Island Life

Jan. - May 2008

Vol. 10 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2008


Welcome to the first half of year 2008. The year's content is split into two parts to allow easier page loading for slower browsers. Each year tends to approach the equivalent of 380 typewritten pages.

To go to the present time, click on this hyperlink: NOW!

George Bush's last day is 01/20/09 (Hooray!).




JANUARY 6, 2008


Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. It's a brand new year and already we have one homicide in Oaktown, a flaming automobile in the "tube", and outrageous cant about the idiotic cinema megaplex.

This past year we shifted our homebase from Earthlink to more reasonably priced servers, which resulting in our stats coming out a bit wacky.

Up to the move in June, we counted some 330,467 visitors, which seemed to be related to several slash-dot type postings on and similar shallow venues. After the move (which probably broke the hyperlinks), things settled down to the more reasonable pace of some 3,000 visitors per month, resulting in another 31,600 visitors to the end of the year.

We saw a fair number of folks actually spending more than a few minutes on this site, and for many of these thoughtful visitors we can thank the local blog run by Lauren Do. Lauren is an award-winning writer who spends a fair amount of time talking about things important to the Island here. She is also cute as the dickens.


This Season kicks off with very loud bang as Social Distortion take over the Fillmore for several highly anticipated sold out shows, despite additional shows supplied by popular demand. Glad to see Mike Ness and Co are doing well at last. In a somewhat more subdued show, the wonderfully idiosyncratic Xavier Rudd returns from Australia on the 9th. Thank you for these messages, Xavier. Even though some people just won't understand.

Continuing a quasi-reggae feel, moe sashays in for the 17th.

Over at the Warfield, the Editors appeared in attendance with Hot Hot Heat on Friday. All breaths are held for the return of the most beautiful heavy metal Mexicans in the world, Rodrigo y Gabriela, who do things with their acoustic Martins that just might be considered illegal in several countries, but which drive thousands wild with excitement. You just have not lived until you have joined a sing-a-long to a Pink Floyd song with several thousand others. Look for a masterful reprise of Metallica's "Orion." No kidding. RodGab appear 02/09 and tickets are going, going , going fast in the first 10 hours of public sales.

On the 11th, the annual Birthday Bash for Bill (Graham) will present an evening of curious duets. The odd pairs feature Aaron Neville with Linda Ronstadt, Phil Lesh and Jackie Greene, Jackie Greene and Ramblin Jack Elliot and then Ray Manzarek with Roy Rogers. Tuck and Patti provide some Salt 'n Pepper seasoning to the evening and an ensurance that this will be one evening that does not leave your ears ringing for days afterward.

In the small print, the Island-Life Social Coordinator noted that Ricki Lee Jones appears at Cafe du Nord on the 15th and then again on the 22nd. Also from the same source, we are reminded that Lenny Kravitz will come to fly away, fly away from the Warfield on the 19th with those lucky to have scored tickets in the first hours. Tickemaster is sold out. Scalper tix still available from the mid $80's to $330 for balcony.

Finally, Dave Grohl returns -- fully amped this time -- with the Foo Fighters for a most welcome return in February. We are overjoyed there are no more "Virginia jobs" in store for Dave, who happens to be that rare commodity of a successful rock "star" who not only deserves the attention, but who has remained a decent human being throughout the corrosive process.

Still remember that straw-head poking up out of a trench along Route 50, digging pipe some thirty years ago . . . .


It's the final year of the disastrous Reign of Bush and the Year of the Hustings. Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Papoon was brushing up his liberal speeches while Babar put on his third pair of pants as the True Conservative. The two have been the best of friends, although inherent political enemies, ever since the country tossed out about half of the GOP in a fit of pique and irritation about Iraq.

Babar realized, as did much of the old guard GOP, that Bush was neither a true Conservative, nor even a Republican except by name and Papoon felt the proceedings had justified his long held conviction that the entire Country was Democratic by nature.


The Primary Election is up for the 5th of February, allowing plenty of time for heartbreak before Valentines Day. Besides the usual Suspects, we have an irritating array of measures seeking to amend the state constitution, a radical conservative methodology which has been over employed in recent years so as to force irrevocable changes down our throats whether we want them or not.

It does not matter if the ideas are good or not -- the method of change is obnoxious and offensive and should be shouted down until sense returns to referendums here.


By now everybody knows about the 1-2-3 body slam from the weather to the Golden State. From Eureka down to LA, buffetting winds, sluicing rain, and swirling snow have caused widespread power outages and havoc all along a five hundred mile length of country. With one more storm still to hit this coming Tuesday, entire towns have been flooded out and mountain passes shut down. Mud hillsides have begun slipping in the Oaktown hills and here on the Island, big trees lay in splinters.

The levees here are holding -- for the moment -- although their vintage is not much better than pre-Katrina New Orleans with already identified issues and problems to face.

Friends in Marin have returned to darkened houses and the San Anselmo Creek raging between its modest banks.

In other words, the New Year begins with the same old trials plus a few new ones on top of the old.

Over at the Squat on Shoreline New Years Eve was a typical mix of work and play. Suan worked the night stripping over at the Crazy Horse, flipping aside g-string and all on the count of 10 at midnight, while Sarah did a gig at the Jazz Spot, and Andre performed with Piedro, Jesus and Markus as part of The Barbed Wire Hearts at a function for the Native Sons of the Golden West out at the marina. There, they performed an entire set of Johnny Cash songs with their amps set on max distortion of 10 or so and they were well recieved.

This left Marlene with Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Quentin, Rolf, Pahrump and Crackers with Bonkers, Wickiwup and the setter, Johnny Cash to spend New Years Eve together. Even though nobody had any money, so somebody stuck a TV up there where the Solstice Tree had stood in a washtub before Pedro and Jesus had dragged it out back for the ritual Burning Tree Episode.

Usually the event attracted the Police and Fire Department, but this time the fire ignited the closeline such that Andre fetched the Official Fire Extiguisher and that was quickly the End of That and the house closeline lay in smoking ruins for days afterward. It sort of caught in the middle and popped from the wall of the house, flailing in snakes of flames from the far pole until it writhed on the scortched concrete before sizzling out in a hiss of steam.

Whoo man, said, Xavier.

Since it rained so terrible, nobody could do their laundry anyway and Quentin continued to stink as he always had done with no change in the status quo. Unfortunately Mancini failed his GED again, which was to be his High School Proficiency and he felt badly put out for he thought, at age thirty-five, that this meant he could not apply for a Driver's License, but was quickly reassured when informed by Tipitina that there was no intelligence requirement to get a driver's licence in California and the evidence was manifest all around.

While all of them were watching the ball fall in Time's Square -- you know, the highly amped LED ball will all sorts of innovations and powersaving things and flashly stuff -- while this ball was falling during the final seconds of that miserable year of 2007, Rolf blew out the power for the entire block trying to launch a rocket with power supplied by the Island Electric Utility via an available light pole. There was a big BANG and a flash and then the entire block went dark. A few seconds afterward, a siren ululated through the night.

So around midnight everybody was out there on the lawn facing the Bay at midnight when the rockets started off over across the Bay and the radio's all tuned to different stations: LIVE 105, ALICE, KFOG, DJ NONAME announced the new year. For want of anything better Marlene grabbed and kissed Tipitina, who blushed prettily. They all went inside while Rolf and Pahrump and Xavier worked like mad to fix this electrical problem. Before anybody important found what had caused it.

Hey man, just back off. Let me fix this thing. I can do it. . . . And so on.

That's the way it is on this Island. Have a great New Year.

JANUARY 13, 2008


This week's headline image comes courtesy of via Chad. Kinda says it all.


Well its the start of a brand new year. We have format changes planned -- inspired by our fellows living here in Blogistan and the newspaper article that quoted us so extensively, leaving out all the really bad parts. For which we are really grateful.

For you newcomers here, we will have the annual Bay Area Flyover in the Special Island-Life Contraption, so skip on down if you would like to have a review of what happens here.

Who we are and what we do: We discovered that is a Blog, which is a fine enough word for all of us here in the newsroom at St. Charles, but fails to reveal the subtle nuances of this most excellent and humble enterprise. We began this space a number of years before the term "Blog" came into being, supposing that "eZine" worked well enough at the time. There are several people who contribute here to the weekly melange of satire, news, performance reviews, outright parody and meretricious shenanigans in text, multimedia, and photo form.

Most, tired of dead fish left on the stoop, accusatory phonecalls, rocks with threatening notes attached to them coming through the windows, and midday closed-room talks with their day-job superiors prefer to remain somewhat anonymous.

Our European Office is run by Hildegard, who is a Black Belt in Karate, and furthermore has raised up children, and so she consequently has no fear.

Mike Rettie, our occasional photographer, is a man who hones valves in very large motor engines for a living and who possesses muscles the size of beer kegs, placing him in a special category of "don't care."

Chad is in charge of the HTML Department, and can employ a banjo at any time as an assault weapon, so he is safely accounted for.

Mental Health Services and Social Activities are handled by the Sausal Creek Crisis Center. Drop in any time, day or night.

We all live here (the Bay Area staff anyway) on a real island set in the Bay of San Francisco and we really do have a Mayor named Beverly, and we spend much of our weekly updates, 52 times a year, talking about the East Bay, the Island with its curious folk, and our great rivalries with the City of Babylon across the water.

Tim & Co. send reports from Boston. Richard and Alice report from New Jersey. Julee reports from SoCal. Submissions and applications welcome at any time; all positions unpaid and, for the most part, thankless.

We have resubmitted our application for Sister City status to Lake Wobegon, MN, employing the traditional and time-honored methods for the eighth time, and feel that surely, this time, our luck will hold out.

Our Communications Officer, Fernando, expects the return of Hermes, our Official Carrier Pigeon, any day now.

So this is Island-Life. Welcome back devoted Reader, you among some 126,000 worldwide.


Sure enough, our story about the attempt to privatize the municipal golf course busted loose with a City Council meeting on the 2nd of January, which turned into an acrimonious shout-fest that had the seniors who actually use the Chuck Corica Course pitted against Special Interests who succeeded in wresting a nine-month "master plan" plus a "hybrid partnership between the City and private interests.

The logic behind this latest bit of weirdness from Silly Hall goes as follows: The course makes too much money for the City, which captures well over a million dollars in revenue per year, such that if the City took less for itself, the Course would make more.


Oh, we see now. The extra revenue for the Course would flow into private pockets instead of the City, and these private pockets would make much more money -- after boosting membership and green fees -- than the current level of zero.

O now we see. It's sorta like Jack Abramoff. And the City Council is acting sorta like that Unitary Executive thing, i.e., "Yes I hear you. Yes, I see what all of you want. But screw that elected responsibility; I am going to do what I am going to do anyway."

Stay tuned for further developments.

In other Island controversies, there is a flap over the planned VA hospital out there on top of the Regional Shoreline Park cheek by jowl with Crab Cove. Nobody is arguing against a VA hospital on the island -- its just that the location is particularly awful and already dedicated to something, whereas there are hundreds of acres out there at the point, including a massive and empty airfield hosting nothing but weeds that could otherwise be employed. You know: that place which keeps losing developers, while here is one with cash in hand ready to build.

And of course, we do have a hospital here already. So why not use that one?

The year is young, but foolishness is already up 3-0 against common sense.

On the upside, we were all pleased to note only one strong-arm robbery and one battery report last week, considerably down from the rather busy end to last year with dozens of armed robberies, muggings and assaults keeping the IPD busy. We return to usual array of vandalism, public drunkenness, and indecent exposure.


The last of three dockwallopers finished up here Thursday, ending a nearly two week long meteorological rampage with an unexpectedly sunny weekend. That first storm, however nearly pushed the Golden State into a State of Emergency with hurricane force winds topping 107 MPH (Mt. Diablo, 58mph Oakland Hills) and lashing rain that closed roadways and bridges, halted ferry service, and caused massive power outages the length of California.

Locally, EBMUD caused a controlled release of sewage into the estuary, posting Keep Out notices all along the shoreline, in an effort to prevent a disastrous uncontrolled overflow into the city streets. On the Island, which owns its own Municipal Utility, only 75 folks lost power while statewide, over 218,000 people remained without power for four days.

Because all reservoirs had been approaching drought conditions from the Oregon border to Mexico, most mountain runoff has been safely contained. Good time to head up to the slopes right now, though.


Wussup with Mike Ness and Co.? Almost all the December gigs for Social Distortion have been rescheduled, including two of the early January shows here. New dates are 1/31 and 2/4, still at the Fillmore. Tix are available now for all shows, due to the shuffling. Just remember to bring earplugs.

Just up: Mark Hummel's notorious Blues Blowout returns to Yoshi's, Jack London Square for 1/25-1/27. This one deservedly sells out all shows for the little "head cuttin'" contest that culminates typically in an ensemble of the invitees doing a cracking fine jam in the old style. This year, the big star is probably John Mayall. Dave Earle will open things up.

Just in: Saturday, 1/26 is sold out already.

Tickets for the fabulous Rodrigo y Gabriela pair at the Warfield might still be available, and this venue is very likely to be much better than the Avalon Ballroom, which let in a gaggle of gabbling Marina airheads.

Their CD, Tamacun, includes a video of the pair teaching how to play one of their songs. At the end of the video, the beautiful Gabriela says with a bright smile, "Don't forget: practice, practice, practice."

You, too, could headline the Warfield.


New Zealand said farewell Friday to its most famous favorite son, also the most famous mountaineer of all time and the first ascender of Mount Everest, the modest beekeeper named Sir Edmund Hillary. He was 88.

"Sir Ed described himself as an average New Zealander with modest abilities. In reality, he was a colossus. He was an heroic figure who not only 'knocked off' Everest but lived a life of determination, humility, and generosity," New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said in a statement.

"The legendary mountaineer, adventurer, and philanthropist is the best-known New Zealander ever to have lived," she said.

Among adventurers of great achievements he remained singularly modest.

In his autobiography he wrote of his final steps to the top of the world in company with guide Tenzing Norgay: "Another few weary steps and there was nothing above us but the sky. There was no false cornice, no final pinnacle. We were standing together on the summit. There was enough space for about six people. We had conquered Everest.

"Awe, wonder, humility, pride, exaltation - these surely ought to be the confused emotions of the first men to stand on the highest peak on Earth, after so many others had failed," Hillary noted.

"But my dominant reactions were relief and surprise. Relief because the long grind was over and the unattainable had been attained. And surprise, because it had happened to me, old Ed Hillary, the beekeeper, once the star pupil of the Tuakau District School, but no great shakes at Auckland Grammar (high school) and a no-hoper at university, first to the top of Everest. I just didn't believe it."

His philosophy of life was simple: "Adventuring can be for the ordinary person with ordinary qualities, such as I regard myself," he said in a 1975 interview after writing his autobiography, "Nothing Venture, Nothing Win."

He would often tell schoolchildren during special events that one did not have to be a genius or especially talented to accomplish great things.

Hillary never forgot the small mountainous country that propelled him to worldwide fame. He revisited Nepal constantly over the next 54 years.

Without fanfare and without compensation, Hillary spend decades pouring energy and resources from his own fundraising efforts into Nepal through the Himalayan Trust he founded in 1962.

Known as "burra sahib" - "big man," for his 6 feet 2 inches - by the Nepalese, Hillary funded and helped build hospitals, health clinics, airfields and schools.

He raised funds for higher education for Sherpa families, and helped set up reforestation programs in the impoverished country. About $250,000 a year was raised by the charity for projects in Nepal.

A strong conservationist, he demanded that international mountaineers clean up thousands of tons of discarded oxygen bottles, food containers and other climbing debris that litter the lower slopes of Everest.

His strong attachment to integrity and daring often thrust him into the midst of furious controversy, the latest being the dispute over the death of climber David Sharp, stating publicly it was "horrifying" that climbers could leave a dying man after an expedition left the Briton to die high on the upper slopes and stating that he would have abandoned his own 1953 attempt to save another's life.

"It was wrong if there was a man suffering altitude problems and was huddled under a rock, just to lift your hat, say 'good morning' and pass on by," he said. "Human life is far more important than just getting to the top of a mountain."

Although he did undertake extraordinary feats, no one ever died on an Hillary-led expedition due to his fierce attention to control and detail.

But so unassuming was the man who had earned the rare Order of the Garter (administered to just 24 people worldwide at any one time) that he did not admit he had been the first on top of Everest instead of his companion Norgay until a decade after the Nepalese man's death, stating the two had attained the top together as a team.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Its been misty and moisty and all sorts of wet with the hillsides in danger of sliding. Had one slide in fact, up in the Oaktown hills not far from Jerry Brown's new digs up there.

It's a brand new year with some consolation among a world of troubles: it will be King George's last year in office and that is a good thing. The end is in sight. And as we have a new year upon us, its time for the annual Bay Area Flyover. Right now we have Javier up on the roof with the Official Island-Life Flying Contraption which typically operates only at night because its better for the Imagination, the lights are pretty to look at, and, well, quite frankly, none of us has a pilot's license and the machine is not certified with the FAA.

Ah, but nothing venture, nothing win. So do come on up now and lets take her for a spin. We will have to cut through the far corner of the Island-Life offices to get there so keep your hands to yourself.

Come this way between the aisles of slaving copyboys and accountants. Step right here around the computer rack and mind the desk of the Visiting Scientist from Acme Vaporware, Dr. Smallberries, among the Bunsen burners and bubbling retorts.

What's that watermelon doing there? Nevermind. Come along. Out this door here. . . .

Right this way, up the stairs there, and keep on going, up another flight and yet another here where it gets rather narrow -- you'll have to come up single-file for this bit.

You are now in the Upper Structure which is surrounded by several high voltage antennae. Let's push this door open . . . . A bit windy up here. You will note the large yellow and black caution areas and the signs saying


Please mind those if you wish to have children some day.

Okay here we all are and there is Javier with the Contraption. It is going to get rather loud when he spins that prop so here are some earbuds for those of you who cannot fit inside. And here is a belt for those of you with carabiners . . . Good. Do make sure that cannot come off while in flight. Now here is the rope and you hook yourself in this way . . . very good. Now the rest of you climb on in . . .

What? Oh you guys with the rope.

Well, the contraption can only carry so many -- about five I guess -- and there is about 126,000 of you so you will just have to rely on your wings.

You know. The wings you noticed you had while a child. They are still there, albeit forgotten perhaps. So get ready to use them again, you little angels you. The Contraption will give a nice little boost for those of you who have not been practicing in your dreams.

Enough for preflight check. Spin the prop, Javier!


O NUTS . . .


Goodness! Thank you. Here's your hammer back. Now your pilot's name is Erika . . .

By the way, Mr. Kitson, why are you carrying a hammer around the Island at close to midnight?


Your pilot's name is Erika and I am told that she is very close to achieving her full license and all of her instructors speak quite highly of her capabilities as well as her daring and her remarkable ability to completely scour the outside of a vintage P14 within eight to ten hours. Lets go Erika!

This Contraption usually requires a takeoff strip of about 100 yards and since this roof gives us only about 60 feet, you may notice a bit of initial dip . . .

Woah! Just like that. Okay while we circle up above those nasty telephone poles and wires and things, still trailing out a few stragglers from the roof there, let me describe what you are seeing.

That next to the Offices is the Pagano's Hardware store, founded by Andy Pagano some 54 years ago. There on the other side is the Mastic Senior Center with its big parking lot bounded by chain link fence -- used to be the ballpark for a school there and many are the Seniors who have returned for Wednesday BINGO to relive the days a homer would knock out the window of the Julia Morgan house across the way. A bit higher now, trailing out our retinue -- everyone comfy back there?

That is Old John's place on the other side of the fence with the chili peppers growing in claw-footed bathtubs.

Now you can see Lincoln Street and the green neon sign of McGraths Pub down there. Looks like Peter is stepping out and does seem the fellow is getting a bit sparse on top there. Wave to Peter everybody -- he can't see you. This Contraption has a special Stealth Device available only to NASA, the NSA, and the back pages of Mercenary Soldier magazine, so only children and certain kinds of artists can see us.

Getting a bit higher and there's the Old Same Place with Suzie sweeping the litter out the door. And Padraic with Dawn, discussing last year's Poodleshoot no doubt.

Still gaining altitude so we are going low over the place rented by Ms. Morales, the schoolteacher. Lights out, so imagine she is snuggled all in, dreaming of her big wedding with Mr. Ramirez -- you are all invited of course -- and that affair is sure to be quite a splash here. Cutting back southwest in a circle over the section of town called The Gold Coast we pass over Bear's place, where it seems the fellow is once again tinkering with his 1936 Knucklehead motorcycle in his livingroom/bedroom/foyer.

Lets cut on down to the Bay side and cruise over the Dogwalkers Park before cutting back up northeast along Grand Street with its stately mansions and Mr. Howitzer's place. Lots of notices still posted for his missing Rottweiler all over the poles down there.

There is the Home of Truth, presided over by Rev. Carol Hanson, a sturdy minister of the Unity Church, not to be confused with Unitarian, mind you. If anyone should ask, you can tell them the Home of Truth is right here on the Island, right there on Grand Street.

There's Pastor Nyquist's church on the left and that is Our Lady of Incessant Complaint there with the stained glass on the right. Father Duran handles the affairs there for the Catholics.

Down Central, the Island mosque is there kitty-corner from the Dance Studio, while if you crane your heads back the other way you will see beyond the Basilica of The Church of Many Holy Names, Rev. Rectumrod's 1st Very Conservative Baptist Church of the NeoCon Reformation.

So now we swing over Coast Guard Island and the Marina where Tommy and Toby keep their sloop The Lavender Surprise, to come back in over the College and the abode of Don Luis Guadalupe Erizo with his companion and take advantage of the open space now of the abandoned Navy Base to really get some altitude and look down on Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser gliding past the Clubhouse for the Native Sons of the Golden West and the Ballena Isle Marina where Pedro Almeida docks his fishing boat to scoot along the Strand and over the household held marginally together by our Island Punk rockers, Marlene and Andre. Andre's band, No Future in Real Estate, is winding up Sunday practice much as they usually do with Occasional Quentin throwing his drumsticks across the garage at Pedro to miss and hit Wickiwup on the nose, which starts him and Bonkers barking at one another while the rest of the band screams at each other for missing this or that cue, failing to keep time and generally screwing up.

Now we are headed past the Southshore Mall and the burned out Safeway and the condos where Eugene Gallipagus keeps all his poodle hunting equipment and himself in an apartment he has painted with a camouflage motif in green and olive. That place with the bicycles belongs to Lynnette and Susan.

That skyscraping monstrosity there is the cinema Multiplex on Santa Clara with its equally as ugly parking garage. That strip of lights down there about three blocks long and one block wide? That is downtown.

So as we swing hard now over the Disputed Bicycle Bridge and the place where Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt keeps his two-tone immaculate 1929 Mandeville-Brot Coupe, we skirt by Bay Farm Island and so finally over San Leandro Bay get high enough to really scope out the view.

And what a view it is!

The glittering lights ramp up both sides of High Street to the slopes of the Oaktown hills off in the distance and now we are gliding over San Leandro, slowly climbing all the while. There's the Oaktown International Airport on Bay Farm Island -- we will keep well away from the flight paths there and keep over the old Route 17, the Infamous Nimitz Freeway.

San Leandro, with its little malls and its well kept streets seems to have a sort of pride of place. Once it was a coach stop on the way from One Place to Another Place. In many ways, it still is. Plenty of greenery down there.

We pass the cutaway of 580 and move quickly over Hayward's unruly mix of industrial and parkland areas. Then we are to the great expanse of Fremont and the huddled watchfires of Eugene Shrubb's Occupation Camps. Sometime around 2001, Eugene Shrubb, President of the Bums, gathered a great number of bums from Sacramento, where such breed tend to congregate, and with this army invested Newark in search of WMD's (Weapons of Mass Doo Doo) in the form of rabid poodles.

No such WMD's were found and many accused the bums of concocting a story about them only so as to raid the town's liquor supplies.

Furthermore, since Newark possesses neither City Hall nor mayor nor any sense of civic pride, it was some months, and perhaps years before anyone living there realized that the strips of linoleum tile stores, auto body shops, and twentieth century dreck had been occupied by a foreign army.

Basically, nobody in Newark gave a damn and neither did anyone else in California, which caused President Shrubb significant grief.

Now we are swinging by Coyote Creek, Alviso Slough and the location of what had been the largest and most profitable Mission in Alta California, Mission San Jose.

And so with accelerating speed we zip over the Silicon Valley, formerly location of miles and miles of citrus groves and now home to Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Western Digital, Intel, AMD and the other giants of the computer world.

To the right you will notice the creeping fog as it glides like a Tolkein dream over the coastal range while we snick over the great salt flats of Palo Alto and its bifurcated worlds of the University of Stanford with its huddled mansions and the East Palo Alto world of Check Cashing groceries, liquor stores, pawn shops and mariachi bars.

The weird pattern lights that look like military zones are the circular logic subdivisions of Foster City. Then Burlingame's metro suburb world hugs the hills until we pass the immense layout of SFO, which forces us over San Bruno and then the folded hills of South City, its elbows on the table and its blue collar showing proudly before scooting over the brief City of the Stars, Brisbane.

Now we are high enough to see both sides of the coastal range that terminates in the swollen wrist of the hills on the south border of San Francisco, scalloped by old quarries, clad with houses made of ticky-tack and they all look the same on the western side, but still shielding a family of kit foxes, some deer and the beautiful mariposas.

Now, I think we pull the Red Lever. Yes that one. And . . . .

Go straight up. Hold firmly onto your lunch. If you have been following in Google Earth or some such similar thing at home, you would see the peninsula of San Francisco looking like a great fist and the San Francisco Bay shining weirdly in colors of blue and green from the oil spill of the Costco Busan. Those are the green hills of Marin to the north with Mount Tam and that spread out to the east is the Valley with its string of jewels sparkling along the 580 corridor: Castro Valley, Pleasanton, Livermore, and the isolated splotch of Modesto far off.

Then its up, up, up, trailing our flicking trail of our retinue ever higher. The Farrallons, Redding, Sacramento, and way to the south, the immensity of Los Angeles, home to 35 million souls. Higher still and the spiderweb of the US flickers all along its coastlines and borders.

Higher still and picture this, a bright blue ball spinning in space, dizzy with eternity.

Pause a moment and consider this place. A few clouds, some land, some sea. Slowly it revolves in the great immensity all around it. It is a world hell bent, it seems sometimes, on destroying itself utterly, so that no possibilities can ever remain. Dour obtuseness and stubbornness and insistence.

Can anyone see at this remove the Human Face?

Probably not. It seems that those who look down habitually from these heights just cannot see humanity.

That's it for reflection. Time to go home.

Um, you there in back. Hold on.

Down we go, down, down down spiraling way down from Baja to Crescent City, hop over Redding and snow-gowned Shasta out to the black lava beds of Modoc, over Alturas, there's Pyramid Lake over there, we bank south over the little town of Stronghold and suddenly it's Tahoe glimmering by the crescent moon and Reno and we are really going quite fast now along 395, Mono Lake and scooting over Owen's Valley to hurl around the Death Valley and the broad Mojave desert to sling in over the smelly Salton Sea and the sad Calpatria State Prison before winging up over Palomar and San Diego and out around Catalina Island before charging back up coast, blipping over Santa Barbara and the Tehachipi Mountains to fire up over Hearst Castle and storied Big Sur to course along the Valley, once the Serengetti of North America, to arc back over the dry slopes of Mount Diablo to Concord, Walnut Creek, Benicia, Vallejo, moving faster than the speed of sound now until Erika throttles back hard enough that our retinue of readers flings like a great whip out over San Pablo Bay with the old Portugese fishing village of Sausalito off to the right and that's the light of the Twin Brothers Lighthouse at Point Richmond and those squat avoids are the great oil tanks of Chevron all along there the left down to the Richmond San Rafael Bridge and then we are over the Maze, busy even on Sunday at midnight with traffic, passing now the great Star Wars steel cranes of the Port of Oakland, fourth largest in the country, until we are coming up now on the broad expanse of the old Navy base airfield and the mouth of the estuary and the Island is coming up fast and there's Lincoln Street and there is Pagano's hardware again with the Old Same Place Bar just beyond and the Island-Life Offices with its narrow roof and its roof structure with ominous microwave antennae.

