Island Life 2005 - Jan. - June
Welcome to the Year 2005. This Page covers the first half of 2005 so as to allow easier loading. To return to the present time, click on the image of the boats above. To visit other years, go to the Archives.
JANUARY 2, 2005
SAILING ON THE SEAS OF ACCOUNTANCY
Greetings and Happy New Year fellow Islanders! Another year has come and gone and Island-life still stands, all aswash with buckles and waving our cutlasses madly upon the decks of the good ship The Crimson Red Assurance LTD with ostrich feathers in our caps and dark poison in our barbed quills.
If you really want to relive last year, you can hop down to the bottom of the page where we have hyperlinks to past years. As the clock revolves per annum, we shuffle all 400 pages or so of the preceding year to storage, leaving the new year HTML as spanking fresh as the shiny hiney of a brand new baby's bottom. As we shifted our coding to a more professional engine midyear, we have the opportunity to clear out all of that tedious basura left by previous editors, leaving this site a sparking marvel of fresh, crisp, newfallen code.
That all means, dear and gentle readers, you get to browse faster.
Enough of that drivel: now to the juice. Here is the site report from the webhost on visits last year.
Site Report for: www.island-life.net
Date Range: 1/1/2004 to 12/31/2004
Total Visitors 27,005
Total Pageviews 25,584
Total Hits 299,804
The monthly report indicates a steadily growing readership.
We are now searcheable by www.google.com, Altavista, Yahoo, and a number of other entities on the web. This site does not pay for any subscription to any websearch engine.
Let it be said that you are not alone in your devotion to Island-life, which began with a humble readership of some 500 souls in 1998.
FOR AULD LANG SYNE
Last year, we had another Infamous Poodleshoot around the time of Thanksgiving, began the Island-life line of apparel, and attending several events remarked upon by the local Institutional Media as "Best of", including the remarkable collaboration between Tom Waits and W.S. Burroughs "The Black Rider" as well as ACT's presentation of "Eurydice". We now receive the BGP monthly calendar for the Bay Area and the Solano Avenue Business Association sends us updates on Whats Happening.
FOUNTAIN OF SORROW
Before we get down to business in the New Year, lets think about the empty places at the 2005 New Year's Celebration. Of course we lost a raft of precious souls -- not even including the terrible catastrophe which we will address later -- this past year. The previous column mentioned a few and here are a few more worthy to mention. In no particular order, we remember fondly the following:
DAVID DELLINGER- Montpelier, Vt. - Peace activist David Dellinger, one of the Chicago Seven arrested and tried for their part in the violent anti-war protests outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention, died at 88 in May.
Dellinger was a pacifist who devoted much of his life to protesting. A member of the Old Left whose first arrest came in the 1930s during a union-organizing protest at Yale, he was a generation older than his Yippie codefendants in the Chicago Seven case.
"Mainly I think he'll be remembered as a pacifist who meant business," said Tom Hayden, a fellow '60s radical and member of the Chicago Seven who went on to become a California legislator. "His pacifism was very forceful. He didn't mind interjecting himself between armed federal marshals and someone they were pushing around."
At the Chicago Seven trial in 1969 and 1970, Dellinger and four codefendants - Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman and Rennie Davis - were convicted of conspiracy to incite a riot at the 1968 convention. Those convictions were overturned by a federal appeals court, which cited errors by U.S. District Judge Julius Hoffman.
When Hoffman invited Dellinger to address the court during sentencing, he continued to speak after the judge ordered him to stop.
"You want us to be like good Germans, supporting the evils of our decade, and then when we refused to be good Germans and came to Chicago and demonstrated, now you want us to be like good Jews, going quietly and politely to the concentration camps while you and this court suppress freedom and the truth," Dellinger told the judge. "And the fact is, I am not prepared to do that."
Greg Guma, editor of the political magazine Toward Freedom, called Dellinger "one of the major figures in terms of peace and social justice of the last half century."
Dellinger fought for unions in the 1930s despite being called a communist, and walked with civil right leaders in the South in the 1950s and '60s, despite the risk of violence.
A conscientious objector during World War II, Dellinger spoke out against the practice of putting black soldiers in the back of trains ahead of defeated Germans. During a three-year prison term - one of several stints behind bars - Dellinger refused to sit in the all-white dining area.
Just three years ago, at age 85, Dellinger got up at 2:45 a.m. at his home in Montpelier and hitched a ride to demonstrations in Quebec City against the creation of a free trade zone in the Western Hemisphere.
"Three percent of the richest people in the world control more wealth than 49 undeveloped countries," he said. The trade agreement "is going to extend that kind of system."
Dellinger contended capitalism led to imperialism and violence.
"The evils in the society today are greater than they were in 1968," he said in a 1996 interview with The Associated Press. "I enjoy life this way, I enjoy life being in solidarity with the people who are fighting for a better world."
SUSAN SONTAG has passed at 73.
American essayist, short story writer, and novelist, a leading commentator on modern culture, whose innovative essays on such diverse subjects as camp, pornographic literature, fascist aesthetics, photography, AIDS, and revolution gained a wide attention. Sontag also wrote screenplays and directed films. She had a great impact on experimental art in the 1960s and 1970s, and she introduced many new stimulating ideas to American culture. On the bohemian New York scene of the early sixties, Sontag swiftly acquired a reputation as the radical-liberal American woman, who had not only deep knowledge ancient and modern European culture, but could also reinterpret it from the American point of view.
Rejecting interpretation, Sontag advocated what she called 'transparency', which means "experiencing the luminousness of thing in itself, of things being what they are". The 'meaning' of art lies in the experiencing both style and content together without analysis. "Interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art."
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat died November 11 at a hospital in Paris. He was 75. Arafat had been sick for some weeks with an unknown illness. Arafat, known throughout the world as the face of the Palestinian national movement, rose to prominence by waging war on Israel, and years later publicly called for peace with his lifelong enemy. To Palestinians and supporters the world over, he wore the mantle of a statesman. To his enemies and detractors, his name became synonymous with the carnage of terrorism. For Arafat, it was all in the name of establishing a Palestinian state.
HANK GARLAND - Guitarist for Elvis, George Shearing, Charlie Parker, George Benson, Conway Twitty, Hank Williams Sr. and others.
ARCHIBALD COX - He served as United States Solicitor General under President John F. Kennedy and was the special prosecutor for the Watergate Scandal. On October 20, 1973, in an event termed the Saturday Night Massacre, US President Richard Nixon ordered that Cox be fired as Watergate scandal special prosecutor, upon Cox's insistence on obtaining secret White House tapes. Rather than comply with this order, both Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus resigned. The order was ultimately carried out by the Solicitor General, Robert Bork. Upon being fired, Cox stated simply: "Whether ours shall be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people". He was born may 12, 1912 and died May 29th.
(June 14, 1925October 16, 2004) was a White House Press Secretary to US Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He also worked as a journalist and is well known for his work as an ABC News correspondent.
Richard Avedon (May 15, 1923 - October 1, 2004) was an American photographer. Avedon was able to take his early success in fashion photography and expand it into the realm of fine art. He is most noted for photographing models in natural, non-artificial poses, and for his unsentimental portraits of the famous.
(May 1, 1918 - January 27, 2004) was an American radio and television talk show host. During Paar's career, he was the cause of two international incidents. In 1959, he was criticized for his interview with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Two years later, he broadcasted his show from Berlin just as the Berlin Wall was going up.
Tony Randall (February 26, 1920 - May 17, 2004) was an American actor. Over his long career, Randall was nominated for five Golden Globe awards and two Emmys, winning one Emmy in 1975 for his work in the sitcom The Odd Couple.
Francis Crick, who helped discover the structure of DNA, died July 28. He was 88. Crick and James Watson discovered that the DNA molecule is shaped like a spiral staircase. Along with colleague Maurice Wilkins, Crick and Watson were awarded the 1962 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work, which many experts hailed as one of the most important scientific discoveries of the past century. The discovery in 1953 of DNAs double-helical structure gave birth to the fields of genetic engineering and the biotechnology industry.
French philosopher Derrida, who pioneered the complex school of thought known as deconstruction, died October 9. He was 74. Derrida's theory challenged the Western idea that speech, language and text can have clear, unambiguous meaning. Instead, he argued that text could be deconstructed to reveal another interpretation of what the author means. The theory, which resists a simple definition, found support in academia but also opposition from those who criticized it as nihilistic and an attempt to argue that concepts like logic and truth don't exist.
Actor-writer Spalding Gray was found dead in the East River in New York City on March 7. The 62-year-old had disappeared January 10.
Gray was sui generis: He looked like an Ivy League professor and spoke with a New England accent, but spent years in the often avant-garde downtown New York theater scene and created a painfully confessional style in which the stage practically became a therapist's office. He performed sitting down, usually with only a desk, chair and glass of water for company and the film adaptations of his performances have preserved this presentation.
"This man may be the ultimate WASP neurotic, analyzing his actions with an intensity that would be unpleasantly egomaniacal if it weren't so self-deprecatingly funny," Associated Press Drama Critic Michael Kuchwara wrote in 1996. "He questions everything and ends up more exhausted than satisfied."
Gray was known for his monologues, which included "Swimming to Cambodia," about his experience playing a bit part in the movie "The Killing Fields;" "Gray's Anatomy," about his struggles with a serious eye problem; and "Monster in a Box," about an endlessly growing semi-autobiographical novel concerning his mother's suicide in 1967. He had battled depression throughout his life and had attempted suicide several times after he was badly injured in a June 2001 car accident in Ireland.
Actor Paul Winfield, best known for his role in "Sounder," died March 7. He was 62. His portrayal of a sharecropper in the 1972 film earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor. He appeared both in films and on TV, portraying Martin Luther King Jr. in the 1978 miniseries "King" and winning an Emmy in 1995 for his portrayal of a judge on the TV drama "Picket Fences." He also won fans for smaller roles in a variety of science fiction TV programs and movies, including "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan," "The Terminator" and "Babylon 5."
Janet Leigh born Jeanette Helen Morrison on July 6, 1927 in Merced, California - October 3, 2004 in Beverly Hills) was an American actress. Leigh's best-known role was in Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 film Psycho. Years later, she wrote a book about the making of that film, in which she dispelled the urban legends which had popped up around it, notably, about the immortal "shower scene." Her performance earned her a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination.
Leigh married her third husband, Tony Curtis, on June 4, 1951. Curtis, who has admitted to cheating on her throughout their marriage, left Leigh in 1962 for the 17 year-old German co-star of his then-latest film. Leigh was granted a divorce, and married stockbroker Robert Brandt later that year in Las Vegas; they remained married until her death.
Leigh starred in more than sixty films.
VINA FAY WRAY
In the camp classic, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show", Dr. Franknfurter turns back in a wistful moment and comments, "Whatever happened to Fay Wray?" Well, now we know.
Vina Fay Wray (September 15, 1907 - August 8, 2004) was a Canadian-born American actress. She is best remembered for her role as the blonde seductress of a gigantic, prehistoric gorilla in the classic horror/adventure film "King Kong" (1933). Many of her fans refer to her as "The Queen of Screams."
Wray also appeared in over a hundred other films, mostly in the 1930s and almost all of them supernatural thriller vehicles or adventure westerns although she began her career in 1926 in the starring role in a film directed by Erich von Stroheim called "The Wedding March."
Her later years were spent largely in seclusion.
Johnny Ramone, guitarist and cofounder of the influential punk rock band The Ramones, died September 15 after a five-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 55. Ramone, whose birth name was John Cummings, helped found the pioneering punk band in 1974. The Ramones never had a huge hit but their rapid-fire songs influenced the next generation of bands, like Nirvana. Johnny had a number of late entries which almost hit the top charts, especially with a cut that savagely attacked the imbecility of Reagan-era antics with "Bonzo goes to Bitburg", referring to an embarrassing moment in which the increasingly dotardly Reagan referred to the SS Nazis interred at a German cemetery as "having suffered much." The Ramones were inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Clarinetist and bandleader Artie Shaw, who ranked among the greats of the Big Band era, died December 30. He was 94. Celebrated for his recording of "Begin the Beguine" and other swing hits of the 1930s and 40s, Shaw stepped out of the music world by the 1950s, concentrating on other pursuits. His numerous wives -- including actresses Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and Evelyn Keyes -- were as famous as his music
SPECIAL INSERT - JUST IN OVER THE WIRE, 7:04 PM PST 01.02.05
We have just been notified of the passing of Representative Robert Matsui, who has represented the Sacramento district in Congress since 1979, in a Naval hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. Bethesda is a suburb of Washington DC.
At his death, Rep. Matsui was the third-ranking Democrat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee and among the highest-ranking Asian Americans in House history. As an infant, he had been interned in a detention camp for Japanese Americans during World War II and later pushed through a bill hoping to redress the psychological damage suffered by internees.
During the early 1990s, the congressman was President Bill Clinton's key ally for getting the North American Free Trade Agreement approved by the House despite opposition from labor groups who have traditionally supported Democrats. In 2000, he took a leading role in formulating permanent normalized trading relations with China, again at Clinton's behest.
"I've always believed that technology and trade were the two engines that really drive economic growth," he said during the China debate. "If we want to continue to be the number one nation in the world when it comes to job creation, when it comes to leading the cutting edge, we have to understand that these things are important."
In recent years, as the senior Democrat on the Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security, he battled against President Bush's proposal to allow people to direct some of their mandatory Social Security contributions to private retirement accounts. He never was seriously contested by anyone in his district at each election, when his constituents overwhelmingly chose him with enviable devotion.
He had been admitted for complications from pneumonia -- a deadly disease in the dank and miasma atmosphere of Washington DC (originally built upon a swamp) and a rare stem cell disease. He died at 10:10EST and is survived by his wife, Doris; his son, Brian; his daughter-in-law, Amy; and his granddaughter Anna.
Of course it would be an obscene omission to forget the two most terrible losses of 2004: the lives lost as a result of the Iraq Occupation and those who perished as a result of the earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Over 1,300 American boys have lost their lives and some 10,000 returned home severely wounded in Iraq, not mentioning another 130 "coalition troops" from other nationalities and well over 100,000 civilian and combatant Iraqis who have died since the invasion.
Also, we cannot forget the some 120,000 Asians and visiting Europeans who died during the recent catastrophe in Southeast Asia.
By now all of you have seen the TV and newsprint reports of the horrific disaster that overtook Southeast Asia and parts of Africa. But we have some good news.
We have reports that some villages which provided home to "sea gypsies" managed to survive with all inhabitants saved. The sea gypsies have such in-depth knowledge of the sea, its currents and its weather, that they apparently knew that the swift pullback of water after the first wave foretold a more violent recurrence. At one village their elders informed the locals of what was to happen and over 187 persons saved themselves by fleeing posthaste to an inland mountaintop.
In other good news, we hear that two of the world's longest running civil wars have come to a halt as all combatants on all sides have formed interim truces and are now working cooperatively to provide emergency services to the affected regions.
We also have a report of a sailboat piloted by three Americans rode out the tsunami and then floated back in to rescue as many people in water as they could.
Here we have a Madras man sitting before the ruins of his house, calmly mending fishing nets and not giving up in the slightest.
SKATING AWAY ON THE ICE OF A NEW DAY
We tend not to toot our own horn here too often, but let it be said that this space is affiliated with the Langalist newsletter, which is piloted by one Fred Langa, who long ago realized that we who have the luxury of owning so much have an opportunity to give to those who have very little. Fred, with a subscriber base of some half a million, has shunted a percentage of subscriber fees aside to benefit kids in third world countries who otherwise would never encounter a computer or any technical device except in the torn scraps of advertisements used as fuel or bedding. Herewith we present the list of children who have benefited from Fred's kind largesse in the past year.
- Yoline Louis, age 3, Haiti
- Pape Tanor, age 9, Senegal
- Derlan, age 12, Brazil
- Suradon Janno, age 6, Thailand
- Contribution to assist those hurt in the World Trade Center Attack
- Reyna, age 12, from Guatemala
- Macy-Jean, from the Philippines
- Faisal, from Indonesia
- Tizita, from Ethiopia
- Ranganath, age 9, from India
More information, including photographs and letters from the children, can be obtained at www.langalist.com.
Island-life has had a number of conversations in the past few weeks with people troubled by the state of the world and the seemingly irrational and destructive way things in general seem to be heading. Perhaps the problem is simply we have been too comfortable for too long when things like freedom and Democracy require vigorous defense. Perhaps Steve Earle is correct when he says, "The Revolution starts now," meaning not the tired idea of a Marxist revolution pushed by pathetic idealists, but the original Revolution upon which this country was founded, a Revolution of Fire and Ire and new concepts of Freedom. We have slumbered for some 400 years and there are signs that the original promise may finally yield fruit, for now there are thousands and millions across the country who now are finally filed with a sense of purpose and desire long buried. Code Pink is planning an organized protest at the Inauguration of the Pretender and has already obtained parade permits. Countless environmental organizations are rising to the challenge to thwart the NeoCon's earnest attempt to rape the entire planet and render it virtually uninhabitable. There are so many people and groups out there we have a smorgasbord of activities and communities in which to join.
Yes, they are Bad. Yes, they are Horrible. But life is not a movie by Peter Jackson with inflatable puppet-dragons and flying wizards coming to the rescue. There is no saving King in this story and there is no magic all-powerful wizard. If this society is to survive what is to come, each of us must stop being a "muggle" and become the Wizard, each of us, for there is no one else. By your actions you will transform the world, and only the sum of your actions together can have any chance of success, for as a man said at the start of the Revolution, "We had better hang together or we surely will all hang separately."
And so let us cast these imaginary defeats behind us as we arise with the sun that will shine upon the new world, expectant and breathing clouds in the cold, frosty air of morning, a world awaiting the battles yet to begin, which will be waged by you. There is no other choice. "One day our children will awake / and flee / to another America."
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Okay, I admit we skipped an opportunity to catch the Flaming Lips on their last trip this year through these parts. Heinous omission, that. They provided the impetus for the name of this site in their album "New Times" and we skipped their show. Man, are we bummed with guilt most grievous. Oh well, that's the way it goes.
Rain has been slaughtering the local landscape to the extent that we have reports that even the LA River has started flowing again. Quel suprise! The latest reports have drops of some three feet of snow to be laid down in the next 24 hours around the Tahoe area, continuing a trend of some two weeks. Snowbunnies planning on enjoying new powder may expect to spend another 8 hours on the road coming back in long lines of folks unused to the weather and the traffic.
In the meantime, the lower elevations have been hit by front after front of heavy rain, leading to yet more forecasts of yet more rain through the following week.
This does not bode well for the Midwest and the East.
IN THE COLD RAIN AND SNOW
Its late in the evening with the rain pelting down at the end of the year and KFOG has Mike Powers hosting a live concert. You can guess already what it is: a Bay Area tradition. The Grateful Dead performing down the way at Kaiser Aud in 1987. There are many who hate the Dead, more for something they seem to represent for some people than the quality of their garage rock music and Jerry's inspired noodling on the guitar.
The Dead never managed a very smooth set of vocal harmonies and Jerry's antipathy to rock 'n rock, which he publicly stated was a playground for puerile minds, manifested itself in his distanced, obviously bluegrass-inflected riffs, which other less informed listeners took to be brainless wanderings, and others took to be sheer genius. All misunderstanding and bad interpretation.
The West Coast tends to affiliate Jerry and his kids with a certain period of time and a certain "hippy" attitude over a continuum of time from 1969 to Jerry's death in 1995, while the East Coast, with its ever present culture of oppression, tends to regard Jerry as the apostle of the workingman, beginning some time around 1980, when the Dead had decided as a group to put aside recreational drugs and start performing real music. The Dead were a respite from the terrific repression propelled by anxious Conservative reactionaries against the mythical "Sixties.".
By then, the 1980's, all of the surviving members of the Dead had actually learned how to play their instruments, a terrible fate that was to befall the Punk movement a bit later.
But that is all History now. The newly minted year is 2005 and rain patters on the windowpanes.
"All I know is that something within her like a bird would sing. . . ."
Well, one cannot argue seriously against sentiments like that.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS
Welcome gentle reader to the New Year, 2005. No other year offers such promise. No other year offers itself up like the body of a fresh Virgin for all that is possible. Only you will determine what is to come.
Outside the furious weather is pelting down the rain like another age is about to begin. Perhaps it is, in joy and hope and possibility. Perhaps this generation has yet to fulfill its promise in vigorous action and shouting defense of freedom and all we hold dear. Many have fallen and many will fall before this war is over. Make no mistake: We are at war. And our Enemy is not Islam.
Our Enemy pushes Law aside as an inconvenience and redefines torture according to its needs. Our Enemy lies to the populace so as to justify immoral wars and sacrifices people for the sake of its ideological program. Our Enemy considers Democracy old hat, outdated and irrelevant. Our Enemy considers the idea of Freedom to be an antiquated and nonsensical concept.
I strongly suggest you kick the Enemy in the balls.
This Island is an island which considers itself members and citizens of the world, as well as citizens of the State of California and lastly, of the United States of America. And we sing of Freedom. Freedom that should be.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 9, 2005
LIKE THE WEATHER
Drove up to the Project in Petaluma on Friday against better instincts and promptly regretted the decision. On the Richmond/San Rafael Bridge visibility dropped to about 100 yards in the lashing rain. Long lines of stalled traffic choked the far southbound lanes of the 101 behind spinout wrecks. Just stayed on up there in the refrigerated Operations Center until all the folks in the Center and the factory had trundled on home and the map shown at www.sfbaytraffic.info showed fewer red marks. Sloshed on home the 60 miles or so in about two and half hours.
By evening a solid inch had swashed down on the drenched hills of California, which ordinarily gets a total of about 9 inches for the year. Three feet of snow dumped on the Sierra within 12 hours, on top of the three feet dumped last weekend.
Its been pelting down here every day and every night for the past seven days, bringing back memories of the torrential downpours of the early 80's, and if you don't believe in global warming you had better get yourself decent raingear and learn how to row anyway.
Bad news for you folks in the Midwest and East, for you got another dockwallopper heading your way.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
We hope you all got what was coming to you this past Holiday Season. Because of the weather and the general mood, the celebrations were subdued all around the Bay Area.
For those of you new to this space, a little recap of what we are about is in order here. We live on a little island set in the San Francisco Bay on the eastern side. The Bay hosts five inhabited Islands, not including Alcatraz, once home to the infamous prison, and this one hosts the largest population. We are joined by bridges to two other islands, one of them devoted entirely to the Coast Guard.
On this Island, with its tree-lined avenues peppered with period Edwardian homes, the strictest anti-development measures in force in the nation, and its penchant for art-deco along the handful of blocks that constitute "downtown", we cultivate an atmosphere of some indefinitely quaint period time warped in the past, a time of big finned automobiles, green lawns, church socials, Elks Club dances, and suspendered attitudes dressed in overalls. Down the street from here a lady keeps a perfectly restored jet black Ford Mustang on the street with the license plate "Sally 66". I kid you not. You can come over here and have a look yourself.
So we have this island, in the center, literally, of a major international metropolis of some 8 million souls, where kids play ball in the streets and the ice cream parlor is the hottest thing going on sweltering summer nights and old fashioned barbers compete on an even keel with them newfangled"hair salons." We also host the largest collection of churches per square mile in the entire Bay Area. We even have a mosque of which we are justifiably proud.
And it seems we have a perspective, living in a time warp as we do, worth writing about. And this is what we write about every week in this space begun long before the "Blog" explosion. We write about San Francisco Bay Area culture and life, with an attunement to the East Bay especially, in all of its vigorous American flavor, of its restaurants, theater, art happenings, and music.
Our cast of characters has persisted throughout the brief six years or so of existence. Except for Mayor Ralph, who died by his own hand. We have, however, a very splendid Mayor Beverly and a better name for a mayor we could not have invented ourselves. And let it be known, this space tends to lend itself to very liberal nomination standards, for we seldom call anything by its published name if we can possibly help it. We don't do this for legal reasons; we do it out of a persistent fit of whimsy.
We are distinguished among all other municipalities in having the most efficient traffic ordinance organization in the world. It is not so good at collecting criminals or stopping crimes other than traffic infractions, but no one can deny that the IPD, spearheaded by one Officer O'Madhauen, is dreadfully effective in collecting parking tickets and issuing DUI, speeding, jaywalking, yellow-light running, fishing without a permit tickets of astonishing frequency. All this activity has not slowed the rate of hit and run or vehicle death in the slightest, but the boys really enjoy their work.
We have our Seasonal Celebrations, the highest of which has come to be the annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ, which invariably leads to much bloodshed and merriment each year.
Of late we have been covering with embedded reporters the invasion of Newark by Eugene Shrubb, President of the Bums, who has declared war upon the terriers and their Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo.
Also, we have a Work in Progress here which chronicles the descendants of Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area who fought a great battle due to overcrowding on Twin Peaks during Pleistocene Age. Um, well, we shall discuss more of that anon.
Well, that's about it for an introduction here. If you don't get it at first, just keep reading and come back for more. Something interesting is always happening on this Island. Of course it is only fair to warn you that if you are demented or otherwise mentally impaired, and you find that George Bush is a moral fellow with honest intentions, you may find this site not to your liking. As you will not by the sample below, headed by those immortal words by RMN, "Here's my dog Checkers."
WHERE DOES THE LOVE OF GOD GO WHEN THE WAVES TURN THE MINUTES TO HOURS
Almost two weeks into a brand new year and the world is just beginning to move to the rescue for the survivors of the tsunami that claimed -- at last estimate -- some 150,000 lives in a matter of minutes. The US Army is sending 80 some badly needed helicopters to drop supplies in areas unreachable by land vehicles due to destroyed roads. The US Navy has send three desalination ships, each of which can render some 30,000 gallons of water a day. In some places, such as the Maldives, desalination was the sole source of fresh water and those plants have been entirely destroyed along the coast.
Now that is a proper employment of military resources: proudly saving lives instead of slaughtering them.
Prodded by the angry UN Secretary, Kofi, George Bush finally stirred himself to raise the initially proffered 15 million worth of assistance after some 12 days of indecision to a more useable 350 million, while a seemingly rejuvenated Colin Powell is now visiting the disaster areas. The largest contributors to the global assistance effort to the stricken region remain Norway and Sweden. Sweden, a country of some 9 million souls, lost an estimated 5,000 people in the disaster. Our international contacts are reporting heartbreaking scenes of anguish and grief in that country.
On the upside, the Internet is assisting people reuniting with loved ones as people post photos of rescued children, which get broadcast around the world with their locations. KPFA reported many many reunifications happened this way. And that is a good use of technology by any standard.
HERE'S MY DOG, CHECKERS
And now for something completely different.
It is interesting to see Powell, who had stated publicly a desire to retire from public life after four years of obviously straining the boundaries of personal ethics and forthrightness in the political muck of the Bush Administration now responding with a professional soldier's zest to a problem set with clear and morally unambiguous issues. He has already tendered his resignation to the Bush cabinet, but it is quite likely that the generally well-liked Powell will be appointed to some position in charge of tsunami relief efforts.
Other than Ashcroft -- who is a vicious, cruel and obnoxious jerk -- Powell stands alone among the criminals and savage mutants that makeup the Bush coterie. Ashcroft may be a vicious, cruel and obnoxious jerk, but its clear that in his obnoxiousness, he actually believes the crap he foists on the rest of us is all to the good of the Country, for even though he pushes forth policies that are proven failures, he does have a sort of conscience which has resulted in delightfully painful gastric problems. At night, the souls of those murdered by his cruelty howl about his sweat sopped bed, pointing long boney fingers while an immense trapdoor pops open to show the shrieking millions inviting him to kindly join them in the pit of hell. In the daytime, the effects of these nightly visitations show on his harrowed, sunken face and only a poisonous shot of botox plus a handful of Quaaludes manages to still the nervous tic in his bloodshot left eye.
Even Dick Cheney, who has no conscience and no soul to speak of -- he sold those long ago at the infamous Crossroads long ago -- has started to develop a nervous little twitch. His problem is not any nightly visitation, for the man gulps enough little blue pills before retiring to knock out an elephant. Dick is the beneficiary of daytime visits while he sits in the Oval Office, where he has made himself quite at home, enjoying the pleasures of ultimate power without any of the sticky strings of actual entitlement. Normally, as he sits behind the big desk he has little Georgie perch on a stool to teach the rude Texan some manners while Dick, the real Prime Mover of things, makes all the major decisions and teaches Georgie how to talk.
But when Georgie is off on one of his many, many, many vacations on his ranch, Dick receives his Important Visitor. Yes, this is not the first time we have had a big dick in the White House and his opening words never vary.
"Dick, I am not a crook," Richard says.
Cheney, who is not a Catholic nor Jewish, if you must know, has brought in a priest and a rabbi to attempt exorcism of the spirit of Richard Milhouse Nixon, but aids began to talk and Pat Robertson started sniffing around like a poodle, concerned that his tenured position of White House Spiritual Advisor was threatened. Pat, too, has had his visitors each night and he has started anxiously tugging on the strands of his hair to the point that a small bald spot is becoming obvious. His problem is that he insists on trying to bring George Bush around to considering a few little things. Little things like consequences and the possibility of being wrong and what to do about it.
George always answers the same way.
With Condi Rice now absently tapping her pencil, you can imagine how the latter days of this sad Cabinet have gone. Meetings have turned into embarrassing shambles with all members driving each other absolutely nuts by their knucklepopping (Pearle), pencil tapping, hair tugging, compulsive grooming with combs (Wolfowitz), nervous tics, belching and farting from ulcers, pill popping, gum chewing, anxious over the shoulder glancing, sudden starts at apparitions and mumbling talking to one's self.
This is the real reason Cheney snapped one day and barked an unambiguous"F--- You!" in the sanctified hallway of Congress. He was not addressing the Senator; Cheney was speaking to Richard Nixon, who keeps begging for reexamination of his China legacy. The true Leader of the Free World is being driven to distraction by the solid evidence of everyone falling apart. This is also the real reason that dozens of people are fleeing the Hell Ship of State like savage rats. Once proof that the hackers and RNC toads like Blackwell had managed to "deliver" another election became clear, Cheney called the entire Cabinet into the Oval Office and fired the lot of them, shouting, "I am sick of all your toe-tapping, finger-cracking weakness! Get out of here!"
The next day, on advice from his Spectral Advisor, RMN, he rehired most of them back into the Cabinet, realizing that he perhaps should inform George Bush as to what he had in mind first, but the writing was on the wall for the majority.
Pearle, whose Project for the New American Century had come up with most of the stuff inflicted upon America in the past four years summed it all up best during a recent interview on KPFA.
"Well, we had no idea that things would be so badly mismanaged," former Cabinet member Richard Pearle stated. "Say, did you see that . . . oh . . . nevermind. What were you saying?"
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
The past three nights Mark Hummel has held forth with his annual blues Harmonica blowout in the intimate atmosphere of Yoshis Nightclub. Why we are not there? The venue has sold out all shows each night, for James Cotton and Charlie Musselwhite were slated to appear on stage together. Oh man, this was one not to be missed, but the Yoshis in Jack London is prestigious precisely because the venue is so small and only so many tickets can be sold for each performance.
Here is the Bill Graham concert calendar update, hot off of the wire. It tends to be a bit long, even with edits, so just page down through this if you are not interested or do a page search for Ten at Ten.
New Shows Just Announced!
Palace of Fine Arts
San Francisco, CA
Monday, February 14 at 8:00 PM
Nanci Griffith & The Blue Moon Orchestra
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, February 12 at 9:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, January 09 at 10:00 AM
Ron White - Has some really nice acoustic guitar work.
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 12 at 7:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, January 09 at 10:00 AM
David Byrne - founder of the Talking Heads
San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, February 23 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Now!
