Island Life: Jan. - June 2009

(+ July 4th)

Vol. 11 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2009

dasboot.gifWelcome to the first half of year 2009. 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!




JANUARY 3, 2009


The new year headling pic comes courtesy of Mr. Emmett of the Island, who forwards the photo from the UK graffiti artist, Banksy, who has made irreverent and temporary wall art a high art indeed.

We think as the world spins down in entropic disorder, this image captures the New Age the best.

His work can be seen at



The annual Island-Life CD is finished with 100% original work this time included in the compilation and the efforts of many people to thank, especially Kirk and Karen who, as usual for contributors, wanted to remain relatively anonymous and Suzette, who also, for some inexplicable reason wished to have her name altered in the credits.

Thanks to Chad for his marvelous performance on the inflatable banjo breathalyzer. Kudos to Rex for his inspirational homilies. And the spirit of Professor Schikele hangs over us all like a wondrous luminescent cloud of toxic gas emitted by the Chevron Refineries in Richmond.

The newest addition is in the form of two regrettable parts. If you do not purchase the CD, then we must apologize for the problem of not being able to skip over the really execrable sections.

The new addition comes in two downloadable MP3 files. The CD itself includes the Editor singing, somewhat a trop de vin, "Silent Night" in Norwegian, as well as the miserablely lachrymose version of "The First Noel was Sad" plus a new 2008 version of "Holly Jolly Xmas" sung by the Island Homeless Men's Choir. This lamentable work of deplorable musical taste can be obtained through the usual sources as long as cash is left in a plain brown envelope in the Brown-Shoe Square in the dead of night.

In any case, if you are a real masochist, you can download the Holiday Podcast Part I from here.

And Part II from here.

This will all go into the sidebar later on. Be forewarned that each part is over 9 minutes, so we recommend a good glass of wine or perhaps a few slugs of whiskey before settling into your easy chair for a good listen. Better yet, have a few slugs of wine and bring the demijohn of whiskey to your chair beforehand.


Dropped in to Soizic to see how they were doing on the New Years. Found things slow, due to the general Holiday Malaise, but the cuisine still impeccable. Soizic is located off of Broadway in the Jack London district and has been impressing critics and fans for some time with its intelligent Mediterranean menu of vegetarian and lamb entrees arranged in California Cuisine style. We had the eggplant and the lamb filets. The eggplant was by far the best choice with delicately braised medallions of breaded eggplant layered with goat cheese beside a bed of polenta and chard in a manner that really complemented all the flavors and putting to shame the vast majority of dishes that simply toss goat cheese in as a strong addition to an overwhelmingly confused palate of battered greens.

The lamb was succulent and tender, but suffered from an overly salty brown sauce. The portobella mushrooms did help soften the salt of the sauce, however.

The salads were delightfully savory extras, and worth the extra price of admission. Wine selected was a capable Cote de Rhone, chosen more for convivial sentimental memories than for complexity. It served the purpose and was available in split or full bottle as well as glass servings.

Our server remained attentive, informative and remarkably eloquent when it came to explaining the dishes. His attention was easily a high point of the experience, and he seemed willing to answer virtually any question about the food and the restaurant with vigor and intelligence.

In general, Soizic remains a locals favorite among those who know Oaktown. This restaurant has been reviewed by Michelin and Zagat.

300 Broadway, Oakland, CA
(3rd & Broadway near Jack London Square)

New opening hours:

Lunch: 11:30–2:00 Monday–Friday
Dinner: 5:30–9:00 Monday–Thursday;Fridays and Saturdays until 9:30


Pharoah Sanders was born in Little Rock, Ark, in 1940, which would put him about 68 years of age today.

Sanders moved to New York City in 1961 after playing with rhythm and blues bands. He received his nickname "Pharoah" from Sun Ra, with whom Sanders performed. He came to prominence playing with John Coltrane's band starting in 1965, as Coltrane began adopting the avant-garde jazz of Albert Ayler, Ra and Cecil Taylor. Sanders first performed on Coltrane's Ascension (recorded in June 1965), then famously on their dual-tenor recording Meditations (recorded in November 1965). After this Sanders joined Coltrane's final quintet, usually performing very lengthy, dissonant solos. Coltrane's later style was strongly influenced by Sanders.

Various critics have hailed him as the "Greatest tenor saxophone player alive" and a few have even gone so far as to state he is the greatest ever to have lived.

We had the pleasure of catching Sanders at Yoshi's East recently and we found the Master still at the top of form. He has moved from pure dissonant walls of sound to a form of jazz that is edgily melodic, and as we would expect a musical artist to evolve with time, this progression is not unexpected.

He also has the disconcerting tendency to wander away from the stage in mid performance, leaving the band, consisting of Nat Green on standup bass, John Farnsworth on drums, and Bill Henderson on piano comping for minutes until he wanders back to closed the song. Farnsworth really earned his laurels that evening with a couple of inspired percussion solos that did a lot more than just fill in the breaks as he playfully ran through a gamut of drumming techniques. Bill Henderson held the entire performance together with great virtuosity as he cued the various musicians through their paces while laying down some pretty impressive lines at the keyboards while Sanders remained off stage.

Nevertheless, it was clear from the crowd reaction that they adored Sanders and found he could do no wrong as they clapped syncopation to the last piece.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After a burst of rain, the temps have dropped again at night down to freezing here during the lull in the rains. Seasonal precipitation hovers around 3 inches, with the norm standing at 21 inches, so we have a way to go before the drought is over. Come Spring, the cities are sure to endure a round of water rationing.

In general, the celebrations were rather sedate around here -- nobody has any money for one thing -- and sobering daily news has really put the kibosh on the party spirit, despite a kind of warm joy at what is about to unfold in the Nation's Capitol in a few weeks.

Lionel, owner of the Pampered Pup hot-dog shop, still can't get over the news. His family came up from Metarie in Louisiana during the war years to help build the immense battleships and subs to fight the original Axis of Evil. Lost an uncle in the terrible Port Chicago disaster when two ammo ships blew up, vaporizing just about a couple hundred African-American men.

Another uncle was court martialed for mutiny during the resulting general strike on account of the lack of safety measures. At that time the men were hand carrying live shells up and down ladders for the loading while the White officers stood watching on dockside.

He well remembered the time of marching in the streets when everything started to change, the Panthers with their rifles, and the day of sobbing when the news of King's death went out.

His good bro', Thomas, had come from Illinois twenty-five years ago and still slept with a loaded .45 under his bed. Thomas was no fool. As a young boy he had seen from the scared windows of his parent's old Rambler the awful flicker of the burning cross out in Chicagoland.

And now look at the way things have changed. Nelson Mandela, not only freed -- when everybody thought he would rot in prison -- but become a President himself with the Apart-hate banished, and an honest to God Black family in the White House.

He had to pinch himself to keep from thinking he was living in a dream!

He closed up the shop and headed on down to the Old Same Place where Suzie and Padraic and Dawn greeted him by name.

Padraic was enthusiastic about the new President Elect with Jose, Javier, Denby and the usual Same Old Sick Crew all at the bar.

He's got a terrible mess to handle after all the ructions of the past ten years and more. That Reagan was the Great Confabulator who started this economic hootandoodie. Cute as a drowned rat he was with the deregulation and union bustin'. Obama had better turn out to be Superman as well as a good Brother o' mine.

Lionel commented he hadn't known there was any blood in Padraic.

Sure ya know, said Padraic. Me family hails from da Black Irish of the auld sod.

Pretty fly, commented Suzie, but only Javier got the joke, and he practically snorted beer through his nose.

Well, if being Black was the new fashion, it was all right by Lionel. It was better than what had been going on for about four hundred years.

From far off, wavering between the fog-shrouded cranes of the Port of Oaktown, over the shattered remnants of the broken Port Chicago wharves and the unruly houses of Richmond and bullet-pocked Oaktown itself, ululating over the slop-slap of the estuary waters, came the long wail of the through-passing train as it wound its inexorable way, like History itself, pushing forward through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, lighting the way with its great glowing headlight, bearing the immense containers from the Port to places unknown.

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


Give it to me baby, uh huh, uh huh
Give it to me baby, uh huh, uh huh
Give it to me baby, uh huh, uh huh
And all the girlies say "Pretty fly for a white guy"
Uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis
You know its kinda hard just to get along today
Our subject isn't cool, but he thinks it anyway
He may not have a clue, and he may not have style
But everything he lacks, well he makes up in denial

So don't debate, a player straight
You know he really doesn't get it anyway.
He's gonna play the field, and keep it real.
For you no way, for you no way.
So if you don't rate, just overcompensate.
At least you'll know you can always go on Ricki Lake.

The world needs wannabees
Hey, hey, do the brand new thing!
Give it to me baby, uh huh, uh huh (repeat 2x)
And all the girlies say "I'm pretty fly for a white guy"
He needs some cool tunes, not just any will suffice
But they didn't have Ice Cube so he bought Vanilla Ice
Now cruising in his Pinto, he sees homies as he pass
But if he looks twice, they're gonna kick his lily ass!

So don't debate, (repeat)

The world loves wannabes
Hey, hey, do the trendy thing!
Now he's getting a tattoo yeah, he's getting ink done
He asks for a 13, but they drew a 31
Friends say he's trying too hard and he's not quite hip
But in his own mind he's the . . . he's the dopest trick
Give it to me baby, uh huh, uh huh (repeat 2x)
And all the girlies say "I'm pretty fly for a white guy"
Uno dos tres cuatro cinco cinco seis

So don't debate, (repeat)

The world needs wannabes
The world loves Wannabes
Let's get some more wannabes
Hey, hey, do the brand new thing!

Words and music by The Offspring


JANUARY 11, 2009

For wont of better images (Mike Rettie, are you watching?) we present here the guiding light and inspiration to us all and Patron Saint of New Jersey and Brooklyn, the Goddess Eris, Goddess of Discord, complete with the Golden Apple that caused the Trojan wars.


The most exciting development around here is the reopening of the Fox Theatre, first opened in 1928, after an extensive renovation project on the Rococco style theatre after a lapse of some forty years of dark marquee.

Island-Life secured Opening Night tix via our indefatigable and indomitable Social Coordinator when Social Distortion will hold forth with pure Punk energy on February 6. The Booking agent for the new venue has pulled out the stops for high level talent following, as Michael Franti's Spearhead follows up that Saturday with ALO fronting. The ever-lovable Raggamuffins Festival shifts its wandering locus to the Fox for end of February. Cake, also a well-loved local band joins with the very local Lovemakers on the 21st of February.

Ladies and gentlemen, all kneel: BB King will hold his court in style on April 10th in the new venue. You just might be singing the Blues six days later on Tax Day.

Across the Bay, under the purple chandaliers of the venerable Fillmore, Bill Graham gets a nice sendoff on his birthday via the Funky Meters, which is basically a Neville brothers invention. Also attending that night will be long, tall Marcia Ball, who is not exactly a small print blues pianist in her own right, having mastered idioms from Nogales all along the Carribean coast to New Orleans and beyond. She likes to hear her fingernails click on the keyboards. Also no small potatoes, the inestimable guitar and incredibly sexy voice of Bonnie Raitt will show as Special Guest.

The Original Outlaw himself, Willie Nelson will show up with his battered concert Martin for the 19th and the 20th. Expect a night of fine music and strong opinions.

You Palefaces might not know of Femi Kuti's heritage but most of the rest of the world knows of Fela Kuti's African Beat which has had far-reaching influence into Hip-hop, Rap, jazz and blues. Fela Kuti used to tell a story of how he jumped out of a window as soldiers burst through the door, killing everyone else who remained inside the house. You don't go on calmly after an experience like that. Expect powerful Afro-beat and drums and horns from his son, Femi Kuti on the 22nd.

The quirky and multi-culti Devotchka brings their mashup jazz on the last two days of January.

In March get ready on the 15th for the Pretenders to return for a love-fest in the City that loves to do business with Chrissie Hyndes. A lot of guys would love to do business with the gal, but we just have to report, they are all SOL: none of you have what it takes between the knees.

Over at the Warfield, we note a change in the tenor of the year's lineup to start. OAR returns with Eric Hutchinson for some ska-influenced tunes. War returns on a date highlighting "Latin beat" on the 24th. The little known, but soon to be known widely Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings appear on the 28th. She is an already mature version of Blues Phenoms that busted out at age 17, still wet behind the ears.

Derek Trucks has not remained idle, and so he appears at the Grand Ballroom, where his noise oughta silence or at least drown out the Marina douchebags who like to infest there with their loud, meaningless, inane and incredibly stupid blather about shampoo and boyfriends.

This should get you jump-started into the New Year.


The latest flap over at Silly Hall concerns an AD and accompanying website slamming the Suncal development project and Silly Hall's response to the proposal to inject another 4,500 housing units into the West End area formerly occupied by the Navy base.

What is interesting is how both sides are playing loose with the facts, which tend to center around the rather unignorable figure of 700 million dollars that the City is expected to fork over to assist the project.

The figure is real and is enclosed in the Suncal budget as a real expectation that the City will provide in minimum "infrastructure upgrades".

The SoCA group (Save Our City Alameda) group sort of misleads with a claim that Socal is asking for a "subsidy", which it is not.

Socal is presenting its plan with the assumption that the City will provice services costing approximately that much to make the housing aspect a reality. These services include sewage and electrical lines which do not exist at present. Then there are traffic control devices, signage, street improvements and such that people who live in modern urban areas expect as a matter of course. Sort of "entitlements" of the urban bourgeoisie.

So Silly Hall disclaimed the entire figure without any real explanation, as if to say the SOCA group is hooting through its hat.

Not entirely. 3/4 of a billion dollars is not chump change, it is written into the budget proposal as a reality, and somebody better find that money somewhere or this entire project conducted by company with a dismal track record of failure better be sh--tcanned pronto.

On the heels of this flack, several more reasonable land uses for the West End have been proposed which do not involved enormous City expenditures, such as the conversion of a portion of land to a Veteran's Hospital, in which the various parties such as the Navy and the VA can negociate among themselves for the actual cost of the land itself without involving the City.

Someone else has suggested turning the big airfield into a Presidio-style park, which has some technical issues as the Presidio was Federal land handed to the GGRRA on act of Congress, whereas the Point is Navy land transferred as if it were between private parties. Still, the use idea has some attraction to it, especially for folks who need to get off the Island to go to work each day along the crowded commuter paths.

You think living on an Island is romantic? Try getting off of one on a timed schedule and then rethink your ideas.


Even as the Silly Hall defends a charge of "near bankruptcy" from SOCA, the plans to implement rolling "brown outs" at firestations across the Island go into effect this month. Interesting to note that the memo outlining reasoning behind this decision states ". . . our current difficult financial situation, which is expected to last 24 months or more . . .".

Um, this two year expectation of hard times is now being hard coded into the practical City budget. Should anyone be taking notice of this?


Its been a quiet week on the Island, my hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Balmy breezes have swept in to chase those chill temps away and push off the rain clouds, although high fog has remained the order of the day lately. The weekend proved to be bright and sunny, causing some Jaqueline to call home to Sasquatch Lake in Minnesota, where her relatives are enjoying the brisk minus 10 degrees in the snow, and get all the New Year news.

Sparticus, the border collie died one night when he ran out on the frozen lake to chase what her mother thinks was Jason's escaped pet duck, which had clipped wings so it couldn't fly all that well, just sort of bumble along about two feet above the snow. The duck got away but they found Sparticus out there, frozen stiff as concrete, still on point, waiting for the hunter who would never come. The ground being too frozen to make a proper burial, they sort of stuck the dog out in front as a lawn orniment on the snow there to wait until Spring.

This reminded Jaqueline to place the tulip bulbs in the freezer, which is what we do around here to trick the plants into thinking winter has come. Her own dog, Haggis, remained safe in the front room, looking out the window and occasionally urinating on the denuded Xmas tree, which was waiting for pickup by Scout Troop 409.

Its the post Holiday season and while everybody who still has a job goes back to work to pay for those new HDTVs and WII devices and return the really unwearable maroon and green and beige sweaters sent by Aunt Maude, the curbsides are all strewn with those derelict reminders, a few strands of tinsel blowing in the breeze. Uncle Mike refused to pay the Scouts the $4 for the pickup, so he went at his tree with a pocket knife, a pipe hacksaw and a small hatchet until the six footer met the four-foot recycler requirements, leaving quite a carpet of splinters and needles there on the sidewalk.

It was quite a sight as the part-time policeman went at the former evergreen with the same energy of a young Pete Townsend windmilling on the electric guitar, producing instead of rock and roll a great number of flying woodchips and it lasted a good while with the Abodanza kids all standing around, gawking like it was some pinata fete.

He was having a real tough time of it until Jose passing by commented, "If you are trying to kill that tree, why don't you just shoot it with your service revolver?"

This, thought Mike was a brilliant solution, especially when the head of the hatchet flew off to embed itself solidly in the fender of his truck parked right there near the front door, so he went and got his Baretta from upstairs intending to teach that damn tree a lesson and maybe split the trunk.

Telling the kids to stand back behind him he fired at the tree, getting the satisfactory desired result as the bullet shattered the pine in half. Unfortunately, the bullet ricocheted off of the pavement beneath, dinged the side of his truck, and went up from there to the telephone pole where it smacked into the telco transformer, sending a shower of sparks down and a plume of black smoke upwards.

Half of the lights on the block went dark.

Telling the kids to scram and not tell anybody anything, Mike ran inside to put away his gun. In the meantime the insulation oil in the transformer caught on fire and the top of the pole became a blaze, singing Mr. Peepers who had been hibernating quite happily up there for several weeks in a nice warm nest that soon grew too hot for comfort. The smoking animal scampered along the powerlines to leap into the poplar tree down the block just before the lines detached from the pole and fell hissing and sparking to the street.

This maddened a brace of Silverhair poodles who had been leading their chosen owner on leashes down the block and they broke loose to chase the snapping powerlines, much as poodles will do after a length of string. This, of course caused the owners a bit of anguish and their cries of distress alarmed those folks who still had power, although by this time, much of the block had blacked out.

The kids, meanwhile had scattered to the four winds to chatter excitedly different versions of these events, which got greatly embellished somehow as the versions multiplied.

Believing the Island or someplace near it was under terrorist attack, Festus alerted Mayor Beverly to get to the Office of Emergency Services, which for the Island was located inexplicably some twenty miles inland -- more of Bush Administration and Homeland Security planning for you -- underneath Anderson Prison.

Someone pulled the All Alert siren and a firetruck from Station 8 ran into Officer O'Madhauen's cruiser as it ran a red light trying to get to the fire.

PG&E crews attempting to get to the scene to deal with the power outage were blocked as all the bridges raised up and the tube was barricaded on news of a disaster alert, per policies implemented by the Maritime Security Act, also devised by the Bush Administration.

The Iranian submarine, Chador, observed much of this through its periscope from the middle of the estuary, and they wondered if all this would be put to blame on them along with everything else. So it was, they glided undetected through the estuary and out into the bay where they ran silently, ran deep out the Golden Gate to the oddly named Pacific Ocean, promising to themselves they would not return until January 20th had safely passed by with its long anticipated changes in schema.

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



JANUARY 18, 2009


There is no submitted photo this week for the headline. Everybody was either indolent or interested in the one thing that is preoccupying the Nation and the World. A number of our correspondents appear to have headed off to a really big party in that frozen wasteland built on a swamp and designed by a French architect. We mean the imperial City of Washington D.C., of course.

So this week we post the obvious image that all of us are holding in their hearts with hope and joy and desire.



That line is from a song by Houston-Jones, who have a new one "in the can", but our concern here is not about music but about the subject of the song who leaves the Highest Office of the Land in about 48 hours -- and not a minute too soon.

In early 2004, an informal survey of 415 historians conducted by the nonpartisan History News Network found that eighty-one percent considered the Bush administration a "failure." Among those who called Bush a success, many gave the president high marks only for his ability to mobilize public support and get Congress to go along with what one historian called the administration's "pursuit of disastrous policies." In fact, roughly one in ten of those who called Bush a success was being facetious, rating him only as the best president since Bill Clinton -- a category in which Bush is the only contestant.

Conservatives have rushed to say that this poll simply says more about the "liberal leanings" of historians than about any general truth, however personal observation notes that historians tend to the category of "duffy and dandruff-laden conservatives rather than revolutionary firebrands.

Its historians, after all, who still seek to find positives in the likes of Herbert Hoover, for example.

Nevertheless, even before the term has reached end, most folks are commonly linking Hoover, Warren G. Harding, Johnson (Abe Lincoln's successor) and Buchanan with Richard Nixon and George W. Bush with an an awful legacy of failure. In common all these men shared the trait of failing to act appropriately to forestall disaster, and failing to respond appropriately when called by the Nation in times of distress once disaster had visited these shores. The common thread leading to failure has always been in each case the unthinking adherence to a particular ideology that flew in the face of facts and the inability to adapt to changing circumstances.

So we have George Bush issuing a series of news conferences that appear designed to restructure the "legacy" he leaves behind in a positive light, given that he departs with the lowest poll ratings in history and with recognition that he leaves his party, his office and his country vastly weaker than when he first assumed office.

In a review of "retrospectives" of his eight years, it has been virtually impossible to find a single objective analysis of his effect, from left to right and anywhere in the middle. Positive evaluations simply and blankly ignore reality. On the negative side, there are simply lists which often fail to illuminate the real damage done.

We did find a couple minor blogs which listed fairly objectively the events of the past few years, but it is interesting to note that even these seemed to agree with the historian's perspective. Bushy was good at collecting support, but the support amounted to support for things that simply did not work.

Lets start with the positives quoted by the man himself in his recent PR sideshows and the most common statement made by the minority of people who consider Bush worth more than vomit in a beerglass. Then, we are going to address the list of items that really make the case for people who cannot stand the man.

Bush's claims to fame, including the main item cited by his main apologists, start as follows: We have not been attacked by Islamic fundamentalists or any other group, since 9/11. The administration has put fighting AIDs in Africa as a priority, has put focus on school achievement through the No Child Left Behind Act, has created a "revolutionary" prescription-drug benefit for retirees and other Medicare recipients, and called for sweeping immigration reform.

The first item is the most serious and the most easily quantifiable so it deserves attention. It is quite true that we have not had any attack since the Al Qaida-sponsored 9/11 attacks that destroyed the financial center in New York City, a part of the Pentagon and killed nearly 3,000 people. The big question is whether the Bush Administration really has had any hand in this absence, given that the 9/11 attacks achieved virtually every aim intended by the Enemy to the effect that perhaps a new attack was no longer needed.

All evidence points to the simple fact that Al Qaida never attempted any follow-up simply because Bush supplied ample opportunity to kill Americans by invading Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Enemy could take its leisure and kill obviously armed soldiers instead of politically incorrect -- from its own perspective -- civilians.

From this perspective, invading Afghanistan was probably the "right thing" to do from a military perspective, but it is hard to see how this action was anything other than a no-brainer. Unfortunately, what began well has become increasingly a morass as the Taliban have regained strength and are seriously destabilizing that country with violence.

Because of obvious security issues, we have no evidence of thwarted attacks at this point, so this item must be tabled for a later time with some reservations about the claims.

In a message to the nation during a State of the Union Address Bush announced his commitment to fighting AIDs in Africa. We found that this promise was indeed acted upon and there is some merit to this. However on analysis we find that this AIDs fight was linked to "Faith-based initiatives" and stupidly linked to Christian chastity teaching, Christian religious doctrine and the outlandish proscribing of any mention of contraception. This has resulted in the saving of a few hundred lives while the deaths mount into the millions because common sense approaches have been unfunded and discouraged.

Regarding the No Child Left Behind Act, less said the better. With the tax cuts, this entire initiative was gutted so that it never had a chance to do anything at all for good or for ill.

Now for the prescription-drug benefit. Most participants have found this structure to be so byzantine and complex as to be entirely useless for their own use. It appears to benefit the drug companies to the extent that most people have turned to the Internet to obtain drugs from Mexico and from Canada rather than wade through the pounds of paperwork required to even initiate the benefit. Here, again, we see the real result is failure, rather than actuality.

Finally we hear Bush's call for sweeping immigration reform. No details ever were provided and so no details were ever enacted other than a fairly obnoxious and internationally reviled techno-fence between Mexico and the United States.

Oh yes. He did order the invasion of Afghanistan to chase down Osama Bin Laden, toppling the obnoxious Taliban in the process.

Those are the "plusses" of the Bush Administration.

Now, lets review a few negatives.

In November of 1999, Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore, a dispute relating to possibly invalid ballots in Florida and a recount is dismissed by the supreme court. Bush is declared president based on electoral college votes in which the Florida delegation proved to be the deciding factor. According to the Wikipedia, through Republican Party control of the election apparatus in Florida, was able to force his slate of electors to be sent from that state (8 of 9 subsequent recounts showed Al Gore to have legitimately won Florida).

So Bush begins his Presidency under questionable terms. Although he campaigned as a moderate, his Executive had two set plans: the first was to pass a series of massive tax breaks for the wealthy, under the guise of dealing with the economic crisis that resulted from the collapse of the stock market bubble in 2000. Even as the economy slipped into recession, the Bush Executive refused to countenance stimulus, and instead forced through Congress a series of deficit-inducing tax reductions targeted at the top 2% income-earners in the country.

The second plan was to fully implement the theoretical idea of the "Unitary Executive", in which all branches of government were to be rendered into "rubber stamps" of the Executive such that Congress and the Judiciary were to be present only to approve the decisions made in the White House. This had been Cheney's and other theoreticians lifelong objective.

The "signing statements" discussion was largely about this issue, as "signing statements" essentially put the President above the rule of law or any other branch decision.

As the economy slipped into recession, and Bush looked at an increasingly recalcitrant Congress, an event, unexpected to some and predicted by many for years took place. On George W. Bush's watch, the American People were violently attacked by a foreign power on September 11, 2001.

Bush and his administration ignored repeated warnings that a major terrorist act was pending on U.S. soil. Richard Clarke said he tried for months to have Bush and Condaleeza Rice make terrorism a priority, but they ignored him. Whether you believe Clarke or not, the fact is that there was a memo about bin Laden being determined to strike in the U.S., and Bush went on vacation to Crawford, Texas, shortly before the Twin Towers fell. On that day of infamy he was famously reading a comic book to a group of schoolchildren in -- you guessed it -- Florida.

Great men have responded to the call of history with ambition and noble aspect. Not Bush. He responded to the first attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor with opportunistic fervor. His Administration concocted the spurious Patriot Act and a series of corporate tax breaks

He then ordered the invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001, where the hard-line religious fundamentalist group the Taliban had been sheltering the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. By early 2002 the Taliban regime, which had sheltered Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda terrorist training camps had been driven from power in Kabul, and for a short while peace and tranquillity reigned in that part of the world. Osama Bin Laden, however was allowed to escape along with a large number of Taliban hard-liners.

Bush's regime of tax breaks did little to stimulate hiring; in fact, they created an incentive to profitize revenues, and depressed hiring. The economy continued to shed jobs and manufacturing jobs, even as GDP turned upwards. In order to prevent the economy from completely collapsing, a Federal Reserve board headed by far right central banker Alan Greenspan and long time far right economist Ben Bernanke kept interest rates at generational lows. The result was a devaluation of the dollar against independent currencies.

2002 passed in a quick miasma of lost civil liberties and inter-partisan flack over the Homeland Security and Patriot Bills.

During this period there was an aggressive use of propaganda, associating political opponents with terrorists and traitors, and the institution of huge new federal bureaucracies for Homeland Security, as well as large corporate welfare programs such as the Medicare Drug Benefit. (Also enacted the biggest entitlement program in history since Social Security, the pharmaceutical drug bill, that provided billions to drug companies while restricting drug price competition. Also, the Bush administration lied to members of his own party about the cost of the 2003 Medicare bill, just so they could be tricked into voting for it.)

The economy continued to wallow in a protracted recession, causing the National Bureau of Economic Research to redefine "recession" so as to mark an official end to the recession in progress.

Under the stimulus of wartime spending, including an $89 billion dollar supplemental Iraq appropriation, US GDP began growing again. Hiring however, continued at an anemic pace, creating only slightly over 100,000 jobs a month, and these were mainly in the construction industry, subsidized by low interest rates and a Treasury yield curve that favored mortgage lending. The resulting housing bubble kept hiring and spending afloat, even as it bloated consumer debt and the balance of trade deficit. The profligate spending packages added almost $1 million dollars a day to the National Debt.

2003 ushered in the Age of Nightmare as the Recession ground on and the Administration looked to ways to rescue the situation via the distraction of war.

After long months of continuous bombing raids Bush ordered an invasion of Iraq, a preemptive mess which has claimed countless lives of American troops and Iraqi civilians. There are those who argue that the administration was simply acting in accordance with the best information it had at the time, but the facts don't bear that out.

The war was pushed with hawkish fervent by the Department of Defense on the grounds that Saddam Hussein possessed dangerous chemical and biological weapons and planned to use them on his own citizens and on American interests.

Then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, together with former New American Century theoretician Paul Wolfowitz cobbled together a sparse post-invasion policy that disbanded the army and police with no provision for post-conflict government.

Recall back to the days when Donald Rumsfeld gave interviews on NBC's "Meet the Press" and declared with certainty that he knew exactly where Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were located in Iraq. Now, six years hence, nary a WMD has been found. Perhaps getting some of their intelligence on Iraq from an anonymous source named "Curveball" wasn't such a bright idea for the Department of Defense.

Even if you disregard "Curveball," the Department of Defense, by all accounts, muscled out any intelligence from other agencies (like the CIA) which reported counterfactual findings to the DOD's mantra of WMDs and Iraq's role in 9/11.

Despite worldwide condemnation of any military action against Iraq, the Administration cobbled together a paper-thin "Coalition of the Willing", featuring such notable empires as Togo and the Republic of Tonga. When France officially protested, the Administration's response was to rename the French fries menu item in the Congressional cafeteria to "Freedom Fries", then went ahead with the invasion anyway.

One of the disparaging results of the war in Iraq (other than setting a precedent for preemptive conflict, the unfathomable loss of human life, the outbreak of Sunni vs. Shia violence and human rights abuses at Abu Ghraib) is the damage it's done to America's reputation around the world.

As of this date 4800 servicemen killed in Iraq and a conservative estimate of some one half million innocent Iraqi civilians and servicemen who were simply defending their country against an unjust attack.

On May 1st, 2003, standing beneath a banner on the deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln that read "Mission Accomplished," Bush declared major American combat activities completed.

Several months after this PR charade the entire region descended into violent chaos under a persistent nationalistic "insurgency" devoted to expelling the invading Americans. Al Qaida, which had never operated in Iraq before, entered and began recruiting thousands of warriors.


The 2004 campaign surprised everyone, especially the workers for John Kerry, in its nastiness which was a reflection of GOP Advisor Karl Rove's savage zeal in using the smear and mudball approach, practiced so effectively against John McCain during the 2000 Primaries. MCcain was caught flat-footed then and so was Kerry in 2004, despite being clearly the more intelligent of the two candidates.

In a typical tactic, the Bush people had Homeland Security ratchet up the color-coded "Terrorist Alert" messages to "Orange" to terrify the American people into "staying the course" with an administration they had come to doubt, but which was familiar amid the chaos. Bush won by the narrowest margin of any incumbent ever.

Instead of moderating his decisions and the impulses of anyone in his administration, which by this time was being accused of "practicing fantasy Science" in the FDA, the EPA and every other agency which previous to this time had been required to adhere to rigorous scientific principles, Bush and Cheney swung widely to an extreme Right Wing Ultra-Orthodox Christian position, which they enforced at all levels of government at home and in foreign policy. Entire scientific reports were being rewritten by bureaucrats who followed policy strictures instead of evidence.