We are going so fast we just zip on by and so return not one hundred feet above the stately oaks that line Santa Clara, moving at the slower pace of some two hundred miles per hour.

And you know what we think at this time? Just how is Erika going to land this Contraption with 126,000 people in tow on a roof that is just 120 feet long?

Well, that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.


JANUARY 20, 2008


This week's photo comes again from Chad who got this from an online news photo from a report on the announcement of Christine Todd Whitman's appointment to the Directorship of the EPA. Whitman resigned in disgrace in 2003 subsequent to charges of cronyism and failure to execute the duties of her office, featuring a howlingly bad decision to announce that the toxic asbestos dust -laden air in New York in the area around the collapse of the Twin Towers was "perfectly safe".

About the photo, Chad says, "This pic reveals everything I find loathsome about the man . . .".

PSA UPDATE 01-21-08

This update courtesy of Chad as well.

IMPORTANT- Older versions of Flash have a vulnerability to hacking but Adobe has addressed the issue with a new version of their Flash Player. Check it out. This is not a test. -CC

Security bulletin-

New Flash Player Download-


Seagulls have been circling above Pagano's Hardware parkinglot and the Official IslandLife Barometer is at 28.85 and falling. Besides these significations, the sky is showing some definite boil to the west. All of which indicates a dockwalloper coming in midweek, and more troubles for the just dug-out middle of the country.

Sunny skies forecast for next weekend tell us that the powder will be deep and crisp for all kinds of frolic up there around Tahoe and Heavenly Valley.

Travelers please note: although the main drag through Truckee and Reno is open, 395 is closed heading south after Mono on the eastern side, leaving Bishop closed in for all but snowmobiles for the winter. Check for advisories as conditions change.


Wussup with all the hit-and-runs lately. After our Island Life Staffer got creamed by a cowardly pinche, a whole spate of clobber and dash occurred, some with fatalities, all with SUV drivers as perpetrators. Floyd, President of the Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled, says this about traffic collisions.

"Hit and Run drivers are the worst of the breed, for they bring down the general level of excellence we, as deliberately atrocious drivers all strive. We turn left without signaling, we signal to turn left and turn right -- from the far lane -- and we weave through spontaneous turn options in the middle of big intersections, all the while performing the usual red-light blowthrough, stopsign shuffle, and mismatched traffic speeds, but we do so with pride! Yes, we are not scofflaws; we are Valiant Artisans of the most Sophisticated kind.

When forced to stop because of collision, we do not run cowardly away. We do not shout alternative views of the situation in anger.


We descend from our SUV's as gods, to proclaim the Nuovo Ordo Seculorum, the majesty of Traffic Disorder, and the great superiority of our vehicles. 'Miserable wretch, now you see,' we say, 'I bought my SUV so as to destroy anything I hit on the road with impunity. And I have succeeded! Observe, mere mortal, my glorious and nearly intact SUV and now regard your miserable Toyota. O slink away in shame and ignominy and longing, for the fact you were indeed correct in the eyes of the law is entirely irrelevant by the law of artistic license and our superior heft. Ha ha!"

Thus speaketh Floyd. From the DA, we have yet to hear. Perhaps he cowers in his boots.


If you have not noticed, this is an election year and we have a cheerful little counter up there marking the days until the end of the Bush Error.

If you click on the active zone, it will take to the site where the code is published for anyone to insert into their own web project.

On the Island, naturally we have our own candidates. As usual we have Liberal, a Conservative and an Independent.

The Liberal candidate, running for Island President of The Strand Club, we have Papoon, a native ground squirrel of impeccable character. Papoon favors careful saving during bull markets and somnolence during the winter. His slogan is unique and distinctive: Papoon! Not Insane!

The Conservative candidate was drafted during the year 2000 crisis when no qualified man of intelligence could be found anywhere. He has the advantage of incorporating in his form the very symbol of the GOP. The Conservative candidate is Babar, who, although born French, embodies the epitome of Conservative thought in his ponderous and reflective motions. In addition, he typically wears three pairs of pants.

The Independent is Pahrump, from Marlene and Andre's household. His platform is fairly simple and grounded on the principle, that although he is a drunk, jobless, essentially homeless sleeping on Marlene and Andre's floor, he is the only human candidate who is not also a cartoon, a feature not yet encountered in the national arena and which possesses significant advantages. He is all against Global Warming and using the Army and the Marines for something useful, like organizing the polar bears into a more effective Northern Defense."If it has to be organized", says Pahrump, "Have the Army do it."


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 American, whose principles, morality, integrity and steadfastness elevate him well above any of those today who possess little in quality beyond hectoring demagoguery.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather has been clear and sunny and cold in the day, with rather chilly nights and people reporting creeping fogs along the coast. Although it has been sunny inland, the persistent chill has fooled a lot of folks who hail from the East, who just cannot seem to get warm in times like this.

The reports from Minnesota are of frozen lakes and 20 below temps that freeze the nose hairs -- a most memorable experience -- and of course we have none of that here, for even the Sierra seldom drops below 15 degrees above.

We can only wonder in these times how our favorite strippers in Minot, ND manage to keep warm in such conditions, for the profession is not known for favoring sensible woolens while on the clock.

School is back in session, so keep alert out there on the road. Those teens from Washington High are strolling back and forth across the lanes like they believe they will live forever.

Just have one colonoscopy, and you will wish for a shorter term, dude.

Last sunny Saturday Lynette and Susan were out in front, performing periodic adjustments and Basic Maintenance on the bicycles when Mario came trundling by with his scooter pushed in front of him, a weary expression on his physiognomy.

Mario stood looking at Lynette and Susan, busy with tools and oils and sprays, one finger up his left nostril to the second joint with a meditative look.

Whats up, dude?, said Lynette, always the outgoing one.

To Susan's great relief, Mario removed his finger. Mah scooter wont poot. He held it up, his back bowing backwards dangerously with the effort, as if to demonstrate the scooter's inefficacy.

Lynette went over and had a look. A stream of black oil dripped out of the exhaust. Lynette worked as a mechanic for Charley's Garage in Berkeley, a woman-owned and operated outfit and she knew a few things about machines.

All right, said Susan. Since you are out to fix the world again, I am going to fix some lemonade. She kissed Lynette before going inside.

She kissed you, said Mario. Lynette was methodically following the possible path of the oil. She got a plug wrench and removed the spark plug.

That's right, said Lynette. And? The plug contacts were all fouled.

Aren't you, like . . . I dunno . . .

I'm not afraid of getting cooties if that's what you mean, said Lynette. She sprayed and cleaned the plug, then removed the exhaust and sluiced some kind of liquid through the entire pipe into a bucket. She loves me and I love her and that's all it means.

Mah daddy says that aint no good. We used to go to the Church of Reverend Rectumrod. He said all the catamites are goin' to hell and stuff. Its a weird church everybody's always going to hell all the time, and we be going to Reverend Nyquist since Rectumrod gone to Georgia for a while. The people at Rectumrod's don't hardly talk to each other and its different over at the Lutherans. It don't seem people go to hell so much over there.

What's a catamite, asked Lynette. Come to think of it, what is a Lutheran?

Susan interrupted this theological discussion when she came out with tall glasses of lemonade, clinking with ice and beaded with dew. She kissed Lynette again. Pointedly, it seemed this time.

The lemonade was good. Mario downed half of his quickly.

Lynette started the engine of the little scooter, then shut it off quickly.

Hey! Said Mario. You fixed it!

There's a couple more things to make right here and then you can go, said Lynette. How's the lemonade?

Its really good. Its better than mom's even. She uses the mix from Safeway. You guys are okay, said Mario. You fixed my scooter.

Fixing the world, one scooter at a time, said Susan. Its the people that are the problem. Mostly the men . . . .

Now, you and your Separatist friends need to get a grip, said Lynette.

Says who, Susan said. You had brothers.

I did. And don't regret it, for it helped give me understanding. Here, young man. Go forth with your newfound knowledge and sin no more.

Thanks, said Mario. I'll remember you! And off he went, puttering down the street.

Susan picked up the glass abandoned by Mario. Always cleaning up after them . . . .

Well we need to clean the heater intake while the weather is good, said Lynette, collecting the various scattered tools out front into a canvas bag.

All right, its a maintenance weekend. Maybe tomorrow we can go to Momma's for breakfast?

Done deal.

They went in.

Just another incidence of neighbors being neighborly on the Island. Because that is just the way it is here. Have a great week.


JANUARY 27, 2008


This week's headline image comes courtesy of The Ruth Group which let us all know that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of Peace Symbol.

There are many hysterical and basically uninformed theories about the origin of the symbol, most of them centered around the antiwar movements directed against the Vietnam conflict, however most of those stories are fairly bogus and originated by Ultra-Right Wing thinktanks and neo-fascist groups -- which generally retain a jaundiced view of the whole "sixties thing" to begin with, and which are not generally known for historical veracity.

In truth, our cherished symbol was first used by the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in Great Britain in 1958.

It was designed and completed February 21, 1958 by Gerald Holtom, a commercial designer and artist in Britain. He had been commissioned by the CND to design a symbol for use at an Easter march to Canterbury Cathedral in protest against the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in England.

The symbol itself is a combination of the semaphore signals for the letters "N" and "D," standing for Nuclear Disarmament. In semaphore the letter "N" is formed by a person holding two flags in an upside-down "V," and the letter "D" is formed by holding one flag pointed straight up and the other pointed straight down. These two signals imposed over each other form the shape of the peace symbol. In the original design the lines widened at the edge of the circle.

Holstrom has said that a painting by Goya of falling victims of a fascist firing squad, featuring arms of the condemned thrown out in a "V" shape also contributed to his idea, although this may be personal revisionism some years after the symbol migrated to the US during anti-nuke protests, from there becoming adopted by various "counterculture" groups and becoming indelibly etched into the American psyche.

Both the Wikipedia and confirm the facts of this history.

The Ruth Group is a small group of intelligent women devoted to the cause of peace in our time and can be reached at


The seeming evaporation from the standard news outlets prompted us to go and inquire about some pertinent facts. First off, you all will now notice that the daily body count has vanished from the papers and media in general.

Could it be that this is an Election Year?

Lets not be coy or any more hyperbolic than necessary. In fact, lets go to that bastion of Liberal Thinking, the Pentagon, for its own numbers.

U.S. Deaths Confirmed By The DoD: 3926
Reported US Deaths Pending DoD Confirmation: 1
Total 3927

Post Iraq Deaths Not Confirmed By the DoD

Richards, Jack D. 29-Jul-2007
Cassidy, Gerald J. 25-Sep-2007
Smith, John "Bill" 01-Oct-2005
Wasielewsk, Anthony Raymond 08-Oct-2007
Salerno III, Raymond A. 16-Jul-2006
Note: The soldiers listed above died from wounds received in Iraq, however, the DoD has not included their deaths in their official count.
Editor's Note: These soldiers sustained severe injuries, were airlifted out, and eventually succumbed despite valiant attempts by medical teams to preserve life. Deaths sometimes occured several weeks after injury.

US Wounded and medical evacuations, as reported by the DoD as of 1/10/2008

Non Mortal Casualties Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
Wounded - No Med. Air Transport Req. 13,045 434 6,370 260 20,109
Wounded - Med. Air Transport Req. 6,525 164 1,987 82 8,761
NON-HOSTILE-RELATED MED. AIR TRANSPORTS 25,634 995 2,538 1,370 30,537
Non-Hostile Injuries - Med. Air Transport Req. 6,386 283 1,051 335 8,055
Diseases/Other Medical - Medical Air Transport Req. 19,248 712 1,487 1,035 22,482
MED. AIR TRANSPORTS (HOSTILE AND NON-HOSTILE) 31,831 1,159 4,527 1,453 39,298


US Deaths: Died of Self-Inflicted wounds
As reported by the DOD as of 1/10/2008

Self Inflicted Army Navy Marines Air Force Total
  116 4 15 0 135

Missing or Captured:

Staff Sergeant Keith M. Maupin 16-Apr-2004
Ahmed Qusai al-Taei: Status - missing-captured 23-Oct-2006
Spc. Alex R. Jimenez: Status - missing-captured 12-May-2007
Pvt. Byron W. Fouty: Status - missing-captured 12-May-2007

Latest Military Fatality Date: Jan 18, 2008
Total Fatalities since May 1, 2003: 4062
March 20th through May 1st: 140
Hostile US Fatalities Since May 1, 2003: 3098
Hostile Fatalities Since May 1, 2003: 3301

All figures from DOD official reports. Tabulation done by


California is enduring a series of major storms that have drenched the Golden State from the Oregon border down to LA, which saw all of 2.1 inches for all of the last 12 months only to wade through 2.43 inches in a matter of days as of last week and with more to come. Santa Barbara was drenched with 5.4 inches.

The runoff has endangered all the areas denuded by wildfires last summer, sending entire hillsides cascading down. Three are confirmed dead due to snow avalanches in the Sierra, which has been pounded with several feet of snow, delighting the resorts but snarling traffic over the high passes. Even the main drag through Tahoe was closed due to severe conditions and the backside of 395 is shut entirely for the duration, sealing off Bishop and points south of Mammoth.

Locally, Mt. Tam once again lifted its head with a snow cap and Mount Diablo took a blanket that apparently still is there a week later.

Forty miles of mighty Route 5 were closed by CHP, stranding 300 motorists at Tejon Pass for two days just north of LA.

The most recent reports say up to 2 inches of rain had fallen by early afternoon in valley and coastal areas since nightfall Saturday, with about double that in the mountains, the National Weather Service said.

Jim Kitson reported that his rain gauge indicated that over two inches had collected just during the last severe blow over a 24 hour period earlier this week.

And the news is that we are not out of the wet woods yet, with more storms coming in, as foretold by petrels and gulls sailing in over the Safeway parkinglot, as well as the weatherman who is announcing snow levels down to 1500 feet here. All of which means the misery now experienced by the iced-in middle of the country has no sign of letup.


Three of the six youths charged with the murder of 15-year-old "Iko" Bayarsaikhan here in Washington Square park on Halloween were sentenced in juvenile court this week.

Judge Rhonda Burgess said Friday she will likely send the two youngest boys to a wilderness camp in Nevada, but held off her decision until she could learn more about the camp and hear a recommendation from court officials.

Both boys will remain in custody for at least two years and could be held until age 19.

The 16-year-old boy, who was on probation for battery when he was arrested, will spend at least seven years in the custody of the state Department of Advertisement Corrections and Rehabilitation Division of Juvenile Justice, the agency that now includes the former California Youth Authority.

He also may be held for a maximum of nine years, or until age 25.

The youths have been identified as "aiders and abettors" during the botched robbery that culminated a night of strong-arm events perpetrated by the group, but have been tried in juvenile while the actual shooter had been tried as an adult. All have histories of prior legal entanglements.

Several shots were fired from a .22 rifle by the group until the killer seized the gun and killed Iko with a single shot to the back as she fled.

Quochuy "Tony" Tran, 16, who police say was the actual shooter, has been charged with murder in adult court and is awaiting trail.

After Bayarsaikhan was shot, Tran and the others ran from the park and climbed aboard an AC Transit bus that was traveling into Oakland, police said.

A native of Mongolia, Bayarsaikhan came to the United States with her family about three years ago.


Popped on over to Babylon to catch Mirah and The Blow at the Great American Music Hall early this week. Long time readers know that over the course of ten years we have never given a bad review to any performer of the hundreds we have reviewed here.

This is the first.

The Blow consists of two people and remained largely forgettable. You want to forget them because they are so awful. The vocals were blurred out, indistinct and entirely unintelligible. The instrumentation was robotic and boring. The singer sang from the throat instead of deeper down, the instrumentation consisted of bleating "beats" and irrelevant loops and the guy banging away on low-tech percussion devices and nobody danced that we could see, although all the tables had been removed from downstairs. The duo apparently has a history of fragmentation, with the instrumentation portion splitting off to do something interesting, so that just leaves the singer, who seems badly in need of a few voice lessons.

Sporadic and overly kind applause greeted the fortunately brief opening set.

As for the singer. Forget her name. She is pretty. She has spunk. She has stage presence and she is obviously intelligent. Already she is head and shoulders above fakirs like Lopez and Spears and about a thousand vapid voices, even though we have no interest in learning her name, but she definitely needs to get the vocal technicalities down. Take a few lessons, someone said up in the balcony area.

And she better get at least her fans moving in something like dance if she plans on using "beats". To start with, Techno Sucks Shit. Deal with it, girl, and now go out and learn how to perform, 'cause somebody who has paid forty bucks of good money for the GAMH, which is not exactly The Bottom of the Hill with five dollar admission, just has no patience for sitting through a learner's session.

It was sort of reminiscent of the Japanese bubble-gum pop that backdropped parts of Bladerunner. And was about as intelligible.

This Music business is savage and cruel; when you step on stage you need to jump, goddamn it. Its a business that regularly kills people for all the money that is in it and you need to act like your life is at stake when you get up there in front of a microphone, no matter who your friends are who got you there, or you will simply die. Tuesday night, The Blow didn't blow; it sucked.

Some advice: when singing a song, try hard to enunciate. Okay now, you go, girl.

Where the preceding act was novice-like and lacking, Mirah was experienced and, at times, far above a sometime unappreciative audience that yacked and blathered over the set of a very accomplished artist doing stuff you don't get to hear on the radio, despite several appeals from the stage.

"I kind of feel the room is not entirely with me here. There seems to be a lack of focus . . .". Mirah said at one point. At another point, the artist said, "You know, it would be nice to be able to hear myself think."

This sort of thing seems to be happening more frequently of late, and might endanger Babylon's reputation as a plum gig to handle for distinguished artists. No performer of note wants to be traveling thousands of miles from home only be dumped on by a bunch of Marina douchbags blathering in the back rows, and the quality will dry up and entirely stop if this kind of thing continues.

We noted other people commenting on this throughout the Web.

Rodrigo y Gabriela are international stars on the acoustic circuit, hail from Mexico, and have any number of alternative venues at which to perform -- they certainly do not need 'Frisco with an attitude, and the last time they were here, they behaved graciously despite the outrageous obnoxiousness. But these guys are just not going to come back if treated like dirt and not given half a chance to perform. They don't need 'Frisco attitude -- they have enough money now, enough recognition around the world, and they can call their own shots and say fuck you to people who do not know how to welcome superlative musicians.

Nobody really wants to hear your stupid conversation about Muffy's stuffed poodle or your boring day at the coffee bar selling swampland to people from New Jersey. Not even the person who is facing you wants to listen to you; they are just acting interested. So you didn't pay for your ticket at GAMH? Other people did and they want to hear what they paid to hear. So fuck off yacking douchbags.

But maybe Babylon is just losing its luster, dropping its cool, and has decided to slough off into memories of the Glorious Times Past. It has become the City that Used to Know How, a provincial backwater washed in the wake of more important venues in New York and Boston and Austin.

Enough for that rant. Mirah is actually Mirah Yom Tov Zeitlyn, originally from Philadelphia, and she has been quietly spearheading a west coast renaissance of New Talent in the Indie-folk realm. Other reviewers have compared her soft soprano style to Cat Power, Azure Ray, April March, Edie Brickell, Liz Phair, and Juliana Hatfield.

She certainly would not be out of place at Lilith Fair.

Probably Hatfield is the best comparo for this rather unique artist, who seems bent on pursuing her own quirky vision rather than major label signing and Big Sales. Each album she has done since 1999 (about one a year) feels like a stage of artistic development, rather than an isolated work. Her last effort, Share This Place, included some serious Industry folks on the production end, but characteristically was idiosyncratically themed as songs about insects.

The songs, of which she did two at the GAMH, are surprisingly effective and workable as songs, contrary to all expectation. Her "Luminescence", ostensibly about fireflies, develops amazing associational power. A pedal steel, full jazz drumset, keyboards, cellist, and backup singer filled out her band while she did fairly elemental arrangements on an f-hole semi-hollow-body archtop with single pickup.

Mirah has experience and talent and intelligence and she is not bad to rest the eyes on either. She also demonstrated a solid performer's savvy in taking control of a bad situation at GAMH, to turn the atmosphere around with a few rocky numbers that drowned out the Marina douchbags.

She obviously has a devoted following, but in her case, the following appears to be well earned through solid musicianship in addition to a spectral innocence and femininity sadly lacking in the Biz. In many ways, she reminds us of early Laurie Anderson with her intelligence and her quirkiness. We think she has a long way to go, especially towards achieving the dramatic "resolver note" musically, and many of the songs feel undeveloped (also noted by other reviewers) but we think the ride will be a long, fruitful, and enjoyable one for someone already pretty well accomplished.

Keep your eyes and ears attuned to Mirah, for we think she will do very well indeed. Best wishes go with her and much love besides.


Its been a quiet week on the island.... Javier, our soundman, is recovering well from his fall during last week's podcast, hearable in the sidebar. Flowers can be sent to the Island Hospital there on Clinton Street. Just send them courtesy of Island-Life to Javier -- they all know who he is over there by now. He keeps throwing that custard at the nurse's station, lobbing great spoonfuls of the stuff over his cast-covered legs, demanding decent carne asada and mojitos and they can't wait until they are rid of him and we are so eager to have him back.

Pahrump has been sneaking in with a thermos of mojito juice or tequila every day, but its getting dicy, for he keeps trying to swipe the morphine vials from the drip stanchions at any number of patient beds and they are all on to him over there every time he slinks in there after the sun goes down, his distinctive black hair hanging down his back and his hands shoved into his pockets as he keeps on truckin' right past the protesting security guards.

As if darkness could help shield the questionable motives of anyone running for public office.

Some of you may have noticed this is an Election Year. Perhaps the more observant among you.

In any case, Pahrump is well situated as an Independent Candidate for potential Office. For one, among all the candidates, he is the one who is less a cartoon figure than all the rest. For another, as a certifiable Native American, he has better credentials to satisfy the most discriminating folks than all the others, and for another, he has never inhaled, soiled an intern's dress, started a meaningless war, raised taxes or caused undue harm to anyone.

In terms of administrative experience, the man has personally guided and guarded some of the most prolific bordellos in Nevada, including the famed Mustang Ranch, which indicates a level of competance and probity far in advance of anything any member of the Bush family has ever demonstrated.

Under Pahrump's care, the girls prospered and thrived, protected by strong unions and strict sanitary conditions, thus enhancing the economy of Nevada and fostering small business development everywhere.

With all the storms and bad weather, Tommy and Toby have not been able to take out their boat, The Lavender Surprise, although this has not stopped Pedro from taking his battered ketch, El Borracho Perdido, for a fisherman must fish to earn his pay and there was that hiatus a while back when Der Governator Arnold forbade the boats to go out through the oil slick left by the broken Costco Busan.

In the early pre-dawn, Pedro hustles about to the sound of the maritime weather report. Swells about seven feet just beyond the Golden Gate. Choppy but not so bad. Mrs. Almeida kisses him and hands him his lunch box as he goes out the door. For now, the rain has stopped, but he wears his yellow slicker just in case and she experiences the usual brush with anxiety all wives of men who take their living from the sea feel from time to time as she watches him descend the walk with Tugboat, the black lab beside him.

He goes down to the Marina and parks the old rattle-truck in his space there before walking out to the boat amid the scurries of wharf rats, the clack of Tugboat's claws on the steel decking, and the clink of the masts belonging to the pleasure boats. Up on the top of the wheelhouse sits that strange macaw that escaped a year ago from Mr. Howitzer's cage and a much smaller yellow bird with him.

Its some kind of cockatiel, probably also escaped from somebody's home, and as Pedro disengages the boat from the electric power and the moorings, the bird twitters and chirps as if delivering a fine morning speech, a perfect Pippin granting this good omen before fluttering off with the macaw toward Coast Guard Island. Two ghost birds sailing into the fog. The promise of fine weather ahead left behind. And Pedro hums a little song to himself and to tail-thumping Tugboat as his running lights cut across the Bay towards the Golden Gate, another man just going to work.

It's getting along to midnight here on the Island, with the rain holding back under the boiling skies. From far off comes the eerie ululation of the train passing through Jack London Waterfront from the Port. So it is. So it has been every week, every night, here in rain and storm. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.



FEBRUARY 3, 2008


A double dose of disaster located at opposite ends of the spectrum provide this week's headline photo op. First, we see the effects of the recent rains in this AP shot of a car that slid off into the Arroyo Seco River, normally a bone-dry culvert.

But then the wet weather has pushed the seasonal total for Los Angeles to more than 10 inches - well ahead of the norm of 6.5 inches for this time of year and certainly wiping out memories of the previous 12 months, when a scant 1.75 inches fell to barely moisten the cactus. The Big Tajunga Dam has begun releasing water to avoid overflowing in the San Gabriel mountains.

The dockwalloper continued through this past Saturday, however mottled skies are forecast for the next five days with a few days of bright sunshine.

During a rain break, somebody must have opened up one of those infernally hot jars of Chinese mustard, for the apartment above the Bamboo Kitchen burst into flames here on Lincoln street, pulling in two alarms and helicopters as it sent a dark pall high into the air. Fire was under control within twenty minutes of eight o'clock's discovery and all residents escaped unhurt.

Not the food, but a space heater is thought to be the cause. Folks around here are finding that 45 degrees is just too nippy.


It may be said Dave Grohl is very unlike anyone else, and that is a good thing. The Island-Life Caboose trundled out to the Oracle Arena with four reviewers in tow to catch the Foo Fighters for their latest flyby in the Bay Area. They were preceded by two other bands, the first of which we substantially missed, but which consisted of a female singer wearing crotch-high boots, injection-molded white leather pants and fronting a basic AC/DC-KISS re-run of energetic noise. She seemed sexy enough with vintage Robert Plant-style bend-over backwards and howl types of moves, struts and all kinds of groovy things, but the folks who had arrived early announced to friends via cell phone "Yeah, she could do one note well -- and that was a screech."

Man, music is a tough, tough business. Oh well.

Against Me! touring in promotion of their latest CD, "Searching for a Former Clarity", followed up with a charging, take no breath or break, full bore punk set that was refreshing in the very accomplished band's ability to modulate the thrashing with variable pacing and even some nod to musicality in vocals.

The group has been canned for all kinds of stupid reasons, most of which have to do with rather precious ideas about keeping punk "pure", not "selling out" or similar bull---t. As one reviewer put it, it shouldn't take the pierced mall fashionistas, pro-salon spike and dye jobs, and effete poseurs in carefully ripped tshirts to tell you punk has died and gone a while ago.

Music evolves and so do the musicians and so does the culture. Maggie Thatcher and Reagan are long gone and so is Sid Vicious. Eventually the surviving three chord screamers learn to play their instruments and stop charging the miserable five dollars a head in basements for gigs and that is just the way it goes.

So much for that. Put it all behind you; even Grunge Rock. You don't like the music? DIY.

All of us (age ranges 18-50) agreed that the Florida-based Against Me! performed impressively. Tom Gabel is the front man for this spare outfit of three guitars and drums dressed in black, and he does have a couple decent shots in the arm with the antiwar song "Justin" and the political lament “From Her Lips to Gods’ Ears” with its accusatory refrain "Condalezza! Condalezza!" R4NT magazine also gave them a solid thumbs up, so we expect these guys to keep on, perhaps filling the space left when Social Distortion finally ebbs away due to attrition.

That is not a day we look forward to at all, but its good to know that there are folks like Antiflag and Against Me! still out there, irritated, angry, talented and ready to testify.