>>SCHEDULE DELETED <<
Our bets for best shows here include jazz artists Ani Di Franco and Jill Scott, followed closely by Nanci Griffith and David Byrne. Ani DiFranco is an amazing powerhouse of a performer whose stage presence goes well beyond her studio recordings and her styles stretch from Lilith Fair-type folk and political rock to very sophisticated jazz. Jill Scott is a jazz vocalist of significant underground renown and is worth checking here out. Nanci Griffith is one of those oddly shy performers who, although a phenomenal genius, had to be forcibly persuaded by friends to step on stage, much to the benefit of music and audiences everywhere; Her style has a quasi country-folk feel to it. David Byrne, as founder of the Talking Heads, needs no introduction. His solo work has shown a developed maturity of style without losing the trademark quirkiness of his unpredictable sensibility.
TEN AT TEN
If you happen to be like us, and you are a known "news junkie" then we have just the fix for you. Over the wire today from correspondent Chad, we have the following URL.
This site compiles a list of the most significant news stories every hour using an heuristic engine to intelligently sift the major news orgs for keywords. The result is a completely objective series that is independent of any private news "filter" which has so plagued the major news media.
Reuters, BBC and AP are represented there.
KEEP ME IN YOUR HEART FOR A WHILE
The clock is ticking down the last minutes of the day and as we ease on into the Witching Hour, the long wail of the through-passing train comes wavering over the estuary and through the fogs that seep around the dripping houses. There have been several trains tonight, indicating some kind of ferocious activity down at the Port. The great cargo ships unload entire freight cars at the docks of one of the largest sea ports in the world only a few miles away -- as the seagull flies. The trains then hook up and pass through the Jack London Waterfront at night, blowing a "Keep Clear" signal as they trundle south 3rd Street. Where they go after that is anybody's guess. Maybe down to the Oakland Airport or the warehouses and factories all along Fremont and Hayward and on to distribution centers in San Jose or East out to the Valley past the windmill clusters of the Altamont hills and beyond to Livermore and Pleasanton and Modesto, Water Capital of the West.
Or maybe, this train swings around the lower end of the Alviso slough that marshes out the south end of the Bay to swing up past Great America theme park and then through the ravaged Silicon Valley towns of Sunnyvale, Los Altos and Mountain View. From there we continue north to the great salt flats of East Palo Alto and the University there on the western side. They have a deli there in the shopping center where the owner makes a jet black thing called a Fred Steak. Costs about $30 a pound for this flesh and people have been known to fly up from Brazil and down from Canada to fetch a couple Fred Steaks to feed a special occasion.
Leaving Fred and his deli behind, we sail on up through the surreal artificiality of Redwood City, once an expanse of orchards and past the peninsular Foster City, now a set of semicircular streets arranged concentrically around an emptiness that is entirely bordered by liquor stores, auto body shops, tile and linoleum stores and the San Mateo bungalows tucked up at the base of the peninsula ridge which separates the urban sprawl on the east side from the long watershed of the Crystal Springs reservoirs.
If you were to take a jaunt that a way, you would pass under the disapproving outstretched finger of Father Junipero Serra, whose statue looms over freeway pointing at god knows what. Perhaps the mists that crawl over the forested coastal ridge. If you were to descend to the reservoir itself and sneak past the barrier fence, you would come to the Pulgas Water Temple, which is a Greek-style temple built over one of the outflows into the reservoir, and which sports a greensward and regularly-spaced trees set about a rectangular mirror pond, which --- this dark night -- would reflect no stars or moon for the mists are heavy.
Zigging our zag back to the Bay side, we approach Burlingame and South City, with its name set Hollywood style, in big block letters on the side of the mountain, and little Brisbane, City of the Stars tucked off into a hollow in the hills there. And we pickup our train on the Amtrak line chugging north past the bulk of San Bruno Mountain where kit foxes and deer and azure butterflies once roamed as recently as 1988. Not anymore, for the Developers fought a long battle for the rights to destroy the Mountain, chopping down the forest that grew there to build a gated community for the wealthy on the northern slope while they made the south slope a rock quarry. The Developers tried to level the entire mountain behind Brisbane and turn it into a golf course, but the good people of Brisbane would have none of that nonsense and so they put a stop to it with a 200 year moratorium on building.
With a great wheeze our train pulls into the now abandoned train depot dug into the side of Potrero Hill -- the last train stopped there about 2001 or so -- and we use our wings to lift off and sail south over the present Caltrain Depot in China Basin south of Market so as to gain altitude and head north again over Soma and the imposing City Jail at 7th Street with its slit windows shining in the fog. We bank over the Powell Street cable car turnaround and scoot past the sleeping pigeons at Union Square and zip over famous Harringtons Bar and Grill and the equally famous -- but not so chic -- window where they used to sell sausages to people on the go across the street. Through North Beach and past Specs and a couple homeless poets asleep in the alley we bank to the west to skirt between the Marina and the bulk of Russian Hill to see if any friends are working up late at the SF Art Institute. Nope, not even a performance artist is cavorting in the nude down there on this chilly night.
So we zoom past the Presidio without checking in on our favorite Greek deli in the Richmond -- best gyros this side of Chicago -- and track the Bridge into the well matriculated hills of Marin. The little brooklet in San Anselmo is gushing in the darkness, a regular torrent sweeping down and all the friends are asleep there. So we bank to the East through San Rafael somewhat north of the old Portugese fishing villages of Sausalito and Tiburon, Peninsula of the Shark. The fishermen are long gone from there, leaving trendy art boutiques and expensive homes perched on the hillsides. There is a great Mexican restaurant there, however. But we are not going to tell you where it is just yet, for the food is cheap and its good.
From there its a quick hop over the water to the industrial zone of Richmond with its factories, chemical processing plants and Chevron oil refinery. Then its down through Albany with its Solano Avenue and through the packed avenues of the Berkeley flatlands. Nothing happening tonight at Gilman Street, where the brightest and the darkness of the punks still hold forth with slashing guitars and heavy beats.
It is not long before we are back in Oaktown, slinging around the Tribune tower with its newly (in the last five years) repaired clock and then we are back over the water looking down on The Island, home to some 70,000 people, several opossums, at least two families of raccoons, one flock of Canadian geese and a motley gathering of egrets and storks.
Its misty, its wet, its cold and we're tired after all the travel. That's the way it is on this Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 16, 2005
IF IT KEEPS ON RAINING, THE LEVEE'S GONNA BREAK
We have some basically good news for the snow-embattled midsection of the Country in that the raging storms that have been pounding the California coast appear to have eased off and we have nothing but the usual fogs forecast for the next week. Los Angeles, which normally gets about fifteen inches of rain over the course of an entire year absorbed 24 inches over the past two week period, making this the wettest season in 89 years.
Severe weather conditions caused a major mudslide to destroy an entire town, named La Conchita, south of here, killing 10 people outright in a house-crushing wall of mud, stones and uprooted trees. Local authorities monitoring the hillside, which had been known to slide before, had begun evacuations of well over 200 people; if they had not taken action, the death toll would certainly have been astronomical. A six-foot high retaining wall meant to hold back debris was swept away like a fence made of paper.
The weather has been holding off and the snow appears to have stopped dumping on the Sierra. Truckee, a major town en route to the ski areas reports moderate temps of 34 degrees in the day and intermittent clouds.
Reporters from Europe, on the other hand, are relating tales of balmy days with little or no snow where it had been commonly expected to arrive in November and persist into February. There appears to be snow in the alpine regions, albeit lighter than usual, but the warming trend covers most of Spain, France, Germany, northern Italy, Austria, Poland and Bulgaria.
ONE TREE HILL
1968 seems like such a long time ago, a year recorded in history books for many things. Today we have no Statesmen worthy of the name who possess one tenth of the stature of those who seem like giants to us looking back at their immense deeds. But in talking with those who knew him, and of him, people say that Rev. Martin Luther King, was an humble Man of the Cloth who was an unwilling participant in heroic events. They say that he was a man of flesh and blood who knew fear and self-doubt and who possessed a constant sense of self-questioning, but who did not hesitate to take on responsibility and decision when those heavy weights came under his stewardship.
Monday, the Nation celebrates the life of a truly great man, whose principles, morality, integrity and steadfastness elevate him well above any of those today who possess little in quality beyond hectoring demagoguery.
LET THE SHOW GO ON
Somebody over in Silly Hall has been chucking a serious hissy fit over the tiny Central Cinema located on the street of that name. The owners hf the 20 seat showplace located in a former mortuary chapel that still sports cruciform stained glass windows have been slapped with notices of violation from the Fire Department on top of orders from City Hall to shut up shop due to variance from zoning designations in the area. Mark Haskett, who owns the theater, never expected such flack from Big Bureaucracy, for the previous tenant, The Multi Cultural Community Center, owned a use permit allowing occasional films.
This use permit, however, seems to differ from that required by a commercial movie house. Haskett, who has furnished the theater with old couches and discarded bus seats had approached the entire enterprise with a bit more informality than someone in City Hall wished, so he and his partner have been continually harassed with orders to cease and desist.
Let it also be known -- although it seems on the face of it to be unrelated -- that City Hall has a vested interest in an enormous cinema multiplex that is planned to be built over a large parking garage at the end of Park Street in what passes for the Island "downtown".
Oh no, there is no conflict of interest here, not at all. None what so ever. Yep.
When Patti Smith sang that song, she was talking about her exclusive meeting with Pope John Paul in 1972. But we are talking about the more recent wave of note that took place across the Indian Ocean the day after Xmas, 2004. The Islanders have an understandable concern over events of such kind, for the highest point on the island is all of 36 inches above sea level. California has been hit by 14 tsunamis since 1812, the most recent and memorable being the one of 1992, when a wave caused by shift on the San Andreas fault line raced up to slosh up against Crescent City, at a distance of some 80 miles from the epicenter. Crescent City, which barely noticed that 1.5 foot wave fighting a low tide, ahs not always been so lucky. In 1964 a 9.2 Richter scale rumbler killed a number of locals in the Aleutian Islands before whipping a series of waves down to demolish nearly 2 million dollars (1964 values) worth of property and kill another 12 people. In 1960, a disastrous earthquake in off the coast of Chili caused waves that killed over 2,000 people in that country alone and sent additional waves that killed people in Hawaii and distant Japan.
The local Red Cross here has been inundated with offers to help. Local Jim Stephenson, a Red Cross volunteer, has been deployed to Sri Lanka and an Island-based Coast Guard cutter has been diverted from its course to Irak to South Asia to assist with the relief effort.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT REDOUX
Some people have lamented the terrible loss of civility and reasoned discourse in Politics today. Heavens to betsy that political discourse should decay from the high levels it has sustained since 1864 . . . er, since 1929 . . . er, 1955 and HUAC . . . er that Golden Halycon Time that exists purely in the Imaginations. Of whom we have no idea, but surely we never had to suffer one Senator caning another on the floor . . . . We have? Oh well. Rowdy bunch of Punks, those Senators.
Truth be told, we have had legislators who have behaved quite badly to one another in the past and in much worse ways. We have had spitting. We have had beatings and we have had to endure knockdown bare-knuckled fisticuffs. We have even had them shooting one another, as the fate of Hamilton and others will attest. We can now see in certain provocative behaviors by members of the RNC a decent Conservative's desire to return to the pleasant Westside Story rumbles of Yesteryear, back in those distant times when an elected legislator could have been a professional wrestler or a stage actor as well as a business tycoon, and when passions inflamed debates on issues of the day to the point of violence.
Now this puts us in mind of our original proposal that we stage a grand Mud Rassle match between our boy, Georgie Bush, and the Savage Saudi, Osam Bin Laden, to determine the end of all conflicts via an honorable contest between two of the most dishonorable men known.
Strike that last modifier.
But this entire election fiasco thing has given us a great idear, as the rugged mountain men who founded this country west of the Mississippi would say. Since we have proven that we simply cannot hold a decent, fair and legal election to pass even the sorry marks posted for places like the Uruguay, Ukraine, and Albania -- our status has been lowered to the same levels as these by the independent UN Council on Election Monitoring -- we propose to do away with this entire election thing entirely.
Let our chosen Headman meet his opponent upon the field of battle, surrounded by chanting of his supporters, the clashing of spears and the pounding of drums not unlike the war rituals of the Rikukyu, the savagely painted Tasmanians, the famous Masai, the Hottentot and the Lords of Flatbush, who unlike us, preserve society from the ravages of total war by pitting individuals against one another. Terminate elections once and for all.
It does appear that we have significant backing for such a measure from most of the Republican Party, so its not an entirely unreasonable proposition devoid of support.
In its place, we propose to have controlled mud rassel matches by district for the legislative bodies and a sequence of elimination matches similar to the vastly overrated Presidential Debates which indicated their lack of usefullness many times. So Kerry won all three debates hands down -- so what? So the man was more reasonable -- who cares? Obviously the American people do not. You don't have to be reasonable to become President. What on earth every gave you that idea? Certainly not the Past. History shows the guy who is more obstinate, bull-headed whether wrong or right, and pliable to Special Interests always gets the job over the reasonable man.
If a reasonable man ever attains the Presidency by accident, they simply shoot him. Like they did to JFK.
Proven capacity is no way to choose a President either. Just look at GWB, the incumbent, who has failed at everything he has ever set his meager qualities to handle. Failed to capture Osama Bin Laden, who has killed more Americans than any one individual in history. Failed to find assured Weapons of Mass Destruction in Irak. Having failed to do that, he has failed to bring about civil order in both Irak and in Afganistan. And all of this is because he failed to defend the American people to begin with. He has pretty much failed to balance the budget and bring spending under control. He has failed to provide jobs for Americans, having lost more jobs than any other President since Herbert Hoover. He has failed to do much of anything well ever since he was a child, so lets not hear any more claptrap about the need for proficiency in a President.
What is wanted is obstinacy, simplistic sports-bar thinking, and a manly presentation. Since sumo is clearly one of them unAmerican Asian things, we propose a good old fashioned mud rassle, presided over by a band of Christeen shouters, led by Pat Robertson, and subtitled in rotation by the Dallas Cheerleaders, Playboy Centerfolds, and California Hardbodies. And for delectation of the ladies, perhaps the Chippendale Dancers.
We think Georgie would really go for it, since he claims he maintains topnotch conditioning with all that bike riding, barrel rolling and joggin stuff. And its sure to be easier on the boy than that difficult debating stuff, which requires a lot more thinking than the man was ever given to.
This poposal will have many positive effects, such as increasing general citizen interest and involvement, boosting the economy, and improving national health in general even better than any old unrealizable national health plan which the RNC will never in a thousand years spring for.
You can just see the boost on the playgrounds of America from the installation of such a plan. Thousands of boys doing pushups and chinups and running around the track, telling their gals, "Someday ahm gonna be President! Don't hafta be smart or good at nuthin. Gonna be just like Georgie Bush!"
That Georgie. Such an inspiration.
Now there may be some of you who find something a bit, well, akin to the Teletubbies in a couple of guys getting nekkid down there and rolling around in the mud. Some might even dare say the long honored tradition of rasselin' in America is just a little bit . . . gay.
All I can say is that is where the Liberals come in. But I don't have any more time to talk about that now.
THIS ISLAND LIFE SEPERATES RIGHTS FROM WRONGS
The Election being done with and the Country headed certainly for Perdition, brings a kind of relief. We return to such pleasant diversions as Poodleshoots, the ongoing adventures of Oog and Aag (the original progenitures of the Bay Area), Officer O'Madhauen's excesses in traffic enforcement, and the astonishing imbecility of our Criminal Elite, who manage to evade capture time after time by simply obeying the traffic laws.
The latest report has it that a bank robber was caught by the intrepid Officer O'Madhauen who observed the perpetrator engaged in an act of littering.
No lie: the man threw an orange into the street in front of the police car. They caught him with the bankroll and the gun.
What on earth led the police to frisk a man stopped for littering is quite beyond me, but stranger things have happened here.
We also have a report that several hundred cars were stopped and detained on suspicion of DUI during the New Year's weekend on the Island alone as part of the annual crackdown on drunk drivers in the five counties area. Several hundred?! Everybody who lives here knows the checkpoints are on Webster and Park every year in the same place. Who are these people?!
Well, we interviewed one of them. They claimed they had drunk a single beer and were enroute to the laundromat -- not exactly peak hours for drinking, mind you. Nor an activity associated with drinking. They were detained, judged not sober by the Officer and sent to 12 hour lockup overnight. They received a bloodtest only when demanded by the irate citizen. No breathalyzer test was employed. How the Officer determined intoxication without an objective test is a matter of conjecture, but we suspect some "words" were exchanged.
So the perfect little facist sends a peaceful citizen to detention to "teach them a lesson to behave", not because of drinking. And this is the America in which we now live.
Now drinking and driving is a serious matter. Over 14 people died and there were over 80 injury accidents as a result of alcohol during the New Year's Holiday. But arresting people for being a bit lippy during a traffic stop will never fix this problem.
A precious opportunity to unite a seriously divided nation was brusquely rejected by an increasingly strident and extremist Administration. On Thursday, the Pretender will stand for yet another questionable Inauguration as a result of a corrosively divisive election fraught with corruption, fraud, intimidation, and obstructionist tactics which most free nations of the earth consider to be criminal offences deserving of long prison terms.
As a result, that half of the Nation, for which the president-elect has stated publicly he does not represent in any way, shape or form, plans to demonstrate in force against a tyrant who refuses to admit the slightest input into policy-making, national decisions or any display of unification.
In addition to the media-friendly "turnourbacks.org" -- which plans to fill the inauguration crowd with people who will turn away as the presidential motorcade passes -- and Code Pink -- which plans arrestable acts of civil disobedience -- a number of groups are gathering siginificant opposition forces, with the most potentially effective and injurious to the Bush regime coming from the swelling antiwar forces. The United for Peace, coordinated by Leslie Cagan, has collected over 850 national organizations under its umbrella, all willing to put aside minor differences in pursuit of a common agenda.
Some of these groups are based in so-called "Red states."
Very interesting are the as yet volatile "not one dime" groups who are seeking to leverage economic pressure on policy. As yet too diffuse to make serious impact, these groups stand a very good chance of making long term impact through changing consumer spending habits, and ultimately leveraging financial institutions. We already have seen the growth of "socially conscious" groups such as Working Assets, develop from minor lending banks and small telecom outfits into multibillion dollar serious contenders on the market playing field.
For more information on Black Thursday actions, go to www.Black-Thursday.com. For actions in the "red state" of Florida, google Citizens Take Charge.
SOMEWHERE OUT BEYOND THAT BLUE HORIZON
All quiet tonight. After the frigid temps that followed the heavy rains, the air feels balmy under the fogs shielding the Island. Across the estuary, the neon lights of Oaktown shine through the murk while the gold dust outlines the Berkeley Hills. No trains tonight and its approaching the Midnight Hour. The heavy trucks which had been unloading freight from the port these last two weeks have disappeared from the freeways and the brief financial blip that was to fool people into thinking better times had return, has now vaporized.
Drove out to Marin today from the Hills on a Work Project and the freeways were filled with people coming down from the mountain ski chalets and from the tailend of Holiday Vacation and was reminded of lines from the Springsteen song called "The Angel". Our job demands hella freeway time.
The freeway's choked
With nomadic hordes
of Volkswagen vans
With full running boards
Draggin' great anchors . . .
Got back into town and Paul's Produce had a broken card reader, so we had to walk around the block to fetch some cash from an ATM machine to buy groceries. Could have said to hell with it and gone to Albertsnobs or Waifsay, but am getting to dislike the attitude at both places, where the managers fake pretend this obnoxious obsequiousness while they harass their help. Much prefer Paul who shouts, "Ah get the HELL out of here! Just be back in an hour!" to his staff. "Let the girls go today. Hafta make some kinda nice once in a while," Paul says. We much prefer this market over all the others.
The roadside attendent nervously jokes
As the Angel's tires
Stroke his precious pavement
Rolled the bike in after another 'hundert mile day. Started working the Sunday crossword with that song still in the head.
Baseball cards poked in his spokes
His boots in oil
Filed all the remaining reports for the week, feeling like 2004 cannot be put to bed until the end of Black Thursday, when all of us start working in earnest. All of us become members of the Warriors gang fighting through a very dark night to get home alive.
There's Madison Avenue's
Claim to fame.
With "tranes of bronze"
and "eyes like rain."
Well that's a bit melodramatic. On this Island, we have our good days and we have our bad days. Sometimes the card reader breaks and then work is a bitch. But we make it through somehow. That's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
The woman strokes
His polished chrome
And lies beside
The Angel's bones.
Words by Bruce Springsteen.
JANUARY 23, 2005
THERE WILL BE NO MORE TURNING AWAY
The last hours of the day ooze down into a red glow that fades to indigo somewhere over the barren Farallon Island rocks a bit west of here. Good news for those digging through the powder in the East: all predictions are for clear and cool heading your way. The pounding rains have let up here and down south memorial services for those who died in the horrific mudslides took place under increasingly sunny skies.
Listened on NPR to our local fave, Barbara Boxer, rip into that paragon of obfuscation, Condi Rice during the approval hearings. These days, Boxer looks like a Imperial Tribune or a Greek Magistrate with those streaks of gray in her dark hair and that look of dignified command. She is a rara avis of integrity in a field of low-rent contenders and California is lucky to have her.
There are signs of life stirring in the Hinterland. Driving out the other night, listened to "Prairie Home Companion", that homespun distillation of common sense and plain speech emanating from the conservative icelands of Minnesota and headed by moderate Garrison Keillor. To our astonishment, he related a little fictional parody of Fox news in which a report of a comet about to destroy the earth within 12 hours causes the President, the Vice President and all of the current Administration to board a rocket so as to avoid annihilation, pronouncing "We'll leave no child behind."
The voice of Bill Clinton is heard broadcasting from the Oval Office even as the rocket takes off amid corrected reports that indicate the impending comet was a misidentified ball of solar gas.
"I was just wandering by," says Bill. "And I noticed the White House: all the lights on and nobody home. So I just wandered on in. Gee, its good to be back."
To our astonishment, the entire concert hall erupted in obvious shouts and stomps and handclaps of approval.
In other news, we got this little item from our Hardcore Conservative Correspondent, Paul. Now we should mention that Paul is so Conservative he wears two pairs of pants and keeps his Barry Goldwater memorabilia next to his FDR dartboard.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it amazing that our government can track a cow born in Canada almost three years ago, right to the stall where she sleeps in the state of Washington. And they can track her calves to their stalls. But they are unable to locate 11 million illegal
aliens wandering around our country. Maybe we should give them all a cow.
They keep talking about drafting a Constitution for Iraq. Why don't we just give them ours? It was written by a lot of really smart guys, it's
worked for over 200 years and we're not using it anymore . . . . .
The real reason that we can't have the Ten Commandments in a Courthouse: You cannot post "Thou Shalt Not Steal," "Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery" and "Thou Shall Not Lie" in a building full of lawyers, judges and politicians! It creates a hostile work environment!
The opinions reported here are not necessarily those of the Editors, but that 2nd item is worthy of reporting. It has been said before but it is worth repeating here, "It is always darkest before the dawn."
ELDERLY WOMAN BEHIND THE COUNTER OF A SMALL TOWN
The saga of the Central Cinema, which planned to offer 2nd run movies to children and families on its single screen continues with a another series of reports published in the Island Sun. Appears the owner, Haskell, was given to believe that he had obtained all required permits until inspectors showed up 30 minutes before the first showing with an order to stop. The 40 seat theatre has been slapped with virtually every violation conceivable from the fire department to the zoning commission even though inspectors have refused to enter the building on request to identify code violation sources.
In other news, the recent flap over the outrageous eviction of 300 families from the Harbor Island Complex may provoke passing of rent control measures on the Island, a first for this area. The City Council took testimony on Tuesday of the past week on a proposed ordinance to increase renters rights and there is a strong push, as well as an amenable Council, to pass additional legislation. The Fifteen Group, by acting so severely, may have damaged their own cause and created a more difficult situation for other landlords in the area through their irresponsible actions.
The two fellows who got into a little contretemps after racing their cars down on Atlantic Avenue, may wind up having to pay substantial costs for Emergency services. The two, racing a Mercedes and a BMW at speeds in excess of 105 MPH, brushed together, causing the BMW to pop a light pole 60 feet into the air before swiping a 2nd pole, while the Mercedes slammed sideways into a tree, cutting the car in half and ejecting two occupants. Miraculously, no one was killed. Officer O'Madhauen is in quite a wax about the entire affair.
In another case of rampant Nimbyism, the City Council joined with the County and the City of Berkeley in opposing the Las Vegas style casino that is planned by the Coi Nation for the i-880 corridor. Even Oaktown, which stands to gain $600 million in subsidies voted 5-0 against the casino. Final decision will be a State and Federal matter, but the fact that Alameda County, the largest and most populous county in California voted unanimously against the casino may bear some pressure on the final decision making. Alameda county is home to some 2 million people.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
We have a plethora of music sources coming over the wire lately, and here we cull the best from the short lists of the best. First off, here is the Bill Graham Presents calendar:
On Sale MONDAY at 10am
Jimmy Buffett & The Coral Reefer Band
San Jose, CA
Saturday, April 16 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Monday, January 24 at 10:00 AM
Just Added Shows!
Elvis Costello nice intimate setting to catch this artist.
Tuesday, March 22 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, January 23 at 10:00 AM
O.A.R. quite nice acoustic ensemble not averse to electric when required. Recommended.
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 5 at 8:00 PM
On Sale Sunday, January 23 at 10:00 AM
This Week's Shows!
Gomez - young rockers with promise. become a groupie now. Recommended.
San Francisco, CA
Friday, January 21 at 9:00 PM 206663
See you at the show!
For those of you who love strictly acoustic stuff, here is the KFOG listing for the next month
JONNY LANG ACOUSTIC QUARTET JAN 27 Fox Theater
"Songwriters in the Round" LYLE LOVETT, JOHN HIATT, GUY CLARK, JOE ELY Jan 28th Fox Theater
KELLER WILLIAMS Jan 28 Fillmore
SAMBA NGO Jan 28 "Heart of the Congo" Film premiere Herbst Theater
Songwriters in the Round LYLE LOVETT, JOHN HIATT , JOE ELY, GUY CLARK Jan 29 - Montalvo
RICHARD THOMPSON Feb 2 & 3 Bimbo s
BLAME SALLY Feb 6 Café Bazaar SF
NANCI GRIFFITH Feb 12 - Fillmore
PAUL BRADY - Feb 12 - Great American Music Hall
STEVE EARLE Feb 15 & 16 GAMH
LOWEN & NAVARRO Feb 18 Freight &Salvage
ANI DIFRANCO Feb 18 Warfield,
ANI DIFRANCO Feb 19 Fillmore
BLAME SALLY - Feb 20 - Rancho Nicasio (Marin)
Please note that the Fox theatre is going through some growing pains as management hooks itself up with the Paramount Theater in Oaktown. It may be that you will find no other public announcement for some of these concerts than what you find here. The Fox is quite small, so buy your tix NOW! Also GAMH is the Great American Music Hall.
We know from personal experience none of the above listed concerts will disappoint. Also note that Rancho Nicasio is "an intimate bar setting", and you had best get clear directions before going up there.
Also just over the wire is an announcement from Girltalk, a local jazz group which has a date scheduled at
37 Caledonia St., Sausalito
Saturday, January 29th, 2005
7 to 10:30 pm
(call for reservations at 415-331-9355)
The Villa Montalvo folks have been quietly running a little revolution down there in Mountain View, with top-notch acts scheduled week after week under the radar for a while. But we have noticed, oh yes. Buddy Guy. BB King. Steve Earle. Folks like that quietly coming and going. Well, its finally time to say that the Montalvo Winery has one hell of a booking agent and you had best start paying attention for they have something good in store for you at the Fox.
In first hand reports, we have stunning accounts of the recent harmonica Battle of the Blues that took place recently at Yoshi's Nightspot. The annual event, hosted by Mark Hummel, featured Charlie Musselwhite and James Cotton. Rumor has it that the New Boy on the block blew both out of the water. Got no more to say on that.
Drove down to the Fox theater to catch a basically unknown show with bad publicity on behest of the Significant Other. Knew only that it was billed as a Robert Cray concert.
Got there and discovered that Coco Montoya and Charlie Musselwhite were also on the bill and this was third in a series organized by some genius at the Montalvo Winery.
Hell, the first two were draw enought for us. Coco Montoya, a relative unknown due to poor studio engineering and artistic direction decisions, has never failed to electrify audiences everywhere when performing live. His performances have typically been classic examples of "this is how you do it" and Saturday night he hardly failed to provide as audience members demanded in vain for a return to the stage after his opening set. Montoya was adopted as a "wayward child" by Albert Collins, for whom he played the drums, and was encouraged by the master bluesman when Coco set out on his own. The left-handed Coco learned how to play the guitar from Collins and quickly established himself as a master musician.
His studio recordings have been fairly indifferent in quality -- plenty of musical integrity but lacking the fire that comes out when Montoya plays live. Whenever Montoya steps on stage with his signature "upside-down" strat, the atmosphere seems to yank an incredible spirit out of the man, for he then turns the simplest of songs into a slashing, wailing, searing attack upon the emotions. Largely because of those studio recordings, he has remained unknown except to a few in the know who will understandably travel hundreds of miles to hear him play. The crowd begged him to stay and play some more after his brief 45 minute set, but it would have been presumptuous in the extreme to hold off the following two headliners.
Memphis-born Charlie Musselwhite is an old hand at the blues, one of the few survivors left from the golden days of the gods in Chicago where he would go to listen to Sonny Boy Williamson when not performing himself. We first heard him in 1982 in the famous Rathskeller in Berlin, the dinky old club where the Beatles got their start, and man was he hot. In the mid-ninties we saw him rescue the show for John Lee Hooker at the Fillmore, where Charlie tore the place up, impressing even the young punks who had come to laugh at the increasingly feeble Hooker, who was to die only a few months later well into his 90's. Saturday night, Charlie proved he still has the stuff, coming out unannounced and unnoticed to place that old metal briefcase of mouth harps on to a little side stand and wander about chatting with the roadies.
On his website, Charlie has this to say, My father gave me my first guitar when I was 13 in 1957. I already loved blues and decided to teach myself guitar. Ill never forget how good it felt when I played an E chord and then put my little finger in position to play an E7 chord and how good that felt. Blues not only sounded good, it felt good! I went on to get to know a lot of old time blues players around Memphis and picked up quite a bit from them.
In Memphis there was Will Shade, Furry Lewis, Willie Borum, Earl Bell, Abe McNeil, Red Robey and more; later in Chicago there was Big Joe Williams, Homesick James, John Lee Granderson and just too many to name in this space - I just about knew them all. I remember when I was a teenager, Will Shade telling me he was going to teach me the same way he was taught. When he was a teenager Will met an old man that taught him and now he was going to pass it on to me - guitar and harmonica. "
His most recent album, Sanctuary, winner of the WC Handy award for Best Blues Album of 2004, is unusual in that, like Charlie's other studio recordings, it managed to capture some of the liveliness and zip in his live performances. At the Fox theater, his set caused a rousing standing ovation, which brought him back for an excellent encore featuring the title cut from his album and a Sonny Boy Williamson song, "Need Your Help."
With his substantial background in other forms of music, such as various South American folk styles, Charlie brings quite a range to the blues form, managing to avoid the tedious shuffles and dunta-duntas that make the staple of so many lesser bluesmen. It helps to have guys like Charlie Sexton backing him up on guitar as well, for Sexton plays a crisp, sharp slide that compliments Musselwhite's long glissandos and wavers. No question, the night could have ended right there and we would have been perfectly happy.