Instead of acknowledging the deepening divide in the country, the Bush administration pushed forward agenda written by the radical Christian Right Wing and Bush initiated the year by attempting to privatize Social Security, under spurious claims that the system was "bankrupt".

The attempt fortunately failed as barely two years later the stock market tanked, and if such a program had been executed to completion, well over 350 million Americans would have entirely lost their retirement funds.

During this eventful year, Bush signed extraordinary legislation giving federal courts the authority to force a husband to keep his irreparably brain-damaged wife alive. And the nation was treated to the spectacle of Ultra-Right Conservative members of Congress bursting through the doors of the hospital rooms to display the writs to the conservators of Terri Schiavo. Never before was government interference in private life demonstrated so vilely and to such universal repulsion.

The administration's campaign of deceit and manipulation on Iraq also began to unravel with the revelation that Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, leaked the identity of a CIA agent as an act of political retribution. The Administration boldly stated that it would severely condemn and persecute anyone guilty of such treason as outing an operative during a time of war. Then, when a close associate of Cheney was revealed to be the guilty party, suddenly the Administration backtracked.


During the Caribbean hurricane season a category 4 storm hit the Gulf Coast, virtually destroying New Orleans and wiping out several dozen towns. To this date, years later, those towns remain absent, New Orleans a wasteland hosting barely a third of its former population, and much of the Gulf Coast still in low grade recovery. Several thousand people died and international offers of assistance were rebuffed by the Administration, except for the Mexican Army, which came to fill the vacuum left by an absent federal response. The response to the storm has been regarded by everyone as inadequate and opportunistic. The government did send the notorious Blackwater corporation to put down looting. Blackwater guards took up quarters by breaking into homes and doing a fair amount of looting on their own.

Michael Brown, then head of the government agency responsible for natural disaster response, FEMA, had no qualifications for his position by any stretch of the imagination.

Brown made the leap from third-rate Arabian horse judge to FEMA director by political connections and nothing else, and he was appointed to the position by President Bush personally. Thankfully, President Bush has recently had the good graces to admit the mishandling of Katrina as one of the gravest mistakes on his watch.

Here was a president so disengaged that American citizens were left stranded, and people died, during his inaction. Yet, in his words, "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."

A public discussion was held in which abandonment of a major American City was seriously entertained as a possibility.

At this point one must diverge from a purely chronological account to list the numbers of sins, inadequacies, and outrages perpetrated by the Bush Administration.

The passing of the Patriot Act, in its various incarnations, has seen our civil liberties quieted. The Military Commissions Act ensured that any "suspicious" US non-citizens could be stripped of their right to protect themselves against unlawful imprisonment.

The suspension of habeas corpus. This has taken several forms under George Bush -- by executive decision, through legal opinion by the likes of hack John Yoo and by the establishment of prisons to hold prisoners without charge or trial. But one moment Americans should never forget is the passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Congress must share the blame on this, but without Bush's "leadership," it never would have passed. The law cast aside the Constitution and the principle of habeas corpus, which protects against unlawful and indefinite imprisonment. The Congress also gave the president absolute power to designate enemy combatants, and to set his own definitions for torture.

"Enhanced interrogation"/torture/extraordinary rendition. Bush said he knew and approved of the harsh tactics that led to such outrages as Abu Ghraib. Bush says the US doesn't torture because it doesn't torture. Whatever you call it, it amounts to an illegal usurping of executive authority. John McCain was against it before he was for it. Some Americans may believe terrorists deserve torture in some cases, and I won't disagree; however, it is clear that, under George W. Bush, America tortured some innocent people, and in some cases it transported prisoners to other countries so they could be tortured there.

Most historians recognize that any number of regimes have practiced torture, but the Bush Administration is the first government in the history of 10,000 years of Recorded Time to actually acknowledge and justify torture as policy. All other regimes, including the Nazis, concealed this practice, disavowed it, repudiated its practice publicly, and acted ashamed upon its revealment.

The Healthy Forests Initiative -- would allow more logging and development in our national parks.

The Clear Skies Initiative -- would weaken many parts of the Clean Air Act to allow more pollutants in many areas. Aside from what these laws do is the Orwellian Newspeak -- giving names to policies or laws that are, at best, misleading. (Read: Patriot Act.)

Mining safety. Bush cut funding for mining safety and stacked the Mine Safety and Health Administration with industry executives, who fought against better regulations to protect lives and limbs. In 2006, forty-seven coal miners died on the job, the most in any full year since 1995, when forty-seven also were killed. Thirty-three were killed last year. Not all the deaths can be blamed on Bush and his industry-friendly appointees, but most assuredly, some can.

The US attorney scandals. In this case, seven US attorneys -- Republicans -- were fired in 2006. The reasons for the dismissals remain unclear, but allegations were that they were made for partisan political purposes. Anyone who doubts that partisanship (see Monica Goodling) was a factor -- which, by the way, undermines the justice system of the United States -- has not been paying attention to the way George Bush operates. Investigations into the matter have been impeded, but it is without question that the scandal has eroded morale in the Justice Department.

FISA/illegal wiretapping. Bush still claims that violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is okay because he's fighting the terrorists. But there's nothing in the law that prevented wiretapping; it allowed temporary wiretapping until warrants could be issued.

Global warming. Bush now admits it's a problem, after blocking admission in this area for six years, and Bush officials trashed science by redacting independent governmentally commissioned studies on the issue. But even though he says it's a problem he has no proposals to do anything about it in the near term.

Energy policy. The records of Dick Cheney's task force on energy are secret, so we don't know how much of the nation's energy policy was dictated by energy companies. But it is certain that it was a great deal; Bush's pattern in this area is the same as in others; i.e., put oil and gas officials in charge of energy policy; put pharmaceutical companies in charge of drug policy; let health industry lobbyists write health policy legislation. Gas prices have soared and record profits are now routine business for the oil companies; people think their taxes are lower under Bush, but they are paying more for gas, food and other basic necessities - and they are also paying more state and local taxes because of federal budget cuts.

Biological Science. Any reports contradicting official policy or religious Creationist philosophy have been quashed or otherwise rewritten by official government censors who often turned conclusions 180 degrees against the original conclusions. Support for any research that possibly could contradict radical religious Fundamentalist ideas has been quashed.

Immigration. For Bush or against him on this issue, it can hardly be argued that he has put forth a successful policy. In fact, no policy exists, as far as we know.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor does it include any number of "sideshow scandals" involving members of Congress and the Administration, such as Colin Powell's resignation, John Ashcroft's resignation, Attorney General Gonzales' resignation over firing investigators for political reasons, Tom Delay and the Abramoff scandals, and quite a number of one-off flaps over official malfeasance, as in VP Dick Cheney shooting a colleague during an illegal bird hunt in which he did not possess a valid hunting license, Cheney shouting F*** you! at congressmen in the hallways, and at least one GOP member getting snagged for soliciting sex from same-sex pages.

Then there was the scandal of Abu Graib, where prisoners were systematically tortured and sexually humiliated by American guards. The Administration denied the rumors until photographs taken inside the prison once notoriously employed by Saddam Hussein's worst henchmen were published around the world. The Administration responded by first claiming "we don't do torture" while also collecting amicus curae briefs from several law professors, such as John Yoo, which defended the heinous practices.

Wolfowitz, who so badly mangled the Iraq occupation, was appointed to head the World Bank by an ever grateful Bush, until international uproar and Wolfowitz's own incapacity, forced the man to resign. Rumsfeld was also forced to resign his position in a firestorm of controversy as the Iraq situation worsened and was charged by the International Tribunal in Belgium with war crimes. Ashcroft, the Attorney General was forced to resign over the torture scandals and the political firing of the prosecution attorneys, although the evidence suggests that he had been largely employed as a useful tool. Karl Rove was forced to resign his position as Chief Presidential Advisor when links between him and the Valerie Plame affair began to come out. Brown, head of FEMA, was forced out because of his mishandling of the Katrina disaster.

In a quirky sideshow that was a hallmark of the Bush Administration, a man who had publicly called for the dissolution of the United Nations, Michael Bolton, was appointed ambassador to that same institution in another firestorm of international controversy.

At the end of the day, we see the American Empire in sunset, its reputation tarnished, secret concentration camps operating in weird places on the globe, torture being practiced under official policy, the economy tanking as bad as 1929, a national debt pushing through the roof, unresolvable wars executed in strange places we cannot begin to understand, the environment thoroughly trashed, and a whole lot of problems besides left behind like droppings from an incontinent poodle.

Bear in mind this list contains nothing of the radical partisan right-wing legislation and executive orders that some right-wingnuts actually like. There is a whole raft of obnoxious stuff that this man pushed forward which will take years to undo in addition to the appointment of radical missionary judges, such as John G. Roberts.

On the other side, we have a few folks saying, "Well, Georgie is such a nice guy. He is very affable."

There you have it. Eight years of George W. Bush, possibly the worst President ever to have lived.

Thank god for Obama.


1968 seems like such a long time ago, a year recorded in history books for many things. Today we have no Statesmen, save perhaps Obama, 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.

When we speak of pride in America we can point to such a man and say, "Now that was a real American who did things and did them well." Yes, this country went through a corrosive period, a shameful period, and unspeakable acts have been committed, but we also have heroes who fought injustice and deep-seated hatred with passion and humility and persistence and although much work remains to be done, much has been accomplished and no other nation can claim this sort of man or this kind of process.
It was not necessary to be utterly destroyed by a foreign power to turn the nation around; Americans did it themselves led by women and men such as King and Rosa Parks and this is the real source of pride in America. Not through Industry and not through force of arms.

Monday, the Nation celebrates the life of a truly great man, whose principles, morality, integrity and steadfastness elevate him well above any of those today who possess little in quality beyond hectoring demagoguery.


A couple were found shot to death in a murder-suicide, which is not atypical for the Island. This happens from time to time here. Seems a fellow concerned about recent financial reversals shot his wife and then himself on Bay Farm Island after sending an e-mail about his intentions near around 1:30 A.M. The couple were in their 60's.

Kirsten Vital takes over the troubled Island Unified School district, and we welcome her and her high aspirations for our kids here. Kirsten understands the problems we face with budgetary shortfalls and plans to stay the long term to resolve problems.

You go, girl!

The recently oft-debated Corica Golf Course gets an external manager in the form of Kempersports which takes over the Complex as part of the forced re-managment negociation that resulted from the City making, according to some, too much money from the enterprise. Revenues have declined during the Recession, according to accountants, so the management was assigned to an external firm, perhaps to avoid losing the revenues entirely to a "privatization".

It all smells sort of funny, but we do hope the City continues to earn the benefits of the course and that the elderly can continue to golf there at a discount.


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

The weather has been unseasonably warm in the daytime, with nights hovering around 52 degrees while the Sierras have reported "balmy" air on the ski slopes. Meanwhile reports of a brisk cold snap across the rest of the country are coming in, with the Inauguration Day promising to be quite chill save for nearly a million people packed into the Imperial City to see our first Black President sworn in.

Over at the Old Same Place bar, Padraic is putting up a big widescreen HDTV for the news on Tuesday night and over at the Free Library, the League of Women Voters is having a day-long shindig with widescreens set up there in the meeting room. There will be parties and whoop-de-doos all over the place, including here at the Offices where the Editor has gone so far as to rig up Xmas lights around his desk, which add a touch of sparkle to the spartan area. All around the Offices, the copyboys and the sandwich lady and the news desk personnel all have been humming and singing all day long that song The Rising by Bruce Springsteen.

Now, as everything closes up for the night as the clock ticks inexorably towards another day, the Editor's white hair flying about his head like an aureole as he bends over the pool of light made by the desklamp, the sound of the throughpassing train wavers through the open window as the train utters its long drawn out wail from the forest of cranes across the estuary, the peace train, holy roller, thinking about the days to come. Come ride on the Peace Train.

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

Now I've been happy lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh I've been smiling lately,
dreaming about the world as one
And I believe it could be,
some day it's going to come

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

Now I've been smiling lately,
thinking about the good things to come
And I believe it could be,
something good has begun

Oh peace train sounding louder
Glide on the peace train
Come on now peace train
Yes, peace train holy roller

Everyone jump upon the peace train
Come on now peace train

Get your bags together,
go bring your good friends too
Cause it's getting nearer,
it soon will be with you

Now come and join the living,
it's not so far from you
And it's getting nearer,
soon it will all be true

Now I've been crying lately,
thinking about the world as it is
Why must we go on hating,
why can't we live in bliss

Cause out on the edge of darkness,
there rides a peace train
Oh peace train take this country,
come take me home again

by Cat Stevens


JANUARY 25, 2009


This week's headline photo comes to us from far-off Washington D.C., where somebody held a really big party, mostly orchestrated by the U.S. Constitution, a rag held in high esteem by most folks here, including -- give or take a few lines -- John Roberts, who seems to have problems with about 35 words in there when it comes to acknowledging his partisan days as a judge are just about to get a little rocky for a while.

The eyes of the world were focussed on DeeCee Tuesday, but on Monday, former President-Appointee George Bush was given an Iraqi-journalist-style sendoff on Monday, as tourists and demonstrators lobbed shoes, pumps, boots, sandals and Crocs from Pennsylvania Avenue onto the White House lawn.

Before launching the operation live, the shoe-chuckers took target practice in Dupont Circle on a 20-foot-tall blow up doll of the outgoing president, decked out in the flight suit he wore aboard the "Mission Accomplished" aircraft carrier.

Unlike Muntazer al-Zaidi, the Iraqi reporter who inspired the protest, none of the shoe-throwers in the group were arrested, although NBC reports that one man was arrested later in the day for chucking a shoe.

Marching down Connecticut Avenue with handfuls of footwear, the group of about a hundred was on the receiving end of enthusiastic honks, thumbs-up and waves from people in the street.

Even the official guard staff got into the mood.

"Don't hit me!" one officer behind the White House fence joked as shoes rained around him.

Tracey Primavera, a shoe-lobber from Provincetown, Massachusetts, shouted at the guard that she had a pump that would look nice on him.

"I tried that. It didn't look good on me," yelled back the officer. Primavera tossed him the pump anyway.

Tourists on Pennsylvania Avenue picked up shoes and lobbed them at the White House as well. "A lot of random people joined in," noted one organizer, David Swanson.

The target practice on the giant Bush doll began around 11:00 in the morning and was still going five hours later, as thousands of people walking through the circle stopped to pick up a shoe and wing it at the outgoing president. Some threw fastballs like al-Zaidi. Others tied several together in an attempt to land them on Bush's long Pinocchio-esque nose. Children took part. ("Okay. One more shoe, kids," said one parent.) Some folks simply walked up to the doll and kicked it in the shins. It fell over at one point and people rushed it, beating it with shoes.

Once all the shoes had been tossed onto the White House lawn, the officers collected them and piled them into the back of a small truck. "The next person who throws them gets arrested," said one, though the entire pile had already been thrown.

As the protesters headed back toward Dupont Circle, a Secret Service agent left them with a parting observation.

"You all won," he said.

Various similar activities took place all over the country, including down in San Leandro, which stands to become the next Center of Hip for the Bay Area, due largely to still fairly reasonable rents, cheap and reasonable stores, and a large population of Liberals and artisans. Our roving reporter, Tommy, went down for a Wack-a-George game in which a slowly moving cutout of Our Worst President moved by while participants hurled footwear.

On the third try, Tommy clocked the wannabe Texan right in the breadbasket. You go, Tommy.


The first question we need to answer about last week is that no, you cannot buy a perfect copy of the hat worn by 'Retha during the inauguration, although the designer, Luke Song, is prepared to make any number of near copies, stating that the hat made by him and worn by Aretha Franklin during her spirited rendition of "America the Beautiful" could only be worn by "The Queen (of Soul)" herself.

This may be the first inauguration within memory that virtually everyone saw and everyone will remember for a long time. It was all high energy and momentum, starting with that remarkable concert at the Lincoln Memorial the day before in which Pete Seeger, age 89, got about one half million people jammed into the Mall to sing just about every chorus of "This Land is Your Land", including the famously omitted politically-charged verses, while Bruce Springsteen, looking like he was having the time of his life, played the guitar.

Managed to catch Little Stevie Wonder with Shakira before the Grinches at HBO yanked the video from all the free public channels.

We have a number of folks who remained behind in DC after the Big Show to catch the sights and avoid the travel crush, so first-hand reports from there will need to wait.

Here in the Bay Area, many hundreds of venues got set up to watch the historic event. Up in Petaluma, the Tegal factory MIS department hooked up the conference screens with a live feed for everybody on the Production floor to watch during the workday.

Well, software engineers and such like are really good at multitasking.

An estimated 7,000 people packed the Oracle Arena in Oakland, giving President Obama a standing ovation today at the end of his inaugural address.

The Oracle Arena event was called "Unity for the Sake of Change" and was organized by Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and other county officials.

At the head of the line to get into the arena when doors opened at 7:20 a.m. was Hayward resident Cassandra Kamara, who was raised in Oakland and attends the Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland.

Kamara said she got in line at 5:30 a.m. and said, "I had no idea the line would be so long, but that's OK. It's worth it."

Kamara said she attended a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration at her church Monday, and people talked about the significance of Barack Obama becoming the nation's first black president.

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said organizers sold about 9,000 tickets to the event, but only 7,000 people came through the turnstiles.

Meanwhile, cheers erupted in San Jose's Mexican Heritage Plaza today as hundreds gathered to watch the inauguration of the country's 44th president.

During an event hosted by Councilwoman Nora Campos, city leaders and residents celebrated the swearing-in ceremony for Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama in an event that at times resembled a gospel revival tent in its energy.

Following introductions from Campos and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, live coverage of the event in Washington, D.C., was broadcast on a large screen. With palpable excitement, Obama's opening brought cheers, topped only by the moment he took the oath of office.

And as Obama declared firmly, "We are ready to lead once more," an inspired theater stood up and yelled with happiness.

Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco was filled with thousands of Bay Area residents this morning watching the presidential inauguration progress on a big screen.

The orderly crowd included plenty of folding chairs, strollers and vendors hawking T-shirts and buttons.


At home on the Island, staffers went to the Free Library to an event hosted by the Island League of Women Voters who had two large video screens setup in a meeting room and provided refreshments.

Before the proceedings on the Mall took off with the entry of the principal figures, folks sipped coffee and noshed on fruit and teacakes while talking about their memories of the past four years, much of those being checkered with irritation and anger and agreement that Change had come around not a minute too soon.

As the Notables left the Rotunda for the Mall, folks cheered or booed and hissed, with former Vice President Cheney getting a fair amount of abuse as he got wheeled about in his chair. Someone mentioned that his kind never lifted boxes on their own, but always had lackeys to do the physical labor and that the wheelchair was some kind of sympathy stunt.

The room filled with about 100 people who shouted, stamped, clapped and cried during the entire proceedings in a manner reminiscent of the Rocky Horror Picture Show with audience participation and energy.

When the Speaker said, "Ladies and gentlemen, all please rise." before the Presidential swearing in, so did every soul in the room with folks sitting in the middle and side aisles rising as well.

A member of the League walked around with a box of Kleenex for those who began sobbing.

The past few decades have been horrific for many of us, especially those who have connections with families and loved-ones overseas. With Reagan's terrible reversals and viciously sadistic foreign policies, only now being revealed in their cruel and disastrous fury, the first Bush's economic wrecking machine and the ineffectual and largely damaging Clinton period that perpetuated the ruinous Volcker policies and the Reagan-initiated NAFTA through eight solid years of unmitigated horror (as described last week) we have all felt a terrible assault upon our faith in Humanity.

Tuesday, the great realization of a Dream came true, a day after Martin Luther King Day and the little room on the Island was filled with people infected with Hope and Joy. It seemed that, finally and at last, a long dark period of American History had come to an end and a new Era had begun, one for which all of us had been longing for quite a long time. In that little room strangers cried and cheered and hugged one another in exhuberant hope.

The long passage through the darkest night America has ever seen was over at last.

The very next day, President Obama began dismantling the gulag of torture prisons and CIA interrogation cells, while issuing a mandatory closure of the hated Guantanamo prison in Cuba.

That night parties were held all over the Bay Area with some five to six occuring within a mile of the Island-Life offices.

Meanwhile, we have information via the Huffington Report that the Farewell Party for George had trouble finding a venue in the Washington DC metro area, as all venues had been long since booked, finally settling upon an unheated hall out in Glen Ellen Park. Keep in mind the temps that night hovered around 19 degrees. The next hitch was that the Bush folks failed to obtain a live band for the affair as all local bands had signed up for pro-Obama parties, so the affair went off without live music. Finally, the big announcement in that chilly hall was that a chief staffer had gotten post-administration work at Abercrombie and Fitch.

So it is we speak, hopefully, the last words to appear in this space about that most hated man. Go to hell George Bush and be damned to you and yours forever.


Certainly Mssr. Chirac does not know the album of that name by Long Tall Marcia Ball, but he just might need some cautionary advice regarding such nefarious breeds.

Long-time Island-Lifers are aware of our checkered history with the most pernicious species known to mankind. Now Jacques Chirac has personal experience with that most savage of canines.

Former French president Jacques Chirac was rushed to hospital after being mauled by his own 'clinically depressed' pet dog.

The 76-year-old statesman was savaged by his white Maltese-poodle - which suffers from frenzied fits and is being treated with anti-depressants.

The animal, named Sumo, had become increasingly violent over the past years and was prone to making 'vicious, unprovoked attacks', Chirac's wife Bernadette said.

The former president, who ruled France for 12 years until 2007, was taken to hospital in Paris where he was treated as an outpatient and sent home, VSD magazine reported.

Mrs Chirac said: 'The dog went for him for no apparent reason.

'We were already aware the animal was unpredictable and is actually being treated with pills for depression.

'My husband was bitten quite badly, but he is certain to make a full recovery over the coming weeks.'

The former French First Lady did not reveal where on his body Chirac was bitten.

The pet, named after the Japanese form of wrestling, was a gift to the Chiracs from their grandson Martin.

Recent polls have shown that since leaving office Chirac is now regarded as one of the most popular politicians in France, liked by 70 per cent of people.

In the last days of his presidency, he was much less popular, liked by just 50 per cent of the population.

Poodles, according to the most recent polls, are ranked about the level of George Bush in popularity and several of these animals have been sent to the Bushes as supposed "gifts" by people wishing the former President ill. The Secret Service has been given the task of dispatching these gifts, along with envelopes of anthrax powder and pipe bombs.


We got a lot of stuff over the wire recently about environmental issues, largely folks heartened by the reinstitution of intelligence in the White House and by the acknowledgement by Obama during his acceptance speech of environmental concerns. Partners Coop-America want us to pass on this hyperlink to their site where an article about "green solutions" to America's problems is worth reading. The former Coopamerica is now GreenAmerica and can be found at


With reference to the recent Lincoln Memorial concert, it came to our attention there is a movement underfoot to nominate Pete Seeger for the Nobel Peace Prize for lifetime efforts on behalf of peace. The URL is A short review of the man's achievements certainly reveals an impressive list of accomplishments.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather finally set its hat and decided on winter at last, bringing in a set of dockwalloper storms to drench the area and chill the nights properly so that one did not need to set the basin of fruit back in the fridge, but could leave it out all night on the counter with no fear.

Each day has started with heavy skies and a steady fall of precipitation throughout the day. The evenings have been chill, but not to freezing, as that would be taking things a bit too far. Let Minnesota have the ice and snow. If we need any, we will get a grand Zamboni.

Meanwhile the tulips and glads have started sending up little red and green spikes as if to defy the season properly as Californians will tend to do.

The Sierra report balmy temperatures dipping to 28 during the day, but often staying above 32 on the slopes,which means that we are not out of the woods yet with the drought.

Lionel put up the Pampered Pup hotdog shop on Park Street and headed on over to pick up his daughter as part of the Settlement of 2005. As part of this settlement, Lionel got to enjoy his daughter's company every other week for about three days and not pay some $1000 in alimony per month, so the lack of his daughter on the off days sort of made up for it by the lack of having to deal with Leticia on the others.

In California it is said that the normal man has been married and divorced some four to five times and any exception is seen as a deviant with something against liking people, but Lionel had found one marriage and one divorce to be sufficient to put him off of his feed for the duration, which just might be for the term of his natural life, so acrimonious did that Leticia turn out to be, both as wife and as ex-spouse.

It was bad enough that Lionel would turn to reading Plato once again for consolation. The hunger for knowledge is a drive on which no one can put a cap. It is said that Nat Turner knew the contents of his owner's entire library better than the owner himself before Turner's execution.

Its a little known fact that many of those folks you might think were indigent, ignorant and illiterate were in fact highly well-read individuals who had spent their time of supposed idleness reading Shakespeare and the Classics instead of drinking. Or manybe drinking while reading Shakespeare, which maybe is precisely what the Bard intended and which is precisely the way people should read the Classics. With a bit of wine and headiness to add fuel to the fire.

Now you may know that reading and writing was actively discouraged among the "Negros" for a long time, but that did not stop a great many individuals from becoming far more learned and well-read than the schooled and formally educated Whites. A man who is desperately looking for answers from the Great Books is naturally going to be more informed than someone who has had the Great Books tossed on his head with an order from his elders like so much salad dressing.

From such a father and grandfather came Lionel. Men who grew up under terrible oppression, looking for answers in the Great Books. Looking for a way to explain this strange world where the Biblical Egyptians seemed to have perpetuated an eternal captivity of God's children. And so behind the counter, where the casual observer saw only a griddle and a deep-fat fryer and rows of condiments, Lionel might have the open pages of "The Republic" or "The Wretched of the Earth". No telling what might be behind the counter with the baseball bat and the shotgun.

All this beside. Lionel, a man of his time, needs to pick-up his daughter, a girl of her time, as part of a "settlement", a legal arrangement, typical of its time.

When he gets there, the pre-arranged trade-off zone at the high school gymnasium, Jasmine is there talking to a White boy, one of the Abodanza kids.

Something kicks inside Lionel, despite all the changes and the stuff he knows. You don't just talk to THEM in public like that. Something bad sure to happen.

But then Lionel's folks hailed from Louisiana during the war years and different rules applied. Back then.

So there he stood, owner of the Pampered Pup, a hot dog stand on Park Street on the non-descript Island, a scholar of Plato and some things about Life, while the Jewel of his life sat there chatting as if nothing ever had ever happened in the history of the world with a boy. As if this was really what it was all about. A boy and a girl.

He turned his eyes and they fell on the outraged headlines concerning the Middle East and the seemingly irreconcilable problems there.

According to the news a delegation from Northern Ireland was being sent to help create a cease-fire.

He looked back and eventually collected Jasmine to take her home in the ancient Toyota.

So, you like this boy.

Oh, he's okay. We both got matching profiles on Facebook

That's the newfangled internet social thing.

Oh dad. Everybody does it now.

And so on. Those Dads out there may share some sympathy with Lionel. Facebook has become the new teen Interaction, entirely removing the telephone. Or adding to it, since most phones these days have cameras, wireless internet, text messaging, twitter, and the kitchen sink besides, Heck, most of the girls now have Blackberries, blueberries, Apples, iPods, and god knows what else, wherein they text message, twitter, google and facebook to the n'th degree every minute. Every once in a great while they actually hold a human conversation face to face.

Yet there she is, a glowing princess in his eyes. How is he to say, honey, the world is full of darkness and dark men and you must always be on your guard. How can he utter such pronouncements in this New Age? He is a man who keeps a shotgun and a baseball bat under the counter of his business.

There is no answer. You always must make it yourself time after time, age after age. And the Youth of today will be crotchety old men and women soon enough if Time allows. And now, the sound of the midnight train comes ululating across the water, wavering and yet insistent as history itself, as it winds its way though the Jack London Waterfront, headed from the forest of cranes in the Port of Oakland to places unknown. Its the train of History chugging on to the new Age of Hope.

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

FEBRUARY 1, 2009


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of a St. Charles neighbor who took these pix from his bathroom window around 2pm shortly before calling the police. For obvious reasons.

The neighbor observed the kids holding pistols to their heads in mock suicides and heard the distinct snap of triggers.

As it turned out, the kids were playing with air pistols as part of a school project. But, as all the neighbors around commented, they were glad someone called on the Thin Blue Line, as "these days, anything is possible."

The police are aware of the startlingly realistic look of the toys, and really wish some people would take up more pacific sports, such as badminton.

So do we.


The Island-Life Music Coordinator secured tix for the Labelle reunion concert at the venerable Oaktown Paramount Theatre.

This tour marks the first tour for the fabled, ground-breaking R&B group in well over 30 years.

Labelle, consisting of Nona Hendryx, Sarah Dash and Patti LaBelle erupted upon the Motown scene with a fusion of disco, funk, gospel and glam rock, all infused with extraordinary R&B ensemble vocal harmonies. Their subject matter, written substantially by songwriter Hendryx, covered racism, sexism and highly charged erotic themes.

Their stage shows were legendary for the outlandish, space-age costumes, and often featured multiple changes through the extended sets.

After a scant five albums, the last two resulting in commercial flops, the group informally disbanded as Hendryx pursued a career in to avaunt garde jazz and Patti pursued a solo diva career.

Recent National events and a renewed enthusiasm for Black culture in the People, have revealed that the time is right for Labelle to return in triumph.

Friday night, that they did, with an extended standing ovation from the adoring salt and pepper crowd that roared out even before the band had played single note.

The applause grew more enthusiastic as the trio launched into the very first number, "Miss Otis Regrets," a decades-old Labelle tune featured on the newly-released reunion album "Back to Now."

Backed by a nine-piece band with percussion, drums, guitar, bass, keyboards and 88-key piano as well as three backup singers, the group propelled the entire hall into a gospel-tent fervor. This was Oaktown, after all, the place where Labelle is best loved and remembered.

Of course ability has a lot to do with it, besides sentiment. Patti Labelle is arguably one of the greatest female vocalists to have lived, and is often counted in the stars among the likes of Arethra, Ella Fitzgerald, Maria Callas, or anybody in the Pantheon.

According to Richard Harrington, reviewer for the Contra Costa Times, "She proved once again that she is one of the greatest vocalists of all time, on equal par, in terms of sheer talent and ability, with Ella, Aretha or anybody else you want to mention. Her voice sounded so strong at times that it gave this reviewer chills."

There are few vocalists who can punch through a nine-piece band with such power that the rafters ring and the band's volume is rendered irrelevant.

But such power has its costs and Time has its demands. As the 100 minute set proceeded, it became clear that Patti was becoming fatigued between songs, taking the opportunity to sit when possible and lean on the piano. It was as if the Icon maxxed out every cell and every iota of energy for each number, needing a few minutes to recharge the batteries.

"We need the fan turned on," she huffed and puffed between numbers, trying to balance herself on six-inch spikes. "I'm menopausal, diabetic, 64 and everything is all right by me."

By contrast, the svelte Nona Hendryx came on wearing a skin-tight leather outfit that displayed a very fit and very sexy athletic figure. Nona, at least as old as Patti, looked easily to be about twenty-eight years of age, which is no small feat to achieve for anybody. She is certainly an inspiration.

Nevertheless, she and the group were clearly jazzed by the turn of recent political events and the election of Obama, the first Black President.

The crowd obliged with help by sending bouquets of flowers and gifts up to the stage as the performers regained breath.

At one point, during the obligatory rendition of "Lady Marmalade", the group called three guys from the audience to sing along with the tune. One fellow could not remember the lyrics, so he simply sang along with the melody, "I love you! I love you!"

Whatever. It worked, funnily enough.

One thing about Labelle, is that despite the outlandish showbizness aspect, they always have featured a very inclusive component of their identity, which has remained an endearing and attractive part of their overall presentation through the years. It's as if to say, we don't care what you look like or sound like, or who you are, you are all welcome.

