, upon the islet of Foofoo, nigh unto the Falafel Cafe.

Hearing of a possible containment of poodles and the infamous Osama Bin Lassie, Eugene Shrubb sent a detachment of weary Marine Bums dressed in colander helmets, vestments of jerkin, hauberks of wok, and leggings of worsted, from his investment of Newark to see about this issue.

Night fell as the Marines arrived in wind and rain to bivouac in the Washington park, and thus ended the first day of the Annual Poodleshoot.

The Second Day dawned with cloudy skies and intermittent rain, which yielded in the latter part of the day to clarity and dry weather, albeit some wind. Down by the little strip of water separating FooFoo from the Island, the Marines decided upon a full on assault with heavy weapons to eradicate such resistance as remained. The defenders there prudently removed themselves prior to the assault and so the barrage of bottle rockets, mortars, and empty bottles of Jack Daniels fell upon deaf or nonexistent ears. The battalion of Bums charged through the shallows to take the island and destroy the two poodle Toys which had incomprehensibly remained. There they stood and raised the flag upon the Islet, which measured some .1 x .1 acre in size, proclaiming a great triumph of Democracy. Everyone then repaired to McGraths to get thoroughly drunk.

Newark, however, has yet to hold a free Election.

Down by the Strand, however, things did not go well. Dan Rathernot, of the local cable channel We Be Us, was deceived and snubbed by the City Council and parties thought to be aligned with the Neo-con Poodle Support Party, while Missy Showslip, of the Foxy Network, was feted and well embedded with the most significant dignitaries.

As a result the reports from the battlefield are sketchy. We do know that Eugene's small party was beaten back by a phalanx of DogWalkers, Fire and Brimstone Preachers, and a large number of Christeen Shouters bearing bibles and terriers among them, and the hunters were driven nigh unto Crab Cove, site of the infamous Battle of the Bog in the year 2001. There the plucky warriors formed a shield wall about the children's trapeze set while the Christeen Shouters hurled imprecations of the most awful kind even as the terriers set up a most horrendous din. Several Homeboys playing B-Ball on the Courts there were advanced upon by a platoon of Ecumenicals threatening the Courts with dismay. Night fell mercifully quick and all repaired to their respective bivouacs. Thus ended the Second Day.

The Third Day began with the Preachers stirring from their camp to receive reinforcements in the form of bullhorns and pulpits mounted on wheels. Things did not look well for the besieged as a cold rain had fallen during the night and several members became afflicted with the catarrh and all their gunpowder was spent or damp.

But just as the Preachers had got their pulpits harnessed up to the terriers for quick feint and dodge drive-by sermons, and the sun peered forth on the cold morn and the clouds rolled back from His Face not unlike the stone set before the tomb of the Great Holy Roller Himself for it was said, perhaps in a movie, "Look to Me on the Third Day". Then, across the sward there came a troop of Ecumenicals dressed to the nines in collars and habits and bearing crucifixes that glittered in the sun with great majesty and there were Bishops and Ministers among them. From far off Boston and New York and the distant sunless lands of Toronto they came, the Liberal Clergy, proceeded by the indomitable and well armored Popemobile.

The Liberal Clergy fell upon the Arch Conservatives with a great disputation and there was a tremendous thumping of bibles to be heard. First this way then that the battle raged and the warriors of the field were not unlike the leaves of grass bent by the wind. Eugene ran down to the Cove and threw himself in, there to be Saved by a Liberal Evangelical who baptized there on the spot. The crucifixes were used with terrible potency as battle-axes and the nuns employed steel-weighted rosaries with awful effect, slinging them about their heads and smacking them upon the pates of the prelates with Amazonian war cries.

Then, from the West, there arose a great shout and into the fray marched the Wiccans of Marin, casting spells and putting the fear of the pre-Xian Spirit into everyone. Then there was confusion among the Neo-Cons upon the pronouncements of Malthus and of Vico and Moses Maimonides. and others besides, for the Neo-Cons never had much of a grasp of History to begin with and they were sorely unprepared to debate these issues and they were sore perplexed.

Just then the Popemobile was overturned upon a charge of pederasty-- fortunately after the Holy Rider had already disembarked -- and there was confusion and dissent among the Clergy with a great deal of milling about the palms of Washington Park, with a lot of rending of garments and sackcloth and ashes. During this melee, several poodles were aided in escape in the company of several visiting Japanese schoolgirls and the Hunters also took this opportunity to flee back to the ferry landing where all remarked that it was the most sanctified of all the Poodleshoots ever held, and many were drenched by the copious buckets of holy water which had been thrown.

They were soon joined by the Wiccans, who have no taste for religious disputation, or violence for that matter, and the company adjourned to McRaths for a round of drinks and celebration and thanks for having escaped a Fire and Brimstone fate. Thus ended the Sixth Annual Poodleshoot in the Year of Our Lord, 2004.

IN THE LAND OF THE LOST THE ONE-EYED MAN WITH MAPS IS KING

Well, we hope you have a surfeit of turkeys by now. We are all off and slouching through another grim four years -- but that hardly means we must abandon all sense of humor. Vitriol will only get you so far and we note at least one improvement: Steve Dallas has returned to the funny pages in the comic strip Opus. Steve was always an obnoxious blowhard, but he always funny to laugh at. We are not the first to note that the next few years are likely to produce some of the best music, best painting, best theater and best artwork this country has ever seen, for art does its best in bad times of tyranny and financial distress. While Opus might not be High Art exactly, Humor and Comedy can be and we all will definitely need a lot of that in the troubled times to come.

So buck up fellas. As a Great Man once sang upon the cross some two thousand years ago, "Life's a sack of Shit/ When you look at It / So always look on the brighter side of Life / Ta Da! Dum tee dum dum!"

We don't like to dwell upon misery here on the Island. It makes for bad vibes and spoils the houseplants. We would much rather abjure the poodles and sit down to a very good BBQ. And just to be fair -- even to poodles, we have here a found bit of Literature. We have here an example of -- rather florid -- 18th century poesy which purports to exalt the poodle. By way of being fair, we reprint this piece culled from Divers Miscellany and Doggerel, a compendium of the Belles Lettres by Anon E. Mouse.

POODLE OPERA

The poodle yaps all day
a special music
night time is play time
it trots actor to actor
all teeth and diamonds
full of piano
box contentment
it leaves under a seat
small perfect pristine artworks
the critics go mad
it nuzzles its mate lap happy
someone places a dish
the slurping becomes an aria
over to the poets: "la ci darem"
upchucks a clot

Pandemonium !

the conductor siezes the violinist
the entire oboe section throws down
the alto chorus: the Sabine women!
the poodle leaps into the pit
the flautist swings from chandeliers
several dobermans enter
without paying admission
Tails of Hoffmann!
the soprano puts on a leather bustier
a stud-collar, a whip

weary and dewy-eyed the
poodle nestles in its box
and takes a nap
all day, the poodle yaps.

Buy good Art, listen to Live Music and keep a sense of humor about you at all times. For that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

NOVEMBER 21, 2004


HIGHWAY ONE 12 HOUR DRIVE


Checked into the venerable Fillmore to catch the Waifs after their long six month layaway after the birth of Vicki's first child. The Significant Other drove this one and we placidly followed along for a very pleasant ride.

The Waifs, a pair of sisters plus a talented guitarist from small towns in Australia, busted suddenly into the world music scene less than two years years ago with their magic mixture of roots folk, celtic rhythms, old fashioned country R&B, Latin riffs, and straight ahead rock with all of its youth-infused energy.

In recording, they come off as highly sophisticated masters of blues and country idioms, but in concert they appear clearly as refreshingly innocent ingenues in the savage music business.

There were a fair number of "stage buzzes", as they say, during Thursday's performance, for this is a world class band that had laid off all practice for some six months before going on tour. But the infectious energy of a young band that still plays for the sheer enjoyment of the music could not be overcome.

For example, after playing a bootleg tape to an acquaintance who has personal familiarity with the likes of The Dead and Hot Tuna, the man exclaimed suddenly, "My God! These guys are good!"

In performance, it was interesting to see how the seamless orchestration of the CD's falls out clearly by role in live performance. No question that Josh is the guitar wizard who performs all of the tasty etudes and interludes in all of the songs, while it is Vicki Simpson who does all of the scortching mouth harp solos as well as substantially the gravel vocals. Behind the scenes, the lovely Donna Simpson plays rhythm guitar and adds supporting vocals, but appears to also add the majority of the most interesting song lyrics.

This all results in a very integrated and very satisfactory show, especially for those looking to repeat the experience of listening to the CD's. Personally, we felt the concert developed greatest energy when the performers decided to depart from the "performed as written" attitude. When Erin Mckeowen entered to break up the rote perform the CD material, the show got hot and very interesting as Erin slashed across the expected patterns with her F-hold semi-hollow bodied archtop. Erin is probably this year's most underrated performer for at 4 foot 6, the gal has more punch than most heavy metal "shredders" out there, for she can play not only fast but also well.

Her fancy name notwithstanding, she was born in Boston and got her degree from Brown University.

The Waifs got pulled out by loyal devoted fans for a double encour -- but it may be noted, the famed glitterball failed to ignite. And we feel that this is because the band was showing signs of a long layoff and a tendency to adhere to the comfortably familiar material. They really clicked when it came to performing brand new material -- despite the audience singalongs on the old stuff -- and when Erin came out the energy spiked significantly upwards for she pulled them away from Nashville-inflected rockabilly, and guided them all more towards their own original blues/celtic/folk/Aussie Outback sound.
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JUST DON'T LOOK BACK

The Significant Other drove yet another drive in support of the arts by getting all of us into the final performance of the Berkeley Rep's Eurydice.

This adaptation of the Ovid fable by playwright Sarah Ruhl, and directed by Les Waters, has been held over from November 14th to today due to an exquisitely performed and elegantly staged performance.

Ovid devoted less than two summary pages to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice which resulted in virtually every poet and dramaturge of significance to attempt adaptations for the page and the stage ever since. The vast majority of these works by Rilke, Cocteau, Haydn, Stravinsky, Weill, Rodin, Rubens, Anouilh, Offenbach, and many others, usually focussed upon the figure of Orpheus, in whom the principal author often saw parallels to the artist himself.

This production is notable in that the primary focus is upon the thoughts and feelings of Eurydice and substantially her relationship -- entirely invented by Ruhl -- to her father.

Scott Bradley, who worked with Mary Zimmerman on her adapation of Ovid's Metamorphosis, and the Notebooks of Leonardo DaVinci, brought his love of water to the set design, featuring notably a striking effect featuring an elevator to Hell which opens out into waterfalls symbolic of the dunking into the river Styx.

A series of panels light up along the backdrop to indicate a descent to the doorway, which opens to reveal the dead soul drenched in flows that course across the stage into drains at the edge.

In Hell, run by a childish Lord riding a tricycle and wearing a red hood, Eurydice encounters her father who had died many years previously, but whom had persisted in writting letters to her from the Beyond, despite the warnings of the Stones, a chorus of three.

This was not the wild triumph of Mary Zimmerman, but was nonetheless a welcome respite from the tedious theature we had been suffering lately and definitely a success to be counted in the feathers of Sarah Ruhl's cap.


THE IDIOT WIND

The Indians say a strange wind is blowing out of the South and all things known may be upturned. The past 48 hours a wild wind had howled in and knocked every planter over on its side and the Old Man out back, who has stood there some two hundred years, sways and bucks like never before. A change is coming on and no one knows how it will fall out.

THE UPCOMING POODLESHOOT

We would be remiss in failing to mention the premier social event of the Season, which happens to be the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. In this time we all want to give thanks to something about something and what better way to give thanks to the Cosmic Muffin than blowing away a Miniature Toy with a single shot from your Mossberg 240.

O, we are alll so devout and pious here at Island Life.

Let us not forget, we, like the Blues Brothers, are upon a Mission from God.

It just happens that our Mission is to blow up poodles. See you on the Morn of the 24th.

JERUSALEM

Lately we have been reading Toqueville and listening to a lot of Steve Earle, who appears outraged -- as a strict Constructionist -- at the bad behaviour of our miserable legislature who seem intent on revising the basic text that has provided the foundation of our political system for some 400 years. It appears now that said document seems politically inconvenient in these times and in need of emendation.

Steve Earle responds strongly in such cases and we are lately agreeing with him. He has been taken to task of late for saying that people in the environs of Jerusalem are butchering each other with guns and bombs but that someday, god willing, the sons of Abraham shall lay down their swords in Jerusalem.

This does not seem on the face of it like a terribly controversial statement, but then, in these times, even wishing for peace may seem subversive to the majority select.

Meanwhile the wind continues to blow the newly planted chili plants and the dahlias, in whom we placed much hope in this building are bent almost to the ground. Out back, the Old Man -- a 100 foot coastal redwood which has stood there for some 500 years, tosses and sways.

With all the casements shut and rattling it's impossible to hear the through passing train tonight. Down by the Old Cannery, Officer O'Madhauen is hunkered down in his Crown Victoria while even Reverend Rectumrod has forgone the Sunday evening hectoring of the heretical squirrels.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

I woke up this mornin' and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin' 'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say

And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find

That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Well maybe I'm only dreamin' and maybe I'm just a fool
But I don't remember learnin' how to hate in Sunday school
But somewhere along the way I strayed and I never looked back again
But I still find some comfort now and then

Then the storm comes rumblin' in
And I can't lay me down
And the drums are drummin' again
And I can't stand the sound

But I believe there'll come a day when the lion and the lamb
Will lie down in peace together in Jerusalem

And there'll be no barricades then
There'll be no wire or walls
And we can wash all this blood from our hands
And all this hatred from our souls

And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem

Steve Earle (from the album "Jerusalem")

NOVEMBER 14, 2004 (late edition)

WHAT'S GOING ON

The Island's Public Works Department has partnered with the Breast Cancer Foundation to promote America Recycles Day on Monday. Centers for recycling old cell phones, PDA's, and pagers will be set up at City Hall, the main library, and other locations. The centers will be open for donations through the week. For each device turned in, a donation will be made to the Foundation. Hey, what could be better than helping the environment while working towards The Cure.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC

We move into the annual juggernaut that some call "The Holiday Season" with the customary heat-up of topnotch acts. The venerable Fillmore had the indefatigable Warren Haynes with his Gov't Mule warm the proscenium for slide-wiz Robert Randolph on Friday.
Those cute-as-the-dickens sisters from Australia, The Waifs, are sure to pack the house on Thursday.

Without a letup, Tower of Power, those horny devils, toot their things -- saxes, trumpets, trombones, and clarinets -- on the 20th. In the unenviable Monday slot, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion tosses a few of their own IED's at the crowd. Friday and Saturday, 26th and 27th, the incomparable Michael Franti holds forth with his most righteous Spearhead and some World Beat stuff played the way it is supposed to. Franti filled the Golden Gate park with 30,000 avid listeners this last summer for the KFOG event held there. Better order your tickets right now.

Dan Hicks ushers in the final month of the year on the 4th of December with his dangerously smooth jazz. Ozomatli, sponsored by KFOG, tosses in a little more world beat in a Latin-inflected vein on the 5th. On the 8th, SoCal's rough rock band Everclear pairs with the phenomenal vatros from the other side of the LA freeway, Los Lobos.

At the Warfield, making up for rather lackluster few months, the revamped Social Distortion plays Tuesday, followed by the insanely popular Cake on the 20th. Cake has made a name for itself with intelligently crafted lyrics set to -- quel surprise! -- actual music which does not depend upon the guitar for its punch.

Tears for Fears continues the edgy line the Warfield likes to adopt on the 20th, followed by the curiously dulcet and oddly named HIM. HIM has had a couple tunes on heavy rotation recently and we like what we hear. The day after the Big Fat Man has entered your home illegally via the chimney, the immensely talented Joe Satriani shows up for a evening to play the genre which he alone invented and fills with his incendiary jazz guitar.

Not to be missed are the Concerts for Kids series hosted by KFOG, which tends to draw the best and the brightest each year for benefits that assist, well, kids. Part of the ticket price is the committment of each reveler to bring a new, unwrapped toy to be donated to Bay Area kids in need. This year the buzz is all about concert #2 to feature the Neville Brothers from New Orleans and the lovely as well as talented singer/songwriter Shaun Colvin. KFOG is good example of what makes the Bay Area a superior place to live, for they also, in addition to this series of benefits, put out an annual compendium of live tracks from Music's brightest stars. This year, Volume 11 of Live from the Archives contains two CD's worth of live music you will not hear anywhere else. The music is donated to support Bay Area Food Banks. These CD's tend to sell out within days of their release and this year promises to go, go, go. Sales begin Monday and one should check out KFOG.com for details on ordering.

THE ISLAND IS A MOVEABLE FEAST

And our little local Renaissance of the Beaux Arts ratches up a notch with a Literati Book Faire, held on Sunday at the Al DeWitt O Club at the Point. Don't know how it went, but this sort of thing is happening with increasing frequency here as the real artists who have fled Babylon's high rents start to flex their wings here on the warmer side of the Bay.

WAR WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR

Our embedded reporter finally got out from under the covers long enough to sober up and send the reports we have been paying him for. The information is fragmentary, the photographs range from the frankly and uselessly pornographic (involving shots through a window of a maiden in dishabille) and the badly composed, poorly exposed and also quite useless images of someone's feet.

For those of you just tuning in, Island-life was first on the scene when Eugene Shrubb, President of the Bay Area Congress of Bums and Itinerant Transients, launched unilateral invasion of Newark, California on the pretext of finding and destroying Weapons of Mass Doo Doo in the form of poodles and terriers.

Well, that event took place about two years ago and it does appear that not only were there no dangerous poodles in Newark, but the entire invasion has bogged down into a tremendously embarrassing fiasco. Liquor store owners and the South Underpass New Neighborhood Indigents (the SUNNI's) joined with the Neighborhood Grandma Association to resist the invasion with effectiveness that has astonished the architects of the invasion, especially Brig.Gen. Colon Power, who has resigned in disgust with the words, "I want nothing to do with you lying bums anymore."

Despite this fiasco and numerous other contretemps too shameful to mention in a family newspaper, Shrubb ran successfully for reelection in a campaign fraught with lies, corruption, voter manipulation, computer hacking, hacking coughs, devious auto mechanics, revelations of torture at the infamous Abu Daboo prison, ballot box stuffing, bigotry, racism, name calling, and gratuitous involvement of mothers, Eugene won on a platform of Morality and Decent Bloodthirsty Traditional Viking Values.

Analysts believe the turning point came during a strategy session in which Karl "Butcherblock" Krove suggested they put out a story that the main opponent had fornicated with a pig on a Swiftboat in the middle of the Mekong Delta in 1972. Several campaign managers protested that such a thing was patently untrue, and as a slow grinch-like grin spread from ear to ear on the face of Shrubb, Krove commented with those immortal words, "Of course its not true; but lets just watch him try to deny it!"

In any case, for better or for what is more likely, worse, Shrubb took the Presidency, promising to unite the divided Bay Area by filling in the Bay and paving it over. He then turned his attention back to the war on Newark.

Our latest intelligence has it that the new Secret Weapon to be administered there is one stalwart Reverend Augustus VeryWhite Rectumrod of the First Roy Cohn Church of Latter-day Flagellants and Persnickety Uppishness, who has flown in from his West Texas Mission to put the fear of God into each and every one of the Newarkians. Rev. Rectumrod began his efforts to calm the storm by ascending into the pulpit, which for him is an old steering wheel that once belonged to a fish-packing schooner of the Alaska Line, and which has been mounted in turn on the deck of a dingy, yclept "The Santorum", that rides upon wheels so that the pastor and his temporary pulpit can be towed to any of those places where people are most in need of salvation or most in need of parting with their cash in the form of donations to the Soldiers of God. Standing there not unlike the Man when he calmed the furious waves of Galilee, Rev. Rectumrod held forth, hurling denunciations upon the Wicked, healing the halt and the lame and the befuddled, and urging the good people of Newark to embrace Freedom and Democracy and Morality and the One True God by killing their grandmothers.

He then extended out his hand in friendship to anyone who would take it -- and place there a dollar.

The effect of this speech has yet to be determined.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT

While all of us are very cognizant that the public threat level declined abruptly once Eugene Shrubb was safely elected -- nevermind those troublesome optical scan machines which favored Shrubb by 19 to 1 in their tallies -- we must consider that the nefarious terrierist Osama Bin Lassie remains at large and must be considered as Public Enemy Number Uno.

As a service we reprint here an image of Osama as he last appeared.

Notice the evil snarl, the look of imperious disdain, the scowling visage of a cold-blooded killer that lurks beneath the hypocritical turban of a holyman. If anyone has any knowledge of the whereabouts of this notorious bad doggie, please do not hesitate to call Homeland Security and talk to anybody in the Shrubb administration who has not resigned in disgust.

And on this vein, do not forget that the end of the month brings the mixed schadenfreude of the Sixth Annual Island Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot and BBQ. We have heard rumors that the Island Blue-haired Biblethumpers Association plans on taking advantage during the assembly of gaining a few converts to the Heavenly Choir, and somehow we suspect the results shall prove to be more cacophonous than salubrious.


THE MANSION UP ON THE HILL

Spent the Saturday up in Marin, giving my report of Just What the Hell Went on in Florida to a group of friends. Contrary to your prejudices about sybaritic hot tubbers in the Land of Lotus Leaf, the discussion soon desended to the level of a Bible study group. Amidst a hot argument over the Beatitudes, a well-thumbed King James version was brought out amidst the discovery that one among us had been a fully certified, 14-year veteran, door-to-door Preacher and bible-thumper of the 1st degree.

It fell then to discussions about the various versions and the various bibles and the accuracy and translations contained therein, but the upshot -- especially in the still devout Christian among us -- that a profound anger about the current usurpation of the Church by fanatics and extremists was beginning to flame.

There you go: a group of average Californians discussing God and the Bible on a Saturday night over bottles of wine and pasta sauce made from vegetables grown in the garden. Now how do you like that?

The truth is that California is far more complex than any uninformed "fruit and nut bowl" summation would suggest. The people that inhabit the Golden State descend from barely-educated Okie farmers fleeing the Dust Bowl, itinerant African-Americans from Mississippi and Louisiana come to build the ships that would help defeat the massive naval power of Japan during WWII, and an host of discontents and rebels who crossed the Great Basin deserts and the pestalential marshes of Central America to fight and scrap for every inch of land gotten by means legal and otherwise. Among them from the first were the missionaries, zealots, self-scourging preachers and howling Baptists of every stripe and denomination and often it was them who yanked success from disaster in the nth hour.

We do not forget it was the arrival of the Mormon Battalion which convinced the insurrection led by Pio Pico to lay down their arms in the early days of the Bear Flag rebellion. To this day, a golden dome shines from an immense cathedral on the Oakland hills to mark the spot where the Battalion had expected Brigham Young to end his journey to the New Jerusalem.

So do not think we are a godless people. We have instead a surfeit of Chinese, of Mormon, of Baptist, of Catholic, of Presbyterian, of Lutheran, Wiccan gods and goddesses and every one of them has a right to exist and is equally as valid.

Now I am thinking about my Filipina correspondent, Fe, who sent me that message with the subject, "I am no longer a Christian." Now, Fe, being typically sized for a Filipina woman and although possessed of firm opinions, not inclined on the surface to be terribly physical, does not present a violent and formidable presence that would terrify; although I presume nothing in anyone and keep my teargas constantly about me. Nevertheless, she sounds moderate in demeanor and speech, with the one caveat that she never reads but one Book and you can guess what that happens to be. We have had great discussions about the Devil and George Bush, in whom she sees the two united, for she loathes Bush almost as much as she detests Ferdinando Marcos. If it were not for people like Fe, I would labor under the notion that all X-ians are violent types who drink the blood of innocent babies during their perverse Black Masses at midnight.

I rather think that instead of leaving the Church one should stand firm and resist being driven out and having the place "usurped" as my friend indicated has happened.

But I am not a Christian and I really have no more insight than this: it seems that if you are a member of a group, then that group consists of the sum of its various parts and if it refuses to take your input, well then that is not a very good group to be a part of now is it?

And now, in these hours, instead of the midnight train, still some hours off, come the strains of "Let it Be."

Let us leave it here tonight with that in the forefront. "When the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me. Let it be. . . ".

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

Artist: The Beatles
Song: Let it Be


When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be, .....

NOVEMBER 7, 2004 (Corrected)

HOMEWARD BOUND


It's good to be home again after doing our part to protect the election process in Florida. The East Coast is fine for some, and the South may have its quaint virtues, but give me dry air and the down-home sensibilities of Oaktown anytime over the soggy humidity of the South and the rigidified attitudes of the Right Coast.

For those of you just checking in, Island-life sent a team of 2 volunteers to assist the international, nonpartisan, multi-organization elections monitoring effort in Florida. We posted a Blog during our time there and you can revisit the abuse by clicking on the American eagle image up above.

If you have had quite enough of rehashing bad news, skip on down to the restaurant and art review below under the heading "I get by with a little help from my friends

For the rest of the year, this space returns to its usual system of posting weekly updates right here.

MIAMI NICE?

You never know just how deep are your false assumptions and prejudices until you travel. World famous exotic Miami turned out to be as cosmopolitan and sophisticated as a dish of apple pie in Iowa. We crisscrossed the city of some 2 million souls and found the whole place to be subdivided into mini-villages defined by ethnicity or social or economic status and nobody talks to anybody else in another village unless required. Downtown is a collection of business high-rises which shut up shop at five, becoming quiet and still as a morgue in the after hours.

This multicultural town boasts a single blues club for all 2 million souls plus a single, solitary jazz club. Live music is almost impossible to find, although there are some twenty to thirty discos that provide recorded music. In the swankier pickup-joints one can find a DJ or two. The music is there to facilitate drinking and getting laid and that's about the sum of it.

Far from the image of Sin City on the edge of the Caribbean purveyed by TV and movies, Miami has the look and feel of any old suburb outside Chicago, Dallas, Detroit or Minneapolis. True, everybody speaks Spanish, but outside of that fact, these people are just average folks raising families and going to work without fussing too much other than the occasional complaint against Castro. The Haitians have not much to do with the Cubans and neither one has much to say to the Colombians, the Venezuelans, the Puerto Ricans or any of the other islanders who have found themselves there entirely by chance. They all came from small villages located on tiny islands hosting a passel of goats, some chickens, two churches and a single TV per village, and they all pretty much like it quiet and unobtrusive while going to church, raising kids and mucking through life.

With the significant exception of the South Beach district, which we will get to in a bit.

The place has no real center and when we asked a native, "Is there a single soul in Miami who would say, 'I am proud of Miami and I want to make it a better place'," the fellow responded, "The answer is no, pretty much. With the possible exception of some rich people in Coral Gables, but they would say that out of obvious self interest."

Miami, for all its size, is a town of expatriate enclaves consisting of many groups living in conscious exile. It did not even exist until a railroad baron built a line down to a collection of mud huts in the 1920's. There is no real tourist industry other than the predominantly gay South Beach area, which provides a sort of safe haven in the savagely intolerant South.

It does have beaches, which are located on a separate island connected by couple long causeway bridges which parallel the island that hosts the immense cruise ships that pause here only long enough to take on passengers and take them away to the Caribbean and more interesting places. Those ships are formidable in size, with most of them standing a good ten stories above the water, and thus existing as the largest structures in all of Miami -- outside of downtown -- by a good seven floors. The beach palms, unlike the trees in California, bear coconuts, which are harvested regularly by an old guy in ragged pants who dashes around with a shopping cart in the early morning hours to gather them up for sale to street vendors and restaurants.

There is no real music "scene" in Miami -- although the younger set may be changing that as they begin to grow away from the rigid catholicity of their parents. Hence, this is not a town for Self and the Significant Other; we require the refreshment of the soul that comes from living music. And so we return home, a bit more informed than before and a bit more grateful for what we have here.

DON'T EVER GET ELECTED: YOU SURELY WILL GO STRAIGHT TO HELL

While it's nice to know that John Kerry is Heaven-bound when he goes, there remain the lot of us who must stay behind on earth. We fielded surprised emails from around the world, including one from a Nigerian gentleman who exclaimed, "My God! Have all the Americans taken leave of their senses?!

Well, like GWB himself, it does appear that most of the US out there may not really be so dumb as it appears; they -- like George -- simply do not choose to employ the gift God gave them of thinking things through.

Time after time we get this report of someone who voted for the rather incompetent Bush regime entirely because the Rove machine has convinced them that the Bush reads the Bible and takes it seriously to heart.

It seems we have a clear paradigm of The Brain Stops Here. Any rational evaluation of the misery that the Bush regime has caused and the worse conditions to ensue -- or even of any possible good the government might have done in the past (can anyone name even one success of the Bush Administration?) -- becomes a stillborn Void in the face of an obstinate religious rectitude based on a monstrous Lie.

Bush is not a good Christian or even a very good man. He is a dry drunk who beat his wife regularly and got off scott free from drug possession charges as well as a slew of inept bankruptcies.

And that was all even before he got appointed by his daddy's buddies.

Once in power as Chief Executive, he goofed off on his ranch and played at President while playing with children while the menace of terrorism grew and grew. When the Nation was attacked he sat like a cow in a goat pen, then took the opportunity to enrich his friends, wreck the National budget, and attack a foreign country which had never harmed a single American, under the justification of a blanket of outrageous lies about Weapons of Mass Destruction.

When those who support him claim "moral values" one has to wonder just what putrid sort of devil-delightful soul they possess in associating their values with such a monster who perpetrated the Abu Graib obscenities. Its not just because its illegal. It's not just because its against the Geneva Convention -- which his Administration has termed "quaint" (i.e. "inconvenient").

We condemn the Bush Administration and those acts because they are SICK! That's right, you read it here. George W. Bush is a sick bastard. You think the Gays are twisted? Heck, George W. Bush enjoys the idea of standing a naked guy on a box, wearing a canvas hood, and electrical wires wrapped around his genitalia. Furthermore, George thinks Jesus Christ is talking to him, telling him to slaughter 10,000 Arabs to make peace in the Middle East. Yes, they'll all be free and democratic and peaceful when they are all dead.

Was there not a character named Son of Sam who claimed something similar? In the old days we called this kind of behavior psychotic. Nowadays, they call it Compassionate Conservatism.

Man, that Bush is one sick dude and he belongs in an Institution for the Criminally Insane, not in the Office of the President.