After a longish set change, the headliner, Robert Cray took the stage. Unlike other blues artists, Cray never seems to have suffered for his music, entirely demolishing the stereotype of the poor boy who learns how to play on an old crate strung with bailing wire on the plantation. born in 1953, he is part of the New Generation of blues artists. Nominated for 11 Grammys and holder of five, success met the man quickly and has never left. His band has stayed together since 1974 with few changes in personnel, for the musicians know a good thing when they got it. His heavily soul-inflected style has been panned by purist critics who long for a bit of "crunch" in his ultra-smooth sound, but his immense popularity gives him little reason to change.
The Fox theatre audience, consisting of a fair number of greybeards, loved him to death, shouting out encouragement and rapping with the startled performer, who eventually worked into the juke joint atmosphere created by the two preceding bands. Cray has had several songs break into the top 40, and has worked closely with Eric Clapton, Tina Turner, Buddy Guy, and other crossover artists. There is no doubt that the silky smooth tenor has immense talent -- which may be the undoing of his style. For the man does everything with so little apparent effort that the emotional content of songs like "Strong Persuader" and other hits, bleeds away in a feeling of excellent technique and high production values. Musically, the man is without equal. All of his songs are well-crafted, tight, and smoothly performed with few surprises. The crowd at the Fox managed to get him to break up the presentation a bit, which provided welcome relief. Nevertheless, what Cray does best is less of gutbucket blues than Motown Soul and Southern R&B Soul with a bit of Carribean flavor. If that is your cup of tea, then there probably is no one out there better than Cray and his band.
Personally, we prefer the lesser talent standing on the stage, sweating, yanking irregular sharps and flats from a battered six-string, voice cracking on the edge, but pushing that little bit he or she has to the very limit, breaking strings in mid-song and howling at the mad moon for all the misery of the world or shouting a joyful noise at the wonderful splash of good whiskey in a chipped glass. That is what we live for. That, my friends, is the Blues.
GOT THE KEYS TO THE HIGHWAY
Was planning on bringing back good old Oog and Aag for a return to yesteryear, but we see the clock snicking forward into the start of next week and the trains are all barreling through the Jack London Waterfront across the water. Some big freighters must have docked at the Port recently, for we can hear them every night, wailing as they sound the horns along 3rd Street. It must have been a good idea to somebody to lay down tracks there from the immense Port of Oaktown through what was once entirely an industrial zone. But now those tracks divide the Square, seperating fancy restaurants, chic-chic shops and a pleasant promenade along the marina -- as if to remind the people of Oaktown, never forget where you came from. Never forget what you are.
We're just plain folks here. Like John Lee Hooker said in an interview just before he died: "People say to me, they be talkin' y'know, sayin' 'John Lee what you doin' here in a place like this?' An' I tell 'em, heck, I'm just like you. Don't wanna sit at home feelin' old. Just want to come out here and be with people. Have a drink and listen to some down home blues. That's right!"
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 30, 2004
LIKE THE WEATHER
Had a spell of more rain and hail latterly . The past week saw the Bay Area bracing under sporadic heavy thunderstorms and bursts of hail which extended from as far north as Sonoma County down to Fremont. People living at the foot of already sodden hills looked up anxiously, in fear of more mudslides like the one that destroyed an entire town and killed 11 people in SoCal.
The storms, although vigorous, were brief, however and they soon began dumping powder on the ecstatic skiers in the Sierra, who are looking to see the Season extend well into May this year.
This front should hit the East Coast by Thursday, although we would expect it to lose much of its punch by then.
In the brutal nights we used to dream
Dense violent dreams,
Dreamed with soul and body:
To return; to eat; to tell the story.
Until the dawn command
Sounded brief, low:
and the heart cracked in the breast.
From"Reveille", Primo Levi
In an unusual gesture, the UN recently agreed to recognize the terrible 60th anniversary of the Holocaust. Even Dick Cheney went to Auschwitz this past week to acknowledge the millions who died in the Nazi death camps. At Auschwitz alone, some 1.5 million people -- most of them Jews -- were murdered in gas chambers and then cremated. Today, the largest unit of the multi-campus death camp located in what is now western Poland is preserved as a museum. Although many of the buildings were destroyed during an uprising of inmates and by Allied forces, the railway tracks leading up to the main gate still remain to bear silent witness to the cold efficiency of the place that raised in Modern consciousness the word "genocide."
BRIDGE AND TUNNEL
Took in the latest by Sarah Jones at the Berkeley Rep this evening. The work-in-progress was presented as a "Workshop" presentation in the smaller Berkeley Rep theater next door to the main stage. Arrived late to find hundreds of people who -- on getting the "word" -- had bought tickets online and were waiting at WillCall to pickup their tix. The play was SRO to the astonishment of the managers.
The work is a solo performance in which Jones plays some 16 male and female characters who come to an annual Poetry reading hosted by a Pakistani immigrant named "Mohammed Ali" who introduces each character -- all of them first generation immigrants -- with shy awkwardness and bad jokes. Jones then has each person relate a poem, a performance piece or simply a story in character with no more than a shawl, a sweater, or a jacket as a costume prop, save for one character who enters in a wheelchair.
The performance was an amazing tour-de-force in which Jones snaps within seconds from one character to the next and back to the Host with astonishing fluidity and persuasiveness. In succession, she presents an elderly Jewish woman from Lithuania, a Vietnamese boy who wins poetry slams, a hip-hop home-boy from the 'hood, a Chinese woman who learns to love her lesbian daughter, a burly Russian poet, an affected Australian performance artist, a slender Haitian woman who gives the best poem called "God Bless America -- but not because of You," a Lebanese woman recalling the lush erotic poetry of a 10th century Lebanese woman, and several others.
At the end of the 90 minute work, the audience -- itself a mixed bag of races and ethnicities -- stood up spontaneously as one and thundered applause for several minutes, bringing the performer out for three curtain calls.
The piece by the very talented Ms. Jones is a resoundingly positive, uplifting and quite moving portrait of modern America which nevertheless engages fully with the warty aspects of American intolerance, injustice and racism.
The show runs until February 20th, when it is slated
for the main stage on Broadway. We think Jones has a hit monster in this one
and we urge all of you to make haste to purchase tix.
Bill Graham Presents Concert Calendar
Since this feller tends to get rather long, we have decided to cull just the significant updates for each week.
San Jose, CA
Saturday, April 9 at 7:30 PM
Just Added Shows!
San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, April 6 at 8:00 PM
THIS ISLAND LIFE
We note, on the continuing theme of poetry, that the Island's own Frank Bette Center for the Arts down on Lincoln Street is now hosting regular events starting with a gala opening on the 4th of February from 7-9pm. The center lists the 2nd Saturday of each month as a themed reading with special guests to be followed by open mike. Got the urge to bare your soul? Come on down. The theme for this 12th of February will be "Happily Ever After: Auspicious beginnings to grand finales." The Center sits on the corner of Paru and Lincoln.
The nights have been positively nippy of late, with ice rime forming on the roof of the neighboring hardware store. Starting out for the play, we watched one of the local "masked bandits" go scampering across to the old Julia Morgan house where a family of them resides under the cellar.
On coming back, all the little rascals were snug in their dens while frost began forming on the car tops. Passed along the tracks along the Jack London Waterfront before entering the Island through the Chunnel and watched lines of passenger cars go by, off to some unknown destination. Later, snug in our own den, the midnight train whistle came wavering across the frost-tipped grasses lining the estuary. Good to be inside when the outside gets chilly and the streetlights drop a cold light through the black tree bones. Time for a nice hot cup of tea. Look through the windows at the chiaroscuro world.
That's the way it is on the Island, this late Sunday evening. Have a lyrical week.
FEBRUARY 6, 2005
As chief Editors for Island-Life we are sometimes queried about the annual Thanksgiving Day Poodleshoot and BBQ to the effect of wonderment at the seeming detestation of that most lamentable breed of dog known as The Poodle, a breed also sometimes referred to as "Piddles", "Puddles", and "Goddamned yappy dogs."
We would like to point out that no less a genius than Frank Zappa often referred in passing to these creatures as ridiculous species only slightly less ridiculous than their owners. Witness the masterwork "Dirty Love" and its refrain, for example.
When blues pianist Marcia Ball says, "Let Me Play with Your Poodle," it is quite clear she is not referring to little Fifi in any wholesome manner approved of by the SPCA.
Gary Larsen, cartoonist creator of The Far Side series clearly has his pencil in the right place vis a vis his "Poodles from Hell" series.
Recently an item came in over the wire which -- once again -- grants significant credibility to our point of view.
Simply go to this website: http://www.panasonic.co.jp/olympic/movies/movies09.html.
Watch the video and know that it was done in all seriousness and with no intended tongue-in-cheek motivations. Tristan Tzara would have heartily approved.
The prosecution rests.
HERE COMES THE SUN
The early week saw ice rime on the roof next door, but things settled into a warmer swing of the season after one blustery evening and the various denizens of the House have been gathering in the back next to the sprouting freesias and gladioli. Even though P. Phil observed his shadow, promising a few more weeks of Winter, it does appear that we are all headed for a respite from the rains and cold of this most eventful winter season. Spotted another of the little masked fellers washing himself in a rain puddle the other day. It will not be long before Papoon and family emerge from their hibernation burrows down by the strand.
EVERY DAY I HAVE THE BLUES
Dropped into the Local, McGrath's Pub, which squats a few blocks down the boreen, inconspicuous and unassuming with its music bill done up in magic marker on butcher block paper hung over a sawhorse. Was there to hear Ron Thompson play a solo gig without his Resistors band.
The house was thin and even the notable Patrick, the owner, was not to be seen for a good half hour into the set.
Here in this humble-appearing locale, with no introduction, the old bluesman from Oaktown sat down and calmly launched into his set and played no differently, not two meters from the front cafeteria-style seats, than if he were playing Carnegie Hall. Which he has done.
For Patrick is no ordinary Proprietor and McGrath's Pub is no ordinary bar. And even the ordinary bar in the Bay Area can suddenly host extraordinary luminaries.
Ron Thompson has recorded and performed with legends like Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Sonny Rhodes, Luther Tucker, Jimmy McCracklin, Carla Thomas, Percy Mayfield, Etta James, B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, Fleetwood Mac, Chris Isaak, Carlos Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Elvin Bishop, Huey Lewis and others.
Now that is quite a list and here was the man performing on the Island in a no-name Irish pub.
Thompson is one of those local gems of the Bay Area we sometimes want to keep under our hats for fear we shall not experience them again in the same way when the word gets out. He walked up to the mike area -- there is no raised stage at McGraths -- took off his coat, leaving on his porkpie hat and simply started to play with concentration amid the bar noise.
Starting out low-key, Thompson played a simple Martin acoustic dreadnought "over the air" into a mic, choosing to begin with spare Robert Johnson and Leadbelly tunes. Taking up a semi-hollowbody f-hole archtop Fender he ramped up into more complex arrangements of 30's tunes by Son House, Jimmy Reed, Robert Johnson again, and others. His version of Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues", was typically tasty as well as truncated, for Thompson never devoted more than three minutes per song as his pace accelerated like a freight train set to blow out the stops and break all the records for getting into Chicago an hour ahead of schedule.
During his second set, he shifted to his creme-colored solid-body Fender Strat to blaze through "Boom Boom" by John Lee Hooker and several other "modern" blues artists as well as a few songs he has written by himself and in collaboration with others. During "Boom Boom", Thompson had worked himself into some kind of trance long previously and he pounded both of his feet as he ripped through the old classic, putting a stop to the inane bar chat and noise from the back with sheer energy.
Unbelievably, his third set continued to ramp up the energy, pulling rapt people from the bar stools to the hard cafeteria seats to watch a real master do his stuff. The pauses between songs virtually disappeared as he went through virtually every major and minor song in the standard blues repertoire, adding complexity and sophistication with each new song until his fingers were dancing up and down the fretboard with incredible speed and his slide moving with pin-sharp precision with not a hint of string rattle.
When playing solo, he used a plastic thumbpick, and no other assistance on the attack, which results in heavy dependence upon basic 4/4 backbeat and R&B shuffle to provide fill. Most of the arrangements he did relied heavily upon Buddy Holly style rock rhythm. By starting with simple beats, he is able to introduce embellishments with significant effect.
When it came to the last song, he stood up, said, "That's it," then put on his coat and began disassembling his gear with no roadie help whatsoever. Everyone was so astonished they forgot to clap for a moment, even though by that time he had captivated the entire bar, including those who had come purely for the purpose of getting laid.
Talked with Patrick afterwards, who mentioned that he had an interest in becoming more active on the Island in bringing in music. Patrick has organized a fundraiser for the City schools in the past and this year he will again be organizing an event with Rosenblum Cellars to raise funds for Music in the Schools, all the more important an endeavor now that so many programs are being cut in this time of increasing fiscal austerity.
The Pub, converted from an old sailor's dive, is attracting more and more attention as musicians learn about the locale. At the moment, McGrath's is known as the host for the largest bluegrass jam in the country and on any given night one might hear the national fiddle champion meet with the national fingerpicker champion for a little impromptu. We've heard it and we were there.
Anyone who wants to check out the schedule and events taking place at McGraths, can go to www.mcgrathspub.com.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
George W may feel he has earned a 2nd Term, but nobody here is singing the man's praises, especially the School Board which presented a draconian budget that features $2.4 million dollars in cuts that call the very existence of the District into question. This is a town of some 70,000 souls, including raccoons and poodles, and such a cut provoked heated words at a recent Board meeting.
In other news, both of the local Papers reported argumentation and disputation over changes in Live/Work rules affecting unused industrial buildings. The Island has strong antigrowth initiatives in place -- which may be the most restricting density limits in the entire country, given that on an island, there simply is no physical way for the place to expand. At issue is a project which allows for live/work arrangements in the old Clamp Swing Warehouse on Blanding Avenue -- itself a region of stale development from both a business as well as a housing standpoint. City Council approved a project there and has been assailed by concerned citizens ever since. The citizens claim that live/work means multiple dwelling units that go against Measure A -- which specifically prohibited construction of such buildings by an overwhelming majority when passed. The City would claim that such lofts are reuse of existing structures and are a factor of a change in economic realities.
Blanding Avenue, which is hard by the estuary, has old train tracks rutting the road surface and is host to metalwork shops, warehouses, a fishing tackle shop, a storage facility, and various unattractive industrial plants. Its the sort of place where weeds jut through chain link fences that shield old rusting barrel drums and broken metal fixtures which once attached to heavy machinery long forgotten. It certainly cannot be the beginning of an upscale housing project, so whatever goes in there needs to fit in with the neighborhood which is just over the bridge from a concrete processing plant in Oaktown.
IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD TONIGHT
Seems to be getting thick up in the skies right now. Expect some rain by morning. Missed Eugene's State of the Onion Speech this time around so we will have to rely on 2nd hand reports. Eugene, as frequent readers know, is the questionably elected President of the Bums. With holes in his shoes, mismatched socks in need of darning, tears in his navy blue breeches, a length of hawser used as a belt and a patched corduroy jacket over his oil-stained beater T-shirt, the man cut quite the Presidential figure and is very recognizable as he goes about accompanied by Condi Rice-a-Roni who sports a once beige woolen blanket over flip-flops. Since Mr. Colon Power has resigned, Condi has been keeping the President company as Secretary of Misstatements and occasional consort. It's been said they get on the treadmill together every morning.
I kid you not.
In other news, Will, the local Meth junkie who keeps getting locked up for shoplifting has been seen running loose again. He's cut his soupbowl hair even shorter, dyed it black and still sports an apparent sunburn all over him even in wintertime. Up on those peppy pills he launches into vigorous conversations with just about anybody over anything. Last saw him trying to converse in Chinese with Peter at the Market Spot. Peter is, unfortunately, of Thai descent. Oh Will.
Understand that Garrison of the Prairie Home Companion has been playing sappy sentimental love songs in honor of upcoming V-Day, which looms not unlike one of those cave trolls in a Peter Jackson film. Ah well, silence is fine and its good to listen to the rain and the sound of the train horns echoing across the water from Jack London Square.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 14, 2005
PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS
We apologize for the late issue, but circumstances beyond our control prevented publication: we were in jail.
It was the weekend before that ominous retail splurge known as Valentines Day and there seemed to be no better opportunity to Carpe Diem than to get hog wild before knuckling down to the uncomfortable duties of the holiday.
Well, some ideas turn out to be better than others in retrospect.
Met up with Bear at the local locale The Dog and Pony. Sophie, Bear's main squeeze, was out of town visiting a sick aunt in Humboldt, which resides some 400 miles to the north of here. She left on Friday morning, and Bear, never one for moderation in most things he attempted, already was on a tear by that evening. Cleaned up and tamed by young love, the relationship had aged an entire year and Bear was back in fine form in the Dog and Pony, slinging immense tankards of ale and wearing an already oil-stained sweatshirt over a white shirt with the tails untucked, which had managed to acquire layers of filth in a matter of hours. Even his beard looked as ratty as an old birds nest and he sported a black eye for he had gotten into at least three fist fights already.
Bear was finishing up an off-color joke about a clergyman and a mule and the bartender was fixing to 86 the boy when I strolled in the door.
"Denby! Let's get on down to the Crazy Horse and pickup some company!" Bear shouted.
Before I could respond with a good evasion tactic -- difficult to achieve since I had come over expressly for the purpose of meeting him -- the red-eyed maniac hooked me by the arm and had me in the cab of his pickup and we were headed over the bridge to that notorious den of iniquity. Now, the Crazy Horse is one of those old-fashioned joints that have been around a long time to provide entertainment to the lovelorn gentleman, traveling businessmen, and all the reverse baseball cap wearing youth of Fremont California, who manage to reproduce their culture wherever they go, whether it be Barrows Alaska, Raleigh, North Carolina, Memphis, Tennessee, or Minot, North Dakota.
Actually Barrows is a rather nice place, so strike that one off of the list.
Anyhoo, Bear blows into the Crazy Horse on a typical Saturday Night and since it is quite clear that he is neither a gentle man nor a traveling salesman from the Corporation, he fell into the third category and they treated him as such.
This being the Weekend celebrating the main focus of places like the Crazy Horse, the Management had done up the hall real nice with hearts and cupids and red strands around the brass pole and lots of those heart-shaped candies with catchphrases therein inscribed. And the music was all about love, love, love. Of course.
While Bear attempted with truly heartbreaking measures to get one of the girls to come home with him, by suggestion, by cajolement, by entreaty, by bribe and by demand, I secluded in a far table which happened to be near the break table for the bar dancers. When I informed one of them I was a journalist covering Valentine's Day festivities one of them said, casually blowing cigarette smoke, "Keep your hands to yourself and you can ask all the questions you want."
The woman's name -- as given -- was Sandra, although these things are somewhat questionable as accurate information under the circumstances. She was a fair brunette of average height. Her act began with a sort of gingham dress reminiscent of farmer's wives in movies of some indeterminate era and this is what she wore. She had one boy child at home attended by a sitter from City College and she was not married. When she smiled a middling gap between her front teeth would appear. Naked dancing was pretty much a way for somebody with barely an high school education to pay the rent and feed herself and her kid. She had been all over, worked the famous strip joint in Borderline, met a guy there and fell in love as humans are wont to do even in the most extreme circumstances, and wound up pursuing him to Alaska. Where things did not pan out. As jobs went, naked dancing was not so bad and we started talking about the language classes taught there over at City College.
Meanwhile Bear had transitioned from the more lyrical methods to ones involving some physical intervention and I could see that things would not end well as Security appeared.
Let it be known that every strip club, no matter how sordid, follows the most cardinal rule: Look but do not touch. Like many situations in life the transactions are purely financial and illusory.
It was my turn to rise up and seize the wayward Bear and cart him from that old abode in safety -- which was not easy, given that he had fallen into an atavistic frenzy of lust and he beat upon my pate and my schnoz with much severity.
But the Management is much used to such outbursts. They are old hands at this game of pay and be teased and they have their forces ever ready with tasers, pepper spray, the simple riot baton, and the old fashioned kick to the nuts. I have spent many hours with practitioners of this more practical of martial arts and I can say with conviction that they are far more practiced and efficient at it than any of you are.
Knowing these things, I got him outside where he glommed upon yet another plan which was more direct than the previous one. Still, he was much put out on having to surrender his affections upon one particular dancer.
Which one, I asked with some innocence.
"The one with the tattoo." He said, as if that answered everything.
Since all of them possess tats, I let the matter ride as unpursuable and unlikely to bear fruit.
We wound up back in Oaktown on the one and only San Pablo Avenue. You know exactly the set of blocks I am talking about. Everyone out there has a place exactly like this. Even Orem, Utah has a street just like it.
Bear stopped his pickup along the curb and soon they were all around us, appearing out of the night like bats or some supernatural species. Women and men dressed as women, all in skimpy skirts and platform heels, their skins pale from lack of sunlight. For a brief moment I flashed upon an image in George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead", when zombies pull the two bodies from a burning pickup truck and eat them.
But even these people are people. They are people of the night but they have day lives and concerns and ways that have nothing to do with this time on the Avenue. And each one of them, also, longs for love and some kind of release.
Perhaps a release different from what you might imagine.
While Bear chatted up a group of likely prospects, negotiating terms I would guess, I went into journalist mode again and began interviewing what I took to be hookers. Found a charming lady, dressed a bit conservatively in a mid-length black skirt and simple blouse who appeared willing to talk at length. She called herself Erica, a clear pseudonym for I would have found her a better Sandra.
The conversation did not proceed for long, for Bear suddenly shouted with great energy, "DON'T TALK TO THAT LADY; SHE AINT NO HO!"
"Well how do you know," innocent me inquired, not considering what a woman who was not a whore would be doing down there at that hour.
"SHE'S GOT ALL OF HER TEETH, YOU DUMBASS!"
This produced an unfortunate series of events. First, every hooker and tranny on the Avenue disappeared as if sucked up into a massive metaphysical vacuum cleaner.
Second, the charming and sweet Erica whipped out a snub-nosed .38 caliber pistol, pointed at me, and shouted, "FREEZE MUTHERFUCKER!"
Thirdly, an entire army -- it seemed -- of police cruisers appeared out of nowhere as suddenly as the hookers had disappeared and we, Bear and I, were immediately arrested and thrown in jail on Seventh Street not several blocks away.
Now there we were on Valentines Weekend, Bear and I, spending Saturday Night in the Clink, arrested on charges of Interfering with Official Police Business in the form of the Luscious Sting Program, designed to rid the Avenue of prostitution, which it has failed to do for many seasons. And although it may in all probability never succeed the cops were terribly put out by the interference of the Community Service.
It was a long, cold night in the Clink on Seventh Street and since we were tossed in after hours, we had no benefit of the free Saturday popcorn, dinner, or extra blankets. So the entire affair was entirely without the usual advantages. but we made the best of it chatting with all the other felons in their about all kinds of criminal things like littering, loitering, public urination, and acting Republican -- all of which is highly illegal around here.
In the morning the Judge bawled us out, fined us both fifty dollars, and told us never to be seen about these regions again at that hour -- or better yet, any hour at all -- and the Significant Other had to come down and bail us out for we had charges of Being a Nuisance, Solicitation, and Interference with Police Procedure still outstanding and she was not pleased and both of us -- me and Bear -- had to endure a most grievous session of complaint and diatribe. She was not happy at all. No she was not.
Let it be known that if any one of you speaks of this Valentines Day, you shall not expect a positive response from this quarter and for good reason. Next year, we plan on spending a week in bed with the entire extended version of Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" and a good bottle of whiskey.
Still, its too bad we never got the real name of that Sandra. She was real cute for a policelady.
MY DADDY WAS A BANK ROBBER
Washington Mutual Bank which seems to get hit regularly by takeovers every few months or so got popped again about a week ago. Appears the robber waltzed in around a quarter to eleven and demanded cash successfully without displaying a weapon, but implying he might have one or might go get one if necessary.
Since the fellow walked out and away, no traffic ordinances were offended and the perp got clean away.
THE STATE OF THE ONION
We have reports of what went down during the recent State of the Onion Speech by the reelected Eugene Shrubb. Our roving correspondent, after being supplied with a sandwich and a pint of Old Crow reported as follows.
Shrubb stood upon the Porcelain Throne upon the dais of old tires and spoke at length of exporting Freedom and Democracy and found exporting Democracy at the point of a gun not a bad idea at all.
"Hell," he said, "You be our Democracy or we kill all a ya. Sounds like a fair deal to me!"
Shrubb went on to mention freedom and other big words he don't hardly understand at least 75 times and we have many beancounters from all over making sure this number is accurate and true.
Not once did he mention Iraq or Newark where the Occupation has some serious difficulties.
Basically, Eugene stated that he is happy to do whatever the whim should strike him, regardless of reason and common sense.
Shrubb took the opportunity to push his retirement program to replace SSI. In effect, everyone must needs give their money to his friends and let them deal with it according to how the "market" rules. By the Market we refer, of course, to the slaughterhouse down in Babylon's Cow Hollow where Shrubb has a number of friends in the sausage-making business. These people would like to employ capital to expand into distribution of fine wines and T-bone.
If, at the end of 30 years of working for various companies, the market has done well, the individual can retire in comfort in a nice Old Folks Home. If the market has not done well, then the individual must dwell in a slop and and eat cat food for dinner to the end of days. If the market has done well, but his friends have not, then the result is the same as if the market has not done well. It appears to be far more likely that his friends will do very well indeed no matter what the market does and regardless of whether any of us die rich or poor.
There are variations upon these themes.
No mention was made of the current investment of Newark and its resulting confusion.
The main question remains: is it worth killing well over 100,000 people to bring the survivors Democracy in a questionable form?
The recent weather reports indicate another front coming through to dump a last winter's storm of rain here through the week. That translates to more snow in the Sierra and more snow heading your way in the Midwest and the East, for this translates also to a very large storm. Unfortunately, the groundhog was right and you have four or more weeks of winter left to you.
Noticed a cart-woman taking shelter in the entrance of the Chunnel between Oaktown and the Island. There she stood in her wrap of carpet and her shopping car filled with god knows what. And what does does this woman know of candy hearts and chocolate? Soon enough we are into the chunnel and the figure of the woman seeking only shelter from the rain left behind. Imagine this woman somehow meeting the swaddled man of girth and dreadlocks who parks himself in the entrance to the public restrooms at Jack London. He has been there during foul weather for some ten years now. Wonder if the only love he has known is that from authorities who turn a blind eye to his existence and let him stay there.
Imagine that woman there rolling up her shopping cart there in the entrance to the public restroom where there is a nice deep overhang and a place to sit out of the way, protected from rain and wind. Imagine those two striking up a conversation. Rather brisk out. Yes it is. Sandwiches from St. Andrews pretty good this time. Not bad. Have half of one here in my pocket. Share?
While overhead the star of Venus shines first and among the best.
Home, home again. The train echoes across the flatlands as it always has and the hills remain shrouded in fog across the water and the first drops of this weeks storm patter on the window sill.
Imagine Bear is back home with Sophie. Not sure we want to imagine what is going on over there right now. The work week looms ahead in a few hours. Heard that thousands of couples celebrated their 1 year anniversaries on the steps of City Hall over in Babylon, while Mayor Gavin over there gave a rousing speech of inspiration.
After all the chocolate and inane cards and soon to die flowers are done, it remains to be seen, in a world filled with triumphant assholes, SUV cellphone-toting drivers, mad Arabs, obnoxious Red Staters if anything so fragile as a simple emotion can endure for long. As Tolkein once, remarked, "In reality the way the world is, the Ring would have been taken to Gondor and there seized by some warrior who would have overthrown Sauron to impose an equally as horrible regime. And in such a world, creatures like hobbits would not have survived very long."
But as we know, that is not how the story goes, so the old master must have held some smidgen of hope at the last. Willie Porter has a lovely song about those feelings in the face of inescapable realities. And we will leave you with that. And the earnest wish that may your own Significant Other be there always to bail you out of a long dark night in jail.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
There's a woman with a baby
Sitting next to me
As we ride the crooked train into New York City
She holds that child on her bended knee
whispers something that only he can hear
She says I will always love you
No matter what may come
I carried you inside myself
The two of us are one
No matter how you fall down
Or how it comes undone
To me you will always be shining
And he stares into her brown eyes above
Into the face of unconditional love
I see a man laying in the street
left his motorcycle
at a high rate of speed
In his eyes there's a vacancy
but he seems, yes he seems to be smiling
Maybe he was a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew
I hope that he was laughing when off that bike he flew
Maybe he struggled to believe just like me and you
As the ambulance is too late arriving
As he stares into the sky above
Into the face of unconditional love
Sometimes I'm impossible, sometimes I rage and roar
Sometimes all the dreams are spent, strewn across the floor
Then I see myself reflected in your eyes
All the tragedy, the hope, and the fear
So in my hour of dying, when the light is clear and clean
If it helps read from the bible, don't hook me up to those machines
Just stay by my side as I slide into some peace
Give me strength over what I'm afraid of
In the face of unconditional love
FEBRUARY 20, 2005
THERE'S GONNA BE SOME CHANGES MADE
We're still smarting from the events of the previous week as reported in the delayed Island-life on February 14th. Due to the unfortunate contretemps we have been banned from visiting our favorite Local, The Dog and Pony and dear friend Bear has been officially been put on probation. With an electronic tracking anklet installed by his main squeeze, Sophie. No slipping out on Friday to booze it up with friends at the clubhouse in Martinez.
Saw that ladycop out on patrol and almost ran a stopsign just to chat her up, but she pulled over an old Chinese guy a head of me and Officer O'Madhauen collared us for having a worn wiper blade.
Some days you find yourself sobbing with your forehead on the steering wheel, lost in the middle of a sad song by Ani DiFranco. Ya just can't win.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The spate of bad weather continued with no letup this week, as NorCal braced itself for a half-each every day, smashing rainfall records going back some 150 years here. Friday traffic slowed to a crawl on the Bay Bridge upper deck as travelers gawked at a ferocious lightening storm that repeatedly sent touch-down spikes into the City.
Thunderstorms packing 60 mph wind gusts, soaking rain and hail nuggets the size of marbles pounded already waterlogged Southern California on Saturday, closing major highways and threatening to set off mudslides.
La Conchita, the coastal hamlet where 10 people were killed by a huge landslide last month, was deserted as the U.S. Geological Survey warned that none of the roughly 150 remaining homes could be considered safe.
A two-mile stretch of Interstate 5 through the City of Commerce, south of downtown Los Angeles, was closed for several hours early Saturday after it was flooded by a foot of water, the California Highway Patrol said. Crews had to pump the highway dry.
It is just the latest wave of soaking weather in what has been a particularly wet season for California. Rainfall totals were already three times above normal for this time of year in Southern California, said Jayme Laber, a hydrologist for the NWS.
The mountains sorely need a replenishment of snowpack but not much of this bodes well for places East of here.
GUNG HAY FAT CHOY
The rain did not hold off Saturday for the annual Chinese Lunar New Year parade. That failed to stop some 250,000 revelers bring in the Year of the Rooster -- about half the attendance of last year.
The extraordinary spectacle features a dragon supported by scores of martial artists on foot, working in 15 minute shifts to undulate the dragon's body and articulate its massive jaws as it chases a firey globe.
For many people the parade and attending celebrations are family traditions that go back several generations.
The City Council announced it had eliminated a $4.8 million deficit by cutting some $6.3 million in services and upgrades from the annual $66.6 million budget. Cuts were made in all departments, including fire and police. Because of the bad economy, reduced consumer spending has also lowered retail tax income by $1.3 million.