As for Richard Harrington, the Contra Costa Times reviewer, we feel we need to provide a little instruction to the boy.

"Lady Marmalade" is a song about a whore. No mincing words here. What Richard finds as "nonsensical lyrics" can be translated as follows: "Get your, get your ya ya here. Mocha chocolate latte ya ya. Enjoy this brown skin girl, White Boy. Get your, get your ya ya here." There may also be a reference to anal sex as well, but we leave that up to the imagination. Its basically a doorway hooker's call essentially unchanged for the past five thousand years.

Okay Richard, you are a nice boy, and such things are not part of your world. We hope we don't have to do this again. We really hope we do not have to be more obvious, as if you just do not get it, well, do the Humpty Dumpty dance and leave us alone.

We do agree Patti has the most extraordinary voice bar none. And we congratulate Mr. Harrington on being the sole mainstream reviewer in the Bay Area to appreciate what happened Friday night. We do have to give the man a lot of credit for that.


The latest flap is all over the Suncal proposal to develop the Point and a homegrown group called Save Our City which has pointed to a 700 million figure buried deep within the budget for the proposal that calls for "infrastructure improvements" to be supplied by the City.

Last week SOCA issued a press release stating the City was on the verge of "bankruptcy".
As usual the City responded reflexively with denials which sound awfully like "We are aware of the problem and are working on it. We will inform you when a resolution has been achieved."



Citywide "Brownouts" are now in effect for firestations. In effect, rotation outages for "response units" continue from now until whenever. A response unit consists of a single truck or ambulance with attending crew. Stations with more than one response unit are most affected and the Union is upset that the City will not acknowledge that response times willl be affected during "busy periods. . ."

The Alameda Power and Telecom recently became renamed as Alameda Municipal Power.

Patricia's Pantry in the old brick building on Park has been taken over by the owners of Paganos after the husband of Patricia died unexpectedly shortly after opening their long anticipated kitchen supply store. Word has it that the stock has been downgraded and the promised seminar kitchen has been given the kibosh. We recently made a visit there, and failed to find a carafe we were looking for. Just another pricy spot for fancy whisks and blenders now, sad to say . . .

Dem bones. A DPW crew diggin on Washington Street in the 3000 block found human remains that appear to date from the 1920's, per investigators who noted the date stamped on a nearby sidwalk pavement. It will take a week before forensics returns anything meaningfull from the boneyard. Anyone missing a relative . . .


Latest word is the grand opening of the Fox Theatre in Oaktown. First two nights featuring Social Distortion and then Michael Franti are so sold out, even the scalpers are having difficulties getting tix. We do have news that none other than The Boss is coming to the Bay Area, appearing in San Jose on April 1st. Bruuuuuuuuce!


The long awaited retrofit of the bridges has begun. Here is the schedule.

Park Street bridge will remain open through the retrofit due to the extensive repair done in 1998. Hours of work shall be 7am-9pm M-Th and Friday 7am-3:30pm until April 30th.

The High Street bridge will be closed during the work hours of 10am-6:30pm Mo-Sa from 4/4 to 8/28. Traffic will be diverted to the Fruitvale bridge during work.

The Fruitvale bridge, with its attached railway trestle, will not be scheduled until final bids are all in. Local politics are wrapped up in this bridge as some folks insist on the renewal of the long unused railroad trestle portion, although there are no plans to send trains over the trestle by any entity or by any transportation agency at present.

Just in over the wire:

"The Posey and Webster Street Tubes will be closed Monday and Tuesday night from 9 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. for ceiling inspections.

Traffic will be detoured to the High Street Bridge during the inspection."


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The days have yielded to unearthly blue skies and record-breaking warm temps while the nights have trended to cool and frosty. The news from the Sierra is not specifically too good, with reports of snowpack around three feet or so where about thirty should be expected, indicating that we are in for an extended period of drought in the Golden State as there is no way that a series of storms can blow in to rescue the situation this late in the season now.

Even fifteen feet of snow at elevation could offer some succor, however a scarce three feet means draconian measures will need to be undertaken come Spring. We are looking at the start of one of the worst droughts ever experienced here, and that is saying something for a state which provides some 80% of the Nation's produce.

The vast majority of the Golden State's water is used for agribusiness, so hard times are about to get even harder.

No strangers to hard luck and hard times, the folks at Marlene and Andre's place are finding ever more creative ways of keeping body and soul together. Every day, the folks fan out to the Food Bank, the Episcopal Church food lottery on Grand, and the bread deposit at Mastic Center where day-old crusts can sometimes be found. Because of the drought, the bean plants clambering up the trellis of rusting ironmongery out back possess a dubious future. A sole tomato plant has survived the winter in a seriously yellowed condition and Occasional Quentin has been tending to it with solicitous concern. He has even named it "Fred."

Suan remains the household's main wage earner, but even the tips at the Crazy Horse, where she works as a pole dancer, have dropped during these difficult times. The house automobile, a oncetime yellow Geo named the Piss Bucket, sits forlornly in the weeds, a victim of some kind of digestive problem, as Mancini thinks, but nobody has enough money to get it fixed.

Andre sits strumming his guitar on the porch near the charred hole where the sofa used to be. The sofa and porch lost the essence of themselves during the unfortunate conclusion to Jose's birthday last year when a carelessly discarded roach nearly burned the house down.

"Well I'll pass the bar on the way
To my dingy hotel room-
I spent all my money
Been drinkin' since a half past noon. . ."

Mr. Howitzer, the landlord, never noticed, largely because the sofa did not belong to him, and during his infrequent visits to the property, preferred to ignore any possible blemishes for the sake of deferring potential maintenance - and maintenance costs -- indefinitely. Marsha and Tipitina simply laid a rug over the hole and had Quentin support the camoflage with a board by crouching underneath the porch among the spiders and the irritated racoons.

I'll wake there in the mornin'
Or maybe in the county jail-
Times are hard getting harder
I'm born to lose and destined to fail

Bonkers came tearing out of the house just then with Wickiwup and Johnny Cash in hot pursuit, followed by an angry Marlene. Bonkers had managed to score a steak off of the table and this prize was something which Bonkers uncharitably did not wish to share. The steak had been itself a nice "find" from one of the banquets Andre and his band "No Future in Real Estate" had recently performed. All of the members of the band had invested in long trenchcoats with deep pockets for gigs just like that one, and after doing a banquet, the entire household often ate quite well.

"God damn it!" said Marlene.

"Looks like spaghetti again tonight." commented Andre.

"Eff you!" shouted Marlene. And she stomped back into the house.

Take away, take away
Take away this ball and chain
I'm lonely and I'm tired
And I can't take any more pain
Take away, take away
Never to return again
Take away, take awaaaaaaaaay-ay ay!
Take away this ball and chain

From far out across the bay came the drift of a lost foghorn.

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

FEBRUARY 08, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from Bavaria, where it seems flying BMW's are the norm. As our correspondent was driving to work one day he looked up at the roof of the local Evangelische Kirche to note a new attic occupant lodged there. Some twenty feet up.

Seems the fellow failed to negotiate the curve in a serious way at a somewhat excessive rate of speed. Our reporter indicated that the driver did survive although a long stay in the hospital is in order for severe injuries.

Say, didn't they make some kind of disclaimer after the movie "Jackass"?

Kids, don't do this sort of thing at home.

The good pastor is shown here trying to figure out just how he is going to tell the insurance company, "Ja, my roof was destroyed by an automobile. . . ".


Roving reporters Paul and Marybeth snagged guitar wunderkind Al di Meola on his recent swing by Yoshi's West in Babylon. Al was in fine form and earned himself three standing ovations for a fairly energetic evening of work.

The New Jersey-born Di Meola (born Al Laurence Dimeola July 22, 1954 in Jersey City) burst on the jazz scene in 1974 when he joined Chick Corea's band, Return to Forever. He played with the band until a major lineup shift in 1976.

During a long and prolific solo career, he has engaged in successful collaborations with bassist Stanley Clarke, keyboardist Jan Hammer, violinist Jean-Luc Ponty, and guitarists John McLaughlin and Paco de Lucía. He also guested on "Allergies" from Paul Simon's "Hearts and Bones" album (1983).

Among some of the names in his illustrious career, with whom Al has recorded or played with include the likes of Chick Corea, Luciano Pavarotti, Paco De Lucia, Paul Simon, Phil Collins, Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Larry Coryell, Steve Winwood, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Jacob Pastorius, Les Paul, jean Luc Ponty, Steve Vai, Frank Zappa, Milton Naciemento, Jimmy Page, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, Irakere and many more.

His ultra-fast fingerstyle has directly influenced Yngwie Malmsteen.

Di Meola was noted for his technical mastery and extremely fast, complex guitar solos and compositions. Even on his early albums, he had begun to explore Mediterranean cultures and acoustic genres like flamenco.

He combines blindingly fast scalar runs with subtle, dazzling rhythms, and melodic phrases.

Although a master of the electric guitar, he has stepped away from the electric guitar due to hearing damage (manifested as tinnitus) from years of playing at excessive volume.

Saturday's international lineup featured Victor Miranda (Cuba) filling in for regular Bunny Brunel on bass (Brunel is working with Stanley Clarke on a project), Peter Kaszas (Hungary) on drums, Peo Alfonis (Verona, Italy) on guitar, long-time collaborator Gumbi Ortiz (USA) on percussion, and Fausto Beccalossi (Italy) on accordion.

Our reporters noted that Fausto was a particular crowd favorite, earning loud appreciative applause

Pieces performed included Estero, Siberianna, and Michelangelo's Seventh Child, plus the Astor Piazolla work Double Concerto.

The Mediteranean flavor of di Meola's work continued with heavily flamenco-inflected rhythms and less of the progressive distortion that di meola briefly flirted with some time ago.

He did bring out the solid-body, rainbow-painted electric guitar for the encore. All told, it was a stomping good time at Yoshi's West and several folks stayed over for the second show.


Friday night launched the long awaited concert venue at the Fox Theatre on T'graph in Oakland. The long-derelict theatre, built in the twenties as a "movie palace" has not had a paying customer walk through the doors in over 43 years, but has been the subject of one of the country's most lavish restorations in an effort to revitalized Oaktown's nightlife, together with her sister around the block, the Paramount.

The 75 million dollar multi-use renovation project will feature a state-of-the-art theater with flexible capacity from 1,500 to 2,800. The multiple seating configurations include general admission, cabaret style seating, and reserved seating.

According to the Frends of the Oakland Fox group, "the theater's architecture is an interesting mixture of styles: Indian, Moorish, Medieval (the gargoyles at roof level), and Baghdadian (its name was originally to be "The Bagdad" [sic]). Its style is perhaps best summed up by another writer's assessment: "one part Arab and three parts Hollywood hokum."

The space consists of a seated balcony, reserved box seats, and a logically designed series of standing terraces about fifteen to twenty feet wide arranged in a semicircle with balusters and wet bars looking down on the stage and a smallish "pit" that could hold about 150-200 folks. It really was an excellent design that allowed for easy traffic to flow up side and middle aisles and provide excellent visuals as well as acoustics for all spots in the house.

After a quasi-private gala (Tickets starting at $450 a pop on Thursday night, the venue kicked off in high style with a venerable icon of Alternative Music, Social Distortion, preceded by rough rockers Black Tibetans and the popular Santa Cruz group Devil Makes Three.

The Black Tibetans opened up at 8:05pm with a crunching punk set that featured the rhythm guitarist performing a fair number of antics with his instrument, which seemed to be assaulting the poor fellow until the man just fell to the floor at one point. During a particularly energetic song, the man climbed onto the stereo stack, and when the break came, he descended the quickest way possible -- he jumped. After taking a fall of some fifteen feet in mid solo he skidded forward on his knees with the lead vocalist looking down on him with an expression that said, "WTF!"

Rehearsals must be really rough.

There version of "Have Love, will Travel" stood out.

Devil Makes 3 is actually a bluegrass trio consisting of guitarist/frontman Pete Bernhard, stand-up bassist Lucia Turino and guitarist/banjo player Cooper McBean and they have been garnering some buzz down Santa Cruz way and also from Europe from where the group has recently concluded a wildly successful tour.

Bernhard and McBean both have fronted punk bands before this rendition that largely features Bernhard's gritty barroom lyrics and powerful vocals, which sort of makes sense given the headliners, however it was clear that the 3,000 soul Sold Out Fox was not the venue for them that night, although Bernhard carried forth like a trooper, shouting, howling and testifying with fan favorites like "Old No. 7", and a curiously punk "St. James Infirmary". Bracketing the acoustic band with two electric punk groups seemed a little unfair, and we would like to see them again in a more intimate venue. They were actually pretty good, taken in themselves and on their own merits, but suffered by comparison and set placement. A couple groupies, driven up from Santa Cruz agreed with our evaluation.

Given that the preceding band consisted of such thin electronics, the extended wait of some half hour to forty five minutes for the headliners was really inexcusable. Social D didn't come on until ten sharp and the preceding sets had clocked in at 30 and 40 minutes a piece, starting at eight. That's a lot of standing and waiting.

Minor kink there.

When Mike Ness and company finally did walk on stage, they launched into a blistering 90 minute set, beginning with "Don't Drag Me Down" and zipping through the tunes found on the Live at the Roxy CD, including Bad Luck, Mommy's Little Monster, Mass Hysteria, So Far Away, Prison Bound, and Sick Boys. They also tossed in newer material, with Ness reminding the audience Social D had been thrashing around for about thirty years.

"Which makes me about 36 years old, right?" he quipped.

Whatever the man's age, he strode about with rippling muscles the size of beerkegs, clearly one punk who has stayed in excellent shape, and proving so with the characteristic leaps high into the air that none of us can do here even after several cups of espresso.

Although billed as "punk", and certainly endowed with sufficient attitude to be entitled to the name, Social Distortion has always had a more melodic and instrumentally sophisticated quality to them than the vast majority of bands that have arisen to flame out after a short while. Johnny Rotten, Sex Pistols, Black Flag, etc. all had sufficient energy to burn only for a while, as Mike Ness seems to have drawn on some kind of black pool of power that keeps him going. His songs also always have had a sliver of distance between himself and his subjects: alcoholic losers, petty criminals, f--k ups, white trash, and dopers which ads a fair amount of complexity, or at least just enough to keep the songs iconic and interesting for a long time.
He also, perhaps most importantly, never has traded the slightest iota of integrity for anything, choosing his terms carefully and sticking to them with uncompromising passion. In the punk world, that counts for an awful lot.

The newer material, and a sort of outlaw ballad called "Bakersfield" sounded fresh, although some critics complained about the set losing focus. We queried audience members and couldn't find a dissatisfied soul, with people eagerly chattering about the excitement after the roaring encore of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" sent them back out onto the streets.

Heck, with over three thousand people singing along to at least five songs that we counted, and a tossing mosh pit that just would not quit, you would think that the critics could cut some slack for the little band from Orange County that could.

Well, Social Distortion could and they did and after thirty years they have a new CD coming out. We welcome that and wish Mike and company another thirty years if they want.


Shifting gears quite dramatically, we just want to make a quick note here on the lastest release by Island-Lifer and Spiritual Advisor, Rex Suru, who has just released his 2nd CD of Afro-pop music. The release on indie house Cherubim Vibes Records features guest musician Adesoji Odukogbe (Nigeria) who has performed with the great Fela Kuti of Nigeria, the man who basically put Afro-pop on the international map with his pan-African fervor.

The CD is titled "Father is With You" and is both a nod to Rex's paternal father as well as to his guiding religious spirit. This outing is much more overtly religious than the preceding effort, but is also

The CD is easy listening in the sense that this music is about the heart and positive energy overcoming obstacles in the face of the world's disasters and trouble. The political intonation is subsumed for the most part beneath this upwelling of spiritual emotion, save for the overtly titled "My Constitution".

Given the nature of the times we face now, and will face in the coming months and years, this might be just the ticket to easing the soul on difficult days. In a time when so many are eager to leap out of their cars brandishing weapons at the slightest imagined slight, this is one made to heal.

There is a greater employment of the female voice here than in previous efforts, which we really would like to hear more of, for Rex Suru really excels in arrangement and professionally polished production. He has said that the next CD is planned to be different entirely, so we shall see.

"Father is with you" is available online from, an independent distributor.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Winter returned to the Bay area with Michelangelo clouds and sodden evenings. Everyone is staying indoors right now, even on the weekends, getting those little carpentry projects done, fixing the sink, and generally finding things to do around the house or in the garage.

We've been so busy here at Island-Life with the Elections -- some of us volunteered as pollworkers, others on campaigns -- and the post-election hoopla that we are just now getting around to the beginning of the year round up. Still need to do the Annual WTF is Island-Life issue and the Editor is about to tear out the few remaining hairs that float about his crown like a pale nimbus aureole or an experiment by some mad German scientist in static electricity.

Right sir, get right on it. Yes sir. Life in the contemporary American workplace. Gone are the times past when employee loyalty was rewarded by years of constant paycheck. Those times are gone, now sonny. You been outsourced now.

Still, from the ghostly mists that shroud the shadows of the long unemployment lines and the lines at the bread lottery of the Episcopal Church one can hear this distant, far off, haunting tune, a faint echoing of struggles past, the revenant of a spectral million voices.

"I have seen them by the watchfires of a hundred sterno camps
I have seen them by the picket lines in the evening dews and damps
I have seen the men who fought for the eight hour day
I have seen the men and women who died for equal pay
I have seen the coming of its terrible swift sword
for the Union makes Us strong . . . !"

Over at Marlene and Andre's, Marlene is resting, for once, on the the battered sofa that Mancini trades as a bed with Rolf in shifts. The head of Bonkers rests on her lap and the warm body of Johnny Cash lay on her feet -- an excellent position, as nobody could afford to turn on the heat in the house and nobody knew how to effect such a maneuver had anyone understood anything about gas and pilot lights.

Or was the central heat supposed to be steam? Nobody had ever figured that one out, having employed the disconnected corrugated radiators as tables and fishtank supports for many years now.

Mr. Howitzer had them all de-piped a while ago anyway as a water-saving measure.

Marlene was relaxing with the earphones on listening to Pavement and trying not to look at the charred remains of her erstwhile wedding dress that somebody had spiked to the wall as a sort of artwork descriptive of disaster. Maybe she had done it. She couldn't remember and did not want to anyway. That had been an evil Thanksgiving.

Andre sat on a chair strumming an outlaw love song while Tipitina and Marsha tried to keep Jose and Xavier from spoiling everything with ernest sincerity and good-intentions.

Xavier got sent away with several onions to dice up, but without any useful tool for doing so, and that is how Xavier and Jose got to mashing onions with a stick out back.

It was a jolly household there in that one bedroom cottage, built probably around 1922 for the purposes of a single family to enjoy the salt air of what had once been the beach during the summer holidays before some mayor collected tons of debris and built another beach a ways off where before there had only been bay. Then the beachside attraction park called Neptune Beach had gone belly up, leaving these isolated chalets tucked behind landfill and an artificial, stagnant lagoon, unsellable and unrentable -- as long as the Navy Base had been there for eons, with all of its colorful highlife, tattoo parlors, pool halls, nudie bars, and similar things that kids find fun to do when away from home for the first time, making the property inherited by Mr. Howitzer an unlikely piece of real estate.

Well, the Navy moved out, greed became a virtue, the nudie bars turned into tiki themed restaurants, and somewhere in the middle Marlene and Andre moved in while the local meth dealers still ran a brisk trade and the tattoo parlors still provided a valid service or two.

Times change and so does rent. As the times decay, the rent rises, and the little one bedroom household took on more and more sublets to account for increases in rent that failed to match the lack of remuneration all around, until the cheerful company now included Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, and Markus the dog, Pedro, who sleeps in the closet on a cot, Occasional Quentin who occasionally sleeps underneath the coffee table, Rolf, Suan the stripper, Alexis, Mancini, Sarah (she of the Sisters of Rosetta Tharp), Pahrump (who failed to get elected to office again), and the dogs Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. Born and raised Californians, one and all.

This does not include Februs, the messenger hamster who sometimes fought with the cats, often winning, and the racoons who lived underneath the remains of the front porch. Februs had the nastiest disposition of any of them. Perhaps because he had been born and raised in Vermont. He was an hamster with a chip on his shoulder.

This evening was especially compacted as, because of the rains, everybody had selected to sleep indoors, and it began to look like somebody might have to unroll a sleeping bag on the porch for lack of floorspace.

So its raining and Jose and Xavier are out mashing onions and Mr. Johnson next door, who did not approve of certain kinds of music or certain lifestyles, and who necessarily did not approve of Marlene and Andre's household, and who still believed that he had made all the Right Choices -- except for maybe a few items involving a formerly robust 401k -- was trying to get his BBQ lit in a perfect storm underneath an umbrella held by his insipid nephew, Carleton.

It seemed no matter how much lighter fluid went down there -- how much had he squirted already? -- the god damned thing would not stay lit. Blame Charley for wanted the fajitas perfectly seared. Well why don't you just use the broiler. Oh, you just don't understand. we paid all that money for mesquite charcoal and you complained then and you are complaining now. The Blathers are here tonight. And the Cribbage family. Just get over it.

Well, you get the idea. It was a family squabble involving others and that is the worst kind. One had appearances to keep up and appearances involved about ten pounds of tri-tip stacked there in a neat pool of marinade. Slowly diluting with rain drops as Mr. Johnson tried and failed to get the g--d d---d bbq flaming. And his nephew there.

Who happened to be a boy scout. Not quite Eagle, of course. Despite years of trying, he was about to be mustered out due to age, having failed to advance beyond the curiously titled rank of "Lifer".

Yes, if you had been a boy scout for ten years, and you had been made a "Lifer", your future was not assured.

Perhaps in aluminum siding, but not in higher circles.

It just so happened that our perennial scout had a lump of manganese fire starter in his pocket. Which he offered to the increasingly distraught Mr. Johnson.

Now it should be mentioned that there is a very good reason that manganese is used for emergency firestarting, as once ignited, it will burn under any conditions, including underwater, and cannot be extinguished.

Since matches had failed and bic lighters seemed unworthy, Mr. Johnson conceived of the grand idea of resolving this issue in true California style, along the lines of the Spirit of '49. Here, he planned to teach Nature a thing or two.

He went to the garage and returned with an highway flare, which ignited readily enough. This he applied to the manganese, which, sure enough, ignited right there on the Weber grill. Which, sure enough caused the fluid there to go Whoop! in a most satisfactory ball of flames.

Now for the issue of what to do with the flare, which continued to get hotter in Mr. Johnson's hand. This he set on the ashtray there on the sideboard table.

Enrapt they watched as the white heat of the inferno burnt holes in their retinas, and waited for the fire to die and the coals to take.

This did not happen.

Instead the white hot manganese burned quickly through the soft coal to the bottom of the made-in-China BBQ, where it melted the thin bottom quite through and dripped in flaming gobs of hot molten pot metal to the aluminum tray there, which, being the nature of aluminum of Chinese alloy, also caught fire. This assembly then dropped with astonishing speed to the table beneath and set that on fire as well, which process remained entirely undetected as the nephew got stirred to fetch unneeded implements by the suddenly important Mr. Johnson and said Mr. Johnson stood aside to smoke a cigarette.

The two converged as the fire engulfed the table, the awning and the BBQ unit as well as the conveniently placed bottle of lighter fluid, which went up in a really spectacular fireball that arose above the roof.

The nephew thoughtfully put the steak marinade aside as the only reasonable action to take.

As Mrs. Johnson rushed out to scream obscenities and direct the garden hose at the blaze, which succeeded in carrying rivulets of fire to various far corners of the yard, the guests looked out in wonder from the windows.

Somebody, perhaps a neighbor, called the fire department. Which, because of the budget cutbacks, and station "brownouts", was delayed.

"We'll get there, don't you worry," said the Operator. "Just hang tight for a bit."

Sensing opportunity, Johnny Cash, followed by Bonkers and Wickiwup entered the yard, each taking a tri-tip. Once satisfied, the three, being of naturally communal nature, decided to share their findings and so each brought a dripping steak back to the House of Marlene and Andre.

Marlene, having seen two dogs exit with two t-bone steaks not a two days earlier, marveled to see three dogs return with three tri-tip steaks and then return again with three more and to her astonishment, yet another three. It really was a most marvelous game of fetch for the dogs for they were lavished with praise in the kitchen with each retrieval.

That night, the household dined well on found proceeds, instead of spaghetti, while enjoying a spectacular show next door.

Andre complemented the chefs. "Eff you!" they said.

"Eff you," said Andre. And they all tucked in. With potatoes and peppers from the 99 Cent store. A feast.

Across the estuary came the wail of the through passing train as it hooted its way through the rain and night shrouded Jack London Waterfront.

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

FEBRUARY 15, 2008


Right now the storm clouds are lowering over the Golden State with leaden weight and a real dockwalloper has set in with a vengeance to drench NorCal. Folks report that the periodic deliveries of "day old" breadstuffs to the Mastic Center are being scarfed up within minutes. In other parts of the country, great ice storms have knocked out power to millions of people while the deep quiet of snow blankets the states from Kansas to North Carolina and even Florida has reported snow days.

But take heart unto this news. The longest night of the year has passed and each hour pulls the face of our common Mother, Gaia, further back towards the light of the sun for a bit longer. Under the lash of rain, down in the plot by the Old Fence, strange things are happening. During a brief lull in the storms, we managed to capture this image of sweetpeas blooming through the wire.

To our dear friends in Minnesota and distant Winnipeg, we send these words of hope; take heart, for the earth's eternal revolve shall come round at last to you.

While the recent storms here mean yet more misery for a while to the East in a few days, they signify long awaited relief from the impending drought in the Golden State.


Donna Summer probably would approve of the latest Berkeley Rep offering, although it does appear more than a couple straitlaced critics seem to have missed the boat on the production in their attempts to appear "broadminded."

The world-premier production of Sarah Ruhl's latest offering, "In the Next Room (The Vibrator Play)" is not without its problems, but we think the play is a strong offering from the Rep and succeeds more often than falls short with a total effect of a resounding success well-earned by a topnotch cast and quietly effective set design by Annie Smart and marvelously executed period costumes by David Zinn.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Stacy Ross, Maria Dizzia and Paul Niebanck star in a new comedy about marriage, intimacy…and electricity. The world premiere of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) reunites MacArthur genius Sarah Ruhl and Obie Award-winning director Les Waters. Photo courtesy of

The play involves the turn of the 20th century psychiatric practice of a physician, steeped in Freudianism, who employs the newfangled invention of electricity to power the equally newfangled invention of the vibrator to "elucidate paroxysms" and so cure "hysteria" caused by "congestion in the womb."

Berkeley Rep dramaturgs and Stage Managers went into Deep Mode to research the issues and history of this complex of issues, discovering a whole culture of nascent orgasm devices, which -- to our modern astonishment -- seemed entirely disassociated from sexual impulse.

To fix a few facts here regarding the early days of electricity, some of which events are directly referred in the play, lets set the record right.

Thales of Miletus (640-546 B.C.) is credited with the discovery that amber when rubbed acquired the property of attracting light objects. The word electricity comes from "elektron" the Greek word for amber. Otto von Guericke invented the first static electric generator in 1675, while the first current generator was made by Alosio Galvani in 1780. But except for some supposed medicinal applications, electricity had little use.

Thales is referenced by the "student of Greek" Annie, the doctor's midwife helper, who turns out to be quite as learned as the best of the scientists.

The first major AC power station was built at Niagara Falls in 1888, and the success of this generator basically doomed Edison's DC current ideology.

During the period defined by the play, Edison went at loggerheads with Tesla, his former employee, over the issue of DC versus AC current. Edison, a brute-force inventor, lacked the math skills to understand that Tesla, sometimes regarded as the founder of modern physics, was correct in his assertions about the practical delivery of electricity. Edison held public demonstrations in which various animals were electrocuted to death to "prove" that AC was more "dangerous" than DC. The incident referenced in the play in which an elephant was electrocuted occurred in 1887 in Coney Island as part of the "war of the currents" between Edison and Tesla.

A lot of this background resides behind the play, and more besides, as Ruhl is a fairly well-educated playwright, but fortunately none of this matters.

What is important to know is that as the clock ticked over from the 1800's to the Edwardian 1900's, a social malaise of detachment nearly paralyzed society and human relations in Europe and the Americas. This malaise acquired the term "hysteria" as borrowed from the young genius of a Viennese doctor named Sigmund Freud. Succeeding generations, more impressed with genius than with the effort to redefine something that seemed so conveniently provided, have absorbed Freud's formulation of the Unconscious with religious, and, dare we say, Victorian rigidity.

When the effects of the Unconscious are made to boil to the surface, as during orgasm, they can no longer be called "unconscious" by definition, but they certainly will cause some changes and disturbances.

As Dr. Givings affects a "scientific detachment" during sessions that administer orgasm after orgasm to woman after woman, plus an occasional man, he innocently is opening up a Pandora's box of disturbances (pun intended). It is the effect of these changes on a couple of his patients, a woman and a male artist, and their effect upon his wife that cause the crisis of the play.

Mrs. Givings, portrayed wonderfully by a blithely chatty, yet nuanced Hannah Cabel, appears to be the most post-Victorian character in the play, seemingly free of the interior inhibitions that so block the majority of the characters from self-realization and happiness.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Maria Dizzia and Hannah Cabell star in the world premiere of In the Next Room (or the vibrator play).

Her husband, however, is the cause of much of her trouble. In the second act she erupts with anger about the unfairness towards her. "You! You are always in the next room. With other women! And men!"

It turns out the doctor is the most hysterically inhibited to the extent of stinting his own wife as she bounced between lesbian affection and impulsive self-destructiveness, asking the artist to take her to Paris with him although it is clear he is not attracted to her sexually in the slightest. In one of the kindest put-downs ever presented, the artist, played by Joaquin Torres tells her, "You don't really love me. You don't. And I actually prefer . . . different . . . eyes. Eyes, yes! I cannot see your soul through your eyes. You see . . . ?" It is subtly done, for it is not so much the eyes as a different gender he "prefers."

In the end, Mrs. Givings discovers a strength in herself to save her marriage and her husband in a way that feels anachronistic, which is a criticism levied by some of the critics out there.

Most of the characters are quite post-Victorian in their eager willingness to explore their sexuality, and so veracity of time and place is damaged, but in the end, who really cares about that? If the play were a period piece devoted to restoring a time, we all would be quickly bored to tears. One might as well spend the evening watching another interminable performance of Shaw or Ibsen. The play is about our current issues, very much alive and with us, of associating sex and love and the necessity for both as well as the necessity of truthfulness to one's own feelings.

In fact, the more the actors adhere to period manners and stilted delivery, the less the play works. The sooner such things are put aside, the more the play is able to breath, like the artist played by Joaquin Torres, who comes on speaking with a faux British accent until he loosens up a bit with the help of the good doctor's "Chattanooga device." In a glorious fit of creative impulse, he arranges to paint the wetnurse as a "Madonna" doing pretty much what wetnurses do. "Why is it so few madonnas are painted giving suck? Have you ever thought about that?" he says. Take note, Facebook.

So we observe some characters wearing scarves and funny hats that call forth another age. Well and good. The Past is dead and good riddance to it. Lets use them to comment on our time today. In this Ruhl succeeds quite well. The final image, which features two characters standing naked in the garden somewhere in upstate New York as the snow falls is clearly an idealization and not meant to be taken as a "realistic" evocation of a time and place at all. From subject matter that includes electric vibrators, orgasms, sex, prudery, Freudianism, an awful lot of face-slapping, and infidelity, we arrive at the representation of ideal love in the form of two people forming "snow angels". There you go.