When Dave Grohl strolled out with his eight person ensemble, he sort of surveyed the crowd from the stage edge-catwalk for a few moments and commented, "Hey, there are a lot of you out there! I really like this!" The place looked pretty full by that point. The official capacity is somewhere near 19,000 folks in assigned seating, boxes, and the General Admission Pit, however a 50 yard runway ending in a central drop stage had been added to the Pit, while a third of the seats were blocked off by the positioning of the main stage. We would estimate the crowd Saturday night to be somewhere between eight and nine thousand souls. Which meant that even the guys had to stand in line to take a leak at the restrooms.

We have reviewed the Foos here before, and have found them in every incarnation to be very well worth the time, and Jim Harrington, who usually is a pretty reliable online reviewer stated in his headline "Grohl, Foo Fighters knock out Oakland crowd".

Harrington did flop in attributing Grohl's birthplace to Ohio, when Grohl has repeatedly stated that he hails from Northern Virginia and a suburb of Washington D.C., which is where we met the man some quarter a century ago as Dave was taking a break from working in an upholstery factory to dig pipeline ditches.

Oh the glamour of budding rock stars.

Saturday night, however, Grohl flew up and down that long catwalk, pulling heavy metal, punk, grunge and -- in one memorable moment, a blues solo -- from his several guitars. At one point he and Pat Smear engaged in a little 'head cuttin'" with Grohl out on the extended catwalk and Smear pulling riffs from his Telecaster on the edge of the stage.

There was a lot of nice "showbiz" stuff during the two hour plus show, during which the band extended "Stacked Actors" and "This is a Call" into magnum opuses that Harrington correctly correlated with evocations of back in the day when mighty Led Zeppelin stomped the earth and the Rolling Stones laid the landscapes to waste. He is not quite Mick Jagger yet, but he certainly is approaching that level of Rock Superstar, taking entire arenas into the palm of his hand and having them sing along with the well-known songs.

A really nice touch was the lowering of a suspended stage into the pit to allow a more central view of the team as they did the acoustically-based numbers from "In Your Honor", which certainly did not cap the energy as Grohl leapt on top of the piano to strum furiously during "But Honestly"; breaking strings were visible even from the nosebleed seats. This section ended with a solo Grohl launching into a muted and well-loved "Everlong" on solid-body electric before running back to finish the song in full head-banging metal form.

Really nice touch, dude.

As for those ditch-digging days and the upholstery factory, well, Dave has comment that "those were Virginia jobs. The only kind of work you could get there. . .".

Saturday night proved that those days are long gone and good riddance for Dave Grohl and Co.

Official Setlist goes as follows:

"Let It Die”
"The Pretender’’
"Times Like These’’
"Learn to Fly’’
"Cheer Up, Boys (Your Make Up is Running)’’
"This is a Call" (the one with the 'fingernails' refrain)
"Stacked Actors’’
("acoustic" set)
"Skin and Bones’’
"My Hero’’
"Cold Day in the Sun’’
"But, Honestly’’
(return to mainstage, full electric)
"Monkey Wrench’’
"All My Life’’


"Big Me’’
"Long Road to Ruin’’
"Best of You’’

The consensus of our four reviewers, plus the peanut gallery up in the "nosebleeds"?

"That was just awesome!"

You go, Dave.


As a few people may recall, this past week saw the annual presentation of the State of the Onion Address, delivered each year by the President of the Bums of the United Slates of California. It was largely ignored because, on the one hand, President Shrubb is widely considered to be a castrated and amputated duck in his final days, and for another more interesting things were going on.

In fact, folks have not been listening with any sort of seriousness for some time and all the candidates highlight their distance of association from him and his policies on both sides of the aisle, which is a rare and most remarkable development in history.

Never before have people from both political parties stated, "I am not going to be anything like that guy and furthermore, I never knew him or agreed with anything he said."

This has resulted in many comic exchanges such as recently between Papoon and Babar, in which Babar accused Papoon of once having been at a party hosted by Shrubb. Which is even more remarkable in that Papoon has always been a member of the Liberal Party whereas both Shrubb and Babar have been long standing members of the Conservative Party.

But never mind Papoon has returned the accusation to Babar of running a "Swiftboating campaign" a charge, Babar vigorously denies.

The Swiftboaters, as everyone recalls, were a passel of scalawags who collected bribes so as to secure comfy posts behind the lines during the Vietnam War, and many of them kept secret favor with French poodles. This enabled them the resources to accuse soldiers wounded in battle that such valor was not worthy of recognition. "Oh you, with that shrapnel in your legs; you are such a fake. You don't deserve nothing."

One wonders what the guys wounded at Fallujah would make of this, should it happen to them. Oh you on the gurney with your legs blown off by an IED -- just quit yer whining, you fakir.

But nevermind. We are all about the State of the Onion Speech this Tuesday.

As per tradition the Onion was brought out on a plush velvet cushion and set before the President who grinned from his dais of old tires and commodes down by the Strand at the place where the beach juts out past the windsurfer's hut. The august Congress of Bums sat and reclined before him.

"Friends, nobles and countrymen, lend me your beer," began Shrubb with the age-old salutation.

He went on to urge the Congress to pass needed legislation that would jolt the sad state of the Economy into something worthy of the name. He recognized that things were in a bad state of affairs and a serious Recession on the way. No fault of his own of course. Blame the Market for that. Housing corrections and things and stuff.

Oh that people were not ripping and flipping houses like they used to. Can't get a decent 100 thousand in profit in minutes is the problem. I say, give the rich people more money and that will make things right as rain, said Shrubb.

As for health care, well leave that to the immigrants. We'll build a wall that will be a monument to my pride for years afterward and you can all put a plaque on it when you are done.

Now we are on to the terriers loose on airplanes. Kill them all and that will resolve it. Can't kill them all unless you got a king strong enough to make it all happen. What's a few wet heads over the security of the United Bums?

Them Al Qaida running around with the Russians and Hezbollah and Koreans and the Chinese are all convenient things most Californians should be kept in the dark about because that is all State Security issues and if you ask questions we can drag you off to our pals in Saudi Arabia and kept you nice and wet and warm cause we don't practice no torture so that means waterboarding and suffocation and certain forms of ball cutting aint no torture, not when the electricity is God-given solar powered for the prods, no sirree.

So there, now the terrierist thing is fixed. On to other stuff.

Basically its all like this. You all need to get together and just agree with me and things will be just fine.

That's the State of the Onion, this 2008.

As per tradition, Shrubb took a swig of tokay and fell over backwards in a rage of falling tires and breaking commodes.

The bums who remained comatose wandered off to find drier accommodations as a dismal rain began to fall on the sodden and corrupt Onion of the State.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

A few scudding clouds keep the night skies interesting while Venus and Jupiter are striving for Early Morning Display. Sometime before Dawn, the two lights rise up in the Southern sky and look like a pair of mismatched headlights. Check it out.

Stray Jack keeps skulking about the corner of the Old Fence and frost is on the late night grass. It is the depths of Winter even as Old Earth careers her way to longer days. Snow in China, snow in the Sierra, and snow in Chicago and snow all over Arkansas, but this global warming thing means you will get these wild sways and bucks of precipitation and temperature for a while before it all settles down for a bit. Better get used to this because next year you just might have to live with 95 degrees in January and bone dry swimming pools.

Nevertheless, deep beneath those snow blankets things are starting to happen. A bit of snow crust cracks and something purple seems to be croaking down there, a croaking crocus perhaps.

That dour Easterner Puxatawney Phil got yanked from his stump to inform all of us a few more weeks of winter are in store.

Meanwhile the House of Blues is winding up and the long ululating wail of the midnight train passing through Jack London Waterfront comes wavering across the water. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.


FEBRUARY 10, 2008


A "false Spring" has wafted into the Bay Area, even as the mercury struggles toward 0 degrees in the middle of the Country, causing crocuses and freesias to start popping out all over. The jasmine by the Old Fence has erupted in a profusion of blooms and the two nuthatches that have kept house under the front door eaves of Pagano's Hardware have started poking about up there again about a month earlier than usual.


It may be the last year of the Bush Error, but its also the Year of the Rat.. The Chinese New Year (4706) is celebrated for the week Feb 7 - 20 around here with a variety of public events, culminating in the famous Parade.

Parade route - Saturday, February 23, 2008

Last year sporadic rain dampened audience enthusiasm for the parade a bit, but this year promises to host a stellar cloud-free sky.

The Chinese New Year Parade in Babylon is the largest celebration of its kind outside of Asia. Over 100 units will participate in the parade, featuring the theme of this year's Chinese zodiac sign, The Rat. Nowhere in the world will you see a lunar new year parade with more gorgeous floats, elaborate costumes, dancing lions, and great numbers of firecrackers. Some of the parade highlights include elaborately decorated floats, school marching bands, martial arts group, stilt walkers, lion dancers, Chinese acrobatics, the newly crowned Miss Chinatown and the ever popular Gum Lung, or Golden Dragon.

The Golden Dragon is over 201 feet long and is always featured at the end of the parade as the grand finale and will be accompanied by over 600,000 firecrackers. The Golden Dragon was made in the little town of Foshan, China. The Foshan dragonmasters formerly made all the costumes for the Cantonese opera, and the Golden Dragon bears many operatic touches, such as the rainbow colored pompoms on its 6 foot-long head. It is festooned from nose to tail with colored lights, decorated with silver rivets on both scaly sides and trimmed in white rabbit fur. The dragon, made on a skeleton of bamboo and rattan, is in 29 segments and takes a team of 100 men and women to carry.

The Rat was welcomed in ancient times as a protector and bringer of material prosperity. It is the first of the 12-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. Rat is associated with aggression, wealth, charm, and order, yet also associated with death, war, the occult, pestilence, and atrocities.

Being the first sign of the Chinese zodiac, the rat is often associated with leaders, pioneers and conquerors. People born in the year of the Rat are said to be charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. They are said to be endowed with great leadership skills and to be the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. They are said to be intelligent and cunning, highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which are often said to include money and power. They are said to be energetic and versatile and capable of finding their way around obstacles, and adapting to various environments easily.

The lunar month for the rat is December, making Sagittarius the closest Western equivalent.


The downtown garage opened a few days ago with hoopla and ceremonial stuff. Of course, no one was allowed to actually park in the garage for several days after that, as a few details remained to be ironed out. Report has it few are using the structure to this date.


Hear that ole' John Mellancamp missed the brass ring at the Grammy's this time around. That's okay, man. The Grammy's are largely a beauty pageant approaching the European Song Contest in level of irrelevance with tremendous nods to the Already Famous and whoever is the latest teen heart-throb. We like John because he was one of the very first songwriters to speak out against the Iraq Quagmire, even before it became obvious to everybody the affair was a mess conducted by boobs and fools.

Speaking of beauty pageants, Super Tuesday has come and gone and we do hope your own cherished candidate for whatever got what he or she deserved.

Around here the Golden State opted for the Woman Warrior over the Black Chieftain, although we note that Barbara Lee's district went heavily for the Obama dude and our Staffer, Festus, still has his blue and white Go 'Bama! placard hanging out the window. Our Conservatives, who tend toward the fiscal -- as opposed to the religious -- wing of the Party all hopped on the Mccain bandwagon, although diffidently, according to reports

People decided the private enterprise called Children's Hospital should get its money for expansion the way other private enterprises do, and not from the public trough.

In other surprisingly intelligent decisions, voters dumped yet another Constitutional Amendment, this one trying to limit use of Transportation Funds to specific projects. A cap on Community College fees was tossed out with the bathwater and so was the suspicious "Limits on Terms in Office" which actually extended terms by several years.

Every single Referendum on allowing expansion of Indian Casinos passed after a last minute burst of accuracy from promoters. The measures promise to fill state coffers with revenue, and offer distributed benefits to all tribes outside of the Big Four. We kind of also enjoy the idea of all those White folks yanking on the handles of One-armed bandits, putting coin into the hands of folks who have been swindled for well over two hundred years. Seems somehow appropriate.

Dave McDonald, Registrar pro tem, may be feeling a bit of heat, after local snafus caused widespread shortages of ballots for the suddenly well-attended election and misinformation caused beaucoups problems for Independent Voters, who were told they had missed the option to vote in the Democratic Primary.

The GOP, as usual, wants fewer people to vote, so they did not offer that option at all.

Briefly, this is the situation in Alameda County. Bruce McPherson retired as Registrar a few years ago (shortly after the 2000 election), leaving Elaine Ginnold as Acting Registrar during the 2004 election. Elaine departed to serve as Registrar for Marin County, serving in "advisory capacity". It is now 2008 and we have Dave McDonald, the Director of Alameda's IT Department acting in both capacities. Alameda County's computer network features some 10,000 users and some 15,000 nodes, including publicly accessed CRT's, and its budget is in the stratospheric millions. An ancient IBM 3270 reposes in the depts of its underground Operations Center which features over one hundred rack-mounted servers, so we are not talking about a peanuts operation here.

But we still have no fully invested Registrar and problems have been happening, starting with the Diebold fiasco. Millions of dollars worth of touchscreens that must be scrapped because they leave no paper trail.

Can Lauren Do do anything about this situation?


Our Island candidates have advanced successfully through the early winnowing process. Papoon has been stumping for Single Payer Health Care coupled with a unique rider that covers Housepets and Strays.

Babar has been campaigning on the program of Strong Defense and Smaller Government, but this Smaller Government to be given Unitary Rights over Species including Human Beings, to feature allowed waterboarding, wiretapping, indefinite and infinite detention, arrest at will and on sight, censorship rights over all printed and recorded matter, and a fence along the Rio Grande to feature a one-million volt laser beam that would fry anyone attempting to cross, with options for automatic machine gun posts placed every one hundred meters along the border with Mexico.

"If anybody makes their way through that," says Babar. "I say hire them to protect the Pentagon against wayward hijacked airplanes. Clearly, a position remains open there."

Pahrump, our Independent, has been campaigning in his usual manner by having folks over for beers at Marlene and Andre's place, where he sleeps under the coffee table. He has got up his own Anti-Immigration project, which features establishing a Coast Guard Station at Rainy Lake, Minnesotta, which apparently is a serious gap in the National Defence System, and a major vulnerability overlooked by Homeland Security.

As everyone knows, it was from Canada that the only Al Qaida operative with a carload of bombs was captured. Mexicans are far too laid back to try to blow anything up. Those guys down south just want jobs fixing the plumbing, digging pipe ditches and building walls to keep out their neighbors. They have no interest at all in disrupting the system; it works for them.

Canadians, on the other hand, have delusions of Empire. Just look at the way they play hockey. Even the sport of Hockey is imperialist by nature. During the winter, we were recently informed, they come in waves over the frozen surface of Rainy Lake, a some eight-mile weakly protected part of the American Frontier, so as to conduct secretive dealings with supposed "ice fishermen" in their "ice houses" out there on the lake.

Of course, we sophisticates know that "ice" is clear shorthand for such things as "cocaine" and "diamonds" and "Alison Kutcher CDs".


These "ice houses" are nothing other than mule stations for the dubious transactions that funnel tons of cheap pharmaceuticals into the US. Inexpensive Tylenol, cheaper pseudophed, reasonably priced penicillin, asperin and all sorts of things our Big Pharma wants permission to gouge for. This sort of thing just might destabilize the Market Economy that Bush and Co. explain will save all of us, including New Orleans, from Perdition.

Think of the Canadians sneaking over the border to take god-given American jobs. Burger King cashiers and plumbers helpers. How many of our jobs in Detroit have been lost to Canadian illegals? Furthermore, how many Black Poodles have been smuggled across?

Pahrump wants to know, and he has gathered a coalition to gather funds to examine this problem. With any luck, they will have solid results before the take is all drunk up.

Stay tuned for further developments.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The change in weather has brought the fogs and that has brought the deep fog horns out on the bay, each ship announcing to each "Here I am!", in the old way, even though modern electronics have taken over the job of pure eyesight.

Costco Busan nothwithstanding.

Still, here in the Island-Life Offices on St. Charles the echoes of the fog horns come insistently over the water to our windows. Amid the clack clack of typwriters and the teletype machine. The occasional stapler. Telephones. Burble of conversation from the Overseas Desk. The Radio playing the Sunday Night Jam from somone's cubicle. Foghorns.

Down by the Old Cannery, Officer O'Madhauen sits with his radar pointed down Buena Vista but nothing has come that way for a good hour. In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie polishes a glass and settles down to read another few pages from her anthropology textbook before closing up for the night. Eugene gets up and leaves his usual tip on the bartop -- a quarter -- before going out. Mr. Howitzer's new dog, Sniffles, noses about his bed before plopping down with a bored grunt while Mr. Howitzer puzzles over an odd rattling object inside his flugelhorn. Nevermind. Tomorrow is another business day. He'll need to be in there bright and early so as to deliver his usual post-weekend wakeup speech to Rosalee and anyone else who would listen. All about preservation of acumen, seizing opportunity, take no prisoners, look sharp and bustle for the competition never sleeps. Thats the spirit. All right now, hup hup!

Such is Mr. Howitzer, businessman and proponent of small government and the Free Market Economy.

Down the street Ms. Morales puts away the last of the graded papers from her students at Longfellow Middle School and takes off her reading glasses. She is is a bit worried about the looming budget cutbacks and what that means for Longfellow. She is not so concerned about the No Child Left Behind ruckus -- she has never left any child behind, for she teaches them well enough they can pass any old test and has done so for twenty-five years. Politicians come and go and so do the trends, but the kids remain kids. There are the quick ones and there are the slower ones and there are the angels and there are the troublemakers, but they all grow up someday and vote to cut taxes and the school budget. She pulls the cord and the desk closes up in darkness.

Somewhere in the fog, an old riverboat hoots across the water.

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


FEBRUARY 17, 2008


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Javier and his garden. The recent False Spring helped a bit as well.

The days have been starting gray and cool until the high fog burns off, leaving a deceptively bright but cold sunshine.

Up higher, all major snow resorts are open and looking at some kind of precipitation happening, starting midweek, but everything turning to snow at all elevations from the relatively balmy Alpine Meadows (expecting rain on Wednesday) to Sugar Bowl, where the base is an estimated 116 inches at the low end. Squaw Valley reports 140 inches of deep powder. High day temps are hovering around 48 everywhere, but definitely will slide below freezing through the weekend. That crust ought to be pretty slick by Saturday. Packed powder in most locations.


We must explain the reason this week's issue is late is due to unfortunate circumstances beyond our control: we were in jail. Again. On Valentine's Day. The whole affair is so sordid and tawdry we had to relate it entirely third person as if it had happened to Someone Else.

We are terribly afraid Lauren Do has lost all respect now, if she had not done so already. And as for the other well-respected Blogs like Dailynoose, well, the ignominy, the shame is just excruciating. These folks are all clean-shaven, pressed-shirt sorts of folks who know not the deepest depravity of the heart that infects our soul.

O! O! O!

So as to avoid distraction, the sordid events are related at the bottom of this entry under COLD RAIN AND SNOW.


Pulled from the KFOG acoustic show list, we note the following noteworthy gigs:

COUNTRY JOE - Feb 22 - Freight & Salvage - Tribute to Woody Guthrie

HOUSTON JONES - Feb 24 - Little Fox - benefit - Veterans for Peace

BLAME SALLY - March 1- Freight & Salvage

JOHN GORKA - March 8 - Freight & Salvage

JIM WHITE - March 17 - Great American Music Hall

Country Joe, of course, is a greybeard from the Woodstock generation who just never stopped plugging or losing his sense of where he came from. Houston Jones are our favorite High Octane Americana boys doing a gig at the Little Fox Theatre down there edging Foster City. John Gorka's deep bass has been known to cause ladies to swoon in the aisles. Call for his excellent "Land of the Bottom Line."

Jim White returns to the GAMH with great anticipation from fans who don't often get to see the Texan in person. Expect quirky and dark humor.

Missed Stockholm Syndrome over at the Independent, and a sold-out Warfield appearance of that amazing duo, Rodrigo y Gabriela, who apparently enchanted the throngs once again with stupendous and brutal displays of acoustic fire that no 00 Martin was ever designed to withstand.

Strange de Jim reports that the sold out show at Yoshi's Oakland for Mark Hummel's Harmonica Blow Out once again roused the masses into a frenzy, especially with John Mayall's incendiary performance.

In a more jazzy vein, Island heartthrob chanteuse, Natasha Miller takes over for a sophisticated date on the 20th in that venue.

The Island-Life Music Event Coordinator is angling for hard-to-get Tix for Panic at the Disco and for Yoav at Hotel Utah.


Well, it's February again, and some of you should know, had better know in fact, that this past week the Hallmark and the Schrafft's Candy Chocolate companies conducted their own best efforts to repair the economy left in tatters by seven years of Presidential mismanagement.

Oh yes, FTD will do their utmost to balance the military budget with flowers, which is not a bad idea, come to think of it.

The Official info sites claim the non-holiday is a commemoration of a St. Valentine who was supposedly martyred for performing marriages in defiance of a particularly despicable Roman Emperor who wanted scads of single men to swell the ranks of his armies. While in prison, this Valentine is supposed to have had some kind of affair of the hear with a blind girl who, as daughter of the warden, was allowed to roam the place at will and bring for some inexplicable reason food to condemned prisoners. Before his death, he is supposed to have written a note signed, "From your Valentine."

This is, of course ridiculous. No official records exist for this person, or for his death, or for his imprisonment, and his deeds exist largely in the folklore of a handful of theologians in one particular Church. The Romans of the third Century, ruled by Claudius, did not feed their prisoners and certainly did not waste resources on keeping about a fellow condemned to death for any length of time for any reason. When condemned, the hapless fellow was typically frog-marched forthwith directly to whatever delight the executioner had in mind for him. In addition, what kind of idiot would write a note and leave it for a blind girl and where is this piece of unreadable writing now extant?

Furthermore, other than a handful of nerdy historians, such as our Chief Editor, not a soul in America or any other nation for that matter, knows the details of this supposed "tradition", neither the century of Valentine's martyrdom, nor the basics of just what he was supposed to have been famous for.

We do know that on the ancient Athens calendar, the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.

Always eager to borrow from the Greeks, Rome worked up the celebration of Lupercalia, a festival of eroticism that honored Juno Februata, the goddess of "feverish" (febris) love. Annually, on the ides of February, love notes or "billets" would be drawn to partner men and women for feasting and sexual game playing. For the period of one year, the woman whose name had been drawn, would become the sexual plaything of her temporary "owner". Obviously, from the milder times of Rome's early ascendancy, things had developed by the time of Claudius from a spiritual fertility acknowledgment into something rather debauched.

Early Christians, clearly a dour bunch, frowned on these lascivious goings-on. In an attempt to curb the erotic festivities, the Christian clergy encouraged celebrants to substitute the names of saints. Then, for the next twelve months, participants were to emulate the ideals represented by the particular saint they'd chosen. Not too surprisingly, this prudish version of Lupercalia proved unpopular, and died a quick death.

The Church, however, is not an Institution that backs down easily on matters in which it has decided to usurp that nasty old paganism. It selected February 14th, roughly the time of Lupercalia, as the Feast of Valentine, whom they made into a saint -- albeit with scant proof of his existence, but who was to quibble about that?

Funnily enough, the basic middle school game of drawing lots for the name of your secret "valentine" pulls from that very old Roman tradition, once based upon honoring Juno Februata.

Go ahead, eat the chocolate.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the Western edge of the Continental United States. Seagulls have started circling over the Safeway parkinglot, and we have good reports from our Meteorological Desk that another dockwalloper is on the way. The Official Barometer reads 30.05 and holding, but just for now.

Monday is President the last holiday of any kind until May, as correspondent Jon of Petaluma dourly reminded us.

Lionel has been sitting at the rail in the same seat down at the Old Same Place Bar for quite a while. Since about four o'clock, in fact, and he has not been idle. Every three or four Manhattans, he gets up, goes to the rest room, and in returning at a list of some 25 degrees as if tacking against a stern headwind, passes either the pool table or the dart board and tries to engage in sporting activity. After several mishaps with the dartboard, or say, rather, the darts missing the dartboard, he has been barred from that zone of entertainment for the foreseeable future.

The cat, Walter Mitty, probably will recover, but will never again repose by the ferns.

Along about ten, Denby, the chief Island-Life Feature Editor, came sailing through the door, his London Fog trailing great wings to either side, his hair in complete disarray until he came face to face with Lionel, whom he mistook for Samuel Jackson. Denby had pursued the annual rites of St. Valentine in the manner of his honored Irish forebears: earlier that day, he got a bottle of Arthur Power from EZ Liquors on Lincoln Street and sat out in Washington Park until the bottle was half gone, as well as himself, as curious joggers, children, bicyclists and sundry innocents observed the man muttering to himself in iambic pentameter while weeping uncontrollably.

This muttering sometimes declined to incensed splutters of rage to some startled couple:

". . . here's a travelled man that knows
What he talks about,
(ha ha ha ha ha!)
There's a politician
That has read and thought,
And maybe what they say is true
Of war and war's alarms,
But O that I were young again . . . !"
( succeeded by yet more weeping)

By the time the man had worked through much of the Irish Renaissance, had destroyed O'Casey by declamation, misused Evan Boland, trounced Brendan Behan and was well into "At Swim Two Birds", which is an infernal book not to be handled in public or in the presence of impressionable minds when someone called the police and Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser pulled up across the street; so the man took off running as if the Devil Pookah was hot on his heels through the intricate byways and sideways of the Island, startling a family of raccoons raiding a perfectly decent dumpster in the process with a great hullaballoo of screeching. Behind a tenement house on Santa Clara he found an untenanted bicycle, which he hopped upon, promptly crashed through a flimsy gate to the street, and rode thus illicitly by circuitous routes ever Eastward. Thus, came Denby to the Old Same Place Bar in a state.

"Mr. Jackson! You were great in "Black Snake Moan"; absolutely fantastic!" said Denby.

Lionel, who had been mourning the sorry state of his own romantic affairs for several hours in peace, was stunned into an acre of sobriety. He would have been affronted, but Denby offered to buy the famous actor a drink, and so set him to rights again on the path of intoxicated forgetfulness.

Manhattans at the OSPB cost about five bucks, and as Lionel had already enjoyed several on his tab, such an offer was not to be refused.

The two nestled up to the brass rail like old friends.

Why was such a famous actor hanging out in such a place? For answer, Lionel silently removed a piece of cardboard, folded in half, cut in the shape of a heart and colored -- somewhat amateurishly -- with blue felt tip marker on the outside. Inside, were the following words:

I B Ur Valentine -- Dianne.


"She be day-ed", said Lionel. "Among other things".

A moment of silence held like the belly of the last drop of corn liquor swinging from the bottle just a tad. Then Denby spoke.

When things go wrong and will not come right,
Though you do the best you can,
When life looks black as the hour of night -

When money's tight and hard to get
And your horse has also ran,
When all you have is a heap of debt -

When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
And your face is pale and wan,
When doctors say you need a change,

When food is scarce and your larder bare
And no rashers grease your pan,
When hunger grows as your meals are rare -

In time of trouble and lousy strife,
You have still got a darlint plan
You still can turn to a brighter life -

The conversation descended a bit from there and the two started arguing about the reason for the long-term condition of the Golden State Warriors, their eternal comparisons to the Chicago Cubs in terms of ability and stature and achievements. Eventually the two tumbled out and back -- unfortunately -- to Washington Square Park and the courts there, where, near midnight Lionel tried to show Denby how to drop a ten footer with something like style and Denby tried to prove to Lionel that he, for one, could jump shot. Enthralled multitudes of the Oracle arena cheered. The sweat flew. The ball echoed throughout the arena. Bottles were broken. The hoops rang like bells.

It was not before long that the spotlight of Officer O'Madhauen pinned the two like frightened and confused beetles out there on the steaming courts, the enthralled multitudes silenced in the stands all about.

"Is this about a bicycle?" Denby unwisely asked the Voice which came from the Light.

No. It was about public and disorderly and drunk and being a nuisance.

"Now you fellows have the right to remain, silent, even though I expect you probably will refuse to be so against the dictates of common sense and decency. You have a right to an attorney, each of you, although I expect decent men and women are asleep and in their beds at this hour. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law, however I am not going to be listening as I do not give a damn about either one of you, for ill or will. In any case you are under arrest. Do you understand what I just said?" Officer O'Madhauen spoke, somewhat against the book.