***

After one has calmed down a bit, one needs to look at this state of affairs objectively. Quite obviously, even with the extensive malfeasance and mishandling of the electoral process that went one, we still have millions who deliberately chose a mistake, preferring the gaily painted tomb over the shabby church of Kerry. Kerry did not run a very good campaign -- that much was obvious even before the debates almost rescued the mans lagging behind. Bush and Rove had locked in the unwavering vote of the Southern Baptist long before the debates in such a way that those people would not have changed their minds if Bush had run naked down Pennsylvania Avenue with a bevy of harem girls to have sex in a massive orgy with them and several goats on the Mall in front of the Washington Monument.

To the Southern Baptist, Bush was the Godly Man and no further thought or discussion was required. Any additional votes were just gravy to the meat. Looking at all the close "swing" states we note that in every state, Kerry carried the metropolitan areas where the more diversely educated people congregate and where there are more avenues for information flow. Gradually, as one eases into the countryside, the various counties become pinker and pinker to solid red for Bush. All of the swing states looked exactly the same, and Florida was no exception. (Information from the CNN analysis by state by county ).

Looking at the entire country, it looks to the eye as if most of the country really is for the RNC, but bear in mind that all those huge blocks of red in the west contain less population combined than the state of New York.

And here is another factotum. In the rural areas, a single precinct is limited on recording votes entirely by the difficulty it takes to arrive at the location. In the urban areas, a precinct is limited by time. It was physically impossible for any one precinct in any one city in all fifty states to record all the votes possible at that precinct because there simply are not enough hours in the day. If everybody eligible to vote had really showed up at all the precincts in Florida -- to name just one state -- we would just now be finishing up the tally, for with waits of up to five hours at many urban precincts many potential voters simply gave up and went home. Others simply drove by, looked at the times, listened to the news talking about long lines -- and then went home, also without voting.

The system attempted to compensate by providing some limited "early voting". In Florida, they opened about a third of the precincts for a noon to three PM vote, but clearly the system was unable to handle the modern population limits. There is an inherent bias in the electoral system against the urban demographic, no matter what party owns that particular vote.

In any case, its very clear that the physical middle of the country is wildly at odds with the coastal and cosmopolitan areas. The divisions are sharp as a knife and there may be some very real blood shed over the acrimonious differences. Bush shows no sign of compromise or inclusiveness. His idea is that one must agree with him or simply be left out in the cold and members of his party have descended to outright threats to the Democratic minority in alluding to their successful joint campaign to remove Tom Daschle (formerly SD) . It is a dictatorial way to govern which Governator Arnold has joined. After the most divisive and bitter electoral contest in generations, the first words out of the Governator's mouth were insulting epithets, calling the Democrats a bunch of "losers." Arnold said, "Why should I support or deal with a bunch of losers? They had better come along with me."

Such language is embarrassing and indicates a profound lack of statesmanship.

The one thing we can say with optimism, in view of our review of history's worst Presidents, this Bush fits the classic pattern to a T. All the worst of the rogues sailed into a second term, during or near a national crisis, on a claimed popular mandate based on emotional impetus, rather than rational analysis, and all of them slunk out like the debased animals they were, in hailstorms of corruption investigations, impeachment proceedings and general rotten tomatoes thrown by outraged public opinion.

To have a gander at that review of our 9 worst Executives, hop on down to October 17th.

I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS


Went to the Island First Friday celebration -- a sort of evolution of the monthly First Saturday music festivals begun as the brainchild of jazz vocalist Natasha Miller -- at the Island Art Center on Webster. This series is meant to be a multidisciplinary showcase of the various arts now in flower on the Island. The kickoff launches a variety of events and exhibitions at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts (Lincoln and Paru), Spritzers Gallery, Spellbinding Tales, Javarama Coffeehouse on Park, and other venues. A full list can be obtained at the Island Art Center at 1701 Webster. All venues have a dot-org or dot-com Internet address.

At the Art Center, the focus was upon textiles this time around. Neighbors Jim Kitson and Sue Laing won a juror's award with their multimedia entry, "Doble". Here is there imperfectly photographed piece. The right hand portion consists of dyed felt, and the left is made of copper sheet and wire mesh mounted on textured stucco that is layered over plywood.

The brains for this new venue for the arts on the Island is Lisa Horner, who is something we used to call " a tall drink of water". Here she is consulting with the official wine dispenser while handling two other conversations at once.

Since textiles were the focus this time around, one would naturally expect wearable art to appear. We had coats mounted on the walls as fashion concepts,

and we also had artists walking about with their art carried literally upon their backs. The hat is made of white felt and the coat is made of dyed lambswool.

Quilts, with their potentially broad surface area were well represented with excellent examples, including this deceptively bright example. close inspection reveals skeletons and skulls woven into the patterns.

Quirky departures from the expected cropped up, as seen in this piece with transparent critters crawling over the crisp geometric designs.

Quirkiness as well as flights of whimsy, such as this flight basket and "Hat for Figurative Thinking" informed the best work.

         

Cloth dolls appeared here and there in the gallery corners as well as a vest made of polished pieces of a radiator from an old car sewn onto black velvet.


In short it was a delightful opening for what may be the beginning of an Island Renaissance.

Met a charming lady there who had been married to a Navy officer who later became head of the Western Hemisphere Naval Defense. We wont go into the details as to the divorce -- due to our patriotic concerns for National Security -- but the lady subsequently managed quite a career in Hollywood where she catered to the likes of Bette Midler and such.

Names here are incognito, of course. You might recognize her byline in a movie credit. Or on a list of golden statuette winners.

In any case she had a tart summation of Der Governator Arnold when he was a B-movie actor in LA.

"I knew him well and I found him revolting."

She had a lot of stories to tell, but we won't ruin the flavor by repetition -- we are kind of hoping the lady writes a book.

OH WHAT FUN IT IS TO POISON PIGEONS IN THE PARK!

There is nothing quite so enjoyable as to sing a little ditty by Timothy Lear while typing up this week's edition. The air has turned crisp and the leaves have all turned -- those which have a mind to do so in this land of aromatherapy and palms. It is in this pre-holiday season that a young man's thoughts turn to fancy and taking out his spiffy 32-20, oiling up the stock, polishing the barrel and squinting the sights in fond reverie of blowing Fifi to joyous little bloody pieces. Ah, the camaraderie by firelight, the quick sharp tang of fresh booze on the tongue mingling with the smoky scent of seared dogflesh and the anguished howl of slaughtered puppies.

Yes my friends, another year has passed and it is coming, that special event for which all good boys and girls and devoted readers look forward all year: The Annual Island Thanksgiving Poodleshoot and BBQ. 'Tis a distraction not to be missed, not unlike the overwhelming stimulus of Copshawlhowlme Faire. Tired of your troubles? Weary of wonkery? Pooped out on politics? Well then, take up any old projectile weapon of your choice and head on over to the Rules Page for the Seventh Annual Poodleshoot and blow away those woes. Banish dull care and feel not a tinge of regret, for it is a far far better thing you do than you have ever done before -- at least it is better to slay a terrierist than murder a decent human being and we are all for that.

Take a shot at Fifi to view the rules.

TROUBLE ON MY MIND

Its blowing cold across the water down by the strand and only a couple walks, head down and hands in their parkas, for the evening constitutional. Waves that lapped against distant shores now lap against the shores of the Island. Across the nation, people are making ready, each in their own way, for the rapid and harsh enforcement of the New World Order.

As these homeless waves tap against the sands of home, we wonder about the state we have come to and with a tremendous sadness, with a consideration for next steps. To taste the salt of exile -- possibly never to return -- is a severe choice that many are taking steps toward even as these lines are composed. Or will the hardy few "after the defeat at Thermopalae, go down to the sea in ships" and somehow like that ancient army of Greeks, defending their homelands and their freedoms, destroy the Oppressors with the help of God.

Evil is a giant so immense that the best of us stands hardly higher than Its least toenail. Instead of reason and truth, we are being shouted down by a massive and bloody head of a Moloch. There is no way any one of us can stand against the monster that is loose among us and I am reminded of the words of Thomas Paine under only slightly different circumstances long ago, "We had better hang together or we surely all will hang separately."

Not then to run from Evil; where in the world is there a safe haven now? Will the monster next invade Canada for sake of its forests? Will it crush Mexico to gain control of its oil supply? The remotest island in the South Pacific is not safe from atom bomb testing. To stand here and fight then and never give up. To paraphrase Milton, what tho' the battle be lost? All is not lost; we still stand here upon the earth in large numbers and of like mind with freedom that is incorruptible and cannot be destroyed. Never shall we bend our knees before the tyrant's throne which lately shook to its foundations under our assault!

Well, those are words and just words for the moment while those gentle waves come lapping across the dark, eroding and dissolving the hard and unyielding shores, but nevertheless pushing back that shore year after steady year by its action, grain by grain.

And as it comes every night, the long wail of the midnight train passing through Jack London waterfront echoes across the way.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

OCTOBER 24, 2004

ROAD TRIP, MAN!

Next week, there will be no Island-Life, although we may issue an Early Edition on Wednesday, as Island Life is going to Florida to take part in the international effort to monitor the elections there and try to keep the process somewhat honest. Well, we won't be able to kick Catherine Harris in the butt and send her off to a well-deserved jail sentence, but we will at least make sure that everybody in our precinct that wants to vote, gets the opportunity to vote because that is the American way. Voting is necessary and important and besides, its good for you.

THE HORROR, THE HORROR

Well, its come around to that delightful season when ghosts and gremlins howl about the chimneys as the dead leaves fall.. Tiny monsters breed in the alcoves and everyone around here makes ready for El Dias de Muertes with sugar skulls and altars In Memoriam. It may be that all this focus upon the imaginary ghoulish and fake gory is all a shift to the side to avoid staring at the very real fact of Death's inevitability as well as the quite horrific events taking place around the world that require no movie studio "Freddie" to horrify with special effects.

In any case, the Bay Area takes this opportunity to begin a series of long parties lasting weeks long, including the infamous Exotic Erotic Ball and the associated "Hooker's Ball", both of which feature the stars of erotic entertainment and a cast of thousands letting it all hang out, with many in suggestive costume and others in no costume or clothes all all.

The Island tends to a more sedate enjoyment of this time, however every block has its display, grown increasingly more sophisticated and complex over the years, to present to the passersby. Spiderwebs some twenty feet long hosting immense spiders the size of Shelob in Lord of the Rings suddenly appear to clash with yards of smoke machines and dry ice in kettles boiling before cackling witches and animated skeletons.

Yes, the Island likes to have fun in a serious way.

Including Paganos, which has long presented each holiday season award-winning display windows replacing the staid arrangements of the average hardware store.

Here are a few pics of the latest concoctions from the diseased imagination of Mr. Dominici, current owner.

It does appear that Mr. Glum is in some difficulty.

There are others who appear in a worse state of affairs than Mr. Glum.

If those birds are waiting for something juicy to chew upon, we think Mr. Bones is unlikely to satisfy. Still, we have Mr. Death standing by with his hedge trimmer. He is from the village. He is a "reaper." And starred of late in a Monty Python film called "The Meaning of Life."

One thing about the owner, Mr. Dominici, we have to admit the man really knows how to put on a great show.

As for Mr. Glum, we would not hope for relief any time too soon.

LIKE THE WEATHER

The accustomed dry Indian Summer gave way suddenly to ferocious storms that drenched the Bay Area with six inches in days and proceeded to enliven the Sierra with a load of slushy snow this week, closing two of the three major passes over the Sierra crest. The rainfall was so heavy, we did not go out of doors for some two days. Expect some severe weather to hit New England in about a week or so and the soggy Southlands should expect more of the same.

This storm was well in advance of the usual pattern of dry Octobers here, so we have to imagine that a post-El Nino condition exists, which last time really saturated the country with rainfall from October up to late May. The good thing is that our fire season has effectively terminated a month early in a year that could have been quite disastrous due to a bark beetle infestation in the southlands and the hills start loading up with snow a bit early.


YOU BEST COME ON IN MY KITCHEN

Did not get over to hear Chris Whitely play at 12 Galaxies as the Significant Other came down with a significant infection of the feveroid kind. The Bridge School benefit, hosted each year by Peggy Young (Neal Young's wife) went off as scheduled for two days at the probably very soggy Shoreline outdoor ampitheatre. REM, Tony Bennet and others were in attendance.

At the venerable Fillmore, Courtney Love is sure to be on her best bad behavior on the 24th. The Neville Brothers slide in on the heels of a new CD on the 5th of next month, followed by a one-two punch in the form of Angelique Kidjo on the 6th and Warren Haynes with Gov't Mule on the 10th. Master slide guitarist Robert Randolph brings his very righteous Family Band in on the 12th and that is as far forward as we want to look.

TIME'S UP! THAT'S IT FOR TODAY, DON PARDO!

Those of you who bought T-shirts in the past few days: Thank you! You helped support Truthout.org and our own efforts to uphold that little thing called Democracy. The "Up Yours, Bush" shirt with Rosie the Riveter sold 15 shirts at the table and another 8 inside the house -- those got sent all around the country. "Bush and Satan in 2004" also sold well as did "I'd rather vote for a Redwood Tree than a Bush."

We got a tremendous amount of support from the overwhelming majority of passersby -- indicating that this bastion of Conservatism has largely turned from the ways of sin and error to recognize that the present Administration does no one here any great favors.

As with Abu Graib, we condemn the Administration not because it is illegal, not because it violates the Geneva Convention, not because the vast majority of the world at large reviles it, but because it is really, really SICK! We want no part of them; those people should be incarcerated. Since that cannot happen, just throw the bums out. Throw them out, I say, and perhaps -- given time -- this nation can once again hold its head up with pride instead of arrogance among the other free nations of the earth with honor and dignity and respect.

Meanwhile pro-Kerry signs are sprouting up all over the Island where the GOP once held forth with solid sway of control. While in that foreign country known as Florida, somewhat east of Chicago, the teeming millions rage and roil like breakers upon a stormy sea whipped by hurricanes.

Tonight the rains have let up and the air blows fresh and clean across the Bay from where the lights of Babylon twinkle like little jewels draped across the black velvet hills.

That's the way it is on the Island, this historic October in the year 2004. Have a great week. And don't forget to vote.

OCTOBER 17, 2004

HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN

After a few days of unnaturally warm weather, a fierce Santa Ana blew in, sweeping potted plants from the old fence out back, leaving a chill at night and this weekend the start of the annual rains in the Bay Area. Could see all the dahlias bending to earth under the onslaught of the storm.

We would expect this one to take about three to four days to hit the East Coast.

NO MOVERAN UPDATE

A federal judge ordered an attorney to spend two days in person -- no representative allowed -- at the troubled Harbor Bay apartments to ascertain the truth of mistreatment of tenants subsequent to a mass mailing of evictions. Tenants have asserted that employees of the Texas-based Fifteen Group, which owns the 615 unit complex, have been verbally abusive and otherwise hostile instead of assisting with relocation of the tenants. Tenants were guaranteed $1,000 of relocation money, immediate return of security deposits, moving trucks and personal assistance.

The City has taken the unprecedented step of slapping a lawsuit on the Fifteen Group under the claim that such a mass eviction would increase homelessness and unduly strain social services.

An additional wrinkle is that the complex has long had a history of sheltering the worst elements residing on the Island, including drug addicts, dealers, pimps, prostitutes and strong-arm thieves. Only this Friday a teenager was mugged by two others who punched him and rifled his pockets near the complex.

In other news, somewhat brighter, Colin Washington -- who was not expected to live after having his skull crushed during an attack last year on Santa Clara Avenue -- is recovering nicely with a great deal of effort. The boy had to relearn how to walk and to talk due to the extent of his injuries. His attackers, one teen and one adult, were caught after a crime spree.

In other news, City crews moved the length of Webster Street, cutting down every last tree and paving over the sites. Many of the trees were well over forty years old and appeared perfectly healthy.


HE WAS MISUNDERSTOOD: HE LIKED BALLROOM DANCING

For some odd reason a curious contest has developed on the web and hereabouts. People have been earnestly debating with one another who was the worst American President in history. Can't imagine why that subject would be coming up now, for it appears the discussion began about a year ago -- well in advance of the elections hoopla.

If we exclude the Incumbent -- who to be fair still has a number of weeks left in which to screw up -- and his predecessor -- whose impact is still too recent in history to properly evaluate without partisan distortion, we still can up up with quite a list of egregious goofballs.

Quite popular among the worst we found the following:

1. James Buchanan
2. Warren Harding
3. Andrew Johnson
4. Franklin Pierce
5. Richard Milhouse Nixon

Now this list was derived not by objective evaluation by historians, but by popular vote. a closer examination of history reveals the following additions who clearly had some serious problems running a country.

6. Herbert Hoover
7. Ulysses S. Grant
8. Andrew Jackson

One thing becomes clear in this postmortem popularity contest: the effectiveness of leadership appears diametrically opposed to the person's popularity at the time of rule. U.S. Grant, (1869-1874) who basically did nothing other than hire worthless scumbags for two terms, presiding over one scandal after another and a serious economic depression he could neither understand nor deal with in any form whatsoever, probably tops the list as history's all-time worst president, for it can be said the man did nothing right except his memoires after leaving office. He is notable in that he managed to nearly destroy his own party -- the GOP -- which split into liberals and radical conservatives during his term, allowing the Democrats to win control of the House for the first time in 16 years. He was, however, immensely popular and well liked. Historians usually describe his Presidency kindly as "an unhappy aftermath to his military success."

Herbert Hoover appears here for doing everything in his limited power to rescue the nation from the depths of the Great Depression -- by exhorting business to have a decent heart and engage in volunteerism to save America. Oh yeah, what kind of drugs you been taking buddy!? He then did everything in his power to hinder and stop successful efforts by his successors to ameliorate the terrible conditions of the time, for which his popularity declined even as it seemed he might become more effective. When he left office he was the most hated man in America, bar none. Much of it may be attributed to the basic divide that exists between Republican and Democratic ideology, for he acted exclusively according to Republican values. Hoover proved to be far too inflexible to meet the demands of his time, which required not ideology, but practical results. He was unable to provide.

Andrew Jackson killed Indians with zest and was proud of it, hence his presence here. His economic policies were not too bright either although he did manage to buy some land at a decent price to extend the borders of the US and he did have some very intelligent proposals -- not acted upon -- which would have saved all of us a lot of grief today, including the abolishment of the spurious Electoral College. Some see him as the founder of the modern Democratic Party, which arose from the ashes of the Federalists. Unfortunately, his autocratic leadership smacked so much of kingship that each succeeding session of Congress sought to remove powers of the Presidency for fear of reinstituting a monarchy on American shores. Under Jackson, the Presidency developed the full entitlement as the Third House in the balance of Powers by liberal use of the veto.His presence here in the Rogues Gallery is arguably the most questionable.

It's quite clear why Nixon is here -- the man was quite a scumbag -- although a close examination of his personal history indicates that the Californian Quaker did not start out life as a sneaky dirtball, but was made that way by politics sometime before his notorious squealing as part of the HUAC witch-hunters. It seemed that whenever the man lost power, he developed a sense of honor and integrity which declined progressively the more power he found in his hands. He was born and raised a basically nice guy and would have made an affable trial lawyer had he so remained, but some imp of the perverse directed him to politics where his initial experience was of scarifying libels and campaign mud slinging, which must have convinced him that nice guys finish last. He became a bitter man far too young for anyone's good. Californians recognized him for what he was, dumping him from the governorship with a landslide. He managed to weedle the GOP candidacy twice on the strength of his hatred of communists, losing to Kennedy on the first round but defeating Hubert Humphrey and Muskie in a campaign marked by tumultuous times. His tendency to oversimplify complex issues appealed to the common man and he was elected on his second term in a huge landslide even as reports of improper campaign tactics began to emerge. Richard Nixon was, believe it or not, much more popular than Ronald Reagan ever was.

But that perverse decline of integrity and honor as his star arose seemed to indicate a hollow man of straw, and his term was marred by the outright ousting of the Vice President., Spiro Agnew, on charges of tax evasion and a horrifying increase in soldier mortality in the morass that was Vietnam. Investigators traced obstruction of justice in the matter of the Watergate burgluries directly to his desk. Besides burglurizing the Democrats, he kept a written "hit list" of enemies whose lives and reputations he wanted to ruin. Some of his foreign policies were intelligent and well executed, including the normalization of relations with China -- which followed the pattern of occuring only after his popular decline. He tried desperately to extricate from Vietnam -- at first by negotiation, then by unilateral pullouts -- but he botched the efforts by secretly bombing Cambodia, propelling that nation into a long and horrific period of internecine bloodshed, and spreading the chaos throughout southeast Asia, and ex-officio attempts to exact revenge upon political enemies exacerbated his problems while progressively rendering him more ineffective.

By the time peacekeeping Vietnamese soldiers had ousted the grand guiginol regime of Lon Nol, over 1.7 million Cambodians would have fertilized the infamous "killing fields" of Cambodia. Now that is no achievement to brag about.

As news of the Watergate break-ins expanded in the public's consciousness, Nixon decided on abrupt and total Vietnam pullout in an effort to save a doomed career, resulting in television images of frantic South Vietnamese clinging to the pontoons of choppers departing from the rooftop of the embassy in Saigon. Under immanent threat of successful impeachment, Nixon resigned in disgrace, leaving the appointed VP Gerald Ford President pro tem. Whatever Nixon might have done well, it was wiped out by that image and the image of an almost sociopathic person with permanent five o'clock shadow claiming time after time, he was misunderstood even as he plotted some new viciousness on real and imagined enemies.

When we come to Warren G. Harding, 29th President from 1921 to 1923, we first come upon that 20th Century invention, the Figurehead Leader. Harding did absolutely nothing for the entire term of office. Unlike Calvin Coolidge, who wisely did nothing because the economy was sound, Harding did nothing because he was lazy, fairly limited in intelligence, and his handlers told him to leave off. Like the Incumbent, he took long trips away from the office even as corruption spread throughout federal government, culminating in the famous Teapot Dome scandal. Harding typically was away on a sporting jaunt in Alaska at the time when the news broke. On being informed, he initiated a return journey, but died of a mysterious illness en route.

Andrew Johnson was the 17th President from 1865 to 1869, a most unenviable time. It was Johnson who preceded Richard Nixon onto the floor under Impeachment proceedings. His political career began with a defence of slavery (he was from Raleigh, NC) while also adhering to a perverse advocacy of labor. Upon Lincoln's assassination, he assumed the Presidency and attempted to implement Lincoln's moderate reconstruction reforms without success even as the Republican party became divided into Radicals and Bloodthirsty Radicals, the latter wanting to institute total and repressive martial law throughout the South while demanding reparations for the Civil War. As a result of the post-war divisions nothing happened well at all and the entire country declined into recession. Johnson recovered from the impeachment attempt some years afterward and was elected to the Senate by Tennessee, but he died seven months after taking office.

Franklin Pierce was the 14th President from 1853 to 1857 and such was his term that nobody remembers him, no buildings are named after him, no specie carries his image, and the post office has never printed a commemoration stamp in his honor. It must be said that he really was not such a bad man, but like the Neal Young song, "he tried his best, but he could not.". Signs of his inefficacy developed quickly on election, for he failed utterly to mediate any of the slavery issues, signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and promptly plunging the region into its own little civil war which came to be termed "Bloody Kansas". He enforced the hideous Fugitive Slave Act and was dumped by his party at the 1856 convention. His popularity improved afterwards, until he managed to sink himself by attacking Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

As the final entry in our Rogues Gallery of Presidents, we have one James Buchanan, 15th President from 1857 to 1861. His entire term involved and devolved around the one issue of slavery. He was elected on a staunch pro-slavery ticket and he ardently defended that abominable institution from day one, setting up laws to protect slavery in the Kansas territory that would lead to much bloodshed later on. He publicly recognized the problems created by threatened succession and responded by handing the problems, quite consciously, to his successor. For that last act, he belongs, even if he had done nothing else, in the Rogues Gallery of Worst Presidents.

So there you have it. It may turn out that George Bush, who saw an unacknowledged Recession, the worst attack on American soil in history, the bitter division of American politics, the largest financial institution scandal in history, the embroilment in a ruinous foreign war occur -- among many other things -- during his watch, just might not turn out to be history's worst after all. Give the man time. There's plenty more opportunity for the man to do stupid things, and to hear some people talk, they want to give the man yet another four wars to prove his incapacity so much more thoroughly. After all, they elected U.S. Grant to two terms. What's a cokehead over an alcoholic? Not much difference.

Looking at this photo, taken a few minutes after GB was informed that the Nation was under attack, knowing that his response was to continue to read "My Pet Goat" to schoolchildren, it is heartening to know that it is true that any schoolchild can grow up one day to become President of the United States. Even Austrians and Germans have a shot at it, according to the GOP Neo-cons. You really don't have to know or be good at anything at all.

NIGHT MOVES

The rain is sussurating through the trees, quieting the streets as everybody stays indoors and in quietly clinking bars. The rain stops, but Michelangelo clouds continue to roil over the gunmetal waves of the Bay, promising more of the same tomorrow. The windows of Pagano's have changed over to the orange and black displays of imaginative horror by which we purge ourselves of the Real every year. Skeletons, bloody hands, decapitated heads and vultures -- set in the frame of All Hallows or El Dia del los Muertos, relieve us of the anxiety that mortality brings. Halloween is undoubtedly the Bay Area's most celebrated holiday, kicking off a week-long series of festivities and if you do not have a costume or go to a single party in this time then you are a most unfortunate soul indeed, worthy only of pity and dirges.

We are a lively bunch, as we informed an Island newcomer who came to visit the T-shirt table. We love music and art and joy and that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

OCTOBER 10, 2004

10 AT 10

The weather has been sunny and warm with moderately cool nights. the tomatos are fruiting still and the dahlias have exploded along the rotten fence.

Hear current temp from 20/20 news is 35 degrees in Detroit. Ten years ago. Just thought you should know.


NO MOVERAN

The City has slapped a lawsuit on the Harbor Bay Complex owners, the Fifteen Group, for being such obnoxious twits. The Texas-based Fifeen Group (why does this not surprise us?) issued mass evictions to some 300 tenants, with more to come, at the troubled apartment complex, which the landlord had apparently deemed too much trouble. The intention was to renovate the place into "The premier place of living in Northern California", meaning the rents were planned to jack from about $800/month to some $3,000 to $5,000 per month. Quite a hike and some serious money. The complex has long been a magnet for the lower riff-raff as the landlord has allowed the facilities to decay beyond livability. The only people willing to dwell in rat infested, broken casement, wrecked plumbing, leaky roof places like Harbor Bay were the desperate and the crank-addicted. Or the seriously poor who had no choice in the Bay Area's rabid rental market. The Fifteen Group could have fixed the place up, kicked out the pimps and pushers and otherwise acted differently but this they did not do. The case convenes next Thursday in a Babylon Superior Court. Winner takes all.

LOOKING FOR A HEART OF GOLD

Andre Ward came out of the roiling turmoil of East Oaktown, slugging his way from gym to gym and was often seen on the Island's own Harbor Bay Club. Carrying a photo of his father, who died in 2002 of heart attack, in his workout shoe during his boxing matches, Andre was not one of those whom anyone expected would rise above the significant obstacles in his path.

Instead, Mr. Ward proved all of them wrong, bringing home the first boxing gold that any American has earned in well over 10 years, prompting the usually taciturn NBC/HBO sports anchor Bob Costas to enthuse, "This may be the best boxer America has produced in several decades. I am completely impressed wtih his skills and what this young man has accomplished against the face of incredible odds."

Ward was honored with a parade and a day dedicated to his name in front of City Hall, where Hizzoner Jerry Brown presented the champion with a glass key to the city.

RAMPANT NIMBYISM

The issue of gambling run by local Indian tribes, who are exempt from some of the rules restricting that enterprise, has caused a major flap here after a casino was proposed on ground within an environmentally sensitive marsh. The site was relocated, reasonably so, to a location that is already heavily developed, but which just happens to sit within the borders of Oaktown -- which is overjoyed at the prospective income -- and just on the edge of the major bridge connecting the Island to said Oaktown.

In the words of councilmember Kerr, "I'm so angry about the whole idea of casino gambling coming to California. It appalls me. I hate it."

Mayor Beverly has come out firmly opposed to gambling anywhere near the Island, complaining the result will be violent and hostile spillover from neighboring Oaktown across the estuary and it is this sentiment that more directly expresses the concerns of locals.

THAT'S NO WAY TO TREAT AN OFFICER!

A man arrested recently on suspicion of domestic battery allegedly kicked the responding officer in the head as he was being taken into custody. The Island Gerbil reported that the man was taken to Island Hospital where he was cleared for incarceration at Santa Rita jail. He was booked for public drunkeness, resisting arrest and other charges but we just have to known: what about the officer? Didn't they check him out too at the Hospital?

Christ, people, even if the officer happened to be tying his shoes at the time he was arresting somebody, getting kicked in the head is no joke -- we happen to know from personal experience.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC

The Babylon Jazz Festival launches full swing on the 15th with Michael Breker at Grace Cathedral. Grammy winner Caetano Veloso from Brazil performs Saturday the songs of Gershwin, Cole Porter and Kurt Cobain.

What!? Kurt Cobain?!

Well, all we can say is that the evening promises to be highly entertaining, for we can easily imagine Cobain and Porter getting into a fistfight in heaven.

Stanley Clarke, Al Di Meola, and Jean Luc Ponty -- he of the electrified fiddle -- take over on Friday at the Masonic. Etta James does the same venue on the 6th, hopefully with a joyful sound after the Election instead of the Blues.

In town for the Festival, but not participating directly, is the Branford Marsalis Quartet which holds forth at Zellerbach Hall

October 17th has the one American musician who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature every year for some 20 years, Bob Dylan, performing at the Haas Pavilion in Berzerkeley. He will also do an as yet unannounced performance in a small club in Babylon. Tickets are still available.

At the Warfield, PJ Harvey, the original "riot grrl", arrives fronted by Moris Tepper on the 21st and 22nd to amend for several weeks of rather lame bookings. PJ Harvey, a diminuative rocker with a big voice and bass-heavy rhythms has been known to flay the hide from any number of subjects with savagely pointed -- and intelligently written -- lyrics, while local Moris Tepper got his musical and lyrical chops working with avaunt garde artists like Captain Beefheart. Tepper is more accessible than the Captain ever was, but he is still fond of including the odd instrument or two in rock songs, including accordians and tubas. He is immensely entertaining and well worth checking out. Harvey's punkish snarling and cutting sarcasm about macho idiots has tended to be a bit too prickly for the Top 40 circuit, while Tepper has been thoroughly uninterested in playing the rock star game, so one is well advised to see this unusual pairing while given the chance.