Ruhl has created a beautiful image and Les Waters has directed that well. So we leave you with that.

Kudos to Melle Powers as the wetnurse, Elizabeth, for delivering an emotionally powerful soliloquy on the death of a child. Ah yes, there is that as well. While Mrs. Givings has the lion's share of one-line zingers in the play, Elizabeth presents the solidity of sincerely felt emotion that the other characters find lacking. When Elizabeth suggests that one can experience ecstatic happiness with one's husband, as opposed with with a machine, Mrs. Givings and Mrs. Daldry burst out with incredulous laughter. "With one's husband?! Oh God!" In Elizabeth is the foil of human warmth to Dr. Giving's starchy pomposity, a warmth that only Mrs. Givings appears to sense is absent in herself and others.

It is a mark of hope, as presented by playwright Ruhl, that Mrs. Givings is not only able to recover this warmth in herself but find the resources to resurrect the long buried humanity in her husband at the end as well.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Melle Powers, Hannah Cabell and Joaquín Torres star in a new comedy about marriage, intimacy…and electricity. Photo courtesy of

“In the Next Room (or the vibrator play)” runs through March 15 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison Ave. Information: +1-510-647-2949;

Sarah Ruhl, Playwright
Les Waters, Director
Annie Smart, Scenic Design
David Zinn, Costume Design
Bray Poor, Sound Design
Russell H. Champa, Lighting Design
Jonathan Bell, Composer
Madeleine Oldham, Dramaturg
Michael Suenkel, Production Stage Manager
Amy Potozkin, Casting
Janet Foster, Casting
Mina Morita, Assistant Director
Larry Dunlap, Pianist

Hannah Cabell, Catherine Givings
Stacy Ross, Annie (the midwife assistant)
Paul Niebanck, Dr. Givings
Maria Dizzia, Sabrina Daldry
John Leonard Thompson, Mr. Daldry
Melle Powers, Elizabeth (the wetnurse)
Joaquín Torres, Leo Irving

All actors in this world-premier are Equity members.


The Island recently passed a macabre milestone recently, as our murder rate escalated from one every few years or so to three last year and two already this year -- while the year is yet young. In a true WTF incident, a chess game at 1220 Park Avenue -- a block from our Social Coordinator's apartment on the East End -- ended violently when Joseph Groom allegedly stabbed his friend and chess partner with a short sword during an argument. The deceased was named Kelly Kjersem. Police describe Groom as "pretty intoxicated" when they arrested him after he abruptly admitted killing his friend, while also admitting that he did not know why he had done so.

On January 14th, a man shot first his wife, then himself in what police term a murder/suicide. Apparently recent financial reversals had driven Robert Gragg of Bay Farm Island to send e-mail messages announcing that the couple were planning to end themselves. There is no evidence that Nancy Devlin knew of these plans before she was shot in her bed by her husband.


The City expects the overall shortfall of $900,000 in the annual 2008-09 budget, ending its fiscal term at the end of June to be covered by savings in the General Fund, which sounds a bit like accountancy hocus-pocus, but nevertheless a good sign for the brief interim. At the end of the day, we remain in the green, at least for the nonce . . .

IPD collared a feller for paraphernalia and possession of an "illegal gravity knife." Now, since objects, as opposed to actions, cannot be "illegal" we thought to look into the matter. Turns out "gravity knife" is a sort of Victorian concept of a knife that local authorities object to and nothing more concrete than that.

The category includes, sometimes, but not always, military-issued parachute blades, butterfly knives, common shivs, and god knows what else, excluding the famous switchblade from West Side Story fame. Putting a spring in there excludes the category, apparently. So it is now okay to carry certain kinds of switchblades, but not a parachute tool. Heck if you want to stab or slice somebody, a common kitchen paring knife will do just as well. . .

The human remains found by DPW workers on the 3000 block of Washington Street turned out to be that of a Native American child. The bones have been turned over to the Native American Heritage Commission in Sacto, who will locate any descendants for re-interment . . .

A recent letter to the editor of the Island Gerbil credits the City Librarian, Jane Chisaki, for the idea of the free inauguration viewing at the library January 20th. Many thanks to the Island League of Women Voters for supporting that event and for giving credit where credit is due. . . .


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. That cold front which moved out of Hawaii a week ago finally got here, trailing a great line of thunderstorms that have been drenching the Bay Area with needed precipitation for five days.

Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt was seen at Jacks Bistro with his usual consort, who uncharacteristically gave a nod to the weather by donning boots and a slicker over her usual sans culottes attire. Pity the dedicated nudist in Wintertime. Madeline had been complaining to Jacqueline that Percy just didn't seem to be noticing her as much any more. That's when Jacqueline had come up with the novel idea of putting some clothes on the girl. Nothing really fancy, just a simple black dress, a few paste jewels here and there, some highlights for the hair. . . and Voila! When Percy laid eyes on her coming through the door, he was stunned into an acre of silence.

"My darling, you look absolutely ravishing!" he exclaimed. Well, we shall see what happens when the weather warms up.

Another one to pity is Bear, for his vintage Panhead must remain in dry dock beside the livingroom couch until all this moisture clears up. In true Bear style he taxied over to Chinatown there to fetch up a mess of rockfish and roses to give to Sophie on V-Day. He is such a Romantic, that Bear.

The Editor has Sophie to thank for keeping Bear out of his hair on this largely manufactured holiday, a day on which the Editor tends to keep a really low profile, largely to stay out of the clutches of Bear, for he had no desire to spend another Valentines eve in the 7th Street slammer with Bear and his friends like the last time (see sidebar story, Bear Gets the Editor into Trouble). That's why every year the Editor comes in with a case of Glenfiddich and soda to lock the door to his office and remain there for 72 hours straight with a camping port-a-potty until all the danger has passed. One year the leggy Joanne came striding up to pound on the door to his office with a look in her eye that meant business, but open up he would not. So Joanne twirled about on those six-inch stiletto heels of hers and strode out while Jose and Piedro cowered behind the file cabinets and all the copyboys scattered not unlike chaff blown before the wind of the Lord in a whirl of flying papers.

Joanne was one woman you just did not want to mess with.

Rumor has it she has taken up of late with one of those Boho nature poets, the kind that likes to dance around with vine leaves in his hair while singing the Greek and all of that. Whatever.

That loving stuff is a nasty piece of business all right. Get a fellow killed if he wasn't careful to step lively. "Never fall in love," the Editor told Denby as he finally emerged late Sunday evening. "It will stick to your face."

Fortunately, bad weather sent most of the trouble indoors this time. Certain localities were ones to be avoided and they were well known. But by late Sunday, those localities had become safe havens once again.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie and Dawn are serving up hot toddies and what Padriac calls "Gaelic Coffee". The Irish, according to Padraic, would never originate anything like ruining the "daycent water o' life" with brown mud.

Suan was in there, all tuckered out from her job at the Crazy Horse, where Management had flung open the doors for the "V-Day Extravaganza Bonanza!" When it comes to making money off of anything resembling affection of the physical kind, FTD, Ghiradelli's, and places like the Crazy Horse rake it in on weekends like this one. When its all over, the florist takes a shot from an inhaler, the chocolatier chews a lemon rind and the stripper takes Tylenol No. 3 with her beer.

It was early yet, so her timeshare bunk over at Marlene and Andre's place would not be free just yet. Because of the rain, those folks who sometimes slept outside had elected to occupy dryer zones in the one bedroom bungalow there on Otis. Snuffles Johnson had taken to sleeping in the charred hole in the porch with the opossum and the raccoons, so it was crowded everywhere.

Just then Wally came in, dripping wet, carrying his shoes, which he put on there in the entrance before sloshing over to order a brandy toddy with a brandy chaser and perhaps a brandy on top of that. Make mine a double.

Seems his date with Maeve had not gone well and he had wound up standing out in the garden in the rain until she had opened up her window to throw his shoes at his head from the second floor.

"Some things you just cannot explain", said Wally, shaking his head.

"Some women are like that," Eugene said.

"What do you mean by that," Suan said, ready for a fight.

"She showed some kindness, there. Could have kept the shoes." Answered Eugene. He knew Suan was Off Limits, even if he had possessed the emotional, intellectual or physical ability in any dimension required to handle her. It could be justifiably said that his success in even handling himself was subject to audit.

Later on, as Suzie closed up for the night she noticed two women with bicycles standing on the curb -- it was Lynette and Susan. Susan was staring straight up into the sky, letting the rain fall on her face as they waited for traffic to clear before crossing the street. That's when Lynette leaned over and kissed her lightly on the cheek. Susan's face brightened then, and the two of them ran with their bicycles across the street and disappeared down the block. Their laughter dissolved into the steady rush of the water along the gutters.

Suzie looked up and let the rain drops tap on her forehead, her lips, and her lashes like soft wet kisses until the strands of her dark hair dripped down to either side. But there was no one there but herself. So she tilted her head down and walked home beneath the glowing streetlights. She had left her umbrella inside the bar, but did not go back to fetch it and the rain drove through the sequential penumbras of light like diamonds suddenly there and gone again.

It's a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but on this Island there is someone still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions: Suzie Maldonado.

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


FEBRUARY 22, 2009


This week's headline is shamelessly ripped from another media organ, but because of the rain, we have not been getting the usual images over the wire and our photographer, Gustav, has curled into a fetal position in the staff lounge after going on a new course of anti-depressants, so we are all standing around wondering when this situation is going to change for the better.

Sharon, our in-house psych-nurse, has tried everything, including boxes of donuts from the Panaceria on International Blvd., and heavy doses of B12 but nothing doing. Gustav just moans and mutters half-mumbled complaints that the "trickled-down economy" has pissed all over him.

"Meeena Rente is total verlooooooooren . . .!" says Gustav over and over.

These foreigners. What can you do with them?

Any way this week, in honor of our periodic review of the foreign language media, we present the cover to the latest edition of Der Spiegel, Germany's rough equivalent to our Time Magazine. The bylines say it all, and translate as follows:

Billion-dollar Premiums for Bankers


A look inside an Incorrigible Guild

Incorrigible can also be translated as "unteachable".

Kinda says it all, don't it?


Okay now. To continue on a theme our review of Der Spiegel, Frankfurter Allgemein and Bild turned up the following items not found on the English language versions of the online media.

A while ago, we noted a plethora of social disturbance stories all centered around the people in various countries all getting really hopping mad about the state of things, starting with the notorious example of Iceland, where the entire country basically just went bankrupt, resulting in a belated nationalization of the financial system there.

Everybody knows, or should know, about Greece, where truckers have basically shut down the entire country by parking their big rigs on the major freeways to hold what amounts to a massive tailgate party of serveral million people. The students, meanwhile have put a halt to anything else that happened to be going on with massive rioting in the cities of Pelleponese.

Unreported here are the widespread riots and civil unrest spreading through the Balkan countries.

Somewhat duplicated here was the alarm expressed by some mediawatchers on how the newspaper and magazine market has declined. A recent Spiegel article was titled "Panic is not a business model". The article looked at newspaper offerings as "shareware" on the Internet.

Everybody loves boobs, Europeans and Americans alike, and everybody loves a media frenzy over the subject. Witness last year's brough-ha-ha over Janet Jackson's public "wardrobe malfunction." And Facebook's current silliness over breast-feeding.

But when it comes to a major head of state, well, now we are talking about something on a different order entirely.

By the time you read this, all the fuss shall have evaporated, for the furor concerns one particular float slated for the annual Koln Karnival parade, a massive blowout with the same aims and history as our New Orleans Mardi Gras.

Apparently some folks are in a snit over a float that appeared previously in Dusseldorf's smaller pre-lenten parade that featured a half-naked Bundespraesident, Angela Merkel.

According to Der Spiegel, "...The head of Rose Monday procession, Christoph Kuckelkorn, told SPIEGEL ONLINE later on Tuesday: "She will be wearing a bikini. This isn't Düsseldorf! The float looks great and we've had a great response to our procession floats."

Those pasties appear to be German eagles and the word "VORHER" means "Previously."

The Rhine cities of Cologne and Düsseldorf are bitter rivals when it comes to celebrating Karnival, and Düsseldorf has a reputation for being more bitingly satirical in the design of its floats.

The Cologne float shows Merkel before and after she has had her "problem zones" lifted, such as the plunging economy and government debt, to name a few.

Whether Merkel will approve remains to be seen. But it seems certain that her cleavage will be generating more media coverage over the next week than at any time since she appeared in a low-cut dress at an opera in Oslo last year."

On top of all that, we really like the snippy comment from Kuckelhorn, "This isn't Düsseldorf!"

Yes, we are above all of that. A bikini for the President, of course.

As for our homegrown auto industry coming to the doors of Congress, crying and with hat in hand, here comes the German version of the same story.


Tricky Rick Wagoner is well known to the Germans, for it was the GM General Manager who finagled the deals to acquire Opel, much against the best advice of everyone. The sub-article is titled, "Why Opel was better without GM", and the article starts out with ". . . his eternal optimism is grotesque. Neither politicians nor investors should believe a single word he says any longer . . .".

Le Monde reported, besides its concern with the quadruple murder during a terrorist bombing attack in Cairo, on the world financial crisis. The European Union, propelled early on to take action independent of the US has been enacted measures intended to defend itself from further erosion quite seperate from America.

The French, always eager for cultural news, are frothing over the Oscars, with Slumdog Millionaire and Heath Ledger leading the polls in interest.

The nearby Swiss are in a bit of hot water regarding all those "secret Swiss bank accounts" which it seems many a criminal used to shield ill-gotten gains and others simply to evade the IRS. The Swiss are now cooperating fully with disclosure of these accounts.

The latest European nation to erupt in protest turned out to be Ireland, where over 100,000 folks turned out to call the Taischeach Cowen some vile names and curse the Dail as well in dear dirty Dublin. Ireland is looking at a "retraction" of some 10% this year in its economy and the people are really unhappy about that.

Ran out of time before getting to the Spanish media, but rest, assured, they appear to be equally as jaundiced about things right about now.


IPD snagged a minor quantity of packaged methamphetamine Tuesday when they had a dog sniff a parked car following the arrest of a man on a bench warrant from an earlier narcotics case. About three and a half ounces of the poison were found in the man's car and in that of his girlfriend. Street value was described as about $3,000.

In other news, the boy who was rescued from his dad after his dear old da tried to strangle him here on the Island appears to be doing fairly well after a hospital visit for a crushed trachea. Officers reported that the paramedics responding to a "not breathing, no pulse" 911 call had been requested for a firearm, so that the man could kill his wife.

Please provide gun, now. Thank you.

Instead of helping to murder an innocent woman, the paramedics had the man arrested, which is, after all, the proper thing to do.

So we are still at two murders for the year.

In a sign of "hard times" the kids snapped up for robbing banks listed as one excuse recently in the Oakland Trib that "Times are tough; the people have stopped buying drugs and we needed the money . . .". Apparently all the staff down at hard times Sausal Creek Treatment Facility, where they see the real hard times every day, are in stitches over this report.

O pity the fools. Nobody was buying drugs, so they just had to do something. Something other than getting a job as a grocery store clerk, apparently.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After two day dry-out period, a real dockwalloper has set in with earnest endeavor here, promising yet more misery for places East of here. Sorry about that, but other than let you know what is coming, there is little we can do.

Here we have the age-old, usual California winter with its powerful storms that come sweeping in across the oddly-named Pacific, but its all a bit too late now for the amount of rain that is barely measures to half of what is needed to pack the snow above and fill the reservoirs, so we are seeing no respite in the rationing.

All the while this stormy stuff goes on a solitary yellow daffodowndilly has erupted down there by the Old Fence, nodding through all the ruckus, doing pretty much what it and its sisters have done since time immemorial. Reminded us that this glowering period of weather is just a blip in the history of things, and soon Spring will uncoil with its powerful green mysteries. Down amid the blowing leaves and dark wrack of things torn loose, the bright head of the flower continues to glow, fragile and still there, beaded with rain.

Amber lost her job and moved out. Helen lost hers at the insurance firm and now she is fighting against the rent increase. Owen's 188 customers are down to just two now, with the others gone bust or bought out by Japanese companies. Rex got laid off from the bridge construction a while ago due to injuries, and the others are just scraping by. Carol issues daily reports on the donated free bread deliveries at Mastic Center. So is the nature of this household, the Peoples Republic of St. Charles in this time of Troubles. We are a little people, much like Hobbits, who do not much like adventures, but who make our warrens and dens here a small snug against the predations of the Big World, hoping only to go unnoticed as They stomp and they stomp and they stomp with great big boots all over the world.

Some Manager Type got into a Power Snit over things and ordered many of the trees cut down along the side of the building, leaving it all terribly naked and subject to the weather right now. We have not seen the racoons or the squirrels since that terrible day of chainsaws. There was no real reason to cut the trees, for the neighbors loved their overarching boughs and the shade provided sweet relief in the hot summer months and the people there delighted in the clambering of all sorts of animals through the day and the night.

In the offices of Island-Life, the hum of the machines and the clack of keyboards continues through the night while outside the rain lashes down. Sitting at his desk, the Editor hunches over the worktable with his remaining white hair flying as usual about his head in an aureole, a momentary exponent of sanity and reason in the pool of light shed by the lamp, while all around there is darkness.

From far off, the tooting of a fog horn moans through the rain. And near midnight, thats when it comes: the long ululation of the train as it passes through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, outbound from the Port and headed to places unknown. Its long body winding through the murk lit by a single firey eye as it chugs along empty streets. When it has gone, silence of the grave. Except for the patter of the rain as it taps on the long iron rails that extend into misty eternity.

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

MARCH 1, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the weedpatch by the Old Fence where things are happening. Things that foretell of changes to come.

The recent storms and unusually warm weather have brought out the harbingers of Spring, and this daffodowndilly has erupted quite suddenly under a skein of abandoned plastic and refuse window screens.


Barbara Jean Lee (born July 16, 1946), is an American politician, and has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1998, representing California's 9th congressional district. She is the first woman to represent that district. Lee is the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and was the Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Lee is notable as the only person in either chamber of Congress who voted against the authorization of use of force following the September 11, 2001 attacks. This made her a hero among the antiwar movement, but also caused her to receive death threats. Lee has been a vocal critic of the Iraq War and supports legislation creating a Department of Peace.

Barbara Lee gained national attention in 2001 as the only member of congress to vote "No" on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), stating that she voted no not because she opposed military action but because she believed the AUMF, as written, granted overly-broad powers to wage war to the president at a time when the facts regarding the situation were not yet clear. She explained "It was a blank check to the president to attack anyone involved in the September 11 events -- anywhere, in any country, without regard to our nation's long- term foreign policy, economic and national security interests, and without time limit. In granting these overly broad powers, the Congress failed its responsibility to understand the dimensions of its declaration.... The president has the constitutional authority to protect the nation from further attack and he has mobilized the armed forces to do just that. The Congress should have waited for the facts to be presented and then acted with fuller knowledge of the consequences of our action."

In midweek, Ms. Lee dropped into the independent bookstore here to give a talk, answer questions, and promote her published memoirs, "Renegade for Peace and Justice". Because of her antiwar stance and her uncompromising position against the Bush Agenda,she is regarded as a kind of superstar celebrity here, an odd turn of events for a lady who admits, "according to all circumstances of the time, I am not supposed to be here."

Inclined to private life, Ms. Lee was vastly disinclined to pursue publication until persuaded by White House Correspondent Helen Thomas to pursue this action as an important adjunct to the historical record.

As we learned that night, Ms. Lee was born during a difficult birth that featured being turned away from a major hospital in El Paso Texas because of race. Friends and family managed to shunt the birthing mother to Louisiana, where still substandard care was provided, again due to race.

The young Barbara Lee was pulled from the womb with forceps, kicking and screaming and so has she been ever since.

She came to California as a Mills College student and has remained ever since to our benefit.

We count Barbara Lee solidly as one of us and we support her in her endeavors on our behalf, whatever they may be.

God bless you Barbara Lee.


Okay now, people, this past week has been hell on wheels and soap opera on a roller coaster on the Island, so we got to break this down for you.

Flash back to when SunCal's budget for developing The Point included a little item in small print that stated the City would provide "780 million dollars" worth of infrastructure improvements to the area that had been used as a Navy Base for years, which required sewer, electric, gas and additional road improvements to support the planned residential buildouts.

A bit of a brough-ha-ha ensued over that figure which SunCal solemnly promised would come from "incidental City revenues", meaning additional taxes plus bonds plus more taxes.

No, no, no, claimed the City Manager's Office, doing all the dirty work for the entire Council. That number is way off. We only need about 10 million to put in all the lines and build several roads. Some people scoffed. Others looked dubious.

Nevermind the additional 10,000 folks worth of residents and necessary support workers needing to get on and off an Island which already has a traffic congestion problem pumping into Oaktown's Chinatown which is already squawking about the cars flowing through there from the Posey Tube.

Hey. Its an Island, after all.

No, No, no, said the City Manager's Office. We have a traffic study in progress.

Next up to bat steps an Org calling itself Save Our Alameda, which setup a website to highlight these issues and other budgetary problems, claiming the City was on the verge of bankruptcy, including the heavy costs to be incurred by the lawsuit from relatives of Dr. Attari and the $90 million failure of the Telecom venture by the City. Their website can be found at

Astute bookkeepers there reduced the total infrastructure costs to 679,090,000. Oh. That's better.

No, no, no, heavens no, said the City Manager's Office. We have the same problems as all the municipalities and local governments in California. Things are tight, but we still have the General Fund to borrow from. And that SunCal figure is still all hat.

About the same time, the City announced firestation "brownouts" in which stations with more than one "response unit" would have the extra unit sidelined for a rolling period until the next station gets its shutdown orders. Your house is on fire you say? Just hang on tight and wait a few.

The Unions and SOA responded with fervor against this measure meant to save money, with the Firemen's Union initiating a comprehensive telephone campaign urging the voters not to let this one pass, given the high level of danger involved.

Meanwhile several critical projects are coming up red on the books at City Hall, which SOA has glommed onto with vigor.

Not to worry, said the City Manager, Debra Kurita. We will draw from the General Fund to balance out. This is not preferable, but necessary, given the circumstances.

Meanwhile, moving like a silent Iranian submarine beneath the surface has moved the Committee on Fiscal Sustainability, which presently will release its report (March 13 to the Council) on the financial health of the Island, pretty much as all the municipalities have been called on to do.

Several things crossed the wire ex-officio this past week to the Island-Life Local Desk. Number one featured the bombshell that the General Fund holds less than half of what it is supposed to hold and suddenly the City, the Council and the City Manager's office is in very deep doo-doo, and that is a real understatement.

No surprise our Finance Officer skipped down several months ago. We are operating with a pro tem volunteer, Ann Marie Gallant.

Item number two featured an ominous "personnel review" that is classically the raven to announce that a certain head will roll, this head belonging to that of City Manager Debra Kurita. It was widely expected that abrupt termination would shortly ensue.

Which is interesting, especially as we had felt Kurita was probably the most capable person over there in City Hall for quite some time.

Suddenly and just as abruptly as all the news comes the shocker that Kurita has stepped down to the "regrets" of Mayor Beverly.

All this on a week in which the Toyota dealership that pulled out of the Island because of lack of space, or so the owner claimed (it is an island, after all), went suddenly bankrupt after being open only two weeks, dragging down an associated Nissan dealership over there as well as the remainder corporate client dealership here, shooting down well over 300 jobs in one day.

Dear, dear, dear. The City's Chief Financial Officer skips out, the School District has its promised funds from Measure H tied up in a lawsuit, businesses are folding right and left with pink slips being issued in the thousands at a time, the City Manager has absconded under political pressure, a radical libertarian group has the most sane proposal for developing the largest open space on the Island -- and that proposal is wildly, seriously flawed with some line items having problems with that nasty thing called Reality, and suddenly the City Budget is missing some five million dollars that were, um, budgeted.

Mayor Beverly better look good in a cape and unitard because right now the Island needs nothing less than Supergirl to come to the rescue.


Proving that our citizens are like none other in the world, IPD responded to a 911 call that a man's child "had stopped breathing." Turned out the kid was not breathing because the father had tried to strangle the youngster. Three times. Did you think there might be consequences, guy? . . .

In a case that is being cited as "Democracy at work" parents locked out by the lottery for slots for their kids in Kindergarten classes put serious pressure on the Superintendent Kirsten Vital to do the obvious thing and open up an additional class. Vital now has to go find the money to do just that. Of course, if any of those folks own houses here, they could always chip in with a mite of their own via higher property taxes . . .

26 year veteran of the Force, Ronald Jones, recently went down for felony charges for taking Class III meds from various locations and failing to submit the substances for official disposal. He is charged with fraud, deceit and misrepresentation. Apparently the officer allegedly would enter the premises of families who had lost relatives and secure their medications under pretense. In an additional wrinkle, we learned that Jones was one of the Officers who misused their computers and radios while on duty, including racist profanity in 1991. A disciplinary move to dismiss the officers was shunted to a simple admonition at the time. Which eerily evokes a certain lethal event that recently occurred on a BART platform. . .

In a weird twist, but an all too familiar one, special interests are seeking to demolish a Queen Ann structure on on the northeast corner of Park Street and Buena Vista Avenue, because the cottage "is incapable of earning an economic return on its value" because "the integrity of the structure's workmanship and materials has been compromised, due to neglect, deterioration, and changes to the interior and exterior" and "the integrity of the site's setting has been compromised by changes in the neighborhood. . .".

What seems more likely is that the owner, seeing the decrease in property values and the market drop, sees a golden pot in the form of sale for "development" that features demolition instead of rehab.

It just so happens that parcel of land is part of a development project that would feature that parcel becoming nothing else than a parking lot. Several locals have reacted with outrage at the proposals, including one Betsy Mathieson, who has penned a heated missive against demolition, stating, "My husband and I restored a nearly identical Victorian house that was in worse shape than the disputed house. Ours won an award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Our current house, also an award winner as a result of our restoration work, has been described as "a gift to the street." It is not a rare example of its style — there are hundreds of two-story Queen Anne houses in Alameda — and no one famous built it or slept in it. But our house and the house on Buena Vista each contribute to the look and feel of their neighborhoods, creating unique streetscapes that are Alameda.

The "economic return on its value" for Alameda comes from irreplaceable streetscapes like the one on Buena Vista Avenue, carefully integrated into the historic streetscape along Park Street."

You go, girl . . .

In other news that hits close to home, we add to our list of recently unemployed locals Joe (ex-Ron Goode Toyota), Helen (Ex-AIG), Beth, Denby Montana (CMI Networks), and now Chad (McMurray Pacific) who is our coder and regular contributor of video and multimedia items. Chad is a talented fellow (obviously as demonstrated by this site in HTML) and in customer service. You can contact Chad through the usual Island-Life numbers for the time being.


The Island-Life Coordinator secured tickets to the venerable Intersection for the Arts in Babylon midweek for the premier of Dan Wolf's adaptation of Adam Mansbach's Angry Black White Boy, which has gotten rave reviews, including from the stodgy Chronicle.

The Intersection has dozens of projects going on simultaneously at any time of the year and has remained vital for the past 44 years down in the once notoriously dangerous area of Valencia and 16th Streets.

It was interesting reentering the space which has remained essentially unchanged since at least 1982, with a steep bank of cafeteria chairs arranged in tiers above a basic "black box" space.

We could swear that the usher wearing a newsboy cap and the emcee with long stringy hair were the same folks that performed the exact same functions well over twenty years ago.

As for the production, the official notes state "Angry Black White Boy features Dan Wolf as the title character along with actor/soundscape musician Tommy Shepherd, and actors and choreographers Keith Pinto and Duncan Cooper. This is a collaboration that wrestles head on with the messy issues of identity and race with all the fight and flavor of a Hip Hop battle."

The heavily multimedia production is difficult to summarize, but basically is an abstraction of the story detailed in Mansbach's bestseller that describes a young Jewish boy from affluent family attending Columbia University -- not exactly an institution that welcomes blue collar or anything less than genteel -- but turning to robbery during his shifts driving a taxicab in an effort to somehow address if not redress injustices done by Whites on Black. The resulting media mayhem creates a situation too difficult for the boy to handle, leaving the resolution of America's racial mess to the audience to resolve.

In a bizarre twist, the customers who the boy robs fail to see his race accurately, reporting to the police that "an angry Black man ranting epithets" committed the crime.

Intending to create a situation in which Whites are forced to confront the realities of their own racism, the situation quickly gets out of control -- much as grandiose attempts often have done in the past -- and the resulting violence spirals well beyond his ability to direct the consequences of his actions after a national "Day of Apology" is announced in which Whites must perforce apologize to Black People for their attitudes.

Mansbach is fairly right on and wolf not far behind in that these sorts of public dramas usually result in the violent suppression of all voice and the hard consequences usually fall on those who deserve punishment the least.

Should it be forgotten, the people who got the nail-end of the lash during the Rodney King riots happened to be a helpless white truck driver and untold numbers of African American mothers and their children caught up in the burning rage and what should be expected Official Response.

In the end, Justice was left, still blindfolded and bearing the weight of scales, but scourged and bloody and wounded.

The play fails, for those who are already experienced and committed, in revealing just how off our "angry black white boy" happens to be. The Offspring already did that some years ago with "Pretty Fly (for a White Boy)" song. And for those who have never stepped into the hot zone where public catharsis meets public acknowledgment, the play really hits a problem. What about the single mother trying to get through the day and the old man trying to take the bus home through a city on fire? These are the ones who always are the ones to suffer whenever the media demands a sacrifice.

There is also an issue of the difficult to nail point of personal connection in all of this. In our experience, the essential resolution of racial issues has always been a personal and individual one when motivated by an individual, and we feel that the background for the character is way too thin for his commitment. The character fails because he is really paper thin, but then, that leaves the rest of us.

Where the play works, despite the conscious failure of its principle character to accept responsibility, is in its leaving the audience with the sense that this racism thing is something to be gripped head-on and resolved and that it can be done, one person at a time. That idea of one person at a time is fairly critical.

That said, in terms of the ideas of the play, what also works is the blend of hip hop voice with stage tableaux that are essentially borrowed from Grutowsky without conscious appropriation. Which is good, because where Grutowsky would have paused all the action, Wolf and company flow through with a combination of music, dance and gesture that really works effectively as a seamless and cohesive whole. It works by virtue of its propulsive energy and in the area of race relations, that is one thing which is sadly lacking.

This is polemical theatre of which certainly Brecht and Company would approve. It is theatre that says, don't just sit in your seats and watch what is going on like a TV. See what happens and go out to make some change of your own.

In that vein, we heartily agree and so issue a solid thumbs-up to "Angry Black White Boy".

Intersection for the Arts & The Hybrid Project in association with Resident Company Campo Santo present the World Premiere of Angry Black White Boy.

Written and adapted by Dan Wolf from the book by Adam Mansbach
Directed by Sean San Jose
Featuring: Myers Clark, Keith Pinto, Tommy Shepherd & Dan Wolf
Collaborative Team: Sharif Abu-Hamdeh, Mia Baxter, Josh Begley, Duncan Cooper, Robert Hampton, Chinaka Hodge, Joshua McDermott, & Christopher Studley

Extended Run
January 29 - March 8, 2008 at 8pm
Thursdays - Sundays, $15-$25/sliding scale

The Intersection will next present an adaptation of Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After a few questionable days, a real dockwalloper set in again to thrash the bushes and knock down a few tree limbs outside several of our Victorian and Queen Ann style homes, which number some 3,000, or so we are told here at the Island-Life Facts Desk.

3,000 Victorians is an Antihistamine Number, according to Jose, and by that he means its nothing to be sneezed at.