The two spoke affirmatively.

"Come along." Said the Officer.

What's that, they said.

"These are called "Come-Alongs". You will understand presently. Come along now."

That's how the Chief Features Editor for Island-Life spent the night in jail and that is why the issue is late.

Meanwhile, Suzie finds the Blue Valentine on the bartop under a pile of change. Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions. Suzie Maldonado.

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


FEBRUARY 24, 2007


This weeks headline photo comes again from Javier's garden, which seems to be acting impulsively against all seasonal advice, jasmine blooming like mad and daffydowndillies, as Sam Gamgee used to call them, erupting carelessly under the chill rains.

This past week the deceptively-named Pacific ushered in another dockwalloper of a storm, sending scads of seagulls scudding in phalanxes and squauking squadrons as high winds whipped the coastal sequoias and lashings of rain pelted down in shuddering sheets, sending sedans and settees skidding across the sopping streets.

How's that for alliteration and descriptive disarray?


A feller who robbed the Citibank down on Webster probably has specialized in hitting Citibanks throughout the Bay Area, for some unknown motive of veangance and consistency.

Investigators are linking the man with the other recent Citibank cases based on his description and the similar way each robbery was carried out.

No one was hurt during the robbery on Webster Street, where the man entered the bank shortly after 11 a.m. and walked directly up to a teller.

"He pulled the gun from his waistband and pointed it at her," Alameda police detective Sgt. Don Owyang said. "He demanded money and she complied."

The man, armed with a black semi-automatic pistol, then exited the bank via its Haight Avenue door.

"It was over very, very quickly," police Lt. Art Fuentes said.

A police dog picked up what may have been the suspect's scent in the bank's parking lot, Fuentes said. But since no traffic ordinances were violated, the perp got clean away.


Scott and Barbara Walsh (of Livermore) have instituted the first, um, "Miss Alameda County" competition held here in more than twenty years, complete with gowns, bathing suits and a crown.

Don't call the Miss Alameda County competition a "beauty pageant." The Walshes take umbrage and participants will bridle.

Basically, the pageant ... er ... competition, is a function of the staggering increases in college costs and features not diamonds and film contracts, but a scholarship program.

As HST used to say, a bit dweeziled, when the going gets tough, the wierd get going.

"It's about empowerment," Barbara Walsh said. "I believe women should have the same opportunities as men, whether you do it through law or pageants. ... They aren't diametrically opposed.

"It's about achieving the same goals, just arriving there differently."

Many are the excuses for participating, for attending, for watching, for any part of it, but basically its all an old fashioned beauty pageant by any other name, and hence is sex for money by its usual name.

Hardly "empowering". Explaining it all by saying "Its all for the money" does not fly with us.

The competition at Amador Valley Theater took place on Saturday, but nobody in the Offices wanted to attend.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and the Western edge of the continental United States. When you stand here with your back to the ocean, you essentially face the entire Country, and that has been the situation for the Golden State for over 150 years.

Nice to hear KFOG finally acknowledge the warmer side of the Bay this evening.

With all of the rain, folks have been keeping indoors. The Pampered Pup has kept all three of its stools occupied from opening to closing, huddled and damp figures hunching over their chili dogs and coffee for ninety minutes and longer. The Old Same Place Bar has hosted a full lineup each night from opening to closing as regulars peer up through the torn and dripping awning at yet another soak from the heavens.

Suzie leafs through her textbook behind the bar between calls, old barflys nursing single beers for as long as the bubbles continue to rise.

Everyone is waiting something to change. Waiting for the end of the terrible Shrubb Administration. Waiting for the end of this incessant rain. Waiting for the end of the Recession, even though its just started or so they say. Waiting for luck to change.

Eugene Gallipagus sits there not talking to anybody, his cap pulled down low and his arms up on the bar, sheltering his beer. They say he was married once, back when he lived up in Minnesotta many years ago. The ladies at Jacqueline's Salon say that, and maybe that is true, for Jacqueline also hails from Minnesotta maybe knew of him back then.

O that was old times, ya, Jacqueline says. A long time tme ago.

O tell me all, do tell me all about it, said Maeve, who hails from Eniskerry in the Old Country.

Well you'll just die when you hear, ya. Well I remember he came down in that old Ford truck, a rattlin' sorta thing he still has with hardly as much paint left on it for all the rust and the years gone by, ya . . . you want a streak of silver in that, ya?

Never mind about the streak; wash quit and don't be dabbling. Roll up your sleeves and loosen yer talktapes. And don't butt me when you bend. Do tell me all about it.

Well they say he had a wife and then another or she had one -- not a wife but a lover on the side, don't ya know and it was one of them what ya call menage trois . . . .

O he's such a one! All the men and what they can get in their pants all the time and some women even worse . . . . o mind the suds!

Ah she was a fine specimen with red hair like the daughter of some devil and them carrying on until Pastor Inkwell made a speech in the church about lewd iniquity and they couldn't go about even fetching groceries or getting the hair done in town with the stares, such is the place, little Small Bear Lake up near the border, ya? And the time came they decided to go, she to California and he wanting to go to Florida and wouldn't you know it, they broke up and she went to family in Alabama and now here he is.

Is that the truth now? She was a quare old skeowsha anyhow. And he a quare old buntz.

True as was told to me, ya. Right here in this very chair by Charlene Bunsen.

She of the Wobegon Bunsens?

Sure, ya. The very same. So you know its all true, ya. And you can just imagine the spicier stuff she hinted at all the time, all the patchouli parties and the carrying on. But Eugene came down here and started working for MacMurry Pacific over in The City before setting himself up here as a painting contractor.

And living alone ever since. He married his markets, cheap by foul. Tsk tsk.

A fella like that gets set in his ways after a while. He's just like them Norwegian bachelor farmers they did a movie all about, ya. They get sorta funny livin' all by themselves and now he just lives for the poodle-huntin' don't ya know.

That was all from Charlene. Aren't you from that part of the country now? And how is it you wound up here yourself?

O, don't let me go on. A short story and common enough. One day I took the car keys, both daughters, and the shoes and drove away in my old station wagon.

Ever go back now?

Mercy no! There aint nothing back there but a broken down jalopy, a battle with the booze, and the aweful man I left behind.

The long sound of the train throughpassing Jack London Square. Then, the sound of rain.


Ho lord.


What all men. . . .

Can't hear with the waters of . . .

Eugene steps outside the Old Same Place Bar with the last rainwater pouring from the eaves down to a little river. Someone calling from far off. Flittering bats overhead and the talk of fieldmice in the rustling sedge by the Strand. Are you not yet gone ahome?

What? Malone? 'zat you? Can't hear with the rushing waters of . . .

Ho, talk save us! My feet won't move until the moss grows over them. Talk of bats, chittering bats and sedge and wind.

I feel as old as that oak. A tale told of Jacqueline and smoke?

All her daughters. Dark hawks hear us. Night! Night! My old head falls. Falls and rolls down long echoing halls. I feel as heavy as yonder stone. Tell me of Eugene and Jacqueline. Who were they, the living sons and daughters of?

Night now!

Tell me, tell me, tell me, elm! Night, night! Tell me tale of stem or stone. Beside the rivering waters of, hither and thithering waters of.


That's the way it is on the Island. Sleep well this week.


MARCH 02, 2007


This week's headline comes from Washington Square Park where now kids swing merrily under bright sunshine although the past few weeks saw cold rain and blustery weather keeping the park mostly empty, except on one particular day when a small crowd of people gathered beneath the dripping oak on a sad day of mourning and remembrance and to commemorate two new park benches.

The scene during this early Spring is of bright sunshine and bucolic peace, with a children's playground framed by tall palms on one side and a copse of oaks that rolls down to a baseball field and then out to the Strand and Crab Cove.

Right there at that oak last Halloween night, "Iko" Bayarsaikhan was shot to death in a botched robbery by wannabe thugs pretending to be gangbangers. Iko was just 15 years old and newly emigrated to the United States for some six months from Mongolia. The gang members were all also under the age of fifteen except for the actual killer who was 16 and to be tried as an adult.

Quochuy "Tony" Tran, the shooter, had held a bad reputation as a bully and an insolent toughie always getting into trouble for some time, and now before attaining the age to vote, his life is essentially over. Like the troubled boy who shot 30 people in Blacksburg, VA, like the boy who shot people from the assembly stage of his local high school in Bakersfield, everybody seemed to know here was trouble heading for bigger trouble, yet no one cared and the results have been consistently aweful.

All the murders are the direct result of the foolish and irresponsible Republican idea of bootstrap self-help and personal freedom absent social responsibility. No help, no program, no "entitlements", let the strongest survive. If you start counting with the Reagan "revolution" only radical Conservatives seem to love we have had over 20 years now of unrelenting nonsense, resulting in ever more bloodshed and social disarray.

Did no one care about this boy at all? What is to become of his life now? Or those of his younger companions, sentenced to hard youth labor in the Sierra
rehabilitation camps.

A benefit concert for Iko's family and for the Cole Cloren Rehabilitation Fund will take place March 15 at The Home of Truth (1300 Grand). Cole was brutally attacked in another botched robbery attempt a few years ago, leaving him first in a fight for his life -- the doctors did not expect him to survive -- and then in a long fight to regain the ability to walk, move, speak and otherwise overcome cranial injuries. Call Carolyn Queener at 523-4924 for info on the classical music benefit.


The sun keeps coming up on each new impossible day, but Houston Jones have made the top 200 at Neal Young's antiwar website, Living with War. The site features over 2000 songs written in response to the Iraq Horror. A discovery made through this site revealed the sneaky secret that the entire new CD "Calico Heart" can be downloaded for free on the HJ website. Free music! Hey, its a pretty decent CD too! Look for the hyperlink associated with the song "Coward's Game". The Houston-Jones website can be found at


Erica over at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts sends love to you all. Erica Agyeman is moving on to other things even as the FBCA starts ramping up activities here.

Receiving day for the March exhibit, "Come right in, sit right down" is this Sunday, March 2nd, bring your submissions to the gallery between 10:30 am and 5 pm.

The 2008 Plein Air Paint Out Application and Prospectus are available online! Check them out -- deadline is April 4th.

The deadline for the photography submissions was Friday.

The Center also will take your "gently used" artwork donations at any time.


It may be balmy now, but we certainly went through some Severe Weather and all the usual Suspects have front page photos of the display jet that got pushed over by gale-force winds out on the Point last week. So, we, too, present our shameless photo.

In a touching aside, the Police Blotter reported the incident as "downed aircraft."


We have a crowded field of characters running for office here, so we thought we would present a few of them here as a public service.

First up we have Buddy, The Elf.

Buddy stands out here in that it does appear that he is, unlike the incumbent, incapable of lying or meaness of any kind, so we are highly unlikely to have a war if he is elected. It is important to note that he has collected a formidible Campaign team, featuring a Richard Dinklater, who has been called "The Angry Elf". And boy, is he angry.

Next, we have Peter Struempf, running for Deputy Chair of the local chapter of the Native Sons of the Golden West.

Since Peter is not really of American origins, he is not eligible for the office of President, however, it is believed that Der Governator Arnold may have broken the ice on that troublesome rule. Like all true Conservatives, Peter and his people are of the idea that if something bothers you, like the Constitution or any part of it, just put forth an Amendment.

So much better than just passing a law.

Peter's Support Team consists entirely of folks from Croatia, for some reason. Proving that people from the Balkans can be lovable when they choose to be so.

Thoroughly American and ready to save the day and perhaps the Country, Rocky offers a solid Team on the Bullwinkle ticket.

Rocky plans to install the man who should have been head of the House Ethics Committee from the beginning: Mr. Dudley Doright.

That's it for the first round of Candidates for '08. Get out and vote.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After all that cold rain and wind, the Michelangelo clouds dappled with gods and sungold proved heavenly. During the day a low fog, about eight feet high drifted above eerily calm water near Coyote Point.

The flocks of seagulls have gone, leaving the Canadian geese passing through to gabble among themselves in their own Argentinian dialect of Spanish, practicing the idioms before having to switch back over to the Kanuckian Gallic. Many, if not most continue on their 10,000 year voyage, back and forth, back and forth year after year, but a few always remain behind. No one knows why. Those geese simply mislay passports or directions or fail to catch the next flight, and then the next and somehow they wind up here, in California, the Golden State. Like many people, they become enthralled with weather, with the clothes, with the landscapes, or just the seeming anything-goes laissez faire attitude -- held mostly by transplants from other places -- and so they wind up staying another year.

Another year becomes another year, and one year leads to the next with a few more geese added in each year until you have quite a flock now, staying permanently there, all gabbling and crapping on the Crab Cove meadow before the rangers shoo them off and they all head over to the Chuck Corica golf course and gabble and poop some more on the prisine greens, giving the groundskeepers no end of anguish, while really challenging the lay of the final shot. It got so bad the officials of the PGA had to add another par count to every hole on account of the Poop Hazard.

Truth is, California is a very difficult place to live.

O shockers. How can we be so vile to speak the truth.

We rank here about # 5, just behind Michigan with its dismal auto manufacturing industry, as one of the worst places to find a job. Find a job, you will encounter the positively worst co-workers, the worst bosses, the most threatening conditions to life and limb encountered anywhere. Get an apartment and they laugh at you and intimidate you if you request a bit of hot water, not in the sink, but maybe in the shower. Just a few hours a day, please? And reliable electrical sockets. And about the windows falling into the street . . . .

Nevermind. You bought a house. Yeah. $800,000 in the hole and you are the proud owner of a fixer-upper two bedroom sixteenth acre job needing serious foundation work. Not to mention the whole west side is rotted beneath the stucco. But, hey. A house in California.

Go ask Keb' Mo' all about it.

The bottom falls out, people are losing their jobs and your mortgage goes perversely UP not DOWN.

Welcome to California. Which is the only State that has border checkstations on all sides. Not just with Mexico, but with American States as well. Ostensibly to screen for medflies.

Sure there are people living the High Life. There are those People everywhere. All we know is that we can stand on the hood of our beat-up car and look at the hills, so far away. Up there, that's where we hear they have hot tubs and starlet parties. Down in deep Oaktown, its a different matter.

Growing up here, everybody has these three things in common: That which you most love will be surely torn down and destroyed before your eyes. That which you most detest and revile will surely be erected and promoted and ballyhooed. And legions of the truely wierd and strange will settle in flocks to poop upon the greens in great numbers, all the while claiming to be "Californian", and by force of will and numbers, becoming so.

No, there is a fourth thing. The most important of all.

All here, including yourself, came from somewhere else. That is the truth.

Our Staff Social Coordinator, part Native American and wholly SoCal, detests the weather up here for all its fogs and chill rain and the concept of Winter. Nevertheless one has to love her utterly for what she is and let go, simply let go of all the rant and nonsense.

And maybe that's what makes us Special and unliked by the rest of the Country and worthy of our own, with no more interference from some far off place east of Chicago like Washington DC.

We really should be our own Country, left alone to deal with our own issues. Citizens from Minnesotta will be allowed to emigrate with special provisions.

Eugene Gallipagus steps out from the Old Same Place Bar and toddles off to his rental on Shoreline. Like one of those wayward geese, he found his way here because no other place would have him. The truth is, many come here to California -- many, but not all -- because California does not practice rejection. Or if it does, from time to time, not with any great seriousness. And in the prim, straightlaced, highly Lutheran byways and alleys of Minnesotta, Eugene felt at length not at home.

Is that ultimately not the definition of Home: The place that must take you in when no other place will.

Birthplace does not matter. Birthplace can choose and reject. And as so memorably in The Laramie Project, sometimes decide to kill its young. Like an old sow.

California, harsh as it is, does not reject and never has. It certainly does not welcome with open arms, but it does not reject. And so Eugene, once of the Great White North, strolls off into the California fog like some Bogart departing a rueful Ingrid, who sings, as a beautiful, beautiful, beautiful girl of fifteen, a lost long lovely Mongolian song wavering in the night, beneath a dripping oak tree in late October, as the midnight throughpassing train howls through the Jack London waterfront, its long wail ululating over the estuary to die in whispers and faint memories.

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




MARCH 9, 2008


We finally got around to the post-move cleanup and repaired well over 250 broken links scattered throughout the Site after last month noticing the scads of 404 errors that came up.

For those coming late into this, IslandLife moved to more spacious servers (and more inexpensive ones) when traffic spiked last year. The process left a great deal of mess as the new servers possess different filename and path conventions than the old Earthlink. Hopefully visitors will notice a great improvement in their browsing experience.

Next up: badly needed update for the backpain area and completion of the 2007 Reviews.


We have a madman here on the Island. No its not someone in City Hall, but only Harlan on Lincoln Street there at the Old Strange House. For those just coming into this, we have noticed one particular house on the corner of Lafayette and LIncoln sporting cryptic signs on its walls for the past ten years. These signs appeared to change every day, sometimes twice a day.

At first the signs were simple black marker or paint on butcherblock paper about three by two feet in size and remained localized to one particular area of the house above the yard fronting Lafayette.

Gradually, additional signs got posted on the fence that borders Lincoln, which also began featuring color. For eight years no one observed the man posting the messages, which variously appeared in English, Arabic, Hebrew, Russian, and, perhaps Urdu.

Sometimes the entire front yard would be dug up into bizarre heaps of earth resembling war fortifications of an earlier era. Piles of office equipment would appear stacked on the dirt, only to be replaced by hedges. Still, without anyone catching sight of the person who lived there.

The signs all had this one thing in common: the content was so bizarre and non-relational that no one could ever remember an entire sign message not five minutes after viewing, unless the message was transcribed.

Numbers, apparent dates, apparent Bible verses or Shakespeare citations appeared and disappeared with regularity.

One of our staff became so obessed with the house and the attempt to decipher the messages, which over the course of ten years featured one and only one comprehensible communication -- "NO GIRLFRIEND HERE" that he took to jogging past the house at odd hours every day.

It should be mentioned as an aside that we have another person who puts out lawn displays that often are wildly grotesque, but this man is well known, explains his artworks logically, and is internationally known as a painter.

The house on the corner is a different order entirely.

Finally, one day near dusk, our staffer encountered the house occupant in the act of putting up another sign. The man, whose name is Harlan, talked to our staffer for two and one half hours and at the end of it, our man was no wiser about what any of it meant.

"See that up there," Harlan said, pointed to the cryptic message "Bee Bee" painted on the side of a van behind the main yard. "That is Netayanhu's nickname to people who know him well. And that below is the Federalist Papers. . . ".

Well, it still made no sense at all, but we recognize Harlan as one of our own, a true Island Original.


The students are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. Joining a loud chorus of folks getting really pissed off about all this "shrink the government" stuff, students from two high schools here walked out of class en masse this past week, thrusting themselves into national news in protest against planned budget cuts that feature total elimination of high school sports as well as other draconian measures.

Alameda Unified School District trustees voted 4-to-1 Tuesday night to slash the $83.7 million budget by eliminating music programs in kindergarten through third grades, increasing class sizes in ninth grade from 20 students to an average of 29 students per teacher, and slicing $200,000 from sports programs

The district had to cut the money from its budget because of a 10 percent cut demanded by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger across state services to help reduce a state budget deficit, he said.

Der Governator has also proposed closing hundreds of state parks rather than raise a single tax to pay for anticipated budget shortfalls.

In other small-print news, the Mayor of Oaktown over across the water reasonably proposed hiring more police to handle the horrific spike in violent crime that has many people up in arms, but the City Council indicated the true source of the problem in putting the kibosh on the Mayor's plans in favor of stroking one another's egos and a general collapse into internecine bickering so as to "study the problem further."

According to report, Mayor Dellums has not yet torn out his increasingly gray hairs.

Guess we just can't make it here anymore.


Coming down Park Avenue, which is a split street that borders the east and west sides of Jackson Park the casual observer might be moved to look a little closer at an inscription on a now earthquake damaged bench set there on the south side. The legend there astonishes one and all.

In reality, the bench was originally designed as a more comprehensive artwork featuring frescoes and statues of dogs, cats, rabbits, etc. and was to be a memorial by a noted pet lover and benefactor to the Island Animal Shelter, but the man died before the project was completed and all the money dried up. So this is what we have left. Another Island Original.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The false Spring seems to have turned into a real one in earnest and quite a bit earlier than usual here, with all the freesias now taking the opportunity to explode while the jasmine along the old fence has gone wild, sending wafts of perfume up to the third floor.

Everyone has been knocked down by this strange flu going around that waits a day or so between assaults on another bodily system, starting with the head, moving to the chest, finally ending up a bit lower down with regrettable results and more time off from work. Not a good thing.

Its just a reminder that, sunny skies notwithstanding, winter has not yet let go of inflicting misery of some sort.

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

MARCH 16, 2008


Would that mayday had been just a false alarm for Amelia Earhart and for Leo Mustonen and his three companions. This week's headline photo comes from our camping database of photos. Here you see the entry point as we normally cross over each year into Darwin Canyon. Below is the backside of Mendel on which the bodies of two airmen were found some sixty years after their training plane crashed here, to become buried by snow and ice as rescuers failed to locate their position.

This is a follow-up report on the earlier discovery of the body of Leo Mustonen by climbers in 2005. A second body was found in 2007 but only recently identified as that of Ernest G. Munn. He had been missing since his training flight disappeared over the Sierra Nevada mountain range on November 18, 1942. He was 23 at the time.

Munn was one of three cadets who, along with their lieutenant, took off from Mather Field in California on a routine training flight nearly 66 years ago. The AT-7 Navigator aircraft carried about five hours of fuel but never returned to base.

DNA analysis confirmed that the remains were Munn's, the Department of Defense said last Monday. The military has notified his family in St. Clairsville, Ohio. His mother died at the age of 102, still awaiting word of his fate. He is survived by two sisters that remember him, now in their eighties.

The crash site is some 100 meters from the usual route of our annual trek in the high country, but not until global warming caused snow and ice to recede have the bodies become revealed after such a long time. The site is so remote it is highly unlikely that anyone would have survived there even had they parachuted to safety during a winter storm as it seems both Munn and Mustonen tried to do. Altitude and subzero temperatures would have killed any survivor within minutes while a knowledgeable person would have taken some three days to walk out of there.


It's coming on to March 17th with inexorable and deplorable unavoidableness. Total fools will be chanting "Erin go Bragh" and "blarney" as if those omadhauens had sense enough to fill a thimble-sized cruiskeen luin. Back in Wicklow, nobody celebrated St. Patrick's Day and Enniskerry remained green only because it had no choice. Nobody could afford anything of decent color.

In truth, the shamrock is a myth -- the clover that is had in Ireland was all imported and is the same stuff grown all over Europe and elves are mean, nasty folk that sour the milk and cause the roof slates to fall off.

On the other hand, spring has really latched its fingers into the Bay Area. After a period of sun, the March winds have started blowing through with gusts of rain, knocking the new heads of freesias about with unnecessary roughness.

One time we hopped the bus along the main line to Belfast on a lark. It was early June, just starting the second week. As we passed the burned ruins of Drogheda, we began to feel the environment was just beginning to suit the mood at the time. Crossing the border of bombproof concrete and barbed wire we entered the North Counties with a seatmate from Armagh. He was a fine enough fellow, stonemason by trade, but badly in need of a bath and his effulgence demanded such a service. He was going up to Belfast to join the IRA and maybe fight for the Faith and become a bomber.

This seemed like a career move with potentially terminal issues and not without some moral concerns, so we kept silent on most of the usually challenging questions.

Ever since then we have wondered why someone would turn from making useful things like, say, tombstones, to making things like bodies needing them.

Down in Wicklow it was enough trouble to keep the Catholics from attacking the landlord's sheep because the sheep happened to be through no fault of their own Protestant.

Unless you have not been in a room with an IRA "hard man" pounding his fist on a table and shouting, "We don't want peace; we want justice!" much of this may be hard to understand.

Enough of that. Enjoy your cabbage and boiled beef and green beer this Monday. There's 8 million that live on the Emerald Isle and some 32 million that live off of it and for good reason.


Through friends we learned that friend Dr. Jack Rodnick, former head of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UCSF, died suddenly of a stroke recently while on sabbatical in Hawaii. Dr. Rodnick was a lifelong health enthusiast and backcountry packer who habitually guided folks over trackless paths such as we frequent. He also guided the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UCSF through difficult transition times and was a well respected member of the medical community. He guided the last non-lottery expedition to the summit of Mount Whitney, an expedition of which we were proud to take part.

One time we came down from some difficult pass far deep into the backcountry, winding down long miles of barren, trackless stone to find Jack sitting under the only tree within sight next to a female companion, taking a break. He smiled and waved and that is the last we ever saw of him.

A pancake house remains in downtown Bishop named Jack's, which always reminded us each year of that expedition up Mount Whitney.

That's him in the blue shirt.


The mornings begin pre-dawn with the loud hoot of the foghorns as the ships come in through dense seasonal fog. After a brief dockwalloper here, the high winds have pushed all the wet clouds away, leaving chill sunshine. The Snow Bunny report returns continuous nighttime temps below freezing in all areas with daytimes rising no greater than 48 degrees. Rain is forecast for Mount Shasta early in the week.

Down along the Jack London the evening train has been howling much as usual as it passes through along the estuary to points south and east.

All day Saturday, Lionel -- having recovered from the St. Valentine's day debacle -- did brisk business selling green bratwursts at the Pampered Pup on Park Street and the annual parade went off without a hitch in Babylon despite the fact some religious hardcases had stuck some kind of Ramadan-like fast-thing in the middle of the weekend, and walked about exhorting temperance on St. Paddy's day.

Temperance on St. Paddy's day? Might as well enjoin the Germans to forswear sauerkraut and sausage. They'll be demanding the swallows to file official flight plans at Capistrano next.

Padraic and Dawn had decorated the Old Same Place quite nicely with cardboard shamrocks, leprechauns and gold pot donation jar for crippled IRA veterans medical bills while Suzie looks fetching in a tam and green miniskirt. It being the Day of the Green, both Padraic and Dawn worked the bar while Suzie waited tables and as the place was hopping with brisk business, raked in the tips.

Tommy and Toby were there, and each wore charming emerald t-shirts, black button-down seaman's trousers, pointy books and -- in token to the North -- orange scarves. Over at the next table, residents of Andre and Marlene's squat all roistered in a game of paper "foosball". Wickiwup, a black setter, set up a little howl and a woof after every touchdown. A rattling and a clattering outside announced the arrival of Susan with Lynette who came in, still wearing their bicycle helmets.

"Nice legs, girl!" Commented Lynette to Suzie. "Y'oughta shuck them cowgirl jeans more often."
"Anybody messes with you, we start by breaking both their arms, Susan said. "Jameson's. On the rocks."

Mr. Howitzer stuck his head in the door, but seeing the crowd and Suzie glaring at him, continued on down to McGrath's where nobody knew him. Those two had been on the outs ever since Suzie's Irish boyfriend had gone back to Wicklow. It's a long story.

A group of Not From Heres occupied another table, sipping their green beers modestly.

Everything was going just grand, when the door opened and a little man about three feet high walked right up to the bar and climbed up on a stool. He wore a trilby that sported a diamond stickpin, was well bewiskered, and otherwise was nattily dressed in a checkered vest, slacks and oxfords. He ordered a beer and a shot. Green beer? None of that crap, he said. ESB. He then set his hat on the bar, revealing a full head of black curly hair.

"What're you lookin' at?" he snapped at Eugene, who sat at the bar next to him.

Eugene was wordless.

In response to Eugene's wordlessness, the little man said, "Hmmph!" and turned back to his beer with a morose expression. He could be heard mumbling to himself and seemed to be a man in a bad way. A strange and terrible power seemed to emanate from his being.

"Where ya from," asked Padraic.

"I am from where a man aint appreciated for his talents, that's where I am from." The stranger said, bitterly.

"I see, and what is it that you do?"

"What do I do?"