THE THINGS KIDS SAY
Our contacts feature quite a range of folks out there, including a couple grade school teachers. One of them sent this material in a while back, but with all the global warming, freeway shootings, warring in the Mideast and the general crappiness of things, we thought you should all have a break. All entries are pulled from answers on history tests and Sunday School quizzes.
Ancient Egypt was old. It was inhabited by gypsies and mummies who all wrote in hydraulics. They lived in the Sarah Dessert. The climate of the Sarah is such that all the inhabitants have to live elsewhere.
Moses led the Hebrew slaves to the Red Sea where they made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients. Moses went up on Mount Cyanide to get the ten commandos. He died before he ever reached Canada but the commandos made it.
Solomon had three hundred wives and seven hundred porcupines. He was a actual hysterical figure as well as being in the bible. It sounds like he was sort of busy too.
The Greeks were a highly sculptured people, and without them we wouldn't have history. The Greeks also had myths. A myth is a young female moth.
Socrates was a famous old Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him.
He later died from an overdose of wedlock which is apparently poisonous. After his death, his career suffered a Dramatic decline.
In the first Olympic games, Greeks ran races, jumped, hurled biscuits, and threw the java. The games were messier then than they show on TV now.
Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out "Same to you, Brutus."
Joan of Arc was burnt to a steak and was canonized by Bernard Shaw for reasons I don't really understand. The English and French still have problems.
Queen Elizabeth was the "Virgin Queen," As a queen she was a success. When she exposed herself before her troops they all shouted "hurrah!" and that was the end of the fighting for a long while.
It was an age of great inventions and discoveries. Gutenberg invented removable type and the Bible. Another important invention was the circulation of blood.
Sir Walter Raleigh is a historical figure because he invented Cigarettes and started smoking.
Sir Francis Drake circumcised the world with a 100 foot clipper which was very dangerous to all his men.
The greatest writer of the Renaissance was William Shakespeare. He was born in the year 1564, supposedly on his birthday. He never made much money and is famous only because of his plays. He wrote tragedies, comedies, and hysterectomies, all in Islamic pentameter.
Writing at the same time as Shakespeare was Miguel Cervantes. He wrote Donkey Hote. The next great author was John Milton. Milton wrote Paradise Lost. Since then no one ever found it.
Delegates from the original 13 states formed the Contented Congress. Thomas Jefferson, a Virgin, and Benjamin Franklin were two singers of the Declaration of Independence. Franklin discovered electricity by Rubbing two cats backward and also declared, "A horse divided against itself cannot stand." He was a naturalist for sure. Franklin died in 1790 and is still dead.
Abraham Lincoln became America's greatest Precedent. Lincoln's Mother died in infancy, and he was born in a log cabin which he built with his own hands. Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves by signing the Emasculation Proclamation.
On the night of April 14, 1865, Lincoln went to the theater and got shot in his seat by one of the actors in a moving picture show. They believe the assinator was John Wilkes Booth, a supposingly insane actor. This ruined Booth's career.
Johann Bach wrote a great many musical compositions and had a large number of children. In between he practiced on an old spinster which he kept up in his attic. Bach died from 1750 to the present. Bach was the most famous composer in the world and so was Handel. Handel was half German, half Italian, and half English. He was very large.
Bethoven wrote music even though he was deaf. He was so deaf that he wrote loud music and became the father of rock and roll. He took long walks in the forest even when everyone was calling for him. Beethoven expired in 1827 and later died for this.
The nineteenth century was a time of a great many thoughts and inventions. People stopped reproducing by hand and started reproducing by machine. The invention of the steamboat caused a network of rivers to spring up.
Cyrus McCormick invented the McCormick raper, which did the work of a hundred men.
Louis Pasteur discovered a cure for rabbits but I don't know why.
Charles Darwin was a naturalist. He wrote the Organ of the Species. It was very long people got upset about it and had trials to see if it was really true. He sort of said God's days were not just 24 hours but without watches who knew anyhow? I don't get it.
Madman Curie discovered radio. She was the first woman to do what she did. Other women have become scientists since her but they didn't get to find radios because they were already taken.
Karl Marx was one of the Marx Brothers. The other three were in the movies. Karl made speeches and started revolutions. Someone in the family had to have a job, I guess.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
From the BGP calendar -- certainly not the only source of information but among the most extensive due to its Clearchannel connection, we have the following upcoming shows of note:
San Francisco, CA
Monday, May 16 at 8:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, February 26 at 8:00 PM
Very notably outside the Clearchannel conglomerate -- which has started to severely irk responsible artists with its heavy-handedness, we have announcements of Bob Dylan, BB King with the John Butler Trio, and Ron Thompson. The Ani Difranco show was sold out weeks ago as we had predicted.
Wherever there is music performing live, go and seek it out. You will have a good time and besides, in the words of Son House Seals, "It's good for you."
IF IT WERE NOT FOR BAD LUCK
The distant Oaktown hills are shrouded in mists and the Old Man out back is a black silhouette against a dark grey scale. The Old Man is a 110 foot high coastal Sequoia which has stood there long before the first buildings started knocking about his roots. His verdant spire towers well above the roof of this three story building.
Wes, from Number 15, flew a kite into the middle branches one day last summer and there was no way any fool on earth could retrieve it.
Its not true that no one cares about the trees any more. Its just that the ones in power do not care, although the ones who do care will harbor a long enmity against anyone who dares harm the trees around here.
The days have been filled with lashing rain and lightening forks and long arduous passages on the wet freeways. But some of those days have been spent snug in one's comfy chair with an aromatic cup of Earl Grey steaming beside while the storm pounds down the new sown earth. And there is every expectation that come April, the fallen head of the King at the Old Place will once again be wreathed in myrtle and jasmine surrounded by asters.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 27, 2005
The Calls have been coming in about the issue for last Feb. 14. All we can say is that we are gratified so many volunteered to go our bail "next time." Still, its somewhat disheartening to think that anyone believes this sort of thing is habitual.
Oh yea of little faith.
This space is not a "Blog" loaded with confessional inanities, personal trivial drivel, blather about the quotidian, or extremist 1-sided rants on this or that political/social occurrence.
Well, maybe the latter one a bit.
For within the bounds of this perfect world known as The Island -- unlike the so-called "real world" -- Truth, Justice, Beauty, Spirit, and Morality are the norm.
And we must recall the comment of Mr. Valoritas, a Greek who fled Greece because of the Nazis to France, only to flee to England because of the same problem and then to experience there his house blowing up due to a V1 rocket. And Nanos said to me, "I am not entirely sure there is a 'real world' at all."
DON'T YOU KNOW YOU ARE A SHOOTING STAR
Unknown friend, distant Mentor, beloved Idol, unknowing guide, irascible and annoying bad company as well as worse influence, as well as the 20th Century's best journalist and social commentator, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson passed away last Sunday morning at 9:38 am. He was 67 and he died in his fortified compound near Aspen Colorado by his own hand.
Hunter Thompson, or HST, invented and named the style of Gonzo journalism in which the writer inserts himself as character in the reported events with no pretense of pseudo-objectivity or detachment.
Early on he established himself as a practitioner of pure Punk behavior and attitude in the 1950's after writing a novel called The Rum Diary which languished in the bottom drawer for nearly half a century while he survived writing sports articles for various low circ local dailies. Eventually, Rolling Stone signed him on as a staff writer, a decision then chief editor Jann Wenner came to rue long before counting his blessings.
The highlight of this relationship produced fireworks in every way imaginable when, sent on an assignment to cover a motorcycle race in the Mojave desert, and then a convention of police handling the subject of drug enforcement, the seemingly deranged HST (his end of report sign off) produced instead a series of hysterically funny articles that became a serialized book. In the process -- as it seemed -- HST destroyed hotel rooms like a rock star, wrecked expensive rental cars, and ingested, snorted, toked and guzzled virtually every controlled substance known to the DEA -- all on expense account.
Wenner paid the bills in outrage -- but he paid them for the readers could not get enough of HST. The serial became the book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which got made into a movie starring Johnny Depp and Benecio del Toro as "the Samoan", who in reality was one of Puerto Rico's most distinguished authors.
What saves FLLV from self-indulgent claptrap and purely adolescent irresponsibility is the coda, preserved somewhat in the movie, in which Thompson relates all that has gone forth in the tale to the broader issues of a particular time with particular sharpness.
Thompson went on, after finally given boot by an ultimately fed-up Wenner to enter the Hells Angels motorcycle gang and write a quite effective and journalistically sound book on his experiences about the group, chasing down rumors about "orgies" and "gang rapes" and gang fights with a terrier's ferocity for the facts.
He the went on to produce several more books and countless articles, including more than a few for the grudgingly accepting Wenner at Rolling Stone.
Fear and Loathing on The Campaign Trail, also serialized in Rolling Stone, covered the 1972 presidential campaign, earning , along with his savagely critical articles, the intense hatred of Richard Nixon, whom he vilified as well as most of his associates, whom he compared in milder moments to pigs, cows, wild boars, and hyenas. This hatred for Nixon continued until well after the death of the disgraced President, when HST commented famously: He was a man who "could shake your hand and stab you in the back at the same time" and said "his casket [should] have been launched into one of those open-sewage canals that empty into the ocean just south of Los Angeles. He was a swine of a man and a jabbering dupe of a president. Nixon was so crooked that he needed servants to help him screw his pants on every morning. Even his funeral was illegal. He was queer in the deepest way. His body should have been burned in a trash bin."
Thompson, originally from Louisville, Kentucky, had a southerner's yen for complex sentence structures and the occasional Latinate phrase delved -- as it seemed -- deep from the bowels of the OED. A favorite word which stood out was "atavistic", which serves as an entry point into understanding part of the mind of this man who kept an arsenal of guns, lived his entire live on the fringe and once turned on a Maritime Distress Beacon in a crowded restaurant so as to shock a young Thomas Wolfe. The Beacon is a coke can-sized device designed to produce a sound heard for some 20 miles in all directions.
It had the desired effect and more.
Hunter had a longing to be free of fetters of any kind, including anything inbred or put on the mind at birth onwards. He had a fascination with what may be described as "pre-civilization" and would have embraced Rousseau except that Hunter knew there could be no such "natural man" as Rousseau conceived. Hence, HST and his initial attraction to the Hells Angels, whom he found to be just as corrupted by Modernity as anyone else. From pursuit of unalloyed impulse, HST moved to pursuit of unalloyed Truth, which is far more basic, if you think about it.
He had a lot in common with the Beats, but he would have found them far too mannered and lacking in self-discipline at the end. Just because you are a Savage, does not mean you do not have Rules set by yourself upon yourself.
His collected letters, preserved and collected by virtue of his journalist's habit of typing everything on ditto-paper, have been published under the title The Proud Highway and cover the period up to 1967. The reader can demark within a couple of months a point when the young HST flicked from Earnest Young Author To Be to jaded Punk in a style that would be entirely his for the next 40 years. This change occurred after he went to Puerto Rico on the offer of a job to cover local sports. It seemed at one point he threw over all the cloying limitations of 1950's America with a great Punk "Fuck You!" and an attitude that said. "You failed to prove your case to me. From now on, I am on my own terms, Jack."
From there on out Thompson would be a terror to anyone who would run the office, the country, or the world in comfortable terms. He became worst nightmare of the rich and powerful who leverage power in the form of fear and loathing against the weak. He spoke the truth in times when other men quailed against the truth and refused to face the consequences. We have not seen his like for a long time and it will be a long time, given the climate that now rewards Quislings , before we see his like again.
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN
Have to pass bad news to the East Coasters again. We have yet another front coming in and right now the window panes are being pelted with yet more sleets of rain. The next week shows no sign of letup. Sat at the Jack London RR crossing a good long time and observed the gray sky and noted today that no improvement was in the offing. Appears that the grumpy old groundhog told the truth about the weather this time. Means we must pass on climbing the Hermit for another month this year. Meanwhile the solid rain pounds down again this Sunday evening, preparing the week for another series of floods around here and uncertain hillsides somewhat down south.
Meanwhile the solid rain pounds down again this Sunday evening, preparing the week for another series of floods around here and uncertain hillsides somewhat down south. The LA basin has taken 33.6 inches of rain this year, surpassing records for annual rainfall for all but two years since 1880 when a total of 36 inches of rain fell from January to December. 27 people have died because of the weather this year and millions of dollars of real estate has been lost due to mudslides. And we aint done yet.
Listening to Peter Gabriel's "Secret World" tour tonight while the rain sussurates upon the rooftops. One of our callers this week mentioned that they are going to start putting up billboards with the faces of those roped in during Operation Pleasure Sting. Serves 'em right, those filthy scoundrels. Except it probably isn't going to help, given that most of these folks hail not from Oaktown, but from Fleamont further south. We have nothing to fear: if they come for us, we'll plead Journalistic License and the Fifth.
The persistence of rain is like "the two fold vibration (which) suggests that in this old abode all is not yet quite for the best." (S. Beckett)
In other news, the City is putting a parcel tax on the next ballot so as to cover costs for the Unified School District during these troubled financial times and the county Transit Authority is upping the fare for busses, due to increased operation costs and the deferment by The Governator of the tax allocation from gas and oil sales which was approved by voters statewide last November. At the moment, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Meanwhile the rain pours down, doing its best to wash clean this Dirty Old Town.
Actually the Island is not so bad, being a place where everybody knows each other and each other's business, where the local hardware store still goes by the name of the long time owner who died some years ago and where the local contractors all continue to shop despite the new Home Depot in the East End and where children continue to play stick ball in the street. On a hot summer's day -- which should not be too far off -- you can see them all down on Park Street lined up outside the ice cream shop with its neon sign and gleaming art deco rails. We are not caught in a time warp; we have settled in comfortably, for good or ill, like a pipe-smoking Dad in his easy chair.
That's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 6, 2005
DOWN THE 7 BRIDGES ROAD
There are some old songs that never fail to stop the heart for a moment and bring a tear to the eye and Rosallee has a real good feel for the ones that do. As some of you know KFOG has revised its format for Sunday, providing a 2nd dose of her show Acoustic Sunrise in the form of an Acoustic Sunset to run from six up to the reshuffled Sunday Night Jam with Mike Powers at eight and ending with the House of Blues, appropriately running from 11 to the midnight hour.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Been pottering about the garden this weekend. While the neighbor putters about his. He putters, we potter. Therein lies a world of difference implying a significant difference between concentrated focus and dedicated floral acumen.
After another week of these seemingly interminable storms lashing the Golden State from Ukiah to the Mexican border, streams of golden rays busted through and scattered the thunderheads in a great rout across the skies, leaving bright blue heavens and forecasts of steadily climbing temps in the 80's for the coming week.
Well that's more like it. And it should prove good news to the currently embattled East, where sheets of ice and snow have been snapping powerlines and tree branches with all the ferocity of the kettledrums in Tchiakovsy's "1812 Symphony."
Meanwhile, down in the garden the freesias appear to be engaged in a small uplifting, the climbing jasmine is popping out all among the fence, we have a sort of cabbage which appears to have aspirations for becoming a tree, the lupines have gotten so excited they are practically purple, and a long gaze into the heart of the simbelmyne buds indicates a few changes coming; there's something going on down there despite all the chaos and bad weather. But for now, once the sun went today the chill winds returned. By six it was already dark. The world bides its time for the changes to come.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
With customary Island prudence and caution, we finally got around to building a new library this week, some 103 years after the last one was built and some 80 years since that building proved insufficient to house the collection. Carnegie was a young Turk when the building named after him was built here. Shuttered since 1998 when post 5:05 Quake concerns finally closed the old structure, the Carnegie Library was long a political football here in the matter of from where the money for a new structure would originate. Wednesday, Mayor Bev took shovel in hand to break the first earth at a ceremony held under forbidding skies.
In other news, two related events took place this week, one of which will almost certainly affect those of you far far away. In the first, the Planning Board rushed through an approval for the renovations of the troubled Harbor Bay complex from which over 1000 tenants were summarily evicted around Thanksgiving.
In the second, the City Council formed a Housing Task Force with the express mission to prevent any sort of recurrence of what happened last November. Given the momentum of this effort, the strength of antigrowth sentiment here, and the growing problem of housing "reassignment" across the country we would expect this kind of thing to ripple outwards, first throughout California after hopping over across the Bay to a very receptive Mayor and Assembly there. The Task Force has authority to act at all levels and will feature as its members some very significant powers here as well as tenant representation.
Like many other groups, the Island has sent its representatives to the far corners of the globe. Indeed, this place houses more than its share of travelers and globetrotters. So it was not surprising to discover that one of our own experienced the tsunami which killed 250,000 people in Asia on December 26. And our intrepid traveler experienced the mighty waves in typical Island fashion. David Thom skipped the early ferry off of Phi Phi Dan island in Thailand to sleep late. It must have been a hell of a party the night before, for Mr. Thom awoke to a loud noise before nodding off once again assuming it had been an airplane. When he finally wandered out of his room after waking and noticing the normally turquoise swimming pool had turned into a brown pool surrounded by wreckage, he found the entire lobby of the hotel was gone, the open air restaurant destroyed and roofs of surrounded houses collapsing into stacks of rubble.
Furniture, televisions, refrigerators, clothes and bodies lay tumbled about in heaps. It took days before he could get off of the island there and return home -- all the ferries were committed to removing the dead and the severely injured. During that time, he joined local relief efforts, bandaging wounds, locating food and water, and running as gofer.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Bill Graham Presents Concert Calendar
Jonny Lang Acoustic Band
San Francisco, CA
Thursday, April 14 at 8:00 PM
Gang of Four
San Francisco, CA
Monday, May 2 at 8:00 PM
G. Love and Special Sauce
San Francisco, CA
Friday, March 4 at 9:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 5 at 8:00 PM
Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Tuesday, March 22 at 8:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 26 at 9:00 PM
If the Clearchannel feels a bit oppressive, there remains the Boom Boom Room, formerly owned by John Lee Hooker, where some interesting collaborations are upcoming.
Closer to home, we have the known to locals only 5th Amendment in the Lakeside district of Oaktown. Any night of the week can become volcanic in that little bar which sports all of seven tables and a row of bar seats along the far banquette. What turns this place around, and distinguishes it from the glitzy and spacious dance palace across the street is a top notch blues band that regularly features nationally-ranked talent. It is not unusual to see members of BB Kings band or any number of any others of equal rank show up for a sit-in jam when the folks are in town and the place is always so packed each Friday night that moving from the front to the back can be quite impossible. We have been there many times and we hope to do a formal revue some time in the near future.
Allison Krauss is coming to Berkeley this Saturday, which should be quite a delightful show. Heard she's come a long way, come a long way.
And even closer to home, we have our featured Local, McGrath's Pub on Lincoln Avenue near the Laundromat. Checkout www.mcgrathspub.com for schedules. Patrick, the owner, has tended to favor bluegrass in the past, but lately has begun diversifying his offerings. A few weeks ago we caught the nationally known Ron Thompson in an incendiary performance.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
We understand that a delegation sent by Reverend Rectumrod of the Far Right Church of Better Than You Believers has threatened, embarrassed and otherwise offended our dear friend and penguin, Opus.
Now really, this is going too far.
Opus! Don't give in to their nefarious schemes which are only the incipient plots of the Dark Lord Bushy who means to destroy all centers of light and squelch all freakiness with his nefarious schemes of world conquest.
So to speak.
Opus, do not bow down to the pencil oppressors; do not tiptoe through life only to wind up at death comfortable and fat with herring.
In other words, we have this to say to those ultra-right, ultra-serious peddlers of pompous piscine pusillanimity, those oh so righteous assailers and terrorists of Teletubbies and all that would be joyous upon the earth:
DARK NIGHT HAS FALLEN
It's unearthly quiet out there as the high fog begins to cover the stars and shroud the distant hills across the estuary. Every once in a while a car shushes by. No trains tonight. And no poodles yap.
It's been raining so much we haven't had a chance to go by Harlan's place to see what the Madman of Lincoln has been up to. Its one of those half-way nights that pass while the world goes through its slow changes like some creature snuggled in a furry cocoon under the eaves.
For the Season we have a new line of T-shirt designs all ready to astound the runways of Paris and New York. The word is soon out: an original Island-life T-shirt is tres chic. Wear one of these numbers to the opera, and you will be the talk of the town for sure.
As you see we have a strong appreciation for provocative feminine pulchritude here on the island and the inimitable pleasures of Eros. Yves St. Laurent, stand back. With our Dancing Xmas Trees, the Island leapt to the forefront of international fashion. Soon, dressing like a tree will be all the rage -- and certainly less ridiculous than some other concoctions which have sullied the runway. We are guided by the beauty of our weapons. Ah, the Monkey! The Plywood Violin! First we take Manhattan. Then we take Berlin!
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I'd really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those
Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just
You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I don't like your fashion business mister
And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin
I don't like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I'd really like to live beside you, baby ...
And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I'm ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
I am guided
Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin
Leonard Cohen, from "I'm Your Man"
MARCH 13, 2005
The true obstacles and reasons for the sudden resistance of City Hall to the petite single-screen Central Cinema - a theater which holds some 20 persons at the maximum in a refurbished former mortuary -- made themselves apparent this week after a judge refused to shut down the fledgling operation.
Local residents filed lawsuits gains the cinema and several city officials, alleging that the cinema is a "public nuisance" and an endangerment to its neighbors.
One wonders what the neighbors would find "dangerous" in a showing of "Spongebob Squarepants," but this is an age when a purple cartoon beast named Tinky Winky can be seen by Evangelicals as a corruption of morals in youth.
The plaintiffs, Sean and Lisa Griffiths, hold the city manager, the city attorney, all of the city council members as well as several other members of local government responsible. Ralph "Drano" Katzman, who does the sewer lines for the city, is somewhat concerned that he may be named as well. Not because he has the slightest connection with the Cinema, but because it appears the plaintiffs are so obviously deranged and over the top that no on is exempt from their litigious ire, which is demanding Central Cinema go away, pay for attorney's fees (a favorite of attorney Barbara Thomas) and pay another $35,000 in damages.
Damages for what, exactly, have not been specified.
Haskett, co-owner of the Cinema has referenced the plaintiffs and their bulldog lawyers as "bullies."
Stay tuned for further developments.
SOME CALL ME . . . "TIM"
A local man was arrested for resisting police who questioned him at his encampment between the Constitution Way Overpass and Webster Street. Now, we need to add that this "overpass" is nothing more than an artificial solid hump of dirt which leads out from the Chunnel. The triangle of desolate land between the hump and Webster is host to a few bushes, some ground squirrels and, as it appears, for a time a homeless person. The man handed officers a DMV ID renewal form with someone elses name on it. He then provided a birth certificate with the original name replaced by yet another name. He provided several other names of questionable authenticity, either because he could not remember his own or he felt there was some chance the police would just let him sleep there on the traffic island.
They did not.
JUST TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
In other news, a burglar, or set of burglars, have been hitting homes in the Gold Coast area in a series of "hot prowls." In once case, a thief gained entry by smashing a brick through a window before swiping a purse and other valuables left in the open while the resident was home.
This has been going on for a couple weeks and in several instances the burglars have been confronted in the homes by residents. But because no traffic ordinances have been violated, the perpetrators have gotten clean away.
Police recommend trimming the shrubbery and keeping one's vehicle registrations up to date.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC, SWEET MUSIC
From the BGP list and the Clearchannel Colossus, come the following shows:
Jimmy Eat World / Taking Back Sunday
Henry J. Kaiser Arena in Oakland
Friday, May 13 at 7:00 PM
King Sunny Ade
San Francisco, CA
Friday, April 22 at 9:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
Monday, May 2 at 8:00 PM
Keane with Brendan Benson
Berkeley Community Theatre
Friday, May 6 at 8:00 PM
Lenny Kravitz with Nikka Costa
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium
San Francisco, CA
Wednesday, May 18 at 8:00 PM
Elvis Costello & The Imposters
Tuesday, March 22 at 8:00 PM
San Francisco, CA
Saturday, March 26 at 9:00 PM
Snow Patrol and Keane have been doing some interesting stuff with lyrical rock so we suggest checking out these new boys on the block.
We notice David Benoit is slipping into Yoshis for the 17th through
the 20th; can you say guitar virtuoso? I knew you could.
Our own Natasha Miller performs the songs of Bobby Sharp on the 21st at that same venue. And to think we paid a fiver for what she now does for $30 a pop. Not too shabby, Natasha.
CEAD MILLE FAILTE NI EIREANNE
We've never been to Ireland but we understand it must be a queer place for they have the women and the men divided into the Mna and the Fir and this is a troubling thing to be sure. For it is entirely comprehensible that the men of Eire would be like unto the noble Fir which grows tall in the hills and other places with its leaves evergreen and its trunk straight and tall, but for the Mna we cannot figure for it has always been a trial discovering the why and wherefore and the rationale of the Mna. It sounds sort of like Ma and perhaps that is what they really meant back then but someone's hand slipped while painting the sign and they have never got it right since and the women have been in a terrible wax about it and rightfully so. This is part of the reason no one has ever had sex in Ireland and why everyone is in a bad mood.
Furthermore everything always has at least two names and this results in daily fistfights. For example, you might ask a reasonable question of a bus driver, "Does this bus go to Dublin?" and he might answer, "It goes to Baile Ath Cliath for sure." And then you might reasonably query, "Well does it go anywhere near to Dublin then?" and he quite reasonably might respond, "I just answered that!" And you might answer even more reasonably, "No you didn't you ninny!" to which he might suavely respond with an entirely reasonable voice, "Shut yer gob you omadhauen! Who do you think you are putting on airs!"
And then you might say, "I am not putting on airs and I am sorry you are a ninny but I wish to be delivered to Dublin and not any such place with a name what sounds like something a drunk would say falling down stairs!"
At which point the busdriver would reasonably put his fist into your eye.
They've got a Dun Laogaire and a Kingstown and a good many more names besides all in a tangle on account of the British Ordinance Survey of 1888 and if you ever dare mention the fact, you are sure to get another fist in the eye and a reputation for stirring up troubles. "What the English have given you all your place names?!"
We have been around the world but we have never been to Ireland and yet we know that is where they make the Guinness and that Guinness is good for you and that when the troubles get thick a pint of plain is your only man.
Now in America they have this St. Patrick's Day, which the Irish -- we are old -- never celebrate at all for all the wonderment at the American attachment thereto. Why should the Irish celebrate being Irish -- its misery enough living there with its excremental weather and banshees howling up the chimney causing one and all to resort to the Guinness in the dead of the horrific winter with its roof-destroying winds and rain, for a pint of plain is your only man.
But in America they have this wearing of the green and Leprechauns -- which the Irish thoroughly detest and revile and blame for all kinds of troubles -- and shamrocks and frightening parades filled with politicians, and lots of stout to make it all somehow bearable, for a pint of plain is your only man.
Now we have been around the world and been married some three times, experienced love's dismay, spoken with the wise and the foolish, lost our fortunes and gained only a little and still never been to Ireland and we guess we never shall, but still, a pint of plain is your only man.
And if ever someone should put their fist into your eye for asking a perfectly reasonable question, well, just remember a pint of plain is your only man.
LA BETTE ARTES
Down the way they are doing great things at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts. This month we have the "Touch Me" showcase gallery closing with a reception on the 28th when artists will share stories about the creative process. In the signature gallery, Mi'chelle Frederick is featured with "Words, Ideas and Images".
Those looking for more info can click on down to www.frankbettecenter.org.
INTO THE MYSTIC
Those of you living in the snowbound beknighted East can take some succor from this news: the end of your weather troubles for this year is at hand. Midweek the sun busted through and the temps went from forty to eighty with not a cloud in sight, followed by our usual summer weather of low fog and mildly cool weather. That old groundhog can stir from his den once again for the extended time of winter is over at last and fat opossums have been knocking about the back stairs, scaring away the stray cats in search of scraps from the table.
Meanwhile those eighty degree days caused the jasmine to bust forth with explosions all along the back fence, filling the yard with a thick scent of some other intoxicating world while poppies are popping up and freesias are freeing themselves from the heavy soil. Well, it does appear things are getting on.
Been coming back from jobs at the sausage factory down south quite late, to admire the golden strands of Babylon across the water. Have not been able to get out during this project, so we will have to get back to you with the goings on about town later this week.
Meanwhile the night stretches out across the Island with its scattered lights shining through the increasing fog and the sounds of the through-passing trains come echoing across from the Port.
Somewhere tonight President Shrubb hunkers down with his new consort Condi Rice-a-Roni in the trenches of the Occupied Newark. Officer O'Madhauen sits in his cruiser over a steaming cup of coffee in a styrofoam cup, ever alert for the broken taillight and the wayward bicyclist without a proper headlamp. Bear rumbles about his apartment with the tracking device attached by his Significant Other still clamped about his ankle ever since February 15th. Percy Worthington-Smythe is polishing the fenders of his beloved 1939 two-tone Mandelbrot-Stutz, as is his wont on a Sunday eve, dressed in a silk ascot -- and nothing else, accompanied by his devoted and equally barely clad consort from Berkeley who retains her feather boa from those distant halycon days.
Harlan, the madman of Lincoln Street, scurries out in the mist to replace another sign with yet another even more mystifying.
The descendents of Oog and Aag, the original progenitures of the Bay Area, wander in spectral and transluscent forms along the Strand, taking in the air. Eugene Gallipagus plots ever more devious schemes against the poodles who caused, as it seems to him, his broken legs and Artie Javier is reworking his flamethrowing Hummer for another Thanksgiving BBQ.
If you find these references to be obscure and somewhat arcane, we enjoin you gentle reader and newcomer to these pagers to bear up and take prescribed phsysik for all shall be made clear anon.
When troubled, take head to these words of wisdom: a pint of plain is your only man.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 20, 2005
A HAZY SHADE OF WINTER
After the handful of bright days we enjoyed, winter slammed down again with cold rain and the slopes are getting yet another dumping of white stuff. Good for the State in that all that snow is what makes the water. Something to pay attention to, should some imp decide to cut down all the trees that hold all that stuff to the hills so that it melts nice and slow. Else you will have what they had in 1853, after the '49ers cut all the trees to make mill races, when then Governator had to resort to a row boat so as to enter the Governor's mansion in Sacto. From a Second Floor window.
Sorry for you Easterners, but you have another Storm headed your way.
I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN', ITS COMIN' 'ROUND THE BEND
In Number 1 of the high profile cases here, Scott Peterson was convicted of murder and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers. The pregnant Lacy Peterson of Modesto in the Valley went missing a couple of years ago under suspicious circumstances while her husband took up with his girlfriend of long standing. Her body and that of the fetus was found washed up on the shore a several weeks after her disappearance.
Peterson, a philanderer and a not very appealing sort of man under any circumstances, was convicted by the court of public opinion long before he even went to trial and the evidence against him appears to be largely circumstantial. These circumstances provided the emotional impetus to push forward laws regarding wrongful death of fetuses which much appealed to the current powers of the radical right wing.
Peterson has been sent already to Death Row at San Quentin.
In Number 2 of the high profile cases, everyone was shocked, just shocked that Bernie Ebbers, the ex-CIO of the infamous Worldcom, was convicted on all counts and stands quite possibly the chance in an increasingly intolerant society of spending his last years in prison under a potential sentence of 85 years for misleading federal investigators, lying to SEC and stockholders about the balance books, and instructing accountants to deliberately cook the books with bogus profit margins so as to artificially elevate stock values. Worldcom, which appeared on paper to be the healthiest of corporations collapsed into Chapter 11 and only recently emerged under the aegis of MCI. Thousands upon thousands of people lost their life savings as a result of the crash.
We are all looking at this series of corporate slapdowns with some interest for the trials of several Enron people have yet to reach their sordid conclusions. Enron, with its slimy orchestrations of electric power supply, outright fraud and venal handling of its own affairs and the retirement accounts of its employees significantly contributed to the Golden State's financial troubles and their are few names more detestable hereabouts.
A RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR, OOG AND AAG
None of these corporate misadventures are especially novel demonstrations of the way some people have romped in naked feces-smeared orgies while stomping upon the glass crystal of moral values. The corporation is and always has been the seat of total power, where the most straight-arrow of Mormons eventually yields up to some whispering voice that sits ever dark and invisible upon the well-padded shoulders of the best Brooks Brothers suits. No matter how firm the rectitude, little by little, by small admissions and minor surrenders the CIO, the CFO, the Chairman drops lower and lower, seeing themselves always as walking upright in the sun, the gold Rolex flashing even as the forward momentum becomes a slither, a creep through increasingly weird stuff. And those who manage to avoid the vomitorium of Ultimate Power turn very weird indeed, like Howard Hughes who became a solitary crank with long hair and monstrous fingernails, avoiding the light entirely.
For your edification and enjoyment we provide this tale of the very first known corporate scandal in California, as once again, that redoubtable pair, Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area return for a lesson in morality.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR AND THE 1st CORPORATE SCANDAL
Recent national events have put us in mind of the first corporate
contretemps in history -- or prehistory -- to be precise.
For, long about the Pleistocene Era, Oog and Aag were members of the Wooly Mammoth Hunt Group, a subsidiary of the Ohlone-Miwok Conglomerate. It was the purpose of the WMHG to go out and secure consumable assets on behalf of the Conglomerate. In recompense, a portion of the assets were reserved for employees of the WMHG plus some durable goods and tools -- skins, baskets, stone axes and the like. This arrangement worked pretty well for some time.
Until the Pleistocene came to an end with the recession of the last Ice Age and wooly mammoths became harder to come by.
Well, one thing led to another and the Hunting Board started messing with the numbers a bit by gilding the lily, so to speak, when it came time to making the annual reports to the Chief. So what's a few more oxen and bulls thrown in there among a few less mammoths any rate? But then it came to pass that one season no mammoths were taken at all and instead the tribe had to make do entirely with bear meat. And that's not so bad. Bear meat is nourishing, and if you don't mind the smell, quite tasty and you get a lot of it from a single bear as well as the obvious perks of a nice warm coat or two and those ever-potent shamanistic baubles bear teeth -- which are much prized for it is very difficult to prize one out from a living bear.
Now, the wooly mammoth was a large beast and potentially dangerous by reason of size and two large tusks but, given a few stout lads and a few stouter spears, an enterprising group could do quite well and the profits from a single hunter were, well, mammoth. Mammoths, however, are and have been, disinclined to eat people.
Bears, on the other hand, possess four paws armed with a galaxy of eight-inch razor-claws plus a mouth of very sharp teeth which do not mind chomping on people at all. It can take days to kill a bear all the while the bear will object most strenuously by killing you and everybody on the team.
Bear meat, incidentally, has not the aroma of mammoth meat. Perhaps due to their penchant of dining during the odd moon on skunk.
So it was not surprising that much of what passed for mammoth got sent on to the tribe as vole and gopher, while the rare gazelle and mammoth went to the caves of the Chief Enough Officer of the Hunting Group even as the Hunting Group collected ever more resource material for themselves, including skins, boots, laces, picture frames, baskets, hallucinogenic mushrooms, acorn mush by the pound, gallons of home brew, sleds, spears, stone implements and geegaws -- ostensibly to be employed in the service of the hunt. As for the Bear Market, well that one did not do so well.
No one wanted to go out and face a 1,500 pound monster, armed with naught but a loincloth and a bone knife. And the Miwok arrows of the time possessed less of lethality than the unfortunate quality of alerting the quarry of the presence and intention of a few rather modest humans.
There you have it in a nutshell: the real origin of the term "bear market" and just why it is not a very good thing at all.
Now let us have Aag, who had taken up with this group and he was most useful for it was he who conceived of sending back badger teeth in the guise of bruin dentition. He also got up the idea of having a permanent hunting encampment stocked with all the best things in life -- which he obtained for the Hunting Group in the form of "shares of the hunt." And these hunters, who began to lose their prowess in the hunt as time went on and their abilities to cook the account books increased. They scored a real coup when they roped in the Official Statistician, Historian and Keeper of the Knots.
As everyone knows, in the days before they had writing -- even before Stephen King was born and the mass trade paperback was invented -- designated officials kept track of things by tying knots in a rope. When did the rains come? Well, he just tied on a knot and that reminded him of the day and he could tell you all about it, especially if you offered the Official Knot reader some official aguardiente -- a rather alcoholic beverage which we will discuss anon. But in any case, this is the origin of the phrase "tie one on."
We bet you did not know that about the knots. But its true and we are not making it up at all. See, you learn so many things by reading Island-life.
In any case, since only the guy who tied the knot knew what it meant it was a rather easy to subvert the process.
"Knot Reader! Tell me when was the last time the Hunting Group brought us mammoth meat for I feel it has been long since we dined well." King Xatophec asked.
Feeling the rope carefully, the Knot Reader answered, equally
as carefully, "Only last month! You ate most of it when you were drunk.
It is good the King keeps himself well and keeps himself well above the people
for he is the Light of Heaven."
Well Xatophec was a bright star and not a dim bulb at all but his mood was black and he was troubled by troubles. The people were becoming sickly from the poor diet and the poor returns and everyone went around in winter with increasingly poorer garments, for the "bearskins" sent by the Hunting Group did not seem to last as long as they once did and the deerskins appeared to be thin as mouse hide and about at durable. Furthermore the bear teeth being sent were not very potent and the First Wife was getting into a wax about it. And she could not go to the next potluck with nothing to wear for the occasion.
Xatophec was not a king of his people for being a great warrior but for being smart and he had a great distrust of this corporate manner of things these days. And so he sent Oog to go and observe this Hunting Group and find out just what the devil was going on and if anything could be done about this pestiferous Global Warming that seemed to be going on everywhere.
Lets not get into complexity here. Oog did not march right up to the compound and announce himself, for he surmised that such an action would be foolish indeed. Instead, he borrowed of the coyote's trickery and crept up at night to perform his audit. And at night there was much roistering and rowdy yo-dee-ho-dee ho and orgies of the most lamentable description involving great waste and much pollution besides. Furthermore he observed his little cousin, Ooglet, being used in various practices by various male members of the tribe in a way that is roundly condemned by most of the civilized world and which are specifically enumerated in the State Constitution of Georgia even today as being shocking offenses to the eyes of man and god.
Oog went back to the village and told the King all about what he had seen.
Well, when the story broke, finally, when no more mammoth earnings were to be had, the head huntsman, Aag-Keeting Anders-Enron, was seen galloping like mad for the great land bridge to Asia with a passel of cronies making off with the mammoth earnings gathered in side-trades to the northern tribes of Inuit and the sideways tribes of the Yakut, pursued by a very angry and very well-armed Xatophec.
Unfortunately, the land bridge had significantly receded with the ice sheets and Anders-Enron seeking to emulate a Moses who was not yet to appear for another 5,000 years did not manage to be so lucky. Let us say only that this Anders-Enron disappeared beneath the roiling waves of history.
From up on the bluff above the newly formed Bay of Babylon, Oog was heard to remark, somewhat anachronistically in a language yet to be invented, "Sic Semper Avaritia."
If you are not into Music or if you speak no Spanish you might not know that a man declared a national folk treasure by the Smithsonian Institution and the founder of an entire style of music died this last Friday in Rancho Mirage.
Eduardo "Lalo" Guerrero Jr., who for 60 years created songs in Spanish and English chronicling the Mexican-American experience, including Pachuco music later used in the play "Zoot Suit," has died. He was 88.
Then President Clinton bestowed the presidential Medal of the Arts on the man he claimed fathered Chicano music.
Guerrero was born in an adobe house in the poor Barrio Viejo neighborhood of Tucson, Ariz., on Christmas Eve 1916. He was never sure how many children his mother had, but he estimated the figure at 16 to 24, including many who died before he was born.
He had no formal musical education but his mother taught him guitar, and during periodic trips to Mexico, relatives inspired him to write songs.
After Manuel Acuna saw him on a street, asked if he was a musician and had him in a recording studio the next day, he went on to create more than 700 songs and sell millions of records in both Spanish and English in a bewildering number of styles, from swing to protest songs, cha-chas to rock 'n' roll.
He already was a star in Mexico and the Southwest for his traditional songs when he crossed into the mainstream charts in 1955 with a parody of "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" from a Walt Disney movie. He replaced the pioneer frontiersman with a Mexican called Pancho Sanchez. It sold 500,000 copies.
Some of Guerrero's Pachuco songs were used in Luis Valdez's "Zoot Suit," about a notorious 1942 riot in which servicemen attacked Mexican-American youths wearing the distinctive baggy clothing.
The popularity of the play, which reached Broadway, and the 1981 movie reignited Guerrero's career and led to an international tour.
Guerrero's last work was to record three of his songs for an album by guitarist Ry Cooder called "Chavez Ravine," which is scheduled to be released this summer.
"You won't see anybody like that ever again," Cooder told the Tucson Citizen. "There was so much variety to his work -- the boleros, the Pachuco songs, the rancheras and corridos -- but at the same time he was an American original working in a slightly different way from the traditional Mexican way, creating a hybrid style from his own experience of the world."
About himself and his later playing before minor venues near the assisted living facility where he spent his last years he said "I like to do it. I like to make the old folks happy (and) I like to play for the kids in schools. I talk to them and say, 'I came from humble beginnings, too, and I won the presidential medal."'
Guerrero's honors also include a National Heritage Award from the National Foundation for the Arts.
WAR! WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR?
After some 1500+ soldiers killed, another 10,000 of them returning without significant items like legs, arms, eyes, and faces, yet another 100,000 natives burned, bombed and shot to death, if peace and freedom and democracy were to come to the Occupied Territories tomorrow we would have to say, "It really was not worth it."
And you know damn well it will not end tomorrow or the day after or even by next year.
Meanwhile, in unrelated events, President Eugene Shrubb continues to strut about crowing about his narrow win over Barbar and Papoon last November 2nd. He has been standing on his porcelain throne down at the marsh, somewhat stabilized by use of old tires, and declaiming that Democracy and peace are breaking out all over the East Bay. This is notwithstanding daily terrier attacks on the streets of Occupied Newark, an uptick of violets in Contra Costa, and several explosions in Hayward. Last week saw a plethora of terriers running amok in packs, claiming to own the streets and many claim there were no terriers or yappy dogs of any kind until Eugene marched in with his army of bums to force an Anschluss of Newark two years ago.
Meanwhile the main cause of all this confusion, cookie tossing and nervous jumping up and down remains largely forgotten and largely at large. We speak, as you well know, of that infamous terrierist, Osama Bin Lassie. Since our President appears to have forgotten about his initial main mission of capturing Osama and terminating his nefarious schemes of employing Weapons of Mass Doo Doo, we reprint for your edification the wanted poster from last year and the year before that.
Gaze, if you dare, into the cruel eyes of ultimate evil. Observe the snarl of cold command, colder than Ozymandias. Anyone having information into the whereabouts of this notorious criminal, murderer and loud barker should contact the CIA, the FBI, the NSA and the local gendarmie.ON
ON THE INTERNET NO ONE KNOWS YOU'RE A DOG
Now Fe, I know you are out there. Somewhere in the Philippines maybe or deepest Oaktown. I know life is confusing and nobody really has the answers, least of all us. But let it be known that against the Bluehaired House Rules we have only our moderate satires and critical dada and a dark friendship with a fictional penguin named "Opus".
For on the Internet, anything is possible.
We are here in the Sheraton Palace Coachroom in downtown San Francisco on Sunday for the famed Champagne Brunch. The walls and floor are finest Carrerra marble and the gilt from the previous turn of the Century remains shiny on the fixtures as distantly a black and white server person crosses the immense floor.
My goodness, there is an hedgehog in my drink. And he is taking all the ice! And over there is a wolverine with a lawnmower! He's cutting off the heads of all the hired help! And eating the pancakes from the buffet tables!
A pride of lions stroll in through the revolving doors with amazing grace. How did they do that?
Now a tribe of Zulus have arrived in full warpaint, armed with shields and assagais. The assegai is a short spear bristling with cassowary feathers about the haft of its brutal six-inch steel tip. The warpaint, by the way, is done in black and white.
It appears that trouble is about to ensue and even the wolverine has turned off his lawnmower, proving a terrible silence.
A fierce Zulu approaches the pride of lions, who have also brought a significant number of horseflies and a terrible smell of carrion.
Tenderly, he proffers a cheeselog.
The lion accepts with grace and aplomb. The situation has diffused. Poppers crack and confetti fills the air as the lions depart, followed by the wolverine, who now drives a green mini-street sweeper.
We now return to our regularly scheduled E-zine.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The other night Melinda, the older of the teens, returned home or attempted to return home, for a large and as it seemed a very formidable Opossum blocked the way at the head of the stairs. Melinda was behaving naturally and within her bounds for she wanted only to climb the stairs and enter the apartment. The Opossum was behaving very naturally and within its rights for it had come for the cat food left by the lunatic next door and it wanted quite naturally to finish its dinner when so rudely interrupted.
This presents a conundrum found in many aspects of modern life. Here we have a young girl wanting to return to the nest, to home, to mom. On the other hand we have an opossum weighing some 25 pounds, looking ghastly white and very toothy, as opossums are wont to do, and not willing to give an inch for it had food on the one side and it had a narrow stairway occupied by the intruder on the other.
Therein resides the Parable of our Times. To begin with we have an imbecile who leaves cat food, seen by many as available food for anything else besides cats at the top of the stairs; that is one problem.
Then we have the issue of narrow stairs and two entities afraid of one another to the extent of refusing to share simultaneously. We have a girl in the middle of the stairs, blocking the way of egress as one would point out, and we have an Opossum at the top of the stairs blocking ingress and neither can come to compromise as it seems.
The same position might be extended to other circumstances, to whit: one entity wants to obtain and in the process destroy a wilderness in Alaska, subtermed ANWAR. The other entity reacts with horror at any such destruction of a valuable resource. Both see the place as a place of need and want and their wants are irreconcilable.
The whole thing was brought into perspective by Robert Redford, who wrote us in a letter that the people who want to drill the heck out of ANWAR know for a fact that the entire oil supply of that region, even if it pays out to be well above what is estimated will add nought but 3% to the annual external input of oil to the US. In all reality, the input will be far less and it will still take a good ten years before the pumps begin to flow for simple pragmatic technical reasons: first, you must find the supposed oil, then you must drill in the best spot to get it, then you must build the infrastructure to transport it from Alaska to the refineries.
The real reason Special Interests want to drill Anwar successfully is because the court proceedings will ease the path to drilling elsewhere, like places where the winter temperature is NOT minus forty degrees, which the drillers do not like at all.
ANWAR will be entirely destroyed by machines but no more than a few thousand barrels will ever flow from that harsh landscape as the cost will be too great. No, what the Interests want is the freedom to assault other areas that are far more amenable to exploitation.
Venezuela and Uruguay are good examples. These countries have loads of oil -- almost as much as the Middle East. And both countries have evicted American drillers for environmental reasons. And both countries have climates far more pleasant to machinery than minus forty Alaska. Mines in Nevada, in West Virginia, in Utah, in Colorado are primary targets, followed by these foreign nations sitting like opossums at the head of the stairs.
Of course, the Melinda could always walk around to the front of the house and use the front entrance with her perfectly valid key to enter the place, but that would mean surrendering the position of supremacy here. No wait, I am the one who belongs here and the Opossum should be gone.
In a perfect world run by Clint Eastwood, one could walk across the way and shoot the neighbor who leaves food for vermin for being a dumbass, but that doesn't go over well here. And then all the vermin, all the rats and cockroaches and opossums who had come to depend on this food would go hungry.
No the answer is that you live with nature and you let it be and you will find it treats you well. It will provide you with water if you leave the trees alone. It will give you snow slopes to ski on. Like Melinda, you always have another door.
Take it from me: you will always have a dumbass neighbor; this one is no brighter than any of the others. Not the moron who imagined that he was a DJ, not the lunatic who strolled the hallways with an AK-47, not the imbecile who imagined that cocaine and speed would always be there for him, not the ultra-religious nutcase who thought he knew just the way to save your damnable soul, and not the numbskull who writes pro-government agitprop for the Army upstairs, no you will always have a dumbass neighbor. That is simply a fact of life, similar to the way people once accepted mastadons and sabertooth tigers as inevitabilties.
Here today, gone tomorrow.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 27, 2005
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN
Sorry to tell you Easterners that we have been hit by yet another Front and the rain is pelting down right now. Watched the sky cloud over and everyone head indoors. The winds billowed the curtains until we shut the windows and then the rains hit yet again, knocking the new jasmine blossoms in an unruly fashion.
Imagine this means yet another dockwalloper bound to smack all of you from Kansas to Cohasset.
In place of all those trees the City cut down recently on complaint of a Senior, who tripped over roots that had buckled the pavement, Columbia Electric is installing old tyme street lights with the look and feel of acorn lamps from the turn of the last century. The bulbs, however are to be 21st century induction lamps housed in the red and green posts, which are made by Holophane, the company that first began making them nearly one hundred years ago. They oughta get it right.
If anyone has not noticed, waiting for the bus got drier and more comfortable recently, for the Council won a significant coup in getting ad-free shelters for the island. Thomas Means Construction has agree to assemble the structures for free. This all came about when Lamar Advertising initially offered to install free ad-bearing shelters producing a little storm in a teapot.
In other news our local Representatives continue to do the good work we chose them for, in an unusual mentality of "elected to serve". Rep. Pete Stark (D) was in Washington D.C. to kick off a national campaign to shield student records from armed forces recruiters. The white-haired and venerable statesman spoke before an assembly before the Capitol lambasting the provision within the highly controversial No Child Left Behind act which requires federally funded schools to provide names and contact information of school children to the military. Pete Stark was joined by other representatives from Western States as well as members of the politically active punk rock group, Anti-Flag.
You go, guys!
Adams destroyed our innocent preconceptions about rabbits, revealing that these creatures, cute cuddle-bunnies, are violent, atavistic savages not averse to cannibalism and deviant practices that make even Dick Cheney look like a moderate, but there is a creature out there even more cruel and beastly -- your average 12- year old boy.
According to this latest report, a boy attacked and pummeled an actor dressed in a rabbit costume in the Bay City Mall in Michigan, giving Bryan Johnson, the 18 year old actor, a bloody nose.
Johnson claims the attack was unprovoked but he felt it was inappropriate for an Easter Bunny to respond violently.
Sheriff's deputies report the kid has gotten into trouble in the past and the case has been referred to the City Prosecutor.
Will Mickey Mouse and Santa Claus now be required to pack pepper spray?
And we understand times are rough and the RNC wants to maintain the Martial Spirit -- whatever that means, but look how they run the annual Easter Egg hunt in Florida.
THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR
Been spending a lot of time with Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area. Being progenitors such as they were, they had children, by definition, including one Sumuc and one Xatophec, whose adventures appear to parallel in a most remarkable way certain events talking place even today. Herewith, we present those scions of old, sons of Oog and Aag.
FATHER BIPPY-HURAGH AND THE FORGOTTEN MISSIONS: 1769-1777
Many people have written much about the Missions of California, but little is known about one of the most significant figures involved in the settling of Alta California in the early days. Like Junipero Serra, Father Junipero Bippy-Huragh considered himself a "reasonable gent" -- in comparison with the locals who ran about barefoot, often naked, and hardly worked or prayed to anything in particular unless beaten to bloody pulp. Which latter method of indoctrination both Serra and Bippy practiced with great zeal.
There was, however a significant difference between the two men's constitutions. Where Father Serra was basically a sane man shot through with traces of obsessional craziness, in Father Bippy, the weight of these measures had been reversed. Being a mixture of Italian, Portuguese and Irish may have contributed to his temperament. His name was actually Junipero Benito Huragh, but the other Jesuits and Dominicans began to call him Bippy and laugh about him behind his back while aboard ship from Spain, and so the name stuck.
Father Bippy spoke the purest Castilian Spanish, with a trace of an Irish accent, while the majority of his shipmates were returnees who spoke a version of New World lingo. Perfect Castilian, as everyone knows, features a pronounced lisp, which the Andalusians regard with disdain. Father Bippy made a rather poor first impression when he delivered an hour-long sermon to the first ship's mate who turned out to be both Polish and deaf. Things went really downhill from there.
For example, Father Gonzo to Father Impecunious: "Did he thay thumthink? I think thow. But I could not hear a thing. . . ". Snickers.
So it went for the six month voyage across the sea.
Fed up with the constant ribbing, Father Bippy gathered a handful of soldiers about him and set out on a parallel course to Serra's own coastal journey, but following the long valley after establishing his first mission near the what is now the town of Livingstone just north of the Grapevine. There, he appointed Don Fernando Floog as Alcalde and the three-time deserter, four-time court-martialed, six-time pig thief, Capitan Pedro Aagknickers as the Garrison Unit in charge of two muskets and a six-pound howitzer. Both of them hailed as mestizas from Sonora and they had hated each other since growing up together as little boys.
This new mission was called Santo Sopapilla, or more colloquially, La Mission de Las Tres Loco Pollos. A few chickens did manage to survive somehow, but it is thought by some historians that the natives unkindly labeled the settlement with reference to the three principle administrators. It was located in the desert and roasted under unbearable heat in the summer before descending to frigid temperatures in the winter. Nothing prospered there, and nothing could grow in the sandy, leached soil. All of the cattle and chickens eventually died of inanition and most of the mules disappeared into the savagely hostile landscape.
A number of Indians got roped into the stockade for conversion and to help improve the walls that were meant to keep them in. As in all of the Missions, the Indians were forbidden to leave the place, were locked into their hovels at night, were prohibited from having sex of any kind and were flogged repeatedly for the slightest infraction, including the failure to pray. They were rousted daily at four o'clock in the morning for devotionals, followed by a bracing bowl of gruel and then put to work hauling and breaking rock to build walls and dig a well. The women and children were sent to scratch in the sand and bury seeds, which sometimes would sprout in spite of everything, before withering to dead stalks under the brutal desert sun.
Father Bippy zigged and zagged in his mania across the Central Valley from one spot to another, pausing at each settlement to throw himself with bipolar frenzy into frenetic projects of building dams, walls, fences, fields and ziggurats. On one such visit his bloodshot eyes fell upon Xatophec, whose shirt was cleaner than most and who appeared sharp as a tack.
This prize, as he saw him, he snitched from Father Serra so as to save his immortal soul of course. And he then hied on back to his own mission where he exulted over the accomplishments done at La Mission De Los Dolores Pulgas.
He had Xatophec, who alone among all of them knew some math, design and initiate the building of the first wall of the new stone chapel that would replace the wooden one some day. Inset with a little alcove that held a lumpish image of the Virgin, the wall resembled more a Greek stoa in the time it stood before collapsing during a mild earthquake, but Bippy was proud of it all the same and he had Xatophec build an outhouse of adobe that was even grander and bore a marvelous crucifix above its entrance.
Flush with success, Father Bippy headed north with Xatophec for more conquest, leaving the little mission to improve somewhat, for the floggings declined in the presence of the single Jesuit left behind, Father Contemptuous, who suffered from macular degeneration, and so could scarcely distinguish between a fence post and a polar bear. The Alcalde and the Garrison unit quarreled with one another and remained drunk most of the time on home-brewed liquor made from the agave plant.
Eventually, the Indians that were hale and sane managed to escape into the mountains, leaving behind a couple old women, a leper named Fortunato, and one Juego "Snickers" Confuso, so named and baptized because he believed that he was the Great Condor God. It was Confuso's habit to perch himself on a post and flap his arms while shrieking as he imagined a raptor must do.
In such a manner, the walls remained unfinished, the crops failed, no one took out the garbage for burial and the huts fell into sad disrepair. The desert wind sighed through the holes in the walls and the brittle corn stalks rattled in the dry heat, sheltering only a few scorpions in the sandy soil. Eventually, the chapel burned down - with the good Father Contemptuous inside - and the Garrison Unit shot himself in the foot one day while drunk and thence left for Mexico City.
Such was La Mission de Las Tres Loco Pollos.
THE SECOND MISSION: 1777
It was near what is now downtown Newark that Father Bippy founded his next mission. It was not a great spot for a mission, but it was placed with some thought, for just over the hill resided Coatsiquotl, the local casino established by Sumuc and run by his tribe. Gaming had always been a part of Native American life on the west, for the Miwok, the Mandan and the Yuroks all dearly loved to have a good time. They had figured out long ago that fighting a war over some real or imagined grievance was futile, costly on both sides, and ultimately unsatisfying. Instead of fighting over women, food and goods, the two principals arranged bets. According to legend, the process began rather simply with primitive wagers.
"Hey, Tonto, I bet you two eagle feathers Sumuc can throw this rock farther than you can.
"No way, dude. I raise you a deerskin."
So he either did or did not win the bet, but in any case, goods exchanged hands and no blood was spilled. And it was all okay, for there would come a time to place another bet and the one who had lost the first time, would eventually manage to win something. This process developed over some one thousand years into a highly sophisticated gaming system with cartels, casinos, franchises and chili dog stands.
In many ways, the Native Californian society was more highly advanced than our own at the time.
Wars, as one might have guessed, were rare and due entirely to runs of really bad luck in combination with sore losers. Consequently, there is an old saying among the Coastal Miwok, which translates roughly as, "Only losers start wars."
In any case, Father Bippy located his Mission strategically within hail of a lodge that the Native Americans used for playing the more sophisticated stone-age games such as The Shell Game, Blackjack, Five Corn Stud, and Fish.
Like Serra, he had a little trouble attracting folks to his brand of civilization.
Unlike Serra, Father Bippy was fortunate enough to obtain the aid of a most remarkable shill, in the form of a paranoid schizophrenic named Sheila. Now Sheila was a mixture of Mexican, Indian, Irish, and African blood and she had learned well the way to survive was to give the Powerful what they wanted. She had been beaten, starved, scourged and otherwise seriously messed with in her lifetime and she was good god damned if she was going to take one step backwards. So she strikes this deal with Father Bippy and goes marching out and calling all the poor, unchristian heathens to come unto the lord for it be a welcome thing. There is even a statue to her, displaying some of her schizophrenic qualities, down in the center of Oaktown.
And that is how Father Bippy managed to stock his second mission much easier than Father Serra.
Now this mission fared somewhat better than the first, for it retained not only Father Bippy but several soldiers and the Pacific Ocean to contain its guests. The crops failed of course, for nobody knew how to grow corn or wheat. Just because you were a Pioneer does not grant you by fiat a green thumb and automatic success in an endeavor for which you have never trained. These people discovered there is a lot more to farming than just throwing seeds on the ground and watering them on an ad hoc basis.
Fortunately Xatophec knew how to fish or the entire place would have starved to death in a matter of weeks.
And so it passed, with the crops failing for sheer ignorance and the Indians dying almost as fast as they could dragoon more and Father Bippy laying about him with his scourge of nettles and barb wire like a jockey coming down to the last stretch.
Everyone was roused at the decent hour of four a.m. for kneeling prayers upon the flagstones, followed by a steaming bowl of ersatz oats and powdered sawdust. Then it was on to cheerful stone-breaking for making of walls and the tending of the disconsolate fields, where desiccated cornstalks rattled in the dry breeze. A limp and enervated siesta followed, unless there were a whipping, followed by more stone hauling and more ploughing of the sterile fields with half-dead oxen or, as happened latter, extra children in harness when all the oxen had died of ennui.
In this time, the mule known as Tallulah Bankhead was born and raised in the stables there, but of her story, more will be told later.
The time came for the good father to travel south so as to observe the health of the first mission he had established. No word had been sent for many years and already a decade had nearly passed.
So Father Bippy Huragh saddled up and rode with Xatophec out of the Mission which became known as La Mission de las Dolores Pulgas by Sumuc's people. For after the Father had left, the soldiers administered desultory floggings and the crops were allowed to fall into dust and the Alcalde went insane in the White House, where he sang opera all day long instead of attending to business. Where the other Missions developed a business in dealing with cattle and hides, this mission failed to acquire cattle and so eked out a miserly existence based on formation and sale of a rather poisonous form of tequila known as aguardiente, an alcoholic beverage much favored by the locals at the time for it was all anyone could get. Visitors who came by the place found it hot and extremely depressing. The soldiers all deserted, the sane ones anyway, and the Indians ran away, all but the barkeep cum distiller, who would blow dust out of a glass before serving up a shot of the one beverage he had with a sour disposition. There was no cerveza and no bread. The remaining animals died of inanition. The last remaining white inhabitant was the Alcalde who bellowed verses from Puccini from the dark portals of his adobe, until that, too, went silent. Nobody went in to that place ever to discover what had come of him.
When Father Bippy reached the mission of Las Tres Loco Pollos, he found desolation. No one was left alive except for the leper and the man who believed he was a bird. He was quite distraught until the leper fed him some mush into which he had added certain ingredients the Indians in the area had introduced to him. Chief among these ingredients was the bud of the peyote cactus. Xatophec also may have had something to do with this.
The good Father experienced quite a rash of dreams and visions which had a most salutary effect upon his impressionable mind. The effect upon history is that this became one Jesuit who ceased afflicting the rest of us with Inquisitions, Missions, Dogma, and similar plagues and began espousing something called The God of Love.
Father Bippy returned to Mexico to preach the language of Love from the pulpit and thus, passed out of the context of History, and into a far better world, where he became, no doubt, a far better priest.
And Xatophec became after eleven years of rather hellish existence, once again a free man. He set forth for his homelands in the north, accompanied by Dingus, the faithful mule.
(To be continued)
FOOL IN THE RAIN
Rain is coming down and the wind was blowing so hard we had to remove the cat-proof screens and close the windows. Its been a long haul with Oog and Aag, but things are shaping up nicely into the home stretch. As the echoes of the midnight train echo across the estuary where Sumuc and Xatophec once caught fish to feed themselves a very long time ago, one pushes back from the desk with its pool of light and contemplates 20,000 years of history.
What was it like 20,000 years ago when wooly mammoths sloshed through the melting snows over there at the end of the Island? Was there even an Island that long ago? Probably not.
Such thoughts we have on a rainy Sunday evening. No more wooly mammoths or bison or even gazelles and antelope that thronged the Valley right up to 1849 in a place that resembled then the Serengetti.
To think what we have lost so far and now they want to go and muck up the Alaskan Wilderness.
There ought to be a law. In fact there is. But the ones who treat with us these days care not a whit for niceties like law and decency.
And you may wonder why we hold to an Island where things seldom change. And when they do, like streetlights, we put in something which looks like something from 1888. Because that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 3, 2005
OUT OF THE BLUE, INTO THE BLACK
Report has it that the Godfather of Grunge is heading for a "minimally invasive" operation to remove a brain anurysm. The former Canadian who lives now on a ranch down near Half Moon Bay has had his share of health problems in the past, barely surviving a childhood bout with polio that wasted one leg, wrecked his immunological system, and so damaged his genetic structure such that he could not foster any children without birth defects. Neal we wish you all the best.
Death of Frank Perdue, king of chickens: The Chicken King died this week. A classic rags to riches story, Frank Perdue stayed on the family farm in the hen house and this dedication paid off in spades as his intense focus resulted in a multistate empire of chicken farms that earned him well over several million dollars.