What is it that marks a City? Its not the new grand projects that define a place for what it is. All of our acquaintances here insist on calling the refurbished mall down by the water by "its proper name" Southshore Mall, and not by any newfangled folderol invention.

It's not the rehabbed theatre, as grand as it is with its associated parking garage that nobody here uses, but something subtler that persists through time. Its in the quirky things that probably don't make much money per se, but which always provoke a person to say, "That's an only in xxxxx kind of thing."

People don't go to Babylon across the water for the new Moscone Center or for the relatively new sports stadium, they go for the spirit of Dashiell Hammett, Ginsberg and the Beats, Jack London and the long lost waterfront there and for the quirky spirit that survives jumping and howling in queer odd microclimates within the City.

Island-Lifers dropped into La Cumbre and ordered the usual round of tacos and burritos, and guess what -- the food was terrible. The fish in the fish taco was deep fried, the sauces were bland, the asada was skimpy, the prices were too high. The taqueria once voted Best Taqueria in Babylon had lousy food. And the order was not done right anyway. But a simply establishment does not a City make. Much of what made Babylon is gone and now they are saying that the 189 year old Chronicle will go as well. We have made some fun of the Comical, as so termed inside these pages, but we really would regret seeing the old lady go like the Exasperator before her.

For a town needs a local newspaper, and, sorry to say, the Guardian is not enough. Certainly not the foreign-owned SF Bleekly.

A man wants to stride into his office building and pick up the daily edition with its raft of columnists and irritating editorials and letters to the editor and ride up the elevator perusing its front page headlines simply as a matter of course. Something will be missing if that thing goes away. A sort of hole in the psyche.

A town needs a newspaper to give it a sense of continuity and a sense of self. Smartly addressed newsboys fling their daily paper bundles to the doorstep of countless families and homes all across America. They are the glue that binds us together. A town needs a newspaper to give it definition.

The time has come to talk about Rolf, the German in the household of Andre and Marlene. How Rolf came to this household is a curious story about immigration and all that pertains and more besides. But time has run out and we will have to address that issue, illegal immigration, the Iron Curtain, intrigue, and a rather dicy border crossing sans visa or passport next week.

Here in the Island-Life offices, the clatter and hum of a media outlet continues. Copyboys scurry up and down the aisles and various staff chatter in various languages on telephones. A half-eaten pizza sits in its open box growing cold on Javier's desk. Far off the editor sits with his white hair, those remaining few, flying about his head in an aureole while sheets of rain slam against the windows.

From far off comes the hooting of foghorns out on the Bay. And the long drawn out wail of the throughpassing train as it winds its way past the shuttered storefronts of Jack London Waterfront.

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


MARCH 8, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the rigging detail of the Hawaiian Chieftain, a full scale 104 foot replica of a 19th Century merchant trader that is now docked at Jack London Waterfront with her sister ship, Lady Washington.


Toddled on over across the water for the Jack London Crab Crawl over in Oaktown on Saturday and to check out the latest incarnation of the Girltalk band. The event featured live music, seafood-themed restaurant booths, a couple "tall ships", and, of course, lots of crab served up as shown below where a couple savors delicate crab enchiladas.

Our main objective that day was to catch Girltalk, which is the brainchild of Valerie Bach (guitar, cavaquino). GT is still a primarily instrumental jazz band with significant Brazilian flavor, although they do covers of Sting's "St. Agnes and the Burning Train" as well as a blues by Horace Silver called "Come on Home". Its clear that Valerie is most comfortable on her f-hole archtop and her 4-string cavaquino with Brazilian choros and artists like Azevedo and Antonio Carlos Jobim.

The choro is one of the most sophisticated of folk song forms, consisting typically of three parts with each played in a separate key and assembled into a rondel.

In addition to Valerie, Laura Boytz adds cello, Leslie Thorne on upright bass and Katja Cooper supplying percussion.

After Girltalk finished their second set, Captain Mike and the Sea Kings took over for a significantly louder energetic set of rocking poorboy blues. Where Girltalk could have used more amp on the guitar, Captain Mike's quartet could have lowered the volume a tad. Nevertheless, they were energetic and fun. I'd keep my eye on that guy in the center, though, Captain. Bassists are known to be crabby . . . .

Down by the water, a couple replicas of 105 foot 18th Century merchant ships offered opportunities to clamber aboard a piece of history and astound the relatives by climbing the mizzen. Unlike the tars of yore, visitors and workpersons all were securely fastened with carabiners and harnesses.

As the ships are working vessels, hired out for parties and excursions, basic maintenance remains pretty much as tedious and continuous as of olden days. Not even while visitors were on board ship did the constant painting and wrenching stop for even a minute. It was entertaining to watch this "wrench wench" tighten up various parts of the foremast with all of her tools fastened in turn to her own harness.

On a suddenly sparkling clear day, with moderate temps and plenty of sunshine, crowds showed up in large numbers for some good clean fun, including this young lady waiting patiently for her daddy to just hurry on up.

All in all, with bounce houses, carnival games and crab races, a fine time was had by all in Oaktown's multiculti seaport.


There's been a lot of talk, and a fair amount of wildly fictional numbers flying around lately relating to the effect of the recent rains on the California Drought.

Fortunately Island-Life has its trained Meteorologist on staff in the form of Crusty Mike who has been recording Island rainfall for the past ten years or so.

Since the sample data can vary within the Bay five county area by some five inches or so, he also referred us to the pros and a few places with benchmark stats, such as Shasta Dam.

The Island and Oaktown derive their drinking water from an aqueduct that feeds off of the Mokolume River. Parts of Marin get theirs partially from groundwater tables, and Monterey gets 100% from local sources. Places like San Francisco and LA pull their water from dammed sources in the Sierra, including the notorious Hetch Hetchy, the building of which caused John Muir to weep bitterly at the destruction of the once pristine valley there.

Los Angeles no longer relies as heavily on the Owen's River aqueduct, the building of which caused the violent "water wars" which inspired the movie "Chinatown", nor does it pull so heavily from Mono Lake since the building of its 2nd major aqueduct in 1970; that one pulls from the Colorado River, although it does continue to sip from those sources to a degree. Many SoCal cities now rely on local groundwater, however the pressure is always on to locate new water sources, including a politically contentious design project called "the Peripheral Canal".

The consumption by all 38 million of the Golden State's population is a mere drop in the bucket, so to speak, compared to the massive amounts used by agribusiness, which pulls so much water that many rivers no longer flow all the way to the Delta; they have been entirely diverted into irrigation canals. Fully 90% (conservative estimate) of California's water is consumed by businesses.

Now to the figures.

Crusty Mike recorded 13.21" this season. Last year thru May 14.08". Average thru March 16.49" ('98-'09). Recorded on garage roof.

This compares to the Oakland Museum reporting a 21" average of 8 Stations for the 16 years between 1970 and 1995.

Well that doesn't tell us much, so we looked at the Shasta Dam accumulation, the official records for January and February (which terminate 2/23) from the California Department of Water Resources. Their executive summary dated 2/23/09 can be found at

The Shasta Dam graph shows why some people believe the recent storms made a difference. Indeed, the pattern looks pretty clear. In 'O7 it was pretty high after the 168% precipitation of 2006. Fell pretty low in November of '08, then climbed steep in a single month.

January was one of the driest months ever recorded here, which is what caused all of the hullabaloo. All major reservoirs were only 50% of capacity with some only 35%. Then came February with its storms, putting us near the 65% mark. It was the 2/23/09 report that impelled Der Governator Arnold to issue a State of Emergency.

Then we had several dockwallopers between the 23rd and the 4th of March, leaving us with anecdotal rumors.

However it is highly unlikely we have overcome the numbers pulled from the report dealing with Sierra snow accumulation as follows

Water Year Amount to Date (since Oct. 1, 2008): 27.50
Average to Date: 33.00
Percent of Average to Date: 83 %
Average for the Water Year (Oct. 1 through Sep. 30) 50.00
Percent of Average for the Water Year (Oct. 1 through Sep. 30) 55 %

The inches listed refer to water content in snow, a figure that takes some pretty sharp science to establish firmly. You can have thirty feet of powder, but if it consists largely of air, well, all that drift counts for not much water.

The report summary is pretty dismal, with runoff averages of about 35% of normal feeding into reservoirs holding about 65% of average, but the next one is due 3/10/09, which should give a better picture of what to expect. If there is little rain in March, then that's all she wrote as far as water goes, as the monthly averages drop down to less than an inch in May and then to about .1" after that.

Big question no one seems to be asking, is just how much of capacity do we need to get by. So if we are down, 25, 30, 50 or 80%, is that really significant? Do we really need to be at 100% capacity? If we really need to be at 100%, then why are we not building more infrastructure to expand retention?

Whew! After wading through those numbers, we are going to go get a drink. And we don't mean of water. . . .


Okay now, all of you het up about SunCal just calm down. Well, maybe not. Just question every detail. Some of you may want to start following, which seems to have some pretty sharp reporters feeding in data from official meetings all over the place.

In the latest reports, we find that SunCal's rep revealed at a recent Sierra Club meeting that no realistic study on traffic with relation to the proposed SunCal development at the Point has been done. There IS a 70 page report that SunCal got the regional MTC to pay for, which consists largely of a description of what exists now, potential challenges and things to think about should anybody ever come up with some kind of traffic plan that would handle some three to four thousand additional folks on the streets here.

After spending a few hours on this precious document (5-5-08wrt.pdf), which cost any tens of thousands of dollars to produce, our analyst here stated flatly, "This thing is useless."

As for Actionalameda, they state pretty clearly, "it’s pretty obvious that SunCal has yet to spend a dime of their own - or DE Shaw’s - money on a plan-specific transportation study for their project, and they haven’t yet really engaged AC Transit either. They’re trying to skate by using the Fehr & Peers numbers...".


More on SunCal's project to develop the Point and the disputed "infrastructure costs."

According to the March 4th public meeting at Silly Hall with SunCal and the Re-Use and Revelopment Authority (ARRA) SunCal reported the details of their plan -- which we must vote on during the Special Election in May -- are confidential and not subject to public records requests.


Okay, so we have the City providing its interpretation of the fictions that SunCal selectively presents, but only if they feel like it, now. According to these numbers, reported by Actionalameda,

  • Residential/Commercial Land Sales to provide 63% of development costs, or $966 million
  • Tax-Increment to provide 12% of costs, or $184 million
  • Municipal Services District Special (MSD) Tax Levies to provide 13% of costs, or $199.3 million
  • Private Funding to provide 12% of costs, or $184 million

These costs do not include the cost of actually purchasing the land from the Navy, a little detail that has yet to happen.

Nevermind $184 million to tear up existing streets, build new ones, improve the ones that are there, install sewer lines, telephone lines, electric lines and god knows what else for three thousand prospective residents when $184 mill is barely enough now to pay for fixing a few potholes. The current City budget features $500 million worth of expenditures. Is that all just for street cleaning?

The Tax Increment mentioned above will be something all Islanders will pay. The MSD will be an additional property tax levied on the owners of the new homes on top of the usual post-Prop 13 additions.

One figure is missing from this list that basically covers just the cost of doing it all -- SunCal's profit margin is not included in the budget.


The City granted permission to demolish a beautiful Queen Anne house on Buena Vista Avenue, clearing the way for the owner to use the site to provide parking for his retail development. "They paved Paradise, to put up a parking lot . . ." .

That crusty matriarch of the Bushes, Barbara Bush was reported to be resting after surgery. Concerned doctors had discovered the elder Bush had "a hardening of the heart." We always knew that, guys. Didn't know medical science had advanced to the point of being able to instill compassion in the savagely cruel . . .".

The head of the Park Street Business Association is named Rob Ratto, and he recently spoke in favor of demolishing the stately Queen Ann home on Buena Vista in the name of retail sales tax revenue. Problem is, last time Ratto spoke on behalf of retail sales tax revenue was to boost the apparently failing Cinema Multiplex and Parking Garage, which are showing flat revenues as retail sales tax in the theatre district has declined 1.7% from last year. The redevelopment projects are simply not pulling in enough revenue to offset the costs of doing the project or even justify their present existence. With a long history of failed movie houses here, its perhaps not too soon to say, "I told you so . . .".

It's not too late to turn Park Street into a pedestrian thoroughfare. Heck, at least NOW you got a parking garage to stick all of the unwieldy and pointless cars . . .

This past week, nobody took over a bank, nor was anyone murdered. Always look on the brighter side of life . . .


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A brace of daffodowndillys have sprung up by the old fence and it does look like crocus are croaking and the bright red of tulips is bulging up in wads of green. Yes, something is going on down there. Everything is drying out after the recent rains and, even though Der Governator has declared a water emergency, everything is blooming and green.

As for disasters and emergencies we in California are all used to that. Its not welcome, but we are certainly used to it.

Had a few three pointers here, centered this morning along the Hayward fault and another one up around the Calistoga hot springs, just to remind everybody that the earth can decide any time it wants what it wants to do with us. First time you feel an earthquake, you think to yourself, "Gosh, a truck must have hit the building!" After that, you start keeping water in plastic jugs and several flashlights. Just in case.

Life is very uncertain. You never know where you will end up. Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Rolf was telling part of his life's story. How that happened, resulted from a discussion about how all the illegals were leaving the Golden State right now because the work had dried up.

Rolf is, as he freely acknowledges, an illegal immigrant, and one who nearly lost his life in the process.

As he tells it, the story begins like this. He was on vacation with his mother and his father in Czechoslovakia, when his father got a message from someone back home in Leipzig. Seems the offices had been raided and Der Chef taken in for questioning.

Of course there had been some indications, some warnings previous to this. His father and mother had taken trips to places with little Rolf and they had stood there looking at the international border with its fences and arrays of impressive watchtowers and so on, and he remembered his father saying with sadness, "Not possible here."

The vacation there on the edge of the Hartz was a rare thing to be granted and they were thinking, as Rolf remembered, that when they went back it would all be over, everything would be different. Certainly after that phone call in the woodsy cabin, everything did change.

His Mutti would play a game in which she put tape over his mouth. At first he did not like that and only when Vatti put the tape on his mouth first, did he allow that. She smeared this cream on his face and that was fun, but then the tape and they ran about, playing hide and seek, importantly not making any sounds, and then the game was over and the tape came off.

And meetings with a man in uniform named Sergei, who wanted some things and seemed always nervous and keyed up.

Rolf did not understand under later that Sergei was sympathetic -- to a degree and amount paid -- and that he was a Grenzepolizei for the Czech army.

After the phone call things happened quickly and one night, they departed with Willy on an adventure. Willy was a neighborhood boy from a family Rolph and his parents knew well. He never ever learned how and why Willy had been with them. Except Willy was good at some games, like "jump the frog."

They met up briefly with Sergei who appeared dressed in uniform and carrying his sidearm. "It would be good if you had an Opfer," mentioned Sergei. "Something for distraction."

"There is no time," said his mother. "We have no one else."

"It will be difficult then." Said Sergei. "I need to find a reason to send the patrol around another way. See what you can do in the meantime."

That was the last that Rolf ever saw of Sergei.

In a strange place in the middle of the woods in the dark his mother put the creme on his face and then the tape over it. They were playing a game. Except his mother was crying as she put the tape on his face and he felt a little afraid.

Willy simply stood there as the tape went over his mouth.

With their mouths taped shut they went through the woods, moving by the light of the moon with the flashlight turned off, dropping down through a dry gulch filled with leaves and then back up again in darkness although his father kept the torch in his hand the entire time until they came to a fence and the sound of generators.

His parents spent an awful long time examining this fence topped with razor wire until his father noted something in the dark.

First his mother climbed the fence and jumped over. She seemed to be avoiding something on the other side. Two wires strung there and passing through ceramic holders at the posts. Now Willy's turn. His father pointed out the two wires, motioning to stay away from them, then hoisted the boy on up to the razor wire.

Would a small child know about razor wire and what it could do to flesh? Would he know about electrified fences? Would he die there or set off an alarm? These things were questions that would not appear to Rolf for many years and then through papers left behind.

Willy plunged like a meteor to the other side, caught by his mother who slung him away from the fence.

Now his turn.

Somehow he sensed this was all more than a game and that he had better do this right. So he jumped with a mighty jump and nearly overshot the arms of his mother who grabbed him much too fiercely, or so it seemed.

After his father jumped over he wrote a note on a scrap of paper which he handed to his mother and which Rolf found and kept for years afterward.

This is what his father wrote: "Problem. This much too easy."

Although they did know know it then, they were in that place called by all migrantes, No Man's Land, the place that is owned by no country and so therefore that place which possesses no rule of law or human compassion.

They came to an open field. Just beyond was another fence and the true border. They looked and they looked but nothing could be seen moving in that field in either direction and nothing heard but the sounds of the night. So they moved across with caution, looking for trip wires or anything unimaginable. The problem is that they had no experience to tell them what to look for.

They passed by a post, some kind of pipe stuck in the ground, or so it looked, until the pipe spat fire and the sounds of firecrackers filled the air.

Rolf and his parents started running for the opposite side of the field, but Willy paused, an astonished look on his face as a white hot sensation went through his body.

The post was a motion-sensor activated machine-gun.

Willy went down into the weeds of the field.

From the north they could see torchlamps blazing as Sergei's patrol diverted through the gulch below.

Looking back, Rolf remembered seeing the figures coming out of the far woods with blazing machine-guns to stand over a small, dark figure there.

They came to a fence and crossed over quickly and soon encountered several armed men outside a shack. One of them shouted, "Staatgrenze! Wer kommt?"

His father stripped the tape abruptly from his mouth, shouting, "Asylum! We are escaped!"

Then came the name by which he and his parents would be named for the next ten years.

"Die sind Fluchtlinge! Mach bereit!"

The efficiency and experience Rolf saw then was impressive. A battery of men appeared out of seemingly nowhere and arranged themselves with rifles pointing back the other way to provide covering fire. Should others appear out of the woods. But Willy did not.

In the following years, he owned a special status as "Fluchtlinge", until the Berlin Wall came down, and then he and several million others passed from the status of "refugees" to that of disreputable "Oestlinge", an Easterner from the bad part of town that only wants a handout in hard times. An entire nation reduced to second cousin status overnight. His mother never forgave herself for what had happened to Willy.

When his father died of a heart attack a few years later, he and his mother tried to return to what had been the "Eastern Zone", but no work was to be had and no one wanted to know them or they could not find where anyone lived anymore. For a while they lived in Berlin in the Charlottenburg district until the living subsidy provided by the government, once intended to encourage people to live in the old walled city, ran out and then it was just like living in the Eastern Zone again.

His mother grew grayer, listless and stopped caring about how she looked. One day, she was standing beside him on the Eisenstrasse bridge not far from the Treptower Park S-Bahn station. There was a new statue there rising right out of the river Spee called "The Molecule Man". The statue is of three men struggling with one another, swiss-cheesed with holes and standing some thirty feet above the water's surface. They were looking down at the river and the train tracks and she said this was not a good place to be. He turned to look toward the statue and then, quite suddenly, she was gone.

So there he was, all alone on the bridge. He looked this way and that and called out for his mother, but she was nowhere on that bridge. Below, the water rippled and lapped to the far shores without a trace. It was some time before he got off of the bridge and found his way back to the shabby apartment in the 1930's era building that still displayed the pocked reminders of the Battle for Berlin, there to sit in the darkness, waiting for someone who would never return.

Her body was never found.

For a while he lived with in various Einstandsbesetz communes, abandoned buildings that had been taken over by students and young radicals. He lived by stealing and after a quick snatch and run, he found he had ownership of an American Passport and a number of travelers checks. And so that day, he gathered a few things into a satchel, said good-bye to his Leninist-Maoist-Stalinist friends, who were really far nicer than the real thing in his experience, and took the S-Bahn to Templehof where he bought a 1-way ticket for California, USA, where he fully expected to join either a cowboy outfit or an Indian war tribe. There in the wilds of the American West. In those pre-nine-eleven days, he breezed through customs and threw the passport into a trashbin after cashing out the rest of the traveler's checks.

At the airport he met a band of hari krishnas at the airport, whom he mistook for a tribe of savage Comanches It was not until he saw a punk with a purple mohawk and leather jacket that he realized that the Wild West was probably a good deal different from the movies.

A smattering of French, Russian and Czech along with poorly developed secretarial skills proved to be lousy attributes for success in this Wild West. With such a background it was inevitable that a fellow like himself would hook up with Andre and Marlene's household of social deviants and misfits. Walking along one day in San Francisco he noticed three tough characters who clearly had intentions of seriously messing with an attractive woman wearing a short skirt and carrying a handbag. That woman was Suan leaving work at the Crazy Horse where she worked as a stripper on the odd night or two.

Those three may have been tough for Fremont, or Hayward or even San Francisco, however Rolf, no longer a scared little boy in knee-pants running through the forest, had been surviving for years on the edge in places like Berlin, a massive metropolis of some five million people, and nothing had been easy ever since. He quickly made short work of the first one by breaking the man's thigh bone with a sharp kick, then pretty much turned the other fellow's face into some humanoid form of hamburger.

As for the third, Suan maced him before firing off three swift kicks to the man's crotch.

It was all quite satisfying.

Suan, ever observant, lit a cigarette and noted Rolf rummaging through one groaning man's pockets. Instead of turning tail to run as far from this debased scene as possible, which is what most people of common sense are inclined to do, Suan saw this as an opportunity for conversation. The man with the hamburger face sort of bubbled and burbled as he slumped against the brick wall and bled all over himself.

Somewhere far off a police siren informed them all that there was, indeed, a police force in the City and it was doing something, but that something was somewhere else.

Just another typical evening in San Francisco. Two strangers becoming good friends.

So that is how Rolf came to join the little household on Otis and stop living purely by petty larceny. Suan got him the one job which did not require credentials or a social security number. Even strippers pay taxes, but doorman to the Pink Poodle Cabaret is one capacity that demands nothing except that a man be able to handle himself and ably roust folks inclined to let their concupiscence get too rowdy. Scream and shout all you want, just don't break the furniture and keep your hands to yourself, or on the street you go.

So there they all live in that one bedroom cottage, some twelve men and women and dogs and cats, in the one place each has found, if not happiness -- should such an alien emotion be even possible on this crappy earth -- then at least love and understanding and some companionship. As the old monk said to the doctor, "Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris."

And that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

MARCH 15, 2009


This weeks headline photo comes from Javier's garden where it appears that things are finally happening down there in nests of green rain-packed flesh.

Would not be surprised if this amounts to something extraordinary. Just wait and see.


This week the issue was delayed while our beancounters went over the 3/9/09 report from the Calfornia Department of Water Resources.

In sum, good news is that as of that date, excluding the recent rains of the past few days, we stood at 99% of rainfall as compared to fifteen year averages.

Bad news is that we were so far down that virtually every major reservoir in California stands at less than 65% capacity and most stand out there at some 35% of capacity, leaving every major area in the water status of "Critical" or "Dry".

In other words, aint no way to delay that trouble coming every day. We had needed virtual monsoons, according to these numbers, to restock the Golden State's water supplies after a couple dry seasons since 2006 and we just squeaked by with an average year. Remains to be seen just how a couple dry years in an agricultural state would lead to such a crisis when this pattern of alternating dry/wet periods has been repeated for the past 150 years.

Here are the numbers from the "Executive Summary".

Hydrologic Conditions in California (03/09/2009)
Northern Sierra Precipitation Accumulation
Rainfall & Snow Water Content (in inches)

Water Year Amount to Date (since Oct. 1, 2008): 36.00
Average to Date: 36.50
Percent of Average to Date: 99%
Average for the Water Year (Oct. 1 through Sep. 30) 50.00
% of Average for Water Year (Oct. 1 through Sep. 30) 72 %

Northern Sierra (Sacramento, Feather, Yuba, and American River Basins)

  Water Content (in inches) Avg to Date % April 1 Avg*
Northern Sierra 24.70 91 86
Central Sierra 24.80 89 83
Southern Sierra 22.70 90 82
Statewide 24.20 90 84

* April 1 is the date of normal maximum accumulation for the season.

Forecast of Regional Water Supply Indices

8 River Index for February (in 1000 AF) 2,310 n/a
Sacramento Valley Water Year Type Index (40-30-30) @ 50% 5.1 Critical
Sacramento Valley Water Year Type Index (40-30-30) @ 90% 4.2 Critical
San Joaquin Valley Water Year Type Index (60-20-20) @ 50% 2.5 Dry
San Joaquin Valley Water Year Type Index (60-20-20) @ 75% 2.1 Critical

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. After a spate of somewhat dry air, a mild storm set in to wet down things this weekend. The Canadian geese, those that decide this migration thing is still worth the time, have been sailing high overhead in groups of four. It does seem that the winter is getting over its moody self and things are warming up a bit.

The Chief Editor and the Staff Writer and Main Reporter all had to spend the weekend doing what they could to restore the economy by actually working for a living, so this week shall be truncated. The Island-Life Social Coordinator and Event Booker is down with a serious illness to boot, so things are rather quiet in the offices. It's Monday night and the teletype sits chattering to itself in the corner while the janitor finishes up his sweep between the silent and abandoned desks of the copyboys.

Next week we shall be back in fine form as all kinds of interesting things have been happening recently, generally involving assaults with a deadly weapon. We count fists, a hammer, a coffee mug and various farm implements involved in our latest Island wave of rage.

In a pinch, anything will do, is our motto here.

Meanwhile the rain patters down intermittently trying to offer what it can in the last days of the rainy season to assuage Der Governator's water anguish.

While its dry, maybe time to fix those leaky century-old levees in the Valley, ja?

If you got lemons, make lemonade. Because thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

MARCH 22, 2009


This week's headline photo is of the tulip last seen just beginning to emerge by the Old Fence among the castoff lumber and cinderblocks.

The weather is still as gloomy as the economy around here, but there are signs that warmth is returning to the land. There is even a two-part docu-drama out on the heroic life of Che Guevara, and nobody but the usual suspects have complained! Now the season of miracles is past due and sure to arrive.


While the newly opened Fox theatre in Oaktown continues with stellar bookings other things are shaping up for the new Season, which we take to start April 1st.

Michelle Shocked is doing a performance at Yoshi's West tonight and the noted banjoist Bela Fleck finishes up a four night run on the warmer side of the Bay as well.

The wildly talented jazz trio headed by Joshua Redman takes over Yoshi's East for a solid five days from the 1st of April

As for the Paramount, just around the corner from the Fox, a genuine giant of icon status shall kick over his first concert series in over 15 years. Yes, singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, poet and internationally acclaimed performer Leonard Cohen is coming to humble Oaktown for three nights. Two nights are already sold out leaving just the 15th to the lucky few.

Cohen, born in Montreal in 1934, is generally regarded by most musicians living today as a major influence. His songs have been covered several thousand times, however in 2005 a lawsuit revealed that his manager, Kelly Lynch, had misappropriated nearly all of his retirement funds, leaving the wildly popular star in virtual penury. Cohen won the suit, but due to his former manager refusing subpoenas is unlikely ever to recover a dime of well over $5 million.

Hence, the public gets to enjoy his enforced return to the public stage as he tries to recoup the massive losses.

Cohen has won Grammies, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, earned the Canadian Order of Canada, been ordained a Rinzai Buddhist monk, and served in the Israeli armed forces where he saw action during the Six Days War (and which forever turned him against armed conflict), and is known for writing extremely well-informed, intelligent, witty, deeply personal, and deeply spiritual lyrics. Although afflicted with lifelong severe clinical depression, his songs often sparkle with self-deprecatory humor.

At the Grand, the Marina Douchbags shall be silenced, or at least their inane chatter overwhelmed on the 15th by Derek Trucks, backed by Jackie Greene, who we fondly imagine will march to the back row and bash some blatherer over the head with his dreadnought.

If you know the song, sing along. If you don't, SHUT UP!


The Court issued a preliminary ruling in favor of the School District over the Measure H tax, which George Borikas, Edward Hirschberg and a couple landlords had challenged in a suit, which should free up about $4 million in funds for the cash strapped District, although we do note that this challenge may herald further challenges to various add-on taxes that are meant to circumvent Prop 13. . .

A recent report by a national agency projects the waters of the Bay to rise some two feet as a result of Global Warming, and that this effect is already underway with no possibility of shunting aside the effects. The end result shall be that large portions of the Island will go under in about ten years. Water taxis down Buena Vista Avenue are projected, although from where to where remains up in the air . . .

A consultant firm recommended the City save $ by combining the Fire Chief and Police Chief jobs into a single position, which many find to be innovative, bold, daring and really, really stupid . . .

The City will raise the fee for appealing residential land use decisions to $250 with additional fees for costs on time and materials with a cap of $500 from the flat fee of $100. The fee for commercial projects will be $350 with a cap of $2500. Doug De Haan was the sole dissenter on the plan vote, stating that the appeal process is a necessary adjunct to democracy. Mayor Beverly seems to have other ideas about democracy . . .

In a discussion overheard in Longs recently, anger and frustration were expressed by long-term Islanders over Silly Hall's rather moronic, obtuse, and blinkered slavishness to the Park Street and Webster Street Business Associations whereby it seems Mayor Beverly and Co. seem to want to turn the Island into some real estate developer's wet dream idea of an "Island of Fine Living" without regard to the people who actually live here, which includes thousands of retirees, students, basic blue collar folks, property owners who bought in when the Island was not a desireable place to live, middle-class families, and other folks on fixed incomes who just do not want or need another exclusive wine and cheese shoppe. Which is, basically, most of us. Would somebody please remind Silly Hall sometime soon they are supposed to represent We the People . . .?

The very sexy (and very married) Julia Park Tracey held a reading with open mike last week to celebrate publication of her newest book of poetry titled Amyrillis. Strike another arts blow for the East Bay, Julia . . . !


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 moody, with threats of thunder and Michelangelo clouds boiling overhead as if the last days of Sauron and the Lord of the Rings were at hand. Sudden bursts of sunshine alternate with spatters of raindrops from isolated showers as the cloud wrack moves high to the East where all the final decisions are made.

Our messenger hamsters are gearing up and training for another emissary visit to find the Mayor of Lake Wobegon so as to proffer the eagerly sought Sister City status. We have some insider dope here that points to a Kirk or Curt Bunsen as Former Mayor, so we have high hopes of success this time after the terrible disappointment following the Bloom County Affair.

Some of us are still a bit dubious about how a dour Norwegian Lutheran in a cold country is likely to greet a gabbling rodent from California wearing a tiny backpack with offers of bureaucratic entanglements, however nevermind. Perhaps a Swede would be better off as a recipient, for the Swedes are known for warmer emotional temperment, however we must take what is given or go without.

Jose, who is great with the Internet, thinks he has found the address for this Curt Bunsen up in Minnesota, or at least four options outside of St. Paul, and so there is great optimism for this latest effort.

We are not San Francisco. We do not just rush blindly into things, engage in frippary, or fashion Performance Art out of the mess. We procede carefully and methodically and pay the local Mafia all the necessary fees, including such expenses in the Budget.

Islanders are basically yet another rung down from East Bay folks by nature and design. For the longest time, the Island was not really a desireable place to live, hence folks who actually own homes here bought them at close to their real value as opposed to the wildly inflated prices found from the 1970's through the 1990's to the Housing Collapse.

Modern Muse blogger just reported how she went over and sold about $1000 worth of jewelry to get about $100 worth of cash. There is something there in that story, but she keeps it all light and lively. These are hard, hard times.

Over at Marlene and Andre's place, they are having that estimable platillo so often found during times like these: bread soup.


  • Two cans diced tomatoes (at least)
    One leftover bread loaf, stale and dried to crunch, chopped into cubes
    Fistfuls of basil
    Whatever to add that can be found
    Directions: add it all, boil it, eat it.

This is bread soup. Cheap and nutritious. Sort of nutritious, anyway.