"For a living, I mean. "

Before he could answer the little triangle foosball flew from the back table and struck the man square in the back. His eyes opened very wide and he swiveled around on the bar stool. "Who threw that?" snapped the little man.

The room became silent.

The stranger repeated his question.

"Suh . . . suh . . . sorry, " said Occasional Quentin. "It was an accident."

"Say that again?" said the little man.

Occasional Quentin apologized again, then suddenly started babbling, quite outside of himself, as his companions gaped with astonishment, about his failure of a life, his incapacity, his lunacy, his wretched boyhood, his no future existence and the general misery of all things Quentin.

"Is that how you feel?" said the little man.

Quentin's jaw shut with such a snap that the back glasses rattled on their shelves and he said not a word.

The little man repeated his question.

"Yes. Doesn't everyone?" Quentin said meekly.

The stranger climbed down from his barstool, picked up the foosball and, holding it between thumb and forefinger flicked it with the other hand. The wad of paper shot from his hand to the wall, where it rebounded to the bar, striking the donation pot with a solid ring, bouncing from there to the doorhandle only to whiz off that to the center of the dart board and then go cartwheeling once again across the room to ding off of a bottle standing on the table occupied by the speechless Not From Heres and then smack squarely into the forehead of Occasional Quentin before dropping lifelessly to the table there.

The little man stood before Suzie. "You, also, have some issues," he said before bending a tad and putting his hands upon his knees, still looking up at her. Then he stood up and said, before turning to walk back to the bar, "That pattern does not suit you."

"Beg pardon?"

"Black and white polka dots. It does not suit you."

In response, Suzie abruptly pressed down the hem of her miniskirt and turned beet red.

"I'm a performer," he told Padraic. "I do magic."

"I see." Padraic said, heaving a sign of relief.

The little man down his drink with a long swallow, set down his glass with a contented sigh, burped and leaned back with his eyes half closed and a half-smile upon his lips.

Dawn asked him if he wanted another and he shook his head. "We . . . We are peaceful people here, sir." She said, twisting the wedding ring on her finger round and round nervously. "We mean no harm."

"I know," said the stranger. "That's why I came here. To the Golden State." He then put on his hat and announced, "Well! Time to go."

The little man climbed down from his stool, leaving some dollar bills and coins under his glass and stood in the middle of the room where he performed the following motions.

He sniffed. He straightened his vest. He winked at Suzie. He clapped his hands three times, quite deliberately and stamped his left foot twice.

Just then, the lights went out.

But only for a second or two. During which Suzie was heard to gasp in surprise. When they came back on, there was not a trace to be seen of the stranger and every single person in the room wore a cap of gold. Everyone wore a cap of gold except for Suzie. The caps were the style sometimes called "driving caps" that usually are made of tweed or wool and appeared to be woven of gold fibers and all of them handled these things with amazement while Suzie ran to the restroom.

Dawn buttonholed her behind the bar and the two commenced whispering urgently to each other there.

"Um, next round on the House," Padraic announced, and he set his cap on his head jauntily.

"Gold? Gold?" Dawn said. "How'd he do it?"

"I don't know. It happened so fast."

Gradually, the room regained, save for the sparkling hats, a semblance of normalcy. Dawn's bouffant hairstyle kept making the thing fall onto the bartop, so she hung hers on a peg behind the bar. Occasional Quentin seemed to come out of a daze and he laughed and joked with the others about the little man, but Marlene kept asking him if he was all right. Something did seem to have changed in him.

The Not From Heres table gabbled with intense animation. "This sort a thing never happens in D.C.! Is that what they mean by California having a lot of 'fairies'?" Jab. "Owww! I was just asking a question!"

At the end of the night, after the last customers had left, Suzie toyed with the fronds of a potted narcissus by the window. Swellings foretold future aromatic glories at the tips for it had come to that time of year.

Wiping his hands with the towel, Padraic said, "Are ye still moonin' after that Wicklow lad, now?"

"No. I am over him. As of tonight, I am over all that."

"Ah, you'll get another. No trouble at all. They're all the same. Plenty of fish in that sea. An' yer young yet."

"I know. I feel . . . it will be all right now."

"That's the spirit!" He nodded to Dawn and went out.

Dawn came up to her. "He's such an omadhauen sometimes, that man. He could make a hames out of spinach salad. How ya feeling? Really . . .".

"O I am fine. Really I am. I kinda feel like everything is starting all over again."

Dawn stood up. "Well if gold knickers did that for me, I'd change my entire wardrobe tomorra. Good night and sleep well, child."


"Good night."

Outside, even though the chill of winter still gripped the Island, a freshening wind brought in a balmy air not felt for some time. Early freesias had exploded all along the fence, wafting a pungent scent to her as she walked back to her flat while tall spikes of unknown plants hinted with damp swellings of a glorious green Spring in the moment of arriving each second. Far off, across the water, the train passing through Jack London Square hooted and rumbled.

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

MARCH 23, 2008


This week's headline photo comes from Javier's garden where Spring has happened with a vengeance.


It may be spring here in northern cal, but the rest of the country is having some severe weather issues and the consequences are far from being over for states from Missouri to Mississippi. Recent torrential rainstorms have flooded many towns along the Mississippi River and its tributaries. Even after the rains have stopped, runoff threatens to reflood many hard hit areas.

Arkansas emergency management officials have said the early estimate of statewide damage to homes, businesses and infrastructure was at $2 million, though that figure was expected to grow. Forecasts show it likely will be the middle of this week before rivers statewide see significant drops.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe has declared 35 counties disaster areas.

Last week's torrential rainstorms also caused flooding in parts of Ohio, Indiana and southern Illinois and in wide areas of Missouri.

At least 17 deaths have been linked to flooding, wet roads and other weather effects over the past week, and one person is missing in Arkansas. Thousands of Missouri residents have fled to Red Cross shelters or to the homes of friends or relatives.

While water is receding in most areas of Missouri, the state's southeast corner still faces threats. The Mississippi River was expected to reach 41.5 feet Monday at Cape Girardeau, nearly 10 feet above flood stage. New Madrid expects a crest nearly 8 feet above flood stage Wednesday, and the Mississippi at Caruthersville should reach 9 feet above flood stage Friday.

If the Mississippi reaches 42 feet at Cape Girardeau, it would flood 100,000 acres of land and force evacuations of outlying homes, weather service meteorologist Robin Smith said. The city's downtown is protected by a 54-foot flood wall.

Like your global warming now?


This weekend saw a range of protests in recognition of the Iraq war having reached Year 5 of bloody morass with no end in sight. There is no end in sight largely because the goals for staying there have changed with the winds of the Bush flip-flop agenda.

The Bush Administration has flip-flopped so much, in concert with so much gusty over-warm verbiage that a great wind emits from Washington these days powerful enough to push harbor seals off of their melting ice flows at Pribilof and ground the planes that are part of America's northernmost defense shield. Its a real problem and the local AFNAV commander there keeps sending wires to the Pentagon about it, but those boys are all blaming Global Warming now. Especially since they ducked responsibility for 9/11, they are really glad to blame somebody else for a change.

After all, regardless of laxity in AA security, FAA regulations, and lack of martial arts training in flight attendants, nobody seems to ever have asked how x billions spent on national defence could allow something as big as an airplane come close enough to something vaguely of military interest such as the Pentagon so as to crash into it.

Heaven forbid the plane had been carrying something like, say, bombs.

It was a "surprise", you say. Really? All the money spent on defence assumed that an attacker like Russia or Japan, would send a telegram with dates and times for the next Pearl Harbor? Such a message would be worded something like,

"Dear General (or Person Responsible in War Room),

On Wednesday, we plan to bomb the fuck out of you. In particular, we plan to destroy the Pentagon. Expect payload delivery by airplanes. Please ready your defence systems by Wednesday 9:00 am at the latest. And expect planes. Do not forget that detail. You will be attacked with airplanes instead of missles. So don't be surprised.


Der Kommissar"

In any case, Osama attacks us, and we respond by capturing Saddam, killing him and his family, destroying the government and -- very important -- accuse some Arabs of things they did not do and had no plan of doing while thoroughly trashing their country, once a mostly middle-class suburb of Riyadh. True, the place was run by a sort of slope-forehead knuckle-dragging brute, but he was pretty much more of a horror to his own people than a threat to the US.

After five years, the US has lost more dead and wounded than five 9/11's put together, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis are dead, a savage internecine war appears unstoppable, our few allies are dropping out one by one, shaking their heads, our people have descended to the lowest animal denominator imaginable since the Gestapo, our homeland civil rights are in tatters, and the once middle-class suburb has become a fetid stone-age swamp of radical kill-American ideology as well as an excellent proving ground for irregular warfare tactics on behalf of our enemies.

In Babylon, the usual block-traffic stuff happened in low-key style, while in Berkeley the usual illogical associational reasoning paired Iraq with the World Bank, global warming, and the WTO, but it was a sunny day, so few people bothered to get arrested there.

A bunch of hooligans from one of the nastier motorcyle clubs showed up to counter-demonstrate at the wildly illogical Marines Recruiting Station that the City would rather have removed. And for very good reasons. The MC club claimed to be supporting patriotism and pro-Marines and pro-this and that. Which is fine, but Berkeley, the home of radical Leftism is really a stupid stupid place to put a recruiting station and some jarhead somewhere will be doing extra laps and pushups for that wacko idea.

Its five years down and, according to all the Generals, at least five more to go, citing "previous insurrection histories".

Previous history? What the devil are these people citing? France in Algeria?

Incidently, that Lyddie Johnson, the poster girl for American torture techniques, recently issued some inflammatory and unrepenetant remarks regarding that whole sad episode at Abu Graib. Refusing to apolize or admit wrong in piling naked human beings in heaps, attacking them with guard dogs and various other sadistic acts, she accused the media of causing the problems by publishing the photographic evidence.

So here you go.

Osama recently issued yet more pronouncements and still nobody knows where he is. A hooligan motorcycle club is defending the Marines in Berkeley. And still the sun comes up each morning to start another impossible day.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The gorgeous weather had all the folks out taking in the first genuinely warm rays in a while. Northern California can be as deceptive as a CIA Operative when the seasons turn. Outside the sun streams down, coaxing up a few hardy early blooms, but a chill wind lets you know summer has a ways to go before arriving for real.

When Spring gets going here, it is a riot of color, an explosion of fecundity. Spring is the most dangerous season in Northern California. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors until June and order pizza for dinner. Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayonetting the lavendar that is throwing out punches this way and that. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while racoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms. Squadrons of swallows streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.

Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows. Sadistic bastard.

Here comes Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding down the avenue with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, a flippy skirt and strappy high heels.

Suddenly, Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies, another victim of an IED. In the heart, poor lad. Improvised Erotic Device.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held its annual Sunday brunch at its clubhouse down by the marina. "Peeps" were presented by Carol, as well as cupcakes which sported frosting hued in a manner not found in nature except certain deepsea crustaceans that glow of eerie light at least a mile or more beneath the surface. Paul Bailiff stood up and gave a speech in which the various Biblical contradictions in timing of events with regard to the Resurrection were all resolved with reference to Job's three days in the whale.

Mr. Jesus arose on Saturday instead of Sunday and so the Brunch needed to be shifted a day earlier next year. He was voted down.

In another speech, of which meetings of the Native Sons are fraught, Marty explained that the word "Easter" refers to the fertility goddess of that name, who rumbled about some two thousand years before the birth of Jesus -- which took place in March instead of December, but who is counting at this point -- and whose symbols included the egg and the hare. This one caused Fr. Flagherty some discomfort and an argument ensued later in the day.

Rachel, from the Fat Lady in Oaktown, served up mimosas to all, until she had enjoyed a few too many and began walking about barefoot and singing to herself while Mary and Fr. Flagherty argued in the corner. At which point the place became "open bar."

The mimosas definitely took effect as the afternoon wore on and, under instruction from Rachel (who teaches dance at the Metronome) Karen, Kirk and Helen were seen performing Have Nagila, while dancing arm in arm to the music of James Taylor, even though all three are of Norwegian extraction.

The Almeida kids somehow got hold of a bunch of peeps and stuck them in the microwave. As the dish revolved, the peeps expanded and -- because some twenty five of them had been shoved in there, they filled the entire cavity before bursting open the door to fall on the floor in a smoking gelatinous mess that was multicolored in pastels and stinking to high heaven, which satisfied the kids to no end.

Carol, seeing this event at its conclusion, ran to the sink to fetch what would have been a largely useless dishtowel as the smoking peeps glowed internally with heat reminiscent of the lava held in the pit of Tolkein's Mount Doom. But in running to the sink, her foot happened to catch the cord of the mini-bagel maker, which fell over and hit the belljar enclosing the Official Brass Fantod of the Native Sons. The belljar broke and the fantod leapt up off of the table there to joust Roberta below the girdle as she stood talking to Eugene Gallipagus. Thinking she had just been molested, and being of hot-temper from Oaxaca, she slapped Eugene suddenly and fiercely across the face such that the poor boy fell backwards into the lap of Patricia as she sat on the comfy chair talking to David Phipps, sending mimosas and fluted wineglass scattering in all directions.

Patricia, being of hot-blooded Columbian extraction, slapped Eugene repeatedly until he rolled off of her onto the floor where David kicked him perfunctorily as a matter of duty and honor.

In the middle of this rucktion, a racoon which had been observing all this from the top of the maypole erected for next month's festivities climbed down and ambled through the door to sniff the still warm peeps on the floor and the cabinet and the microwave and the wall, but wrinkled his nose in disgust and grunted, before going to the table piled high with cold cuts and fruit salad, entirely ignored due to contratemps in other parts of the room.

A breeze came up, for it was the late afternoon by now, and fluttered a number of sheets listing the day's agenda out the window and over the estuary where a robotic arm arose from the waters beside a periscope to seize an handful. The Iranian submarine had returned, finding the area fruitful for information gathering and the officers puzzled a good long while over this agenda.

"In the name of Allah, what are "peeps"? one said.

And the Iranian submarine took this query with it out into the Bay where it ran silently, ran deep back out the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean.

That's the way it was on the Island, this sunny Sunday. Have a great week.


MARCH 30, 2008


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of the WindowsSecrets newsletter, a computer-industry regular that is the outgrowth of the old Langalist, featuring news and info relating to computers and computer news, a normally rather dry topic attended to largely by math tutors and geeks. The subscription list amounts to some .5 million paying subscribers worldwide and Fred, being a man of sturdy heart, as well as high intelligence, figured, well, with so many well-heeled folks on line, surely there must be a way to put all of these resources to good use.

Enter the Fred Langa Sponsorship program, a program that seeks to put a little of these resources to good work, assisting kids in third world countries who otherwise would not have a chance of a snowball in hell making anything of their situation. And this month we present, in Fred's own words, the newest scholarship adoptee.

"Each month, we send a full year of sponsorship to a different child. In the month of March 2008, Souleymane is the beneficiary of your contributions. He is seven years old and lives in Kapala, Sikasso Cercle, Mali. A landlocked country in western Africa, Mali ranks 174th out of 177 on the U.N.'s list of developing nations. Your support is helping to fund a school health and nutrition program managed by Save the Children, a respected nongovernmental organization, in Souleymane's community."

more info:

Its a harsh world and getting harsher with each and every terrible dawn, but its nice to hear about somebody doing something, no matter how small, to try to leave this planet a little better than how they found it.


Illness and in-house malaise have put off a fair number of reviews during the past few weeks, but musical life does continue. KFOG has announced its annual Kaboom and there is the outrageously priced Outlands Festival with starters at $225 smackeroos for a stellar lineup of artists, to be sure. But man! Over two hundred dollars just for entry and no food! Whats up with this gouge?

We say, don't matter if the Boss boxes U2's Bono -- the price aint worth the show to mill about with thousands of the Hoi Polloi. Someplace this kind of thing needs to stop. Where is angry Patti Smith when we need her now?

In more reasonable venues well worth attending, we note the New Orleans Jazz Fest again taking flight from April 25 to May 4th. Don't matter if you can't swing the Fairgrounds, filled with thousands of milling hoi polloi, etc. The entire town packs for a great time in all venues during the Fest. For the unrepenetent punks, Antiflag holds forth at the Fillmore this April 7th.

All of us are looking forward to a return of Mark Knopfler in support of his new CD "Kill to Get Crimson"; that oughta be a tasty one this summer. Nothing appearing on the radar as yet, however, although the Waifs will be knocking around here in the smaller venues like the Independent and the Napa Opera House in April. Summer will wait until June 27th and the Kate Wolf Memorial Festival, which has attracted a nice notoriety for all the music that happens off-stage in and around the tents in Laytonville.

Special to note: Michelle Shocked, who has undergone a significant seachange in personal style worth noting, will appear at the Swedish American Hall. Ms. S. is quite a shock -- pun unintended -- to watch live, so we endorse this one heavily as one that will be the show to unite hardcore punks and folkies as well as blues enthusiasts, which is no small order to accomplish.

Also we are reminded the various High Sierra festivals are coming up, including Strawberry and the World Music Fest, a sort of Ragamuffins thing but under the stars and in tents in the foothills.

There is no excuse to avoid good music this interim season, for supporting live music is the best thing you can do to aid the ailing planet. Live music supports the local economy, feeds starving artists, cures all manner of social ills, solves inner-city problems, patches the ozone, cools global warming, heals chilblains, the gout, syphilis, irritated bowel, bad brains, sour dispostion, nervous jumping up and down, and bad breath and besides, it is good for you. So support local live music wherever you go, live long, and thrive.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The moody weather has yielded to distinctly cold sunshine and bright red tulips firing up out of the sandy soil here like so many impetuous and difficult to restrain children. Other parts of the country remain drownded and snowbound under Winter's slowly releasing grip. All along the low farmhouses of Western Massachusetts, the snow slumps against the windowsills and postholes around the parkinglot dumpsters where Fanny has let her pooch do ya-ya during the long icy winter. Spring shall reveal small brown surprises that shall irk the Property Management Man. Meanwhile, the northern lakes of Minnesotta are showing blue patches and suspiciously dark shoreline edges and nobody dares drive out to spin donuts for all the fish houses have disappeared overnight.

Here at Island Life, we have been hard hit by an exhorbitant rent increase, which irks all the more in that this enterprise is not exactly a financially remunerative situation, hence the situation is dire and the Editor was seen striding up and down, tearing out his few remaining grey hairs in great distress while numerous copyboys ran hither and thither in much disarray.

California is going through yet again another spate of convulsive wishful thinking in which those who can make life really miserable for the majority in fond hope that this misery will propel vast numbers of folks to leave the Golden State, thereby leaving that much more available to those who remain.

This never works, of course, for the miserable simply make the lives of those around them that much more miserable that they feel better all the same and so nothing ever changes, except that the Miserable gradually morph by degrees into the Horrible and the whole place begins to justify everything Woody Allen has ever claimed or stated about how the world works or fails to do so effectively.

Eventually, California will turn into an eight hundred mile long version of Manhattan, and its chief export shall be heaps and heaps of yet more misery enough to make Calcutta look like promising real estate.

The only positive thing here shall be that all property agents in the land shall be castrated or disemboweled or both on a great day of reckoning and many shall rejoice then at this improvement in the economy.

Forget all that for now. The time has come to talk about Mr. Howitzer. In the late evening, Mr. Howitzer sets out to walk his dog, Paddleboat, from his manse on Grand Street, through the iron gate, past the Chinese lions and out to the street, to turn left down to the Strand. Too often we speak of our Islander with fondness and affection, accusing them of minor peccadillos, but otherwise upholding their essentially Californian qualities of ernestness, forthrightness, directness, generosity, and honesty.

A native Californian can be many things, positive and negative, but he is seldom an uptight snerd of the sort so often found east of the Mississippi river.

Let us now discuss Mr. Howitzer, he of the Boston Howitzers who sailed around the Horn in 1852 to ensconce themselves here by making all of the right choices and thoroughly exploiting anyone remotely weaker than themselves, beginning with the Miwok, the Ohlone, the Mandan and the Yurok, to whom they sold inferior blankets and knives in exchange for good foodstuffs and valuable information.

Lemuel Howitzer obtained foothold on the Island by leasing land from Mr. Augenbaugh, which the enterprising Lemuel subdivided and sold to unsuspecting newcomers at great profit until the scheme was discovered subsequent to a fourth-hand sale somewhere down the line. Lemuel offered, just to help smooth things over, to buy property he had already sold at a bit less than the value. At the end of all the brough-haha, Lemuel ended up with much of the land back in his possession and a tidy sum in the bank. Thus have the Howitzers proceded ever since. From selling water rights to rivers never seen and never purchased, to building dams where no dams were wanted or needed, the Howitzers were there first among the best.

Sam Howitzer took advantage of this family heritage to invest in real estate and many were the parks and green spaces converted to useful townships under his command. The Fosters, who created the abomination known as Foster City could not have build a stick on stone without his help and so his retirement was assured at an early age.

On Sunday evenings he was wont to walk his dog down to Mr. Cribbage's place where Cribbage kept a group of low slung Eastern-style bungalows that he let for rent to what seemed to be an unceasing series of low-lifes and improbables due to his atrocious lack of judgement in character. If a meth addict or pusher or wife beater happened to glom onto Mr. Cribbage, he was sure to chose them for all their manly qualities and their gruff manner, as opposed to ability to pay and keep the peace.

As a result, Mr. Cribbage was a singular failure as a landlord, although he, like Howitzer had inherited his millions, and he was made of such a sour constitution that of all his pounds of wealth not a sou gave him the slightlest enjoyment. Each day, he patrolled his property with an industrial weed eradicator and a brush shaped similar to his own blonde moustache so as to dispel the slightest sully of natural nature upon his nature, even as transvestites battled drug pushers in and just outside his tawdry apartments with high pitched shrill voices, cursing as he sprayed the moss and the weeds, full of high opinions and the ruinous Democratic Party.

A few people thought he might be of Dutch or German extraction, going way back for there was a Cribbage who had run a bratwurst stand for years down by the 'Stick baseball stadium.

There, in Cribbage's dingy rooms, under the immense figure of a mounted ram's head, Mr. Howitzer sat with Mrs. Blather, of the San Francisco Blathers, another of the Old Families with attachments to Stanford and Lowell High School and all the best Establishments, including (at least one) marriage to the Aliotos and even more besides. This knot formed the nexus of a group that gathered each Sunday so as to decry the Decay of the West, lament the rise of Gay Culture in connection with rampant bi-lingualism, and deplore the state of Public Education as well as the shirking of Personal Responsibility and over attachment to New Deal things like Entitlements during a game of bridge.

Mrs. Angela Pescatore filled out the club accompanied by her poodle, Saxon

This is all to say that sometimes California is quite a mixture of things.

Saxon greated Paddleboat, Mr. Howitzer's new rottweiler, in the usual manner. Howd'yado. Butt sniff. Fine. Sniff. Fine butt! Yes! Sniff! Turn about. Sniff again. Tasty butt. Sniff. And then to their respective places went the hounds, each at the feet of their respective owners, all social niceties having been observed with all due respect.

North opened, South bid, and soon the game was on like old times.

Any hint of what happened to Snuggles, Mr. Cribbage asked with reference to Mr. Howitzers first rottweiler, which had disappeared sometime around last Thanksgiving.

No sign, no sign.

Stolen most likely. By one of them people from Oakland, if you know what I mean. Such a shame, said Mrs. Blather. They breed them to fight one another you know. And call it a sport. Those people.

Put out to stud, most likely, said Howitzer.

Why you mean you never had him snipped said Mrs. Pescatore. In all that time?

A dog is a dog, said Howitzer. And he was certainly a brute. Paddleboat here sleeps in the old bed just fine.

I'll never forget the day he ate those chillies that belonged to the lesbian couple, said Mrs. Blather.

I remember that too. Took right off, knocking bicycles and joggers aside on his way to cool his tuckus in the Estuary. Lucky I didn't get sued.

All the animals are trouble, said Cribbage. It's not like back in the day when an animal had to work for a living and none of this New Age dog therapy and whatnot. Back then, a cat got sick he died without any fuss. Too many puppies? Drown 'em in a bucket. I have a tenant who actually keeps a bird in the place and lets him run about after him. Just make darn sure that thing don't make a mess in the carport, I told him. Or out he goes and you shortly after. Pets. Put them all away, I say.

Now now, Saxon, he don't mean you. You are family, said the lady to her creature, which thumped its tail once and then was still.

At that moment an insistent rapping pulled Cribbage over to the window, which he opened, only to see nothing.

What was that about? asked Howitzer, smearing a bit of the cheese log on a cracker before taking a serious bite.

Tree branch maybe, said Cribbage and as he sat down, the rapping came again. He went again to the window and the company heard him say, "shoo! shoo!" several times before he returned to the table will a look of irritation. Blackbird, he said. Some sort of crow.

Come around begging, no doubt, said Mrs. Blather. People feed them and they come around looking for more handouts, the filthy creatures.

When the rapping came a third time, Cribbage went to the window with a broom. After a bit of muttered cursing from the direction of the window there was a little crack of broken glass and the sound of the broom falling as a rather middle-sized raven fluttered into the room to land on the stuffed ram above the fireplace.

Well, I'll be damned, said Howitzer. Look at that!

Adding a new level of curses to his conversation, Cribbage poked at the bird with the handle of the broom, which had the effect of causing it to hop from one horn to the other and back again.

After a few jabs, Cribbage stood there red-faced and panting while the bird looked at him with its head cocked to one side.

"Nevermore," Said the bird, quite distinctly.

What? All of the humans present exclaimed.

"Nevermore," Repeated the bird.

Oh for pete's sake, its a pet someone trained to talk, Howitzer exclaimed.

In response, Cribbage flailed up at the horns with his broom stick and was soon joined by Howitzer, who tried to wack the bird down with the end of his walking stick.

This resulted in breaking one of the horns and knocking the big head off of the wall into the fireplace grate, from where a cloud of dust and ash roiled outward. The Raven found a new position in the chandalier high above them.

Cribbage determined to evict this unwelcome tenant at all costs pulled open a drawer to retrieve a vintage 1916 Cavalryman's service revolver. Two shots and the chandalier came down onto the bridge table with a snap of sparks and a spectacular crash, plunging the place into darkness until Cribbage got a floor lamp to illuminate quite a mess, rendered a bit stickier by the contents of a former cut glass decanter of South African port, which Saxon and Paddleboat began lapping up with great gusto.

The raven, however, was gone.

That was rather violent, said Mrs. Blather. And now the port is all gone.

Sometimes violence is necessary, said Cribbage as he put away his revolver.

Meanwhile, the raven found sanctuary on the sign above The Old Same Place where he emitted laughing sounds as couples left the bar until Suzie came out to see him up there. She offered him a couple pretzles, which he accepted, in all likelihood reinforcing the learned begging behavior, but he never went back to Mr. Cribbage's place. He did fly out over the estuary to join the macaw that had once lived inside a cage in Mr. Howitzer's foyer, and which had been let loose by accident during the Affair of the Chickens and Mrs. Almeida.

You can't go home again, indicated the raven to the macaw, who then appeared satisfied with freedom and his current fate.

Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But deep inside the snug of the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions. Suzie Maldonado.

"Pretty bird!" said a yellow cockatiel. "Pretty bird!"

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


APRIL 6, 2008


This week's headline photo comes from Javier's garden out back once again, for the theme is Spring and the last of the Freesias are still popping out there after the last rain.


That impish feller from Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder is coming to our humble East Bay Zellerback for two shows this week.

The 15th Annual KFOG KABOOM is happening in the same old place down by the piers with Los Lobos, Collective Soul and Matt Nathanson headlining before the fireworks that tend to outshine July 4th in quality. Tickets for this formerly free event are $15 bucks, which remains fairly reasonable in the Age of Price Gouge.