KNOCKING ON HEAVEN'S DOOR

Announced on page 14, appropriately enough considering the man's philosophy, was the obit for Jacques Derrida, father of Postmodern Deconstruction. He died in a Paris hospital at age 74, one of the most celebrated and vilified philosophers of the late 20th Century. Derrida burst on the scene at a 1966 conference on structuralism in Baltimore where he announced that structuralism was passe and had been superceded by something called deconstruction.

In 40 years he never issued a clear, precise definition of the term and during the roiling 80's, while Derrida's star was on the wane, none of his most ardent proponents could do so either, notwithstanding over 40 books published by the Master himself, which many found turgid, murky, evasive, and wildly uninformative even as others discovered some marvelous insight -- which could never be summarized or explained.

Quite often, when queried about just what all the hullaballoo was about, the inquirer would be sent to read the entire oevre of Heidegger, who wrote and died many years before Derrida and who never used the term "deconstruction" in any definitive manner in any of his works.

His work cannot be dismissed so easily as vapid intellectualization, for the effect upon those who took up the cause was profound and it did indeed light a fire under the increasingly rigid academia, for one of deconstruction's axioms is that all text is equal in truth value, including The Bible, War and Peace, Tom Robbins and the advertising on the back of cereal boxes. And if one stops to reflect, then one can see some truth here against the English Department pro forma adoption of The 100 Great Books. What indeed makes a book "great" or any writing any better than any other? Certainly not the "revelation of the human condition", for there is really no special reason anyone should accept the point of view of a long dead author from another age when relations between people were governed by vastly different social conditions.

Social critics glommed onto this idea and began "deconstructing" text by seizing fragments from novels, sometimes just single words, and writing polemical essays that departed entirely from the intent of the work intentionally. Their argument was that the text is no different from a Calder mobile or a statue in that there is no real meaning to discuss for we cannot know what the intent of an author might have been; we have only the work which just "is". From the work we glean hints or reflections about the society in which the work was made and biases as well as prejudices of the creator.

The deconstructive work of criticism then becomes a work which obtains equal "merit" to the work it criticises.

Clearly, this entire approach assails the traditional standards of classical education by tossing all of the major writers of the previous ages into a pail called "dead white male icons of Western Culture," who were all loaded with prejudices and inconsistencies that rightly turn the modern reader away.

To be fair it must be noted that the phrase "MIlton is more admired than read," has occured frequently in the halls of academia, and who today has the patience to wade through the seemingly tedious and irrelevant relations of Middlemarch, termed by most English Departments as "the greatest novel in the English language."

Well, if the greatest novel in the English language was written already more than 300 years ago, that must mean all else is decline.

Ironically, while attacked for its refusal to acknowledge political certainties, deconstruction became an essential tool for feminists and social progressives and Derrida himself became an activist, working for the natural rights of North African immigrants in France, defending Czech dissidents behind the Iron curtain, and attacking apartheid.

In a pure philosophical arena, by reason of its murky definitions, deconstruction may be considered to be as passe as structuralism -- and a good deal less useful. Aporetics can do more for you and it has clear definitions.

Derrida left his greatest mark upon aesthetics, allowing for and promoting asymetrical forms against previously assumed symetries in archetecture and in physical arts while allowing writers to inject refreshingly unexpected deviations from Aristotelian unities.

As for Criticism, no one -- least of all the artists -- pays them the slightlest attention, and all of their busy, turgid verbalization will soon sink beneath the welcome ooze of oblivion.

Derrida is survived by two sons, Pierre and Jean, by Marguerite Aucounturier and another son, Daniel, from his previous marriage to Sylviane Agacinski.

WE'RE NOT ARGUING, WE'RE DISCUSSING

The 2nd of the three debates took place between Babar, the True Conservative, Papoon, the Liberal, and Eugene Shrubb, Incumbent and Neo-Con this week in Hoophole, Quasistate. The third debate will return to the previous format of staged and pre-read questions in Tempe, AZ in the Succulent Auditorium of Cactus University.

As everyone should know by now, America does not suffer from a 2 party system, but a Four Party System: Conservatives, Liberals, Neo-Cons and Naderites.

This system ensures that no longer will Conservatives battle Liberals unassisted. Now we have Conservatives and Neo-Cons battering Liberals while Naderites stand on the fringe, nervously jumping up and down, demanding better punches from both sides. The moderator, sometimes termed Reason, has stepped aside calling the entire affair an unresolvable mess.

In any case, the actual text of the debate has vanished in smoke as each principal side has sent its forces into battle to provide "spin" on the results -- this means both sides blatantly lie about everything that happened, thoroughly confusing people who actually watched the affair unfold and distressing the people who take polls.

We can tell you what happened, simply enough, for simple is better in this post 9/11 world. Or so it seems to so many.

Shrubb said, "He's inconstant as the Northern Star. I am strong and resolute. Gather around me like wooden dowels that are bound about the handle of an axe. Be firm and stay the course!"

Papoon said, "He's a liar and a thief and he assists thieves. Trust me and I will fix the mess he made. Furthermore, i have this advantage over all the other candidates: I am not insane!"

Babar said: "No more foreign adventures. Balance the budget. Conserve the environment. No one else has done this or promises this. Give to Big Business and Big Business will give to you."

The Nichtnutz party has stated flatly: "Use common sense and stop making decisions based on dreamland ideology." They, however, were not represented at this debate and it appears they will have little influence.

Much discussion was spent on the invasion of Newark, California, which some people at the townhall-style meeting confused with Newark, New Jersey, which is different fron Newark, CA, in that it possesses an airport and is not at present a coastal city, although global warming may change that fact some time in the near future.

A very planted and pointed individual addressed a question to Papoon about abortion. They wanted to be reassured that Papoon, if elected, would implement the entire program of the Vatican IV congress of pederasts, but Papoon answered the question capably by stating that as leader of 350 million people, if elected, he could hardly be expected to pursue the extremist and nonsensical program of a narrow sect of religious nutcases, even though he himself stemmed from such a group, given that not all of the 350 million people agreed with such a narrow view of things which was promoting, in its actual execution of policy, needless death and countless unneeded suffering.

A leader is a leader of many people and many ideas and many opinions and the nature of Democracy is that we live and breath by Democracy and nature of that is compromise with people and ideas with whom you have disagreement.

That is just how the system works. Nobody has found anything better and people who move off to found their own private religious enclaves have tended to end very badly.

Kool-Aid anyone?

In any case, to say, "Please restrict the right to choose to all these people.," is to say, "I usurp the role of God in this. I take away the most basic right there is. The right to chose between Good and Evil and I take this on myself." Sounds devilish.

And please remember, the candidate mentioned, there are an awful lot of other issues involved here.

GOING TO WAIT UNTIL THE MIDNIGHT HOUR

Its approaching that Magic Hour when the clock ticks over to the new day and hope springs eternal that this next day will be somehow better than the last impossible one. Every Sunday at midnight the howl of the midnight train echoes across the flatlands and the estuary from Jack London waterfront. It is not yet midnight and we stumble over to the loo to take a piss. The faucet with its controls looks like a bird of prey, with glinting eyes and a glistening beak in the half-light from the hallway.

But the late night jam on KFOG has the song "There is good things happening in this land" playing over the stereo. Well, I have yet to be convinced, but its nice to know somebody has a positive outlook in this dismal time. Some among us are discussing plans, quite seriously, of leaving the country should that aweful group win this election. Many among us are making plans to leave the land of their birth never to return should the unthinkable happen. That would mean not only four more years of the same but a radical change in the membership of the Supreme Court and a radical shift against civil rights, and a retrenchment of personal rights. It is quite possible that this space will terminate as a result of pressure and we will also join the legion of expatriates in Canada or Europe. It is sad that the fate of this country has come down to the result of a single election on a single day in the history of 400 years, but that appears to be the case, as so many appear to adhere to basically fascistic ideology that it may be that not even this election will resolve the problem.

We have a long dark night ahead of us, and we will fight as long as we can, but if push comes to shove, this space will come from Canada or Europe or any place other than the East Coast, where repression has so long been accepted as a fact of life.

In October, the facts are so clear that it should not be so close a contest. This is not a contest. This is a matter of common sense against rabid self destroying insanity. Pearl, one of the first Neo-Cons, has stated quite succinctly, "We had not expected things to turn out to be so badly mismanaged . . .". This statement was made during a recent debate on NPR.

That the American people do not see this en masse feels disheartening and unhopeful. And it feels entirely too similar to events that unfolded in a different country in the late 1930's.

Now the song from the "Putamayo World Hour" say "All the freaky people make the beauty of the world. . .". From Michael Franti, who has said many things with which we agree most heartily. Maybe we freaky people need to make more beauty to overwhelm the ugliness of this time. I am all for that.

So I think, is most of the Island. Let us all hope for the best.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week..

OCTOBER 4, 2004 (LATE EDITION)

IF YOU WANT TIME, JUST CALL TIME

The issue is late this time because we were working straight through the usual deadline up in that former Portugese fishing village, Sausalito, shoe-horning a couple of servers and upgrading an entire network from dawn into the early hours both Saturday and Sunday, followed by work again bright and early Monday morning. The work market has been so bad for the last three years that we have to take what comes even if it comes like Niagra.

RED RAIN IS POURING ALL OVER ME

There are significant advantages to what I do. When you get about all over the Bay Area, doing jobs for all kinds of business, you pick up quite a wide range of information not available to the same-desk-everyday regular 9-5ers. Did you know Senator Orin Hatch has been trying every year, like banging on an old drum, to terminate any and all lawsuits against companies that poison their employees and the public with toxic chemicals to the point of terminal illness?

!

Basically, the Hatch legislation allows a company that is experiencing severe economic loss due to lawsuit to file chapter 11 bankruptcy without including suitors among its creditors. A closer look reveals that all of the companies involved in this, including one notorious Dresser Industries, have already filed Chapter 11 and have already been purchased by none other than our familiar old Halliburton. Yes, the same Halliburton which secured exclusive contracts in post-war Iraq and the same Halliburton for whom Hatch once worked as a boss over none other than one Dick Cheney.

On the other side stand a group of new widows and widowers, suing for relief of medical bills. Senator Tom Daschele has taken an interest in this issue, earning the outrage and ire of the most savage of the Neo-Cons who now rule the RNC.

All we can say at this point is, "Ugh! Pfweu! This really stinks!"

DONT BE A GHOST, BULWORTH

Everyone is talking about the recent President of the Bums election debates between Francois Babar, William Papoon, and Eugene Shrubb, incumbent.

Ralph Nichtnutz, of the Miserable Shrew party, was not invited to attend.

The debates were held outside the gym belonging to the Island High School out in the West End and were a spirited contest between passionate individuals who differed as much in character as in politics. The subject of this first of three debates was foreign policy. Babar, the True Conservative from the GOP, held forth on traditional values of holding to a balanced budget and avoidance of foreign adventures. Papoon, the liberal candidate whose slogan for some 30 years at each electoral event has been, "Not Insane!", maintained that the entire situation in Newark has been a disaster and that poodles are to be abjured, rather than killed, everywhere they are.

Eugene Shrubb maintains that the poodle is an evil dog and to be exterminated by any means necessary in a grand crusade and that Newark is a fine and beautiful city with lovely boulevards friendly to panhandlers.

Shortly after the debate, which all of the candidates concluded by congratulating each other and praising one another's wives, the commentators and spin doctors got to work with a veangence by savagely attacking whatever opponent seemed strongest against their own. Sean Hasntany of the Foxy Network declared that Shrubb destroyed his pathetic, windbag, pompous opposition with deft comments and demonstration of firm, obstinate resolve in the face of trivial facts and realities.

Lisa Luvnuts of the Lascivious Network remarked that she missed the days when Bill Clinton was in the White House, but she sure would like to snuggle with Papoon.

Dan Rathernot, of CBNBABS, stated flatly that his network would no longer report on anything of consequence for fear of being caught out wrong even once by flaming girly-men.

Charles Kuralt, from The Other Side Network, commented that all the newscasters were acting like ninnies and since when did the newscaster upstage the news?

Governator Arnold was heard to remark, "I vould make a better President dan zese Dummkopfen. Change zee Konstitution for me, bitte."

There are many who agree Arnold makes a fine Bum among bums, and would do well to lead them all somewhere.

I HAVE MY SHIP AND MUSIC IS HER NAME

Somehow that two-part noun "Southern Cross" can't leave me these days, whether it be in the pounding of Patti Smith or the diametrically opposite Dave Crosby. The rabid excoriation of this Nation's soul began in Florida in the Year 2000, and it will not end until the last fetid strip of flesh has been yanked from the bones of this once great Democracy and yet another 1000 boys have died for sake of a company's balance books.

But in the meantime, we have music to soothe the soul and revivify the moribund. Gillian Welch drives her flat black Ford sort of revue into the Fillmore for both October 8 and 9. Welch acted in and helped produced the roots music film, "Oh Brother, Wherefore Art Thou?", which is as full of genuine Americana music as it is filled with strange and familiar American iconic images. If she does not do "Flat Black Ford", scream until she does. You will be gratified.

This past weekend we missed the 4th Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park and man, are we bummed. Steve Earle, Allison Brown, Emmy Lou Harris and a host of others performed. I would kill to see Steve Earle, except I know he doesn't approve of that sort of thing.

The Fillmore continues with its roots music theme by hosting the Old 97's on the weekend of the 15th and the 16th.

The Grand Master of it all, a man who brought intelligent, well composed lyrics to pop music and revolutionized the music industry in a way that no other person or group can claim, Bob Dylan, performs at Haas Pavilion on the UC Berkeley campus on October 17th. The man has earned more awards than any other living musician and has written songs that have influenced every musician since 1969.

At the two new hot clubs in Babylon, we have Everlast rapping on the 9th at The Independent. Everlast emerged from the shambles of House of Pain as a solo artist in the Alternative circuit before he busted out with Santana on the remarkable "Supernatural" CD, which has not a bad track in the list. At the Grand, Mindy Smith continues the roots music theme a bit on the 5th of November, with Medeski, Martin and Wood following on the 6th of November, while we must wait for banjo artiste Bela Fleck to appear on the 10th of that month.

Great American Music Hall has Chuck Prophet singing about "Summertime" on the 8th of October, followed by the Subdudes on the next night.

This weekend, we heard about the SF Marathon on the radio only briefly, but understand Ozomatli was so fired up that they got peope who had just raced 24 plus miles to dance. Ozomatli once included the late Fela Kuti, whose entire family was thrown from the windows of their house when invaded by Nigerian soldiers. As the drummer, Jiro Yamaguchi, says, "There is no defeat in music." And we would recommend checking out Ozomatli wherever they perform.

MONDAY MORNING SURE LOOKED FINE, BUT TUESDAY HAD TRAVELING ON THE MIND

We are cursed the curse of curses by living in interesting times. On the Island we return from the stress and turmoil of the world to little cottages and tree-lined streets that seem to have plopped out of a Rod Serling scripted time-warp. Out on the approaches to the vast concrete labyrinth of The Maze people shoot with white-knuckled anxiety at being late or being lost or being plastered by an SUV against an abutment. In the mazes of felted cubicles waystationed by oasis of water coolers supplied by uniformed Gunga Dins in offices all over, people scuttle between xerox room and desk with fear of being nailed for some trivial infraction against some unofficial rule.

Meanwhile Lou Reed is chanting softly on the stereo on this late night Monday, "Hey babe, take a walk on the wild side!"

Perhaps it is true that living a life of quiet desperation is something to be avoided by walking on the wild side, that "we shall never survive unless we get a little crazy", or that we should all "live a life less ordinary", to quote a few songs that have been seeing heavy rotation lately.

Once, during one of those interminable cross-country road trips, I chanced to watch some game show on the motel TV in some long since forgotten small town in the heartland of America, where the states are brickwalled against each other like bland masonry in whitewashed wall. The winner of the Big Question, or whatever it was, presented himself and stated in response to a question from the Host that the realization of his life-long ambition was to become an Accountant. Not a CPA, specifically, but an accountant was this man's lifelong highest ambition. The Host, to give him some credit, lost his professional equanimity for a moment, and exclaimed, "An accountant?! That is your highest ambition?"

Well, there may not be much difference between an accountant and a game show host as a way of earning a living, but just imagine yourself saying, "Gee, I have never had any higher desire than to be a game show host and that is tops!", and you will begin to have some inkling that something seriously wrong had gone on with this young man's psyche. If you don't see that, then god help you, for there is nothing I can do for you.

In any case the evening fogs roll in across the Bay as they always have. For some 1000 years in any case. This island has seen the great movements of History roll over its beaches and crash against more resisting objects for some 300 years. The terminus of the first trans-American railroad ended here until they could buld a more fitting and august situation somewhere else.

Lately, the evenings have tended to fog and coolish breezes. No one goes out into the garden to chat away the hours while the House cools. The tomato plants all look like they are fighting for the last fruits of the year and the dahlias have just begun to bloom in wild profusion, but with spots on their leaves. Seems like a sea change is happening and the Indians say that a big wind is coming down from the North.

It may be that there is a change of season. And for every season, there is a change, turn, turn, turn.

We say, that can only be for the good. That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

SEPTEMBER 26, 2004

Went to catch ACT's Black Rider in Babylon Saturday. The performance was riveting, extraordinary and well-deserving of the standing ovation from the very discriminating Babylon audience.

German Expressionism began in 1905 with a group of painters who called themselves Die Brücke. Together with the French Fauvists, who preceded them, and the Cubists who followed, these artists would form the core of what would be come Modernism. The painters wanted to present the essence of things through radically personal viewpoints that evoked roiling internal states of mind and emotions. They wanted to avoid glossy presentation of mere surfaces and banal landscapes, preferring to draw images from their immediate worlds. In the twentieth century, the artist no longer moved among the royalty in courts and pastoral gardens, but in dingy cafes, sooty streets increasingly rendered angular and mechanical as the Industrial Revolution advanced a gross middle class which appeared to lack the refinements of a previous age as it promoted with new wealth and power hideous ugliness to replace a world in which man once had had a secure place in harmony with nature, himself and God. In addition, with the publication of Sigmund Freud's Interpretation of Dreams in 1904, it became clear that what the artist had known as the "psyche" was now formalized, as the Expressionists saw it, as a roiling, violent and impulsive thing called the Unconscious.

Max Ernst presented the condition of this new man in his famous painting "The Cry", which depicts a ghostly figure howling with hands raised while standing in an agitated landscape of clashing color and wavery lines.

Flipping the bird at "polite society" with their tense, energetic images, smashing up sentimentality with joyful abandon, focusing upon the lowest of the low, Expressionism was the early 20th Century version of Punk.

The Expressionist movement acquired dramatic proponents quickly, most notable of whom was the tormented figure of August Strindberg, who invented the stage footlight and a number of other technical innovations that we all take for granted today, so as to present his technically demanding plays. The final instructions for his Dream Play, for example, have the main character enter a castle, which sprouts an immense chrysanthemum from its roof just as the castle bursts into flames. And just so you know this is not to be done with drops conveying the images, the actual background is described as a drop illuminated by the burning castle and which "reveals a wall of human faces."

Strindberg, himself, was a difficult man, known for wildly irrational diatribes against feminism -- although he favored relationships with extraordinarily powerful and capable women and the proto-feminists of Sweden took care of his family during one of his severe breakdowns. His mental illness was described vividly in his painfully autobiographical The Inferno, itself a masterwork of literary Expressionism in its juxtaposition of grotesquely surreal images with quotidian actions and places that would crop up a hundred years later in the works of W.S. Burroughs, while Strindberg's stylized theatre, in which characters are not so much individuals as iconized representations of states of mind, would surface in rarified form in that of Brecht, where the iconized character becomes some form of universal archetype borrowed from Jung. Or Marx. Or both.

Expressionism lasted pretty much up to 1914, when the majority of its proponents were drafted into the Kaiser's war machine and when all of them would die among the millions in the trenches and in the mud. Among its other bad achievements, World War I may be said to have slaughtered an entire artistic movement. Egon Schiele, an Austrian painter, persisted well up until the 40's, working in furious aloneness, when the Nazis killed him too. The power of the images and of the theatre, however, proved so powerful -- and so apt for the times -- that one still runs across its effects today in painting, in drama, in sculpture and in music.

Brecht picked up on Expressionism's rarification of situation to essences in creating his own Theatre of Alienation, in which the spectator is supposed to sit back and reflect objectively on the events taking place on stage. Expressionistic theatre was never so much about plot and character as presentation of evocative tableaux and Brecht took from this to make a dramaturgy that de-emphasized naturalism in favor of stylistic guesture and frozen motion. In this theatre, the stage manager and the set designer attain equal status -- and sometimes superior status -- to that of the actors. One does not go to an Expressionist play for catharsis or to get lost in the action -- which usually is sordid in some fashion -- but to regard the play as one would regard a painting or series of paintings.

Turning to the Black Rider, subtitled "The Casting of the 12 Magic Bullets", we have three contemporary artists collaborating on a work that is clearly expressionistic in effect and intent. Tom Waits, who wrote the music, stands alone as a very unusual lyricist and occasional movie actor. We have a personal reminiscence of and with Tom, which we will keep under wraps for now, for we knew him -- personally and briefly -- during his flophouse days. Tom arose from the late 1960's when he worked as a doorman for a San diego nightclub to become a sort of chronicler of the lowlife for Asylum records for whom he cut four records that stood out from the crowd by their insistence upon describing the lives of the down, out, never was, and never will -- much like the Beats of Babylon. He has appeared in Rumble Fish, Cotton Club, Down by Law, and the adaptation of William Kennedy's Ironweed. In 1999, he won a Grammy for his impressive Mule Variations, a complex CD that includes brilliant poetic lyrics, sophisticated melodies well above the usual pop fluff, and an invisible theme that binds the entire work together similar to a Kennedy novel. In performance he is known as a brilliant and quirky presenter, sometimes barking into a megaphone like a carnival sharpie, sometimes reciting poems, sometimes settling in to tell a ribald joke or a good story like a comfortable lounge act.

About W.S.Burroughs, who provided the text of the story, little can be said that has not been said before. He was with the Beats from the very beginning, although he did not write anything himself until his highly publicized accident with his second wife, Joan vollmer Adams, in 1951. He had searched long and hard for resolution to an already restless soul, having passed through one nasty divorce already, when in Ms. Adams he finally had found the ideal mate to his burgeoning soul. But in 1951, during a drunken attempt to reenact the story of William Tell, Burroughs shot Adams through the temple and killed her. Like Strindberg before him, he flew across the face of Europe in a fury of desperation and self-hatred and self-destruction, not pausing at the borders of Europe to plunge like a comet into Tangier where in a howling inferno of wretchedness, he poured out the hundreds of pages that would become the notorious Naked Lunch. The book is a searing and very uncomforable journey through a junkie delerium in which the images of Adams' death and various sexual acts surface with horrifying effect in a long series of dreams or hallucinations. That book, a "blue print", made by David Cronenberg into a film, became an art house favorite and acquired significant notoriety by virtue of its surreal and violent, as well as extraordinarily beautiful, imagery. We can remember coming out of the theatre to find ourselves in a bar with several other artists, staring at the walls and desperately in need of a drink. The Significant Other has said, "It was too disturbing. I couldn't watch it to the end."

Now, this is from a woman who works in hard time Oaktown among the junkies and madmen of the savage Fruitvale district where pushers have shot out the street lights so they cannot be observed making deals.

Burroughs worked infrequently in his latter days, most notably with Laurie Anderson, with whom he did a number of recordings, and with Kurt Cobain, who played guitar over his voice. He died on August 2, 1997 at the age of 83 after having lived a life that would have shortened that of lesser men by half.

Robert Wilson, the third genius in this triumvirate, came out of Waco, Texas, to provide Direction, Set and Lighting to this project is known mostly for being a collaborator with virtually every name of importance in the cultural world today. But before he collaborated with these unusual men on Black Rider, he made a name for himself as the pre-eminent avant garde man of the day in his own right. He began with an opera for the deaf, called Deafman Glance, then went on to create KAMOUNTain and GUARDenia Terrace in Iran in 1972. That project extended a full seven-days. Per performance.

He wrote another silent opera, titled Life and Times of Josef Stalin, which lasts 12 hours in performance. In 1976, he joined with Philip Glass to write Einstein on the Beach, now regarded by many as the culmination of the twentieth century in theatre.

It was at the Thalia Theate in Hamburg that he collaborated with Waits and Burroughs on The Black Rider in 1990. He continued to work with Waits on Alice, a work that focussed on Lewis Carrol and his relationship with the girl who became the impetus for Alice in Wonderland, then again with Woyzeck, an adaptation of Buchner's Expressionist play. He has worked with David Byrne, Allen Ginsberg, Laurie Anderson, Susan Sontag, Lou Reed, and many others. Incidentally, he has produced and directed Strindberg's Dream Play.

Clearly, from all of this, you understand one does not go to The Black Rider for light and lively entertainment. The story is culled from an old German folktale called Der Freischütz. It is a simple Faustian story in which an office clerk makes a pact with the devil for "magic bullets" so that he may win a shooting competition and win thereby the hand of the Beautiful Girl. The day of the contest arrives and the last magic bullet, instead of striking the target, circles around and hits the chest of the intended bride. The clerk expires in a madhouse with the rest of the devil's lunatics.

Wilson opted for a severe set of jet black and cross-bars of bone-white shot with blood red interspersed with changes of living green to represent the forest. Immense schematic chair frames suggest the interior of the huntsman's house, while a cubist coffin frame surrounds the figure of a chorus-like figure who represents the cost of trades for momentary success with one's soul. The place of the casting of the magic bullets is a brilliant illuminated cross surrounded by bone-white hands and backdropped by chirascuro dry mountains of boulders. In costume and makeup, all actors are painted bloodless white. The huntsman has a frightwig sort of vertical rise, while the Suitor, Georg, has an exaggerated sweep of hair descending on one side from a Hitler-style soup bowl cut. The makeup artist configured his face so as to turn every expression into a wild exaggeration of tragicomedy. Georg cannot make the slightest move without a goosestep forward and enters his personal madness with megalomaniac intensity. The advising uncle wears an ascetic monk's cowl and habit with shaven head and deep voice.

Periodically, a monolithic black box that could be a coffin, could be The Void, could be just a vehicle for disappearing, would glide across the stage. Characters would appear in and out of it with impish frequency.

The score, by Tom Waits, was a curious mixture of oompah Brechtian carnivalia, old tin pan alley showtune stuff and vintage Waits -- which itself is a mixture of slogans, phrases and saws from childhood mixed with salt-tack and whiskey. The most memorable piece was a dweeziled version of "The Red Rose and the Briar" which had the performers flying on wires a good twenty feet above the stage at one point.

Maryanne Faithful, for whom many made this pilgrimage to see for perhaps the last time, appeared as The Devil, dressed in tasteful tails of black or vivid red. Her long hair was tied back in a severe ponytail rope and her husky voice reminiscent of Marlene Dietrich, met every demand and more placed upon it. In fact, her voice was so powerful, she could have blasted the old Geary Theatre without benefit of amplified mike. It is perhaps ironic that this particular performer, who began her career with the sweet ballade "As the Tears Go By" only to descend a sharp decline by sleeping with Mick Jagger, has certainly made her fortune by playing the bad girl to the hilt in reality. She had the audience in the palm of her hand simply by virtue of who she was and she could have stripped naked singing "I'm a little teapot" and still got them all on their feet that night.

At the end, she sort of peeked out from the wings, coy and pretending shyness and the audience loved it. Then she strode out and someone threw a rose onto the stage. Which she graciously accepted. She is a trooper in the best sense of the show-business world and at this point no one can deny she has paid her dues many times over.

Such was the Black Rider at the Geary Street theatre this September 2004. This was the only North American engagement, as the international show flies from here to Australia's Sydney Opera House.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Hear tell a couple of chiropractors got together and have started a business on Park Street where they do a kind of comprehensive work-over your health for those needing a bit of general encouragement and guidance well beyond the usual bend and snap. Looks like they focus on folks that feel they have a bit of middle-age spare tire arrangement but they can handle all sorts of body geologies. Seems like a real winner. DC's have long suffered as the 2nd cousin in medicine, but seldom have been given the credit they deserve for epidemiological perspective. Island Life recommends checking out www.health-makeover.com. They have plans designed for individuals and for couples. You can check em out at www.health-makover.com

RE: the Harbor Bay Apartments flap, we have some new input. Seems the Harbor Bay complex was a scene of scenes for some time. Last year the IPD responded 2,000 times to calls to the troubled area and that the place had developed an objectionable reputation as a locus for drugs, prostitution and general bad behavior. Hence, it appears more reasonable that the owner would want to shut the troublespot down, albeit they chose a rather draconian solution.

The City has levied a lawsuit as a result of the mass eviction notice affecting some 400 tenants.

The plot thickens. Stay tuned for developments.

As for politics, did any of you check out the latest Island Gerbil? Man, it looked like the place had gone over to radical Stalinists -- and this from a paper edited and published from the heart of Texas. There is a brand new column entitled "Election Events" featuring a raft of meetings and efforts from phone banks calling "swing states" to the hours of the local Democratic HQ. Then there was the reasonable breakdown of candidates running for Island office this November. What on earth is happening to the Island? It's almost like Democracy! Maybe there is hope after all.

NOW ABOUT THIS GLOBAL WARMING THING

Reports from Florida are not Specifically Too Good. The place is quite a mess, after four hurricanes. Nobody is saying Bush is responsible, but you know what? Bush IS responsible. The guy is a total fuckup. It all occured on his watch. Just like 911. He caused the weather and we say a vote for Bush is another vote for hurricanes. What the heck: the guy drank like a fish and he probably drank hurricane punches by the dozen while in the Service. Guilty by reason of association. Vote for Kerry or get blown away.

OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK

Sean, our house Republican, has been stomping up and down the stairs in a fury. Despite the fact that the RNC owns both houses of Congress, the Presidency, most of the state governorships and the majority of the justices for the courts, it really rankles any die-hard Neo-Con that the vast majority of California's 35 million really revile everything that Neo-Conservatism espouses. The stomping is particularly disturbing as Sean lives with his mother on the third floor. This means that he has three floors of metal stairs to stomp before he gets to the bottom of his ya-yas or whatever and that may not yet be the end of it. We have tried to reason with the boy , but his IQ is optimistically somewhere near 50 to 60 and his mother works for the Military at Fort Ord and so is damn near useless in these affairs for she is congealed into an opinion that will never change until the end of the next ice age.

Julee has tried and she has said, "Sean, you love America do you not?"

"Yeah."

"You love freedom do you not?"

"Yeah."

"So freedom means you get to do what you want, right?"

"Yeah."

"So its good we have differences because that is what makes America great, right?"

"!"

"C'mon Sean: America has 350 million people. If we all thought and said the same thing we would be boring robots."

"Maybe. I gotta go ask mah mom about that."

So it goes.

Meanwhile the nervous running up and down the stairs has tailed off into a tired trudging and a joyful bounding up to view the new tenant, age three weeks. The proud dad, name of Wes has a website to promote his career in advertising and he is writing a book for his little girl. It ought to be finished by the time she has learned how to read. His book and bio can be found at www.undergroundlayer.com.

THE MIDNIGHT TRAIN TO GEORGIA

It passed the midnight hour and the Putamayo World Music Hour is on the old stereo. Someone is singing a song in Portugese about the beautiful women from Belize. From far across the flats of Buena Vista comes the nightly howl of the midnight train passing through shuttered and dark Jack London Square from the bristling cranes of the Port of Oaktown. The sound wavers across the water to the marina and passes between the clinker masts over the sparse grasses that now own the once busy Beltline, over the empty brick buildings of the cannery, weaves through the window screens and eddies around the door of the computer cubical.

Tonight, Officer O'Madhauen sits sipping his stale coffee cup in his cruiser hard by the troubled Harbor Bay Apartments, while dealers peer out from shuttered blinds, muttering about how business is going to the dogs. Somewhere down Grand a solitary dog lifts its head in its kennel, woofs desultorily and lays back down; moon is not yet full. That swelling moon glints off of the windows of the DNC HQ down on 9th and Central, while a chill wind blows trash around the HQ for the RNC on Park Avenue.

Upstairs Kelly and her new baby sleep a deep sleep of dreams with all of life stretching forth in boundless possibility, beginning on the morrow. It's another quiet night on the Island and that is just fine for that is the way we like it before the bustle of the workweek begins.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

SEPTEMBER 19, 2004

BEFORE THE SOUTHERN CROSS

Plans are shaping up for the November Presidential Elections, including a massive elections monitoring program spanning the country and including UN representitives who feel that any election in the United States affects the rest of the world. Of particular interest are 14 "battleground" States where abuses of the electoral process have been a problem over the course of many years.

Island-life is sending a team to Dade County in Florida as part of the effort by the People for the American Way and Working Assets.

Come what may, there must be no repetition of the fiasco that took place in Florida in the year 2000. The courts have only recently tossed out the questionable "Voter Purge List", which disenfranchised well over half a million, largely African-American voters.

SHOFAR!

As some of you know the High Holy Days are upon us with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, beginning on the 15th. May your evening meal be garnished with sweet apples and honey. Yom Kippur begins the 24th.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC

The 35th Annual Blues Festival in Babylon launches on the 25th, with acoustic Keb Mo and pianist Marcia Ball headlining over at the meadow at Fort Mason, among others. The following day sees Buddy Guy onstage, joined by Santana, Charlie Musselwhite and John Lee Hooker, Jr.

Otherwise of note, Bob Dylan will appear in Berkeley in October. It is estimated that all tickets were gone within minutes of being offered.

RAMPANT NIMBY-ISM

Some years ago Island voters approved Measure A, which is potentially the most draconian anti-growth measure ever passed anywhere. It essentially states that no new multi-family dwellings are to be built anywhere on the the Island without voter approval, no existing structures may be converted as such, and all structures built before 1945 are considered "protected" and may not be razed or substantially altered without Council permission.

Well, the City has granted permission for an old cannery on Blanding Avenue to be converted to live-work spaces and a band of anti-growth people has responded with a lawsuit on City Hall for violating the terms of Measure A.

City Hall has responded that 70% of each space is to be devoted to commercial enterprise and so the spaces are exempt, but the Islanders will have none of that. Stay tuned for developments.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Everybody woke up this morning to the sounds of a furious storm lashing the Bay Area with unseasonable violence. Noted Caltrans workers pumping water from blocked exit ramps on a drive afterwards. After three hurricanes and a seeming endless supply of new ones pounding the Southeast one has to wonder if people are getting that Global Warming feeling yet.

Afterwards, the air was fresh and clean, however, and even the old Hippo -- a ponderous 1976 Volvo which has never been washed -- looked a little brighter.

Friends and neighbors have been coming up to us, thanking us profusely for our participation in the Election Monitoring Team. Can't say we are really looking forward to visiting the East Coast, with its objectionable assemblage of self-imposed restrictions and intolerances and its odious Ocean filled with shipwrecks and fish pee, but work must be done. The better to return home to this green jewel set in the emerald Bay, this egret-dotted estuary rimmed by red rock mountains, this home of ours, this Island.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

SEPTEMBER 12, 2004

OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK

Much joy to Kelly and Wes for the House has a bouncing new baby girl tenant who arrived at 7:00 AM -- on Labor Day, natch.  Weighing in at 8 pounds with all of 21 inches, Clara Gabrielle Showalter joined the Third Floor after 8 hours of labor by Kelly.  Kelly has been closeted upstairs but Wes has been walking around with a new swagger in his step. 

CALL ON FOR COPSHAWLHOLME FAIRE

The weekend was jammed with events for the end of Summer, including a variety of street fairs showcasing artwork and music in a grand cornucopia from Albany down to Fremont along the East Bay.  The Mother of all Fairs and the great East Bay annual secret, was certainly the Solano Stroll up in tiny Albany north of Berkeley.  One would expect a petite ville like Albany to host a two block party with lemonade and the local Kiwanis providing the lion's share of activity, but the reality is that the Solano Stroll sprawls for two miles spanning fifteen blocks with live bands changing every hour at a rate of three per block, magicians, fire eaters, and food booths ladling grub out to somewhere near a quarter of a million people.  No joke. 

We managed to catch the last set of the jazz trio Girl Talk in its newest incarnation.  Girl Talk is the brainchild of Valerie Bach who plays lovely Brazilian-inflected guitar on a custom f-hole archtop.  Priscilla Gardiner supplies bass on her custom 5-string with body-mounted tuners, and Sheila Smith kept busy on percussion and husky vocals.

The trio ended up their set with a spirited version of "Our Miss Brooke" and continuously stopped passersby with its accomplished polyrhythms and Valerie's precise and bell-like clarity of attack on the fretboard.

On the Island, we were embarrassed with riches in the form of two fairs occurring simultaneously.  Most notably, the Peanut Butter and Jam Festival occupied Webster for two days in honor of the birth of Skippy Peanut Butter and general good times.  The old street was lined with all sorts of food vendors, including the new New Zealand Pie restaurant now occupying the old Croll's Restaurant venue. Croll's pizza and Croll's Bar remain in the historic 1800's building.

Took in the closing to the latest issue of Celtic-rock band, Tempest. 

This band has been around for some time in the Bay Area and has persisted with some success on the fringes with an international and eclectic lineup.  Violinist hails from Fresno, but the percussion comes from Cuba, the guitarist from Dublin, Ireland, the bassist from Austria, and the lead vocalist/dual electric mandolin-guitar from Norway.  Together they pump out a very energetic dance-oriented rock with licks pulled from traditional Irish and Scottish country tunes.

If that does not sound bizarre, well, the whole thing works rather well and the group has a devoted following.  During the set, they managed to gather crowds to gawk and dance.

At the far end of the Island, the annual Art in the Park held forth under initially chilly skies.  Along the green sward of Franklin Park, which is dotted by some of the Island's oldest trees, some antedating the founding of the Island as a City, various artists presented their paintings, ceramics and constructions while a jazz band played on the elevated bandstand in the middle.

Shown here is Susan Laing, who makes hangings and shawls out of raw wool.  Susan goes to wool auctions and buys bags of unworked wool directly from the shearers, then processes and dyes the material before pressing, combing and working the fibers into her creations.

It can take many hours to assemble and finish one of Susan's all-natural fiber artworks.  Here is a wall hanging titled "Sunset on Eucalyptus."

STAY

KFOG hosted a listener appreciation concert by Dave Matthews in Golden Gate Park Sunday and by all accounts the free concert was a blasting success.  Because of Dave's wild popularity, the station was constrained to issue tickets so as to limit the number of attendees to something reasonable.  After a rousing set, Dave was joined on stage by none other than Carlos Santana for renditions of "Along the Watchtowers", "Warehouse", and "Jimi Thing".

All I can say is, "Will somebody PLEASE find me a bootleg of that one?"

IN TIMES LIKE THESE

This November's General Election will be notable for several reasons, but one hallmark of how low this Country has sunk resides in the fact that for the first time in 300 years this election will be supervised by an international team of inspectors.  You know, the same people who go down to Argentina and El Salvador and any old Banana Republic to ensure things stay kosher.

Teams to include attorneys and clergy as well as citizens of good repute are being sent to most of the "battleground" States to observe the proceedings at polling places so that there be no repetition of questionable practices as occurred in the year 2000.

Saturday, Working Assets organized the first of four volunteer sign-ups at Yerba Buena gardens and just about 1,000 people showed up, angry as all hell and not willing to take it any more.  Working Assets, a federation of socially conscious banks and financial institutions, is supplying 14,000 Poll Monitor volunteers to assist the effort in the year 2004 that no repetition of the appalling year 2000 fiasco occur ever again.

Island-life is sending a team to Florida and we will be reporting from that State as events unfold in November.

10,000 POINTS OF LIGHT

This week marked a macabre milestone in that, with the latest battles in Falluja, the casualty list topped 1000 for the Americans.  This does not include several hundred killed among the coalition forces or the hundreds of coalition civilians killed as hostages and in incidental attacks.  Well over 10,000 Iraqis have been killed (for independent reports of estimates of those killed, including conservative and liberal estimates and sources, go to http://www.iraqbodycount.net/bodycount.htm).

Last night, all over the Bay Area, thousands of people gathered to pay respects to the war dead, and the Island was no exception, where 175 people of all ages, all backgrounds, gathered for an emotional 45 minute candlelight vigil before City Hall.  Using the Moveon.org internet communication system, spontaneous vigils were assembled all across the country to do what the Administration has not done: recognize the lives of our own soldiers. 

To this date, not one member of this Administration in Washington D.C. has attended one single funeral or paid respects in the slightest to one single family of any soldier killed in Iraq.  Instead, the returning bodies are being concealed and all public ceremony has been removed, including the custom of draping the caskets in with the American Flag.

In Michigan, an angry father posted a sign stating sarcastically just how the man felt.

Iraq was invaded in March of 2003 under the pretext of finding and removing Weapons of Mass Destruction, including poison gas, biological agents and nuclear weapons.  In addition, the Administration claimed clear links between Al Qaeda and the government of Iraq.  No such weapons have been found and no connection between Al Qaeda has been uncovered.

Next to me, a grizzled veteran, wearing a well-decorated battle-jacket and Marine Corps insignia, stood silently holding a candle with no cup or candle to shield the wind. 

At the end of the vigil, names of the local fallen were called out.

SUNDAY, BLOODY SUNDAY

Well, that certainly was a tempestuous week.  Hurricanes Frances and Ivan slammed into Florida, Dan Rather has been called on the carpet for memos that question the military record of the appointed President, the death count in the Middle East reached record highs with no end in sight, and Burning Man 2004 ended up with its usual orgy of fire and wildness in the Blackrock desert.  On the Island, the City attorney has slapped a lawsuit on the Texas-based Fifteen Group for issuing a mass mailing of evictions on the entire roster of residents at the Harbor Bay Complex involving some 400 tenants.

The heat wave that blasted the Bay Area has subsided to the usual fog in the morning ritual.  This week also marked the grim anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on New York City, in which two hijacked airliners were crashed into the the World Trade Center, destroying 7 buildings in downtown Manhattan and killing nearly 3,000 people.  A third airliner was crashed into the Pentagon and a fourth was brought down in a Pennsylvania field when passengers fought back to regain control of the plane.

This year at Burning Man, the Temple of Stars was dedicated to lost loved ones.  And each paid tribute in their own idiosyncratic way on the "Playa" before the doomed structure.

Each year, 30,000 devotees gather for a week-long festival of life, art, anarchy and general snarkiness which culminates in the destruction by fire of a 180-foot high statue of wood and neon.  Its just about as far from Island Life as one can get, but we like the idea anyway.

On the Island, we celebrate the flowering of the midnight cereus with champagne and music and our temporal art displays tend towards Harlan posting his inscrutable signs along Lincoln Street.  For that is the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

SEPTEMBER 6, 2004 - LATE EDITION

AND ITS DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN

Understand that John Fogerty has a new CD out - after an hiatus of some 25 years battling with the RIAA people for the rights to be paid for songs he writes.  Man, what a weird world. It's like saying to somebody, all their kids belong to the Corporation until contract release.

We are back and down from the mountains.  Had some fair luck fishing, although the first stringer might have have been somewhat of a disappointment.  As you can see here.

But at 11,500 feet, the fish don't get much bigger, even with the Global Warming providing an assist.

Heard the Russians have been having more than their share of troubles.  Sympathies and consolations go out to Ivan and Ivana in Moscow.  Heard we missed Der Governator Arnold embarrass himself and the State while groveling before the RNC in the eternally patient New York City.  Hey Arnold, Don't be such a "girly man," and show a smidgen of backbone, wouldja?

Returning to the Bay Area from the unearthly warm Sierra, where the normal night time temps of 28 degrees were replaced by 41 degrees of temperate snow-melting weather, we slammed into a record-smashing heat-wave.  Mr. Jim down the street noted the thermometer under the deck registering 102.

OAKLAND'S ART AND SOUL

The modest little street fair in Oaktown that began some five years ago has gone Uptown in a big way, with the formerly free event charging $5 to see world class acts on four stages, opening with the stupendously popular Dave Matthews Band, formerly of South Africa via Charlottesville, VA where Dave and a violinist used to knock about the campus bars there.  Dave is one of those rarities who actually possesses fine musicianship as well as a talent for composing intelligent lyrics, a rare combo in this world of scratch 'n sniff "rawk" n roll.

Not content to anchor the fest with such a blockbuster, Oaktown also has brought in world-renowned Los Lobos -- who have just cut a new CD, recent chart-topper Mindy Smith ("Come to Jesus"), as well as jazz giants Ledisi and Brian Culbertson (reviews of which can be found in the September 2002 issues).  All this and the extraordinary world smorgasbord provided by the plethora of ethnicities that thrive in Oaktown.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Heard Tom Waits has teamed with MaryAnn Faithful, Robert Wilson and (posthumously) W.S. Burroughs to present the Black Rider, a sort of Kurt Weill type of musical, at ACT in Babylon.  Performance of this exclusive North American engagement is slated for August 26 - Sep 26.  Judging from the people involved, we would not expect a light and lively G&S operetta by any means.

Percy Worthington-Buhgsplatt and friends will be gathering up in Berzerkeley for the annual Solano Stroll next weekend. Understand guitarist Valerie Bach will be bringing her jazz trio, Girl Talk, to perform.  Should be worth getting out for.

Both the Warfield and the Fillmore have their respective bills packed with screamers, shouters and headbangers for the months of September and October. Notably, Punk Voter is hosting "Rock against Bush" on the 21st, so you engaged punks can all come out for that one.  Not until Gillian Welch (producer and performer in the movie "Oh Brother Wherefore Art Thou?") takes over on the weekend of October 8th will the sound system modulate a bit with some "roots" country.  These times seem to call for shouting and screaming, it seems.

Note that Steve Earle (Jerusalem) has another prickly CD out.  No word on when the controversial Americana roots-style musician will be blowing into town. 

On the fateful commemoration day, Sept. 11, the 6th annual free Power to the Peaceful concert will be held at Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park from 11:00 to 5:00. Headliners include Michael Franti's Spearhead and String Cheese Incident.  Amy Goodman will deliver a keynote address.  For info, go to www.powertothepeaceful.org

Cyberfest will showcase techno stuff at the Cow Palace on the 9th of October . . . on second thought, techno sucks. Forget about it.

The mercurial Joan Osborne appears at the Independent on the 8th of September.  Heard she had shelved her R&B stuff temporarily for a stint with . . . The Grateful Dead?!  No idea what she sounds like now. 

And next weekend, our own Island will host the Peanut Butter and Jam festival, which celebrates this humble isle as the birthplace of Skippy Peanut Butter. 

OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK

September 2nd was the due date, but Kelly and Wes are still expecting a bouncing baby girl any day now.  Kelly says she waited until our return before dropping her litter.  Josh is back from surgery (bone implant) and the stitches cannot keep the nationally-ranked bicycle champion from perambulation exercise.  House Mama, Julee, has flown south to succour an old friend whose Significant Other dropped dead of heart attack during a move-in. 

Seems Kelly will just have to put off that birth until Julee gets back, loaded with Italian advice and remedies.

Happy birthday to Lynn Lyndberg in Pleasanton. 

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Officer O'Madhauen has been romping and stomping -- more than usual -- in a crackdown on Labor Day Weekend DUI.  Here is the team in action, making a routine traffic stop involving a broken headlight.

It's good to know we are well defended against terrorist jaywalkers on the Island.

In other news, the State has finally turned over control of the Webster Street corridor to the City after the dismantling of the Naval Base (which occurred ages ago in another time).  We can now go ahead with planning to revitalize the economically-depressed street. 

Negotiations with the Texas-based property owner of the Harbor Bay complex (who last month issued wholesale eviction notices to some 400 families) are underway, with the City striving to avert a minor disaster in housing in the West End.

BLOW WINDS, CRACK YOUR CHEEKS

Reports from Florida indicate the immense storm has slowed in its march across the state there, but still is managing to toss pine trees about like so many fiddlestix.  People in sensible block houses are hunkered down in relative safety, while mobile home and prefab dwellers are taking a beating. 

Thought the point of having a mobile home was that you could just tow the feller to safety as needed, but never mind.

One comment from the Old Folks: as a woman was passing a portrait of the "Laughing Jesus," she turned and snapped, "This is nothing to laugh about!"

The Island will be enjoying the long weekend for a while yet and we are still settling in here, vacuuming the sand from the tent, washing piles of clothes and polishing the accoutrements of camping.   Will be posting the camp images later this week for your viewing pleasure, as well as some accounts of encounters with curious folk, especially our meeting with the wizardly incarnation of Gandalf, himself, in the form of one Peter, the digeradooist.

You don't do the digeradoo?  Shame on you!

On this Island, we digeradoo, or we noodle on the flute, or we cavort among the strings, for music is the sign of healthy living.  And of Life itself.

That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great short week.

AUGUST 21, 2004 - SPECIAL EARLY EDITION

SEE THAT TRAIN; LOOK AT THAT TRAIN: IT GOES BOTH WAYS

Friend and neighbor Mike Rettie glimpsed this photo op posed beside the freeway where there is no stopping allowed.  But Mike is a thoroughbred Californian and where no sign is in evidence, then there is no rule and bother the silly rules anyway. What caught his eye was sight of one of the last luxury "dome cars" in existence, en route to some museum perhaps.

At one time, before air flight became the way to go, these dome cars provided the most posh way to travel from coast to coast.  First devised by robber barons Steve and Jay Gould as a trans-continental express, the system waited until after the Great Depression and World War II for its incarnation as the fabulous California Zephyr in 1949.  It represented everything and all of the excess of the post-war period, with lavish amenities offered for the two and half day trip from New York to San Francisco.  But by 1962, air travel and modern alternatives had rendered the enterprise unprofitable.  The line filed with the ICC for termination.  And continued to file, requesting death by paper until finally in 1969 the ICC granted permission for the last train to roll and the last train puffed to a stop in none other place than Oaktown, California in 1970 after a run of 20 years.

Various local lines in the West continued to employ the cars on short runs between Denver and Salt Lake City until 1983.  Amtrak owns this model here, and it is used for special events.  None of the 77 cars still running have been scrapped. Some now operate in Mexico and a number have been consigned to museums.  According to the website at http://calzephyr.railfan.net/history.html here are the car's current appointments:

Currently, the car can accommodate 40 passengers for day operations, and 17 for night. Amenities include: 1 master bedroom (where the under-dome lounge used to be), 1 triple bedroom, 2 double bedrooms, showers, retention toilet, diesel generator, table seating in dome for dining by day and convertible for sleeping under the stars, galley for full meal service, bar beneath dome, round-end observation lounge, stereo, TV, cellular and terminal phones. The dome area was recently redone with beautiful woodwork added to the window frames, and an ingenious shade system designed by the car's owner

LOCAL EVENTS

The next two weeks feature a plethora of events, largely concerning political actions taking advantage of the students returning to campus and the time freed by parents when the knee-highs have gone Back to School.  Here are some of the events planned:

8/21 - Saturday - The WC Handy award-winning guitarist Roy Gaines conquers the Boom-Boom Room in Babylon.

8/25 - Wed - Rally in Palo Alto at Lytton Plaza at 1 pm and march to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo's offices.  Eshoo was the co-sponsor of the H.R. 4104, The Intelligence Transformation Act. 

8/26 - 9/26 - ACT in Berzerkeley has scored the exclusive North American debut of "The Black Rider", a Kurt Weill-styled musical by Robert Wilson, Tom Waits and William S. Burroughs (posthum.) and featuring none other than Marianne Faithfull and Matt McGrath.  We suggest you get your tickets right now.  And  by right now we mean, in the next few minutes online or on the phone for this one is going to be very hot.

8/27 - Sonny Landreth, the wunderkind of the electric guitar, holds forth at the intimate Great American Musical Hall with the gravel-voiced Preacher Boy, followed the next night by the statuesque singer of Concrete Blonde on Saturday. 

8/27 - 9/2 - A scad of actions are planned to challenge the RNC, including the famous "wireless bicycle".  That action features a bicycle pulling a small trailer loaded with a WiFi-equipped laptop and a set of robotics armed with colored chalk. The idea is that internet-savvy people send slogans to a distribution website, which then forwards the phrases to the bicycles pedaling all over Manhattan.  The robotic arms will then scribe your special message to the RNC on the sidewalk with water-soluble biodegradable chalk. Interested parties should check out http://a.parsons.edu/~jk/thesis/overview.html

8/31 - At the Commonwealth Club (of all places!) Michael C. Ruppert of www.fromthewilderness.com will speak on "The Truth about 9-11".  The CC, usually host to the likes of Conservative wonks and talking-heads like Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger, appears to be giving serious cred to the Alternative viewpoint.

At the venerable Fillmore, the shows just do not quit, with Aimee Mann taking the Saturday slot after Liz Phair's rocking show on the 19th.  George Thorogood and his Destroyers fully intend to justify their names midweek with blues-rock on the 25th.  The quirky Sonia Dada takes Friday entirely without warmup on Friday the 27th.  Ben Kweller brings his alternative band in on the 28th and you better be ready to rap and be righteous for Public Enemy on the 3rd of September.

After their little brush with fame, Lavay Smith is back to Cafe du Nord with her insatiable Red Hot Skillet Lickers for some 40's camp and jazz this weekend on the 21st.

As Scoop Nisker used to say, "If you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own."

TAKE ME TO THE RIVER

The irrepressible Americana band, Houston/Jones rocked into McRath's Pub down the way once again on a swing-by in an ever increasingly busy schedule Friday night.  Saturday they play at the Oakland Metro in a benefit for BOSS, an organization that supports the homeless in the Bay Area.  In September, the band will appear on KKUP in Cupertino and the following day, on KPIG in Watsonville.  Into October, the versatile group will join the La Honda Bluegrass festival and then perform at Rancho Nicasio on the 17th with the up 'n coming Blame Sally -- those of you who have been to Rancho Nicasio know that this venue tends to host the very best and anyone from Joan Baez to Pat Metheny can show up unexpectedly for a sit-in.

Friday night they did an encore with their special medley of "Take Me to the River," "Born on the Bayou", and "Suzie Q", returning "Take Me to the River" to its gut-bucket blues origins.

Travis Jones was in fine form Friday night, with vocals reminiscent of Willie Nelson.   His style of music puts the pulse of blood back into music and some say that is the way it should be.

COMBATANTS IN DUBIOUS BATTLE

Before we go further, let us congratulate local homeboy, Mr. Ward for his boxing victory in the Middle-Heavyweight class.  Ward, who hails from Oaktown, came up fighting from the King's gym circuit and has been aimed like an arrow for the place he now occupies.

Meanwhile, the bunting is being burnished and the podiums propped for the final homestretch in the various political races happening here and nationally.  Babar, the Conservative, is carefully selecting his ties.  Papoon, the Liberal Candidate of the Not Insane Party, has been busy scampering up and down the County pushing for his Nut Pile Budget agenda and fighting off aspersions placed upon his war record.  Eugene Shrubb has been vacationing at his ranch, NeverEver Land, letting his VP, Chintzy direct his staff and the Occupation Effort in Newark.  

                                         

Babar appeals to the nostalgic vote, while Papoon carries significant  hometown appeal as well as frisky energy.  Shrubb is counting on his loyal team consisting of Paul Wolfishness, Jasmine Rice, and John Ashhole.  May the better Bum win.

THE MOUNTAINS WIN AGAIN

There will be no Island-Life update on the 28th, as we will be sequestered in the High Sierra for the annual Mountain Sabbatical.  Rest assured, however, you will still get your Island-life weekly requirements in the form of extra issues, most likely during the days preceding and following the national election.  This issue is being put to bed early so that the stupendous machines of production can be locked up for an early morning start on the morrow. 

Even now, the late summer winds are pushing high rooster tails across the Island skies.  The last BBQ's are being had down at the strand and the Canadian geese are getting that "time to pack the bags" look about them.  Everyone is harvesting their tomatoes and the neighbors have a fine crop of squashes growing on the roofs of their storage sheds -- heck, space is a premium here.  But the strawberries are still putting out and the pepper plants have a while to go yet.  Upstairs, the expectant couple is still expecting -- any day now; the due date is September 2nd. 

That's the way it is on the Island. See you again in two weeks.

AUGUST 15, 2004

THIS ISLAND LIFE SEPARATES RIGHTS FROM WRONGS

There is always a little tingle of anticipation just after sitting down each week to begin the new column.  The list of items sits on a neat yellow legal pad attached to a clipboard and the week's photos sit in the tank and the machines are all humming with expectation.  When this one goes out, will they get the jokes in Sweden?  Will the Philippines call again with another complaint about incomprehensible irony?  Will New Jersey bother to read anything at all?  Will the wine hold out past the end of the HOB hour on KFOG?  Life is full of uncertainties.  But this Island-life cranks out for 52 issues a year and has done so for the past five years and we ain't stopping now. 

Hey, this is one great Island!  Let's got for it! 

OOH BABY, I LIKE YOUR CLOTHES!

Here is a brief report on the status of the Island-life T-shirts which have been selling like hot cakes and a little report on the state of the state of discourse.

About 20 or so have been sold over "landlines", the vast majority of which have been the woman-empowering "Rosie the Riveter" image.  We had a most engaging conversation with a mature gentleman who exclaimed on seeing the shirt on the table, "My god! That's Rosie!  I knew her!"

Rosie the Riveter, the image which has adorned countless WWII propaganda posters, usually with the text "We can do it!", was an actual woman who worked the Richmond Point shipyards.  The man had been a member of the merchant marine during the war and he remembered the Port Chicago disaster, but would not speak of it. 

Common knowledge has it that the "real" Rosie was found by actor Walter Pidgeon in the Willow Run Airplane factory in Michigan.  Her name was Rosie Monroe and she was used in several propaganda films.  She had moved from Kentucky to Michigan with two daughters after separation from her husband in search of work to support her family.

In fact, long before the prop films came to be, Norman Rockwell had conceived his evocative image from de facto realties that existed prior to government control.  Male bodies were needed to fuel the war machine that was to combat the most extreme threat to human civilization ever encountered.  That left a great gap in the labor effort, where bodies were needed to build the armaments to fight a very formidable enemy. 

The largest ship-building facility in the world during the war was the Kaiser yards at Point Richmond where some 27% of the 100,000 strong work force were women. Some of them may have been named Rosemary or Rose, so it is no surprise that the man may have believed that the original Rosie hailed from Richmond, CA.  It is there, and not in Michigan, that the only Rosie the Riveter Museum and Memorial exists. The Rosie of the propaganda films died in 1987 and was definitively the discovery of Walter Pigeon.   Who Rockwell used as his model, remains a mystery and it is very possible that a gal from Richmond provided just the image to pull well over 6 million workers into the war effort at the time.

So there you have it: like the Mona Lisa, Rosie the Riveter remains ineffable, eludable, and escapable.  A mystery without definition of beginning or end.

In any case, our most interesting conversations have been with local Republicans.  And we find these conversations worthy of note. 

In all cases we begin with the question, "Just why do you like George Bush?"  And from there we let them have their free reign.  Indeed, members of the RNC share the common characteristic of refusing to hear or see anything other than themselves when they get going.

From some half dozen persons, we gather the following:

The conservatives like GB because he "represents their moral values" and they "believe he is a good man".  All other issues really devolve into silly bickering over trivialities and if pushed result in the summary declaration that all politicians are the same and the result is the same no matter what.  Everyone deplores Iraq and states that the situation there is "unresolvable," because of "cult religions." 

Well, one can argue a lot of things here, but lets take things at full value: as much as the speakers intend them without distortion.

It is adolescent to interject "Oh, your values include wiring a man's genitalia with batteries?" when people start talking about moral values.  Like all such people, those who claim Bush represents "their moral values" mean by that GB stands for a few family-centered moral values.  These values are largely unstated and left unspecific for political use.  Defined more specifically, they highlight a male-centered nuclear family that features a man, a woman and an indeterminate number of children, as well as a middle-level income.  Very well: the man appears to represent your values.  That George Bush, draft dodger, coke addict, alcoholic, womanizer and total failure in running some seven corporations just might represent and believe non of your values is a distinct possibility. It is possible that George Bush is actually an amoral bastard who represents and believes solely in himself and a handful of a few wealthy people -- not all of them Americans.   It is also possible that as a practiced politician he says one thing and does another. Then again, if he really is an honest man, he certainly is the most incompetent boob we have ever seen.