You can put in chicken stock from boiled bones, you can add sausage, you can add celery from the Dollar Store. It all fits. Bread soup. Remember that and think of Bush.

This is the Island and we eat bread soup. Day old bread is left at Mastic's Senior Center every day. Its gone before noon.

We recommend a diet of bread soup for the Silly Hall Council and the Mayor. Learn what its like to survive. Then make your decisions. And develop a bit of spine against that Ratto fellow.

Might be good to develop some character. Be able to look yourself in the mirror each day with pride for once.

Bread soup. Try it. You for whom diet is an option.

Around the hungry table at Marlene and Andre's they gather, all of the tenants. Someone brought garlic. Someone brought sausage pieces. Someone found a whole chicken - an incredible treasure. Someone else pulls a bunch of celery beneath an old tattered overcoat. Its a feast of bread soup tonight on the Island during the Great Recession of '09.

And as Marlene ladles out the bowls, from far across the estuary comes the keening of the throughpassing train as it winds its way through the Jack London Waterfront, past trains that have no name and old Black men who still haven't heard the news: This train's got the disappearing revenue . . . And the eerie ululation of its far gone call of a whistle goes echoing across the water and the mutinous, punk waves of the estuary.

Thats just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

MARCH 29, 2009


West End Island residents woke Sunday to a dull haze and the scent of smoke in the air due to a major two alarm fire in an empty building near the Posey Tube.

This week the headline comes from the West End where the old and derelict "Dental Building" at Alameda Landing caught fire in a serious way around 2:30 AM Sunday morning.

The fire was still raging past 2:30 PM with an estimation from Division Fire Chief Ricci Zombeck of finally being extinguished in yet another eight to ten hours from that point.

AFD responded to a call after 2:30 AM on Sunday morning and found that Oakland Fire had also responded due to the proximity to Jack London Square. They found two small fires on the ground level of the three story City-owned building, which has not been used officially for over twenty years. Oakland pulled back when the fires appeared to be under control, but about 11:00 am another, larger fire broke out on the second floor, according to Chief Zombeck.

The building was scheduled for demolition this summer to make way for the Alameda Landing - Catellus Development Project. Although long disused, the City has patrolled the large area with guards and fenced in the old medical building. This has failed to halt frequent trespassing vandals and sightseers, according to David Brandt, Assistant City Manager.

Mr. Brandt is presently filling in the gap left by the sudden departure of City Manager Debra Kurita about a month ago.

Because of the long neglect of the building and its unstable support structures, firefighters were unable to enter the large building (est 150,000 sq feet) and so had to wait for an environmental services firm to bring equipment sufficiently large to safely knock down exterior walls so that water streams can be directed into the heart of the fire.

It is dangerous to even stand on the outside of this kind of building due to immanent wall collapse, according to Zombeck.

As a result, from an initial high of eight engines and three battalion chiefs, including the entire shift manpower of 23 firefighters, the effort shrank to about two engines and two trucks working to just keep the fire safely stabilized as it consumed fuel. Which resulted in a day-long fume of smoke and dead ashes that pelted the Gold Coast downwind to at least Grand Street, nearly two miles away. Bay Area Quality officials at the scene conducted air quality tests and issued a Health Advisory for all residents within a one mile, requesting that folks stay indoors and close the windows.

As of 9:30pm, a thick wall of smoke was still visible to the West and the smell of burned wood still quite strong at a distance of about a mile, with street lamps glowing through a fog of particles.

Because much of the land had been cleared around the building and the surviving warehouses, the actual danger to the City of the fire spreading appeared to be minimal and Zombeck seemed concerned largely with preserving the safety of his thin crew while keeping the fire damped before the arrival of the excavation equipment.

Had the fire occurred in a more densely built area, the response could have been significantly more costly.

At least one fireman had been at work since 3:00 AM when we talked to him around 1:30pm, and he assured us that he would be there until the fire was out. Something to think about as the City debates budget cutbacks.


Latest flap is all about Mayor Beverly's recorded message sent out to all Islanders to promote the SunCal project for the Point, which some are calling "robot calls".

The call itself was a bit of flapdoodle with little information content other than its been a while since the Navy left and here is somebody with a plan and people should vote for it because its good and its good because somebody says so.

Whether it is a good plan, or a reasonable plan or a cost effective plan remains open to debate.

Truth is, we don't have another plan, so its a lot of take it or leave it, except for those who want to establish a "land trust", which is an idea, but incomplete in that such a notion does not feature a fully developed idea of how to administer the trust once established. It still poses clearer questions than the SunCal project.

The calls were followed up by a glossy mailer that featured a colorful map depicting public use space to be developed and a number of assertions that appear wildly unsubstantiated. The mailer is a clear endorsement of the SunCal development project.

Clearly, somebody sees money to be made on the deal, with the most optimistic of us seeing increased tax revenue -- after all initial infrastructure costs are paid off over ten or twenty years -- via property and business taxes.

Those numbers are the only real figures nobody has discussed publicly, despite the fact that those numbers are the only reason to go ahead with anything other than a bird sanctuary with a few hiking trails. Given that Alameda Landing is also to be developed, we think such a home for gulls and egrets would be just fine.

The City is in a bind about finances, the former City Manager left in an awful hurry amidst a flap about some $3 million missing from the General Fund and the renovated theatre is not doing as well as hoped.

Hm. People don't want to drive over a narrow two lane drawbridge with a steel deck

Meanwhile local gadfly, Pat Payne (erstwhile contender for Mayor) is expressing public disgust.


I think it is disgusting that Mayor Beverly Johnson is using Alameda emergency call lists to post her recorded message and private agenda to all Alameda Households promoting her vision for Alameda Point.

Isn't this illegal? I get enough Telemarketers without that, and am on the do not call list. "

This is a minor point, but just how did those telephone numbers get on a call list anyway?

In this colorful brough-ha-ha, has thrown in its two cents worth by publishing a recording of Her Honor's phonecall paired with a response, claiming that where Mayor Beverly was "cold and impersonal", the response is warm with "genuine feeling" for the Island.

In any case, click on these and enjoy a good old fashioned political mudball festival.

Why go to the theatre when you have already paid for Silly Hall and all that goes with?


Next weekend Frank Bette Center for the Arts will host an open mike for the aspiring singer/songwriters among us from 2-4pm with sign ups beginning at 1:30. FBCA is a multidisciplinary center established to promote artworks on the Island.

According to the news release, "Come and participate in, or simply enjoy, acoustic performances of original musical compositions, in a sunlit room full of fresh air, the latest art exhibit and delightfully congenial company."

Call 510.523.6957 or e-mail for more information.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The marbled clouds have yielded to blue skies and, although there is a touch of chill on the air, crocuses have croaked, the tulips have all erupted, narcissus has bloomed and the stiff green spikes of glads are pushing up with anticipation of glories yet to come. Meanwhile the freesias are having a grand party down there while the upstairs neighbors, the jasmine, is popping out with heady scents all along the Old Fence.

Up in the Sierra, the bergschrunds are cracking open all along the cirques and there is postholing on the glaciers while we are hearing of black ice forming on the lakes up near Minnewonketonka, MN.

Overhead those Canadian geese that do decide to head on back north begin forming the ancient squadrons, just like they used to. Now is the time when the squirrel, the raccoon, the bear, the pine martin, the woodrat and the field mouse creep out from furry burrows to blink in the new minted sun to sniff the air and consider plans for the future in this rapidly greening world.

Appears that folks in Fargo and other places along the Red River just might hold out another year as the water oh so slowly ebbs from the record-breaking crest against the sandbag levees there.

This is the first Spring after the Time of Bush, and everywhere things and people and animals are pulling back from the brink of disaster not a second too soon as the long Recession flirts with something deeper.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Dawn and Suzie gradually take down the cardboard leprechaun cutouts and shamrocks, remembering the time the wee wee man paid them a visit one extraordinary evening. Dawn's little gold hat hangs up there behind the bar along with the magical golden knickers discovered, in a manner of speaking, by Suzie that night.

Its a night of remembrances and the renewal of dull stirrings, when faint embers glow in the old hearth. Two people sit at the end of the bar, mojito and cosmo sit largely untouched as the man and the woman murmur quietly to each other in the quiet babble and piped music of the bar. In a pensive mood, Padriac has picked Bert Jansch and Leo Kottke for the night.

The rhythm of the bar crowd and the bar work sweeps Suzie along through another Sunday evening and soon enough the place empties out into the air that is smoky from the big West End fire at the old Dental Building, each Islander going his and her separate ways, singly and sometimes together to their overpriced apartments in the West End.

Gold Coast people and West Enders are sometimes looked down upon by the generally more affluent East Enders, even though the crumbling Queen Ann houses once were the summer homes of the wealthy who lived in Babylon across the water. Still, we have our ways and our means. Our little gardens and our stray cats and the jasmine blooming wildly along the old fence. We don't need fancy theatres or elegant dining; just a pickup truck that is actually used for hauling, and places to store the sawsalls, the buckets and the drop cloths. And our little rituals of Spring.

The couple at the end of the bar gets up and leaves tens and ones behind, along with their practically undisturbed drinks. As Suzie pours out the cosmo a scent comes up to cut through the smell of burn as Dawn observes her down the way beside the the pickle jar.

"From the cradle to the grave . . ." warbles Leo Kottke from the house speakers. Geese farts on a muggy day.

Such a pretty girl, she thinks. Its about time she got over that boy. Fergus is coming to town in a week; ought to hook up the two of them.

From far across the water comes the long wail of the throughpassing train as it winds its way through the Jack London Waterfront, its firey head glowing through the artificial fog billowing back across the estuary from the big fire at the Landing as it pushes on to places unknown.

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 pondering Life's Persistent Questions, Dawn O'Reilly.

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

APRIL 5, 2009


This week the headline photo is an arty shot of Slate, a brand new art gallery in Oakland's Temescal District on opening night. See story below.


Island-Life welcomes a new addition to East Bay arts in the form of Slate Gallery, which opened its doors on 4770 Telegraph (x 48th Street) for a mini-gala as part of Oaktown's first Friday "Art Murmur", wherein local galleries stay open late, serve beverages and generally vivify the nighttime with sparkling social activity.

Slate is the brainchild of Danielle Fox, the owner and gallery director.

She explains that her gallery hopes to offer quality art that isn’t out of range of the average consumer. Typically, Fox estimates that most of the pieces will range from $300–$3,000 in price, a budget-oriented middle road that she sees as lacking in Oakland.

“I hope that visitors can walk away feeling that going to a gallery doesn’t have to be intimidating and that they can enjoy the experience and take it into their lives,” says Fox.

A native Oakland resident, Fox says that she’s happy to have her gallery in Oakland and especially in the East Bay because of its emerging eclectic atmosphere. Something of a booster for the East Bay in a time when Oaktown and environs is seeing a surge of creative activity as artists flee the usurious high rents of Babylon across the water for the warmer side of the Bay, Ms. Fox may have timed her opening perfectly well.

From the industrial arts of the Crucible, the Alice Arts Center, the burgeoning number of arts collectives, the swelling numbers of ProArts members, several film studios, and countless new studio workshops, the East Bay stands ready to command significant attention.

As an Oakland based gallery, Fox wants her new gallery to make a special commitment to exhibiting Bay Area and Oakland Based artists.

“I live in Oakland so I’m an East Bay person,” Fox says. “I feel that Oakland and the East Bay are kind of underrated. You don’t have to go to San Francisco anymore to eat dinner at a nice restaurant or go see great art.”

The fledgling entrepreneur is not exaggerating, as fine establishments can be found now all from Richmond Point through Oaktown and down to a burgeoning San Leandro, which is suddenly becoming the hip place to squat along the Nimitz.

Although a newbie to storefronts on T'graph, Fox brings significant chops and experience to the gallery, with a doctorate in Art from the prestigious Ivy League as well as a solid eight years of work for Southby's in London, Fox knows art and the art business very well. Coupled with an interior decorating business she has run for some time, Ms. Fox stands well positioned for solid success.

We at Island-Life wish her gallery all the best.

For more information about upcoming exhibitions, check out Fox also invites visitors to see the gallery at Oakland’s Art Murmur, a group event that takes place every first Friday of the month from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.,


The SunCal Project is causing Islanders here to really get up in arms, and Silly Hall's attempts to smooth things over and alchemize sow's ears has not helped.

Last Monday an outraged group of citizens gathered in front of the City Hall building to protest all the shenanigans and sleights of hand that mean to circumvent anti-growth initiative Measure A. The main sticking point Monday was the 4,800 additional homes planned for the Point.

Mayor Beverly's office sent out four color brochures that were long on boosting the project, but short on details, with a color map displaying only public space development -- minus virtually all of the private development projects, rendering the map entirely useless.

With the City facing near bankcruptcy due to the ongoing recession, the Mayor's Office sees the Point development as a valuable source of tax revenue, so Mayor Bev cannot be entirely condemned for her tactics. Besides supplying welcome tidbits to the Perata Machine and involved parties, she probably really does have the best interests of the Island at heart.

However, just because we have only one plan in process does not mean that plan is the best one. Alternatives to housing development do not ever seem to have been explored and this absence of public discourse here really irks us here.

A staffer just returned from the Lucky's supermarket at Mariner Square to inform us of a table staffed by developer types trying to secure signatures for a ballot initiative on the project, which appears to be the first time that We the People have been asked to have any say on this -- after some eight years of planning and development revisions.

Gee, kinda nice to think of us in the end. Vote will be May 18 during the Special Election that is likely to be rather important for California as well as the County and its cities.

See below.


If your store receipts seem larger somehow recently, well, they are. As of April 1st, certainly an auspicious day, the State retail tax rose another 1% which puts Alameda County residents in the 9.75% bracket each time they buy another Tickle Me Elmo at Toys R Us. Ditto for buying cars and HDTV's.

The State budget with attendant tax increases comes up for vote on the May 18 election, which is another reason NOT to just stay home that day.


Last week we reported on the Alameda Landing fire firsthand, failing to mention that every single firefighter on the roster for the early shifts was sent to bring the monster under control. This meant that had another fire broke out somewhere on the Island that weekend, there would have been no one to respond without pulling from the existing emergency.

Which brings us to an annoying nuisance suit brought by Silly Hall against the Firefighters Union which seeks to introduce an initiative for May 18th that amends the City Charter so that minimum staffing for fire fighting would be written in.

The Union is so concerned about the way things are going they are willing to surrender overtime guarantees to preserve minimum manpower to fight fires, and in this case, we need to side with the Union, as we think they are right here. Silly Hall has no business getting in the way of letting people decide about their safety, damn the cost.

You want fire and police protection, then you must pay for it. Shrinking government until it is nothing clearly is imbecile when it comes down to such elemental decisions.


The seemingly delightful news that John Yoo, torture apologizer for the execrable Bush Administration, had been arrested in Milan so as to be shipped to Madrid and there face war crimes charges turns out, unfortunately, to be an April Fool's joke.

Yoo is notorious for his pro-torture legal theories that were endorsed by Donald Rumsfeld and were communicated to Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the commander of both Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib at the time of the most severe detainee abuses.

On December 1, 2005 Yoo appeared in a debate in Chicago with Notre Dame. During the debate Yoo said the president has the authority to order interrogators to crush the testicles of children in order to get information from their parents.

In the Reuters byline, we note that the Italian statute enabling the arrest was listed under "the international standard of 'Rompi Testiculo.'" Would that it were true ...

The Island achieved notable recognition when the Everett and Jones family business installed one of their fabulously successful BBQ joints on Webster about six weeks ago. Begun as a humble operation deep in the 'Hood on Fruitvale, where the BBQ was typically ordered through a microphone and served in styrofoam containers through a slot in bullet-proof glass, the the chain has survived robbery and murder and the worst kind of trouble to now feature sites in Jack London Square and Berkeley, all dishing up the best and most tender slow-cooked pork and brisket found anywhere. Make sure you specify the sauce "extra hot" or earn no respect...

Police are looking for a dogwalker whose pooch nastily bit an elderly woman on Harbor Bay Island while she was out walking her rotweiler. The injury resulted in the woman's death. Seems the only nefarious beast that could outwit a rotweiler and kill somebody, happens to be, in our experience, the species Poodle Horrificus. We have experience with these creatures and never approach one without our Mossberg well stoked with explosive-tipped "bear slugs", and a footlong bowie knife at our side. We suggest looking to the owners of the barbarously manicured beast known as poodle . . .


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Now that the rainy season is past, we see only a single offshore storm heading our way, meaning that the long anticipated drought has set in and all of us are now doing their bit to help out the State water shortage. The East Bay Tuolome reservoir stands at 65% capacity and so all of us are holding the toilet flush, taking sparse showers, putting off washing the car, rolling back the garden and lawn watering and generally buckling down for a long one yet again.

But meanwhile things are happening down there by the Old Fence. Tulips are shooting up, the glads have erupted with spikes of red and green and the beans are going great guns. Another Spring has begun.

Old John looks like he is staking up his firey red peppers for a long hot summer already.

The effects of the Recession, which began here well before other parts of the country as the Executive Office at the time sought to punish the Golden State for its voting habits, are reaching now deep into the lives of everyday Islanders.

Every day a truck drops off a load of day-old bread at the Mastic Senior Center on St. Charles, down the street from the Island-Life offices. By eleven o'clock, the boxes are empty.

There are folks who want to see an Island of Fine Living with well-heeled and affluent folks roaming about looking for a better golf putter as the worst of their concerns.

For these people the folks in Power renovate and rename the shopping center, fix up Park Street, encourage scads of development, and import fancy restaurants that sincerely serve up a tiny dish of meatballs (rice or noodles extra charge) as gourmet entree. They of the smooth world of glitter and Gala.

Then there are the rest of us, living in landscapes portrayed by Gorky and Grosz, landscapes possessing vastly different assumptions. We are the fixed-income, blue collar, been-heres all along folks.

Over at Marlene and Andre's place on Otis Drive, everyone is in deranged despair over the latest rent increase for the modest one bedroom cottage there. Mancini went out in touseled wake-up mode, carrying his cup of coffee with a bleary attitude through the small throng of people who use the livingroom as sleeping barracks. He tacked around the sofa with Suan perched on the still snoring bulk of Pahrump, stepped over Occasional Quentin's legs sticking out from under the coffee table and skirted the sleepingbags of Jose, Rolph, Tipitina, Sarah and the gently thumping tails of Wickiwup and Johnny Cash as he finally made it to the door.

The others were sleeping in the hall closet (Marsha and Xavier) and in the stacked bunks made of "discovered lumber" (Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, and Markus the dog) while Februs, Crackers and Alexis remained at their respective graveyard shifts, swabbing hospital floors and sorting recyclables at the Plant.

Marlene and Andre, who remained the sole visible tenants on the lease, inhabited the six by eight bedroom with eight of the cats.

It is a tidy household, a bit crowded, but economical in these trying times of deprivation and savage greed.

There was a small cry from Mancini when he deciphered the brief note from Mr. Howitzer's real estate office announcing the rent increase and he very nearly fell through the hole burned in the porch in his reeling anguish. A woman walking her dog across the way gave him a curious look that smacked of disapproval.

The hole was a memento of Javier's fiftieth birthday last year, which had been less a celebration than an hysterical catastrophe of flailing limbs, drugs, wine, fire, and frustrated debauchery, a sordid mess that had very nearly killed everyone.

Mancini returned to the livingroom with the bad news and all were very much put out about it. A rent increase during a time like this. Everyone's hours had been cut back -- even Suan's poledancing gig at the Crazy Horse Saloon and money was tighter than usual.

Sarah peeked her head out from under the covers and, in a seeming non sequitur, asked Mancini in a drousy voice if he was Jewish.


"Mancini," Suan explained. "You know you are not wearing any pants."

O in such an household there can be no secrets. Or shame.

Meanwhile, Mr. Howitzer, living in a vastly different sort of world came out of his house on Grand Street to fetch the paper between the two stone lions that braced his gate. More news about the G20 meeting in Strassburg and trying times. Consumer confidence down. House prices falling. His own business just maintaining an even keel instead of growing by leaps and bounds as is proper for a conservative real estate office. Missy just might have to skip a week of summer camp in Switzerland this year. Trying times indeed.

Down the street the place that had burned down and rebuilt five years ago still displayed a For Sale sign on its lawn. Terrible tragedy. Lost original Picassos in that one.

Mr. Howitzer sniffed the air, listened to the racket of the birds in the trees, observed the gelid light and the sleek form of Eisenhower, his rotweiler, trying desperately to murder a squirrel, which chattered at the dog just above reach of his leap.

Well, he still had his rental properties. No point in trying to sell them now. Wait a bit and then kick the lot of the rascals out on the street. To find units with increased rental income and lovely deposits to be made. The American system. Wonderful thing.

He did not think he was likely to ever return a dime of the security deposits he had taken in, and the thought gave him great satisfaction and spiked his hunger for a big breakfast. Fried kidney this morning. The woman across the street came out, looked at him, picked up her paper and went back inside without waving. A known Liberal. But possessing property, so she was all right. Indeed, it was morning in America all over the place.

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


APRIL 12, 2009


This week's headline photo returns to nature with a shot from Javier's garden where the sweetpeas are filling the yard with an heady scent.


The ongoing saga of the Suncal project enters a new phase after this past week of signature collection by suncal employees ran into numerous complaints regarding the deceptive practices of people collecting the signatures.

The part of the initiative which requires the Navy to perform clean-up is entirely null and void, as the Navy is an entity which has made its own independent contractual relationships to the City and is in no way bound by anything we the voters should decide at this level. We can bind the City, but we cannot bind a federal entity such as the US Navy.

This sparked an heated discussion in the lunchroom at the Island-life offices where it turns out the staff is evenly divided for and against the project.

While it is true that both Suncal and the Mayor's Office have been horrendously muffy-headed about telling the whole truth about costs and benefits and quite a number of issues, this may be all to the side regarding what may be a positive outcome on the situation.

That's an awful lot of open space out there on the former Navy base and many people see development there as an inevitablity due to financial pressures, so the Suncal project is at least an organized, planned approach developed over years of discussion, that at least offers a few positive contributions to the City in a time of stark need in the form of planned open space, public parks, momentary job creation, continuous tax revenue, and a new ferry station.

The main assumption here, as in virtually all discussions, is that development is a defacto fait accompli. No way to avoid it. The power of corporate thievery is so large that we simply must plan around its presence.
The land is simply so valuable it WILL be taken and used, with or without our permission.

In the interests of fairness (all of us here, both pro and con, have signed the ballot initiative, btw) we present here some of the arguments on both sides, colorized of course, with our wretched liberal slant. Egads.

If you look over on the sidebar you will see a new addition there with the relevant websites hyperlinked under SUNCAL PROJECT.


The best argument the HOMES group presents is in its HOMES:The Front, although the section titled "Full Report" implies a comprehensive review, as the other sections fall short of explaining or substantiating any claims, a continual problem during all discussions about the project.

The first fact takes some wading to get to, as the "report" inveighs heavily against SOCA before getting to nuts and bolts, but its the most salient fact HOMES and City Hall possess.

"... the land isn’t City-owned or free. SunCal is purchasing it directly from the Navy for $108,000,000"

Indeed the Navy, as an independent agency, is not bound to sell the land to any one party, including the City. This one fact is such a major deal that it cannot be ignored. The City clearly does not have the money to buy the land for itself, which leads any interested developer available who sees the land as valuable for future use.

It is quite possible that the Navy sells to any highest bidder, including any number of Texas scumbags who care not a whit for Alameda's "atmosphere". They could just as easily build a radioactive uranium rod processing plant as a slew of parks.

An item buried in the midst of its invective against SOCA is the tidbit that all other alternatives are moot until the exclusive agreement between the City and Suncal is cleared.

That's right; our brilliant City Council signed an agreement that states the City will negotiate with Suncal and no other entity. Essentially, we are already done for until Suncal either builds or backs out. We do not have the money to litigate and so that means we are locked into place with Suncal anyway. Its Suncal or nothing, in other words.

As an addendum, not referenced by HOMES, the anticipated 4800 new homes and additional businesses are likely to be slanted to the upscale, leading to greatly increased tax revenues from property and business taxes.

In other words, those folks, being given their own private ferry landing, and personal fire department, are likely to be rather wealthy types who, the Council expects, will likely drop a lot of cash down after their move-in.

In addition, there will be a loverly boost during all this construction to the local East Bay Economy.

It is likely the heavily patrolled area will make casual visits uncomfortable to many, but the hiking trails and parks might be momentarily available to us plebes. Just so long as we boost out of there at five.

Finally, the group answers snipes about the "infrastructure costs" with the following: "The repayment of redevelopment bonds is paid out of the new tax increment the City would realize from development of the area. That means no bonds unless there is development. These bonds can only be put to very specific purposes that make the development possible. One example is the essential replacement of the entire infrastructure at Alameda Point without which no development can occur."

This language is so labyrinthine that we must step in to assist. The group is essentially stating that unless SunCal develops the area, there will be no new taxes. But wait. Those new taxes will recirculate to pay interest on bonds to enhance the land for development.

In other words, HOMES claims that the development will pay for itself via localized taxes. We know that this is true because we chased a budget detail down a ferret hole which basically stated that DIFFERENT taxes would be levied against property in the development area. Meaning the rich folks would pay for their water and garbage and electricity being piped in.

Well, its a promise, but better than a slap in the face.

To conclude, the SunCal project appears to go out of the way in terms of usual development strategies to take into account present local values and living environment. As one proponent stated, "If you are going to develop and build, this is the way to go."

Nevermind who got paid and how we got there.


Ok, so nevermind that we really have no reason to "develop" the Point at all. Let the gulls and terns have it. But wait. What was that?

In a recent letter to the editor a writer noted that the Point presently, earns about $11.6 million dollars from existing businesses via lease arrangements. With no development and no infrastructure costs whatsoever. By just doing nothing.

Um, why has no one mentioned this significant figure? When the City is $3 million in arrears?

In other words, we do nothing, we get $11.6 million dollars. And more if the Council stops inhibiting natural business growth out there because they anticipate evicting the lot of them at any time.

This is a large part of SoCa's argument. Let the existing businesses alone, and start encouraging them, instead of actively discouraging them. Let them alone and convert the remainder to parkland and bird sanctuary.

This is not as far fetched as it seems. Oakland established the first bird sanctuary in the nation at Lake Merrit, and this Island sits right on the edge of the migratory path of several species. In fact, a large portion of the land out there has already been designated as bird sanctuary, which would need to be revoked in the event of development for housing.

So the path to financially reasonable alternatives does exist.

SOCA also refers to the nagging "infrastructure costs" which Socal included in its original budget to the tune of some $700 million.

The number is real and not made up. It is right there in the document. "Tax increment financing" is supposed to account for the cost of building new roads, signage, sewage lines, electrical power and additional municiple services. This means a regional property tax and additional taxes to pay for bond interest payments.

The main problem with SOCA is their proposed alternative of a land trust modeled along the lines of the Presidio is not realistic, at least as matched to the model of the Presidio.

It does answer the problem of what to do with the Exclusive contract signed by god knows whom with SOCAL. Somewhat.


Finally, a voice has uttered a pronouncement that makes moot all decisions from either group. According to climatologists, the ocean and the connected Bay is expected to rise some three feet in the next ten years due to global warming. Since the Point is barely 12 inches above water right now, that means that the entire area of dispute will be two feet under water and, hence, entirely useless to anybody except crabbers and abalone divers. The entire Point is made of land reclaimed from swamp, so it is appropriate that the entire place reverts to its original condition.

Of course, New Orleans is right now some twelve feet below the level of the Mississipi river, but that city has been around quite a while.

Does Suncal include building all structures on stilts as part of its program? We do not think so.


Two students are suing the Peralta Community College District, arguing that their civil rights were violated after administrators at the College of Alameda threatened to suspend them for praying on campus.

Kandy Kyriacou and Ojoma Omaga, who are Christian, say they were formally threatened with suspension a year and a half ago when an instructor became angry with them after witnessing Kyriacou praying with another instructor in a shared office, inhibiting the instructor from getting work done.

Kyriacou is known for public religious ejaculations in the middle of class and lab, and has been cited for "disruptive behavior" by school authorities. So the Taliban are considered radical . . .

The City owes some $1.8 million to the County EMS for ambulance services, which puts the City in danger of decertification for emergency ambulance services, which just puts more pressure on Silly Hall. No amount of traffic or parking tix will pay for this one, Mayor Bev. . .


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The last storm of the season swept on through here, leaving the skies muscular with clouds and sungold as in an old Joni Mitchel song.

The evenings have been cool and inclined to chill without danger of frost, so all the gardeners have been out digging among the tubers and rare earth.

Nevertheless, we are reminded that this is the most dangerous season of all. .

Spring is the most dangerous season in Northern California. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and Iv. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.

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 while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese 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 of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs).

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

Now 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. Its the heart, poor lad.

Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.

Javier went to an art gallery opening and ran into a pretty gal from San Leandro. Literally. They kept bumping into one another going down the street from the parking lot and by the time they reached the door, poor Javier was head over heels, or imagined he was. They bumped together more often than bumper cars at a Disney carnival ride and Javier felt sure it must mean something. As it turned out, she had left her contacts in the car and simply had difficulty navigating the terrain that evening. Javier had seemed harmless enough, so she had simply used his body as a sort of human guard rail.

She was a pretty thing with close cropped hair set in ringlets as Javier imagined the ancient Greek goddesses would have done. And she wore a leather jacket with high boots, which the ancient Greek goddesses probably would not have, but nevermind.

She was a woman. And he was a man. In love. Or something similar. As they talked he stopped hearing entirely what she was saying and had a vision of her screaming in ecstasy in a wildly blooming field of golden poppies while wearing nothing more than a velvet choker and a pillbox hat.

In conversation it developed she was an Urban Planner and something something. Forgot her contacts. Sorry for bumping into him like that.

Javier heard little in a fog of erotic mist. They seemed to be talking about art and auctions and stuff.

". . . and my three children. My husband looks after them while I am at work."

A slow trickle of very cold, ice cold water began sliding down the middle of Javier's back. This trickle became a torrent, a virtual cascade of gushing effluent from a rocky glacier in the alps somewhere very picturesque, but hardly erotic, and this torrent soon became rife with blocks of ice that knocked against his skull with splintering impact.

She was married. With three children. Hell and damn!

He left at the first excuse.

Later, he met with Schmidt, the Island-Life photographer. It was hard not to meet with him as he had a timeshare arrangment for the bunk slot at Marlene and Andre's household. Because rents had risen so obnoxiously, people had taken to timesharing their beds to make the monthly payments to the landlord.

I zee you haff zee Liebeskummer, said Schmidt over beers in the kitchen. Iss oldt problem. You vant to schtupp diese Dame, ja. Undt, iss verboten. Naturlich. Liebeskummer.


Liebeskummer iss vot you haff venn zee balls turn ze color blue, ja? Iss not so goot.

Javier had to agree on that point.

My friendt, here is problem mit ze loff und alles dazu. You are yourself, ja? Undt she is ze professional vomen off zee odder velt. She knows not der Rolf who is Pink Pussycat doorman. She knows not breadsoup mit Marlene and Andre. She knows none of zeese sleeping arrangements here. She knows not dumpster diving in May at ze Berkeley Uni student dorms. She knows none of zese things. She knows of de arts and vonderful opera and zee prancing ballet undt de magazines und I. Magnin undt Nordstrom undt Macy's.

You, on ze odder hand, must only be a visitor. Forever ausgeschlossen, ja. So ist das. A real newshound you are. Go for de news. Keep clear of all ze odder sings. Romance undt loff sings. Much better for you. Find a factory maid to keep you happy if you must, but zese society ladies. . . . Non! Not your metier. As ze French say. Undt ze French are much much better at ze loff sings dan you.