Upcoming acoustic shows of note listed as follows:

JACKIE GREENE -April 10 - Fillmore
JACKSON BROWNE SOLO ACOUSTIC -April 16 - Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts, Santa Rosa
THE WAIFS - Napa Opera House - April 17
MICHELLE SHOCKED - April 17 - Swedish American Hall
CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO - April 17 - Don Quixote"s Felton
CALIFORNIA GUITAR TRIO - April 18 - Freight & Salvage
LUCE PLUS TOM LUCE -A Special Acoustic Set - April 18 & 19 - Fox Theater
THE WAIFS - April 19 & 20 - Independent
PATTY LARKIN - April 27 - Freight & Salvage
PETER MULVEY - April 28 - Don Quixote"s
BLAME SALLY - May 1 - Little Fox
BLAME SALLY & Incendio - May 2 - Don Quixote"s Felton
KT TUNSTALL - May 7 - Warfield
BEN TAYLOR - May 10 - Swedish American Hall

That Blame Sally show with Incendio ought to be a firecracker worth paying some attention to, as Incendio tends to live up to their name with Latin-inflected fire. Blame Sally seems a bit on a roll as they headline the Kate Wolf Music Festival talking place in late June.

Latest scut has blues newbie Jackie Greene joining the survivors of the Greatful Dead in an odd combo. Jackie Greene, he of the post Gen X generation, has reported that he had no idea who the Greatful Dead were when Phil Lesh called him in person. Ought to be at least interesting.

Had a recent look at "Running on Empty" and realized that this year puts Jackson Browne at well over 30 years of road touring over the top. Hard times and troubles and bad decisions have happened aplenty since 1977, but the man is still alive. Lord knows the boy has made some serious mistakes in life, but no one knows what terrible retribution the dark angels have exacted during the dim watches of the night, with the clock ticking and the moon's shadow tracing the bruised tree branches over the years and no one really knows what goes on in the depths of a man's soul when given over to self examination. If given over.

If no one else should comment on these things, then let it be Island-Life, for media criticism is part of our task and our charge. And even the best loved performer must answer to certain acts. If not to us, then to the world. And especially to himself.

Will the girl of "cowgirl eyes" ever rise above history? Can an Abuser ever gain Redemption? In the distance, some Indigo Girls song wavers across the way. Or a plea from that guy who used to front the band called The Eagles. Forgiveness. Forgiveness . . . .

Also upcoming are several festivals in the Sierra foothills and the Trinity Alps, where Michael Franti will be filing the ears with joy while the ganja feeds the head.


Dropped into the Elephant Bar and Grill this Friday after one of those terrible medical procedures that leave you wishing for several stiff ones lined up at the bar right afterwards. The EBG happens to squat right there in that improbable collection of chic and coutour on the border of Ikea's terrible empire in Emeryville, a totally manufactured arrangement of shops and wierd open spaces that ensure rapid movement rather than leisurely dawdling. Could be the gale force winds that whip through the area as well as the bass-enhanced music that implies a live band somewhere.

In any case, the parking is reasonable, given that one has no choice other than to use the garage, and the Elephant proved to rise above the worst expectations of MallAmerica. The restaurant itselt is part of a chain, and therefore worth regarding somewhat askance. The atmosphere is that of UFO Abduction in the circular bar area with its lavendar lighting, and of English Gentleman's Club in the dining area, with its life-sized replica of a bush elephant emerging from the palm fronds.

Okay, so its kitschy and theme-oriented. Done with that.

The real surprise was in the excellent service - smack fast on Friday afternoon -- and in the above average quality of food preparation as well as realistic liquor policies (no more than one drink at a time in front of any one single customer).

This drink policy bespoke a sense of responsiblity in this establishment hard by the Maze interchange that many restaurant/bars would do well to emulate and we applaud the sensible approach to liquour held here.

We chose the Vietnamese spring rolls as appetizer while plowing through a couple of well-iced mojitos and found the rolls to be light, tasty and well complemented by two zesty dipping sauces. One of our company, disbelieving possibility in a freeway-based eatery, chose the philly cheesesteak with ceasar salad and the other opted for a full blackened catfish dinner with braised veggies. The catfish turned up surpisingly delicate, flaky and perfectly done with a homemade remoulade cup that had a nice little zing in the nostrils unlike the more common mayo and relish blend found in lesser venues. We had lucked out and the man who chose the philly sandwich had made a relatively poor choice, although that sandwich did appear well appointed with peppers, not too many onions and a merciful lack of grease.

The veggies were perfectly done, with a nice blend of zucchini, broccoli, and other greens, all well warmed and crunchy and delicately seasoned.

We gandered at several salads floating by, heaped with all sorts of well-prepared and well-thought toppings, all of which looked very flavorful indeed and realized that the local proprietor had devised a sort of diamond in the rough in this location.

Our waitress was helpful with things unfamiliar and spot on in her suggestions as well as remarkably quick to respond at all times.

We give this restaurant four stars and hearty well-wishes of good success.


Got a note from that mellifluously named Lisa Bullwinkel (lady, don't ever change your name!) who announces the availability of free booth space to qualifiying non-profits at this year's July 4th event down by the Berkeley Marina.

"A free 10x10 information booth space for non-profit organizations is available at the 4th of July celebration at the Berkeley Marina. Please send an email to for an application or call 510/548-5335."

The south shore of the Berkeley Marina at the bottom of University Ave. is filled with great stuff to do all day. Decorate your bike, trike, stroller, or even your head with recyclables at Madame Ovary's booth. Adventure Playground, always a favorite, is open 11am-8pm. Sign up for an old-fashioned sack race or get your face painted. Try the giant slide or splash in the water at the beach!

Plenty of fun stuff for adults, too! No need to cook - lots of international food booths. Live entertainment including Taiko drummers, belly dancers, & steel pans from noon until 9PM on the main stage. There's art & craft booths, massages, free sailboat rides from 1-4pm, dragon boat rides from 2-6pm, and much more including the grand fireworks off the end of the Berkeley Pier at 9:30pm.

Free admission. Alcohol-free event. Free valet bicycle parking. No cars after 7pm. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley. Produced by Another Bullwinkel Show 510/548-5335 or visit

The event always is well attended by thousands, as early attendence and early parking ensures good position to observe fireworks over the Bay.

In other Bullwinkel events we report something happening out at the Berkeley City College.

BERKELEY - Students, community members, their families, friends, and neighbors are invited to an afternoon of fun at Berkeley City College's Community Open House, Noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, April 27. Join in arts, humanities, drama, dance, music, and science activities. Learn about one of California's first fully “green” community college campuses and how to get the money you need to finance a college education.

It's free, open to the public and located at 2050 Center St., half a block west of the downtown Berkeley BART station.

Interested in animation? Attend hands-on digital art workshops, or a demonstration by a Pixar animator and story developer. How about trying your hand at a science experiment? Sign up for a session in the college's chemistry or physics lab. Problems at work got you down? Be part of a workshop on job survival skills. Or, for movie buffs, how about an afternoon of film criticism? Activities run the gamut of the arts, sciences, and humanities.

Take a tour of Berkeley City College, one of California's first green community college campuses; listen to music by Mekesmo or Herbie Mims' jazz band; take a workshop on how to fund a college education; and there are hands-on sessions on creating a one-stop college web page.

Dedications of the Susan Almon Duncan Library and the Jerry L. Adams Learning Resources Center are also part of the event. Duncan served 17 years on the Peralta Community College District's Board of Trustees and was instrumental in making possible the college's downtown Berkeley site. Adams, a much-loved mathematics instructor, taught for more than 35 years at the college, and influenced thousands of student lives.

Designed by Ratcliff Architects, a century-old architectural, interiors and planning firm founded in Berkeley, BCC is California's first single-structure, urban community college. The campus is a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building. The LEED Green Building Rating System is a voluntary national standard for developing high-performance, sustainable buildings established by the U.S.

Located half a block from BART and AC Transit connections, and one-and-one-half blocks from U.C., Berkeley City College opened its doors in August 2006. The two-year old facility hosts programs and classes in art and multimedia arts, business and information technology, liberal arts and the sciences, languages and distance education, to name a few.


Roving Correspondent Strange de Jim reports that First Fridays was packed over at the Frank Bette Center, far more than in years past and the plein air photo competion has produced some real treasures.

No report on the recent concert by Wake the Dead over there at the new arts venue, but did hear that many balked at the rather steep ticket price that night.

Anybody realize a recession is going on?


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The mornings begin with glowering, heavy lidded clouds and chill airs, giving away to sporadic dapples of sunshine, promising yet more delights forthcoming in a few weeks or so.

Our courier pigeons and messenger hamsters have been returning with dour expressions from Minnesota, slinging their spotted and mud-encrusted packs onto the floor with irritation at having to engage in such a failure of a mission even during wintertime, so as to petition the Mayor of Lake Wobegon for Sister City status, only to have Hizzoner abruptly denigrate the very idea of sisterhood to any person or any thing.

Such a thing is both inflation and complexity -- both concepts foreign to decent Lutherans, the Mayor was reported to have said.

No sight is more pathetic than a disappointed hamster. Terrible and rueful is the wrath of the Island hamster in wintertime, o yes.

By the light of the sputtering flourescent tube in the offices of Island-Life gathered the surviving messengers. Februs, most noble of messenger hamsters stood there among them, firelight shadows illuminating his august hamster face and the dark bodies of exhausted messenger pigeons strewn about him as he declaimed, "What tho the field be lost? All is not lost -- the unconquerable will, and study of blogging, immortal verbosity, and courage never to submit or yield: And what is else not to be overcome? That glory never shall his wrath or might Extort from me. To bow and sue for grace with suppliant knee, and deify his power Who, from the terror of this arm, so late doubted his Norwegian Heritage -- that were low indeed; That were an ignominy and shame beneath this downfall . . .".

So spake th' apostate Februs, though in pain, vaunting aloud, but racked with deep despair.

Februs, get a grip, dude. Just because the Mayor of Lake Wobegon dismissed a bunch of snow-spattered messengers from California is no reason to get all bipolar. There's plenty of other Sister City possibilities. Soon as the snow clears, off to Bloom County you go . . . .

Of comfort, no man speak. Februs said. Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps by in a petty pace from day to day, 'til all our yesterdays have lighted the way to dusty death. Out out brief candle (sniff!) . . .

Hey, said the Chief Editor, coming out of his office. I hear Garisson Keillor has a new thing out for English Majors! Anybody want to do a review?

At this news, Februs screamed and tore at the hairs upon his head, promising dire hamster revenge.

Not on my dime, you don't, said the Editor. Get back to work.

O this shall not end well.

Far off across the estuary, the midnight throughpassing train howled, its red eye gleaming as it wound its way like a great worm through the darkness of the dismal Situation waste and wild, a Dungeon horrible, on all sides round as one great Furnace flam'd, yet from those flames
no light, but rather darkness visible served only to discover sights of woe, regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace and rest can never dwell, hope never comes that comes to all; but torture without end for the damned Hamster and the NeoCon.

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


APRIL 13, 2008


This weeks headline item is not a photo but a video that comes courtesy of Debra Katz in the City. Jose in the copyroom does not think its funny, but guys in his position tend to be touchy about a lot of things, standing around in the lee of the building, smoking angry cigarettes and plotting to kill their bosses according to some manual by Franz Fanon. Anyway, there may be some truth in this one.

Job Market 2009

(Click to play in Windows Media Player)

In a very unfunny associated video is a speech by Ohio Congresswoman Marci Kaptur on YouTube. This comes courtesy of Chad, our in-house HTML coder. It basically concerns the sets of agreements that look to capitalize upon NAFTA which are summarized by some as the North American Union. Dick Cheney calls it all a big deception. He should talk about deception, that guy.



In some good news for a change we snagged this latest info across the AP wire regarding the new representative for the 12th Congressional District. Given the Green Candidate couldn't take the pole position, this is the best we could do. Former state lawmaker Jackie Speier avoided a runoff for a San Francisco Bay area congressional seat Tuesday, winning a special election to fill the vacancy created by the death earlier this year of fellow Democrat Tom Lantos.

Speier had nearly 78 percent of the vote with 71 percent of precincts reporting. She needed more than 50 percent to avoid a June 3 runoff election.

We remember here as a dark-haired woman of short stature but a firm and determined look.

The victory will send Speier to Washington representing the same congressional seat once held by her boss, former Rep. Leo Ryan. Speier was an aide to Ryan and accompanied him on a fact-finding mission to Guyana in 1978 to investigate claims that cult leader Jim Jones was holding followers against their will.

As the team was returning to their planes at the Guyana airstrip, they were attacked. Jackie fell with several bullet wounds to her back and lay for hours on the tarmac next to the bodies of her former boss, Ryan and the news cameraman. One plane managed to escape after the pilot fought off one of the armed attackers, leaving her behind on the airstrip. She was not rescued until the following morning when the Guyana army flew in to find her and a couple others the sole survivors of a massive bloodletting that killed nearly one thousand people.

She went on from this rough introduction to political life to serve as assembly representative for San Mateo County, pitching a nearly successful bid for lieutenant governor in 2006.

The 12th Congressional District had been represented for the last 27 years by Lantos, who died in February. Speier will hold the seat for the rest of the year.

Lantos, the 79-year-old former chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, had intended to seek a 15th term. He announced in January he had cancer of the esophagus and would not run for reelection. He endorsed Speier before he died.

While she holds the seat for the rest of the year, Speier will have to run again during the June 3 Democratic primary. If she survives that, as expected, she will run for the full two-year term in the November general election.

Her special election win Tuesday also means Speier will be seated as a Democratic superdelegate, giving her a say in the presidential nominating contest between Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton. Speier told AP she is a Clinton supporter.

The 12th Congressional District includes southwestern San Francisco and most of neighboring San Mateo County. Democrats account for more than half the voters in the district, which has more independents than Republicans.


Javier was the one who got the idea. Even the Editor was impressed by the boy's gumption after the Landlord upped the rent yet again after six years in a row. A quick review of rental trends revealed that this area has seen a spike of rent-raises in the past three years after a period of declining extractions. The aggregate increase has been around 7.85%, whereas we have seen 25% and higher around here where rent control does not yet exist on the Island.

That day is coming, however.

Javier had this novel idea of simply calling to ask why the rent was going up. Especially in view of the fact no major repairs had been done, many items remained broken and nonfunctional and various amenities had been removed from service, such as the bicycle locker.

This is how the conversation went, with HF representing the property management firm woman.

HF: Hello, this is Jennifer.

J: Hello. I understand I got a rent increase.

HF: That's right. Everybody got one.

J: Why is that?

HF: Beg pardon?

J: I got a rent increase. Why is that?

HF: Oh. . . well . . . expenses. There are expenses and there is rent and that is all there is.

J: What kind of expenses?

HF: Well . . . building repairs of course.

J: You mean repairs you PLAN on doing. Because you haven't done any for quite a while you know.

HF: Ah, well, that is the owners. Some owners don't want to spend any money. It's a matter of point of view. They are just different. And the rent goes up every year.

J: Why?

HF: Beg pardon?

J: Why does it go up every year?

HF: It just does. It goes up every year automatically.

J: Why?

HF: Beg pardon? Nevermind. It goes up every year to match market rate.

J: Well, what's "market rate"? The folks behind us pay 500 less and over by Park Avenue there is an entire block of studios and one bedrooms going for 575. That is a tony area you know. How do you determine "market rate?"

HF: Well, its the area. Thats it. That's why it goes up.

J: But what about this building deserves that? We have no swimming pool, no view of the beach, no special amenities. A Baptist church operating out of a storefront down the block is the longest running business there plus a couple of bars. A woman was held up by gunpoint on this very block recently. Not to mention the brutal gang murder down the way. And this building has pretty lousy plumbing you have to admit.

HF: Its an old building . . .

J: Yes, over 80 years.

HF: And there are things the owners don't want to pay for. . .

J: So why is the rent going up?

HF: Expenses. Property tax. Thats a big one.

J: Building is assessed at 1.3 million (rather low, don't you think FOR THE AREA?) and your annual taxes are around 20 thousand, which is a bit less than one month of rent here. There is no mortgage as the building is fully paid for. And one of your own employees bragged the building was making money hand over fist way back when the rent for a studio was 450. Now you are charging over a thousand.

HF: Its expenses. Garbage collection. Water. Insurance. Insurance is a really big one. . .

J: Insurance was tanking recently, in fact. One of the tenants works for an insurance company told me so . . .

HF: Its market rate.

J: So I rent at a rate I am not allowed to negotiate, then the rent goes up, meaning that the rent I am forced to pay because it is claimed "market rate" becomes market rate by definition and so market rate becomes the rent which becomes the market rate which becomes the rent as it all loops around. That is very pretty.

HF: Do you have any other questions?

J: The truth is, you just want more money.

HF: Well, yes. Isn't that obvious?

J: The state of the housing industry with its mortgage crisis has demonstrated that clearly. It seems you have all wanted more money for a long time.

HF: Well, if you have no more questions, then good day.

J: I just want to know why the rent is going up.

HF: Good bye.


The Olympic torch raced through here in a way that confused and bamboozled only those unused to the general run-of-the-mill antics of totalitarian regimes everywhere down through the ages. In a stroke of political genius, Mayor Gavin shunted and shifted the torch through a bizarre and essentially concealed as well as significantly aborted torch run, with the torch disappearing into warehouse buildings only to be spirited via vans to secret locations and finally to a bus that sent this albatross down to SFO, turning the whole affair into the obvious charade it was from the beginning. Gavin had the significant no win situation of being given the honor of being the only US city to host the Olympics torch run, with the equally onerous charge of handling a public relations stunt by a viciously cruel regime of Chinese bastards currently stomping all over innocent Tibet while badly handling any number of human rights issues within the boundaries of their own country.

In the end, his main concern was that nobody get killed, and in this, he succeeded well.

In a free country, such an event would have proceeded despite protests because we welcome protest as expression of free speech and difference of opinion. In a free society, you do not have plainclothes thugs shadowing the proceedings so as to yank out any unseemly appearance, such as a Tibetan flag.

Tibet is not and never has been a part of China, it possesses its own language and its own culture, and its occupation is a blatant slap in the face of democracy and anybody who imagines freedom is something important.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, a beautiful jewel set within the turquoise of the many-storied Sea.

A massive heat wave came down with ferocity, virtually enforcing Spring like a strong-armed policeman with extra force. This happened even as report came to us of friends digging out from a sudden blizzard of some ten inches in Minnesota, which completely eradicated onset of Spring to all the weary Lutheran bachelor farmers on the plains. Almost all the freesias have been knocked down, and the crocuses have all croaked, while the early tulips remain standing in their insolent pride, glowing in the afternoon sun.

As the sun superheated the balmy air, Rachel and Beth ran barefoot through the sprinklers, laughing like little girls as they sprinkled waterdrops from the tips of their hairdos.

Large numbers of BBQ and similar events erupted all over the Bay Area, even as friends in Minnesota reported nearly a foot of snowfall that advanced on the yet tender Spring in a great blizzard, not like a German Panzer Division crushing the entire State.

Mr. Cribbage has strung an improbable net of webbing all about his property so as to keep out crows, or so he says, and all the neighbors are talking about it. Mr. Howitzer has taken to birding, but armed with a 12 gauge shotgun gotten from Big 5 Sporting Goods as complement to his binocs. Out for "corbids", he says. Nevermind.

Mrs. Blather has been seen strewing sunflower seeds laced with aspic near aviaries, and so has nearly gotten herself arrested. This all seems to be related to an unfortunate incident during the last bridge club meeting in which the cheeselog and the Madeira were utterly ruined. She did not run through the sprinklers, shod or barefoot, for she was a serious woman with Responsibilities and so she sat with Mrs. Pescatore and Medea from Harbor Bay, getting blotto on the verandah by means of mojitos served up regularly by Jason, Medea's footman.

Over at the clubhouse of the Native Sons of the Golden West, David Phipps and Javier have been setting up wire traps to catch raccoons, their intention being to transport the creatures out to the wilds of the East Bay Preserve. They had great joy setting these things all around the clubhouse, well baited with ears of corn, which raccoons are known to find irresistible. There may have been some kind of attachment to heritage in all their activity, for David's people hearkened back to the time of covered wagons crossing the Humboldt Sink during the early days before the Gold Rush. In any case, Miranda had a fit and cursed roundly them and the world for swiping vegetables meant for the Sunday Poetry Slam BBQ out of the crisper .

This, of course, being National Poetry Month, the Native Sons had decided to host a Slam right there on Sunday, complete with ribs and beer and Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Corso, and an open mike.

When they went by to check on their trapline the following day, they found no raccoons, but a powerful stench wafting from one of the traps where a furious black and white creature pounded his paws on the wire floor of his cage, enticing Heroditus Google -- a joyfully bounding black Labrador -- into running right up to greet this new friend.

"Heroditus! NOOOOOOOO!" said David.

Heroditus really loved people and animals of all kinds and dearly loved to socialize and hump the leg of anybody or anything that would remain stationary for it, but the skunk would have none of it, for the skunk found himself in a situation he did not like at all and he detested dogs in particular. So he lifted his tail and got Heroditus really good between the eyes.

Heroditus, in an agony of acrid eyeburn, came running right back to his master for a warm hug only to get a faceful of bloody mary, which really put the poor lab out of sorts as the lime went bouncing down the walk.

"You'll need a lot more tomato juice than that", said Javier. "Eewww!"

David got Heroditus on a leash by using one of Roberta's hankies dipped in vinegar as a breath mask. He then took Heroditus out to Wally's rowboat, got the dog between the thwarts and after a stern command of "Stay!", he pushed the boat off from shore. Holding the tow rope he walked the boat around to the point of the jetty and there he staked him down. "Stay!" repeated David, before walking back up to the clubhouse, leaving the perplexed dog in the rowboat, floating some yards from shore.

There remained the problem of how to handle the skunk. It being a weekend, Animal Control remained unavailable. The animal, being factually under control, outside human habitation, and in no danger to himself or to people proved not to be an emergency for the County Vector Abatement. "If he were a mosquito or a brown moth, things would be different," said the Operator.

Nevertheless, holding a BBQ anywhere in the vicinity of the creature remained impossible.

"You know what will happen when the Abodanza kids get here." Javier said.

David groaned, remembering the fiasco of the Easter Peeps and other disasters of equal proportion.

So something about the skunk needed to happen and right away.

That's how they glommed onto the idea of dragging the cage some distance from the clubhouse. Javier got a boathook from Pedro's fishing boat and this they tied to a rope which then got fastened to Javier's pickup truck towring. The business end they tossed several times at the cage, missing a couple, wacking the cage a few, entirely enraging the captured animal all the while just as it had begun to settle down to eat the corn so thoughtfully provided earlier.

The skunk screamed and hissed and made a fair amount of noise while a perfectly visible cloud of gas developed over the area.

Finally they got the thing set real good and with the skunk emitting all kinds of protest, Javier ran to start up his truck. Things went pretty smoothly with Javier motoring at about three miles per hour for about fifty yards when the next problem arose. Where exactly to take this skunk, for the truck was limited in its progress to the available roadway and they couldn't just leave a caged animal in the middle of the road. So David, being real good at math, calculated the trajectories and everything before setting up a pole there on the curb. Javier backed up, then gunned the engine so that just when the line went taut, he hauled on the steering wheel left then right, which caused the cage to go airborne. The whiplashing line caught the pole and the cage, skunk inclusive, went sailing over the green there beside the Marina and everything went swimmingly except for one detail.

Neither one of them had factored in the hook's inability to let go unless at the most inopportune moment. That inopportune moment happened about fifty feet from the edge of Crown Drive. The cage sailed free and with a remarkable parabola up and, inevitably, down into the open convertible compartment of Mel Grumpus where it broke apart in the lap of the driver as he was extolling the luscious potential of fixed rate rents on the Island, only recently accomplished, to a bevy of blond Realtors and land speculators of a type that is peculiar and pernicious to Northern California.

The skunk howled, and did its thing, adding a bit of scared scat to the emissions. The Realtors howled and erupted from the car. Mel howled and flung the skunk from his torn and soiled lap.

We are happy to relate that no more harm came to the tormented skunk, who headed for the trees, never to be seen again.

That day, a contemplated 25 story high-rise on Ballena Isle was nipped effectively in the bud, and a number of Realtors went around after this event for some time accompanied by the odor that so effectively evokes rampant greed and corruption.

It was some time before anyone remembered Heroditus, who endured a series of bathings in tomato juice, vinegar, Febreeze and gasoline before anyone would let him come within ten feet of them. And it was he who suffered the most of all in all his innocence.

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



APRIL 20, 2008


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of Javier's garden as the last of the tulips expired once the odd cold front moved in here to nip the early buds of Spring.


Der Governator Arnold showed up here to pose for the photogs on the deck of the USS Hornet, a celebrated aircraft carrier that has been docked here and converted to a museum. Arnold was here ostensibly for an "economic conference" however no one could recall any economic conference ever being held on the deck of a museum air craft carrier.

Unfortunately for Arnold's photo op, several thousand protesters showed up to angrily decry the school budget cuts planned for the upcoming budget.

After his appearance before the Bay Area Council aboard the USS Hornet , Der Governator said he agrees with the protesters. But he said the crisis is caused by a budget system that is broken.

In other news we understand a number of legislators have found a golden path to ease the Golden State's budget crisis, precipitated by the radical anti-revenue legislation called Proposition 13, which capped property taxes, ostensibly to protect individuals from extraordinary taxes chained to real market-rate property values. The problem, of course, was that property value was being artificially pumped above real value by rabid speculators fueling the land boom by "flipping" property with ever spiraling and inflated prices that soon exterminated any reasonable person's ability to purchase a home for the reasonable intent of actually living within the walls.

Speculators began selling and buying only from speculators, leaving common folks to purchase with junk "variable rate" mortgages.

Anyone who actually kept a home got punished by the escalating home values as properties got reassessed by cash-hungry counties.

Instead of puncturing this bubble and its causes, Prop 13 folks capped the reassessments, effectively ensuring the bubble would swell even as the cash flow to the local governments and the State got choked.

Now that the bubble has burst and everyone is clamoring to be reassessed here, the revenues from property taxes have dropped from ludicrously low to seriously endangering the commonweal. Essential services such as fire and police protection and -- as loudly demonstrated this past week -- schools are being shaved back to nothing.

Enter split-roll taxation. Prop 13 remains a golden calf that cannot be touched by any politician with a brain and a concern for a future in politics. Nobody is going to vote for somebody who causes suffering to the grandmother that owns the old homestead.

Commercial properties, however, are something distinctly unfuzzy and cool to touch. Some genius has suggested removing commercial buildings from the protections offered by Prop 13 and this beast is called "split roll taxation" and it promises to refill the Golden State's coffers by the billions if passed.

There are a lot of issues and problems to be worked out between now and when this issue comes before voters. Most likely, due to Deep Pockets lobbying, the item will not appear on the June 3rd election here, but surely will in the welter of items that surely will claim attention for the Presidential Race this year.

We have insider reports of several realtor groups meeting with State legislators already, expressing "concern" about this legislation.

Among these was Mr. Falvey of Hanford Freund, one of Babylon's oldest property management firms. Mr. Falvey, understandably, stands firmly against split roll taxation.

Perhaps Mr. Falvey could soften a bit on the usurious charges to the common renter so as to earn a more sympathetic ear in this space. But at present, we have no sympathy. None at all.


Houston Jones, our local band faves, will perform live on KFOG's morning show on April 25th at 7am. The following evening the jovial boys will do a special Benefit for the Schools at Noe Valley Ministry. Joe Bob says, "Check it out."

Illnesses and such have put a kink in the usual frenetic schedule of Island-Life reviews, but we are looking to get back in the swing of things before long. Word of mouth has it that Eddie Vedder's solo shows here caused ladies to swoon and gentlemen to scream. Feist is coming to the venerable Greek soon enough. May 15th, Hot Tuna shows up at the Great American Music Hall, which is just the right size for Jorma to fill the place with sound.

We slide into the post-season for theatre doldrums, hearing that Carrie Fisher bombed at Berkeley Rep in a dishy monolog that required people to care about folks who own multiple heated swimming pools. Shaw broke hearts with ACT and the Rep putting on undistinguished shows. A visitor from New York put on a multi-character one-man thing that has become by now old hat and the substance apparently complained about Californians coming to New York.