In any case, people are surprised to hear that on this Island, thought to be uniformly RNC, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.  In a recent newspaper article from The Comical, the Bay Area's surviving daily after the tabloidization of The Exasperator, a reporter indicated that far from being flung on the far left bank in isolation with hippies and wackos -- as so many are led to believe -- the San Francisco Bay Area floats solidly in the mid-stream of an increasingly poly-cultural and politically diverse America.  It is the antiquated Electoral College which grabs an entire state, converting millions of people to either a "Blue" or a "Red" icon on a map, when the truth is that they all agree on a large number of major issues.  Perhaps the divisions in America are entirely within the mind.

THE GREEN FUSE THAT DRIVES THE FLOWER

(Corrected 8-16-04)

Made the acquaintance of the delightful Iris & John who live down the way. Iris has been the proprietor of Vines, a coffee-shop/garden nursery for some 20 years down on Lincoln Avenue. Iris has been through drought, floods, freezes and T.V. shows and there is nothing about things that grow which she does not know about and command with ease.  In person, she is a strikingly statuesque figure with a sort of royal gravitas and air of knowledge that hints of some ancient Greek personage.  Demeter, or Ceres if you will.  Iris is wont to take the air in the early morning and she has reported to us on the state of the snowy egrets nesting over by Ballena Bay.  Iris handles the affairs of the attached Thompson Nursery while John dispenses the nectar of Mt. Olympus in Vines.

Also made the acquaintance of Mike and Agnes Rettie.  For all we know, they may be gods, spirits or elves.  There does seem  to be something magical about them and, as this is a magical Isle, that seems fair enough.  In fact, such is their magic that we had confounded this couple with the couple that owns Vines although they resemble each other not in the slightest.

In any case, like any deities worth their salt, Agnes and Mike are fond of taking the early evening air on a stroll about the Island in a sort of contrapositive to the matins of Iris.  You know, checking in on the squabbling ducks, making sure the Canadian geese are provided for, plumbing the drop-lines of the palms, verifying the tides, consulting with the egrets, noting the status of the birds-of-paradise -- that sort of thing. 

Among our stable of remarkable Reporters and Correspondents, we now include one  sprite and one (possible) wood elf. And herewith include the products of their labors.  Mike has sent us a couple Island images for your delectation and amusement.  Here is a close-up of the delicate folds of a datura.

And because the Island is at the center of a Megapolis of some eight million souls, this Island also includes the wide range of all that is now America.  Here is a little shrine captured on the sidewalk.

The story of the Chinese in California and how they were brought to work the railroads and then abandoned afterward is one for Oog and Aag, that redoubtable pair, to relate a bit later. Therein lies such a tale of the Gold Mountain and long disappointment and endurance under trouble and we will come to that, we promise.

CONCERTS AT THE COVE

Friday saw the last of the Summer Concerts at the Cove with the largest ever attendance crowd to this free event standing somewhere near 2,000 persons, all to hear Pete Escovedo, former Island resident, perform his caliente style of fiery Caribbean special version of Latin jazz. Pete started the set somewhat conservatively, but quickly moved into a more energetic jazz.  He soon had a conga line snaking through the "pit" area.

Escovedo used to live on the Island, but moved to Los Angeles under the pressure of recording and label contracts.  Starting up rather slow and calm, somewhat reminiscent of dinner jazz, the band started really cooking and by the end of the second set the old master had the crowd snaking in a conga line around knots of dancing couples in front of the stage.  He put in a nice crunching version of "Low Rider" near the end.  This was the last of the summer concerts until next year.

OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF OUR STREET

Our house is soon to be blessed by the most blessed of events, for neighbors Wes and Kelly are expecting one bouncing baby girl in two weeks.  The entire house is all agog.  The third floor has been running back and forth with hot soups and advice and the second floor has been running down to the corner and organizing baby showers while the first floor has been running up and down stairs with yet more advice and baby gifts and offers of assistance. Wes works in the City for an advertising firm and Kelly works, in this now persistently necessary two-income State, at the Gap.  Stay tuned for marvelous developments.

WILD WILD HORSES COULDN'T DRAG ME AWAY

Now I am thinking about a guy named Harvey.  You probably did not know him personally, but you almost certainly heard and saw the effects of his life on this earth.  He had a curious and idle mind that enjoyed playing with the elements of time and music.  He was the first, as far as we know, who turned electronic impulse to vent the organ as a musical instrument.  He essentially devised the Moog synthesizer as a component of modern pop music.  And this effort he simply handed away to anyone who could use it without strings or recompense because the effort amused him.

He often would talk to me about working the great light gels of the Babylon Opera House, hanging spider-like in a lattice hundreds of feet in the air, observing betimes the ant-like movements of the Great and Imagined-Great below.  Many other things he did as well, for his was a restless mind.  He is dead now.  During the Great Reagan-Bush Depression of the 80's, he fell ill after a breakup with his long-time companion, and like many of us he had no health insurance.  He could not afford a doctor, he could not afford medicine and he could not wait for hours in some stifling waiting room for the brief notice of an overworked intern in Emergency.  And so he died of inanition for he had no one to care for him.  A great light of the world extinguished by the gathering darkness of the times.

Before he died he learned to play the old Stones classic "Wild Horses" with another friend of mine who is more accomplished than I ever will be on the acoustic guitar.  Now, every time I hear that tune I think about Harvey and what a loss that was due to misinformed and foolish attachment to ideologies that pretended to represent morality and values.

I could give fuck-all about ideology or politics, but I do care a great deal about people like Harvey.

Now every time I hear that song, I think about Harvey and that is one of the perils of getting on with years, for I think about Julie B. every time I hear the Wallflowers' "One Headlight" and I remember Anna every time I hear the Counting Crows "Anna Begins", and the list keeps getting longer year by year and they keep putting out those songs.  Eric and Sukie and Artie and Johnny and Michael and Penny and so many others I expect to meet again only on that last dark beach when the last sun has set for this old soul.  And the air is filled with music as it should be everywhere.

On the Island, the fog is rolling in with less damp and vigor, as a high has pushed away the gloom for a few days, leaving the place almost as warm as summer should be.  Our stray housecat, Jack, is out there roaming the night in his straycat manner and the local family of raccoons have come to nosh with chittering, grunting, and 'coon talk down at the base of the stairs on the leftovers.  Its a mamma with four little raccoon babies.  Down the way, the young opossum climbs the stairs to feed on the same kind of meal left below the door at the house of the Significant Other.

Some people don't like the raccoons, but I like them and I like their chittering talk amongst themselves.  They don't bother me and I don't bother them and that's just fine for the Island needs to keep a little wildness between its well-swept streets and its manicured lawns.  Something other than lowriders, any rate.

Down at the dark strand, the waves lap at the beach where the outhouse stands like a monument to Ozymandias, while all around the boundless sands stretch far away into the darkness.

That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

AUGUST 8, 2004

DON'T YOU EVER GET ELECTED: YOU SURELY WILL GO TO HELL

The presidential race is heating up with polls showing a close ratio of voters undecided between the GOP candidate, Babar the Elephant, the Not-Insane Candidate, Papoon, and the Neo-Con incumbent, Eugene Shrubb. 

The category of "Really Could Give a Flying F About It weighs in heavily in the 30% range, but this area appears to be shrinking rapidly.  The outside candidate, Ralph Spayed, has lost the lead provided by his dedicated "Spayed Spayers" and seems to have dwindled back in the polls to the .2% segment, entirely occupied by  people who drink too much Mountain Dew and wind up watching late nite TV at three in the morning, when they start advertising the $9.99 Ronco Turnip Twaddler and sundry sexually oriented 900 numbers, as well as Ralph Spayed for President.

Poor Ralph; he will never have a ghost of a chance at becoming a 3rd Party President, but, hey, give the boy a hand for effort and for trying with such heart for about 35 years.  America has always loved a loser like Ralph, somebody who always tries but never seems to come close to the gold, no matter how much the fellow puts out effort, because, well, he just cannot do it. 

That's why so many really love George W. Bush.  Here is a fellow who has never succeeded in anything he has ever done, including running a football team and drilling for oil in Saudi Arabia.  Both of which enterprises, the boy ran into the ground with astonishing efficiency.  Fat cats were making money hand over fist drilling for oil in Saudi Arabia, but Bush, well, his company just never managed to grab the goose with the golden egg and his company went bankrupt, just like the other six companies the man headed. 

Oh just give the boy the Presidency; it will make him feel better.  Of course don't expect a guy like that to defend you and 350 million others against a bunch of savage Arabs armed with box cutters. Hey!  350 million people is hella lotta people!  Nobody can defend that many people.  Nobody could have predicted an attack!  The defenders were all new at the job, besides.

Meanwhile, Eugene Shrub has been having some significant difficultly balancing his budget while keeping the economy of the bums going and at the same time occupying Newark, California with his increasingly restive troops against an increasingly restive populace.  Somewhat to the Shrubb Administration's surprise, the people of Newark objected strenuously to being overrun by an Army of Bums, instead of greeting the invaders with flowers of welcome.

For those of you out of the loop, about a year and a half ago, Eugene Shrubb lead his army of bums to invade Newark to roust out the Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo in the form of nefarious poodles and terrierists.  No WMD's have been found in Newark and it does appear that Newark California has never possessed WMD's and never had any plans to obtain any such weapons.  Nevertheless, Eugene excuses the death, destruction and despoliation of countless liquor stores as necessary and that the world is better off now because of his action.

Babar has argued that, although the intent was noble, the bums should remove themselves from foreign involvements and should return to a balanced budget while granting generous tax incentives to the rich who may divert some of their investments from foreign interests to more local enterprises.  Papoon has stated flatly that such invasions are poo-poo and that the bums are acting like bums and attaching batteries to a guy's genitals is not just against the Geneva Convention, not just illegal as sin, not just bad for publicity, but basically sick as all fuck and we should reject such sick behavior and such people who do such things and put such people in mental hospitals instead of discussing calmly how torture can be of convenient use.

It is of Shrubb's opinion that we should stay the course.  For Newark has large liquor reserves and an efficient distribution system.  If the bums were to pull out now, the place would dissolve in chaos with roaming  of grandmothers armed with frying pans roaming the streets.  Eulalia Satyr, leader of the Real Pissed-off Grannies, has stated publicly she and the RPG's would fight to the death.

Stay tuned for further developments.

MOMMY, I WANNA T-SHIRT !

The Island-life t-shirts have been selling great guns and it seems we can hardly keep some of the fellers in stock.  Some have mentioned that, a la the newsprint that announced Dewey over Truman, these things will become collector's items for an era and an election that stood out among the rest, no matter who wins. 

For your information, the "Up Yours, Bush!" with the Rosie image has been going like hot cakes, indicating that the march in DC a few months ago which attracted some 1.5 million people, indicates a strong spirit that continues to this day.  You may not agree with the specifics, but you must agree that choice is a factor and even the staunchest Catholic must admit that choice is the major factor here, for when there is no choice, there is no god.  

Met a mature feller with a Merchant Marines sea-cap who said he knew the original Rosie the Riveter. Some of you may not know that Rosie the Riveter was a real woman who lived right here in Oaktown.  She worked on the ship building projects during World War II up in Richmond.    If you stick around we will get you some inside dope on this lady and the war effort in that time.  For we just passed the 50th anniversary of the Port Chicago disaster, and that is a most remarkable tale to tell about a place not more than ten miles north of here.  Over 350 men died in 20 seconds on that fateful day, two battleships were vaporized,  and an entire port facility was destroyed, entirely due to stupid, racist policies.

Meanwhile, Island-life notes that it acquired over 2,000 new regular visitors since the turn of the year, to add to the existing 4,000 of regular readers.

Stay tuned for developments.

Meanwhile, the t-shirts continue to sell.

WE SHALL OVERCOME

A coterie of protesters demonstrated in front of City Hall Thursday afternoon regarding the unprecedented mass eviction notice sent to 600 units at the Harbor Island apartment complex. The complex owner has stated they intend to remodel the late 1960's buildings into "the pre-eminent multifamily community" on the Island.    Some residents, having lived there well over 29 years, are feeling very put out by this summary eviction in the name of renovation.  Forty percent of the evicted renters receive Section 8 assistance.

Mayor Beverly met with protester representatives and stated unequivocally that the City is not party in partner with the owners of this complex.

In other news, the troubled County Trauma Center is going through major upheavals due to budget restrictions.  Latterly, the announcement that the financially strapped Center is to suffer another 17% staffing reduction when the waiting time in the emergency room now extends well beyond two hours, broken bones or no, has caused the staff to rise up in protest and present an appeal to the Board of Supervisors. 

This Center is the only Medical Center with a Helipad and facilities to handle injuries in the event of a major disaster, for some four million people.

The Island Hospital, partially funded by what was supposed to be a $6 million dollar property tax levy, is again in the red and the property tax is likely to be renewed despite cutting the senior residency program, the mental health unit, and the natal unit as well as numerous other programs.

The General County Sheriff for Alameda announced that he would begin removing Sheriff protection for the Courts, including gateway protection at the entrances, due to lack of funding.

The County Counsel has announced termination of four attorneys and fifty percent of its paralegal staff, and is planning for additional layoffs.

The County Auditors and the County Defense Attorney's have announced additional layoffs.  All county parks have cut back access hours to the public. 

In Babylon, the Police Department has instituted rolling "off-days" in which officers are required to take the day off with pay -- the city saves money by halting non-essential services. 

Meanwhile, the Governator in Sacramento is announcing additional cutbacks in a revamping of the state government that features radical reduction of services.

A proposal stands before the legislature to close the gates on all state parks due to fiscal emergency.

The Oaktown Schools district, facing a multimillion dollar payback on loans is about to be seized by the federal government and the entire school district may be dissolved.

The United States is facing the worst job growth index since the Great Depression and the country now has fewer total jobs than four years ago.  Conservative analysts still claim that the country climbed out of recession in the year 2001.  Shown below is a chart provided by the Chamber of Commerce. Please note the bar for the year 2001.

The latest report shows the GDP at 2.2%, which all analysts are describing as "measly," "not acceptable," and "hardly heartwarming."

The S&P retail index is at a ten month low. 

So few jobs were added in the past few months that the sum total of employment is well under what we enjoyed in 2000. All the stocks are tanking out and nobody is making money at all.

Then, of course, there is Iraq.  Which is certainly not better off now than it was three years ago by any means.

Still like your tax revolt Mr. Jones?

SOUTH DAKOTA, WHERE THE WIND COMES RIGHT BEHIND THE RAIN

Stephanie Herseth, a Democrat, won the special election in South Dakota, taking the congressional seat vacated by Bill Janklow, who was forced to resign after murdering Randolph Scott at a rural intersection.  Janklow, who had hundreds of traffic violations accumulated over some twenty years, habitually broke the law with his Caddilac, but was always let off because of his position as RNC congressman.  On August 16, 2003, Janklow blasted through a rural interection at well over 70 miles per hour, ignoring the stop sign there, hitting and killing Scott, who was visiting from Minnesotta, instantly.  Janklow was convicted of felony manslaughter.

ISLAND ART AND WINE FESTIVAL

On the positive side, Park Street hosted its annual Island Art and Wine festival.  Reports had it that the place was thronged with out-of-towners come to gaze and buy arty tchotchkes, paintings, jewelry, haberdashery, and other products made in America.  The weekend started out with a blazing sun that knocked back that clammy old fog which has been covering up the sky for the past two weeks, leading into another day of gorgeous weather.

Los Hombres Calientes, the Caribbean jazz group from New Orleans,  finished up a scorching two night run at Yoshis this weekend.  Sweetheart of the punk set, Patti Smith returns to the venerable Fillmore for Thursday and Friday this week.  The very political Patti should be in top form for both nights.

In other news, we hear that Opus, the peripatetic penguin from Bloom County, is still hunting for "the facilities."  Straight to the back, fella.

Wherever there is a bit of snarky life, there is hope.  You can quote me on that.

LIFE'S LITTLE RESET BUTTON

Just about every morning, the sun comes up and another impossible day gets going.  Still, the sun does come up in a great ball of fire to shine on the Island strand, off which the gaily colored parachutes of the wind surfers paint the blue sky with Monet swashes of red and white color.  Through the day, the human engine sits humming over its desk and then its a return to the minor troubles of fence repair and white flies on the tomatoes.  Driving "The Hippo", which  is the official Island-life vehicle.  The Hippo is a 1977 Volvo with many marks of character on her weighty flanks; an El Camino hit her once and thereby totaled itself, leaving The Hippo to cruise on through life with unconcern.  Moving with the ponderous grace endowed by the Swedes, who had every intention that this model should compete in the same weight class as a Chevy V-8 pickup truck with a load of concrete in its bed, the Hippo rumbles and knocks with an odometer that gave up its duties some years ago around the 194,400 mile mark. 

Do not consider the Hippo to be ridiculous at your peril.  Here is an excerpt of a paper from Dr. Heinz Jaegermist von Bleistift an der Oder.

"Ja, der Hippo ist Africa's most dangerous and ferocious animal of der Jungle und der Savanna.  I vas of ze party in search of zis idiot explorer Mr. Liffingstone und discovered the power and majesty of ze hippo at the time.  Und der Doktor Professor Herr Adolph Blechmann discovered this also, to the great detriment of his health.

Der Stanley Liffingstone went off -- typical English -- in search of the Nile and where it begins.  Silly man: he brings no map.  Of course, he says to himself, "I am explorer!  I make one when I get there!"

Well, he gets there and he gets himself lost.  He was not so schmart this explorer.  Without a map, he was in the jungle.   Lost!  Just like that!  So we had to go find him and bring him his tea cakes for he had not enough.

But before we find him, der Doctor Blechmann found the hippo some distances from me.  I was on the hill mit the beobabs and der Doktor was down below and he sees the hippo and the hippo child and he wants to take a sample.  Maybe from the smaller one, ja?  So hippo dung is there and the Doctor and the hippo child and the doctor makes a mistake.  He gets on the bank of the river between the mama hippo and the child and the child starts to crying, making the hippos sound.  And the African guide, Toto Swahili makes of the concern and brings out the big gun.

That was not so bad.  But the Doctor makes the fatal mistake, ja?  He turns to the hippo child and says, "Oh go away and shut up, you fatso!"

This was not so smart.  I do not know how the man got to be a Doctor.

The hippo child goes down to the water and gets in mit a splash.  But the mama twitches her ears.  Mit the beady eyes she gazes mit fury upon the doctor and she rises up in the shallows and shakes her great mudflaps.  Der Doctor turns to see the hiney of the guide, Toto, for Toto is of Africa and Toto is schmart. He knows of the hippo and what it can do.  Toto is running as fast as his little legs can carry him to the beobab trees.  Ja!

Slowly she begins, putting one great paw before ze other and ze Doctor realizes that something is about to happen.  He picks up the big gun and fires.  And the hippo baby starts to cry again.  The big gun is like a pin prick to the hippo; it is no effect.  Too late, the Doctor turns to run up the hill.

Mit increasing momentum the hippo moves forward, mit paws the size of tree trunks, shaking the earth mit the stamping as she comes on, her fierce black eyes glaring mit fury at her hapless prey.  Stamping and stamping she comes on with the ears laid bad and snorting mit the power and speed of an accelerating freight train.  So ist das: the so-called "Hippo Enragee".

From the beobabs we watched the encounter, unable to help. 

I dedicate zis paper to the memory of my former colleague, Doctor Blechmann."

On the Island, we respect all things, great and small.  We have opossums and raccoons and hippos all living together quite nicely.  Its quite an Island.

And that's the way it is. Have a great week.

AUGUST 1, 2004

TIMEOUT MR. CHENEY

The Democratic Convention proved to be a wonderful, uplifting surprise with the youngest burning brightest.  Our own local, Ilana of Oakland proved to be a high point with her spirited condemnation of Cheney's vulgar language.  If she is the voice of the future generations, then perhaps there is hope after all.

Mr. Obama of Illinois also proved to be a rising star with his honest and passionate speech.  Illinois has recently undergone a sea change in legislative leadership for the good after long suffering under an oppressive and irresponsible conservative "representation".

There were no disruptions a la 1968 as predicted by cynics, for the general consensus seems to be that we must all start to pull together to bring things around.

YOU CAN'T GO BACK TO CONSTANTINOPLE

Went with the Significant Other to Yoshi's to catch a bit of the Django Reinhart celebration.  Arguably the world's best guitarist today, Dorado Schmitt of Paris, France, held forth with his son Samson playing rhythm.  Ludavic Beyer, also of Paris, supplied accordion.  For a while we were transported back to another time, and I half expected to see Sam Beckett chatting with Sartre at a table wreathed in smoke from those harsh, unfiltered Galouise cigarettes before running off into the night of Occupation and Resistance. 

This was the music that held together during the worst times the world has seen after all, when inhuman Concentration Camps charred the bones of thousands and millions of innocent people.

Dorado riffed with single flatpick through a hundred variations, with crossovers, harmonics, hammer-ons, and blazingly fast cross-picking but modestly understated himself to allow the world class accompaniment to solo, especially the popular Carter.  The Dorado's work can be found on solo CD's and on the soundtrack to the movie Latcho Drom, a documentary about gypsy music.

Brian Torff supplied bass until James Carter restructured the entire evening with demolition sax and clarinet that brought the house down for every piece.  For encore, they completely tore apart and deconstructed the old chestnut "Constantinople", rendering the tune into a thousand fragments of iridescent glass before deftly dropping back into the melodic line to close.  This was jazz and it was jazz at its improvisational best and deservedly earned two standing ovations.

The diamond found in the mine this evening was Carter with his soulful sax playing which added a fresh jolt of juice to the gypsy style.

You could have been there, but the place was sold out for the festival, from Thursday through Sunday for both shows each night.

IT'S NOW TIME TO PLAY "WHERE'S THE FISH?"

We don't have a bevy of wacky Britons to help play "Where's the Fish", but  the Significant Other has me, and she and I went together to visit Yume on Park street to encounter a most pleasurable surprise up in what must be the tiniest sushi restaurant in the world.  Some of you may recall Yume Ya, a delightful sushi joint that was tucked away in the corner of the Mariner Square Shopping Center for years, until the owners gave up struggling with city hall and moved to Oregon.

Well, the master chef there stayed on the Island and he now holds forth in a two table joint located up the stairs above a boutique right on Park at number 1428.  The address is important to know, for the only clue that the best sushi restaurant in the East Bay is ensconced here on the Island is a miniscule sandwich board resting on the sidewalk and propped up against the wall next to the stairs up into a converted apartment.

Yume has a full sushi bar with stools as well as the two tables which look out on the busy panoply of Park Street.  The style is simple, elegant and no-nonsense creations made with top notch ingredients and the absolutely freshest fish found anywhere.  For the less adventuresome, the usual selection of tempura and donburi bowls are available.  The atmosphere is intimate, congenial and clean. 

Fortunately, Mr. Creosote did not show up: he would never have fit through the doorway and up the stairs.

ALL ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

The cereus is a strange beast of a plant for most of its life.  Its broad leaves, resembling palm fronds, are fleshy, thick things jutting from a trunk that has the surface texture of a withered pineapple.  Once a year the leaves start producing these unearthly appendages somewhat reminiscent of the chomping monster that co-starred with Sigourney weaver in Alien.  The pod is a good twelve inches long and of a burnt blood color against the tropical green of the leaves.  When it blooms, it typically expends its entire strength to issue a single bloom which appears for only 12 hours on an erratic schedule every few years.

It may come only once every few years and on a rather unprepossessing plant, but what a bloom!  It begins to open as a trumpet sometime after 8 pm, and reaches full glory only after midnight with a radiant white flower that is a full twelve inches in diameter, emitting a thick, sweet scent.  As the sun rises, the bloom dies back and by the time the day has unfolded, it has died. 

Well, over at an island garden down the street a special miracle has occurred.  One ambitious Cereus has sprouted not one, not two, not three, but seventeen pods!  And Saturday night the first one opened.

The proud gardener of this specimen, Jim Kitson of Santa Clara Street, broke open a bottle of champagne in celebration of one of Nature's greatest mysteries and invited friends for a viewing during this spectacle.

Our humble island is host to a great many strange and wonderful things.  The night-blooming Cereus is one of them.

SAVE LITTLE NELL!

Where are the RCMP these days when you need them?  Where is Dudley Doright?  Snidely Whiplash and Simon LeGree are at it again with their dastardly plots here on the island where an astounding 400 households have been papered with eviction notices at the Harbor Bay complex.  In one day.

Mayor Beverly is up in arms and everyone is screaming about this, as Her Honor commented, "This is horrible after what we just went through over the Section 8 issue."  Seems the management for the 640-unit complex at 433 Buena Vista Avenue plans to renovate the buildings up to a luxury-level apartments and condos.  Rumor has it that the Miami-based Fifteen Group Asset Management Company plans to gentrify all 1,200 units at this location and this is part of a long-planned strategy. 

The City Manager, social service agents and the Housing Authority have all scrambled to avert a crisis in the making by this extraordinary action.  Mayor Beverly's comments refer to the recent flap over the revocation of some 400 Section 8 vouchers here on the Island, which led to a personal visit to Washington D.C. by the head of the Housing Authority so as to save those households.

It seems things just keep going from bad to worse these days.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC

Midsummer is bringing some extraordinary delights to the Bay Area, especially in the coming weeks.  Word is that Old Slowhand just slew the audience last night at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga.  Eric Clapton is touring in support of his CD titled "Me and Mr. Johnson", which is a quirky compilation of Robert Johnson interpretations.  Johnson, commonly accepted as the primal force that produced the style of modern guitar-based Blues, recorded just 22 songs before his murder by a jealous husband at the age of 24.  There is not one single blues player who has not recorded at least one of those songs in some form.   Legend had it that it was Johnson who met the Devil at a crossroads in Mississippi and sold his soul for the ability to play guitar.  Clapton, who certainly has experienced the vicissitudes of time, has become a generally acknowledged master and is typically ranked up there with the likes of BB King, with whom he recorded a very good CD, titled "Riding with the King."

Tower of New Wave Punk and social responsibility, Patti Smith comes to the Fillmore for both the Thursday and the Friday slots on the 12th and the 13th.  Patti, dear sweetheart from college days, never fails to astonish and astound concert goers of all ages at all times, and her show is a Must See for anyone who gives a shit about anything.  By all means, do not expect a "comfortable evening" from this engaged and entirely sincere performer.  Do expect to be challenged and awakened to another America in sound and fury.

In a far mellower vein, Margo helps the Cowboy Junkies through an evening on the 15th with literary aplomb, while Liz Phair is still exiled on Guy Street on the 19th.  We notice Alvin Youngblood Hart is slipping entirely too quietly into the Independent on the 5th, which is a shame, for Mr. Hart has presented the country blues in a completely unpretentious and authentic style worthy of larger mention.

At Yoshis, the gig to watch for will be Los Hombres Calientes on the 8th.  The Significant Other bought tickets within minutes of hearing about their appearance there.  If you have never heard their Afro-Caribbean jazz, prepare to have your doors blown off and set on fire by a thousand voodoo devils.  No question, these guys are really hot, for they have impressed everyone from the Buena Vista Social Club to the halls of the Grammy Awards.

Don't come whining to me, saying you have nothing to do in these next few weeks.

MY DADDY LIKED TO ROB AND STEAL.  HE JUST LIKED THE MONEY

One enterprising Conservative managed to clean out Zales Jewelers at South Shore Shopping Center this week after taping up the two employees there and thoughtfully swiping the surveillance tape.  The thief loaded up his bag with diamonds from a display case with the tape from the camera and galloped off without interference.  Since no traffic infractions occurred during the heist the perpetrators got clean away.

Officer O'Madhauen was heard to declare angrily, "Sooner or later these scofflaws will run a stop sign or go on speeding sure enough.  And then we'll have them!"

You could always consider the feller just pursuing unfettered personal initiative.

IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES

The days begin leaden with grey overcast skies.  For a while the sun burns back the woolen blankets to the "fog belt" of whatever region one inhabits around here.  Then the afternoon marches of fog again cloak the hillsides with armies of misty ghosts.  Each day is filled with anxious phone calls about the state of the nation, or the state of the State, the poor economy, sons and daughters in trouble with the law, friends locked in battles with cancer, acquaintances sent off to fight in some foreign land, the latest news about the newest outrage, and the best of us is infected with a savage urge towards violent reprisal.  It is true, as Louis MacNeice once said, "nightmare brings fatigue," but the nightmare these days seems never-ending and all of us long for the sweet annihilation of sleep. 

Its the sort of time when you long for the ivy to cling to the broken stone of apocalypse; what was once a library, now a rubble field.

In the depth of the dark night the Cereus blooms as it has for perhaps several thousand years.  With thoughts like these we go out to the landing and see the Old Man, a coastal sequoia some 100 feet tall,  still standing out there in the yard.  He was there before the Spanish came.  And he will stand there in all probability long after we have gone. 

It's coming on the witching hour once again and the sound of the through-passing train from the Port comes echoing across the flatlands of Buena Vista and the Old Cannery and for some reason the idea that a tree may outlast your name is not so comforting.  And yet there, in the tree and the constant return of the blue heron to certain pine trees on Balena Cove and even in the nightly howl of the through-passing train there is continuity  which comforts in its own way. 

As the mists collect about the Island, Officer O'Madhauen's head droops over a cup of coffee and he  snoozes in a black and white on Grand and Buena Vista.  At the Harbor View apartments, someone's grandmother tosses on her thin mattress, anxious about where next to live.  In Oaktown, Hizzoner Brown tosses and turns upon his hard cot.  In Sacramento, Der Governator dreams about spaetzel and total control    In Washington DC, Bushy dreams about being a pirate chief who is not a loser, while a Colin Powell dreams about being a perfect Soldier who has never told a lie in his life.  In another room, Condi Rice does not sleep, but stares at the ceiling wishing ... for something neither you nor I can imagine.  It is highly unlikely she will ever sleep well again.

In a cave somewhere between Afganhistan and Pakistan, old Osama tosses and turns before settling into the deep restful sleep of the damned.

In a prison, located somewhere in Iraq, the former President, Saddam Hussein stares at the ceiling, wondering, "Why do they hate me?  I always did what they wanted".