With that, Schmidt turned and went back into his seemingly eternal darkroom from which he turned out his extraordinary creations. For me iss ze sublimation. Yost imagine it could be vurs; you could be Tcherman undt nobody on ze planet loffs you undt your accent.

Meanwhile Pedro Almeida had felt the onrush of the new Season and he and his wife had gone out to the boat El Borracho Perdido in the early dawn and the ship's mast was still swaying back and forth long after the time when the boat should have been put out at sea. But then, this was Easter Sunday and past the Passover, so a bit of relaxation was in order. All along the marina, in fact, ships that normally put out at this time were seen to be swaying their masts, with long langorous arcs that described the heavens. Or something heavenly. While "zee loff sing" went on in their respectively dark, bumping, and penetrable holds and all the gulls stood about laughing to themselves on the pier.

It is California, with its mixture of all things at all times. Wondrous and golden with opportunity at every moment.

And that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.

APRIL 19, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the Old Field where a Victorian house stood until about 1977 when it burned down.

The golden poppy is the state flower. The red variety was created by Luther Burbank.


Our multi-media hamsters have been busy at work in the basement, cobbling together new things for people to tuck in their cheeks.

Courtesy of Chad, who is far more lively than most of us in the offices here, we now present the weekly video. This is Part I of Robert Newman's "History of Oil" lecture.

There are nine parts. Hang in there long enough for his brilliantly funny interpretation of the cause of World War I and a split screen dialog between Saddam Hussein, George Bush, and various members of NATO and OPEC, all done by himself in different voices. In one he appears to argue with himself from the balcony. Here is the URL for the rest of them.


Parishioners at a church in Sweden celebrated Easter on Sunday by unveiling a 6-foot-tall (1.8-meter-tall) statue of Jesus that they had built out of 30,000 Lego blocks.

It took the 40 volunteers about 18 months to put all the tiny plastic blocks together, and their creation shows a standing Jesus facing forward with his arms outstretched.

The Protestant church was filled to capacity with about 400 worshippers on Sunday when the statue went on display behind the altar, and some of the children in the congregation couldn't help but touch the white art work.

They were not permitted to use any pieces to build a toy truck, however.

Church spokesman Per Wilder said the statue at the Onsta Gryta church in the central Swedish city of Vasteras is a copy of Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen's "Christus" statue on display in Copenhagen.

He also said that even though the statue is all white on the outside, many of the donated Legos that the church received were of other colors and were placed inside.

A plan to make a Bhuddha and a Mohammed out of green M&M's was kiboshed.


What IS up with the new Kohl's? Took advantage of a $10 gift card at the new Kohl's at Southshore Mall and ran into a couple handing out flyers at the door. Turns out Kohl's sells clothing made by a notorious Central American sweatshop factory and makes no bones about it. This on top of doing the buildout of the new store with trucked-in scab labor, doing us all such a nice favor for the Bay Area economy.

Turns out the group is from, which checks out as a national organization composed of seven major unions and over six million members. (

As for the gift card, the $10 barely covered the price of a set of white athletic socks. Most of the other regular prices seemed rather high as compared to Costco and budget clothing stores. If they use sweatshop labor, then the prices sure do not reflect the savings. We say, "Stay away." There are other reputable clothiers in the Mall who do not rely on blood for trade.


The folks over at St. Charles Apartments are getting pretty steamed -- and not on account of the weather. Seems the out-of-town landlord refuses to perform basic maintenance while upping all the rents for every tenant. Some tenants have seen their rents rise 180% over the past six years while wood rot, black mold, and leaky toilets are the order of the day. For a period of a year, perhaps longer, several tenants lived without hot water because of corroded plumbing until the City came in and fined the owners $480 per day for keeping "substandard conditions."

"I can live with crappy windowsills that need to be painted and buckling floors, but this raising the rent during times like this is unconscionable," said one tenant.

It was noted that the building recently got a new tenant in the form of the East Bay T-Mobile G3 Cell installation, which pays an additional rent of $20,000 per month to the landlord. A G3 tower handles far more stuff than just cell phone traffic so somebody is really making out like bandits over there.

The tenants are getting together to see what they can do in the form of organized opposition to the rampant greed. Best of luck on THAT, guys.

The management firm, Hanford-Freund, which collects the rents and is supposed to handle maintenance, has no comment. Stay tuned for developments.


April 26th is the Island Yacht Club opening day when wealthy people owning expensive nautical toys will be kicking of the 2009 boating season with the 92nd water parade. Over 250 boats from over 50 Bay area clubs will join the parade and compete for "best decorated yacht prize." The Island has won first place three out of five years.

Der Governator showed up here to push for Prop 1A which calls for a mandatory state spending cap as well as the creation of a "rainy day fund". We will be doing a write up on the initiatives as soon as the City finishes its own local list, i.e. when and if the SoCal initiative makes it on the ballot.

Folks are up in arms about the debris from the military depot fire we reported a couple weeks ago. The Air Quality man there found stuff in the smoke but little in the debris that fell for a good mile down wind. The site is an identified asbestos site, so the solid material is to be handled with disposable gloves and tossed into the trash can for pickup. If you breathed the smoke, its too late to do anything.


Its not likely this issue which is sharply dividing the Island will go away soon. The irony is that had Silly Hall simply been forthcoming from the start about the project, none of the present flack would have happened.

In the latest flap, a reporter for the Sun assigned to photograph signature takers trying to put an initiative on the ballot for May got accosted and very nearly beaten up, first by the Suncal staff, then by folks from the other side of the issue.

Over a period of two weeks we talked to several of the signature takers, who are employees of a company hired by Suncal to get the iniative on the ballot. We did notice deceptive and pushy practices employed in front of Lucky's supermarket for a while, but we also noted an improvement in behavior after numerous complaints. In recent days, the solicitors have been phrasing their pitches appropriately and with no attempt to conceal the nature of the initiative, the text of which has appeared in both of the weekly newspapers here.

So even though some of us here are not fond of the Suncal project, it does appear that they do listen and do respond to complaints. Also, as one solicitor indicated, the Islanders need to realize that the Navy, which owns the property, is under no obligation other than good will to deal with Suncal or any one other developer. In fact, its in the Navy's best interest to sell the land piecemeal, getting a far higher return and effectively circumventing City Hall as well as the voters entirely. Also, if they did that, they could select a buyer not so choosy about the toxic waste cleanup.

Because of the Exclusivity Agreement already signed by City Hall with SunCal, the Mayor and the Council have no real choice in the matter; they are legally bound.

Yes, there are better plans than the SoCal project, but we just might be stuck with it for good or for ill.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. From chill NorCal temps we moved gradually through the week to 89 degree scorchers on Sunday, sending all the families out to the Strand and all the windsurfers out to the shallows offshore. All the BBQ grills got dragged from their cobbwebby nests and a run was made on the Lucky's for the .99 cent ribs.

The times have gotten so hard for everybody that all one can do is sit back with a tall one and watch the smoke rise.

Down at the Old Same Place every face coming through the door seems to bring another tale of woe, how one lost his job, how another had her hours cut back to nothing, how somebody just had to let the old car go. In times like this, we should all be pulling for one another, but we're not. The landlords feel a little pressed and so they raise the rents. The grocers see the cost of produce going up so they raise the prices. No one can afford the health costs so the doctors raise the fees to pay for the indigent. The Cities are all clamoring for bailout and so they increase the price of parking tickets and up the fees for just about everything and ratchet up the enforcement, just making it that much harder for the man in the middle.

Where will it ever end?

We're all headed for Ultimate Bankruptcy and when the light goes out because somebody couldn't pay the utility bill, we'll end up on our hands and knees in some Djuna Barnes finish, barking into extinction.

Its a savage and brutal situation and waits everlong for the first act of humanity to recognize, at the minimum, some kind of species relationship.

Here on the Island we have long had our walls against the danger of the world, living with quiet streets shaded by maples and oaks, where kids still played stickball in the road. Its that way right now and soon the clang clang of the old ice cream truck will trundle down the way. In the Old Field the poppies are blooming wildly and along the Beltline, the grasses grow high where the rails used to hum with the song of the Southern Pacific. The Old Cannery remains silent and bordered by weeds. Downtown remains a two block strip with a small wooden kiosk selling newspapers much as it has done since 1944 located right at its center.

All of us new folks moved here long ago when the Island was not a good place to live. The Navy base was there with its satellite of bars and tattoo parlors and lots of crank houses pushed out drugs on the streets. But the rent was cheaper than in Babylon so thats why we came here.

After ruining Frisco, some folks want to come over here and ruin this place as well. Soon enough this place will have, just like Frisco, machinegun murders and flamboyant stabbings.

But for now, we remain a quiet town of quiet people who just do not like adventures or wild goings on. Its actually not a great place to grow up anymore but a place to come to after all of the excitement in life has been done. The Frenchman who could have won the first nonstop around the world sail contest settled here. So did all the Munchkins from the movie Wizard of Oz.

That is how those of us who have lived here more than a short while like to think of ourselves. Hobbits and munchkins, just living and getting by from day to day.

In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie gives Last Call. The regulars and the newbies all order up or finish their drinks, each to each. Some find a partner with which to return and parse away the hours left in the weekend and maybe steal a few hours from the upcoming Monday. Most go home to their respective, silent, summer-warmed beds in Solus Rex.

From far across the estuary comes the wail of the midnight throughpassing train as it steams to destinations unknown through the Port of Oakland and Jack London Waterfront, ululating with all the sadness and joy of the world as it wavers across the estuary.

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

APRIL 26, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the UK, where we did not think we enjoyed a single fan. Turns out otherwise.

A group promoting secular humanism put this one out.


This week we have a sample video from a guy who calls himself Levni Yilmaz, with a Youtube handle of "agentxpq"


Lev is a professional illustrator and has a few books to sell. We at, where no cynicism is too deep, plan on scarfing up several to give to friends.

AgenXPQ's web site can be found by clicking on the tube image below:


Went over to the brand new Fox theatre in Oaktown to checkout what's up with Bloc Party these days. The sound was a bit muddy and Keke Okereke, the lead singer, largely unintelligible even when speaking to the crowd, but the band remains solidly energetic, propelling the music forward without hesitation. The crowd clearly loves the band which pulled two encores out of its hat before the shouting, dancing audience, most of whom seemed to be long-time fans.

A Bloc Party concert is more like a revival tent jubilation than a rock show, and that night, the band really provided a solidly joyous experience, more of which are needed in times like these.


One month off
Trojan horse
Hunting for witches
Positive tension
Song for clay
Where is home
Blue light
This modern love
The prayer

Like eating glass
She's hearing voices

Okerkele has a fabulous voice with great dynamic range and Russell Lisack (lead guitar) has just the right chops to allow the vocalist to breath. We would say that this band has some legs, and so should be around for quite a while.


Our beloved well-appelled Lisa Bulwinkl informs us of the free Chocolate and Chalk event up in Berzerkeley taking place this year on the 30th of May, where sidewalk artists will be granted a free space to sketch their temporary masterpieces. Hope it doesn't rain . . .

Il Pescatore lets us know that Pasquale Esposito will be tickling the ivories for your dining pleasure through the end of Spring . . .

The City is kindly requesting folks concerned about the debris fallout from the FISC fire to just sit down and relax as the stuff is harmless. Haven't we got more pressing things to think about . . . ?

More poisonous than the FISC ashes is the mud under the Point "Seaplane Lagoon", which will certainly get stirred up should the Ferry landing be moved from Main Street to that location, as the Navy found toxic metals and all kinds of nastiness down to a depth of about three feet there. Somebody better get a really big shovel . . .


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

The weather has turned cool, windy and cloudy after the record-topping heatwave of a week ago, causing some of us to retreat indoors to finish off Keillor's "Leaving Home", a collection of pre-1987 monologues from the PHC. As fans will know, Garrisson took a misguided break from the popular radio show on NPR in 1987, only to return as fresh as a Nordic lion. We finished off Pontoon a while ago and are looking for delivery of his "Liberty: A Novel of Lake Wobegon". That feller sure can write.

Fans of IslandLife must know that our Editor always wanted to grow old, dispensing avuncular wisdom with well-placed commas, hosting the fabulously talented from all over the world, have gorgeous Scandanavian women hanging on the arm and throwing intimate articles of apparel in adoration with scads of roses while singing -- in perfect pitch -- misty-eyed songs of yesteryear, a perfect image of well-matured wisdom and grace, wearing red tennis shoes to work.

And have devoted friends like Pat Donaghue and Fred Neumann.

Instead, he just got old.

Oh well, disappointment is a requirement in life, which is frequently unfair.

George Bush, John Yoo, Karl Rove, Donald Rumsfeld, and several others probably will never go to jail, Spanish or otherwise, and that is just too bad.

Javier went up to cover a social event the other day, and really made a mess of things there. He forgot to bring his press credentials, so the hostess thought he was an uninvited guest dressing down as a sort of joke.

While there, surrounded by the glittering stars of the firmament of Belles Lettres he managed to gabble around the foot in his mouth about music to two fellows who had been members of popular bands, then he managed to bumble a half-formed theory about psychology to someone who turned out to be an Associate Professor at the Jungian Institute, queried a fellow about the importance of rhymes to a fellow who turned out to be a respected published poet. The lovely, young and lithesome Leona was there and, at one point, she helpfully notified Javier of the spinach stuck between his teeth. and finally he caught the edge of the crystal soup tureen with his sport coat as he escaped a botched discussion on religion with a dignified Unitarian minister.

The soup -- Thai lime-prawn, went over onto the probably every authentic Persian carpet with a great clatter, pretty much destroying glass tureen, soup, carpet and what remained of Javier's self-respect.

In his gallop to get out of there, he forgot to apologise to anyone, especially the hostess, who probably did not really deserve the treatment, and headed across the Bridge to Oaktown where he contemplated various forms of suicide at the railroad tracks, while drinking from a gallon of red wine.

So much for the lovely Leona.

The train, outbound from the port paused there and, a boxcar being empty during these trying times, he filled with the sudden body of himself and his jug, leaving the battered volvo sitting there in the darkness.

Somewhere in an industrial area, the train stopped with a mind, so it seemed, not to proceed any further. Javier got out with his jug and ambled away. With a heave and a chuff, the train took off again without him.

Things were not going well.

It was as he was walking along the road lights grew bright behind him. The white lights of the headlights yielded to the unmistakable mixture of cherry and orange that signalled to him he was really in trouble now.

A voice from an electronic speaker ordered him to stop right there.

A door slammed.

Never had an officer of the law looked so large as Authority looked him over behind a flashlight.

"Boy, you smell like lime-prawn soup," said the flashlight. "Where you from?"

In answer, Javier spilled out most of his childhood, the miseries of High School at Washington in the City, wretched love affairs, life-long penury, and much detail about his current circumstances and how he had arrived there, meaning at the railroad tracks.

The flashlight snicked off. "Get in the car."

Javier set down his jug, but the sheriff told him to pick it up. "No littering in my District."

Javier apologized and picked up the jug again.

The aroma of lime prawn soup filled the little cruiser.

Which to Javier's creeping horrow stopped in the middle of nowhere. The sheriff ordered him to get out.

Expecting to be beaten to a pulp right there Javier did as he was told.

The sheriff spoke through the window. "Now I could haul you in and book you for D&D and vagrancy besides, but I won't; yer too damn pathetic. That soup done make me hungry and it would be hours before I get anything to eat and besides. Ah don't want the likes of you soiling up my nice clean jail and corrupting the decent prisoners. This here is the edge of my District. Train stops over there at the crossing in about . . . fifteen minutes. It sets there about five to make sure the way is clear and then it heads on north again. Get on it and don't come back, y'hear?"

Javier assented.

"Ok now, git. I'm gonna fetch me some Chinese."

With that the sheriff drove off. In a few minutes a train stopped and Javier climbed into an open boxcar, of which there where many, some occupied by men riding the rails just like him and with whom he shared his wine. Sometime near daybreak he found himself back in Oaktown. He found his car where he had left it just as a metermaid was slipping a ticket under the wiper. He drove home and slept a while before coming into the Offices where he asked the Editor to taken off of the film and society page and be put back on the fire and ambulance beat. The surprised Editor did so, mentioning that Javier's aftershave smelled an aweful lot like lime prawn soup.

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


MAY 3, 2009


This week's headline photo comes courtesy of the janitor for the Island-LIfe offices who took this pic in the Staff lavatory. This is an entirely unstaged and unretouched photo.

Kinda makes ya wanta kill, don't it? See play review below.


Carol of St. Charles Street sends us this item regarding junk recycling on the Island. One group has taken the hint of several national organizations that cheerfully pass on still reuseable items to others rather than send these otherwise useful objects to clutter landfill.

URL here is

Folks here can list items of which they want to dispose and also list items wanted, which is a nice alternative to just dropping furniture on the curb to be picked up ad hoc by scavengers.

Now that is community action.


Dropped in to hear noted Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker speak on the "Palestinian Question" in Oaktown during the week. The event was held at the First Congregation Church in Oakland and was hosted by local radio station KPFA in conjunction with Code Pink, an international activist group that works for peace and justice. Other organizations supporting the event were the American Muslim Voice Foundation, , Middle East Children’s Alliance, Global Exchange, and A Jewish Voice for Peace. Ms. Walker, who won the Pulitzer in 1983 for The Color Purple, was interviewed by Malihe Razazan, producer and co-host of KPFA’s “Voices of the Middle East and North Africa.”

Conditions in the dimly-lit church were unfortunately too poor for good photos.

The interview was preceded by a short video made by Code Pink of their visit to Gaza on a fact-finding humanitarian mission. The group brought 1000 care baskets to women in the Gaza strip, home to 1.5 million people. At the time, the strip was under 100% blockade, however the Egyptian authorities allowed the group through the border when the group threatened to conduct a sit-down protest with the internationally famous author in their midst.

Walker accompanied the group during the visit, during which they saw bomb-injured children in hospitals, talked with physicians, and viewed the destruction of various civilian targets, such as the American University and playgrounds which occured during the recent 21 days of the assault against Gaza.

Prior to her interview, Alice Walker read an article from the New England Journal of Medicine which discussed the injuries caused by phosphorus shells and DIME bombs (tungsten cluster bombs) the toxicity of which continues to cause damage long after the initial wound has been treated (see

Walker's response was surprisingly even-handed and balanced, given the passions the Middle East conflict stirs up and she refused to be led down the path her interviewer laid out for her to a simplistic political agenda, preferring to stick to factual recognition of the situation in the world's most densely populated region. Her simple concern was for the injured and killed non-combatants and the widespread misery caused by the assault and the physical human level of suffering.

She also mentioned the second-class status of Palestinians in Israel, which she compared to the Jim Crow days she lived through in the American Deep South.

During their visit, the group met with a representative from Hamas.

Not until late in the evening, when pressed, did she mention that she did support the "one state" idea of a combined Palestinian-Jewish nation, however this appeared to be of less concern that cessation of these horrors against women and children.

Walker, who married a Jewish man some time ago, stated that "This is the worst thing to happen to Israel. I think they (the Israeli people) are the biggest victims in all this." She mentioned two encounters with Palestinian women, one of which said in the middle of her destroyed house, "May God protect you from the Jews." Another said, "May god destroy their houses!"

Walker said, "You don't want to be living with an old woman's curse like that. You just do not. You don't want people half a world away saying things like that about you."

Medea Benjamin, the Jewish-born founder of Code Pink, wound up the evening with a short plea for funds to rebuild the destroyed children's playgrounds in Gaza.

The alleged causes of the bombardment -- the rockets, bombing attacks, and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier -- were only briefly glossed. However Walker did comment during a question/answer period on the what-ifs regarding one-state unification or a more temperate response to the rockets. "You know nobody can answer or address all these what-ifs. If I choose the path of peace and stop this killing, I am just doing my job here on earth. If somebody chooses to kill me for it, then that person is just doing their job and I can have no worries or concern over it. The important thing here is for each of us to do our job. That's it."


There are two Inishmores in Ireland, a land of eternal duplicity. This is good to know before attending Berkeley Rep's latest offering from playwright Martin McDonagh, who supposedly composed all seven of his award-winning plays within one eighteen month period.

The first Inishmore of memory is a small town in County Cavan off of the N3 about three kilometers from the border between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

The second Inishmore is more well-known to tourists as it is the largest of the Aran islands, and is a noted tourist attraction. Population of both towns is about 900.

This duality is very much the nature of a country in which every single place enjoys two names -- one English and one Gaelic -- and where double meanings run rife through everyday speech.

Berkeley Rep has staged a sanguine production of McDonagh's Lieutenant of Inishmore, a fairly brutal comedy that ramps up from animal cruelty to torture and human slaughter, with a final act that is literally drenched in blood as characters dismember murdered corpses on stage with saws and clippers.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, James Carpenter and Adam Farabee star in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, another bloody comedy from Obie Award-winning director Les Waters and Oscar-winning writer Martin McDonagh. Photo courtesy of

For those of us who have actually lived through some of this, its a bit off-putting to say the least. But this is Theatre, where everything is larger than life. McDonagh spares no visual in his savage indictment of IRA and its splinter groups tactics in his brutal farce which begins with a character lifting a battered dead cat from a kitchen table, its brains dripping down.

That's only the first few ounces of what the Rep claims to be a total of about 13 gallons of stage blood spilled, spattered, smeared and splashed during the roughly 120 minutes of Grand Guiganol that takes place during the Irish "Troubles".

The story begins with the rather thick and fey Davey (played by a wonderfully daffy Adam Farabee) finding the corpse of a battered cat in the road as he rides his pink girl's bicycle.

He brings the body back to the cottage where he lives with the equally obtuse omadauen Donny. The two plot an improbable scheme to conceal the death of the cat, concerned that Padraic, Donny's son, will fly into a murderous rage when he finds out his beloved "Wee Thomas" has died violently.

Padraic is the title's Lt. of Inishmore, a head of an IRA splinter group that calls itself the INLA, and is known for his murderous tendencies.

Donny calls Padraic on his cell phone and the scene shifts to the interrupted session in which Padraic has been torturing a known petty drug dealer with razors and pinking shears. Donny tells Padraic (played by Blake Ellis) that "Wee Thomas is feelin'poorly", but not so poor that he need rush on home.

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Daniel Krueger and Blake Ellis. Photo courtesy of

The drug dealer (played by a durable Daniel Krueger who hangs upside down for most of his scene) manages to talk his way out of further punishment by giving a tip on curing ringworm in cats, and so Padraic rushes on home, thus provoking the seemingly endless round of violence that permeates the play.

As one character notes -- while sawing through the backbone of a dismembered corpse next to a pile of body parts, "When will this ever end?"

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, James Carpenter, Blake Ellis and Adam Farabee star in The Lieutenant of Inishmore. Photo courtesy of

Indeed, as the previous evening with Alice Walker indicates, it never does. In life or on the stage.

At the end of the play, when a real live cat appears and two surviving characters, dripping with blood, draw their guns to kill it, but hold back -- for now -- there is a momentary hint of potential mercy, however another surviving character has left with the angry and sinister promise, "I'll be back in the mornin' to conduct an investigation as to just how this happened."

(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Danny Wolohan and Blake Ellis star in The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Photo courtesy of

This is one of McDonagh's most movie-like plays, calling for rather spectacular special effects as heads are severed, brains are spattered against walls upon gunshot and genuine firearms are discharged on stage. The scenes are multiple and short, almost like Scorsese-style editorial jumpcuts from cottage to torture cell to open road and back to cottage again.

For a while one could not go down O'Connell Street in the Republic without running into not one or two but several men walking with canes and a stiff leg that had been "capped" up north by the IRA as punishment for this or that infraction. The IRA ran its own police operation in Belfast and other areas, and so lacking proper jails, would break the legs of perceived criminals. For more serious offences, they would break a man's knees, then chain him to a bomb-filled car that would be pointed toward a police barracks or a British checkpoint. Others, they would simply shoot in the head.

The Troubles only came to an uneasy truce in 1991 when the Northern Ireland counties were all given the theoretical right to vote for self-determination by the British. By then, over 3,500 people had been murdered, as a conservative estimate, with unknown thousands more maimed for life. So far, the largely Protestant North has refused to join with the Republic of Ireland to the south.

There is no mention of the equally as violent Protestant UDF, and other paramilitary forces who fought the Ira, but the play is not about politics. Its about presenting violent men and violent women as thick-head imbeciles.

The world is a violent place where it seems the "hard men" get exhalted and glorified. This was true during the Troubles in Ireland and it certainly seems true in the Middle East, where misplaced sentiment for relatively unimportant things unseats human compassion. To the end of our days we will never forget an IRA man pounding the table in a meeting while shouting "We don't want peace; we want Justice!"
"When will this ever end?" is a good question.

As Louis MacNeice, another Irishman, commented long ago in his Autumn Journal,

Nightmare leaves fatigue:
We envy men of action
Who sleep and wake, murder and intrigue
Without being doubtful, without being haunted.
And I envy the intransigence of my own
Countrymen who shoot to kill and never
See the vicim's face become their own
Or find his motive sabotage their motives.

The play is being held over through May 24th.


Martin McDonagh, Playwright
Les Waters, Director
Antje Ellermann, Scenic Design
Anna R. Oliver, Costume Design
Alexander V. Nichols, Lighting Design
Obadiah Eaves, Sound Design
Dave Maier, Fight Director
Lynne Soffer, Dialect Coach
TolinFX, Special Effects
Karen Szpaller, Stage Manager
Amy Potozkin, Casting
Janet Foster, New York Casting
Mina Morita, Assistant Director
Mark Huang, Assistant Sound Design

James Carpenter, Donny
Adam Farabee, Davey
Blake Ellis, Padraic
Daniel Krueger, James
Molly Camp, Mairead
Danny Wolohan, Christy
Rowan Brooks, Brendan
Michael Barrett Austin, Joey


This week Lewis Black answers the question, "Just how can gay marriage destroy the 'American Family'." Since nobody else seems to be explaining in detail just how that would happen. This video contains graphic language.




The Caroline Seckinger Works exhibit opened at Danielle Fox's new gallery, Slate, Friday night in the Temescal District. Seckinger's material will be presented in a dynamic installation employing metal, fabric, fur, wax, film, drawing, and digital media to investigate socio-cultural notions of gender, marriage, and work. The display will be available May 1-30 at Slate in Oakland . . .

Oakland's Art Murmur took place under the deluges of Friday night. Over on the corner there a few men had trouble with their umbrellas and many were the women who got wet, but in the end, a fine time was had by all . . .

Jack London Square announces "Dancing under the Stars" with complimentary dance lessons Friday evenings at the Pavilion Stage (B'way+Water Streets) with Cha Cha next up for May 8th for those of you safely tied to partners . . .

Jack London Square also announces its Cinco de Mayo shindig at Cocina Poblana, which began May 1 and winds up, funnily enough, May 5th with DJ as well as live music and special $5 deals on food and drinks . . .



It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A real dockwalloper set in here, just before the weekend, sending all the gulls scurrying over the grocery parking lots and drenching the place well enough to convince EBMUD to halt water rationing for the time being.

Sad to say for folks east of here, you have about four days to get ready for another round of Severe Weather, if history proves right. This is a big storm, and we see another drop of an inch or more happening during the beginning of next week, which means a lot more than that happening further east from here.

Fargo, we feel for you.

Everyone is hunkering down as the skies let loose here and the Most Dangerous Season advances with its usual victims. The Editor has bunkered himself into his office with a packed freezer of Lean Ones TV dinners and a number of DVDs. Everytime a pretty girl walks by in a short skirt he just shouts out through the door, "Nobody here but couch potatoes and slobs watching Pro Wrestling and Monster Truck rallies!"

Actually, he rented Wuthering Heights and several foreign language films, but don't tell anyone.

Javier is back to chasing ambulances and covering the house fire circuit and he seems well engaged with that. Plenty of hunky firemen and women to deflect attention there. Meanwhile Denby got drunk and missed the Oakland Art Murmur, so he stayed safe through the weekend. Hung over but safe.

Chad has spent his time indoors designing a new website called, so he is also staying out of trouble.

Down at the Old Same Place, while the weather is misbehaving, Suzie is serving up the usual assortment of Gaelic Coffees, so called because Padraic insists the Irish would never mix the Water of Life with something so base as coffee. In any case, she keeps herself busy, slinging sloe gin fizzes, Irish coffees and the occasional highball interspersed with goodly amounts of Fat Tire ale. Fat tire ale is a local brew made by a group of bicycle enthusiasts who feel the bicycle is the resolution to all social ills and they just may be right about that.

In any case,the beer is pretty good, so its not uncommon to hear a fellow walk in and say they'll have a bump and a fat tire in such a way that inevitably someone at the bar exclaims, "Oh that's too bad. Want me to call Triple A?"

Suzie serves them up and watches the dramas unfold from behind the bar, the silent bartender with no hint of a past herself save for the golden knickers Dawn hung up there with the Bar mementos. Photos of Padraic and Dawn's cottage in Wicklow, (a place they have not visited in well over thirty years), the autographed photos of Bono, Luka Bloom, The Chieftains (not Irish but close enough), Sinead O'Connor and Gerry Adams, a football jersey, a flag of the Republic (of course), a Bridget's cross, and a crumbling brick of peat.

Don't talk to Suzie about what Schmidt calls "die luff sings", for she will have none of it. Not after that boy Aisling broke her heart a while ago. So night after night she soldiers on, tending the bar and watching the mating dances of that curious species, Rugitus Americana. She's seen them come, she's seen them pair off, she's seen them go, and she's seen them return as singles only to do it all over again.

After a really busy night, Padraic called for one on the house as Suzie plotzed down at a table after the neon sign had been switched off. Someone had commented to her as she worked, "You aren't still mooning after that Aisling are ya?" and Padraic very nearly brained the fellow with his Kerrystick behind the bar, a nasty piece of thornwood three feet long, for Padraic was very protective of those under his charge.

But Suzie would have no violence done on her part and for something so trifling. So Padraic offered a Fat Tire on the house and the two women, she and Dawn, got off of their sore legs. And there the three friends sat over a quiet one for a while. For let it be said that the Irish are a naturally great-hearted people and not at all a bunch of bloodthirsty buffoons as recently depicted. And given a chance, if only given a chance, Irish and Arab would choose to live in peace with any and all.

As they sat there, the long wail of the train passing through Jack London Waterfront ululated across the water with its mournful memento mori.

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



MAY 10, 2009

This weeks photo comes from inside the First Congregational Church of Oakland.

None of us at Island-life tends to spend much time in churches, but this side entrance, which seems ready to allow admittance to something or someone reminds us that Justice is paired with Truth and those who want to suppress things like official memos on torture ought to remember this. The entrance opposite the Nave bears the flags for FREEDOM and EQUALITY.


This week's weekly video comes from New York and does explain a lot about just how certain East Coasters got the way they are. Blame it on Mom . . . .



Took in quite spontaneously on a tip midweek the latest offering from ACT in the City, a play written by Obie-award winning playwright José Rivera. Rivera is most recently famous for the screen adaptation of The Motorcycle Diaries. (Production photos by kevin berne (

Doña Milla (Rachel Ticotin) and her daughter, Flora (Lela Loren), discuss the possible infidelity of Flora's fiancé in front of their house in rural Puerto Rico.

It is good to know that the Bolero is a dance form of music in 3/4 time that originated in Spain many hundreds of years ago, but which flowered in Santiago, Cuba, from where it spread outward throughout the world. Ravel's work of that name, originally titled "Fandango" has traces of this structure.