No more to ride in his popemobile or rouse the masses, John Paul II died after long illness at 86. Often billed as a hard-line conservative, JP actually implemented numerous reforms in the first part of his quarter-century rule over one of the richest church establishments in the world. But as he grew older, he appeared to be increasingly out of touch with churches in the more developed nations of the world, especially the United States, which experienced a radical loss of priesthood membership and declining church attendance, as well as the double-wammy of serious sex scandals involving priests and young boys. In his final days he appeared to have no contact at all with the outside world beyond the cloistered Vatican and could barely speak due to operations upon his throat as a result of thoracic cancer.
Terri Schiavo died, finally after a blatant and ignoble media circus caused by feuding between parents unwilling to let go and her lawfully wedded husband who desired only that his beloved wife pass quietly and peacefully to whatever Beyond there may be. Well over a decade ago she fell into a coma as a result of bulemic behavior and suffered irreversible brain damage. She has been on critical life support since then with no hope of recovery. Her husband managed to have her feeding tube removed after a protracted court battle two weeks ago.
Her death was accompanied by numerous lawsuits, legal grandstanding by Conservatives seeking to capitalize upon the misery, massive interference by third parties and substantial government intrusion into the private lives of these citizens. The Governor of Florida, yet another Bush, tried to intervene and the Majority Speaker of the House, Tom Delay, also stepped in. A Conservative group issued a supoena to the comatose woman who has not spoken a word or issued the slightest sign of sentience for some 14 years in hopes that this action would forestall the inevitable.
Terri is now with her god, whatever it may be, and we wish her all the best and all the best as well for her battered and beleagured husband.
FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA
The street runs dead west to east, from the Mission District past the Projects and on into the battered and neglected Port facilities and warehouse district of Babylon. It used to be called Army street, but got renamed some six years ago to commemorate a man who, more than any other, has had an impact upon the way the food upon your table arrived there.
People living in the Industrial NorthEast probably don't have an inkling of the man who was commemorated this week, a man for whom streets and buildings have been named throughout California and the SouthWest.
The Central Valley runs for some 400 miles. Once the Serengetti of the Americas, thronging with millions of antelope, bison, gazelles and birds of all kinds, the Valley was made by huge farming conglomerates into the huge breadbasket it is today, producing virtually every variety of fruit and vegetable consumed in the United States during its friendly double and triple growing season per year. This agribusiness amounts to serveral billion dollars a year now, and accounts for the lion's share of produce consumed by the United States each year.
Fueling the labor needs of this vast enterprise are well over a million migrants in a process first described as it was first created by the growers in Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. The itinerant Americans who stocked the work rolls during the years of the Great Depression eventually drifted off to less dangerous, better paid and more appreciated work, leaving a tremendous vacuum that was filled by migrant workers from Mexico. These people lived in hovels worthy of any Third World country, were regularly cheated of days wages when each day extended some 14 hours and were given miserly tools, such as the short-handled hoe, that destroyed the back in use even as airplanes dropped poisonous insecticide on the crops and the workers in the fields.
They died by the thousands due to maltreatment and lack of amenities commonly assumed by the average American, such as clean running water, cooking facilities, toilets, and health care of any kind.
Into this mix strode the mercurial Cesar Chavez, who began the monumentous work of organizing the field laborers in the Valley against political, legal and employer pressure. Despite often violent retaliation from the growers and owners in the Valley, Chavez succeeded in mobilizing the workers into the UFW and bringing public attention to the conditions in the Valley where any decent human being possessing any degree of self respect could not allow the savage conditions to continue.
The resulting organizing movement and urge to reform conditions spread outside the borders of California to other states heavily dependent upon migrant work, and inevitably resulted in improvement.
MY NAME IS WILLIAM BLAKE. HAVE YOU READ MY POETRY?
Just over the wire we have this item, which should prove to be more interesting that it first appears.
Meet award winning Taos/Laguna jeweler, Ken Romero, at Gathering Tribes in Berkeley. Reception for the artist, Friday, April 15, from 7 PM to 9 PM. Exhibiting his jewelry, Saturday, April 16, from 10 AM to 6 PM and Sunday, April 17, from 11 AM to 5 PM at Gathering Tribes Gallery, 1573 Solano Ave., Berkeley. Call (510) 528-9038 for more information.
The art is primarily focussed upon jewelry but we expect this event to include a fair number of other aspects as well.
In Fremont, the Olive Hyde Gallery on Washington Blvd. just held its Opening Reception for its 37th Annual Textile Exibit and we note that local Susan Laing has a couple pieces entered on demand of the curators. We clarify that this exhibit from the Island is "on demand" not on submission and acceptance.
This gallery is open Thurs.-Sun. 12-5.
And fnally, the Frank Bette Gallery here on the Island has the
theme of the "Blues". First day was Friday, but various events continue
for the next month. And you know, we always break for the Blues.
GOOD DAY SUNSHINE
In these days of encouraged SUV Road Rage and rewarded in-your-face obnoxiousness, with all of its savagely hypocritical as well as moronic leadership in the highest offices of the land, its nice to hear of a purely altruistic story of good will.
Island-life is part of an international group that contributes to a newsletter boasting some 500,000 subscribers. This newsletter is run by a true Knight of Mankind, one Fred Langa. In his own words, we report the latest issue:
"We've added another child--- the 12th!--- to the group of kids sponsored on an ongoing basis by LangaList Plus! subscribers. Here's a note I got from an aid agency working in Java, Indonesia. http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/asia/id.htm
Mulyo Cahyono (age 5) was born into a desperately poor family in Central Java. He lives with his parents only in a very simple house, earthen floor without private bathroom and electricity. His father tries hard to earn a living by working as a day laborer, but he earns very little that it is impossible to meet the family needs. His mother, although resourceful at trying to make the most of the little, cannot do much with her husband's low income. The family's annual income is around US$120.00. It is painfully obvious that the child needs help if he wants to get proper nourishment, clothing and better attention. When we learn of his needs, we are happy to welcome him to our big family. Mohammad is his nickname. His health condition is average and he makes good progress. His hobby is playing toys. He will receive proper clothing and nutritious meals under your kind sponsorship, so that he can grow healthily.
Click to see Mulyo: http://freetune.com/kids/mulyo05.htm
Here's what's this is all about: Those of us with computers and Internet access are vastly better off than most of the world's population. Because of this, I decided that a portion of the LangaList Plus! subscription fees would be donated to registered/legitimate charities helping the underprivileged around the world. The contribution does not increase the cost of a Plus! subscription in any way; the donation is taken "off the top" of any profits.
Mulyo is the 12th child sponsored on an ongoing basis--- week in, week out--- by the collective generosity of LangaList subscribers. LangaList Plus! subscribers also have collectively contributed to emergency earthquake relief efforts, to funds to help the victims of the Sept 11th attacks in the US, to the 2004 tsunami relief efforts; and more. (To see all the donations so far, click to http://langa.com/plus2.htm#kids )
As the year goes on, and as more readers sign up for Plus! subscriptions, I hope we'll be able to sponsor more children and assist other charities around the world.
Graham Greene once said, "There is always a moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in...." If you're already a LangaList Plus subscriber, thank you! You can feel good about giving back a little to those less fortunate, and opening "a door to the future" for a child in otherwise-desperate circumstances.
If you're not yet a Plus! subscriber check it out: With a Plus! subscription, you can not only help yourself make the most of your hardware, software and time online--- but you also can help those less fortunate (like Mulyo) make the most of their very lives. Thanks for your help!
From time to time, we find ourselves in a position to help someone out, give a lift, or otherwise lend assistance. Just another positive note from Island-Life. We never, never ask for money, but ask that you pass on the good will to someone else in need you find on the road. Because that's the way we are, here on Island-Life. Little by little these small efforts multiplied a million times will result in a better world for everyone.
BOX OF RAIN
Like the old saying, "when life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at your door." Well, we have had no worry about that sort of occurance around here. Just got Le Hogge back from the dealership after another round of "what the heck!" and just then the forecaster forcasts accurately. While sitting over the kitchen table, trying to solder two impossibly small tangs on a switch to power up the number two server, the sky busts open beyond the window and all hell pelts down with no promise of surrender any time soon. While admiring the downpour we managed to fuse the two tangs into a bridge -- which is not what we intended and which is not specifically too good for electrical connections in general.
Oh hell, the rest of the week was just like that: fusing connections where they were not wanted and lacking connections all the time when desperately needed.
Expect this storm oughta hit you Easterners in about three or four days. Sorry about the extra snow -- this is a cold front from Alaska. You can always blame your president for Global Warming -- which he insists does not exist.
There goes the late night train. Heard they smacked some fool out of the way down there a couple weeks ago when the driver paused the car smack a dabble on the tracks, wondering what the noise was all about. Wasn't enough left of the body to fill a tooth. Hey, that sound means, This is Heavy Industry and Agribusiness comin your way: MOVE!
Right now the rain-swept night carries the sound crisp and clear across the estuary. Could be they boosted the horn a few dB after that last incident. Make the late night rounds before turning in. Door locked, top and bottom. Lights out in the kitchen niche. Bathroom clear for shutdown. Screens in place and all shutters and blinds pulled into position. Here comes the sound of another train. House of Blues off the air and the stereo goes off as well. Leaving the sound of rain patters on the pavement outside and the hum of the anti-hooligan lights from the neighbor's courtyard. This may be an Island and a place seemingly in a time-warp of appearances, but the neighbors have a bright halogen lamp that illuminates every corner of their courtyard.
In that courtyard, not unlike a little Hof in old Europe, a little rain must fall. And right now, that is exactly what is happening. Some distance away, the little raccoon family that lives on this block chirrs and snorrs in its burrow on this cold, dank night. For that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 10, 2005
STANDING ON THE HOOD OF MY BEATUP CAR, LOOKING AT THE HILLS SO FAR AWAY
Ron Thompson performed Friday at McGrath's Pub as we noted from the sandwich board. Due to contretemps of the most devious kind, we could not attend, but we understand the joint was jumpin'.
The Blues at Frank Bette Center for the Arts. This was the second Saturday and so a reading was held. Since we have been held over during the week we had to forgo the singular pleasure of Spoken Word at this venue, but this spot is marked and ready for an Island-Life visit any day now.
The Boss is coming to the intimate Paramount in Oaktown for a rare solo show may 5th. Bruce Springsteen erupted on the scene some thirty years ago and we have been trying to get tix ever since. At first, we were too poor, and then Time, the Avenger intervened. Gonna at least try this once for what promises to be quite a remarkable show.
In the Big Venues, which we tend to avoid for obvious reasons: the performers are distant specs on a griddle, the sound is crap -- which is not specifically too good for that art called "music" in general, the tickets are horrendously expensive and difficult to obtain, people collected in the hundred thousands smell like an immense old dog in the rain, and the driving to and from such venues is totally the shits.
As Patty Smith screamed at one memorable concert, "Who do the Rolling Stones fucking think they ARE with charging over one hundred dollars a ticket!" Please, give us the intimate Greek Theater any day. Where Mark Knopfler is coming to play this Spring Season. Check your calendars for that one.
Nevertheless, we do note that Dave Matthews, U2 and Green Day are coming to town for some Big Shows in the Big Venues. U2 does not come by often and it is a peculiar twist of fame which has the Little Band that could, local Green Day we used to catch for $5 on a sliding scale around here once upon a time, now performing in the colossal SBC Park.
Remember watching Billy perform out on the Ave. in Berzerkely and thinking, "Hey, these guys are really good!"
As for Bono, we shall excuse ourselves from the parking devils of his chosen appearance, but still, we wish the fellows Cead Mille Failte!
SUR LE TABLE D'AVIGNON. LA LA LALA LA
After a paddywack of a storm, gorgeous weather glided into the Bay Area for the past couple of days and all the groundsquirrels were out along the strand blinking up at the big round face of the sun and the big round bottoms of the joggers humping past with huffs and puffs and a great scattering of shoulder gravel besides.
Nice to note that the Lunatic of Lincoln Street, Harlan, continues to put up his mysterious and cryptic signs, and when the rain knocks them down he just as quickly puts up another just as ambiguous as the last.
Was moved by the weather and general good vibes to put out the Table again. Am pleased to report dozens of people stopping by and brisk sales. But more important than that were the countless "thank yous" from people who all felt reinforcement and public validation of their core beliefs during this repressive time was so important to them. Having a T-shirt is nice, but its not so much having an article of clothing that makes a statement so much as a relieved sense that one is not alone in the universe in the way one feels about morality, about justice and about God. That is what I do with the table: I dispense social remedy.
Right now, a power has taken hold which maintains that it is perfectly just, moral and right to wire a man's genitals with electrodes, to arrest people and hold them for years with no trial and no conviction -- indeed with no proof -- to rob everyone of privacy and all rights for the sake of mythical Security, to shout down reasonable arguments on any issue of any worth whatsoever, to abridge the rights of anyone at will to marry or form any kind of civil union, to take hold of spiritual worship in a form of ownership and to subvert all the established balances of power so as to form a monoblock that will rubberstamp any and all executive decisions without question. The churches -- all of them -- have been usurped by a secular power so as to grant itself legitimacy. And this has resulted in degrading the House of Worship without uplifting the House of Government.
These people have essentially murdered well over 100,000 people in the Middle East pursuing an ignoble war of acquisition, not including well over 1,550 of our own boys.
It is no wonder many people feel bereft of moorings at this time when common sense, Church and even God appear to have departed the scene. The T-shirts return people to the same place where they started and provide a sense of proportion. One item presents Pvt. Lydie England holding a leash attached to a naked prisoner in the infamous prison of Abu Graib. Underneath appears the simple caption: "THESE ARE NOT MY MORAL VALUES!"
With that, it does not matter that people do not buy the T-shirt. It is more important that they see and realize that one is a moral being in not attaching oneself to contemptible behavior. The table itself is an artwork in progress. Of course not all of the displayed items will sell -- that is really not the point. The point is that original artwork is displayed, people see it, people respond to it, and people are changed by the perception.
One person -- at least one person -- "got it" and demonstrated that when he responded to our washing instructions as follows: "Oh no, I am not going to wash or wear this at all. I plan on framing it and hanging it on a wall.
The Table shall continue.
SET OUT FROM RENO, I WAS TRAILED BY 20 HOUNDS
The long howls of the night trains have been echoing across the estuary frequently in these recent weeks, indicating that some major ocean freighters from Asia have newly docked at the Port and the truck traffic on the Monday/Wednesday/Friday run has been heavy.
Local businesses appear to be pulling out of a slump -- which the White House and Sacramento have steadfastly denied ever existed -- and orders appear on the increase.
As some of you know our daily ramblings extend across four counties from Santa Clara up to Sonoma, and we have noted the concern here that the overheated real estate market is due for a "correction" behind the stock market, upon it depends not a whit.
We are seeing evidence that this "correction" is about due.
Meanwhile here on the Island the house on Grand which burned in a terrible fire appears to be almost ready for resale. The owners lost several million dollars in irreplaceable original artworks, including paintings by Picasso, as well in that fire.
Houses on that row are now going for some 1.5 million dollars, so the restoration effort should pay off somewhat financially, at least.
The fog has dropped down to shroud the estuary and the Hills and all things are quite silent this Sunday evening. Have not heard Officer O'Madhauen's siren for some hours now. Must not be enough traffic to stir a rat out there. For we surely know that Officer O'Madhauen would pull anyone over to sniff their tailpipes and verify their turnsignals under any suspicious circumstances.
For that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week in despite of it all.
APRIL 17, 2005
HERE COMES THE SUN LITTLE DARLIN'
Good news for those in the weather embattled East, Spring finally swept in on a fine wind loaded with fine weather and clouds of glassy winged grasshoppers -- this we know from the scads of windshield bugsplat garnered on our business trips up North. And from the cool nights and moderately sunny days which have burst upon the Bay Area like a whole busload of chipper teenage cheerleaders all chattering at once in the form of birds returning to the suddenly effulgent buckeye and cherry blossom trees.
What about those Japanese Americans unjustly interned during WWII -- we read about them calmly packing up bags and boarding trains to drop them off in KZ lagers in the the middle of the desert like obedient Jews, but did not anyone among them object to this patently racist and unfair treatment?
Well, one fellow did and his name was Fred Korematsu and he was one of our own here from Oaktown. Fred died at age 86 March 30, and was recently honored by a gathering of over 400 people at the First Presbyterian Church in a memorial service.
Ordered to internment along with 120,000 West Coast Japanese Americans, Fred refused the order and challenged the case in the legal system right up to the Supreme Court, which blasphemed the name of America in denying his case and upholding the right of the government to selectively intern classes of individuals along racial lines due to "military necessity."
The soft-spoken Fred refused to ever bow to this heinous judgement and eventually got his conviction overturned in 1983. In 1998, President Clinton awarded Korematsu the Medal of Freedom, stating, "Korematsu deserves our respect and thanks for his patient pursuit to preserve the civil liberties we hold dear."
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Every City has one particular bugbear of a project that promises so much aesthetically, economically, and culturally and which is the perfect horror of conceptualization and realization as well as a perfect disaster upon completion.
You in your City know exactly what I mean.
Ours is something called a multistory cineplex with a pair and necessary six-level 352 slot parking garage. All to be inserted ever so neatly on our tiny island smack in the middle of our main street equivalent -- which has striven for a 1940's style look and feel in archetecture and street design.
The additional fillip here is the fact that the builders do not own the property where they intend to build and the owner is balking even as the City is scampering to buy up land to add to the behomoth as designed. Wiping out some five other businesses in the process. And this process is called "revitalization."
Hello people: this is an Island. How do you really expect to funnel 352 cars, carrying some 600-800 people across the water between here and almost everywhere else? And do you really expect all 325 to park in your nice little neat and expensive garage?
And you know, by now an awful lot of people in the Area know perfectly well the idiosyncratic traffic enforcement in place on this Island. No, they don't think its safer; they think its expensive and not worth it.
And we just have to mention that Major Brown in Oaktown was way ahead of you on this one for a massive shopping center with named streets -- and a cineplex -- is going up right now off of Hegenberger Road not two miles away, with free parking and unlimited surface access and this means death to any big project anyone has in mind.
You could always convert the cineplex into a homeless shelter with a tudor theme. It would fit right in.
NIGHT OF A THOUSAND STARS
It's been a long exhausting week. From challenges on the work front to the daily outrage from Washington. Understand that each spring they get cherry blossoms someplace in D.C. Never seen 'em, but we do know for the rest of the year the place is either crushingly cold or insufferably hot and humid -- as are most places built on swamps -- and the vast quantity of granite piled into Greco-Roman shapes makes the landscape look like a dead mausoleum. So its not surprising the place hosts such creatures as Bush, Delay and Santorum: The strawman without a brain, the tinman without a heart, and the cowardly lion. Except in this scenario, the wicked witch is impervious to water and Oz has been destroyed by a herd of jabbering, flying apes who defecate upon the statues of Jefferson and Lincoln.
It approaches the witching hour and the long howl of the midnight train comes echoing once again across the estuary and the old Beltline jumble of weeds. Every night it leaves the Port around this time to toot and fade away like the old song "City of New Orleans."
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 24, 2005
GOT THOSE DEEP RIVER BLUES
Been working the old soundbox with the traditional tune, known to some as "Deep Ellum Blues". You can hear a nice version done by Jorma on his roots CD "Blue Country Heart" He should know how to play it, for the onetime lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane learned his chops at the knee of Rev. Gary Davis. Which reminds us that Hot Tuna is returning to the venerable Fillmore for a concert that is becoming rarer since Jorma moved to his Fur Piece ranch in Illinois some years ago and Jack Cassady moved to some other state of mind.
All of which is just to mention that the rainy season proved it aint done with us yet as a quickie storm smacked into the Bay Area Friday evening, but not late enough to let us avoid a drenching ride home from the factory in Petaluma. We stopped for gas in Sonoma county and a guy there commiserated with our misery, for riding fair weather transport 45 miles during a thunderstorm and high wind advisories is one of life's special unpleasant experiences reserved for the wicked and the unwary.
Bad news for you in the East, for there is yet another front headed this way, due here on Wednesday, to add to all of the special pleasure this winter has added to your doorstep.
Haven't been getting out much and the entries have been brief due to medical emergency. The Dr. Friederich went in for ocular surgery a week ago. Now we ordinarily shunt personal issues aside in this space -- this is not one of those self-indulgent Blogs, but a self-indulgent news/culture/media watch column, after all -- but we simply must inform you that there are not one, not two but four dog/cat opthalmologists in the Bay Area. No doubt that in Manhattan -- which has a passion for being first in all things -- there are more, and Boston has probably a dozen or two, for there are many terriers and poodles of bad eyesight roaming the infected East.
The location must, of course, be massively inconvenient to the normal human being who rents instead of owns property in the land where the going price for cheap "fixer-upper" is a bit over half a million dollars.
Hence, we have been shuttling down to Fleamont for the Dr.'s appointments, and working like mad to pay bills others have covered via that curious entity called "pet insurance."
Oh they turned up their noses when I mentioned the Doctor had not seen the inside of Vet's waiting room for some 12 years. Hence, no expensive vaccinations or checkups.
Man, you should have seen them when we said he had never had a bath.
Any hoot, the Doctor's eye is getting on and we'll be getting out a bit more.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Wavy Gravy has been a Bay Area fixture of life for some 30 years. Forced to take on the occupation of children's party clown after an unwarranted as well as savage beating by cops in San Francisco -- which nearly paralyzed him and left him with life-long health problems -- the one time handsome lead actor has become a bastion and icon of human warmth and a glowing inspiration to millions of people by his gentle nature devoid of bitterness.
In later years he has turned his annual birthday celebration into an occasion to perform good works. This year, May 15th, is no exception and for his 69th exhaltation Phil Lesh will gather with friends at the Berkeley Community Center in a benefit for Seva, the international organization that provides medical services around the world with special attention to the Third World for those with eye problems.
You may see an ongoing theme here.
The Greatful Dead and its followers may be faulted with much, but let it be known that Seva is one of many public service offerings promoted and supported by former members of that band. And we think this is a good thing when musicians give back to the community.
It is easy to do nothing: after all, what did you do today for "The Eyes of the World?"
Go to the Berkeley Community Center on the 15th and give and see something truely worthwile. And have a good time as well. Its a win-win situation.
Where's the Kaboom? There will be an earthshattering Kaboom! on May 21st down on Piers 30-32 when KFOG hosts its increasingly larger listener appreciation party. Every year the local radio station sets up a stage for three bands to perform with no ticket price, prior to an intense and quite enormous fireworks celebration. The event typically has hosted exponentially larger numbers to see top-rated bands every year it has been done. Expect well over one hundred thousand down at the piers this year to hear and see the John Butler Trio from Australia, the Wallflowers, and Kathleen Edwards.
The event tends to the level of Very Memorable. Take public transit if you plan on going.
DID THE EARTH MOVE FOR YOU?
The 19th saw the 98th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake which caused a fire that destroyed 500 blocks in the City. Local commemorations seemed to be largely build-ups for what should prove to be quite a blowout on the Centennial. And many here remembered our own recent Loma Prieta 5:05 quake which shattered so many lives in 1989. We remember coming home from the hospital through smoke and fire and downed power lines to find all the big mirrors shattered on the floors in the apartment. That was a Time.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
The Old Ones are falling now, one by one, both the good and the bad. The earthshakers and gods of their time are passing. Former Israeli President Ezer Weizman, a flying ace and crack military commander who built up the nation's air force and helped bring about the Jewish state's first peace treaty with an Arab country, has died, Israeli officials said Sunday. He was 80.
Weizman was president between 1993-2000. In three decades in political life, he made a highly public transition from hawk to dove, saying the Jews had to learn to "share this part of the world" with the Arabs.
As defense minister in 1979, he was instrumental in negotiating Israel's peace treaty with Egypt.
Weizman, a political moderate who pioneered contacts with Palestinian leaders, later resigned from then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin's Cabinet, complaining about his strict interpretation of interim peace accords with Egypt about the Palestinians.
Ariel Sharon, now Israel's premier, replaced Weizman.
TENDER IS THE HEART
Lakeport is a small tourist-oriented community located on the shores of Clearlake, some 80 miles north of the Bay Area. Because the region is hemmed by vineyards, parks and the obviously enticing natural beauty of the lake, the area has remained largely untouched by development other than what seeks to extract the visitor from his/her hard earned dollar. The people are sharply divided between the categories of Been Here and Came Here. Among the Been Heres was one Marla Ruzicka, who was a typically Californian personality in all of its best manifestations.
Saturday, she was remembered for her dedication to humanitarian causes and her personal mission of counting civilian casualties of war in a memorial service.
She was killed by a car bomb in Iraq earlier this month in one of the attacks that occur now at the rate of some 40 per day. Many of the more than 600 mourners, including friends, family, colleagues and journalists who traveled from around the world for her funeral, shared memories of Marla Ruzicka's boundless energy that helped her accomplish much in her 28 years.
Ruzicka traveled to Iraq before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion and later founded a group called CIVIC, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, whose aim was to tally the number of Iraqi civilian deaths in the conflict. On April 16, she became one of those statistics herself when she was killed in a car bombing in Baghdad, along with her interpreter and another foreigner.
The Rev. Ted Oswald, who conducted the Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church, said it was sad that it took a tragedy to bring to light all the good Ruzicka did. Oswald said she usually accomplished things in her own quiet way, though there were exceptions.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the good Lord has his hands full right now," he said, referring to Ruzicka's sometimes outspoken nature. "Not only does he have his hands full, but heaven will never be the same."
Oswald also recounted the time when an 8-year-old Ruzicka sold rocks door-to-door to buy carnations for her mother. She even managed to get the flowers on the cheap from the florist.
The upbeat homily brought laughter from the audience, which included actor Sean Penn, who said he counted Ruzicka among his heroes, and U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.
Ruzicka often arrived in war-torn places unprepared and nearly broke, he said. But Lawrence said she quickly managed to win over the hearts of those she was helping and those whose help she needed.
Lawrence said Ruzicka repaid favors with her friendship, kindness and a ready smile. She organized parties, slipped heartfelt notes under the doors of friends' rooms and hugged guards at military checkpoints.
"She made me feel like I was the greatest person on earth," Lawrence told the crowd. "I have it in writing. And I know all of you do as well."
Bobby Muller, chairman of Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation, said the true value of Ruzicka's work was her ability to counter people's cynicism.
"Marla demonstrated the fact that an individual can make a profound difference in this world," Muller said. "This woman was our inspiration."
But Ruzicka was not satisfied with herself, looking in the mirror each day and vowing to do better, said Catherine Philp, a reporter for The Times of London. She didn't know she was already better than most people, Philp said.
Ruzicka's organization, CIVIC, is urging people to honor her memory and her cause on May 3 by holding vigils to bring attention to civilian casualties of war.
DEATH LETTER BLUES
Some of you may recall our mention of Fred, whose shirt we now wear even as we type these lines. Fred came down with AIDS some time ago and, as predicted, did not survive the arrival of spring. He began to waste in the winter of last year, going from a buffed 185 to 102 pounds within weeks.
He realized he was not long for this world and so began parting out his belongings well in advance of his demise. Hence, we obtained a load of shirts, via Julee, his lifelong friend. It is said he passed quickly from decay to sudden stoppage and so was spared the elongated breast-beating so enamored of by the radical Right Wing of this country. And no stupid NeoCon in Congress cared enough about a dying Queen to interfere; no political advantage. Julee saw him last in October in Florida, dabbling his feet in the pool like any good Hobbit, and then he was suddenly gone.
This was a man who joined the American Airlines fleet so as to experience the travel he loved so well. He saw Monte Video, Rio, Paris, Berlin, Shantung, all the great cities of the world and he explored fully the places he saw in the time given him. He saw the vigorous Carnival of South America, the astonishing herding of the yaks in Mongolia, the gathering of the tribes in Rio. Here was a life which sought in its brief space of time to experience all it could beyond the space of the brown cube of the accountant which he had occupied before deciding that this life of corporate dedication is no life at all.
He was an accountant for a staid firm that expected only staid results, spending each day in the same cubicle according to determined measure, until he decided that such a life was not for him, and so he went on to remake his life as a globe-trotter, not expecting to pay the ultimate price for such a life.
He joined American Airlines as a steward so as to experience the world.
That he did. He learned the ways of the world and how to appreciate fine wine and in the process contracted AIDS, the disease that the American government still refuses to accept and acknowledge in a thousand stupid ways.
And so, like a character in Blade Runner, he ended his intense
life on the edge with few witnesses, with the realization that it was now time
to die, but was attended at his memorial by well over 600 friends in Florida.
The House sent its own Julee to Miami as a representative to pay respects for
a dear friend.
Fred, may your next trip be as interesting and full of joy as your life, which failed to see the opening of Spring.
WAR: WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR
President Shrubb, currently stumping around the Bay area by thumb and by coach on behalf of his Rabbit Heads program that would replace food stamps, SDI, and all local restrictions upon loitering with a special Food for Bums initiative paused his busy schedule to give a rare press conference. When pressed on details of the program which has remained vague and without clear distinction until now, Eugene Shrubb stated that rabbits are a proven food source and that male rabbit brains, or grist from hares, are unequivocally nutritive. He had some difficulty pronouncing the latter words and so quickly moved to the next topic. which proved to be the Occupation of Newark California by the Army of Bums.
Shrubb was happy to report that attacks upon the Occupation Force have declined to a record low of 40 per day, indicating that the resistance was practically broken and an end to semi-major operations was just about ready for another photo op on a big ship. Next question.
When a reporter mentioned that the present rate of spending would totally bankrupt the entire County and render senior retirement untenable, Shrubb chose the opportunity to unveil his Economic Initiative to Smash New Deal Ideas with a powerpoint presentation.
When asked to clarify this concept a bit more, Shrubb responded with the phrase, "Arbeit macht frei."
When asked to comment on the recent death of the Pope, considered by many to be an important political figure, Shrubb proudly unveiled this tattered photo of his meeting with the pontiff three years ago.
The Conference closed with special meal of stew made from hare's brains served up to the Press Corps as a thank you for being so nice to the President, who often has trouble pronouncing words.
DARK NIGHT IS FALLING
Its the end of another day and the beginning of another busy week. Long across the flatlands comes the horn of the train passing through Jack London Square across the water. Earlier in the day, was knocking about the garage and heard the sound of half-year old Clara chuckling through the walls in the laudromat while daddy did the wash. Small joys in the life of the House. Am afraid we have not done well, collectively, for little Clara, as the world is become a more dangerous place. Ozone layer is thinning out, the polar ice caps are melting, the weather is going bonkers, the oil supplies are dwindling and people are getting kiled over the stuff worse than in any Mad Max movie, our leaders appear to be a pack of absolute idiots, and even Democracy is on the wane while we are all looking at yet another period of religious wars.
Still, in the darkness the sound of the little girl's laughter echoed and as we turned out the light, the clouds broke for a moment outside and a shaft of golden sunlight guided us to the door.
Now, the only light is what spills from the LCD monitor in this little cube while Dan Ackroyd spins the House of Blues Radio Hour. Which strangely lightens the heart, for in the all-inclusive Blues, the only genre that invites anyone and everyone to climb aboard without regard for hipness, intelligence, race, place of birth, or judgement of any kind, one feels in the darkness of one's own personal night a sense of not being alone in the universe. Somewhere out there somebody else has felt the same things I feel, no matter how stupid or depraved one may feel. Charlie Musselwhite used to end his shows with a simple half-spoken song to an elemental tune about the hard life, ending with the words, as his shoulders slumped sadly, "Well all right. You can come along with me."
Tomorrow is another day and another chance to make the world a little better, in any old small way, for little Clara. If you can make the sun shine a little brighter for somebody, even if only for a little while, that is a good thing.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 1, 2005
The hyperlink to the photo of Baby Bush and the Pope has been repaired below. The responsible persons for the error have been suitably punished.