On the Island, poodles snuffle in their dens and opossums clamber up stairs to feed on bowls of cat food left out by design or forgetfulness.  Perhaps all of our grand concerns are no greater than this. 

That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

JULY 25, 2004

ITS A ROCKY ROAD TO DUBLIN

Trundled on down to McGraths, the local, to take in some local talent.  Patrick was holding forth as proprietor and the beer flowed, well, like beer. As for the local talent, we had ourselves in a tiny room the pleasure of Houston Jones, on whom we reported earlier in the year.  As previously, the band combined Irish tunes, bluegrass standards, country favorites and an idiosyncratic addition of Creedence Clearwater Revival with items from the Lowell George canon, including "Don't Bogart that Joint" and "Willing".  They did a really tasty version of "Dixie Chicken" with Jones comping on Fender strat in lieu of piano.

After KFOG had mentioned the group during its "Local Talent" series, the band has continued with a jolly attitudes of fuck-all and remains as entertaining and energetic as can be.  The group will be performing on the 21st of August at the Oakland Metro Opera Theatre as a benefit for BOSS,  a non-profit that helps homeless, disabled, and poor turn their lives around through housing, health care, economic development and social justice.  Check out www.selfsufficiency.org  for details.

THIS ISLAND LIFE

Just over the wire: Los Hombres Calientes at Yoshis with Bill Frisell.  Check online for tickets.  Should be another SRO Do Not Miss set of shows.

Latest word has it that the head of the Housing Authority managed, after a personal visit to DC, to uncover a cool half million of under payments to the Island, which enables us to keep 109 families from eviction off of the Section 8 program.  Now how cool is that?  Keep it real, y'all.

In more ominous notes, we trace reports of the local Draft Board as expanding activities with large bursts of recruitment money coming in.  Seems that, even as they cut fire and police and social services, that there is more than enough to go around for certain departments.  Could it be that someone Upstairs is planning Something? 

All the latest flap is over the news regarding UC about to be ousted from Los Alamos -  science in advance of security - lions and tigers and bears !  This appears entirely to be a manufactured incident meant to punish the Golden State and hand over control of Los Alamos as a peach gift to Texans, who, no doubt will be excellently mum about all the issues taking place there. All in the name of National Security.  The cost to the State will amount to millions of dollars.  All of Texas is licking its chops.

State budget in limbo yet again - notwithstanding the Governator's stolid promise to sweep the government clean, we are once again entering that annual period of no budget.  After the Governator unilaterally and rather foolishly accused the Democrats of being "girly men", the Dems found their backbone and stonewalled all the anticipated Republican initiatives resulting in business as usual.  Had that idiot Austrian kept his mouth shut, his people would have gotten away with murder and worse and the entire budget would have been decided by now.  As it is, the Dems cannot give an inch, for fear of being seen as "girly", and the entire situation has entered the usual impasse, star power notwithstanding.  

The reaction on the Island: Oh well, business as usual.

THERE'S TWO TRAINS RUNNING

The days are passing into typical Northern California summer days, with early morning grey stuff burning off to sky-blue skies that yield about sundown to chill breezes and thick blankets of fog marching over the hills.  Right now the lights of Oaktown make the one arm of fog to the north about the Island glow with eerie luminescence.  To the south and west, the other arm of fog has crept up the tidal flats to hang off of the beach and block views of Babylon across the water.

The Putamayo World Music Hour is on the air again and Celtic sounds fill the dark night air. 

The Island is quiet this night, as all towns seem to be during the time of the fog.  On a Sunday evening, late, when the fog creeps heavy on the roads, few venture out of doors for any need. 

It's a dark and cold world tonight on this mid-summer's night.  Colder than it needs to be.  Down south they are passing into the fifth year of drought and wildfires are torching acres and homes against the thin orange line of the firefighters.  The stock market is wavering into uncertainty and the situation in the Middle East, well, remains a Situation.  Sacramento remains locked in its budget battle and the Leaders of this Nation howl at one another like wild baboons displaying their mauls of teeth.  Often, it seems, no one is welcome at all to any place and we have all become strangers to ourselves.

If we were to lead a band of musicians, we would make every concert begin with the cry, "Cead Mille Failte!", a thousand welcomes to all of you. For no one should ever be made to feel unwelcomed in the world.  And everyone, without exception should be welcome to the feast of Life.  Instead we have a stupid "me first" grubbing attitude infecting the entire Nation these days.   

The inclusive joi de vie of the Celts should be an inspiration to all of us in these times.  There are many advantages to bonding with others.  We can hang together, in other words, or we can all hang separately, as has been expressed by another in different yet similar times.

And from around the world here we come back to this Island, this assortment of avenues of tree-line streets,  this community of friends gathered under palms and sprouting succulents, this cluster of artists huddled against the bulwarks bordering the sea-lanes of the world's third largest port, this sceptered jewel set within an emerald sea, this Island that is home to the average man and the average family in California, this Island that is our home. 

Over this Isle an angel still spreads its protective wings, leaving daffy Officer O'Madhauen to prowl about, pretending to be defending, and the common citizens to sleep with relative safety in their beds. 

Its a cruel, cold world, but on this Island, the great many sleep safe and secure in their dreams.  That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

JULY 18, 2004

JAZZ ON THE ISLAND

Took the Significant Other out to Kelly's for music and drinks at Kelly's on the Island the other night to celebrate her birthday.  Managed to take in Cynthia Meyer who was backed by Tom Meyer on semi-hollow bodied Gibson and bassist Felix.  Was delighted to hear some very capable cabaret-style jazz on the Island where, with the Emerald Garden and the efforts of native Natasha Miller, the place is starting to look a bit Uptown.  With reasonably price drinks and free admission, the entire experience cannot be beat for a nice evening out on the town.  Cynthia made an effort to drop by our table and chat us up a bit, which is a nice personal touch.  A number of other artists had dropped in from other performance venues around town after closing, proving that Kellys on the Island is becoming the Place to Be on Friday night.

Warning: the bartender makes a wicked concoction called the Chocolate Martini.  Better have a designated driver for a round of those.

MUSICAL CHAIRS

Sorely missed this weekend: those V-twin engines of the acoustic work , the Indigo Girls performed at the Greek this Saturday evening.  A performance from this pair is something amazing to see and hear.  Above is a pic of the venerable Greek Theatre during  down time. 

Warren Haynes dropped by on his solo tour in support of his Live at Bonaroo CD, which presents the electric and indefatigeuable man in an all acoustic context.  Heard the concert rocked.

Upcoming: The Fillmore has a smashup series for the next few weeks in a very hot summer.  Here are some highlights.

Gomez occupies the July 21 slot.  The incomparable Taj Mahal will learn ya' the blues on the the 29th and 30th.  We have seen Taj up close and personal at Yoshis and earnestly exhort you to run, not walk, to this show. 

Local faves, Soulfly, open the month of august on the 8th.  We caught them on a bad night on the Island, so we would recommend hearing them under nearly ideal circumstances.

Not for us those bobby-soxers who dot their i's with little hearts and who adopt cashmere sweaters in the winter time in ski lodges.  No way babe.  None of them could hold a candle up to old secret flame Patti Smith, who takes over the Fillmore on August 12-13.  The most cynical and bitter and anti-sixties were there that evening when we watched Patti capture their hearts as she had done to ours many years ago.   

In a considerably quieter vein, Margo's silky smooth voice carries the Cowboy Junkies through Sunday on the 15th.  Still on exile on Main Street and still on a roll, Liz Phair takes over on the 19, supported by a definitively high-estrogen quotient of the Cardigans and Katy Rose.  Aimee Mann follows on the 21st and George Thorogood promises to destroy the place on the 25th with rocking, energetic blues.

Old slowhand, EC himself, takes the shoreline with slide-wiz Robert Randolph and his Family Band this Sunday, on the latest over the wire.

O.A.R and Guster bring summer to a close on the 28th at the Greek, same day as The Cure return to the intimate Diamond Theatre at SBC Park.  Go to www.apeconcerts.com for info on this small room in a big place.

The Warfield is hosting the jam band String Cheese Incident, which, since the demise of Phish, is the last holdout for the Great Extended Jam after the venerable and reconstituted Greatful Dead.

Up 'n coming starts, Hoobastank, polish off July on the 27th.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY LA BELLE MUSE

We have it on good and reliable sources that local poetess of fame, Kim Addonizio, is celebrating her birthday with a grand soiree in Oaktown.  Rumors that the great and the near great will show up to illuminate the skies of poesy.  We wish the poetess all the best on this best of days and  another gift to us, her devotees, of yet another half century of joy.

I GET BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

For the sake of our more literal-minded readers, the following is reported without an iota of irony or exaggeration whatsoever.  Fe, this might include you.

Noodled on up for a confab and BBQ with some old friends.  Who happen to be published authors and screenwriters and graphic artists just dripping with talent.  Sister Bea was there and NYPD Blue contributor Leonard Gardner among others.  Discussion fell to the lamentable State of the Union these days, what with fictional "economic recoveries" reported every week by the Fox network, torture of persons held in custody not only revealed but excused by authorities, and general foolishness by incompetents all around. 

Since our resident hardboiled P.I. from Babylon was present, the conversation turned to those who have passed on beyond the veil.  Since the P.I. deals entirely with criminal matters, unlike the vast majority of Investigators out there, the vast majority of his associates of any great interest have tended to have, shall we say, abbreviated life spans.

All this is to support the revelation that certain episodes of NYPD Blue have derived from entirely factual, and quite horrifying true events.  Notably the one featuring two guys selling off the possessions of the man they have accidentally asphyxiated. And whose corpse remains seated in a chair in the room as the worst riff raff come to cart off his belongings during a midnight auction.

Accidentally asphyxiated?  Well, these two clowns were hardly the brightest stars in the intellectual firmament.

We then talked about the driving habits of the French, the Italians, the Spanish and Mexican bus drivers.  A charming pair that featured a children's book author (name withheld out of propriety) had driven frequently in France and had noted the tailgating and excessive speeds.  The P.I. had driven in Rome and had been compelled to park the car in a garage out of self-preservation.   The screenwriter had taken busses in Mexico, which had caused him to interrupt his journey so as to hail a train from a miniscule village.  Said train had a stopped toilet which sloshed its very full contents into the aisles as it crept at a speed of two miles per hour.  Many there had simply given up on the toilet and used their seats. 

It was generally agreed that the Mexican bus drivers were the worst in the world, owing to their habit of driving mountain roads with no guardrails and all headlights extinguished to preserve the battery, although an international study had determined that the generic Frenchman had been determined by independent study to be the most horrifyingly dangerous driver on earth, possessed of lunatic machismo, intolerance for reasonable speeds of any kind in any place whatsoever, and an insistence upon right of way regardless of statute, courtesy or common sense.

In conclusion, we determined that, given the driving habits of almost anyone outside the States, our foreign bumbling shows up as not so bad.  Then again, although the canyons and highways of Mexico are littered with the carcasses of burned out busses, the vast majority of bus trips end successfully.  Which is significantly different from the present drivers at the wheel in the USA.

There is always that 2 mph train, of course, for competition.

TURNING UP THE FAHRENHEIT

The following is a spurious and entirely ironic news report in the style of Fix News.  Fe, you can skip to the next section.

"The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire . . .".  For you dedicated readers, you may recall that Eugene Shrubb, President of the United Bums of the Bay Area, invaded Newark some time ago so as to uncover and destroy Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo (WMD) in the form of vicious poodles trained by terrierists.  Shrubb failed to find and spay the infamous Osama Bin Lassie, but has persisted with an extended occupation of Newark and many are claiming that his real intention was to raid the liquor stores along Mission Blvd and export the contents. The major of Newark has simply disappeared, and no one can recall at this time if the place ever had a major or even a City Council.

In fact, few can even recall Newark itself, which was named for the armpit of New Jersey, which was named, in turn, for an unwilling and recalcitrant English Duke who resented the foisting of such a miserable gift of  land in the uncivilized Americas in exchange for much of his English specie commandeered by the King at the time.

In a grand ceremony -- by the reed-choked beach, which in Newark is not exactly a spot for grand events of any kind -- President Shrubb handed over governance of Newark to Adolf Eichmann Goebbels von Negropointe, a local, so as to allay public concern at his long, and seemingly unnecessary occupation.

In the midst of declaring the end of Primary Hostilities, Shrubb was brained upon the pate from behind by a local grandmother armed with a cast iron pan.  Grandmothers armed with iron pans have constituted a significant portion of the troublesome, ongoing Insurrection in Newark.  

Despite the best efforts of Shrubb's Tokay Guard, the grandmother got clean away.  Shrubb remains as he always has been -- drunk, addle-pated and violent.  Doctors pronounced him "normal for his kind of character".

PLAYING CATCH UP

We can see it coming up behind us, not unlike a demented French driver, the need to catch up on all the stories going on. We last left that Redoubtable Pair, Oog and Aag out there fighting the last battles of the California Republic in 1840something and the way in which mules have contributed to the founding of California.  Then, we have this Eugene Shrubb occupying Newark in the present.  We left the inventors of Spirulina hanging in space up in Petaluma, and we are ashamed to find that the terriers have gotten short shrift in these pages recently.  And we have had no reference at all to Bear with his new beau and how that has all come out and the behavior of Percy with his two-toned 1938 Mandeville-Brot and the Berkeley nudist college student he took in "for a short ride" armed only with a feather boa.

This is all very lamentable and highly unsatisfactory and we earnestly enjoin readers for patience until we can bring all these threads together.  For we surely shall. Especially the mules of California, who deserve special mention. 

COULD I HEAR THAT AGAIN?

Proving once again that the criminals on this Island are like none other, IPD successfully apprehended a would-be bank robber who attempted to heist the Bank of America on Park Street.  The man walked into the bank at 9:50 a.m. on a Friday and handed a teller a note threatening that he had "nuclear waste" and that she was to open the safe.

Unfortunately, the man's note was so poorly worded that our product of the public schools, the teller, failed to understand just what the fellow wanted. Opening a safe seemed reasonable, for the bank owned more than one, but which one to open and why?  She asked the man for clarification and he responded loudly, "Open the safe!" 

The teller failed to grasp this request and allowed the man to leave in disgust without any loot for his pains.  After mulling this over, the teller informed her supervisor, who called the police.  The perp was arrested jaywalking across Park street.

In another case, a woman suspected her father of being the one who climbed through her window to steal a cell phone and some electronics.  In a subsequent phone call with her father -- on a land line -- the worthy man stated "you can't prove I took your stuff and furthermore, you can't have your stuff back."

IPD traced fingerprints at the scene to the man, who has been under a restraining order, and arrested him when he attempted to turn left off of Park Street between the hours of 3 and 7 pm.

"Everyone should know this sort of thing is illegal here," stated Officer O'Madhauen emphatically.

THERE'S TWO TRAINS RUNNIN'

The midnight train through the Port has resumed tooting its horn after an hiatus.  The House of Blues has signed off the air and its time to turn off the Putamayo World Music Hour and put this baby to bed.  The Island slumbers under a blanket of dreams.  Word has been that 108 of the 400 Section 8 renters who have lost their housing subsidies will retain their support for at least another tenuous month.  Michael Pucci, the Executive Director for the City Housing Authority made a trip to D.C. to discuss discrepancies between his budget and the one created by HUD.  It appears we have been shorted some $500,000, however nothing is certain in these times. 

All over the country, local governments are feeling pinched and are cutting back on all services.  Up north, in Jefferson, Tehama, Humboldt and Butte, they have scaled back even police protection and the authorities have issued public warnings to the populace that, in the event of a 911 call, they will be unable to respond.  At all. 

"You best buy a gun for protection," stated one county sheriff.

Right now cash-strapped fire services are battling to prevent all of SoCal from burning down. 

In recollection of sunnier times, a couple notables have dropped in here to visit their old rescue ship, the Hornet.  The Hornet is an aircraft carrier -- now decommissioned and used as a museum -- that is docked at the old decommissioned Navy base at the West End, and which was used to retrieve most of the Apollo astronauts after splashdown in the seventies.  The celebrities are Alan Bean and Richard Gordon. Gordon orbited the moon in 1969 while Bean became the fourth human being to walk on the surface of another planet.  They'll be here for various festivities until the 25th.

Can't see the moon up there tonight -- summer fog has socked us in and all the stars are taking the night off.  But its up there all right.  Calendar says its supposed to be a New Moon tonight anyway, but I'll bet its really the same old one gone through recycling.

That's all very fine for some people to travel to far off places like the moon, hike about the landscape, annoy the natives and bring back some souvenirs.  The Island is fine enough for us down home folks.  For otherworldly sights we need only ride the ferry over to Babylon and take a walk down Polk Street any day of the week. 

Incidentally, the ferries here are now under the new Homeland Security Maritime Law and all boarders are subject to search and seizure without notice, among other things.  Did you know that?  Hell, we can't even stop a load of illegal fireworks going off on the 4th of July, let alone "secure the bridges."  Whatever that means.

Whoah!  There goes some leftover firecrackers right now.  Nice to know that even here on the Island, there are some who still thumb their nose at the blue-haired House Rules. 

That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

JULY 11, 2004

FIRE IN THE WHOLE

Took in the last performance day of the Fire Arts Festival, hosted by Burning Man and The Crucible over at the Crucible's main digs at 1260 7th Street in Oaktown.  The Crucible is the premier West Coast facility for the production, teaching, and enhancement of the industrial arts, including -- but not exclusive to -- welding, glassblowing and glassmaking, foundry, casting, wood and metal, sculpture, electronic lumination with halogen gasses as well as cold phosphorescence, and mechanical construction.  Burning Man is most noted for its annual festival in the Blackrock desert, in which an entire city is built for a period of two anarchic weeks of unfettered artistic and spiritual demonstration, culminating in the complete destruction by fire of the Man, who typically stands some three and a half stories high and who is surrounded by fabulous artworks that also are torched amid wild celebration.  The photo above is of last year's Man, who was set upon a 180 foot high pyramid that emitted a powerful laser at night and which was surrounded in turn by a labyrinth made of glowing LEDs.

From July 7 to the 11th, The Crucible opened its doors for people to come and view various crafts in progress and maybe take a seminar or two to get a taste of the wide-ranging arts offered for instruction.  At night, a neighboring parking-lot hard by the vast concrete tangle of the freeway Maze became the scene for joint exhibitions of kinetic fire sculptures made by Crucible artisans with stage performances by groups who have taken part in the Burning Man event.

After passing the gateway "lamp", an open-mesh polyhedron made of bronze and filled with flickering gas flames, the first items to catch the eye were the neon works and the overtly spiritual piece seen here.

 

Much of the culture and atmosphere surrounding the fire arts and fire performance tends toward the delightfully pagan, and this piece reminded one that the vast majority of artisans and performers in this area, notwithstanding tattoos, brusque sexuality, and "non-approved" methods of worship, are deeply committed to a spiritual path and practice sincere devotion.  In fact, throughout the entire experience, despite a surface hedonism, we were struck by the deep spirituality embraced by the majority of the folk in this unique world which surfaced in the most unlikely moments.

In a more secular vein, feast your eyes on this one.  Made from a Chevy V-8 engine block and wine bottles, it fetches $15,000.

The bottles are filled with an halogen gas and the "spark plugs" deliver a real charge which causes lightening bolts to flicker inside each bottle. 

After quick visits to the remarkable woodsmith shop, we hopped over to the bronze casting area.  At the entrance were a paper-mache works, including this skull.  Note the female figure that appears in the "nose hole".

After chatting with docent Mary, who explained the lost wax method of casting bronze we took a pic of this figure, who is titled, "The Conductor."

From there we idled over to the blacksmith shop where they do things the old-fashioned way.  Lines of smiths stood waiting patiently for their time to use tongs to pull their piece from the propane-driven forge.  In a kind of do-see-do, they crisscrossed across each other's path while holding bars of iron heated cherry red, carrying their hot metal to anvils where they pounded with the valor of Thor, before returning the iron to the forge and waiting another few minutes.  The process appeared to require some one dozen trips back and forth.  Not once did anyone bump another artist nor drop the hot iron.

In this picture, an artist bends close to the iron while pounding with a hammer.  Another artist waits for her piece to heat while another is about to take his cooling piece back to the forge.  A row of five stations lines the opposite side of the forge out of the frame.

 

Ascending the ladder of fire, we went outside to observe the iron pour.  In this process, the cauldron is stoked with a charge of coke and 25 pounds of iron, heated and air blown over the coke until the contents become hot enough to melt the iron scrap into liquid the consistency of water.

In this picture, two men pour the molten iron from a small crucible, while a third uses a kind of hoe to keep back the slag impurities from dropping into the Montana.  Two others stand about uselessly and risk getting the hell burnt out of them.  As you can see, they all wear heavy leather and/or asbestos protection as well as eye protection.  The man on the far left holds a shovel of sand for eventualities.  Sand will minimize the damage in the event of accidents.  I asked a worker if people got hurt doing this, and he answered, "Oh yes, all the time."

Here we have a shot of the slag blocker working while two men in the background allow slag to pour out of the cauldron.

They cannot let it cool inside, or the coke and remaining slag will congeal into a solid mass as hard as your car bumper, ruining the cauldron.

The process is highly labor-intensive and very demanding of teamwork among people who really know what they are doing, for molten iron is not a plaything.  It flows like water at first, then becomes gelatinous very quickly and sticks to everything.  For long, long after it has stopped glowing, it remains impossible to handle, even with heavy asbestos gloves.  We watched a fellow pound open a Montana with a sledgehammer an hour after a pour and the object was still too hot to handle.  The system involved pouring for a couple dozen artworks, cracking the Montanas, and then letting the pieces cool in a loose pile off to the side. 

When finished, they all rushed to the coke machine.

Meanwhile we went over to the "arena" to view the sculptures that would be employed that evening.  We soon felt crashlanded into a world of otherworldliness, in which strange creatures from the shadows of the imagination had crept out to take form in shades of iron and rust.

Here we have a maintenance worker driving his utility vehical.

Here we have a bug done in iron and hanging in a tripod. 

Pay attention to the fore-end, for we will revisit this feller a bit later.

Also in the same alcove, bounded by police tape, was this cricket creature.

Within the vicinity of these was a most remarkably delicate sculpture of glass, iron, and electronics titled "Wrecked Gates of Gondor."

The "leaves" had been individually stamped from iron and the branches made of wrought iron with artificial "thorns".  The "gate" portion consisted of an old railroad switching handle which had been deformed.  Encased in several "leaves" were photo-receptive cells and within each "flower" were three LED bulbs.  The "tree" appeared to grow out of solid rock.  It was the most elegant and delicate of all the sculptures out there.

 We left and returned well after dark and after the festivities had begun.  Man, was it an experience.  As we walked into the "arena", a fenced lot about the size of a football field and lit only by the fires provided by the sculptures and performances, immense towers of flame shot into the sky accompanied by loud explosions.  If the day felt like walking on another planet, the evening felt like walking through a dream.

Every moment was filled with event and action.  We went directly to the cricket and the ironbug area.  Here is the ironbug doing his thing for our poorly equipped camera.  You may be able to see that the rear end has a glowing "eye."

Shouldn't have eaten that chili, is all I have to say.

Unexpectedly, the tall spires around the firebug erupted in charming blades of fire which popped and roared.

The "cricket" howled and turned cherry red as propane flamed from around its "collar".

There was a participatory component at the fire lotus, where an artisan allowed people to stand in the center of the artwork to "experience the fire."

In walking towards the opposite side of the arena, passing the Oaktown firetruck and a fifty-foot high tulip with six-foot lily pads hanging in space, which erupted jets of flame every five minutes, we passed by a troop of "deer" on stilts with flaming antlers.

At another installation, willing audience members stood in a cage -- with a bored-looking fireman standing by with an extinguisher -- while the cage flamed up and began spinning about the person.

The installations were constantly flaming up, booming, dying down and then restarting their sequences again all over the lot while characters walked, pedaled, or drove about with flaming helmets and/or flashing EL strings of cold lights.  People who came in "costume" got in five dollars off and there were a number of outlandish neon wings and robes strolling about.

Here we have a brace of "Texans" resting before their flaming oil derricks.

There were many other sights to see, but we made our way over to the main stage as Mutaytor, a band that consisted of five percussionists plus a turntablist and a synthesizer cranked up.  While the flaming lotus and various other fire geysers erupted from time to time, performers took the stage to dance with immense hula hoops and flaming torches in a bacchanalian rite of fertility, joy and marvelous hedonism as the band propelled them into orgiastic frenzy.  Rated GP?  Not on your life.  Not if the Menaids and the Bacchantes were Michael Eisner's worse nightmare.  Nope.

It was a mixture of old-time burlesque, carnival and pagan ritual.  During the one "strip tease", titled cutely "Drop the Laundry", the performers remained modestly covered through to the end.  Except for maybe the gal dressed in a couple of criss-crossed strips of duct tape. 

At one point, a fire-breather shot flames from his mouth to ignite the two torches bracketing the stage.  The torch heads stood well over ten feet above the crowd, so the fellow must have had lungs like a bellows to fire a jet that high straight up.

As the performance wound up, the entire cast came out with drums to add to the pounding and build the crescendo.  Then entered Gum Lung, the dragon with the entire crowd shouting and chanting.

In the far distance, you may note the fire lily about to explode again.

At the conclusion, the entire band, all performers, and many others from the Crucible, all stood on an embankment behind the stage and twirled torches while soprano Marisa Lenhardt sang an incredibly lovely aria that transfixed the crowd.  Finally, El Diablo -- a twenty-foot stove pipe connected to an airplane turbine mounted on a trailer hitch fired up and shot flames fifty feet into the air.  That fuzzy object with the blue light to the right of the frame is the Oaktown Fire Department crane keeping a close watch as the thing spurted immense revolving fireballs.  All the while the thing howled with incredible volume, even as far back as we were. 

We had meant to drop in for a 30 minute visit and wound up leaving after midnight, as, according to the program, the fire sculptures continued quietly.  For more information -- and better pictures, go to www.thecrucible.org.

GET 'EM WHILE THEY'RE HOT

Island-life is coping with the mysterious "improving economy", which everyone seems to be describing as happening any time now -- for everywhere else things are getting better -- by launching our own little endeavor.  In honor of the Great Confabulator and his lapdog, George W. Bush, we present the Celtic Butterfly line of t-shirts for your amusement and haut couture.

Yes, you too, can demonstrate your true colors and maybe devotion to Island-life, by purchasing one of our Political Action Tees.

For those of you less moved to show the world that Bush and Satan are running a combined platform, we have the following offering at only $15.00 plus shipping, handling, and graft.

The graphic is original artwork. Each wing is a study in "single-line" technique, as is the body. 

For our modem-encumbered friends, we have lightened the load for the T-shirt and Bumper Sticker page by removing the graphics to a separate page with a downloadable order form.  Here is the hyperlink:

ISLAND LIFE POLITICAL ACTION TEES ! 

[hyperlink removed year 2010]

 

THEY CALL IT STORMY MONDAY

We've bid adieu and good evening to Jake from the House of Blues and we are into the Sunday Night Jam on the radio as the midnight train passes unnoticed this time through the heart of the dark Port.  Heck, this modern electric things don't spit flames at all.  After the experience at the Crucible, everything seems invested with a new kind of magic, while the appurtenances of modernity feel stripped of power.

This was the first time we glommed onto the spiritual side of the Burning Man, and the effect is quite powerful.  It was like a course in how to be sexy and holy and playful at the same time.  There is something about standing in the center of a burning lotus which has a salubrious effect on one.

Gives one hope for These Kids Today. 

Well, enough of that preaching.  Here on the Island we much rather prefer fire to remain in the Arena, thank you very much.  As an instructor in the martial arts once was fond of telling me, "This weapon has two sides: it can cut you or it can feed you." 

Meanwhile tomorrow is another day, stormy or not.  Radio goes off now, leaving the sounds of dogs talking desultorily to one another from one end of the island to the other.  That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JULY 4, 2004

OH SANDY, THE FIREWORKS ARE AN AURORA ABOVE US

This weekend turned out to be a gorgeous set of days on this birthday of that grand experiment in democracy known as America and all over the nation this particular July Fourth proved to be unique and special with the parades and the fireworks and the BBQ gatherings all somehow more meaningful than usual.

In large part this Fourth was especially meaningful after the unexpectedly blockbuster happening that was Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11.  Most of a surprise in seeing this movie was not the revelations of corruption, of war's realities, or of lies from trusted authorities, but the overwhelming love for the main subject, which is America itself, as demonstrated not only by Moore but by most of the principals he films. 

Now, the Significant Other, working in an urgent care clinic in the notorious Fruitvale District of Oakland,  is one who faces the utmost horror of the urban landscape every day, from shell-shocked junkies, families blasted apart by gang gunfire and the wretched of the earth within whom each day begins shrieking with agony that another ugly day renews again its inexorable revolve in a wilderness of clashing concrete and broken steel, a relentless cacophony shelled in schizophrenic minds gone bad.  Yours Truly has faced off with the Adversary so many times, prospective death has gotten boring.  Well, let's just say that neither one of us cries easily.  Both of us left the movie theatre after seeing Moore's film down in Union City in tears, unable to walk straight to find the car for the long, sobbing drive back home. 

Well, more than a few may take issue with what Moore presents in his film, which consisted surprising of few polemics or what people label as "propaganda", leveling serious charges against both parties and all sides with fair savagery, given that Moore considers Bush and his entire family to be an abomination upon the face of the earth.  But there can be no doubt that Michael Moore loves his country deeply, passionately and without reservation and he feels that the Powerful have abused it severely.

Still, a single film is not enough to account fully for this year's outpouring of emotion.  In fact, this year, the general consensus is one of genuine patriotism, which is distinguished from the infantile love expressed by neo-cons, comparable to that of a four-year-old which adores its mommy without question; everything mommy does is right no matter what and anyone who questions mommy is a Bad Guy.   As we mature into adults, we love what we love, seeing and knowing its faults, which dovetail with our own.  We do what we can to fix what is wrong with love as well as celebrate what is great. 

Realistically, America is a country with a lot of warts, as well as a lot of really great things about it.  And one of the really great things that makes America unique its the ability of its citizens to question its path and its actions and do things subsequently to change them. 

And that is something on which both Babar and Papoon can agree.