Well, we won't do that again.

The Rep lets things die a proper death with a completely irrelevant mini-opera by Mozart, perhaps in an effort to recapture old-guard subscribers with "safe theatre" and "old chestnuts".

Figaro? Yuck.

Upside is that Les Waters and Mary Zimmerman will team up again at the Rep in the next season. And the inflammatory Martin McDounagh returns with his own Irish cynicism and violent images. Odds are the Rep's next season will be a good one.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

That brief spell of sultry weather is just a memory as some kind of cold front moved in to chill things enough to plant broccoli early. Probably be a bad idea.

This is the first week of post-tax nausea, and we do hope all of you are recovering nicely. As for most of us, that $600 "rebate" will go ploomp! right into the tax fund to take care of 2008's extractions.

Nice stimulus that was. All gone and gas at $4.08 around here.

Lionel has been doing brisk business over at the Pampered Pup on Park Street, for in hard times, a hot dog is a meal that can't be beat. In fact, he is doing so well that the ninety-nine cent dog and chili special down the street at the Wienerschnitzel Hut barely crimps his style.

Joanne came in the other day with Wally, trying to get him to bite on a business proposal for a fashion outlet in the old burned out Safeway building. Wally, whose idea of fashion is a clean T-shirt and decent workboots to wear down to the shooting range on Davis Street, never had been concerned about fashion at all until he glommed onto Joanne stalking about the burned out building at Southshore.

It might not have been fashion, but something about Joanne's six-inch stiletto boots rising up to a lanky frame and a pretty face framed in neat curls caused the sap, or something, to rise in old Wally.

Truth was, Joanne was quite a sexy number to have gotten Wally all googly-eyed, for Wally had sworn off women ever since his ex-wife had poured bondo into the fuel tank of his prized Evenrude motor. And into the bilge pump of his boat.

Wally never could figure how such a little woman could have hoisted about thirty-five pounds of the stuff over the gunwale.

"Musta really pissed her off," had been Eugene's only comment. "Shoulda stayed off that gal from Chico."

Yes, Wally did have a wandering eye, which age had served only to hone to a finer appetite even though the heart medicine he took made everything pretty much theoretical these days anyway.

They found themselves on Park Street as Joanne wanted to scope out the shopping district. The Island shopping district is a strip about three blocks long and half a block wide, "anchored at one end by the Slut Hut Javarama across the street from the fire department, and by the Vietnamese Emerald Garden at the other near the drawbridge, where starving jazz musicians would attack Coltrane with some seriousness and dedication without pay on Saturday nights.

As for the Pampered Pup, she found the big doggie head over the entrance to be positively retro.

It also had the advantage of being on the corner so that she could evaluate the clothing coming and going.

Wally's suggestion, an intimation that he had money to invest began to evaporate into a thin mist of an idea, much like Joanne's interest in Wally, which had extended only so far as the perceived desire to make money. She shrugged. At least she saw what she had come to see.

That drawbridge meant that no way would throngs of the hoi polloi come over from Babylon across the water loaded with the zingy anticipation of Something Really New and catwalk dreams, no way would such ever step elegantly out of stretch limos, flicking ermines and diamonds as they strolled through a dream of a neon-lit downtown enhanced by the refurbished Paramount Theatre. Not on this Island, now or ever. So it goes. Just push disappointment aside and drive on to the next thing.

Wally, stumbling over an invitation to check out the Old Same Place Bar broke into her thoughts and she turned the kindest eyes ever laid on the man, who surely never before deserved this much consideration.

"Wally," she said, resting a lovely hand be-ringed with sparkling clear stones on his knee. "Wisdom lies in the abnegation of desire. C'est triste, n'est pas? Goodbye." And she left.

"Nice bumper on that one," Lionel commented as he took up the baskets.

"Lionel," Wally said, and sighed. "I am fifty-five years old and today I just learned that wisdom lies in the abnegation of desire."

Thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.


APRIL 27, 2007


If April is cruel, then be happy its all over. Not so happy is EBMUD around here, for the usual gusty showers failed to swell the reservoirs from March onward and so the East Bay is looking at water rationing while the Sierra snowpack remains held in place by cool temps above 8,000 feet. Last report had Bishop (4,000 feet) still seeing subfreezing temps at night with daytime levels at the desert oasis hovering in the mid fifties.

People are still driving up to Tahoe at this late date for last of the season ski runs over crinkle snow, all a-sparkle from re-freeze after partial melt, but still good for schussing the moguls.

Meanwhile, we hear Spring finally has come to friends in Michigan and Minnesota in the form of daffy-down-dillies poking up through the crust laid down a week ago. Sound like they have had some Severe Weather in points East, however, and the State of Virginia has declared a State of Emergency after high winds wreaked havoc over there.

Even Illinois got a taste of Golden State life with a moderate 4.0 shaker that left people wondering if the Creator is trying to tell them something about the state of the country.

Meanwhile all the cherry blossoms here have passed their prime after a gorgeous riot that caused the neatniks to pull out their whiskers. Javier caught city crews lopping a number of these trees on Santa Clara amid a blizzard of falling petals, but forgot his camera that day. They were probably cursing through their beards, "Damn weeds!"

Some people just got no appreciation.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Everyone has been scampering down to Pagano's Hardware to fetch trunkloads of manure in that annual vainglorious attempt to turn silt and sand into something that can support a bed of roses or asparagus. Javier has been knocking about the rising bean forest while Beth has been primping the primroses under the showing jasmine.

The jasmine, planted some years ago by Julee in three-foot high versions, now stands seven feet high at the old fence and extends along to either side for another twenty-five feet or so. Julee is long gone, but the jasmine remains, causing Old John to curse at the nature of its falling flowers and its heady scent, which manage to traverse to the other side of the fence and afflict his sensibilities no end.

In spring come the migrations of birds, and the vicissitudes of change. The high rents here, a product of pure greed and dour indifference to the hard effect of things happening in the economy upon the soft bodies of human beings, are causing some havoc. Saturday a group gathered to wish farewell to one of their own, for Solange is moving to Lausanne, where the rents are cheaper by far than this place.

It is cheaper to live in Switzerland than here in the Bay Area. Think about it.

Solange, a beautiful artist and author of some two novels, ten translations, innumerable articles and one lovely child, drifted about the room through a fog of languages, her hair sprinkled with confetti. Her landlord evicted the entire building of painters, sculptors and ceramists, ostensibly to renovate or sell or something, but really just to get more money, for a single woman living with a cat will pay only so much.

We live in a time of upheavals and each new impossible day brings up yet another "unfortunate situation" that is "all too common."

She ignored the advances of poor Domino, who attempted to make love to her with his thick Greek accent. "If you would wake in my bed to the sound of sparrows at sunrise, we know you would return soon. Or at least have something to remember," he said. "Embrace la Vie!"

Been there, done that. She went over to where Paul and Marybeth were discussing "Reise nach Kafiristan" with Inge. Where is Kafiristan? And where is The Lucky Valley?

The room pulsed with French, German, English, Arabic, Italian words, all blending together in a chamber orchestra, perhaps a little bit sad, for one of them was going away.

Joanne's tall paintings hovered in the background, each vibrant with bursts and trajectories, bold black strokes and red splashes. In a bowl, floated the fire of a Rose of Jericho.

One lives in a place for a number of years, and if denied the possibility of home, joins the great migration of die Statenlos, the gypsies, the Citizens of the World. Perhaps a bit sad, but what can one do? That's just the way it is my friends.

Far away, in places like Wobegon and Yoknatapatawa and Chicago and Wichita Falls, Berne and Split, Nis and Dusseldorf, Plovdiv and Lodz, Basra, Qom, Medina, Lagos, Kinshasa, Djibouti, Madras, Lahore, Dar es Salaam, Kabul, Vientiane, Tientsin, Canberra the child tosses in bed, stares at the ceiling, knowing differences, longing for escape, not at home in house. To those few, rising up out of nests to fall out maybe, circle for a while and then join the vast migration, because burning sole or burning villiage never to return.

"I tried to return to Copenhagen," Inge said with that slight elevation in inflection of the Danish. "I could not. I sold everything, took my child and tried to make it, but just could not. I had changed. So had Copenhagen. And so I came back here; this is my place."

It may be said the Golden State is unusual in that even those who own property are just renting a spot for the time being. Nobody but the Miwok is really home. Everyone else is still looking for The Lucky Valley, and some wind up like AnneMarie Schwarzenbach in a dusty cul de sac.

Or as Joni Mitchell once sang, "Where others found their paradise, others just came to harm. Oh Amelia; it was just a false alarm."

Among those who make their living, or at least devote the greatest part of themselves to making things that have never been seen or heard before, the truth is that there is no abiding. We all are moving from camp to camp, exchanging small things in trade under the kafir's tents, trying to communicate with a deeply personal language that no one else will fully understand.

And as for home? Nirgends. Kein Ort. Except in Community.

Solange looked to the side, where a clay pot made by Sonya stood, calmly whirling with a gray, frothy swirl of leaves and sea-foam, a trick of the light and device, since the pot clearly stood motionless on the solid countertop. Yet everything in motion, all looking for the Lucky Valley.

"And your daughter?"

"She is in New York. Wants to get a Masters. Looking at a couple good universities in Greece. (Domino' s chest puffed out at this news.) I just wish she would find a decent boyfriend though."

All the multiculti, international, artsy stuff comes down to this. Mom just wants her girl for find a nice guy. Its the same all over, even here. Even in Lausanne.

As the guests all trickled out to their cars to drive down the little hill outside the Golden Gate, Solange stood removing confetti from her hair in front of the table where Joanne had hung a kid's model of a 747. She did not feel ebullient.

"Is there nothing you have in mind for your last days here?" Domino said.

Domino, a burly curly-hair bear of a man, really was not a bad fellow, despite his limitations of understanding -- a photographer, he focussed upon appearances, and soon would be off like a butterfly chasing some other bright flower.

No. Not really. Public attractions and the sort of tourist things one never does when you live in a place. She was already moving, already gone. Mentally, she already stood on the platform.

Einsteigen. Türen schliessen. Vorsicht beim Abfahrt.

Soon enough Domino left. And Solange stood looking out the window at the lights of Tiburon below. In the far distance, a plane rose soundlessly through the streaked sky of clouds, departing for some unknown destination.

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

There may come a time
When youll be tired
As tired as a dream that wants to die
And further to fly
Further to fly
Further to fly
Further to fly

Maybe you will find a love
That you discover accidentally
Who falls against you gently
As a pickpocket
Brushes your thigh
Further to fly

Effortless music from the Cameroons
The spinning darkness of her hair
A conversation in a crowded room going nowhere
The open palm of desire
Wants everything
It wants everything
It wants everything

Sometimes I'll be walking down
The street and Ill be thinking
Am I crazy
Or is this some morbid little lie
Further to fly
Further to fly
Further to fly

A recent loss of memory
A shadow in the family
The baby waves bye-bye
I'm trying, I'm flying

There may come a time
When I will lose you
Lose you as I lose my light
Days falling backward into velvet night
The open palm of desire
Wants everything
It wants everything
It wants soil as soft as summer
And the strength to push like spring

A broken laugh a broken fever
Take it up with the great deceiver
Who looks you in the eye
And says baby dont cry
Further to fly

There may come a time
When I will lose you
Lose you as I lose my sight
Days falling backward into velvet night
The open palm of desire
The Rose of Jericho
Soil as soft as summer
The strength to let you go

©Paul Simon


MAY 4, 2008


This week's headline photos come courtesy of Chad and protesters from the English Only Movement in Texas, a land not known for mellow tolerance. Or high IQs.

Seems a few of these folks need to either switch to Spanish or just go back to school. Capece?



Our narrow little world of computer geeks and tech doctors features few that are truely the best and brightest, while preserving a sound heart, so when one of these departs for greener pastures, loud is the lamentation in the Land of Silicon.

Fred Langa editor-at-large of the Windows Secrets Newsletter, and former editor of Byte Magazine, has recently announced his retirement, effective nearly immediately, after well over thirty years of trying to help the hapless "user" and the sysop figure out those devilish PCs and Apple Macs, finding the space and time to establish a wonderful scholarship program that supports bright kids living in the Third World who otherwise would not have had a snowball's chance in hell.

Those of us greybeards who recall the Commodore 64 and the Trash-80 and carrying punch cards (egads!)down the stairs to the Computer Center will have to soldier on as best we may with a LINUX that no longer threatens to set monitors on fire, with Windows that actually can stay up without memory leaks for more than 48 hours, with NOVELL using a non-DOS boot partition greater than 50mb, and Apples that employ honest-to-god parts available from Office Depot.

Here is a quote from our Editor in Chief, who penned a goodbye letter to Mr. Langa.

"[your] greatest contribution, in my humble opinion, was the constant gentle reminder of the humanity residing inside the humming engine sitting before the keyboard. From the Third-world kid sponsorship to the humor and the simple admonition "Stay Human", your contribution has been incalculable and your presence will be sorely missed.

I don't exactly how I am going to report this without sounding like an obit on my own blog, established back in 1997 before the word "blog" even existed (o the gray hairs!), but I will keep the hyperlink to Windows Secrets in hopes that the new editors will carry on some of the same warmth and intelligence you gave us for 30 years."

And in Fred's own words, here is an excerpt from his final column.


"Remember your humanity

Alas, the world of high tech isn't immune to some of humankind's baser impulses. For example, consider Apple's elitist marketing. A PC is a tool, not a lifestyle, but Apple embraces the dark side and tries to sell its PCs by appealing to vanity and narcissism, implying that owning an Apple makes you smarter, cooler, and just plain better than those sorry-assed PC people.

Yes, it's a small thing, but the world has enough divisive issues in it without Apple marketers trying to invent silly new ones. It's just a computer, Apple! How about thinking really "different" and coming up with ads that don't promote snobbery and elitism?

Apple execs aren't the only tech snobs

This is a corollary to the above item. Apple's leaders just happen to be the worst offenders in the computer industry, and that's why I'm singling them out here. But I personally boycott any products whose main sales pitch is based on making one group of people think that they're inherently better than others. If you're as bothered by such ugly marketing ploys as I am, perhaps you'll consider a similar personal boycott.

Reboot from time to time

A full reboot is a chance to shut down, cool off, clean out, and start fresh without carrying along needless baggage from previous operations. Windows, Mac, Linux, and most personal electronics devices all can benefit from a periodic full shutdown and restart. And, you know, so can your real, human life.

And that's what I'm about to do: reboot my life. I'm not sure what comes next, but part of the fun will be in finding out. (If you'd like to come along for the ride, check out my free non-computer-related blog.)

Although I'm stepping back from day-to-day computer writing, I'll still be reading Windows Secrets so I can stay on top of the essential information I need to keep my own PCs humming smoothly. I'll be a reader here, right beside you, for a long time to come.

But for now, let's see how this reboot thing works: Ctrl+Alt+Del . . ."


The draconian budget cuts proposed by Der Governator are beginning to hit home here after an already austere past year.

With just two months left in the school year, Anthony Kuns has quit as principal of Encinal High School, less than a year after he stepped into the post.

Superintendent Ardella Dailey announced the resignation in a letter to parents on Friday.

A reason for the departure of Kuns - a veteran administrator who came to Alameda from John F. Kennedy High School in Fremont - remains unstated.

Dailey said she has appointed Mike Cooper, Encinal's former vice-principal, as "administrator in charge" of the campus for the remainder of the school year, and acting principal for the following term.

The departure of the 57-year-old Kuns comes as district officials are wrestling with a projected $4.5 million budget deficit and after they have sent layoff notices to 15 teachers in an effort to curb costs. They also recently have cut money from music and high school sports.

Encinal High School has about 1,400 students and is located in the Island's West End near the former U.S. Navy base.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather has been cool during the day with a roil of cloud and high fog leading to nippy evenings. With the price of an oil barrel topping $120 and gas prices knocking down the $4.00 barrier all over, more and more Islanders are taking to eco-friendly personal transportation like bicycles, while O'Connell Volvo is doing a brisk business in selling electric cars and trucks.

Mr. Dominici, the owner of the Ace Hardware, purchased a Hummer in a fit of perversity and self-loathing for the asking price of $3000. Thats right; read it again and weep. The onetime behometh weighing in at six tons and $45,000 went for a song from some hapless fool who realized too late that the price of ostentatiousness is yet more price.

And that story is no fiction.

Meanwhile, with the economy tanking with great seriousness, the local realtors are trying to defeat Reality by raising all the rents and pretending the Housing Thing never happened. Over at Marlene and Andre's, the House on Otis got a modest increase from Mr. Howitzer for their one bedroom to $4,000 per month.

"Does this mean they are going to fix the plumbing?" Occasional Quentin said, when he heard about it.

Fortunately, with about twelve people, four dogs, six cats and at least three hamsters splitting the cost, the rent there comes down to something close to reasonable.

It seemed with the increase and times being as hard as they were all over, the decision was made to allow for yet more sublets. Pahrump figured that folks could sublet their sleeping accomodations to other folks who worked the graveyard shift. Or vice versa. So Andre got together with Tipitina, who alone among them all possessed significant carpentry skills, and Marsha and Piedro and Xavier and Suan scrounging up wood and screws to build out their bunks, for it seemed pretty clear that Pahrump's space under the coffee table would have to go.

Occasional Quentin offered courteously and in a most gentemanly fashion to share his sleeping accomodations with Suan, who slapped him. Suan worked most nights as a pole dancer at the Crazy Horse, and this was a standard form of communication with her. Suan never had to worry about when to work, for the Crazy Horse kept amenable 24x7 hours, seven days a week, with Sundays really hopping in all the booths.

The real problem would come when the rare holiday would be universally observed by the Bay Area's notoriously skinflinty employers. That meant the warehouses would be closed as well as the packing plants and most of the coffeeshops, so they really might have to double up during those times.

Occasional Quentin had managed to score the graveyard shift over at the Burger King in Fruitvale, about a forty minute walk, so he felt flush.

Each by each they dropped their found lumber and plywood into a pile in the back while Tipitina made her measurements. Bonkers chased Wickiwup around the yellow piss pot and the brown covered pail while Johnny Cash woofed encouragement and thumped his tail.

Marsha came up the way, dragging a nine-foot long two by four and they all ran down to shoulder up the prize found down on the mudflats. Marlene and Marsha and the others rejoyced in their wealth as the sun shone down merrily upon the crew as it sawed and hammered with bricks and refurbished hammers. Pedro showed up with his monthly allotment of food stamps, which brought the crew great happiness. Andre strummed his guitar. Somebody opened a beer and passed it around. A hummingbird raided the lavendar plant. Life was good.

Life in California. Just another day in paradise.

That's the way it is on the Island, site of "graceful living". Have a great week.

MAY 11, 2007


This week we celebrate Mother's Day with a picture of Madonna and Child, courtesy of Chad.

Little Oscar there just passed the six months mark and already has all the ladies swooning in the House. They say he is going to make a great fisherman.


We are happy to report that Windows Secrets has two kids up for sponsorship, as we forgot to include last month's honoree. In the words of Fred Langa, former editor of the techie newsletter:

Each month, we send a full year of sponsorship to a different child. In April 2008, your contributions help us to sponsor Gabriela Ivón, a 5-year-old girl from Zapopan, Jalisco state, in the central region of Mexico. She lives with her family and has two siblings. Aid to Gabriela and her village is provided by Children International, a nonprofit organization that serves 11 countries. We also sponsor kids through Save the Children and other respected agencies.

In May 2008, your contributions help us to sponsor Ricardo, a 5-year-old boy who lives in the Philippines. Aid to Ricardo and his village is provided by Plan International, one of the world's largest development organizations, which has been serving kids since 1937.

One thing that editor-at-large Fred Langa and I agree on is that it's important to help disadvantaged people around the world.

Ever since the LangaList newsletter and Windows Secrets merged in November 2006, we've continued to sponsor children in developing countries with a portion of your contributions — we just haven't taken the time to write about it.

Your support is helping to fund a school health and nutrition program in Souleymane's community, managed by Save the Children, a respected nongovernmental organization. According to the group, 73% of Mali's 11.7 million people live on U.S. $1 or less per day, so contributions go far. In future months, we will select children benefiting from the programs of other respected relief agencies, including Oxfam International and Unicef.

We can't save the world, but we can do something. Supporting education and nutrition programs is our focus, but Windows Secrets has also donated to the One Laptop Per Child effort. This contribution will result in one kid-size PC going to a student in a developing country and another being donated by us to a school in the U.S.

We very much appreciate your support of our research into the secrets of Windows. To get our paid content for a full 12 months, use the following link:



Officer O'Madhauen really scored big when he pulled over one feller for erratic driving, discovering over 22 pounds of pot in the car, proving our pushers are a really special breed.

Also in another Only on the Island another bank was held up in the Old Style of the early fifties with a takeover, prompting our fashionistas to comment on the current vogue among takeover specialists, whcih have become a kind of rare category here. Other places around the country experience a takeover robbery in the old style maybe once every ten years or so. We, who are very special on the Island, experience a bank takeover some every six months.

This time, the Credit Union on Webb Avenue earned the honors.

In Oaktown they use bullet-proof glass dividers, but here on the Island, such things would be considered rude and perhaps indicating suspicions about your neighbors.

As a consequence, we have a lot of takeover robberies, which feature a gentleman entering a bank with a knapsack, from which he extracts a pistol and threatens to kill everybody unless somebody gives him money.

Its a crude system for earning a living, but it has worked here so far. Al Capone did well by it, so why not? Its tradition.

These days the chic bankrobber wears a hoodie of understated grey or dark blue, accented by blue jeans by Levi-Strauss or Bill Blass and stylish Nike or Converse track shoes.

Red is definitely out for this ensemble, completed by a black shoulder knapsack from Sierra Designs and understated bling.

Hair by Supercuts, clothes from Nordstrom Rack. Shoes from Mr. Thoms. Pistol supplied by Traders in Fremont.

This past week we enjoyed 5 battery reports, 3 strongarm robberies, one DOA, and numerous DUI and vandalism incidents.

No dog bites reported this week.


The rest of the world sees recession, housing downturn, and imminent Apocalypse, but Islanders of all types see things a little differently and visitors who want to make a buck never have let reality in the way of making a profit.

One developer's dream of a 104 house "village" got the kibosh recently in a rare demonstration of common sense here. It is prime property seperated from the Bay by lots of green open space. However it also happens to be cheek by jowl with the airport main runway, promising some 582 overhead flights per day, and right by an industrial park that runs 24x7 with operating factories and processing plants.

According to a recent newspaper report, the 104 new homes would ease the regional housing crunch, but "none of the homes would be affordable." (Alameda Sun, vol 7, #34, It takes a runway to sink a village, Marc Albert).

Truely a genius project that gives one pause. 104 homes built on a swamp adjacent to an international airport and none of them affordable.

Meanwhile developers are trying to develop the Point to include "affordable housing" under a court order to do so, more developers are seeking to develop the Cannery area, yet more developers have infested the Beltline property and still more developers are trying to foist an Oak to 9th Street project on Oaktown across the way even as the last big one sits largely vacant in the new buildings down by the vegetable warehouses.

And we have numbskulls trying to pay for the multiplex boondoggle here by holding a $100 per ticket "gala" on opening night on the 21st.

We encourage all of you to show up wearing "Eat the Rich" T-shirts and whiskey cologne to great the Great Hoity Toity that night.


Free ferry rides for bike riders with "valid" bicycles to and from the City on Bike to Work Day, May 15th.

Thanks to the Ferries for the free rides to KFOG's KABOOM this weekend. Attendance was estimated to be around 350,000 down on the piers to hear Los Lobos, Matt Nathanson, Collective Soul and see the fireworks which we hear went off swimmingly.

Officer O'Madhauen is romping and stomping with yet another enforcement program to begin Monday and continue until June 1, during which period the IPD will "aggressively enforce" the seatbelt law. Buckle up, dudes.


Some notables coming up include

Hot Tuna
Great American Music Hall Thu., May 15, 8:00pm

The Waybacks
Freight & Salvage Coffee House Thu., May 15, 8:00pm

Barry “The Fish” Melton Band
The Saloon Sat., May 17, 9:30pm

BRETT DENNEN - May 15 - Zellerbach
JONATHAN EDWARDS - May 17 - Freight & Salvage
GREG BROWN - May 17 - Great American Music Hall

Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival - June 27-29 - Laytonville, California:

The Kate Wolf thing is for those who enjoy a bit of hippish tenting and all-night jams around the old campground. Gorka and Brown appearing together ought to lower the octave level some notches.


May Day here is always one worthy of at least a sparkler or two. Buried behind Page three was an event of note.

The largest container port area in the world shut down for a day in protest against war. Yes, all 29 of the West Coast ports shut entirely down for a day.

Oh, you did not hear about that? This is an excerpt from the Bay Guardian on the event:

"Workers, students, immigrants, and antiwar activists came together in historic fashion on May Day in San Francisco, but it was hard to tell from the next day's mainstream media coverage, which adopted its usual cynical view of the growing movement to end the war in Iraq.

Sure, there were articles in newspapers from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times about how the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down all 29 West Coast ports for the day, with far more than 10,000 workers defying both their employers and the national union leadership to skip work.

But each article missed the main point: this was the first time in American history that such a massive job action was called to protest a war.

"In this country, dock workers have never stopped work to stop a war," Jack Heyman, the ILWU executive board member and Oakland Port worker who spearheaded the effort, told the Guardian.

The ILWU's "No Peace, No Work" campaign and simultaneous worker-led shutdowns of the Iraqi ports of Umm Qasr and Khor Al Zubair are part of a broader effort, called US Labor Against the War, that labor scholars agree is something new to the political landscape of this country.

USLAW has about 200 union locals and affiliates with a detailed policy platform that calls for ending war funding, redirecting resources from the military to domestic needs, and boosting workers' rights — including those of immigrants, who staged an afternoon march in San Francisco following the ILWU's morning event.

Traditionally labor unions have been big supporters of US wars. But Pitts said the feelings of rank-and-file workers have always been more complex than the old "hard hats vs. hippies" stories from the Vietnam era might indicate.

This time, union members and the public as a whole have more aggressively pushed their opposition to the Iraq War, winning antiwar resolutions among the biggest unions in the country and in hundreds of US cities and counties.

Even for protest-happy San Francisco, it was an unusually spirited May Day, with more than 1,000 people appearing at each of the four main rallies and two big marches. There were lots of smaller actions as well, including demonstrations at the ICE offices and Marine recruiting center, and activists from the Freedom From Oil Campaign disrupting a Commonwealth Club speech by General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

But it was the port shutdown that was unique. Annually the 29 West Coast ports process 368 million tons of goods, averaging more than 1 million tons a day moved by 15,000 registered ILWU workers and a number of other "casuals." Eight percent of that comes in and out of Oakland, but West Coast trade affects business throughout the country — as many as 8 million other workers come in contact with some aspect of that trade.

Mike Zampa, spokesperson for APL — the eighth-largest container shipping company in the world, with ports in Oakland, Los Angeles, and Seattle — told us, "Over a long period of time a shutdown like this does have an impact on the US economy"."

More port shutdowns are possible, organizers said.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather for this Mother's Day turned out to be bright and cool, almost as if we have skipped Spring and moved right into our usual foggy summer. But the roses are all busting out, ready for May Day and Mothers everywhere here.

Islanders practiced the usual routines and rituals practiced on this day. Among the smaller folk, there was the breakfast in bed thing which Mrs. Almeida enjoyed as the tykes came tromping in with trays of orange juice, pancake plates, Denver omlette, coffee, sliced fruit, strawberries, Cheerios, and prunes in a dish. That last one was little Albert's idea and he was particularly proud of it and his eyes beamed so merrily upon the surprised comment from his mother it really was worth it.

After all, that look is what mothers live for, we are told.