MAY DAY MAY DAY
And a happy warm May Day to all of you out there. All around the world May poles, banners and pennants go up as the confetti rains down, the parades go marching and there's all kinds of dancing and singing and jumping up and down with great gusto. In Germany they have the Maifest way down South where the Bavarians like to beat themselves on their Lederhosen and shoes -- funny Volk, those Bayern -- and the more sedate among them wind long streamers in a dance about the May pole. In Russia and other places where Lenin is remembered with something like fondness, the walls are bedecked in bright red and even the most stuffy beaurocrat feels a bit peckish in the warming spring air.
In the Bay Area, with our high Hispanic quota of residents, we begin a week-long series of festivities lumped loosely under the rubric of Cinco de Mayo, which is not really the actual Independence Day for Mexico, but the anniversary of winning an important battle against Spain, but still a good excuse to have a party. Down in the Fruitvale, the Avenue was closed for blocks for parades, food, music, and general merriment and as the somber weather promised yielded to sunny skies, a fine time was had by all.
THE ANSWER IS 42
But you will not understand the answer unless you discover the question about the meaning of all things. At least according to the massive computer called "Great Thought". Took in the newly released film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe in which middle class, middle-minded, pajama-clad Arthur Dent begins quite a bad day as prelude to a truly awful week by hitting his head, watching a wrecking crew demolish his house and narrowly escaping the demolition of the planet formerly known as Earth, all without the consolation of a decent cup of tea.
The special effects are quite stunning and it is quite a pleasure to see such spectacular cinema presented without more than one or two explosions, nobody dying -- well maybe one or two a little bit -- and no hideous monsters -- well, maybe a few.
There has not been such a delightfully irreverent Sci-Fi film since the cult classic Buckaroo Bonzai. The film manages to capture the feel and sensibility of Douglas Adams as well as his core values of humanity, love of life and basic intolerance of self-inflated self-importance, injustice and violence of any kind for any foolish purpose and comes at a badly needed moment in the world where dangerous idiots and blind fools claim the moral high ground based on nothing other than their own sentiments of superiority.
Adam's died a year ago and we have an obit on him stored in archives.
The best scene in the movie presents a preacher delivering a sermon before a multitude that holds as its core tenet the conviction the entire universe was created via matter expelled during a sneeze from God's nose. That one scene is worth the price of admission.
Well this will not be a spoiler for those who want to watch the movie in the theatre or on DVD. It's rated G by the MPAA and is the sort of thing Disney wishes it could still make.
To give you all a sense of Douglas Adam's humanity and to help restore your sense of perspective, we herewith reproduce his scientific graph which conclusively demonstrates why Homo Sapiens is only the second-most -- and potentially third-most -- intelligent species on Earth.
WAITING FOR THE SUN
If more people held the humanity of Douglas Adams, we would not be reporting this evening upon the anniversary of the blessed ending of many decades of murderous idiocy. Thirty years ago today the tanks of the Viet Cong rolled into Saigon, not more than a handful of hours after the last helicopters yanked refugees to waiting USN ships of the 7th Fleet, putting an end to a very long nightmare.
In a curious sequel that echoed so much of the quality of that conflict in which so much was not in reality what it was presented as, giving a surreal quality to all events, the most famous image of the fall of Saigon was not as attributed, the evacuation from the Embassy, but another evacuation from the roof of an apartment building. The photo was taken by a foreign correspondent named Hubert Van Es. The evacuation from the embassy is presented below.
The reason for this confusion dovetails into everything that went wrong about that conflict right up until the end, and includes as well stories of incredible valor and sacrifice. Because Vietnam had already been virtually abandoned in terms of serious military support some months previously, an offensive launched by the North pushed further than expected by either side. General Thieu of the South made the decision to reequip and redistribute his forces, effectively removing any single force large enough to resist and organized incursion. When the offensive began, the policy of enclave was developed to disastrous results.
Briefly, the main evacuation point had been designated the main airport, but on April 29, the Viet Cong -- themselves astounded at the lack of serious resistance to their organized advance -- had begun the attack by assaulting the airfield. There, Cpl. Charles McMahon and Lance Cpl. Darwin Judge were killed and earned the dubious distinction of being the last US military casualties of the Vietnam War. The airfield was abandoned and several evac points happened spontaneously throughout the surrounded city. One of the main points was the Embassy building.
And it almost did not happen.
On board the USS Hancock the admiral in charge terminated all missions going forward as all of the pilots had exceeded their assigned flight hours. A humanitarian commander met privately with the admiral and Operation Frequent Wind was put into motion with pilots doing shifts of some 22 hours, flying through enemy fire to land onto postage-stamp roofs, take on hundreds of refugees, flying off to land on an aircraft carrier or a destroyer deck only to repeat the performance for many more hours.
Meanwhile many other courageous men risked their lives to pull people to safety. Francis Terry McNamara, the US consul general in Can Tho, commandeered a fleet of landing craft to ferry hundreds of people down the Bassac River to safety through blinding rainstorms and enemy fire.
Operation Babylift managed to pull out some 1,500 children despite a tragic incident in which one plane lost over 200 children when forced into a crash landing after taking on enemy fire. This took place in early April.
Edward Daly, president of World Airways, realizing that US Ambassador Martin's delay in executing Operation Frequent Wind was insane in the face of the obvious consequences personally flew a 727 with one other to begin evacuation of besieged Da Nang. The plane took on enemy fire and arrived in damaged condition with the body of a would-be refugee crushed in its wheelwell.
From official NavCon reports we have the following facts and figures: "On April 29 and 30, 662 US military airlift flights took place between Saigon and ships 80 miles away. Ten Air Force HH/CH-53s flew 82 missions, while 61 Marine Corps CH-46s and CH-53s flew 556 sorties. There were 325 support aircraft sorties by Marine, Navy, and USAF aircraft. Air America, the CIA proprietary airline, joined in, having flown 1,000 sorties in the previous month. Air America crews distinguished themselves with a selfless bravery not usually attributed to "mercenaries"."
This is in addition to several thousand undocumented civilian and third-party evacuation efforts.
At 2114 (9:14pm) on 29 April, a CH-46 of HMM-365 crashed into the sea while returning to the USS Hancock; two crewmen were saved, but the pilot and co- pilot were lost, the last US casualties of the Vietnam War.
On April 30, 1975 at 4:58 a.m., a CH-46 helicopter, call sign "Lady Ace 09," flown by Capt. Jerry Berry, transported Ambassador Martin from the embassy roof to the waiting US fleet. At 7:53 a.m., the last helicopter lifted off, carrying Marine personnel who had been defending the embassy. John Valdez of Grand Forks climbed into a helicopter and lifted off the roof of the embassy. His last view was of a tear gas canister dropping onto the onrushing South Vietnamese who were desperate to go with him.
He was the last Marine out.
It has been now thirty years since that day when tank 843 smacked through the gates of the presidential palace at 8:43pm.
Today Vietnam is a vibrant and developing society with renewed diplomatic ties to the United States. It has its problems as any country has, but it has a resilient and indomitable people. On our Table we have an item that presents the Memorial Wall in Washington DC and the phrase "My buddies did not end up on this wall flying AWOL in Alabama", and some interprete this to mean that we dislike the current turn of events.
Nothing could be further from the truth. The Vietnamese suffered for a long time a brutal and unnecessary war and America suffered divisions and miseries that persist to the present day. What one did and said during the conflict even became a major issue during the last Presidential election. We excoriate anyone who shirks duty under guise of privilege and special exemption. At any time and any age. And it is clear that Vietnam is now better off without foreign influence as a whole than before.
Obviously any party that loses over a million people fighting a bitter war is not going to handle the defeated with any great tenderness, but the Viets learned from their mistakes over the course of the past thirty years -- unlike some other Administrations we could mention -- and ceased their rough treatment of the South, becoming in the process a solid pillar of stability in a region beset with troubles.
When we talk to people who visit there, we hear the the same comment time after time, "This land will recover because of its people who are indefatigable."
Let the dolphins jump for joy.
IT'S A DOG'S LIFE
Because of our far-reaching contacts, we have obtained an early shot of this year's National Beauty Queen Contest. Herewith, Island-Life presents an exclusive photo of the winner for the year 2005 of the Annual Bulldog Beauty Contest, one Isabella.
The criteria appear unclear, but we have confidence in the opinion of the judges in this sensative case. For none of them were appointed by any relative of the Bush family from Waco, Texas.
WON'T YA LET ME PLAY WITH YOUR POODLE
There's something about some Blueswomen that makes you think they are really talking about something else. Got Marcia Ball on the phonograph and she really likes to hear those fingernails click, she does.
Moving into this year's Spring, the Island is joined with four other cities to fight the Koi nation's proposal to build a gambling palace near the Oaktown airport. The "downtown" cineplex with five story parking garage remains on track while the more sensible Central Cinema continues to show movies in its twenty seat hall. The erratic driving of late indicates that we are due for another Annual Meeting of the Non Compos Mentis chapter of the National Coalition of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled.
While its a pleasant reverie to mull upon the idea of Indians fleecing the Whites who have robbed and killed them for hundreds of years, a next door gambling palace -- originally planned to be some ten stories high -- is a somewhat questionable enterprise in the center of a metropolitan area. Outside of Las Vegas or Reno.
Now Las Vegas: that is a town with soooo much charm.
The Koi Nation is a landless tribe of 52 members once based in Lake County. Its land was sold to make way for an airport in the usual manner of handling Indian property in 1952. Stay tuned for further developments.
As for the traffic, Officer O'Madhauen does what he can: he lets all of his friends go and arrests everyone else for any old thing, including a broken but repaired taillight lens or turning left off of Park Street after 3pm. In the latest report, an Island teen was arrested and cited when the boy started walking home from a party, leaving his car behind because the responsible youth had enjoyed more than one beer. He was charged with drunken walking.
No kidding. Sometimes you just cannot win.
Well, dark night has fallen and we are well into the Sunday Night Jam with Mike Powers ("Medication time! Medication time!"). Speaking of which, the reunited and refurbished Wilco is heading for the Greek Theatre early this summer to bolster quite a lineup of great shows at that exquisite venue. Got a note from Ron Thompson that says he will be a headliner at the SF Blues Festival this year. And if you did not catch him for the five dollar cover at McGrath's you will kick yourself when you fork over that $80.00 admission in September. He mentioned that he will be playing at the clubby Rancho Nicasio later this month. Which ought to be something for Peter Rowan, Lowen and Navarro, and Joan Baez sometimes drop in for an impromtue set.
Snow Patrol is playing at the Warfield Monday night -- they are worth checking out for your extended weekend. Every single $80 ticket for the solo Springsteen show at the Paramount is sold out. Had a listen to Devils and Dust, his new CD and it promises to be quite an evening.
Rumor mill has it that the Waifs are coming back to play at the Independent -- once the girls recover from the expecting situation both of them managed to get themselves into. Nice timing for the gals. Wonder if their respective husbands colluded on this.
The midnight train tells us its time to wrap it up. Officer O'Madhauen is down by the Beltline watching for anyone speeding through the industrial park down there, while Reverend Rectumrod snorts and stirs amidst dreams of sulphur and brimstone. Percy Worthington-Bouhgsplatt snores upon the cream-colored leather backseat that once sat in a 1952 Caddilac, and now serves as a four-poster draped with satin sheets. We'll talk about Percy anon. Bear snores with a deep basso profundo next to his consort, Sophia, in their bedroom, which also serves time as a garage. Harlan, the Madman of Lincoln Street, does not snore, for he sleeps face down among the litter of marking pens and butcher block paper that he uses to construct his maniacal signs down on the side of his house.
Peter, of McGrath's Pub, dreams of exquisite melodies and the upcoming day of the Music in the Schools fundraiser which he is organizing.
The white mimosas blooming all along Grand Street dream the dreams of trees: long wandering passages winding slowly through the good earth while the bright sun pours down overhead.
It's a quaint little Island with its curious folk. Where all the men are handsome, all the women strong, and all the children above average. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 8, 2005
THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY
Bad news for you Easterners as the Bay Area has been buffeted by a series of storms once again. Which pleases all the snowbunnies hopping on up to the slopes for an extended ski season that promises continuation well into June this year. Conditions are 150% snowpack above normal with reports from the Rangers of depths up to 13 feet in the index meadows where last year saw maximums of 6 feet. The stuff is starting to melt, forcing lower elevation dams to open the gates for the largest releases in six years.
This bounty, of course, causes some bickering -- as bounty tends to do -- for now it is possible to allow the San Joaquin River to once again become a true river in all senses of the word, i.e.., a body of water that originates in the mountains, flows continuously downhill over an extended distance with substantial cubic volume to terminate appropriately in the sea.
At present, only three rivers along the 900 mile California coastline do that. One of them is the mythic Los Angeles River, which few have seen. For now, the San Joaquin gets divvied up after Baker Dam into a hundred branch canals and diversionary routes to farms large and small in the Valley. Every time the rains come in plenty there comes a discussion about how to bank the excess flow against hard times and every time there comes a discussion, there remain people who want to divert the excess to yet more projects rather than store it.
This time around however, it appears that the big farms are in agreement with the environmentalists, for they have invested heavily in their respective businesses and they all remember well the six-year drought of the late eighties.
I AM MY OWN WIFE: REVIEW
Midweek popped on over to Babylon to catch the Pulitzer-winning play I am My Own Wife at the Curran, authored by Doug Wright and starring Jefferson Mays. The play distinguishes itself by the presentation of two increasingly common tropes in contemporary American theater: the device of employing a single actor to present more than twelve characters of both genders and the presentation of a subterranean world that provides a kind of shelter in a time characterized by the onset of a familiar darkness reminiscent of a period of time in German history.
The play concerns the life of Charlotta von Mahlsdorf, the famous "tranny granny" who survived the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler and then the nearly as brutal period of Soviet occupation of Eastern Germany, all while dressed in pearls, a dress, and high heels and running a Weimar style cabaret in her basement only to be forced to flee the country after the Wall came down amidst scandal and a climate of neofascist revival.
The actual Charlotta died of a heart attack in 2002 during a visit to her home in Mahlsdorf, an old section located in the northeast quarter of Berlin. We have been there and remember some of the buildings mentioned in the script, even as late as the 1980's still pockmarked with machine-gun holes from the Battle for Berlin, and including the ruins of the Jewish synagogue that was partially destroyed during the infamous Night of Broken Crystal.
This is not a campy "drag show" as much as the preceding description might imply. Except for a brief segment in which Mays wears a blue prison uniform, the actor wears a dowdy black dress, artificial pearls, clunky orthopedic shoes and a simple peasant scarf as a headdress, much as the original had done when he went on a series of interviews with her in Mahlsdorf during the 1990's. Although the entire contingent of gay and lesbian glitterati had turned out for the play's opening, no work earns the prestigious Pulitzer by holding a narrow focus.
As Wright discovered to his chagrin, Charlotta could not be made into an icon of triumphant gay survival, for when her Stasi files were released, it became painfully obvious that her survival was in part due to her collaboration with the notorious Secret Police of East Germany.
Charlotta refused to clarify her participation as an informant, preferring to spin long contradictory stories to the press and to the disappointed Wright, who begged for some insight into the situations she had found herself. At the end of the day, after several years of increasingly frustrated interviews recorded to tape, Wright found his main subject to be as amorphous and unknown as the first day he met her.
Essentially she becomes a palimpsest of imposed preconceptions of what a person is supposed to be and do when under extremity. On the one hand she was just anyone who did what they felt they had to do to survive. At one point she burst out angrily, "You! You have not yet lived through my life! The Stasi never came and pounded on your door!" Another hint about the compulsive collector of antique furniture comes when given a chance after the Wall comes down to troll through the sin palaces of the West.
The bemused granny wanders with guidebook in hand down the streets taking notes before returning to her basement and the dusty memories of a drum gramophone and her collection of period furniture, which she has turned into a museum with guided tours. The purpose of her existence is and has always been fulfilled in the act of preservation, not execution.
When a group of neo-nazi skinheads climbs over the garden walls to break up a party, smash the windows and injure several people with bats and gas pistols, she confronts one of them on the stairs with a shock of recognition. "I have seen you before!", alluding to the hate rallies of the 1930's.
And there is the second trope we find cropping up with disturbing frequency. As Charlotta comments in a fleeting remark during one of her interviews, "It was a dark time; and those times are coming again. . .".
Everyone in that room in the Curran was intimately aware of the little events, isolated murders, savage beatings and the flaring hatred now erupting with increasing frequency and boldness, seeking to subvert even the rule of law to the ends of specific and particular oppression, and not one of us has been untouched. A friend of ours was telling us the other day about something that happened to them in "liberal" Boston. "They got me when I came out of the bar. It was late and there were four of them with baseball bats. And they beat me with those bats, breaking both of my arms, my legs and my ribs. Then they left me in the snow for dead."
Well anyone may have opinions about lifestyle or the essence of what a person is, but that sort of thing should be unthinkable instead of on the rise.
From this perspective, the play is not so much about an aging homosexual's troubles and possible lapse in ethics, but a serious inquiry into the very real concerns about survival for just about anyone who does not bind themselves in union about the handle of a Roman ax. Charlotta's story is not about Charlotta, but about the people she knew, the world she lived in and the events that took place, as well as the suggestion that one make one's decisions early and now.
In Charlotta's own words, when asked if she ever uses her considerable carpentry skills to restore a piece "which has lost its luster," she replies, "No! You must present each object exactly as it is, for each piece tells a story of its life and the people who used it, each nick and scratch and stain is important . . .".
Mays ends the play by replaying a tape from one of the actual interviews, and we hear the real, the actual Charlotta's voice welcoming visitors to her furniture museum. When the lights came up, the entire audience rose as one and gave three standing ovations.
PRAISE THE LORD AND PASS THE MEAT: IT'S TIME FOR DINNER NOW, LET'S GO EAT
Perhaps you too have endured such a sermon as Lyle Lovett describes in his song about the preacher who just could not quit -- until devouring a heaven-sent white dove like a piece of chicken. But few should endure the extraordinary smugness and irritating self-indulgence of Babylon's "premier vegetarian restaurant", Millennium. We observed numerous empty tables in the teak-lined clubby space so we had high hopes of being seated. After 20 minutes of chatting with folks in the foyer, which was reminiscent of a dowdy gentlemen's club in England, where one would expect old troopers armed with stoked meerschaums to regale people with tales of Africa and the Bantu wars, we were ushered to long cold seats -- at the bar. Near the door.
After reflecting upon this and noting the still empty tables in the restaurant proper, we folded up and left for the more polite and customer service friendly La Scene, where four glasses of wine, a salmon appetizer and two pretty good grilled prawn plates made us feel much better. And the good service went well rewarded.
The prawns came imbued with a smoky flavor with a hint of herbs and garlic, with just the right amount of center juiciness surrounded by a seared skin, and rested upon a nice little cap of greens, surrounded by a delicate avocado sauce.
Millennium may be "premier" in their own mind, but we would not recommend them for there are eminently serviceable veggie locales, where you can get a plate of beans and polenta at a reasonable price, scattered throughout the Bay Area.
LOVE IS THE ANSWER TO MOST OF THE QUESTIONS IN MY HEART
Closer to home we visited the Village Pizza on Park street, which has changed hands to an Asian-American family. Our observation was that this is one hard-working family that wants to get it right. We came for the calamari, ordinarily not something one travels far for, but this was no ordinary squid. The cook has managed to find the magic balance in sauce and cooking time to produce quite a nice little dish for which one could indeed travel far. The little baby squids were cut to bite size, and were done to perfect tenderness in a bath of olive oil, garlic, parmesan and herbs.
The chicken piccata was not so memorable, appearing with a slight reddish tinge and an odd tomatoey flavor, although the chicken was as tender and juicy as one could wish.
Be careful if you order a Caesar salad, for what arrived was a sort of monster best shared between two people. And easily done so, for they have managed to avoid the excessive salty flavor found in places where they do it cheap.
HOJO MOJO WITH CHOJO
Missed most of the First Saturday due to employment obligations, but a late drive-by Friday night revealed a packed house over at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts. Our roving correspondents reported full-houses at the Island Center for the Arts on Webster for an watercolors opening there and a disappointment at Open Arts Gallery, located next to Rosenblum Cellars, where an opening for 2 Spanish painters was postponed due to illness.
Managed to plotz in McGraths, our Local, for to catch local faves Houston Jones. We have written about them before. Just do a text search on this page to find the last write up. H&J appear to be coming up in the world with a new CD following up their live release and the normally sedate bar was packed to the rafters. Ordinarily, a band that plays capable garage rock tends to complacency as word gets out, but H&J appear to be getting better and better. Many of the wrinkles and stage buzzes ignored for the sake of energy and good times were gone Friday night. Joined by Chojo of the Waybacks on violin and mandolin, the little group played tightly and well the entire evening. The group also maintains its wonderful sense of humor about itself, announcing a tearing version of Garryowen as "Chojo's song about a sushi bar."
Glenn "Houston" Pomianek, lead guitar, sports a full beard now, but continues to sear the air with blistering, emotional riffs on his upside-down guitars played lefty-style. His beard may be silvered with experience, but he and Chojo traded licks back and forth like kids, treating the crowd to an exciting performance.
At one point, Travis Jones, lead singer, reached past us to grab a glass and down a triple shot of Jack, straight, with a single swallow, and he looked at us with an expression that said quite clearly, "Man, that was good!"
And that is what H&J is really all about. It is unlikely that they ever will headline Madison Square Garden and they really don't expect to -- not that they would refuse the chance if offered -- but these guys are out there doing what they really love to do with infectious enthusiasm, grabbing life by the balls and having the time of their lives, while sharing in the fun.
Both Jones and Pomianek busted strings with the fury of their playing that night but kept on chugging. When Jones finished up the last song he put down his guitar and rushed out the door and we found him outside rubbing his face with that mixture of hopped up emotion and weariness that bodyslams public performers from time to time. We wished him all the best and on hearing the screams for "One more! One more!" said it was his own fault for getting them all so excited.
H&J will be headlining at the HEARTLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL, taking place June 11 from 11:00 to 7:00pm at Rosenblum Cellars here on the Island. The event is a fundraiser cooked up by Peter, who owns McGraths, and Mr. Rosenblum, to benefit the Music in the Schools program. Some of the Bay Area's best and brightest will be coming to perform, as Peter knows many of them personally, including the incendiary Ron Thompson -- whom we also reviewed in these pages a few weeks past. That day should prove to be memorable and we heartily enjoin all of you to drop by on by the Island for any length of time on the 11th. More information about this event can be found at www.heartlandmusicfestival.org.
WHERE'S THE KABOOM?
Anyone in the Bay Area should know by now that KFOG is to hold its annual listener appreciation party May 21st down on the piers. Anyone who is not should know this event, which is entirely free, is well worth buying tickets to fly from New York to see and hear. The annual event, once a modest affair with a couple local bands and a few fireworks has grown into a monster of a show with main headliners this year being The Wallflowers, John Butler Trio and Kathleen Edwards preceding a choreographed fireworks show to end all shows, involving several hundred thousand dollars worth of world-class works firing off over crowds easily exceeding 200,000 people, not including those who stand on their roofs all around the Bay.
Over at Yoshi's, we note that a curious jazz combination between Bill Frisell, and banjo wunderkind Bela Fleck with with Darrell Anger, is about to crack the minds of those who think they know what jazz and/or bluegrass is all about. That evening is likely to be quite extraordinary and is worth pointing towards.
HYMN TO HER
Some of you who happen to have mothers may have noted that this has been the Day of Mothers. We treated the one Mother we could find to a trout dinner, and that happend to be our favorite Mother, who is also our Significant Other, even though she does not want to be appelled by that denomination any more. O this feminism thing sometimes goes too far, in our opinion, but then we happen to be members of the Dominant Patriarchy and so our opinions don't count.
Instead we ferried daughters and mothers about on Sunday to this and that location and made ourselves useful and meticulous, which probably is about as good as it gets for the testosterone-impaired in this life. Be thankful for you have at least performed a service to somehow justify your miserable life.
In any case, this is the day for Mothers of all degree. Who else was there to wipe that nose, change that diaper, patch that knee, fix that sandwich, and generally -- if not there for all those things -- at least granted you your miserable life so that you could go and lay out on the surface of the frozen lake wishing ardently that the surface crack and take you under to its icy black depths.
Well. our aquaintance is grown so broad as to include all variations of the theme, but the essential truth is that somebody carried you to fruition and there you were picked and wailing upon the hard table of the world. You got there somehow and that somehow was your mother. Perhaps you had no childhood whatsoever by the standards of NeoCons and Republicans, but you -- and they -- began as a dot and wound up now being a smudge. This we have all in common: we are all organic.
In any case our Mother, the local one, has two daughters and fine gals they are, although we wish both of them would find pants that fit properly instead of falling down past the hips. Our other Mother, the one that conceived of us as a dot some time ago, resides at some remove some three thousand miles hence and we do not have a means of conveying our appreciation except in the following manner. Herewith we present to our Mother -- and any worthy mother reading this -- the following flower.
This is no ordinary flower. It is called Indian Paintbrush and it grows at elevations of well over 10,500 feet in the Sierra. It cannot be brought down to lower elevations -- we have tried without success.
Its sight among the harsh rimrock outcropping never fails to bring joy. And we hope it does the same for you.
THE SUNDAY NIGHT JAM
The world we move through includes hysterical, screaming drag queens, imbecilic Presidents who shit in the Oval Office leather chairs and scamper on all fours after bananas left on chairs, snarling and cursing ex-CEO's put in primary charge of the National Trust and a howling herd of snapping curs who savage the body politic daily with urine and decayed morality. Nothing is pure anymore and the best of us envies those who take action with decisive violence, disregarding the costs of human life and limb. 2,000 Soldier's lives, 10,000 soldiers without arms, legs and faces, well over 100,000 non-American people killed outright and the State of Iraq builds upon a terrible twitching hill of severed arms and legs, bleeding down in a Grand Guiginol of horror.
If Democracy in all its dubious forms and dubious benefits were to assault Iraq tomorrow, the cost would still be horrific and not at all worth a single drop.
In any case, the booths all along Park Street went untenanted when the big storms hit, effectively turning the two-day spring festival into a single day event. Rain lashed the tattered banners and the gutters flowed with handbills down to the estuary. The day persisted into a time of continuous sodden showers. The whole weekend got rained out and that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 15, 2005
BAY TO BREAKERS
Today the Bay to Breakers took place in Babylon with a pistol shot at 8:00 am. 75,000 people entered for the annual race which features every form of costume, including a brace of regular entries who gather under the URL of Baretobreakers.com and who sport naught but running sneakers and a sense of bravado.
The "real" runners begin in a timed flight ahead of the massed hoi polloi and typically finish within some 35 minutes, whereas the stragglers behind may finally cross the finish line down by the beach sometime after noon.
This year's winner was Kenyan Gilbert Okari.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Brilliant sun yielded to rain this weekend, much to the astonishment from the old timers. You could hear them stomping down the way, each blaming the other for the troubles with the weather, grumbling under the breath, "Damn Republicans messin' up the ozone" or "Damn Democrats offendin' th' eyes a gawd."
Some things never change.
Report from Petaluma up north is that the year's rainfall has already broken all records for annual precip and we are nowhere near even June as of yet.
How do you like your Global Warming now, Mr. Jones?
OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
Big changes are in the offing at the House. The Showalters have been scurrying up and down the stairs with little Clara and Debbie, the Mensch down the hall, has been making those pecking noises indicative of leaving the nest for the lights of the Big City. The House Handyman returned from China, the trip of a lifetime, some two weeks early because he found he hates the Chinese and all their ways.
Born in Manhattan, the Handyman is a fairly rigid, intolerant, and authoritarian fellow, even for a New Yorker.
"Hey," says Neal, "I found I hate Chinese food. All the time I wanted a decent stack of pancakes." Sure thing the very first item on the man's agenda is to call Jullee for an airport pickup and its off to the Ihop for a stack of blintzes to beat the band.
The Showalters held a garage sale announced in all the papers and everyone for miles came around to buy couches and all sorts of tchotchkes for the Showalters are moving with little Clara up to Portland where houses cost something less than half a million dollars.
We set up the table and sold T-shirts and held confabs with
all the unrepenetent lefties and the surviving Dems who appear to be quite
strong here. This Island, once a bastion for the GOP, fielded some 1,200 votes
in the last election. To the Dem's 38,000 plus.
As of this point, we have sold about 81 shirts -- in the second round -- donated or given yet another 20 to worthy persons and causes, and had stimulating conversations with some 1,000 people in the process. People have congratulated us, including the head of the local Democratic Headquarters and the local Democratic Delegate, from whom we have some meaningful figures.
Today our last confab, which ranged from the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 to the geological topology of the Eastern Sierra and plate tectonics, was with a lady who said, "I should bring my daughter here. You know so much. It is a real pleasure to talk with someone who knows what he is talking about."
Well, we hate to disabuse you but anyone who speaks with dear Da in the East would get an earful of a contrary opinion, so we must direct further inquries in that direction. Suppose that is supposed to keep us humble.
All in all, it was an average early Spring day in the East Bay. Up in the Hills they held the annual Greek Festival at the Mormon Temple, which is an odd choice of location, but the Mormons, who believe God resides on a specific planet, are an odd sort as well and we thank them for helping to resolve the battle for California in the 1800's. Which we shall get to anon, via the descendents of Oog and Aag. But this weekend there was all sorts of retsina, dolma and moussaki and happy jumping up and down up there all about the temple with a gold leaf dome that shines for miles.
Over in Pleasanton they held the monthly Scottish games and all sorts of men and women were seen going about with their sporrans and kilts and celtic charm as well as numerous celtic babies of all description. And in Pleasanton there was much drinking of mead and gambols, tossing of the caber, and jumping up and down as well and our house sent its contingent to make sure all was done good and proper and Scottish per the clan of which they are members.
And a fine time was had by all.
WHAT'S THE BUZZ
This Season promises to yield quite a list of shows bound to change your sin-drenched life. The Stones are returning for another blast.
John Prine is playing Monday, tomorrow night at the venerable Fillmore. The Waifs are promising another visit to the place that was such a feature in their mother's past as described in the Bridal Train.
What? You don't know about that? It was one of those events in which the US Navy proved the noble embodiment of all you can be for once in a lifetime and sure to bring a tear to your eye. In the closing days of WWII, the Navy sent for all the female war brides in Australia who had married Yankee sailors, and thousands of woman boarded the famed "bridal train" that took them across the land to the ships which would eventually land them in SF Bay and there to rejoin their husbands. The mother to the sisters that form 2/3rds of the Waifs was one of those and the ship that carried her across the Pacific was called The Monterey. So now you know.
Single men who have seen the Waifs in concert have been known to rush down to the Agent's office to book immediate one-way tickets to Down-Under.
The Sleeping Giant everyone is talking about is the show at Yoshis hosted by Bill Evans with Bela Fleck, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, bassist Jimmy Haslip and fiddler Darol Anger, 5/19 - 5/22. Sax genius Evans has brought bluegrass legends into a jazz venue in a show that is sure to be talked about for years. Bela Fleck is the consummate banjo player who, alone among all his ilk, can command any condition he wishes, so overawed are people by his virtuosity. Darol Anger likewise.
Bill Frisell, no slouch on the guitar, holds forth in the same venue 5/31-6/2.
KFOG Kaboom will occupy 5/21. Do not even think about driving into the City for this free event which promises easily well over 300,000 people.
We are getting rumors about various versions of the Indigo Girls
appearing solo around here and the show with The Boss was sold out some time
From our friends up in Albany we have the following press release for an event on 5/28:
CHOCOLATE & CHALK ART ON SOLANO
The sidewalks along the entire length of Solano Avenue in Berkeley and Albany are the target of artists young and old, professional and greenhorn during the 10th annual CHOCOLATE & CHALK ART FESTIVAL on Saturday, May 28.