 PLEASE DON'T RAIN ON MY PARADE

The Annual July 4th Mayor's Parade took place on the Island under cloud-free skies and marvelously temperate weather.  Newcomers were astounded to see thousands of people thronging the route for this parade which has been called by those who measure such things the largest small-town parade in America.  The Parade began as usual on Park Street at 11:00am and wended for several miles until culminating with the last traditional "float" -- Charlie Chaplin on a mini-scooter -- at close to 2:00pm.  People drive and boat in from far out in the Valley and down the Peninsula to see this display of Americana, complete with Lutheran floats, Boy Scouts on bicycles, Dixie bands and at least one donkey train on wheels.

We arrived during the obligatory march of the politicos, who proceeded in convertibles, and followed the donkey train on wheels. 

Somebody in the organizers had a bit of wit in setting that one up. 

But then followed the really popular Black Cowboys with their marvelously entertaining horses.

These guys are a bit hit every year and serve to remind us that the original cowboys were Hispanic or Black African-Americans, for the hard work on the range was deemed too rugged and primitive for most white folk.

Of course, every cowboy worth his salt must begin training quite early.  As demonstrated on this young feller who remained in the saddle some three hours or more.

As if in defiant celebration appeared the Marriage Carriage, a float in celebration of the recent court victories in favor of   marriage rights for everyone, regardless of gender.

Also especially celebrated was the float constructed by the local John Kerry for President group.

Interestingly, there were no floats from the RNC or any Republican interests at all.  Perhaps Karl Rove has not yet turned his baleful glare, like Sauron's Eye, upon the Island.  Perhaps he would not have approved of several hundred persons marching in several groups for such abstract items as Peace and Democratic Process.

Can't think what Rove has against these things, but Karl Rove is a curious person.

As a relief from politics and several church wagons, a cowboy drifted by with his horse performing the Old Tennessee Waltz   If you have never seen a horse perform the Waltz or a Foxtrot, well, you will need to wait another year to view the Island parade.

Several Vietnamese and Chinese groups passed by, including a large representative contingent of the Falun Gong, the group which is now going through such oppression in the PRC at present.  Then followed the local Chinese martial arts groups.  If you will note in the photo, the weapons are not blunted with duct tape as is often done for demonstrations.  Yes, those are "live blades." 

And what demonstration of American could possibly be complete without that most American of icons, Elvis himselvis.

Yeah, well.  Some may argue with that.  In any case, the parade ended with the traditional closer, the Little Tramp himself, on a motorbike.  As he has done every year for the past 25 years.

And that, my friends, was the Annual 4th of July Mayors Parade.

FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND

Attended midweek a wake at the venerable Specks bar in North Beach for Carol Tarlen.  Was astounded to find over 200 people packing the tiny bar to pay last respects with video cameras humming and camera bulbs flashing at the famous and near famous who flew in from New York City and Los Angeles to pay last respects to a most extraordinary lady. 

As mentioned previously, Carol was born in humble circumstances in 1943 to a truck driver's family in Winnemucca, and moved about during her early years from trailer park home to trailer park home from Reading to San Francisco.  She championed the downtrodden her entire life and many were there at Specs to report how she had encouraged them through difficult times.  Moderated by long-time friend and fellow poet, Jack Hirschman, a long list of illuminati came up to read poems written by Carol and some of their own in recognition of a most illustrious life that ended far too short for the vast majority of us.

Ran into an old friend there and he said, "She lived her life with entire sincerity and when she felt the slightest self-pity she turned that into a poem.  She accomplished much in her sixty years with us; more than I shall ever hope to accomplish."

 I had to agree.

OH SANDY, THE CARNIVAL LIGHTS ARE BEHIND US

After attending a BBQ with friends, our beloved Lesbian Couple, went up on the roof and watched the displays firing off all along the estuary for miles from San Leandro up to the Port of Oaktown, where somebody had snuck into the shipyard to fire off truly industrial-sized fireworks at the end of the spit.  Then the officially sanctioned display went off and all the boats down at the Marina started firing off their own in competition.  Its getting on to the midnight hour and we can still hear the crump of M-80's and the whistle of bottle rockets. Given the fact that there stands a $1500 fine for anyone igniting so much as a single Black Cat within Alameda County, the resultant display is nothing short of awesome.

But as John Mellancamp would sing, "Aint that America".  The house "rules" are that no one is supposed to go onto the roof and our manager had wired the roof door shut with a coat hanger.  But these things are easy to get around and it would not have mattered if he had used a padlock; we would have gotten around that too.  We all toasted our manager on the roof with wine and tequila and enjoyed the fireworks and nobody got hurt.

After everyone had descended, I had to rewire the damn door, however.

Whoops!  There goes another cherry-bomb.  If even a tenth of these people had survived live combat, they wouldn't be lighting off those things that way.  In any case, all across America people are trying to go through the motions of yesteryear to re-instill the sense that some things are timeless and that some essence of truth remains incorruptible.  I feel that.  Yes, this country was founded upon ideals.  These are principally, the ideals that all men are created equal, and that all men have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  And by all "men" we mean all people of all genders and gender combinations.  That is not too much to ask and that is pretty much what everyone on the Island can agree upon. 

Here, we leave you with little Zeta, who is 2 years old and who dearly enjoyed the little flag I gave her, treating it most seriously.

Zeta, I wish you all the best and I really wish that your parents could be legally married, with all obligations and benefits thereto without so much bother.  Aint that America, you and me. 

And that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

JUNE 27, 2004

LIKE THE WEATHER

Took a spin on the velocipede around the Island and observed scads of fishermen all out with their rods and families trying to take advantage of the high tide on a weekend and marvelous maritime weather under cloud-scudding skies and ground squirrels scampering afoot by the dozens.  Yes, they were BBQ-ing like mad all along the strand  and even the stray walker with a toy poodle was tolerated on this marvelous day. 

Heck, the pups should be nice and plump come November's Poodleshoot.

Meanwhile the windsurfers were out with their great sails and boards and families were dabbling on the underwater shelf that extends out from the Island shore some 100 yards into the Bay.  There was all sorts of volleyball and splashing and jumping up and down and everybody had a grand time down by the strand while the winds kept everything cool. 

When the maritime weather hits around here, the winds kick up and push that nasty old fog back offshore while the breezes keep cool the sunny expanse that appears after the handful of clouds have been pushed to the far Sierras.

ANOTHER TURNING POINT, A FORK STUCK IN THE ROAD

It may become a new tradition, playing that song by Green Day about the changes in life every June when the young scholars break out of their four-year cocoons.  Well, some traditions are not so bad after all.  The Island went through its own series of graduations of hopefuls, sent now into a very uncertain world.

Our generation did not do very well by you, and yet we wish you all the best.  Given the chance and opportunity to change the world, my generation became known for crass avarice and savage ignorance which has born fruit in characters like Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity and George Bush, Jr.  Hardly role models for anybody of any time.

All I can say to the young fellers out there, by god, please do better than we. 

JAMES CALLS ME HIS WILDFLOWER

All around the world, hundreds of thousands gathered in joyful celebration.

Gay pride around the world demonstrated its strength in huge numbers as hundreds of thousands gathered in Paris to celebrate the recent salvo against intolerance in the form of the Mayor of Begles, near to Bordeaux, who announced the legalization of gay marriage in defiance of a government ban.  France's mayor, Bertrand Delance is France's most public gay official.  Over one million people marched in Toronto to celebrate legalization of gay marriage there, while half a million people gathered in staid, old town Berlin, where the mayor, Klaus Wowereit, is also publicly gay.

Closer to home, the annual Gay Pride Parade hosted another half million souls who cheered en masse as Mayor Gavin Newsome, not gay but proponent of the city gay marriage issue which stands now before the state supreme court, stepped out of his convertible to be hugged, kissed and congratulated by thousands.  Certainly such love upon an elected official has not been seen before by anyone.

While the leather daddies and "Dykes on Bikes" and wilder celebrants, such as the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence who affect the habits of catholic nuns, tend to garner the lion's share of press and public attention, in recent years, the gay community has moved away from its more flamboyant aspects towards more conservative presentations, as the couples and individuals who have always been present, made their sincere voices known.  During the height of the AIDS epidemic during the Reagan years, those who had formed stable, long-lasting relationships tended to survive into the present day with larger percentages and these have now developed public voice. 

Many of us have felt that the Gay community had the best chance of coalescing a resistance to the totalitarianism of the Bushies and that is why we have supported them from the beginning.  It is also true that we possess a common enemy, for as the song goes, "Those same dark forces / are the ones that burn crosses."

The San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride March, as it is officially known, was established to commemorate an event that took place in Stonewall, New York in 1969, when bar patrons vigorously resisted a police raid and led to widespread change in public consciousness about sexual oppression. 

GOT THAT BURNING FEELING

The latest news, as anyone above the level of a termite knows, is the release of Michael Moore's award-winning film, Fahrenheit 911.  It won the prestigious Cannes Palm d'Or, and went through a weird distribution fiasco in which its main owner and distributor planned to bury the film without release due to its political nature.  Rescued from oblivion, the prize-winner film has been released in a limited form in 830 cinemas around the country, about half of what usually is assigned for a major motion picture, but the film has already grossed $8 million dollars over the latest hot summer comedy by the Wayan Brothers in just two days.

Here in the lap of the Faithful, lines have stood for two hours, nearly as long as the film, just for the opportunity to view another POV on the subject of Bushy and Co, which has notoriously co-opted the press and media for its own devices.  Reports are in that those sitting somewhat on the fence on issues, such as the misbegotten invasion of Iraq, have turned about solidly against the Bushy camp, which is Moore's stated intention from the get go. 

Moore makes no attempt at objectivity in his documentary, and has stated publicly and loudly, "I detest the man (Bush) and I hope that my film helps oust him from power."

In reviewing the latest literature, such as Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them, it does appear that the American people are subject to an inordinate amount of bamboozle and misdirection from the Right Wing.

The film's title is a play on the novel by Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451, which describes a totalitarian society which is governed by a government that holds regular book burnings.  The temperature referenced is the ignition point of book paper.

THE REDOUBTABLE PAIR

Oh I know you.  You are just sitting back wondering just what happened to that redoubtable pair who first settled the Bay Area, Oog and Aag.  Well, we have been just as busy as beavers cobbling together all sorts of treats for you. 

Now I know we last left the redoubtable pair in the time of the Victorians, who were crotchety and hardly no good as neighbors although they could cobble together a charming chalet or two betimes.  But now for our story we must hearken back to the very early days before the conquest of California.

HOW CALIFORNIA GOT ITS NAME AND THE BLUES WERE BORN

Some people maintain that Queen Caliafa was a legend among Indians and it was her name that gave the appellation to the Golden State when people thought the whole place was an island.  Others say that she was an Amazon Queen who existed nowhere in reality other than a fanciful novel printed by an house of ill-repute sometime in the 1600ís.  And the mind of poor John Hogg, which is another story entirely, which we will get to anon.  Nothing could be further from the truth. If you really want to know, Caliafa was Sumucís first wife and she had such a bad reputation that no one now speaks of her.  Not without extreme fear and a decent sidearm beside.

People make much of history and how all these famous men did such and such a thing, forgetting the part played by the distaff side of things.  Of necessity this tale covers the tracks of a couple of guys, but let it be known that the womens have had their hand in messing up the world as bad as it is.  Itís only because women have been substantially locked up, beaten, oppressed and licensed practically into extinction over the years that the part they played was rendered so small.  That and the fact that most historians tend to be male, had something to do with it.

But in the halcyon days of early Alta California, women had a larger part in the say-so of how things operated and there was notably less strife, argumentation and nervous jumping up and down than there is today, so there may be some correlation there.  The Indians lived in peace and harmony for some 15,000 years in perfect balance with Nature before a bunch of gringos showed up and wrecked the air, the water, the earth and most of the animals, including the gazelle, the grizzly, and the antelope.  We expect you to make up your own minds about that.

Incidentally, when was the last time you saw an antelope galloping across California?

In any case, Queen Caliafa stood an impressive six foot three among a people that averaged some five foot six in normal height, and she was possessed of a tongue as sharp as an oyster knife as well as a right cross that could knock down a pine tree.  She was most definitely worthy of being Queen of just about any place on earth.  Incidentally, this all took place a long time before the English and the Spanish came to visit as tourists.

One day she and Sumuc got into some kind of imbroglio over the usual sort of forgettable marital nonsense.  Maybe the atole was too sour or maybe the wickiwup needed furniture or somebody slept in too late and just look at the Incas, now there was an industrious people that knew how to get things done with all their fine ziggurats and talking to visitors from outer space and whatnot.  Who knows what the argument was about, for like all marital squabbles, the original cause became soon forgotten in favor of mutual accusations and threats to return to mother in another village. 

Now Sumuc may have been King, or Chief, whatever they called the head honcho in those days, but Caliafa was a woman and she stood six foot three and once she had gotten something into her head there was not a soul who could interfere.  She took herself, her cooking basket, and about seven of her sisters and went off to momís, leaving Sumuc to strum his little doodah thing all by himself. 

Now Sumucís doodah thing is not what you foul-minded people might think it may be.  Sumuc was a good, pure man and he did everything natural and with reason and his doodah thing was a hollowed-out gourd with a tree-branch attached and deer gut the player could strum with a piece of tortoise shell or pluck with the fingers.  Sorta something like an Ur-guitar but with only three strings to it.  And seeing as he had only three strings to play with and not knowing about any more possibilities, he took himself a clam shell and moved that along the strings so that they made a crying sound that suited his soul.  And Sumuc, King of the People back then, laid down a most righteous groove.  And his shaman dude started banging on a log to keep time and he made a most righteous rhythm.  And somebody else joined in with banging two skulls together and somebody else supplied the bass by jamming a long spear into a bucket and stringing up some coon intestines for strings. And they continued this way until the sun went down and through the night and the stars began to give way again to the blue shine of dawn.  All the people gathered around and they made up a party and got to dancing and preaching in tongues, remembering their personal tragedies and their joys, and a great deal of aguarguadente was drunk,  and all kinds of carrying on while the King made his song.  And for years afterward people would gather and roast up a beeve or a pig and make the holy music and commemorate this occasion.

And that, people, is how the Blues was born in America, which did not even have a name as yet. 

Now Tutwiler, Mississippi may lay righteous claim to the birth of Modern Blues, for that is where WC first heard a man using a knife blade to make those sounds on a guitar, but that man got his idea from somewhere and that somewhere was right here in California.

In any case, we got the Spanish coming into the picture with the long Sea of Cortez with extends for about 900 inhospitable miles between Baja and Mexico.  Nobody had seen the north end so people naturally assumed it just had no end at all.  Hence, California as an Island.

Meanwhile, Caliafa headed up there to the foothills with her sisters and made a sort of camp of women there with her mother and could not be persuaded back again.  Every Brave warrior they sent out there came back again with his tail between his legs for all the tongue lashing and verbal vitriol for Caliafa and her sisters could be mighty stern and direct when directed.

And the long and short of it was that Sumuc figured it was all too much trouble, so he got himself another wife and that suited Caliafa just fine, for she was happy enough up in the Sierra foothills, near what is now Angelís Camp, just hunting and shooting and fishing and hanging out with the sisters and that is how California got its rep as being an Island run by Amazons. And later on we will describe in detail just how Spain and Mexico gave up on Alta California, all the real reasons, and it was all on account of the chilies and the water, but that is another story.

And that is the truth, so help me god, as it was reported to me by highly reputable sources.

SUNDAY FISHWRAP

Sometimes I miss the voice of  Exasperator columnist  Herb Cane, who annoyed the hell out of us for some thirty years in the society columns of the once mighty Exasperator. He had a marvelous voice for the common man, as represented in print.  When he died, it seemed that the newspaper that hosted him fell apart by degrees almost as if his spirit had filled the entire publication.  Herb exemplified the entire world of Old San Francisco better than any of its chosen reps, and presented its issues better than any reporter in print.  Now the Exasperator is a tabloid joke among papers, and all of its reputable journalists have migrated to the Comical.  Now there is no one to report on the latest "sad sightem" or bumpernicker or the activities of strangely named people like Strange de Jim.

In any case, it is now Sunday Evening, and the night has fallen.  The HOB program is on, blasting the blues and the trains are blasting their own through-passing signals from the Port of Oaktown.

Down the street neighbor Jim, the sculptor, has erected a wire contraption on his fence, looking a bit like an art deco sign on LSD.  Its actually a frame for what will become a living frieze of wisteria.  Further down and a block over, Harry has placed a large placard on his gaily decorated VW beetle with two words that say it all in the way we feel here.  [EXPLETIVE] CHENEY !

Well, we like to think of this space as family-friendly, so please allow a bit of editorial license here.  Still, we understand that the halls of Congress have now become soiled with the sort of language we are accustomed to hearing in biker bars.  A little more gentility if you please, gentlemen. 

Well, that's the way it is on the Island. Have a grand week.

JUNE 19, 2004

LOOK INTO MY FATHER'S EYES

The morning fogs eased off into a gloriously golden day with just the hint of tattered clouds on the horizon.  Babylon remained sullen and grey but the rest of the Bay Area enjoyed bright sunshine for this Father's Day.

Rosalee Howarth opened Acoustic Sunrise on KFOG with a theme of songs about fathers and concluded with a promise to pull dear old da from window-trim painting to BBQ duty.

FREEDOM!  I SAY FREEDOM!

Oaktown combined this year's Juneteenth celebration with the annual Everett and Jones Blues and BBQ shindig this Sunday headlined by  Bobby Womack.  There was all kinds of good BBQ and music and general hoopla and jumping up and down in the downtown area.

Juneteenth began as a celebration of the last people to get the news about the Emancipation Proclamation, who heard about the abolition of slavery in the United States in the week of June 13-19, 1868 in Texas.  It was established as a state holiday amid some acrimony and resistance from conservatives, who are apparently rankled at this reminder of free labor's termination.  But many African-American communities across the country have since picked up on this week as a time for rejoycing.

IN MEMORIUM

We are deeply saddened to report here the passing of a dear friend and long time colleague, poet and activist, Carol Tarlen.  She passed away of apparent heart attack at home in her sleep. We first met Carol when she worked at UCSF as an Administrative Assistance and Local 252 Hospital Workers Union representative.  Born in Winnemucca, Nevada of humble origins, she moved to the Bay Area and joined the vigorous poetry scene that was unfolding during the sixties, becoming acquainted with many of the luminaries that haunted North Beach, including Jack Hirschman, Eugene Ruggles, Ferlingetti, Gregory Corso and many others. 

Always possessed of a strong social conscience, she disdained the more effete and self-involved aspects of the poetry "scenes", gravitating to the artists who practiced "engagement" in works and deeds.  She went to school at San Francisco State University where she picked up Mayakovsky as a guide for her style and beliefs.  Never one to play the shrinking violet, she spoke her mind with loud, clear and acerbic wit, and was arrested many times for taking part in political actions, such as feeding the homeless through the activist Food Not Bombs network, even to the age when she had become a grandmother. 

She was spunky, intelligent, talented, and nobody's fool.  We edited the magazine Real Fiction together for three issues.   Real Fiction contained prose works from writers from across the country, and, in its final issues, around the world.  Every issue sold out completely, in spite of having no formalized distribution channels of any kind, no funding support, and no advertising.   Carol had been published in every significant poetry magazine in the Bay Area, but her long-running bout with stage II diabetes forced her to slow down significantly in her later years.

She is survived by two daughters, Aleasha and Leah and her long-time companion, Joseph.

There will be no public viewing or services, as befits her life-long atheism.  A gathering of friends will take place June 29th at the famous North Beach locale, Speck's, across the street from Ferlingetti's City Lights.

OH WELL, A TOUCH OF GREY

Hear The Dead are playing the Shoreline sometime soon.  And Joan Osborne will be with them.  Even without Jerry, that old machine keeps on rocking on.  When it comes down to it, after your lead guitarist and singer drops out, you could spend all your retirement years sitting at home in front of the TV set, dreaming the memories -- the ones that stay lucid -- of screaming crowds of thousands.  But the Dead, even to their name, were never about going into that good night quietly.

Its half past the witching hour now, and the fog has rolled in to blanket the hills and soften the skies, leaving the entire Island muffled in dull clanks and twitters among the shadows.  Just in after a long day with friends walking the soothing hills of Marin.  And long discussions.  Downstairs the engine ticks and talks as it cools of the highway and the broken lines on your mind.  East goes east and Five goes north, a merging nexus back and forth.  The radio's gone off the air and gives you time to think.  A certain song in your head.  About someone that you met.  And the engine whispers home at last, home at last.  The engine whispers, home at last.

The local news is all about the termination of Section 8 housing for 800 families here, due to federal cutbacks.  All of them will have to leave.  At the same time, a fire smoked out a dozen people from an unlikely squat in underground bunkers at the end of Lake Merritt, where concrete shoring provided niches for people to setup fully furnished apartments complete with electricity, tables, chairs and at least one refrigerator under Route 12.  Transients accessed the space by squirming through crevices between retaining walls and the street. 

In another case, the body of a woman was found burning one morning by a stroller in the Rose Garden in Oaktown.

These are the sorts of things Carol Tarlen would not only have bound together into a poem, but which would have propelled her to the steps of City Hall for a vigorous finger-shaking in the faces of the Board of Supervisors.  But now it seems there is no one to call into account those with supposed authority. 

Just look at the current crop of criminals scoffing and laughing with impunity in Washington, DC.  Vermin of lies, all of them.

It's all right; I'm not feeling too good myself.  And there goes the morning backup tape.   Time to start a new Week.

And the engine whispers, "Home at last", "Home at last".

That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

JUNE 12, 2004

WHEN THE LEVEE BREAKS

It's a portent of the return to the infamous "water wars" of the early part of the twentieth century.  Governator Arnold declared a section of the northern Valley near Stockton a disaster area after a break in a 100 year old levee that keeps back the unruly waters of the San Francisco delta.  A fisherman passing nearby noted bubbles coming from the base of the old dyke.  By the time the financially strapped State services could respond a forty-foot hole had punched itself in the levee and water was pouring through.  As of today, the breach had chewed its way to a 300 foot hole.  Yes, the situation has gotten worse since the report last week.

Old railway embankments retained the flow to 12 thousand acres of what was once prime bottom land for hundreds of farmers.  Everything in the flooded area, from 250 homes, automobiles, livestock and ripening seed crops has been lost, causing losses in the millions of dollars.  And this is not the only issue.  Or the least.

The three main water conduits that supply the Bay Area and Los Angeles, normally resting on above-ground trestles, are now totally submerged.  If any one of those trestles shifts and a conduit breaks, it would affect well over 32 million people.

Experts estimate it will take at least 45 days to seal the edges of the breach, plug the gap and pump out the water.

The Sacramento delta is hedged in by an assortment of several hundred to several thousand levees and dikes along several pathways for hundreds of miles, all between the age of 80 and 100 years.  They are maintained by a mixture of public agencies and private interests and no one keeps track of the entire system.

This one is no joke. 

HEY HEY WHAT I SAY

Born September 23, 1930 in Albany Georgia, his family moved to Greenville, Florida when he was just three months of age, sending a number of biographers in the wrong direction with his place and date of birth.  He witnessed his younger brother's accidental death in a washtub, then went blind over the course of a single year from glaucoma at the age of seven.  Accepted as a charity student by St. Augustine's School for the Blind, he taught himself music and composition, learning to compose and arrange music in his head before telling out the parts to scribes.

He set out as a solo professional musician and nearly starved to death while trying to get gigs locally.  When his mother died, he asked a friend "where's the furthest place from Florida I can get?"  and wound up in Seattle, Washington in 1948.  Seattle was good to him, and he found work with musicians, eventually attaching himself to bluesman Lowell Fulsom's band.  Unfortunately, it was also in Seattle that he first tried heroin, a drug that was to dog him for many more years.

Once he dropped his attempts to imitate Nat King Cole, in 1954, and adopted a gospel-inflected style, his star began to rise.  By the early 1960's, after playing the Apollo in New York City, he was able to form his own big band and acquire significant prestige.  He toured Europe on an immensely successful gig -- which he has repeated every year since them -- and returned to find that he had almost single-handedly cracked the "race records" barrier, endearing himself to white audiences far and wide, who came to adopt the natively American Rhythm and Blues style. 

Even before his death, his powerful ballade, "Georgia", has remained a main staple of R&B stations across the country for some fifty years.  His take on John Lennon's "Imagine", is remarkably powerful and affects listeners of all ages.

His style was an infectious, energetic mixture of church gospel, field holler, jazz, blues, juke joint barrelhouse and anything else he could think up or cull from his vast storehouse of musical knowledge.  Most critics credit him with laying the foundations of rock 'n roll.

Clint Eastwood featured him during the Scorsese series on the Blues, and tried to get the man, who was visibly ailing, to talk about the early days, but Ray Charles was too much a lover of life in the present at all moments to dwell for any significant extent of time upon the past.  He is known to have said, "We was all poor -- poorer than most Blacks even.  Heck, we was lower than dirt."

A completely American icon, a startling rags to riches story, Ray Charles inspired all of us by his exuberant joy and enthusiasm.  He was a true Statesman of music, a Statesman in caps whose annual visits to Europe did more than any detente program ever devised and whose generosity of spirit most would do well to emulate, for he epitomized America at its finest and with its best values: humble, sincere, forthright, magnanimous to friends as well as enemies, powerful without oppression, and exuberant with joy.

PAPOON AND BABAR COMMENT ON DE MORTUUIS

Everyone wants to hear what the Candidates think about the "Reagan Legacy", so we dutifully tromped on down to get the 411 on the Great Confabulator.

Not surprisingly, the more liberal candidate, Papoon, had some words to say about the man's legacy, especially with regard to his sunny disposition.  This cartoon illustrates much of what he had to say.

Babar, as the Conservative, quite clearly has another take on things, for Babar is of the mind that we take inspiration from what we find useful and make useful what we find and make fit to be useful that which allows itself to be malleable. 

"Ronald Reagan never really existed -- not in any tangible form," proposed Babar.  "He fit our needs at the time of something solidly American with solid Anglo-Saxon origins which was unapologetically Majority and White.  America was immersed in profound self-loathing, having publicly lost an undeclared war and conditioned by guilt and a sense of failure as foisted by the Left which had lost its own sense of direction and so had gotten around to pure wallowing in abasement of the White culture.  Reagan appeared as an icon right from the movies which had produced him as the Great White Hope -- he was the affirmation to people who has lost the sense of themselves as being in any way important and who had lost their moorings in a world which seemed to possess a foundation very different from that upon which they had been conditioned to believe.  Please remember that the very foundation of Conservativism is based upon a Past which never existed, just as the foundation of Liberalism is based  upon an unattained Future which can never be achieved.

How natural it is that a Leader emerges from the totally manufactured past of Hollywood films!  The West of Hollywood never existed except on celluloid.  In reality, cowboys were invariably Mexican, Indian or Black, and the gun-battles with those miserable firearms of the 1800's were characterized more by misses and shots in the back than the standoff at high noon, for no handgun of 1880 vintage was capable of hitting a target accurately at more than 5 yards.   What is important is that the Hollywood West supplies the missing values that the reality never had:  Courage, toughness, chastity, honor and all that.  Any spaghetti western hero would have fit the bill.    Reagan happened to have a politician's streak in him, and so he became the It boy for us.  And for that, we are eternally grateful.

That's why he could say or do anything and nothing would "stick" -- like teflon.  He was never real and nobody ever took him as such in reality.  Not even Gorby who understood that Reagan was simply an appearance that signified changes already in progress.  At least as far as he was concerned.  He just did not want to wind up in the basement with a gun-barrel pressed to the back of his skull.  He was more than happy to grant all sorts of credit to any force external to himself that could be burdened with the onus of bringing down a government."

After this lecture from Babar, we felt a need to go down to McNally's and down several pints in quick succession.  Can't figure out why.

INTO THE MYSTIC

The water and skies off the strand have been busy after five all this week with the bright cuts of para-sails pulling wind surfers across the Bay.  Watched as one feller came to the bend and, when it came time for the turn, adjusted his wires such that the sail lofted him and his board neatly six feet into the air above the water surface before plopping him down again.  Neat trick, that.  Most others would just let the lines go slack, allow the sail to drop and then, start up the whole process again by standing in waist-high water to catch the wind.  Not this feller, for he did it again and again as I watched.  Sometimes on a warm day the dozens of sails form a Monet painting in the sky off the Island.

One day, the seas will rise from climate change and sweep away this beach and the windsurfers will be gone, but for now, the sails daub their color palettes against the sky.

Heard Venus crossed in front of the sun early this week. And rather early in the morning, which bade us remain in bed. Venus will always be there and the sun will always be there too.  Halley's comet was a low streak on the horizon and was therefore rather disappointing.  The Perseids this year should be quite fine.

As the world spindles irrevocably to some Mad Max apocalypse situation, we continue to go about our business here, buying groceries from Paul's produce stand -- itself a kind of anachronism in an urban metropolis -- arguing for more or less stop signs and speed bumps, supporting the Blues and Live Music, going to town meetings with Rep. Pete Stark, deploring the behavior of teenagers at the recent Oaktown Carnival. 

It's got to the midnight hour again.  You know what that means: the toot of the midnight train passing through Jack London Square from the Port to locations unknown comes echoing across the flatlands and treetops of the Island.  And that means the end of another week.  That's just the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

JUNE 6, 2004

AN DER FREUDE

The weekend slid into a gorgeously beautiful pair of sunny days with light breezes to assist the plethora of springtime events that bloomed here and there all over the Bay Area.  From D-Day commemorations at Veteran's Memorial Hall to the sparkling splendor of the Union Street Faire over in Babylon, to the East Bay Open Studios and the Bammies in Oaktown, the whole place felt like everybody just decided en masse to turn that frown upside down.  It's been said before, but "been down so long, practically everything looks up to me."

We took in a bit of this year's stupendous East Bay Open Studios with 500 participating artists along the Nimitz corridor from Point Richmond down to Fremont.   Popped on over to the brand new Alameda Art Center on Webster, where the Alameda Art Association is leasing a location from the City to show the work of 80 artist members in bright, clean space.  The organization has been supporting Island arts for some 44 years and has finally realized a cherished dream with this venue.  Several well-known artists are represented there, including the work of furniture/sculptor artisan Gordon Bennett.

All displayed items are for sale and information is available for those who wish to contact the artists.  Besides a Bennett glass-topped table, silk scarves, textiles, paintings, photography and mixed media works are displayed, indicating the wealth of talent that resides here on the Island. 