Not so enjoyable was the mess in the kitchen, although Mr. Almeida certainly did his best to limit the damage and sweep up the broken glass -- quietly, quietly so as not to disturb Mom -- and figure out what to do with the brown agglutination found at the base of the kitchen table, the responsiblity for which not a bright eyed soul could admit.

"Vamanos! Vamanos! Go to Paganos y comprar "cleanser". Remember that? Cleanser!"

It turned out to be quite a day for the Almeida household.

Some whose moms have passed on also paid dutiful obesiance to the day. Mr. Cribbage folded himself into his truck with a bouquet of flowers so as to ride across the Bridge and down the 101 to Colma, City of the Dead and there lay his annual contribution on the headstone there.

1901 - 1989
Flights of Angels sing thee to thy Eternal Rest

Mr. Cribbage stood there in the bright California sunshine on the hillside that looked over the sprawl of what had become Daly City to the Pacific Ocean, trying to remember if he had paid the water bill for the troublesome unit on Otis Street.

A rough caw interrupted his thoughts. A few markers away a crow stood on a memorial to a fallen child and looked at him as if to say, "What are you doing, man? Shouldnt you be strolling under the magnolias with a wife at least ten years younger than yourself?"

Well, he may have imagined that last part, the meaning of that look but he bent down to hunt for a stone to throw. This bird only served to remind him of the terrible bridge club meeting that ended so badly with the madeira and the cheeselog all ruined.

Ah! A piece of gravel! This he hurled with ferocity at the black bird, which only rose up, fluttered a few feet away and settled with a sense of proprietorship that Mr. Cribbage felt was entirely undeserved.

We shall not dwell in this place any longer than necessary. For the good part of the morning Mr. Cribbage chased the bird about the grounds of Colma with increasingly murderous intent, and a good part of the afternoon was spent with Colma officials and groundskeepers in an attempt to secure a more organized approach against his personal enemy.

For the record, Bertha Cribbage's last words were, "Well, I meant to tell you all . . . oh nevermind."

Percy Worthington Boughsplatt took his mother for a ride in his immaculate two-toned 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe, along with his consort, the lovely Miss Hinckle, who wore a fetching riding cap, her usual feather boa and, in deference to the temperature, thigh-high suede boots and a waiscoat.

And, to the scandal of Mrs. Boughsplatt, not a stitch else.

They had a lovely picnic down the 101 where the orchards used to roll out endlessly back in the day when Mrs. Boughsplatt would go for a ride in the Rambler into the country.

Which is now something other than country.

"How horrid is Foster City and all that it pertains," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Lets go to Monterey."

And so they did and had Orange Blossom Specials looking out over the twisted beach pines. Mrs. Boughsplatt got quite giddy and almost took off all her clothes before the lovely Miss Hinckle, who sometimes did maintain a surprising level of common sense and decency, enjoined her to visit the Monterey Aquarium.

"Percy," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Whenever are you two going to get married?"

Over at the Squat on Otis, folks celebrated moms and motherhood each to each in their respective manners and customs.

Marlene and Andre took Marlene's mom over to Momma's cafe in Berkeley and Marlene's mom only punched one guy in the face during the entire affair and that was after they all had eaten and stepped outside, quite unlike the year before when they had all been bounced from Kincaids after a riot over the piano player, who had ignored the elder Marlene's repeated request to play "Saturday's Alright for Fighting."

Marlene's mom had been a steelworker at the Port and many were the Teamsters who had learned to reckon with the woman's formidible right cross.

The altercation in front of Mommas happened because some yuppie walking by with a cell phone tumor glowing on his ear happened to mutter something about the "damn unions." Probably to incite the crowd gathered at Mommas as he headed toward a more chic eatery.

Wherever the boy had been headed, he never got there. At least not that day.

"Hell, boy, I remember the cable car strike of 1916 like it was yesterday when we fought with blood for our rights! You pansy-assed stool-warmers are all a bunch of milk-sap pussies! I'll teach you!"

Then came the punch. Shortly after that, then came the cops. That Mom of Marlene's sure had a short fuse.

Bear rode out with his mom on the back of his 1958 Ironhead Harley to Martinez for the Momday BBQ. Sophia followed along behind in the Geo in case either one of them got into trouble and they had to leave the bike in storage.

Even though the beer flowed freely and the band really cooked with all the usual biker favorites from Lynrd Skynrd and Van Halen, the two remained fairly sedate and so Sophia sat their watching them.

Mrs. Bear got a little teary and started working on some of that "reverse guilt trip" thing.

She really regretted the lack of stability during Bear's growing up. And the night his favorite plushtoy, Tinky-Winky-Ralph got thrown into a bonfire down at the beach.

Yeah, Bear had never forgot that one.

Mrs. Bear sat back and started to cry. There was so much she wanted to give him, but somehow things didn't work out. Husbands. Guys. Jobs. All the drugs and jail . . . Always a screwup somewhere. The time the kids beat him up at the high school because of his friend Elroy. "Wiggers, they called us. 'Wiggers!"

She never wanted . . . she never wanted THIS.


Oh this kind of life. She wanted him to be really something and show them all. But the ugliness of everything around threatened to overwhelm like an immense tidal wave. Hatred. Racism. Contempt. Superiority. All that drags down.

Sophia saw the moment to step in.

"Bear is just fine by me. I love him. And you oughta be proud at what you accomplished, because Bear is honest and true and there is no better man. He might have some rough edges, but I can live with that and more for all the good that is in him. He aint hooked on smack. He aint a thief. And he aint a wussy. And he aint doing the round trip to the slammer. There is so many who grew up the same way who cant claim that. So something you did worked out all right. Mom you did your best and you did good and that is that."

This brought out another burst of tears from Mrs. Bear. And the speech stunned the little crowd there in the park in Martinez, the hardest of the one percenters, the toughest of the tough, for nothing is more sentimental than an honest Biker in his cups.

The others out paying for their ride with credit cards are just buying imaginary "freedom". These guys were the real deal.

Pretty soon the band resumed with REM covers and the three of them returned to the Island, with Mrs. Bear feeling a little better about herself.

Which is really all the best one can ask of Mother's Day, isn't it? After all, she gave so much. Or at least all that she could, given the circumstances.

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


MAY 18, 2008


This week's headline photo comes from the Altamont Motorsports Park where, according to newspaper reports, the co-owner of Ole's Waffleshop died after a racecar crash last weekend.

Ole's has been a fairly popular place among families looking for old time ambiance since 1928, and Court was known to help out there with a bit of short order cooking along with handling the books in support of his wife, Vickie, who was the primary owner. Sunday mornings typically saw lines for the no-frills wafflehouse extending around the block.

An avid and well-trained racer, the 47 year-old Court was participating in the annual Le-Mons 24 endurance race when he apparently lost consciousness and hit the wall head-on at fifty miles per hour.

Although the LeMons is meant meant to spoof professional racing ( participants drive cars worth no more than $500) the cars typically are retrofitted with roll cages and the drivers wear full flame-retardant suits with crash helmets. Speeds at the wacky race, which also features costumes and wildly tricked-out jalopies, seldom exceed 70 miles per hour.

Court was driving a Volvo 242.

Court did not have health problems and he was an experienced racer, including at the Thunderhill Race Track in Willows.

Summerfield grew up in Oceanside and South Lake Tahoe and raced motorcycles and three-wheelers as a teenager.

At one point, he was the youngest motorcycle safety instructor in California, his family said.

A memorial service for Court Summerfield will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. on Monday, May 19, at the Grand View Pavilion, 300 Island Dr., Alameda. This is sometimes referred to as the Chuck Corica Golf Course Pavilion.


There must be something about the friendly service at our local Credit Union, or maybe times are just harder than usual, for both branches of the Island CU got robbed by takeover jobs within eight days of one another, the latest happening at the local branch in the Marina Village Center on Tuesday.

The most recent Island robbery came the same day that Oakland police recovered $6,000, a cache of guns and arrested four people after yet another takeover robbery at the Cooperative Center Federal Credit Union on Ashby Avenue in Berkeley.

Police do not think the same suspects are behind all robberies, however. Four men were apprehended after the Berkeley job.

As no traffic infractions occurred during the Island robberies, the perps got clean away.

Island police ask anyone with information on the island credit union robberies to call 510-337-8340.


Just over the wire we got another notice about something interesting from the always mellifluously named Lisa Bullwinkl.

This time Lisa has the Berkeley Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival slated for Saturday, May 31 on the "Gourmet Ghetto" of North Shattuck Avenue.

Whats not to like about Chocolate Samples and sidewalk chalk art?

With no fees to artists, areas of sidewalk will be assigned to participants to create their own fanciful chalk drawings. A CHALK ART CONTEST for the best drawing will be judged after 4 p.m. Winners will be notified the following day. First prize is $250 with $50 gift certificates from Elephant Pharmacy awarded for runners up. Same-day registration takes place 10AM-5PM in event booths located at 1451, 1607 & 1752 North Shattuck Ave. Artist's chalk is available for a fee. Artist's chalk is available for a fee.

For CHOCOLATE SAMPLING start by purchasing a packet of tickets (10 for $10) at any of the registration sites. The to-go menu features organic café mocha, chocolate mochi ice cream, and spicy chocolate tandori chicken, as well as the weirder chocolate fried wontons, chocolate garlic clusters, and chocolate soap! Spend your tickets on these delights in the businesses flying festival balloons.

Admission to the area is free, however.

Vendors with chocolate-related items and hand made arts & crafts fill the Farmer?s Market area, music fills the air, clown's laughter fills your heart, and many more surprises fill your senses as you stroll along the sidewalks viewing the artwork that remains in place for the next two weeks.

The event usually turns out to be a fairly well attended and leisurely affair following after the hectic Memorial Day Weekend.


Things are really heating up around here for the June Primaries, with the main two Democratic Party contenders still going at it hammer and tongs. This despite Betty Minton having lost every district mini-election to Osama Baruch since her cranial surgery at Summit Hospital.

In for lasiks surgery to fix a nearsighted problem, Ms. Minton suffered a nearly full lobotomy when the main optometrist, Dr. Scruggs sneezed and dove a bit deeper than planned. Fresh from this incident, the intrepid Betty insisted on forging ahead with her campaign, even though her entire staff quit, her funds dried up to a balance of about $10 to Baruch's war-chest of some $12 million, and the Democratic National Party Headquarters disconnected her phones.

Not just her headquarters phone, but her home phone as well as her cell.

Mr. Baruch has responded to increasingly personal and bitter attacks coming from his opponents with characteristic subtlety.

"Well, ah, I believe that America is ready for change. America passionately demands change, in fact. And there is no question in my mind that Ms. Minton has changed significantly since her operation -- not always for the better, of course -- she does have problems walking now. And talking. And, well, and keeping focussed. Lets admit it. Ms. Minton appears to be somewhat brain damaged and I doubt that her husband -- who am sure loves her very much. Now he does, I am sure. Can only do so much to fix this one. In fact, Ms. Minton's brain is like Sarajevo after the bombing. Not to blame anything on Mr. Minton, for a man needs to be strong in the face of adversity.

Strong and not foolish.

Which is why I believe that this difference exists between me and my opponents on both sides of the aisle. I have never once let myself be a fool and I do not believe any of you want to be fooled again. So, this election. Remember. Vote for me. No foolin'."


It's official and its here and its real and if you have not lived through one of these, better learn to live without pretty damn fast, no matter who you are. And get set for just about 43 million people living in the Golden State to get in a really foul mood for a term without end.

EBMUD voted Tuesday unanimously to implement water rationing in the face of certain drought.

The watersheds got about half the normal runoff this year and projections hold forth a one third shortage of water needed until October 1, the official start of the new rain year. No rain fell at all during the last month of the rain supply season, pinching supplies.

News from High Country has the Avalanche warning system shutting up shop a full month early with low levels reported all around.

The State Fire Season has started a month early.

EBMUD is seeking usage reductions of between 11 and 19 percent for families, and of 12 percent for commercial customers.

The Island has already implemented conservation measures at the parks and golf course as well as other facilities that do not use "reclaimed" water.

Islanders are enjoined to pursue the following water-waving tips, besides pursuing common sense regarding water usage.

1. Never dump water when it can be reused somehow, some way around the house.
2. Verify all leak potentials are sealed.
3. Repair all dripping faucets.
4. Add food coloring to the toilet tank and see if a leak is seeping water into the bowl.
5. Avoid flushing the toilet repeatedly. Dispose of refuse in other places other than the toilet.

Remember the past saying, "If its yellow, its mellow. If its brown, flush it down."


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Starting last Sunday the East Bay got body slammed with a heat wave caused by an offshore traffic jam not rectified until Aeolus shook the clouds from his eyes and got over a hangover caused by a trop du vin from Bacchus. Temps busted records and slew tender budding crops with official highs around 89 at the airport, but with local hotspots topping 102 and easily that in the Valley.

Gradually, the jam loosened up and the cool air is right now flooding Babylon with its usual foggy aether.

Susan and Lynette have been understandably enthused about the recent High Court ruling about same sex marriage here, as well as Toby and Tommy, who have begun furiously jotting out invites to a grand smash to take place down at the rented hall belonging to the Native Sons of the Golden West. While the two boys were out there, checking out the layout and imagining decorations, they ran into Susan and Lynette, who pedaled up on their bicycles to perform the same sort of reconnaissance.

Also there that day, who should show up but Mr. Rodriquez and Ms. Morales, also with similar plans as the last of the falling Spring cherry blossoms wintered the the lawn with blossomed snow in a blizzard caused by a sudden breeze after the still, sultry heat.

Turns out all the dates worked out and nothing about anyone's arrangements seemed to conflict and so all of them repaired to Juanitas for enchiladas and margaritas in a great festive gathering that was remembered long by all there, including staff and other patrons for its inclusive conviviality. Turns out there was another hetero couple there by name of Marsha and Steven and they all joined in with shoutmost joviality, singing alternatively showtunes from My Fair Lady and from Cats.

"Get me to the church on time" bonged off of "Memories, Turn Your Face into Moonlight" and a fine time was had by all. At the end of the evening, they walked down Park Street, arm in arm, singing the Cure's "Lovesong" and Mr. Rodriguez, the silver-haired gentleman, got a number of tips on "rear-entry" from Toby, who emphasized "slow and gentle."

It was not entirely clear that Mr. Rodriguez entirely understood everything, but that may have been all to the good, in any case. Thank an extra shot of 1800 Gold.

That's the way we like it here on the Island: inclusive.

Meanwhile folks here are all on the mend from their various ailments. Javier is off his crutches, employed ever since the making of the Flyover Podcast. Thanks again to Strange de Jim for use of his hammer that night.

The IL Social Coordinator has snagged Tix for Stevie Wonder and for the KBLX Soul Picnic, so we will have things to report once again. Seems Harlan is back in top form after the Chinese earthquake with loads of postings on his fence there on Lincoln Street. Saw folks standing there and gawking just the other day.

As the fog rolls in once again across the many storied Bay, the midnight trains come hooting and trundling through the silent and dark Jack London Waterfront, their long ululations wavering across the pointillist water surface of the estuary beneath the great iron cranes.

And now Ani di Franco segues into her eerie version of "Amazing Grace."

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


MAY 25, 2008


Headline photo this week comes via Harlan's increasingly disturbing house display on Lincoln and Lafayette.

Newcomers to this space should know that for at least fifteen years Harlan has posted mysterious and esoteric signs on the walls of his house facing Lincoln Street, with changes occurring every day, sometimes several times during the day.

Harlan was not even seen or photographed during the changes for some ten years, due to his habit of darting out at dusk to quickly swap out the old with the new statement.



Island Life is pleased to announce that one of our own, a fellow Islander by the name of Benjamin Jealous has been named as successor to the troubled Presidency of Bruce Gordon, who followed Kwesi Mfune, as head of the national NAACP.

Island Life offices maintain a correspondence with Mr. Mfune, who remains active as a political force after his tenure at the NAACP.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909 in response to a wave of deadly attacks on blacks in Springfield, Ill, known as the Springfield Race Riot. The NAACP has worked for the advancement of People of Color since then, achieving such success that not until the misguided Presidency of the Pretender Bush, all American Presidents scheduled meetings with the NAACP leadership.

The Bush regime did signal a need for change as many younger people felt the NAACP remained behind the times in the need for changes, and Gordon's own leadership ended with a resignation under charges of conflict of interest.

Jealous, 35, lives in Alameda with his wife, Lia Epperson, a professor of constitutional law at Santa Clara University, and daughter, Morgan.

"As parents, " Jealous said, "we want the best treatment for our child, without discrimination against any aspect of her life. That's what drives me."

Jealous, who grew up in Monterey County, is the 17th president since the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909 in response to a wave of deadly attacks on blacks in Springfield, Ill, known as the Springfield Race Riot.

Jealous began his professional life in 1991 with the NAACP, where he worked as a community organizer with the Legal Defense Fund working on issues of health care access in Harlem. His family boasts five generations of NAACP membership.

Jealous said his grandmother, Mamie Todd, has been active with the NAACP for decades. His mother, Ann Todd Jealous, was one of the first 10 students to integrate a Baltimore high school 50 years ago. His father, Fred Jealous, has been a civil rights activist since his own high school days.

The 34-21 Saturday vote in his favor ran counter to the NAACP's tradition of tapping politicians and ministers to lead.

Jealous headed the country's largest group of black community newspapers, National Newspaper Publishers Association, and was director of Amnesty International's U.S. Human Rights Program.

He now is president of The Rosenberg Foundation, a grant-making organization that provides economic support to working people in California.

"I am tremendously excited. It's a real chance to get my generation of people — those from 25 to 45 years old — really engaged in the work of this association, and to get this association really engaged in the issues of this century," Jealous said. "This is an historic time and the association is needed, now as much as ever."

The vote followed a contentious eight-hour debate that lasted into the night, according to media reports.

NAACP board members told CNN that no one clapped or celebrated after the meeting at the Baltimore, Md. headquarters.

Jealous was the only finalist for the post which has been vacant since his predecessor Bruce Gordon, a retired Verizon executive, quit in March 2007, citing clashes with board members over management style and the NAACP's mission.

Jealous steps into the leadership role just months after the NAACP was forced to lay off a third of its staff because of ongoing budget shortfalls, according to the Washington Post. Backers of Jealous said he is capable of pulling the organization out of years of dwindling corporate donations and membership, which is still at World War II levels.

"First of all, I think Ben was certainly highly qualified for the position, and I think that's been borne out by the fact that the national board saw him as the best candidate," said Mel Mason, former president of the Monterey chapter of the NAACP.

"Ben is going to be a great inspiration and role model for the youth of our community, not just African-Americans, but all Americans in our younger generation," Mason said. "He's going to breathe new life into the NAACP."

Island Life extends its endorsement to this already confirmed appointment and wishes all the best to the new President of the NAACP. We do feel that change on many levels is needed in
America today and that Mr. Jealous is the right man at the right time for the job at hand.

(This report relies heavily upon the CNN reportage of CNN Staff writer Angela Woodall who can be reached at or at 510-208-6413)


In the news, some short takes regarding the Island.


One half of our Island schools scored in the top 10% in the latest round of Achievement Scores Tests, which puts quite a colorful feather in the caps of local administrators here. Truly, we can say, "On the Island, every child is "above average"."


A bunch of the glitterati, or what passes for such on our meat and potatoes Island, showed up to prance and admire themselves, while seeing and being seen at the Cineplex Monstrosity opening "Gaga", where people plunked down 100 smackeroos per person to pretend to be be in some other place where red carpets and flashbulbs are the norm.

Cannes this aint. And not a single report indicated the show that night.

A couple days afterwards, the normal people were invited to a free opening, which was significantly non-catered, but BYOF. Nobody went and nobody reported on attendance.

The Island has had some four movie theaters fail within the last fourteen years due to lack of interest.


Central Cinema is not in arrears, but under pressure to just vacate quietly in favor of the hoity toity these days at the former mortuary on Central Avenue. The landlord has posted bogus eviction notices to alarm the embattled owner who now cannot obtain first run movies due to an "exclusivity contract" with the major film distributors.

The owner has given up on the shortsightedness of the Island Silly Hall and all the nonsense here, deciding to relocate the 20 seat venue elsewhere.


While Nero fiddles, the Island food band reports growing numbers of households signing up for services, according to the director, Paul Russell, who reports that 1500 households will have been served by the facility, representing an increase of 30% over last year. (The service year for the IFB is June to July).

The facility distributes food to persons earning less than $2,400 per month here, although the typical average there is $750 per month.

Median rents on the Island stand around $1300 per month for one bedrooms.

The Director blames the uptick -- also seen by other services around the Bay -- to the recession and to increased pressure upon folks living on fixed incomes, due to fuel and food cost increases.


On the recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage, local gay and religious leaders have been cautiously optimistic, recognizing that there remains a strong fight ahead against proponents of hatred and separation.

According to Rev. Rose of the 1st Congregational Church, "If you love as extremely as Jesus does, it will begin to force us to confront the systems and structures in society that exclude people in anyway and deny their full humanity."

The Reverend also said that opposition to same sex marriage by ultraconservative religious groups is a misinterpretation of the bible. If people really pursued literal interpretations they could have to avoid eating all pork, including bacon, most shellfish, and also throw out all clothing of mixed fibers, such as polyester, rayon and blends.

Local representative Pete Stark praised the ruling as did our assemblyperson, Sandre Swanson.


2 vandalism reports per day last week.
1 burglary per day.
3 arrests for possession of narcotics or paraphernalia.
2 battery reports plus a mugging.
2 grand thefts.
1 bank robbery.
1 armed takeover of a dry cleaners where the robber took $500 in cash from customers and the register at gunpoint.
2 DUI, including the fellow who drove along the sidewalk at the Grand Marina, nearly into the estuary, who stopped when he rammed a concrete barrier and bystanders took his keys away from him. The driver failed to realize that he had just had an accident.

Bartender, I'll have whatever he was having.

2 dog bites and 2 public intoxications. Life goes on.


Not Foo-Foo enough for some, Mervyns will vacate Southshore Mall, costing us some 109 jobs. Reason for the move: the rent. In an all too familiar scenario around here, the landlord refused to negotiate.


Sad to say, there are a few long term festivals we can no longer recommend. Seems high volume resulted in high dollar and high Don't Bother Quotient together with obnoxious attitude and onerous restrictions. A real jewel among blues aficionados was the annual Santa Cruz Festival, which took place at the idyllic Aptos amphitheater.

This festival is no longer worth the time or the money.

With ticket costs ascending into the hundreds, and local inns ramping room costs above $300 per night while all local facilities also began gouging unreasonable prices, and the management now imposing camera prohibitions, and demarcated limits around the stage, the entire reason for attending the festival for its small, local feel and its informal atmosphere has disappeared and so we must regretfully say, "Stay away from the SC Blues festival. It used to be good."

We also saw similar things happening at the SF Blues Festival, where even "gold circle" tickets failed to get near the stage and where subsidiary costs, such as parking tickets, began to limit the value of seeing numbers of major talents appear in one place.

The Russian River Jazz fest appears next on the list to fall as victim of its own success, as the year we attended we missed the opening act, despite having arrived two hours early to stand in line.

On a grace note, we hear that the cover for a good show at the Bottom of the Hill has risen from five dollars to eight.

Concerts to note as the summer season takes wing:

Big stages:
On sale Sunday 6/8 @ 10am:
My Morning Jacket @ Greek Theatre 9/19

On sale Saturday 6/14 @ 10am:
Coldplay @ HP Pavilion 7/24

On sale Sunday 6/15 @ 10am:
Counting Crows, Maroon 5 and Augustana @ Shoreline 9/17, Sleep Train Pavilion 9/18

May 31-Jun. 1 R.E.M. with Modest Mouse and The National Greek Theatre

Jun. 27-29 The 13th Annual Kate Wolf Memorial Music Festival
Los Lobos, Taj Mahal Trio, Keb’ Mo’ Band, Greg Brown, David Lindley, The Waifs Black Oak Ranch - Laytonville, California

Jun. 28 Mark Knopfler Greek Theatre

Worthy of note, a new series called "Concordstock" which will occupy your Tuesday evenings at Todos Santos Plaza starting July 1 with Country Joe followed next week by Houston Jones.

Also watch for any Bullwinkl productions in North Berkeley as those tend to be a lot of fun.

Most of the really interesting stuff seems to be starting late into July this year, probably due to the dominance of the megafestivals, like Bonaroo in Tennessee and the Kate Wolf thing. Deals can still be found for small and local events that go unadvertised. We will try to keep up with those specials.

The Fox Theater in Redwood City, which started so promising, seems to have taken a booking dummheitspill until September, when Leo Kottke will do his best to make Judy Collins sound contemporary. But then, maybe she will surprise one and all. Leo will be worth the trip, for sure.


Its been a quiet week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The recent heat wave has yielded to the more typical high fog and cold mornings, slouching into a genuine rainy day or two into the Memorial Day weekend. All bets for BBQ this Monday are off, and certainly Saturday and Sunday got canceled here all over, leaving the ground squirrels to scamper like mad in the early AM with unwonted freedom.

Marcia Ball's "Peace, Love and BBQ" will have to take a back seat until some of you folks catch Marcia up around Lake Wobegon country for a blues festival in June. She is a lady worth chasing after and we urge all you red-blooded souls out there to seek her out wherever her dragonfly persona should choose to land for the music is well worth the trouble.

Our messengers out to Bloom County have returned with some significant discouragement, as it appears the mayor there is suffering some unknown health problems. We have sent carrier pigeons laden with penguin juice and all sorts of ameliorative agents, and can only hope the best for a speedy recovery for the man. Clearly any discussion of Sister City status must remain on the back burner for the time being until Hizzoner recovers from the affliction that now afflicts him.

Hopefully his ailment is not political in origin, for we see little hope for succor in this realm for some time.

Meanwhile our spirits ride some kind of boat out through a long channel of greenery-choked estuary in some other foreign place so strange even the butterflies are green with green wings in the humid lusciousness and fetid damp. In some weed and riceplant place your company drops down as the firefight begins. You get ricepaddy muck in your mouth as you lie down without helping it. And the taste of muck stays with you.

Johnny stands up, improbable and weird, like some wannabe image from a W.W.II agitprop movie where the GIJoe stands up and machine-guns the entire army of Huns to save the day, but Johnny is cut down right away because this is not W.W.II and this is not a movie.

Later, your CO commands you to fetch the various pieces that used to be Johnny and put them into a sack to be shipped back to Virginia.

Everything is muddy and wet and you can't tell muck from human-origin but you do the best you can do and off it all goes in body bag, back to mom in the form of an hermetically sealed coffin.

No viewing of bodies that died in the tropics. See relevant chapter in the forms manual.

Johnny, its been more than thirty years now and still the sound of helicopters has a sound nobody else seems to understand. Its another war now, a war fought in sand, but it seems like things have not changed at all; its all still Situation Normal at Command Central, which means FUBAR or whatever they have come up with lately to counter the inane "Hoo-Yah!" bullshit.

Johnny, you signed up premature, which put you in the category of underage and so your casualty got listed as "noncombatant" and you got omitted from the Wall. Not even your father's officer status and not even the long history of your family's sacrifices could grant you recognition.

In every war, the sum total of loss is always greater than the glory, for the sum total is always uncounted in the end and in the end all wars are stupid and foolish.

So for Johnny, this Memorial Day, remember those who fail to get recognized, who do not charge over the ridge, who gave their lives needlessly because they committed to an ideal of service, an ideal so perfect none of you can ever hope to live up to. Do not let this happen again.

My childhood companions lie buried in the rice paddies of Vientiane. Do not let this happen again. The old battler shrugged the tattered olive green blanket around his shoulders in the shelter as we all sat around there listening to his story. He was an old soldier of the foreign wars, like any of the English or Roman Empire, cast aside and abandoned, used and used up, much as those empires used to do. The legless and the armless cast aside to beg alms upon the turnpike passage.

Far across the fields comes the tolling of the iron bell, and the wailing of the through-passing train. Its ululation wavered across the estuary and penetrated hearts unknown.

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


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