With no fees to artists, areas of sidewalk will be assigned to participants to create their own fanciful CHALK PAINTINGS. Registration takes place 10AM-5PM in three locations on Solano: 1561 @ Peralta Park; 1850 @ Andronico's Market; and 1216 @ YMCA Kid's Club. Artist's chalk and a Polaroid of their finished work are available for a fee. To encourage early registration, a raffle for merchandise donated by local businesses will be drawn at noon from the names of registered artists.
We have attended several events on Solano Ave. and we can say the events are uniformly family friendly and well conducted with plenty of shade. Always worth attending with pleanty of delightful surprises.
Don't forget the Heartland festival organized by Ken Rosenblum of Rosenblum Cellars and Peter Donato of McRaths, taking place here on the Island on the 11th of June. Blues, bluegrass and cajun zydeco music will be had, so there outta be something for everybody.
SHE'S OUR BARBARA
We are pleased to hear that one of our own reps has got more balls than most of the DNC and all of the RNC by putting a halt on the irresponsible Bolton nomination as UN representative to allow more discussion. You go Barbar!
JUMPIN' IN THE MOONLIGHT
Well, its been a quiet week here on the Island. Freesias are popping up all over among the suddenly exhuberant gladiolas. Down by the old Beltline the sedge is rioting with goldenrod to beat the band and there's an hysterical trail of wisteria about the empty cannery but that's about it. One car stolen per day and nobody stabbed, thank goodness. Even old Grandfather Grumpus, who has a tendency to leap up and fire his shotgun out the window for no apparent reason now and then has been sitting quietly in his rocker on the porch, growling to himself in his beard with his bushy eyebrows twitching up and down beneath his battered fedora.
Still no sign of City Hall's missing Bell -- or its missing bell tower -- but if anybody knows where these items happen to be, drop us a line, for Mayor Beverly would really like them back. They've been missing for some fifty years, so we won't ask any questions.
Time to wrap things up here while the neighbor raccoons come raiding Stray Jack's bowl out back all chittering and snurfling amongst themselves under a light fall of rain.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 22, 2005
APOLOGIA FOR DIALATORY DIALECTICS
Earthlink is even at this moment shutting down the service for "system maintenance". System will be down to 6 am, hence this issue may appear on your screens a bit late.
WHERE'S THE KABOOM?
The old bugbear of back problems kept us from scooting over to catch the free concerts at Piers 32-39. Had to be content with a glass of wine and a few flexerils on the roof to see the fireworks impeded by the treeline. Word has it Jacob Dylan's band the Wallflowers tore up the place as the concluding act after the John Butler Trio and Jane Edwards. Heard also that Jacob's two sons were running about backstage under the eye of mom.
Man, to think that Bob Dylan hits the big 69 this Tuesday, a grandfather with grandsons about to become teens.
Makes a feller feel old, it does. The times they are a changin'.
Nevertheless, the Bay Area seems to have shaken off the series of late season storms at last to enter belatedly into the Spring, which typically lasts here about a week. Nevertheless, the freesias are popping up and the baby's breath is gone into a hyperventilated state while the succulents are exploding all over the place and we note shoots of corn appearing in the Sustanence Gardens which are re-appearing all over a la the Reagan Depression years with beans and other food stocks in the place of gardenias and marigolds. But the dahlias and the the digitalis we shall never surrender. Not over the bodies of a thousand dead snails! No, not ever!
Any hoot, seems the East is due for a breather and we hear from our usual suspects that the snow has finally melted from Boston Commons as well as its environs.
Also missed out on the Bill Evans assembly of artists at Yoshis, which included himself, Darrell Anger and banjo wunderkind Bela Fleck in what seems to have been one of those magic combinations of the diamond with the pearl musically. Would pay some attention to the diverse expositions which should emenate from this "Soulgrass" experiment.
But the Season is just beginning and this month should see a
plethora of shows appear.
Solano Avenue is hosting another one of their minor extravaganzas in the form of a chocolate and street art fair next weekend and the venerable Greek Theatre has a lineup of blockbuster shows this summer. And we have, of course, our June Heartland Feastival on the Island to watch for. Stay tuned for further developments.
THAT IRREPRESSIBLE PAIR REDOUX
We had been moving forward in time with Oog and Aag, the progenitures of the Bay Area, and their descendents, having arrived as far as the Gold Rush, when certain events caused us to return to those halycon days of the Stone Age. Recent legal shenanigans put us in mind of the First Corporate Scandal involving the Wooly Mammoth Hunting Group, for example. We now return to our regularly sceduled programming to pickup a few forgotten necessities of historical trivia along the way. And what could be more important than describing how Sir Francis Drake left a bronze plaque on a hill above what is now called Drake's Estuary? Cannot imagine a single thing.
But first, this prelude:
THEM WIMMIN FOLK
The nature of this tale is such that menfolk figure prominently throughout with few references to the fairer gender. There are two reasons for this, the first being that this tale is extremely historical and Historians who have taken on this task of capturing History throughout the ages have been menfolk for the most part, as being an Historian involves the essentially masculine characteristics of leaving the troublesome infants squaling in their cribs so as to travel to distant cities so as to chat up ex-soldiers about their war stories and famous battles over bottles of good beer, and then coming home to lay about in the hammock cogitating these tales without the necessity of doing a lick of work.
Heroditus was the first to do this, and the distaff version of history records the story of how his wife was much put out by all his Mediteranean philandering.
The other reason menfolk figure so prominently in histories
is that, in California at least, the women have tended to good hard practical
common sense, prefering to get work done down on the farm breaking horses,
tending the crops and pounding the acorns - more about acorn pounding anon
- while the history of California is largely characterised by stupid battles,
civic projects of vast and numbskull improbability, foolish diversion of rivers,
much property theft, octopi riding the railroads, fandango moritoriums, outright
screaming insanity, and much nervous jumping up and down.
We do not know if this is true about any other place, so you will have to go and investigate the issues in your own particular region of the country. But the foregoing are also characteristically masculine activities and, personally, we think the women were well out of it for all the trouble that's been caused.
But just to mention the first women here, as we are describing the Progenitures of the Bay Area and progenitures necessarily required at least one of each known gender in those days to fulfill their ancestral obligations of dynasty building and so forth, except in some cases as referenced in the Bible, let us not forget to present their names at the very least.
And by the way, you will note amongst all those lengthy "begats" where Hem begat Shem and Shem begat David and David begat Patrick O'Leary there is not one Martha, Sue or Jane mentioned, giving rise to the assumption that, in the Old Testament at least, the Christian and Jewish peoples multiplied by parthenogenesis.
Eena was a little, wee, dancing barefoot slip of a thing with mischievous dark eyes and black hair under a hoodie of deerskin. She ran a tight ship around the wickiwup on the hill and she bore Aag some sixteen children, most of which actually lived.
Oona, was a more substantial woman with a lighter complexion and a serious demeanor, possessed of long flowing hair, the ability to resolve disputes with fair compromise, and thighs that could crack walnuts. She bore fifteen children to Oog, but it was not for want of trying. When the earth would quake, as it sometimes does in California even to this day, Oog would stand confused for a moment, believing that Oona was making love to him.
And so those were the original progenitures of the Bay Area.
SIR FRANCIS DUCK LEAVES A PLAQUE
YashurYonit, a sort of unacknowledged product of a single night in a hot tub with Oog's wife, remained behind to discern one day a ship with trees growing out of it come knocking about into the estuary where he was wont to collect oysters. The trees were tall, bound by ropes and clouds billowed in the tops where men squatted instead of birds and leaves.
A smaller boat disembarked from the ship, carrying several men who rowed her to shore. Once there, a curious personage stepped forth. He had on him fanciful leggings that appeared made of animal hide and a strange cloth covering his arms. Billowing breeches about his hips concealed his sex so that it was not easy to discern his gender. Above, he wore a cuirass, which YashurYonit did not know even the word for, but which seemed a kind of breastplate more festive than practical. He was bearded and upon his head sat a pot of metal adorned with feathers. Sir Francis Drake, for that was he, planted a spear into the earth and announced that the entire world belonged to Great Britain.
After this astonishing appearance, the ship and the inhabitants thereon remained for some days, collecting water, cutting down trees and fixing various problems only the ship's people had any inkling of. From a hut the Englishmen had built, a continuous fume rose up from all the wood they had carted in there to burn and from the hut, Humbaba heard the sounds of ringing iron and clashing steel, for the visitors had built there a small smithy with a forge. They also had many parties upon the beach and drank much of the homebrew they made from improvised stills and they would stay up all night singing all manner of songs, Yo dee ho dee ho!
One day, while YashurYonit was observing the antics of the visitors from his hiding place in the bracken, one of the Englishmen, a bit gone in his cups as it were, happened to stumble upon him by accident when the man had gone into the brush to relieve himself. The man looked up to see a small brown face with dark eyes framed by luxurious dark hair peering at him from the bracken. It was YashurYonit, wrapped in a skirt made of ferns and moss and squatting on a log, the better to hide himself. When YashurYonit saw that he was seen, he suddenly stood up on the log, towering over the Englishman. When the Englishman saw this apparition suddenly rise above him, he suddenly stood up as well. YashurYonit turned to run and the Englishman did likewise. But where YashurYonit could leap with sure feet among the trees, darting between them like the swift deer, the Englishman could not. The white man tried to run with his pants about his ankles, which did not work so well for he fell almost immediately and hit his head on a rock. This YashurYonit observed with dismay, for he had not meant to startle anyone or spy on anyone's toilet - things had just happened that way.
He went over to the Englishman who had been knocked out cold and crouched down next to him to see if he was dead. If he were dead, there surely would be hell to pay for somebody, for his pants were still about his ankles. YashurYonit draped some ferns kindly over the Englishman's private parts for YashurYonit was a kindly man. Perhaps the man was not dead. Perhaps he would get up in a little bit. The Englishman stirred. He was not dead! He opened his eyes to see a shifting constellation of dark brown eyes staring back into his own only inches away and he screamed. YashurYonit vanished quite quickly, for a man who was not dead could be many other things as well.
The man, whose name was John Hogg, got up, pulled up his pants and staggered back to camp with a most amazing story. "Oy seen th' Quane a the Indees!" he shouted.
The First Mate set him down on a stump and quizzed him. "Now John, how many of them you seen back thar!"
John held his right hand before his eyes, for he meant to count on his fingers, but the effects of the booze and the effects of the knockout still had an effect upon him and a legion of fingers swam before his eyes.
"I seen . . . dozens!"
"Ay, dozens. An' all of them women!"
That night Sir Drake wrote in the ships log, "Our able-bodied seaman, John Hogg, doth proclaim to have encountered the Queen of the Amazons. Verily, it must have been Queen Califia herself for they knocked him down and danced about him, giving the poor fellow a terrible fright. He hath requested extra ration of whiskey so as to sooth his mind of terror."
An extra ration went around to all of the men, in fact, for not one of them could stop gazing at the dark borders of the forest, wondering who or what could be observing them from its hidden recesses. And then the party went on with much Yo dee Oh dee Ho!
After some weeks of this, the Englishmen emerged from a hut they had constructed there near the beach bearing a large golden sheet of metal with words cut into it. What the English had done in their spare time, was to melt down an entire bronze field-piece and taking of this metal they had made a three by five bronze plaque with ornate scrollwork on the edges and very fine Latin and Greek words cut into it announcing the arrival of Sir Francis Drake and all sorts of really groovy things including the claim of ownership on behalf of the King on all the land thereabouts. This they set near a flag nailed to a Douglas fir they had jammed into the ground, and so they departed from California, never to be seen again.
After they had gone, YashurYonit came down to their little shrine where they had placed this plaque. It shone like the sun and was made of bronze the sailors had obtained by melting down a small cannon barrel, but YashurYonit knew nothing of bronze or other metals, it being late in the 1500's and he still of the Stone Age and he could not read all of the fine words in Latin and Greek announcing the arrival of Sir Francis Drake and all sorts of really groovy things including the claim of ownership on behalf of the King on all the land thereabouts, but he liked the plaque for it was very shiny indeed and it had scrollwork on the edges.
Considering this a rare and princely gift he took it in mind to transport the plaque, with its fancy scrollwork and its fine words in Latin and Greek announcing the arrival of Sir Francis Drake and all sorts of really groovy things including the claim of ownership on behalf of the King on all the land thereabouts, to Enki-Dude, the Chief of Yerba Buena, which was somewhat south of this place, for it seemed that if he brought such a gift he would be granted a gift in return, such as immortality or the fair hand of the Chief's princess daughter, Enki-dudette. So he obtained the aid of several sturdy homeboys and they lifted the 100 pound object -- with its fancy scrollwork and its fine words in Latin and Greek -- out from the secure place on the bluffs there and brought it down to a canoe. It took some doing, but YashurYonit felt driven by a need he had never known before and the charms of Enki-dudette were much on his mind. Her hair flowed like raven's wings on the air, her torso bedecked with sand dollars looked sturdy, and her legs were like tree trunks; there was no question she would bear many children and make the atole mush with vigor.
Out upon the sea, the heavily laden canoe wallowed with the
amorous YashurYonit and a couple companions, paddling for all they were worth,
for the canoe moved strangely in a sluggish way it had never done before.
Then again, the canoes made in those days of tulle rushes were not designed
to carry the weight of several men plus a hundred-weight of bronze emblazoned
with fancy scrollwork and fine words in Latin and Greek.
Let us not extend the recounting of this regrettable episode any further than necessary. The journey took four times as long as they expected. Night began to fall. The wind kicked up. The waves got choppy and the canoe swamped. YashurYonit and his companions struggled back to shore and crawled up, bedraggled and exhausted, without canoe or contents, including the bronze plaque with ornate scrollwork on the edges and very fine Latin and Greek words cut into it announcing the arrival of Sir Francis Drake and all sorts of really groovy things including the claim of ownership on behalf of the King on all the land thereabouts, for it had disappeared beneath the waves somewhere off of what is now Drakes Estuary.
When Drake's First Mate got back to England, he told all about the bronze plaque and his discovery of California, which he and John Hogg made out to be an immense Island inhabited by a tribe of huge Amazons ruled by a Queen who stood nine feet tall, but nobody was much impressed with him or his story and the Spanish made fun of Drake behind his back, deriving much amusement from his family name. They called him Sir Mallard, Sir Duck, Baron von Ducky and all sorts of mean, nasty things and nobody would believe a line about this fabled California.
So after a while, Drake sent Murphy, his Irish personal assistant to verify this thing and bring back some proofs, but Murphy could not go all the way to California as he lost the bus fare his master had given him in a rigged poker game in what was then Virginia. While cooling his heels in a place afterwards called Okacroke, Murphy managed to lose not only his bus fare, but himself and about 120 fellow colonists. Sir Walter Raleigh was running things at the time, trying to discover better things to stick up the noses of the aristocracy, and in tobacco, he believed he had found just the ticket. Peru's quality cocaine had not been discovered yet. At least by the English, who could be a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. So he returned to England, promising to be right back with some beer and vegetables after telling the King about snuff. Unfortunately, when he had returned, Murphy and the rest of the colony had disappeared and no one knows to this day where they went. Some historians believe that malicious Natives misinformed the colony as to the whereabouts of a really good pizza parlor and the whole crew got lost looking for it.
Now, when Drake heard about this, he assumed that the Spanish, who were really getting on his nerves, had stolen the plaque he had left as well as his manservant and this put him in such a terrible wax that he began making war on the Spanish for many years. He sunk many of their ships and insisted on taking several cities in an effort to find this lost bronze plaque, with his First Mate. The Spanish impishly responded by taking Calais, which is a French city, but at that time, the Spanish did not speak French or English very well and so they did not know they had only managed to tick off another country. But that is another story.
A few years later a Spanish galleon navigated by one career
opportunist named Vizcaino, came knocking about with high hopes, but he soon
left after declaring that the entire world belonged to Spain entirely to spite
the memory of Drake, of whose visit he could find no trace.
YashurYonit went back to his accustomed life as a hunter-gather, built himself another canoe, and eventually found someone to carry the atole, the acorns, the baskets and his children. For himself, he was done with carrying things of any great weight.
And as for the makeshift altar up on the bluff, the winds tore apart the flag placed there in a matter of days and soon knocked down the flagpole into the earth where it rotted and dissolved long before the next gaggle of would-be conquerors had arrived and no one ever found the bronze plaque with ornate scrollwork on the edges and very fine Latin and Greek words cut into it announcing the arrival of Sir Francis Drake and all sorts of really groovy things including the claim of ownership on behalf of the King on all the land thereabouts.
We have a curious report over the AP wire about an avian contretemps in non other than the great state of Texas. Here is the the story header:
HOUSTON, Texas (AP) -- Like a scene from the horror movie "The Birds," large black grackles are swooping down on downtown Houston and attacking people's heads, hair and backs.
Authorities closed off a sidewalk after the aggressive birds, which can have 2-foot wingspans, flew out of magnolia trees Monday in front of the County Administration Building.
"They were just going crazy," said constable Wilbert Jue, who works at the building. "They were attacking everybody that walked by."
The grackles zeroed in on a lawyer who shooed a bird away before he tripped and injured his face, Jue said. The lawyer was treated for several cuts.
Apparently the grackles are protecting a nest built nearby, but we cannot help but think that some Divine hint about Texan pride and arrogance is at work here. Maybe somebody in Congress should seriously reconsider the "nuclear option" before the gods get really pissed.
ROOM FULL OF BLUES
Been listening all week to the midnight trains rumbling through Jack London Square away across the water. Amazing how the sound of the braying horn travels. Otherwise the Island has been silent and still as this island should be. Things are troubled down by the old decommissioned Navy Base, however, for the latest flap is all about the financial condition of the USS Hornet museum. The Hornet, eighth ship to bear that name, is one of the most decorated aircraft carriers in US military history. The carrier assisted in the Doolittle raid during WWII, served as attack support during both the Korean and Vietnam wars and never was seriously damaged in any attack, unlike its predecessor which was sunk during the battle of Santa Cruz. Its last duty as an active member of the Navy was to pickup Apollo astronauts in the days before the space shuttle program. During the past six years, the carrier has been docked here and serving as a museum with occasional duty as ballroom for genuine "starlight" dances held up on deck.
Unfortunately. its location on this island, way out at the West End, unserved by any mass transit services reduced the number of potential paying tourists. There are no other attractions out there, no kiosks or restaurants and so the museum finds itself now a cool half million in the hole for back rent to the City and another several hundred thousand in unpaid power bills to AP&T.
It seems very likely that the ship will shift its home to the gaudy moorings at Babylon's Pier 29 across the Bay. This last week, the members of Rolling Thunder parked their gleaming Harleys on the flight deck overnight before traveling across the country to bring attention in Washington DC to the nation's veterans of foreign wars.
We will be sad to see the ship go, but it is far more likely that many more hundred thousand tourists will have a chance to visit her in a tourist environment than here on a little out-of-the-way island.
Meanwhile, dark night has fallen and the moon is riding high over the Old Man out back, but because of the service outage, you will not be able to read this until the sun comes up. It is a perfectly serviceable moon, although it does produce tides and a few earthquakes on occasion, piquing the Governator Arnold here. The Governator appears to be in some political difficulties of late, and his popularity has dropped considerably. The fact that so many believed the rumor -- produced by Howard Stern -- that Arnold wanted to blow up the moon and so dispense with bad ocean behavior, is not a good thing for the man's image and does not bode well for his career.
Those loony Republicans keep coming up with these wacky and dangerous ideas all the time to the extent that anything is possible these days.
Furthermore what is it about these Page three obsessed Brits publishing pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underwear. As if the old tyrant were really a sexy poster boy for GQ magazine. Well, sexy to a Brit, maybe. It's the country which considers Shepard's Pie to be haut cuisine after all.
In any case, here we are on the Island, just doing the best we can to keep body and soul together in these crazy times. The Island is our little refuge in the stormy seas. Even the Canadian Geese who came to visit during migration some five years ago just never left. Far better to gabble and grub in the sawgrass beside the strand than make that dangerous and troublesome flight back to BC. You can see them still down on 8th Street, keeping company with the whooping cranes of Crab Cove.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 29, 2005
THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY
Weather has been up on the roller coaster the past week, but the unseasonable rains appear to be gone for good and the coastal fogs have been hugging the coastal range, indicating the Change is here at last. The ground is pretty soggy from hereabouts all the way to Petaluma, promising a real harvest of June bugs of all kinds.
Our roving corespondents indicate that there is still heavy snow in the midrange altitudes in the Sierra, although Yosemite valley is clear, albeit drenched, with all waterfalls going full blast.
Reports came in about strong contention between environmentalists and farmers over the San Joaquin River, which the environmentalists would like to keep flowing in some fashion as it once did all the way to the delta and then out to the ocean.
Right now, the River essentially terminates some 100 miles short in the Valley in the form of hundreds of diversion canals feeding combinat farms.
All across the Island wafted the scent of seared meats on open grills everywhere. It was the annual traditional BBQ on the day before Memorial Day. The House was no exception as the Bennetts and the Showalters and the dance teacher across the hall all showed up to confab and dandle the Showalter baby. Even the young engaged couple appeared for a while and the two Italianos, Joe and Franco, from across the fence brought a big flank steak and several pounds of Calabrisi sausage.
A fine time was had by all. But then it is important to consider the nature of this holiday, especially now in this time of self-declared war, as well as the checkered history of the Day, which appears to have begun in the Confederate South during the Civil War among various women's groups who decorated the graves of the fallen.
From www.usmemorialday.org, we have the following:
"There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, "Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping" by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication "To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead" (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. . . "
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war)."
Subsequent attempts to "restore the original meaning" of Memorial Day have been ludicrous exercises in either jingoism or bald-faced political strategizing. Well, the original intent, if we recall the end days of 1868, was to unify a terribly divided country which had just finished shooting itself and its greatest President to pieces. The GOP was rending itself in half through a corrosive series of power moves and ideological differences while the Democratic party of today simply did not exist with its only avatar shot down in a Virginia theatre. Logan saw what was happening and he tried to bring the two sides together in some manner, but he failed for he was a general, not a politician and it was not until after WWI that the South recognized a commonality on this day.
How ironic: Here we are, once again a bitterly divided Nation headed for yet another violent confrontation to resolve our irreconcilable differences. To honor anyone who has died in dubious combat on behalf of that Grande Illusion known as Country is such a mixture of ideas and emotions that it is no wonder the ceremonies and traditions have never really taken hold here.
The average American does not want to balance a set of conflicting ideas and emotions and obligations on a blessed day off. It is quite clear to the majority that the majority of the politicians are liars and cheats, the government is a dishonest beast, the boss is an obnoxious asshole and any break from this collection of yahoos in a life fraught with hospital expenses, children's braces and outrageous taxes is a fine thing and nevermind the reason why.
For everyone reaches into the till and everyone runs a shady game. Including those foreign wars. About which nobody is in the slightest deluded.
Nevertheless, despite the grandstanding of the politicos and yet another "solumn moment" while some federal employee lays a wreath at some military grave, there will be some who remember honestly and with some pain the face of a friend, a comrade, a lover, a husband or a wife tomorrow. Let the day be preserved for those who wear the red poppy, for no speech or bronze medal or packaged flag can console the loss. The dead are gone and care not a whit for flag, king or country. On Monday, remember those who live on with memories.
In Flanders Fields
By John McCrae
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row by row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard among the guns below.
We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
WISH I WAS IN HEAVEN SITTING DOWN
This week the issue will be somewhat truncated due to a flareup of the old "lumbar fasciatis", which we thought to be a literal attack upon our physiognomy by a pack of jackbooted thugs, but which turns out to be somewhat worse. But recent expansion of our storage space and recent flareups of fasciatis have resulted in re-introduction of the Backpain section. The good people at Earthlink who upped our storage some ten fold make this possible.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Here is the flyer for the Heartland Music Festival to be held on the Island in June.
We do hope you can come.
Other upcoming events worthy of note include the reformulated Hot Tuna, fully plugged in this time and returning to the venerable Fillmore on June 3rd.
Live 105 will host its annual punk-inflected BFD at the Shoreline, with Foo Fighters, Social Distortion, Jimmy Eat World and Sleater-Kinny headlining. Better bring some earplugs for that one.
In a more jazzy vein, Bill Frisell is at Yoshis until the 2nd of June and the very levitational Ledisi honors Sarah Vaughan from the 7th to the 9th.
East Bay Open Studios is coming up with over 400 artists showcased by Pro Arts. Check out proartsgallery.org for more information. Keep your eyes peeled for felt constructions and iconic sculpture.
Understand Neil Young has pulled successfully out of surgery for a brain anyurism and his first public words were a generic warning for his fans: "Watch your blood pressure." Glad to hear our neighbor -- by way of Monterey -- is doing well and we wish him many more years of grunge and feedback. Here he is as we knipsed him back in '79 at the Hampton Roads Coluseum.
The latest flap is all about the on-field rumble between coaches and parents during a girl's rugby game between Marin locals and our Island High girls. Seems a ref ordered an overly enthusiastic parent with a camcorder off of the field and was promptly attacked for his pains. The Island coaches ran across the field and tried to seperate the two when more parents joined in as well as the Santa Rosa coaches in what became a full melee with broken ribs and concussions. None of the girls participated in the brawl and none of them were hurt.
Closer to home, the fiscal austerity imposed by Der Governator in Sacto have caused the City Council to trim another two million dollars from the budget by chopping eight police and four fireman positions as well as several administrative posts. The troubled Island Hospital has yet another property tax on the ballot to pull it back from the brink yet again and we are having a special election on Measure A to impose a property tax to benefit the schools.
As Buddy Guys sings in The Blues Singer, "Hard times are here, harder than they were before . . . think I'll never get off this hard time killin' floor."
Well, the night is getting on and the Sunday Night Jam with MIke Powers has given way to Elwood and the HOB hour. The Old Man out back is creaking in the wind, still standing and still putting out green shoots, in spite of whatever is causing the branches to wither and die. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 5, 2005
GOT A MACHINE HEAD
This happened exactly as related last Wednesday, so help me god.
The staff was taking the midday Corporate Jog -- imposed by a Japanese Efficiency Consultant -- when we arrived at the intersection of Otis and Grand. As cars were already at the stop sign we all stopped. There were four pedestrians there at the intersection and we all stopped. The cars on the westbound side proceeded through and passed on to their respective destinies and were replaced by a tan sedan.
Two young women joined us there and they stopped.
Bear in mind we were all stopped. The critical phrase here is "stopped at a pedestrian crosswalk and waiting for traffic."
The cars on the eastbound side proceeded through and passed on to theater respective destinies and a dirty white two door pulled up.
Festus, always a jumpy guy despite his half century of years and the early snow dotting his temples, then began to jog across, about as well as a man of his years can do -- which is not very fast at all -- well within the boundaries of the crosswalk.
To our astonishment, the dirty white 2-door jumped forward and hit him with the driver's side bumper.
Now, Festus is a moderate man and sturdily built and the car did not proceed, having done pretty much what the driver wanted to do -- shock and scare everyone for miles all around -- especially Festus, who said, "What the devil are you doing!?"
You would think the driver, who had just hit someone with his car in the middle of a pedestrian crosswalk would apologize profusely, make inquiries as to extent of injuries, and offer transport to a medical facility.
No, this is the age of the Rampant Yahoo and the Political Baboon, where courtesy has been replaced by obnoxious self-righteousness, SUVs, and Me-First Convictions.
The driver of the dirty white 2-door began screaming imprecations, insults and outright threats at poor Festus much in the manner of the arboreal South American Howler, all the while somewhat intelligibly insisting he, the driver, had been there first.
Festus calmly indicated that there were many witnesses and any number of inquiries could clear up the subject, which served only to infuriate the Howler no end such that it became clear reason, decency and common sense had left the scene for shame of the foul language employed by the driver. Several woman pushing baby carriages nearby stopped aghast.
Since the driver could not or would not discuss things calmly, Festus simply turned and continued to cross the street. After the driver -- who had been blocking the intersection while letting loose his curses -- finally moved forward, we all crossed the street.
To everyone's complete astonishment, the driver moved his car at a a walking pace while continuing to curse, provoke and howl threats at Festus who simply shook his graying temples in disgust.
Only when we joined Festus in numbers did the driver move down the road, letting loose yet another volley of threats.
Now, this episode deserves a reading from the Book of The California Vehicle Code, of which the offices possess a copy:
"Right-of-Way at Crosswalks
21950. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian cross the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection . . .".
There follows some verbiage in (b) enjoining the pedestrian to take care and not be taking advantage by doing the fandango in the middle of the road and then we close with:
"(d) Subdivision (b) does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection."
The Vehicle Code costs $4 at any local DMV office. Howlers can be found in Belize. And on the Island.
Other than injured dignity, Festus is okay.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
We turn with relief to the world of Art, where Truth, Justice, and Beauty are the norms.
The annual East Bay Open Studios, featuring over 500 artists, kicked off Friday with a reception at the Pro Arts on Second Street in Oaktown. This weekend and next, artists from Berkeley down to Fremont will be opening their studio doors to visitors between the hours of noon and five PM.
On the Island we have 21 studios that will be open. Took the opportunity to drop in to the Island Art Center, where the current theme is The Figure.
Among the usual charcoal nudes and terra cotta there were a few pieces of interest and whimsy. Among them, we have a bronze by Carol Tarzier titled "Tall Nude."
And among the whimsical we found this "take-off" of Renoir's "The Boating Party" done in colored pencil.
From there we wandered on over to the Frank Bette Center for the Arts in the fine old Edwardian house donated by the fellow of that name to the city.
Entering one is greeted by a hammered metal sculpture of Mercury who stands to lead the visitor into a space packed with all sorts of delightful paintings, drawings, sculptures and textile arts.
Met up there with the sprightly Wanda Fudge who makes handbags out of found bits of textile whimsy. Her latest line presents a strong Mexican motif full of vivid color and bold design.
We wound up at Jim and Sue's Studio on Santa Clara. Susan Laing creates the most extraordinary scarves, panels, ornaments and pins out of raw sheep's wool, which she cards, cleans, dyes and then presses into sturdy felt fabric which is then shaped into forms, often with embedded designs.
Here we have a wall panel of coi, to which the camera can hardly due justice to its intricate subtlety.
And here are examples of her latest work in floral pins.
Her companion, Jim Kitson, is a sculptor who works with wood and metal to make iconic figures that signify emblematic concepts in their most elemental forms, and sometimes with a significant sense of humor.
His piece titled "anima" features a wooden plank, stained and distressed with a blowtorch, with a stylized female face and a round stone symbolic of the omphalos, while on the obverse of the wooden plank a male face emerges from the wood above a six inch steel nozzle projecting . . .um . . . potently from about loin height for the figure.
Here we have his "Cascada Azul", a series of wall
hangings, each about 1 foot square. The blue is patina-ed copper laid over
sheets of copper mesh and embedded on a wood box-frame which has had painted
sand applied to give the very convincing impression of stone.
East Bay Open studios continues again next weekend, with the Heartland Music Festival also going on in the West End at Rosenblum Cellars, so the Island ought to be a lively place to visit.
For more information visit the two arts centers mentioned or go to www.proartsgallery.org.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Fell asleep while listening to the midnight trains last night. So now the hour is merry and bright this morning on the start of a brand new week. All the raccoons and opossums and baboons are gone to bed. Well, maybe not the baboons. By now, the ground squirrels are all out scampering along the strand.
That's the way it is on the Island. Look both ways before you
cross the street and have a great week.
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