As part of the Open Studios kickoff, we attended the opening reception on the 4th, and the ProArts Gala over on the corner of Second and Clay in Oaktown on the 3rd.

All kinds of people with berets and curious headgear were there, and many people who devote their lives to making beautiful and strange and strangely beautiful things were there too.  The real artists clustered around the bread and dip table until all that was gone but for the olive oil and a few others wandered about with the usual cynical grimace that said plainly, "Oh I can see how jejune all of this really is!"  Others gathered in flocks and chattered and the room was as gay as any corner of the Amazon with its arrangement of cockatiels and birds of paradise all going off all at once.  A little group sat down and made some middle eastern sounds somewhere between klezmer and dervish music. In short, it was delightful.

After a bit, a charming woman got up and danced, doing some amazing things with her body better left to the imagination than to sense-deprived words.

Some call it belly-dancing, and she sure did things with that belly I never saw done before, with such a marvelous and fetching smile, that I could well believe it.  Afterwards she dragged people up on the stage and pretty soon got the whole lot of them dancing to the music, proving that we here in the East Bay do Art Openings a little bit differently than staid old Babylon across the water.

As for the art itself, it ran the gamut, with the most interesting pieces being 3D multimedia works.  Presented here is a work done as a collaboration between a sculptor who works with metal and wood and a textile artist who works with wool.  These are two artists who live on the Island.

Masks are always a favorite around here.

Here we have something between painting and sculpture, which challenges traditional definitions of either.

EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC

The Bammy Awards had their beginnings in the humble desires of a single man to have a music library, found a magazine, and have an awards show.  Well, that man was Dennnis Erokan, who went on to found the influential magazine Bam (for Bay Area Music), establish a collection of music memorabilia that is now housed in the San Francisco Performing Arts Museum, and solidify the Bammies, now called the California Music Awards, as the preeminent awards ceremony in the State and possibly the country.  The event grew to encompass the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium until Jerry Brown used his star power to pull the ceremonies across the bay to Oaktown in 2001.

They have been rendered free to the public and in the open air since then, and the performers have responded positively to this human approach.  Awards are granted by listenership, not by an elite group of industry specialists. 

This weekend, the awards were held in Frank Ogawa Plaza, hosting some 10,000 mellow audience members, and featuring a true cross section of America, with breakers and poppers busting out hip hop moves down in the pit, while hard core rappers strolled with gangland tattoos among the C&W fans in the crowd.  It was peaceful. It was Oaktown. It was beautiful.  Thank you Hieroglyphics for keeping it so.  You guys rock.  And with beautiful Goapele.  Yo!

 

 AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT

Governor Arnold has declared a state of emergency in the central valley after a levee has broke, flooding several hundred acres of prime farmland and the main aqueducts that supply water to the Bay Area.  A fisherman noticed bubbling at the base of the levee a week ago and called in a report, but by the time authorities were able to respond, a 40 foot breach had torn itself through the levee separating the Sacramento delta from low lying farmlands.  The water is contained at present by raised railroad beds established more than a century ago by the Southern Pacific Railway. 

Experts estimate that it will take some 45 days of non-stop work to plug the breach with 2-ton blocks of cement and pump out the water.

The levees in California are uniformly between 80 and 100 years old and are maintained by a patchwork of government and private agencies.  They were established over the years in an attempt to govern the often unruly floods of the Sacramento delta, which were further inflamed by logging in the Sierra foothills.  Trees retain water and snow melt and extensive logging destroys the natural controls upon the spring floods.

At present, the aqueducts -- all three of them -- that supply the Bay Area, are now totally submerged and concern exists that shifting of support soil may rupture the main supplies to some 10 million people.

We humbly suggest that perhaps it is about now that we should begin thinking about environmental concerns and their impact upon population at this point.

WE ARE ALL WAITING ON THAT TRAIN

It's past the midnight hour again and still we have not gotten to the response of the Candidates on the news of the death of the Great Confabulator.  Babar had a great deal to say, as did Papoon, but this news must wait another week until next time for time is not enough of what we have this week.  The train has come and gone, leaving the Island sleeping under the heavy darkness, without even a dog barking in the distance to signal life.  Everyone rests under a blanket of fog, dreaming and dreamed. 

Officer O'Madhauen dozes in his Crown Victoria down by Buena Vista and Bay.  Lisah Horner, Director of the Island Art Center dreams deeply of large maxi-grants in her bed while the members of AFI, winners of this year's Hard Rock Award, all cluster like bees in a warm hive, dimly humming a hive song.  Papoon dreams in his nest of delegations and runoffs while Babar dreams of bunting and balanced budgets.  Various artists around the Bay Area dream of pleasant open spaces with perfect light and excellent reverb in that perfect space and large, perhaps immense, plates of spaghetti.

This is a place we visit from time to time; the place that is the space between the signoff of the last week and the start of the next.  We have been here before, looking up at the stars, and we will be here again.  That's the way it is on the Island.  Have a great week.

QUOTE FROM TRUTHOUT ARTICLE JUNE 5, 2004

    The dignity and candor of Reagan's farewell letter to the American people was as magnificent a departure from public life as any that has been seen in our history, but the ugly truth of his illness was that he lived on, and on, and on. His family and friends watched as he faded from the world of the real, as the simple dignity afforded to all life collapsed like loose sand behind his ever more vacant eyes. Only those who have seen Alzheimer's Disease invade a mind can know the truth of this. It is a cursed way to die.

    In this mourning space, however, there must be room made for the truth. Writer Edward Abbey once said, "The sneakiest form of literary subtlety, in a corrupt society, is to speak the plain truth. The critics will not understand you; the public will not believe you; your fellow writers will shake their heads."

 The truth is straightforward: Virtually every significant problem facing the American people today can be traced back to the policies and people that came from the Reagan administration. It is a laundry list of ills, woes and disasters that has all of us, once again, staring apocalypse in the eye.

    How can this be? The television says Ronald Reagan was one of the most beloved Presidents of the 20th century. He won two national elections, the second by a margin so overwhelming that all future landslides will be judged by the high-water mark he achieved against Walter Mondale. How can a man so universally respected have played a hand in the evils which corrupt our days?

    The answer lies in the reality of the corrupt society Abbey spoke of. Our corruption is the absolute triumph of image over reality, of flash over substance, of the pervasive need within most Americans to believe in a happy-face version of the nation they call home, and to spurn the reality of our estate as unpatriotic. Ronald Reagan was, and will always be, the undisputed heavyweight champion of salesmen in this regard.

    Reagan was able, by virtue of his towering talents in this arena, to sell to the American people a flood of poisonous policies. He made Americans feel good about acting against their own best interests. He sold the American people a lemon, and they drive it to this day as if it was a Cadillac. It isn't the lies that kill us, but the myths, and Ronald Reagan was the greatest myth-maker we are ever likely to see.

    Mainstream media journalism today is a shameful joke because of Reagan's deregulation policies. Once upon a time, the Fairness Doctrine ensured that the information we receive - information vital to the ability of the people to govern in the manner intended - came from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Reagan's policies annihilated the Fairness Doctrine, opening the door for a few mega-corporations to gather journalism unto themselves. Today, Reagan's old bosses at General Electric own three of the most-watched news channels. This company profits from every war we fight, but somehow is trusted to tell the truths of war. Thus, the myths are sold to us.

    The deregulation policies of Ronald Reagan did not just deliver journalism to these massive corporations, but handed virtually every facet of our lives into the hands of this privileged few. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat are all tainted because Reagan battered down every environmental regulation he came across so corporations could improve their bottom line. Our leaders are wholly-owned subsidiaries of the corporations that were made all-powerful by Reagan's deregulation craze. The Savings and Loan scandal of Reagan's time, which cost the American people hundreds of billions of dollars, is but one example of Reagan's decision that the foxes would be fine guards in the henhouse.

    Ronald Reagan believed in small government, despite the fact that he grew government massively during his time. Social programs which protected the weakest of our citizens were gutted by Reagan's policies, delivering millions into despair. Reagan was able to do this by caricaturing the "welfare queen," who punched out babies by the barnload, who drove the flashy car bought with your tax dollars, who refused to work because she didn't have to. This was a vicious, racist lie, one result of which was the decimation of a generation by crack cocaine. The urban poor were left to rot because Ronald Reagan believed in 'self-sufficiency.'

    Because Ronald Reagan could not be bothered to fund research into 'gay cancer,' the AIDS virus was allowed to carve out a comfortable home in America. The aftershocks from this callous disregard for people whose homosexuality was deemed evil by religious conservatives cannot be overstated. Beyond the graves of those who died from a disease which was allowed to burn unchecked, there are generations of Americans today living with the subconscious idea that sex equals death.

    The veneer of honor and respect painted across the legacy of Ronald Reagan is itself a myth of biblical proportions. The coverage proffered today of the Reagan legacy seldom mentions impropriety until the Iran/Contra scandal appears on the administration timeline. This sin of omission is vast. By the end of his term in office, some 138 Reagan administration officials had been convicted, indicted or investigated for misconduct and/or criminal activities.

    Some of the names on this disgraceful roll-call: Oliver North, John Poindexter, Richard Secord, Casper Weinberger, Elliott Abrams, Robert C. McFarlane, Michael Deaver, E. Bob Wallach, James Watt, Alan D. Fiers, Clair George, Duane R. Clarridge, Anne Gorscuh Burford, Rita Lavelle, Richard Allen, Richard Beggs, Guy Flake, Louis Glutfrida, Edwin Gray, Max Hugel, Carlos Campbell, John Fedders, Arthur Hayes, J. Lynn Helms, Marjory Mecklenburg, Robert Nimmo, J. William Petro, Thomas C. Reed, Emanuel Savas, Charles Wick. Many of these names are lost to history, but more than a few of them are still with us today, 'rehabilitated' by the administration of George W. Bush.

    Ronald Reagan actively supported the regimes of the worst people ever to walk the earth. Names like Marcos, Duarte, Rios Mont and Duvalier reek of blood and corruption, yet were embraced by the Reagan administration with passionate intensity. The ground of many nations is salted with the bones of those murdered by brutal rulers who called Reagan a friend. Who can forget his support of those in South Africa who believed apartheid was the proper way to run a civilized society?

    One dictator in particular looms large across our landscape. Saddam Hussein was a creation of Ronald Reagan. The Reagan administration supported the Hussein regime despite his incredible record of atrocity. The Reagan administration gave Hussein intelligence information which helped the Iraqi military use their chemical weapons on the battlefield against Iran to great effect. The deadly bacterial agents sent to Iraq during the Reagan administration are a laundry list of horrors.

    The Reagan administration sent an emissary named Donald Rumsfeld to Iraq to shake Saddam Hussein's hand and assure him that, despite public American condemnation of the use of those chemical weapons, the Reagan administration still considered him a welcome friend and ally. This happened while the Reagan administration was selling weapons to Iran, a nation notorious for its support of international terrorism, in secret and in violation of scores of laws.

    Another name on Ronald Reagan's roll call is that of Osama bin Laden. The Reagan administration believed it a bully idea to organize an army of Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet Union. bin Laden became the spiritual leader of this action. Throughout the entirety of Reagan's term, bin Laden and his people were armed, funded and trained by the United States. Reagan helped teach Osama bin Laden the lesson he lives by today, that it is possible to bring a superpower to its knees. bin Laden believes this because he has done it once before, thanks to the dedicated help of Ronald Reagan.

    In 1998, two American embassies in Africa were blasted into rubble by Osama bin Laden, who used the Semtex sent to Afghanistan by the Reagan administration to do the job. In 2001, Osama bin Laden thrust a dagger into the heart of the United States, using men who became skilled at the art of terrorism with the help of Ronald Reagan. Today, there are 827 American soldiers and over 10,000 civilians who have died in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war that came to be because Reagan helped manufacture both Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

    How much of this can be truthfully laid at the feet of Ronald Reagan? It depends on who you ask. Those who worship Reagan see him as the man in charge, the man who defeated Soviet communism, the man whose vision and charisma made Americans feel good about themselves after Vietnam and the malaise of the 1970s. Those who despise Reagan see him as nothing more than a pitch-man for corporate raiders, the man who allowed greed to become a virtue, the man who smiled vapidly while allowing his officials to run the government for him.

    In the final analysis, however, the legacy of Ronald Reagan - whether he had an active hand in its formulation, or was merely along for the ride - is beyond dispute. His famous question, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" is easy to answer. We are not better off than we were four years ago, or eight years ago, or twelve, or twenty. We are a badly damaged state, ruled today by a man who subsists off Reagan's most corrosive final gift to us all: It is the image that matters, and be damned to the truth.

    William Rivers Pitt is the senior editor and lead writer for t r u t h o u t. He is a New York Times and international bestselling author of two books - 'War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know' and 'The Greatest Sedition is Silence.'

JUNE 5, 2004 - SPECIAL PRELIMINARY UPDATE

DING DONG! THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD !

Bonzo may have gone to Bitburg, to paraphrase the song by The Ramones, but he almost certainly is warming a bench in Hell right now.  A tremendous Evil, which had been gnawing upon the bones of its own deterioration for the past ten years, has finally passed out of the world as of Saturday morning on a joyously gorgeous day and  Ronald Reagan is dead.  He reigned as 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989, and was instrumental in leading Conservatives into national power from their prior position of social and legislative irrelevance.

Conservatives, completely ignoring the efforts of millions of people and the previous work of leaders such as John F. Kennedy as well as the radical reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, often credit Ronald Reagan with bringing about the end of the Soviet Union.  An end Reagan ardently desired, but to which his own efforts probably had minimal influence, despite statements from former Soviet leaders who have a great deal of interest in offloading the onus of failure on to causes exterior to their own system. 

Reagan's hatred of Communism, both in its real manifestation and in its imaginary bogeyman incarnations devised by the conservatives, extended to his active participation with HUAC during the infamous McCarthy "witch hunts" of the fifties.  He participated in the blacklisting and acted as informant, destroying lives and careers during his burst of vindictive hatred towards the liberal elements in the entertainment industry, which he resented for not granting him sufficient due praise and for not falling into line according to personal ideas of patriotic fervor. In disgust, he switched from the Democratic party and joined the RNC, which welcomed him with open arms after an impassioned speech in support of Barry Goldwater. 

He reached 93 in March, living in posh wealth within the state which he punished repeatedly for dumping him as governor and voting solidly against him for President.  His reign brought on an age of avarice, brutality and public venality of shocking magnitude that persists into today.  While the stock market bubbled, millions lost their jobs and many struggled in low-paid, substandard half-time employment.  Long were the free soup lines during his reign and even his RNC successor, George Bush the elder, claimed that all his ideas about trickle-down theory were "Voodoo economics".  Many suffered during his time and many friends died cold and lonely deaths due to inanition that could have been prevented.

He was a hate-filled man who had a Pollyanna view of the way things work.  He loathed the people of California and held a long bitter grudge against the State which had finally rejected his particular brand of deception.  The jar of jelly beans on his desk was a typical sop against the liberals, which he enjoyed taunting in all manner of ways.  Jelly beans, as every Nammie knows, were the napalm cylinders dropped on helpless villages and forests during the Vietnam war and his tweak here was to consciously trivialize the weapons of death so as to infuriate the humanists whom he hated.

Yet, those close to him invariably found Ronald Reagan to be an affable, likeable fellow who exuded a sense of warmth.  One of his best friends was the recently deceased Edward Teller, who persuaded Reagan into adopting the now discredited "Star Wars Defense System" -- a system that Teller himself discredited before his death with the simple statement, "Oh yes, it never would have worked. We never had the technology." 

Reagan demonstrated all the classic hallmarks of a psychopathic personality with no conscience to such an extent that the APA once used him as a textbook clinical example of the condition.  Like all psychopaths, he was eminently likeable and personable and thus able to lure all sorts of people into his orbit.  And like all psychopaths, such as John Wayne Gacy who butchered dozens of boys in his basement while spending his days as a Rotarian and an amateur clown for children's parties, he pursued horrific and violently insane policies while executing vicious vendettas against anyone opposed to him.  His great gift was the ability to persuade himself of just about anything, which made persuading people who faced him of the most unlikely issues.  He even managed to convinced his number one enemy, Mikhail Gorbachev, whom he had called publicly "a tyrant leader of an Evil Empire" that the two were the best of friends. 

Some cynics claim that he used his actor's training to deceive people and present the calculated front of "Mr. Goodman", but the truth is that Ronald Reagan was a lousy actor with almost no natural ability whatsoever.  He could not remember his script lines and towards the end of his Presidency, could barely remember how to hold a fork in his right hand, let alone execute the lines of a speech, due to the ravages of that terrible disease, Alzheimer's.

The truth was, Reagan actually believed, at the moment he said it, in the goodness of his actions.  Much as any good Hitler Jugend would have considered himself to be one of God's own disciples.  And then, because there was no connection between the thought and the act, there could be no shadow of remorse on a conscience which did not, and never had, existed.   His ability to convince himself of things that were flatly false also contributed to his skill of projecting an image of himself as a genial, simple sort of guy who was just folks.  People close to him, as well as savvy political analysts, have remarked on the way Reagan was able to convince himself and subsequently the electorate that he was not a politician at all.

Within weeks of an operation to remove cancerous polyps in 1985, he was riding the range again at Rancho del Cielo, his mountaintop California ranch northwest of Santa Barbara. In a classic instance of self-deception, Mr. Reagan managed to persuade himself that he never had cancer. As Mr. Reagan described his medical condition, the surgeons had removed "a self-contained polyp" that "had begun to develop a few cancer cells."

This capacity was especially evident in Mr. Reagan's dealings with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Although Mr. Reagan was an outspoken anti-communist who described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire," he forged a constructive relationship with the reform-minded Gorbachev, who ascended to power midway through the Reagan presidency and whose efforts contributed largely to the easing of tensions between the two Superpowers even while the hawks within the US administration constantly undermined efforts to solidify peace.

The two leaders held five summits, beginning with a 1985 meeting in Geneva. At a 1987 summit in Washington, they signed the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, the first pact to reduce U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals. After a follow-up Moscow summit in 1988, Mr. Reagan proclaimed a "new era" in U.S.-Soviet relations.

The thaw that melted the Cold War followed a prolonged period of heightened tensions between the two countries during Mr. Reagan's first term. The relationship reached a low point on Sept. 1, 1983, when a Soviet fighter shot down a Korean Air Lines passenger jet that had strayed over Russian air space, killing all 269 people aboard, including 61 U.S. citizens. In the wake of this incident, military forces on both sides were placed on alert.

Administration critics contended that Mr. Reagan had contributed to the crisis with anti-Soviet rhetoric and by conducting a massive, deficit-swelling U.S. arms buildup that he had promised during his 1980 campaign. On June 18, 1980, Mr. Reagan told The Washington Post that it "would be of great benefit to the United States if we started a buildup" because the Soviets were too weak economically to compete in an expanded arms race and would come to the bargaining table instead.

In his 1980 campaign, he pledged to cut taxes, increase military spending and balance the budget. He carried out the first two promises at the expense of the third. While the nation re-entered a period of harsh economic conditions just after emerging from a 1981-82 recession, the Reagan budgets produced record deficits and a near tripling of the national debt. Toward the end of his term, Mr. Reagan called the federal budget deficit "one of my greatest disappointments" and blamed it on congressional reluctance to cut domestic spending, even though the budget proposals he submitted to Congress had not been balanced.

Reagan maintained high public approval ratings during most of his presidency after the 1981-82 recession. But his popularity plummeted in November 1986 after disclosures that he had secretly approved U.S. arms sales to Iran in an attempt to win release of American hostages held in Lebanon. Mr. Reagan was criticized for violating a promise never to negotiate with terrorists; his defense was that he had dealt with Iranian middlemen, not the terrorists themselves. But the arms sales were a diplomatic embarrassment that undercut U.S. efforts to persuade allies to stem the supply of arms to Iran, which was involved in a prolonged war with Iraq.

The Iran arms deal and follow-up revelations that proceeds from the sales had been diverted to the contra rebels fighting the legitimate government of Nicaragua provoked the seminal crisis of the Reagan administration and led to the dismissal of the president's national security adviser, John M. Poindexter, and Marine Lt. Col. Oliver North, the National Security Council staff aide accused of masterminding the diversion.

Prodded by his closest advisers, Mr. Reagan reluctantly accepted responsibility for the arms sales but denied knowledge of the diversion, which Mr. Poindexter claimed he had approved without telling the president. Neither a joint congressional inquiry nor independent counsel Lawrence E. Walsh was able to prove otherwise. Walsh, who conducted a seven-year investigation of the Iran-contra affair, found that Mr. Reagan had "knowingly participated or acquiesced in covering up the scandal."  His investigation also revealed that Reagan's people may have negotiated for protraction of the hostage situation so as to further embarrass then President Carter, preventing the return of people who had been held prisoner for three years that much longer.

The Iran-contra affair, coming on the heels of the 1986 midterm elections in which Democrats regained control of the Senate they had lost when Mr. Reagan was first elected, led to a shake-up of the National Security Council staff under veteran bureaucrat Frank Carlucci and the forced resignation of White House chief of staff Donald T. Regan. Former senator Baker, the Senate majority leader during the halcyon days of Reagan's first term, was brought in to replace Regan and mollify Congress. 

Overall, the "Reagan doctrine" foreign policy of aiding anti-communist insurrections, led by parties and individuals that would, under any other circumstances, have been termed savage, inhuman terrorists, had mixed results. It succeeded, briefly, in Afghanistan with bipartisan congressional support -- until the Taliban seized power in the power vacuum left by the departing Russians -- and had partial successes in southern Africa and Cambodia, then occupied by Vietnamese troops. But the Vietnamese had entered Cambodia as a consequence of necessarily restoring order over the country which the brutal Khmer Rouge had soaked in blood after US had destabilized the entire region.  Reagan also failed to mobilize public support in behalf of his favorite anti-communist insurgents, the Nicaraguan Contras he called "the moral equivalent of the Founding Fathers." Time and again, the Democratic-controlled House resisted his appeals for military aid to the brutal Contras, who obtained financial support indirectly through Oliver North's CIA-abetted scheme of running cocaine and heroin from South America into the United States. This political defeat in Congress was a bitter disappointment to Mr. Reagan that was partially salved after he left office when a combination of U.S. sanctions and pressure from the Contras prompted the Sandinista government in Nicaragua to hold free elections that ousted it from power but prevented the Contras from seizing dictatorial control.

Mr. Reagan never made a pretense of scientific knowledge or of grasping policy details and would tell jokes about his inability to understand the issues at debate in Congress and in his own Cabinet   Reagan often credited his political success to an empathy with ordinary Americans. Asked by a reporter on the eve of his election in 1980 what Americans saw in him, Mr. Reagan replied: "Would you laugh if I told you that I think, maybe, they see themselves, and that I'm one of them? I've never been able to detach myself or think that I, somehow, am apart from them."

Even after two terms as president, and possessed of fabulous wealth of which few in this country can dream, Mr. Reagan insisted on calling himself a "citizen-politician," the phrase he often used to describe himself in 1966 when he was elected governor of California in his first race for public office. Mr. Reagan said he wanted to become part of government in order to reduce its influence.  Ironically, during his term as Governor in the Golden State, government swelled, provoking numerous recall attempts which barely failed on technicalities, and as President, the Federal government began reaching into the everyday lives of Americans with a pervasiveness never before seen.  Yet, he still imagined himself as a man of the people.

"This view was not a pose," said his friend Paul Laxalt, a Republican conservative who served as governor of neighboring Nevada during Mr. Reagan's first term as governor, and who became his Senate sounding board during the Reagan presidency. "Much of life is psychological, and it is Reagan's genius that he convinced himself and others that he was not really a politician, which inspired unbelievable trust in him," Laxalt said.

Mr. Reagan reinforced the impression that he was not a politician by telling stories at meetings where others were discussing policy. Even during the most trying discussions, Mr. Reagan was apt to interject anecdotes from his Hollywood years or his Illinois boyhood, a practice that led critics to accuse him of conducting "government by anecdote." The combination of Mr. Reagan's affable personality and his seemingly casual approach to complex problems prompted some adversaries to agree with Democrat Clark Clifford's assessment that Mr. Reagan was "an amiable dunce."   The Russians with whom he dealt, however, remarked that he was a shrewd and savvy negotiator.

One of the paradoxes of Mr. Reagan's political career was that he campaigned ceaselessly against government, even as an incumbent president, but wound up strengthening the presidency and the influence of the central government. John B. Anderson, an independent candidate for president in 1980, complained that Mr. Reagan "made government seem more an enemy than a friend of the people."

In a famous speech delivered before the Democratic Primary Convention held in New York City, then Mayor Mario Cuomo delivered an impassioned speech in which he declared, "Mr. President, you have declared it 'morning in America', but I am here to tell you that across the country there are millions of Americans who do not share your view.  Millions of people are locked out from your vision of a shining America and stand, hungry and cold at the edge of this imagined feast where you and your friends come to dine. . .".

This duality of Reagan, his seemingly simplistic good-old-boy nature coupled with a hidden sharpness has been remarked upon even by his long-time friends.

Michael K. Deaver, a longtime aide and friend, said that the persistent underestimation of Mr. Reagan was "his secret weapon." In time, it became recognized that Mr. Reagan's pleasant smile and apparent passivity concealed a savageness that came to the fore when he was sharply challenged. This competitiveness manifested itself in a desire to succeed at any cost. During his time as governor he would occasionally lapse during speeches into an ugly grimace and launch streams of hate-filled vitriol at his enemies.  Few remember him with any degree of warmth here and his actions during his last days serving as governor are legendary for their severe vindictiveness.  For example, one of his actions was to completely destroy the entire mental health system throughout California by terminating funding for every critical care facility, forcing hundreds of hospitals to shut their doors and turn thousands of mentally ill out upon the street, creating a massive social problem that persists to this day several decades after his revenge upon the people of California for unceremoniously dumping him in landslide defeat after four successive recall attempts.

There were other contradictions. Mr. Reagan, the only divorced man to serve as president, preached family values but was a distant figure to his four children and his grandchildren who have distanced themselves further from their father and mother.  He urged a religious revival yet rarely went to church. He lauded military heroism after spending World War II in the hometown comfort of a Hollywood studio making training films.

Mr. Reagan sometimes exhibited lapses that undermined his Great Communicator image. Factual errors were commonplace at his infrequent White House news conferences. He seemed often to have a sketchy command of military matters and once left the impression that submarine-based nuclear missiles could be recalled in flight. He forgot the names of Cabinet officers, trusted aides and visiting dignitaries. In Brazil, he toasted the people of Bolivia.  In the visit to the military cemetery at Bitburg, Germany, a visit that produced world-wide condemnation and revulsion by many Americans, he expressed sympathies with the soldiers of the German Wehrmacht who "suffered" during World War II.  Many in Germany also responded with shock and detestation at his careless remarks.

Reagan brushed off criticisms about his verbal missteps, which he said were blown out of proportion by the media. In any case, he rarely suffered politically for such mistakes. It became fashionable among the president's critics to say, in a metaphor coined by Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.), that Mr. Reagan had a Teflon coating because nothing seemed to stick to him.

At the end of his Presidency, he attempted to boldly support George Bush with the outrageous request that Americans "Ask yourselves, 'Am I not better off than before?'"  They were not.  Two terms of bad budgets, out of control military spending, rampant corporate greed which was sending more and more dollars and jobs overseas, widespread suffering, destruction of workplace securities and conservative lassez faire attitudes to a sinking economy had caused  the sentiment of the country to shift away from "voodoo economics".

The vindictiveness of Reagan and his people also had hammered the State of Massachusetts and RNC legislatures succeeded in halting the renovation of Boston Harbor as well as numerous other badly needed projects, while gifting Texas and other obedient states that had voted for Reagan with immense barrels of pork projects.

 He spent his last days gaggling in a terry-cloth robe before a television set that spooled an endless round of Hanna-Barbara cartoon reruns.  At his 93rd birthday party a few months ago, 101 schoolgirls in skimpy outfits paraded like harlots before him while he drooled into his side-stand cup and they sang "God Bless America" in high tinny voices while the hired musicians did what they could to fix up the noise.

John MacNamara, who has been skulking about in the Reports lately, was present to give him a large vase filled with  his beloved jelly beans, which he began sorting into color groups on his food tray, along with the battery of drugs designed to keep him safely quiet.  For the Designers of the Neo-Con Revolution wished that, now that they have chosen Reagan to be the Symbol of American Triumphalist Republicanism, the referenced symbol kindly keep quiet until safe in the grave so they can build monuments in revisionist histories about the way RR destroyed the Evil Empire and exploded the Dark Star.

Which plan a very real gabbling idiot chasing after nurses in short skirts might cause some difficulty.  Hence, MacNamara's real purpose at the Birthday was to ensure that His Holiness keeps himself properly doped up on opiates straight from the labs of George Tenet.  And says not a damn word to the Press.  Now that the Great Confabulator is safely stowed into his grave, Tenet is no longer needed and has tendered his resignation.

One thing is certain: Ronald Reagan will spend a long season in hell.  Probably in company with that other crook, Richard Nixon. 

And champagne corks are popping all over California tonight.

SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

Some of you may have noticed that this year is an election year. Some of you may have noticed that things really have started to matter in a Big Way. For example, we have a bitterly polarized legislature run by people who just want their own way done no matter what the cost to you or me. We have a collection of prison camps based on ethnicity and run without supervision by the Executive Branch. We have arrests and detentions of people based on political and ethnic grounds with no recourse to trial or representation, limit of hold or allowed contact of any kind with the outside world.

We have 600 American boys dead and well over 3,000 of them returning without arms and legs from a spurious war launched on the basis of outright lies to the American People about mythical "weapons of mass destruction" and non-existent ties to the tragic events of 9/11. In addition we suffer daily outrages of unrestricted police powers and the flat removal of liberties for all of us, including right to assembly and freedom of speech.

The standing of this nation in the eyes of the entire world community has declined to less than the value of cesspool effluent.

In short, we have ideologues and extremists running the government instead of reasoned and capable men and women. They have forsaken the ideals and goals of their own party, betraying even those who had placed hope in a conservative path, choosing instead to pursue extremist madness that is wrecking the economy, destroying our prized liberties and tearing the social fabric of this country into pieces without any hint of compromise.

As a public service, for the year's duration, we will post information hyperlinks in this space.

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