The song which permeates the play is titled "Dolores", which can be the name of a woman or the word for "suffering." The Spanish lyrics, printed in the Programme, are roughly translated below by our own Javier:


In your name's sorrow
the destiny is written
the destiny of a man
who was born for you
who suffers for having loved you
and who desired
only for you,
for you to live, to die for you

Boleros for the Disenchanted is a quasi-autobiographical play that features the events experienced by the author's own parents, who grew up, met each other and married in Puerto Rico. The story of their love and of their post-immigration disenchantment in America is told in two acts, the first centered in the courtyard of the little village of Miraflores, PR. The second act plays out forty years later in an Alabama apartment after many dreams have been destroyed, while the love the couple share with one another has survived sickness, penury, disappointment, infidelity, and the dispersal of the family members around the world.

National guard member Eusebio (Drew Cortese) has his eye on the beautiful Flora (Lela Loren).

A simple description of the play's plot really fails to do full justice to what the play does: a girl meets a man who breaks her heart. She goes away to heal and meets another who pursues her successfully. They marry and move to another country, suffer a great deal and come to love one another more deeply. In a nice casting touch, every actor returns to the stage from Act One to portray different characters in Act Two. Drew Cortese, who does a nicely restrained yet nuanced Eusebio politely courting the young Flora comes back in a scenery-chewing performance as a priest who so graphically describes marriage that the Nurse Eva (Lela Loren) gasps. The actors who portray Flora's parents play the younger couple forty years later.

Staged in a simple Checkovian fourth-wall style, the play manages to erupt from regional and ethnic specificity in a number of ways, beginning, but not limited to, evocations of the current financial Recession as well as particular ham-fisted American foreign policies.

As Don Fermin shouts in the courtyard, "They have taken away all the work; now there is none for anybody! What is a man with no work to do? He is nothing!"

Flora (Lela Loren, center) comforts her drunk and frustrated father, Don Fermin (Robert Beltran), as her mother Doña Milla (Rachel Ticotin), looks on.

Indeed much of the play is concerned with just what makes a man a man, from the literal and graphic references to sexual parts to strength of committment and honor. In the rather emotional second act, the playwright makes clear as the older Eusebio is stripped of virtually every physical attribute with Beckettian savagery that there is much more to a man than the physical.

As Flora (Lela Loren) and the other characters in Puerto Rico confront the problems and realities of what it means to commit one's life to another person, the play deeply examines marriage in a way that scatters the arguments claiming that "marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman" to the four winds. From the perspective of the play, with the physical aspect gone, the children gone and scattered around the globe, the community dispersed and transient as an army base, even language itself removed, the question "What is left?" blows apart entirely reductive definitions.

Forty years later, Older Flora (Rachel Ticotin) and Older Eusebio (Robert Beltran) are still in love.

Indeed, on Mother's day, one does well to consider all the things that go into what makes a family beyond the physical.

The play delves consciously into the question of what constitutes marriage as Flora volunteers at her church for a program that tries to prevent couples from marrying in Alabama too early, resulting in the inevitable wreckage of divorce at age seventeen.

A young couple, Monica (Michele Vazquez) and Oskar (Dion Mucciacito), question their decision to get married after a visit to Flora and Eusebio's tiny Alabama home.

Another aspect about the play: It is really nice to see a play featuring American Hispanic people on stage without resorting to Broadway cliches. Flora is not the hot-blooded Latin girl in the red dress or the West Side Story Maria flouncing her skirts in a mythical New York -- she is intentionally presented as quite something else. She is presented as a deeply religious, very serious, very devoted girl who retains these characteristics as she matures into a woman and a mother. As one character notes, "Not every Puerto Rican needs to go to the Bronx."

Finally, the play is about the immigrant experience, of high hopes dashed against the realities of living in a foreign land where "Nobody wants to hire a Puerto Rican", even while the legend of the missing brother persists: "There are rumors of the handsome boy from Puerto Rico with his guitar and his flashing eyes on the streets of New York . . .".

Boleros for the Disenchanted continues at ACT until the last day of May. Opening night is May 13th. Tickets can be obtained at the box office at 405 Geary Street, by calling 415.749.2228, or via the A.C.T. website at

Lela Loren - Flora/Eve
Rachel Ticotin - Dona Milla/Older Flora
Robert Beltran - Don Fermin/Older Eusebio
Dion Mucciacito - Manuelo/Oskar
Drew Cortese - Eusebio/Priest


José Rivera (Playwright)
Carey Perloff (Director)
Ralph Funicello (Set Designer)
Sandra Woodall (Costume Designer)
Nancy Schertler (Lighting Designer)
Fabian Obispo (Original Music/SoundDesigner)
Steven Anthony Jones (Assistant Director)


Oprah and KFC got into some trouble recently when the popular talk-show host announced that for a limited time, anyone who visited her website could download coupons for free meals at Kentucky Fried Chicken. Each person was limited to four coupons, each good for a two piece chicken meal with two sides. As a spokesperson commented after the raucous series of days that followed, what happened was "a perfect storm in which Oprah's popularity met with the Recession" as several million people attempted to cash in the coupons within a short period. Long lines and restaurant overload led to "rain checks" being issued to people when some outlets stopped honoring the coupons.

This is not the first national or regional food give-away which has happened, as another national chain recently completed a free breakfast promotion, which an uncounted number took advantage of.

Here on the Island we have been experiencing our own Recession Agression in the form of free food demos, from the samples handed out at the Lucky's to Domino's Pizza (Lincoln Street) abruptly offering a free "pasta bowl" promo for a new addition to its menu of artery-clogging items. Here is a shot of what the promo hand-out looked like.

In another promo, Chipotle in Southshore Mall sent out coupons for free burritos. Here is what the substantial burrito looked like.

Both eateries have been around a while in their present locations, so it is interesting that they would go through the expense of offering free items, which is a sign that the Recession is biting into the dining habits of Americans. Even folks who have not lost their jobs or had hours cut back are seeing that this thing is happening all around them and they had better start trimming the fat from their budgets. This is all well and good, however, as one person noted, the KFC meal looked rather unhealthy. Nevertheless, a hungry person does not have the leisure to pick and choose. The Pasta bowl looked ok, albeit heavy in carbs. Sauce might as well have been Ragu, although the crust was tasty. As for the Chipotle burrito, the coupon holders could select what went into the thing, and it seemed just like a fairly good burrito with mostly fresh ingredients. Given the location and the presence of competing burritto joints, the promo did work in that now we know the place is there.

Around here, quite a large number of people have lost their jobs, with the unemployment hovering around 11% for the Golden State. Some counties are reporting unemployment rates well over 13% inland, making California one of the hardest hit in this protracted "contraction." We shall see how this thing plays out. In the meantime, look for more of these kinds of things happening in an eatery near you.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Weather has eased from boiling skies to the moderate temps people believe exist here all year long and the evening fog which does exist, pretty much, all year long. The annual KFOG KABOOM went off with its immense fireworks display over the Bay, with Los Lonely Boys heading up a four band lineup on the wharves. But with the cost of transportation, higher subsidiary costs for the necessaries required for spending a day in the City and the ramped up $20 admission price, ticket sales remained sluggish. True, twenty bucks is not much -- in these times -- for what you get -- compared to other events, but the truth is the Recession is hitting hard, people are suffering, and the landlords in many places are still putting the screws to people. So most folks just stood on their rooftops to watch the display.

Yes $20 is not much to some people, especially those still with a job, but if you don't have $20 to spend, it might as well be $2000. Sorry, but if I don't get paid, you don't get paid either. That's just the way it works.

Stores everywhere tried to beat the Recession heat with special deals on Mother's Day everywhere, a phenomenon that so irked the founder of the holiday, that she attempted to revoke it entirely, however she failed and roses went half-off on Sunday.

Here on the Island, the gals took their respective moms out to brunch at places like Momma's Royal Cafe and El Pescadore at the Waterfront. Jose took his mom to Juanita's on Park where Mrs. Cortiz proceeded to get quite tipsy on the margaritas there.

"Your father was such a philanderer I hardly know where you came from," she said at one point.

"Okay mom,"Jose said. He was used to it. As well as her idiosyncratic understanding of biology.

"He is still such a West Ender," she continued. "Those people."

"Okay Mom."

Mrs. Cortiz grew up in the more affluent East End of the Island, while Mr. Cortiz had been Navy, and so grew up on the West End where the Projects were. There is still an odd disdain between the two halves of an Island that is so small that the spray of a sneeze on one side will fly completely over to land on the beach on the other side. Much could be determined about you if you were West End or East End. Such are people. Such is the Island.

Perhaps the Island is the only place in the world like that. Or maybe not.

"My boy, have you been getting enough to eat?"

"O mom . . .".

She wanted to know why he had not found a girl yet. Or maybe he had and was maybe ashamed to bring her home for her mother to look at her.

"Su abuelta must approve," she said. "That is simply the way it is. I don't want you running off to some tacky place like Los Vegas. Our people don't do that kind of thing."

How to explain that there was a Recession going on, he slept on the floor with twelve other people at Marlene and Andre's because of the gouging landlord, pushing a broom and gathering signatures for petitions does not pay much and as the old saying goes, "No money, no Honey".

Sometimes it was hard as the devil to know just what was going through the old woman's head. As in right now, her looking at him. What could she be possibly thinking, what kind of failure or critique was she reviewing right there in Juanita's. She might have an outburst at any moment, deeply embarrassing everyone.

"My boy," said Mrs. Cortiz. "I am so proud of you."

Right then the long wail of the train passing through Jack London Square ululated across the estuary and was heard by all, each in their place, throughout the Island.

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



MAY 17, 2009


This week's photo comes from the rose bush flowering now out by the Old Fence behind the Offices here.


This week the video comes from outtakes of auditions for the anti-gay agitprop from the American Taliban, American Organization for Marriage.


Alameda Theatre & Cineplex will host a benefit for the families of fallen Oakland Police Officers. This red carpet event honors Alameda County Emergency Medical Services and the recently lost Oakland Police Department heroes with an evening of food donated by Pit Stop BBQ and US Food Service in the form of chili and cornbread to be served by Alameda Firefighters in the Theatre lobby and the film "Level Zero". Burgermeister will donate beer and Rosenblum Cellars will offer tastings of fine wine among the musical styling’s of local guitar soloist, Chris Ahlman.

Performing live on the *Historic Alameda Theatre stage at 8:00pm will be local musical group “Conscious Souls”; a band comprised of Paramedics and Firefighters from Alameda County Fire. Their original reggae, hip-hop/rock sound will entertain attendees prior to the Premiere of “LEVEL ZERO” a documentary film dedicated to Alameda County EMS professionals.

At 9:15pm, Paramedic and Film maker Thaddeus Setla will premier his new documentary film; “LEVEL ZERO”, focused on dedicated Bay Area EMS personnel serving the communities of Alameda County, proceeded by a question & answer segment . . . .

The Island Farmer's Market shifted times and place ever so slightly this Thursday, when the market moved to Saturday mornings and re-located to the corner of Webster Street and Haight Avenue. Can you say, "vegetables"? I knew you could . . . .

This coming weekend, Island-Lifer Ken Collins will graduate from DVC after a rather long struggle lasting nearly a decade with a BS in Computer Science. We offer congratuations and a hearty welcome as Ken joins the ranks of Bay Area overeducated and underemployed . . . .


This Tuesday brings a Special Election to the Golden State, during which the cynical acting Registrar pro tem Dave McDonald fully expects a vast minority of registered voters will decided the fate of some 500 billion dollars over the next five years.


You got that right. With no candidates on the slate and "only" budget items on the slate it is expected by a whole lot of folks, not just Dave, that voters will stay back from the polls. As a local cost-cutting measure the 800+ county polling locations have been halved for this one to about 400.

With no particular prejudice one way or another, here goes the slate this time:


Requires the state to put more money into the existing "rainy day" budget reserve and limit the way the state can spend the money.


This is bound to Prop 1A. Reserves would be channeled to the State K-12 schools and community colleges. This Prop would also stipulate the amounts guaranteed to the education system.

Terminates lottery profits going to education, allowing for redistribution of those profits. Allows the state to borrow from "anticipated future lottery profits" to pay off existing state debts.


This one bears a two-part payload. The first portion allows transfer of $340 million from unspent CD funds to the general fund. The second part allows $248 million in tobacco taxes to be transferred each year for the next five years to pay for state programs for children up to age 5.


This one is an emergency response to the current fiscal crisis. It diverts $230 million in funds authorized by Prop 63 for the next two years from mental health programs.


Would prevent state officials from getting pay raises in years when state income falls short of state spending by 1 percent or more.


To begin with, we do admit that the legislature and Der Governator are caught between a rock and a hard place here. All props are presented because the voters previously decided these issues needed voter approval for changes. In addition, the Golden State faces unique and difficult problems right now with regards to satisfying the budget. While its nice to observe a rather infantile and childish man like Der Governator was about six years ago grow into something with hope of maturing as a legislator and human being under the real pressures of governing a state with a budget easily the size of most countries, we still need to look at the specifics of what is being selected here. Its not as if there are no other alternatives, please note.

Good idea -- about twenty years ago. But right now, in the midst of a recession, we say, this is another GOP idea that the GOP realized rather late in the game was a bad idea for now. In fact, this concept, introduced by the Jarvis Klan, is being roundly denounced by the state's Republicans. As well as curious bedfellows, which we will relate below.

Because this prop is tied intimately to the preceding, passage would be meaningless. Also, we wonder if this just results in program cutbacks in the guise of "reorganization."

This one claims to "modernize" the system; indeed the language does that. The problems we have with the props termination of the education funding, with the assumption that the previous two props have passed. What if they dont? Also, the idea of borrowing from the future to pay off the present seems to be awefully unwise right now.


Steals money from kids under the guise of balancing the budget.

PROP 1E - NO, definitely No.

This one required careful analysis beyond a look at the Pro and Anti responses. What we found was a legacy of issues stemming from Ronnie Raygun's childish revenge upon the people of the Golden State when he abruptly slashed each and every mental health program throughout the state to "get even" with the people who had voted him out of office. Over the course of the next twenty years, every emergency response system, from EMT, ambulance, emergency rooms, to fire and police have been stressed and overburdened with resulting deluge of mentally ill turned loose on the streets. The cost has been staggering. Yet over time, the voters gradually selected a battery of responses that began to get a serious grip on this social problem.

We actually visited a couple crisis response clinics, including Sausal Creek Outpatient Center, where the good people handle folks for eight hours a day, 24x7, you and I definitely do not want to have in our backyard. They do what they do in a pre-fab quonset hut parked on a side street in a district of town where the drug dealers have shot out all the streetlights. They are so successful at doing what they do on a shoestring budget that even the GOP is admitting that is one should be left alone. Its a case of the government actually performing well with less.

PROP 1F - provisional NO

This one is so simplistic a response to the annual budget deadlocks that it bears a strong resemblence to a Monty Python script. Those Officials are all multi-millionaires. Capping a salary temporarily for these folks is like pluggin a hole in the Hoover dam with a tampon. Vote yes if you want, but it still will not matter a damn.

In a curious twist, we note that both the GOP and the Green Party, two rather differentiated organizations, have come out against all propositions, despite the fact that all propositions originated within the GOP and are being touted by their own Governator Arnold. The GOP here has its own reasons for its position, which are based, as usual, in murky logic.

As a Green Party spokesman said, "Even more we oppose the process which offers us a 'choice' of being shot in the leg or shot in the arm, but did not offer us the choice of using our collective wealth to meet human needs."


The latest flap on the Island has to do with the proposal to include LGBT tolerance within the curriculum, which has inspired passions on both sides of the fence. The idea behind the curriculum revisions is to reduce the level of "bullying" that goes on, and which has attained national news in some places where kids either committed suicide or were actually murdered by classmates as a consequence of bullying.

The first meeting of the Board postponed discussion until 90 minutes into the session, claiming "prior business", but was deluged with such a large number of folks wanting to speak that the debate carried over into the next scheduled meeting, which will kick off with well over 100 speakers alloted precisely two minutes to speak their mind.

Most of the more rational anti-new curriculum people insisted they did not want views presented to their children which contradicted their own. In other words, they wanted the curriculum to either mirror their own individual views on people, or just keep silent on the subject.

While such curricula might be debatable in some parts of the country, it does seem that somebody needs to do something to get the kids moving along without killing one another. Two men were just convicted down the road here for murdering a transgender gal by beating and and strangulation. Meanwhile, the blood has dried on the barb wire where Matthew Shepard was tied in the dead of a Wyoming winter near Laramie after being savagely beaten.

While some people are concerned about being confronted with something they are afraid they might find icky to their sensibilities, some other people are concerned about blood on the wire. Seems the difference is pretty clear.


Took in the first night of the world premier of "Fuku Americanus" at the Intersection for the Arts in Babylon. FA is a stage adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Campo Santos put out this one, written and directed by Campo Santo's Sean San José, and co-directed by The Living Word Project's Marc Bamuthi Joséph.

The book is far too big and complex to fit within the confines of a black box stage, so San José and Joséph chose to abstract a few political concepts from the densely packed 335 page opus and whittle down the number of characters to Oscar, Yunior, La Inca, Moms, and Lola. The book itself possesses a double frame structure with Yunior beginning the story with a description of what a "fuku" is, followed by a description of the hapless Oscar who seemingly will never fulfill his duty-bound responsibilities of a Dominican male by getting laid. The meat part of the book, however, deals not with Oscar, but with three generations of women who unwillingly pass on the mixed legacy of defiance, defeat, family strife and failed attempts to escape the family curse from one generation to the next while living under the shadow of the terrifically brutal Trujillo dictatorship. The book ends with a summary of Oscar's death and some details about his last days as laid out in various "found" manuscripts. The critical manuscript, in which Oscar claims in a letter will "explain everything" is lost in the mails between the Dominican Republic and the US, leaving former-coke addict, ex-Lothario Yunior to wrap things up in several indecisive "endings", finally concluding with a remarkable exclamation.

As for the play, fuku, a generic term for a curse, is personified by actor Biko Eisen-Martin who chews up the stage in his role as a sort of Greek chorus, prancing and chanting and swinging his arms and his fetish beads like some Caribbean brujo. The original fuku of the title, as Fuku personified explains, was brought on the entire world by the arrival of Columbus, referred to simply as The Admiral, in Hispaniola in 1492. From this act, which worked itself out through the generations -- including Columbus himself, who died penniless in a madhouse -- which has brought misery upon the world, each misery generating yet another fuku, ensuring the perpetuation of an onus upon the generations.

The really big fuku, of course, is the legacy of slavery in the New World, attendant with all its particular horrors which reverberated down through history to the present day. The other fuku, according to the stage production, is the legacy of colonial conquest, and not only of the distant past by the Europeans. As Fuku explains in the second act, the DR was invaded by American troops in 1965.

The reasons for the invasion are not described in the play, but history shows that Lyndon Johnson feared the establishment of a "2nd Cuba" in the Caribbean after Trujillo was finally assassinated in 1961 after thirty years of Grand Guigonal horror. A democratic government was overthrown by a military junta, which itself failed to restore order. In fact, the DR looked to be well on its way to resolving some of the problems which have afflicted various Carribean nations as leftist forces began driving back the right wing forces when the US invaded.

As the stage Fuku explains, while displaying a wall map of the DR that eerily resembles in outline that of a certain Middle East country, "We were invaded before Iraq."

A puppet government was set up under the head of Joaquín Balaguer, former chief under the Trujillo regime, and the nation labored under this man's iron fist for the next 22 years.

But Fuku leaves that part out. He goes on to say, "It was not Castro or Johnson or the CIA that killed the Kennedys. I know who killed Kennedy. It was the fuku stirred up by that invasion. And guess what. Those same advisors, same intellience personnel, same military organizers who went from there in the DR to the rice paddies of Vietnam bringing along with them a little gift from the DR. How do you think the most powerful nation on earth was defeated by a tiny Southeast Asian country? It was fuku."

As for the individuals involved, their story is a story of diaspora, immigration, family conflict, minority struggle in America, and fate. The one physical trope pulled from the book concerns hair: its individuality, its definition of the personal identity. As one book reviewer pointed out, modern day immigrants are both gifted and cursed with the new two-way street of communication with the places of origin. In the past, immigrants landed here on the shores of American, entirely cut off from their past, and so were gradually absorbed into the American fabric with near total loss of language and culture, save for a few dispensible trappings.

In modern times, immigrants have telephones, rapid mail, and the airplane, all of which serve to preserve substantial parts of the old as traffic passes back and forth between the two homes, creating cultures that sit uneasily in two worlds, neither entirely welcome in either place. It is Diaz's point of view and hope that the diaspora never loses its Dominican nature, and he may be right as history indicates that as groups immigrate to the US in modern times they form enclaves which continue to speak the old language, perpetuate the old customs, and manage to retain a sense of personal identity.

Oscar is one who attempts to forge his own identity via online role-playing games, however he can never proceed beyond a characature of his chosen avatars. At one point he shows up at a meeting wearing his role-playing costume (Dr. Who) but one character remarks, "You know who you look like? That English faggot Oscar Wao (Oscar Wilde)." The name sticks to Oscar, who in his typically passive fashion absorbs this imposition into the sense of himself.

The motiv of running away, escape or concealment of the self runs through the play as each character tries to evade his or her destiny via any number of means. While Oscar leaps into the Anglo world of fantasy literature, Yunior pursues first drugs, then women as a means to losing himself. Lola shaves her head to become a punk and really does try to run away, but in so doing only replicates the mistake made a generation earlier by her own mother, who has ironically lost her own hair through chemotherapy.

Hair and how it pertains to identity is another leitmotiv that runs through this packed work of symbols and double-entendres. There is so much in the play regarding the "immigrant experience" and that of the DR diaspora and of Trujillo's terrible legacy that its difficult to summarize any part of it. Through it all runs Oscar's fascination with Tolkein and Marvel Comics superheros.

"Trujillo was so evil that even after he died, the men responsible for killing him also all died horrible deaths. He was our Morgoth and he ran the Republic like his personal Mordor . . .". Oscar comments. It is Lola, however, who notices the whip scars on the back of her mother (from her own mother's barely hinted brush with the Trujillo dicatorship.) If Trujillo was Morgoth, then his successor, Beleager, is clearly meant to be his pale fire, Sauron.

In the end, it is the wise and compassionate La Inca (played by a powerful Anna Maria Luera) who appears the strongest figure in the play, for it is she who remains in the DR, dressed in black and stoically providing the sanctuary for those wandering to return. As the children of the diaspora batter their wings against the cage of the world, it is La Inca who provides the heart to whom they all return, the roots which provided their original source of life.

The play is fast paced, well-sprinkled with "Spanglish" and thoroughly a success on its own merits. It does leave out a good portion of the last third of the book, but the play attempts to limit itself to just a couple concerns referenced in the original text. While Diaz is primarily concerned with building out the thin library of "minority literature" and speaks largely to his fellow Dominicans, the play tries overtly to wrapper some of the text into a broader communication, as the characters address the audience directly in the last lines: "Go out and look at your own fuku. All of you." Zafa.

Play runs May 14-June 21. For tickets ($15-$25) and information: (415) 626-2787, Ext. 109, or

Adapted Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by JUNOT DIAZ

Directed by Marc Samuthi Joseph and Sean San Jose

CARLOS AGUIRRE - Yunior/ Ensemble
BIKO EISEN-MARTIN - Fuku/ Ensemble
ANNA MARIA LUERA - La Inca/ Ensemble

Soundscape, original music and beats Composed by Carlos Aguirre

Collaborative Team:
Sharif Abu Hamdeh (assistant director),
Alejandro Acosta (sound collaborator),
Kristoffer Alberto Barrera (projections design),
Mia Baxter (costume and properties design),
Heather Basarab (lighting design),
James Faerron (set design),
Michelle Fulwiler (costume assistant),
Melyssa Jo Kelly (production team),
Tanya Orellana (scenic painter/production team),
Theresa Schillinger (box office manger),

CC Sheldon (stage manager)


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. With all the fluctuation in temperature and some mysterious alignment of the planets a late extension of the flu season has smacked into the Bay Area, with folks all over the place sneezing and wheezing, and all of the piglets down on the farm getting antsy as Egyptian porkers. The H1N1 virus, sometimes called Swine Flu had the Egyptian government swearing to slaughter each and every pig found in the country, even though the flu is not distributed via the vector of animals.

This has all the pig farmers in Egypt up in arms and we certainly sympathize. Those little farters with their noses are so cute.

Anyrate, our staff has been laid low with the Editor sneezing every few seconds with great explosions that cause the remaining white hairs on his cranium to extend outward like some energized Albert Einstein.

Staff writer Denby has been laid low, and so has Jose and Javier, who most likely passed it on to all the inhabitants of the household on Otis, which is awash in misery and crumpled kleenex right now. Even Suan, usually healthy as a horse, came down with it, causing the Management of the CrazY Horse to throw her g-string in her face and order her not to come back until free of disease, for nobody wants their erotic enjoyment spoiled with the icky run of snot and sudden sneezes. Really puts a man off his feed, it does.

So Sunday morning Suan sat on the porch with Sarah and Mancini, all with mugs of chicken soup watching the sun rise with bleary eyes.

Over at the Lynette and Susan's, the bicycles remained chained through the weekend as each traded chicken soup duty in the kitchen, snarfling down mugs of steaming soup while wrapped in sweating duvets on the Big Chair or the sofa.

The flu has had some unintended consequences. Everybody abord the Iranian spy submarine, the AIS Chador (Allah Islamardik Service) got it and they all had to put way out to sea for whenever one of the crew would let out a ringing sneeze down there it caused some American Navvy monitoring the sonar with headphones in the Bay to jump out of his seat. "What the hell was that!?" Higher ups attributed the noise to whale farts, but the Iranians couldn't afford to take any chances, so out to sea they went.

Next week we all should be clear of this bug. That's the way it is on the Island. Until then have a great week.



MAY 24, 2009


We had a surprising amount of emotional stuff to wade through for this week's headline photo. This year this Memorial Day brings a special kind of poignancy in view of the two continuing wars in the Middle East which have been far more costly than the sheer numbers of American KIA indicate.

We also have an unfortunately rich archive of images, many culled from Arabic, Danish and other foreign sources not given to spare the feelings of political pundits or families of the fallen alike. Then there are the far more graphic images that have come our way from guys on the front lines, everything from grieving buddies to bodies blown apart and limbs torn loose. Finally, there were the grieving widows reclining on the newly planted sod, listless flowers still draped on the headstones.

Right now the entire country is going through some serious soul searching, and we feel that the time for shock and awe is not now, so we put aside the Al Jazzera pics of dead GIs and the shots of medical personnel desperately fighting to save another life ripped suddenly apart and the many, many shots of flag-draped coffins being loaded into air transport.

There has been enough pain. One of our staff recognized the face of a soldier contorted in grief and anguish as he knelt in front of the makeshift memorial of boots, rifle and helmet in a file AP photograph. Enough is enough.

Instead of the stock footage we pulled this image from our files; the photo is nearly 40 years old and is quite rare, as this shot cannot be taken any longer by any regular citizen. It is a shot taken from the Lincoln Memorial facing over the National Mall in Washington DC with the Congress visible behind the Washington Monument. It was taken near midnight with a Minolta SLR using AGFA film that was push processed to 1600 ASA.

Because of security considerations brought on by the Bush Administration's response to the events of 9/11, no one is now allowed in this area after dark. Indeed, even at the time the photo was taken, this area was considered highly dangerous due to drug traffic and other illegal activity.

Nevertheless, look at this image, which includes the main symbols for what our Armed Services have fought and died. Congress, the body that establishes this nation as a nation of Law. Washington, a man so upright in virtue that he put aside the attempt to anoint him king, and in so doing, shunted this country onto the Great Experiment in Democracy that continues to this day. The Mall itself, host to so many demonstrations of the People, and where only 100 days previously, history was made as the first Black man to become President was inaugurated. And finally, the memory of Lincoln, who brought an end to that most pernicious institution of slavery, reunited the Union and established the principles of just and even-handed rule.

Yes, the wars in Iraq and, perhaps, Afganistan, were begun foolishly, unnecessarily, and disastrously. yes, the Vietnam conflict should never have happened and certainly should not have dragged on as long as it did. But in the two hundred plus years of this democracy, the men and women of the Armed services have never faltered in self-sacrifice. It is not their fault that war is Politics by other means, means in which they have virtually no say whatsoever. A soldier's charge is to obey and go on command without question.

Our amateur historians here tell us that never in the five thousand years of recorded human history has there ever been a military force capable of reducing an organized foreign power to nothing within two weeks. Never. Not Ancient Rome, not Alexander the Great, not Bismarck, not Sparta, no one. And do so honorably without recourse to brutality and bestial degredation. Because of this awesome power we should never, never, never, ever again engage in military action needlessly.

Men and women have fought and died for our liberties. Consider this: do we really want to live in such a way that this photograph can never again be duplicated? What are we doing to ourselves that the Enemy could not do.


Folks with enough brain cells might recall how John Asscrack made an utter fool of himself at high volume and in quite bad taste during the Bush Regime. To the man's credit, he subsequently refused to conduct another such performance, realizing that he possessed neither talent nor justification for inflicting such a pitiful indulgence upon the people even as the rule of law was being castrated by his policies. Long live the Internet, however, which brings us this version with text translation superimposed on the image, so that we may never forget just what ridiculous assholes the members of the Bush NeoCon Regime really were.



But short briefs, well, we consider them too sexy for our cat.

Beginning Wednesday and extending through Sept. 1, the High Street Bridge connecting Oakland to Alameda will be closed for seismic retrofit work from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, according to the Alameda County Public Works Agency. Detour routes will be posted during construction

Several muggings took place around the Island last week, as well as an armed car jacking. One woman was held up by three teens from Oakland who used a sawed-off shotgun. When the victim pushed the gun barrel away -- perhaps an understandably worried response, although not necessarily a wise one, the three toughs beat her up and took her cell phone.

The car jackers were apprehended -- naturally enough -- when Officer O'Madhauen noticed a car driving "erratically".

Two more people were held up in seperate strong-arm incidents. All muggings took place during normal daylight hours between nine and three o'clock.

There are many events taking place this Memorial Day Monday. Harbor Bay will host a couple Veteran's events, with the more traditional one taking place out at the old "model airplane field." There also will be a moment of silence around noon on the Hornet docked out at the Point.

Over in Babylon, local faves Four Year Bender will be reuniting for a long awaited gig at El Rio. Doors open at 3:30 pm, with our boys ganging up on stage at 5:00pm. Should be a good one and you will know if the next day you cannot remember where you left your pants.

Golden Gate Harley will host a BBQ at their Corte Madera location on Monday 11:30-3:00 pm with the usual free eats and fine music.

This coming Saturday (5/30), get ready for Berkeley's annual Chocolate and Chalk Art Festival. 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 awarded for runners up. Same-day registration takes place 10AM-5PM in event booths located along North Shattuck Ave. 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, chocolate truffles as well as savory chocolate mole, spicy chocolate tandori chicken, or the weirder chocolate foot massage!

Chocolate foot massage?! Its another Bullwinkl show.

Finally, in the fine arts arena, Danielle Fox lets us know that Multi-Media Artist Caroline Seckinger will discuss the thought process behind her recent work in metal, fur, fiber, print, and film, on view at SLATE May 1-30 at a special event to be held Thursday, May 28.

A short documentary film Dress as an Institution by Jules Kobelin, featuring Caroline Seckinger's
work will be shown following the talk. Contact 510-652-4085 to arrange for tickets at this limited space event.


Managed to snag a piece of TV on the Radio, the latest offering to the "brainrock" genre, at the Fox last Friday in a fever of swineflu and exhaustion. This time around we secured balcony tix to see if the sound quality of the venue had changed at all. It had not. Last few visits to the Fox revealed an extraordinary visual environment particularly cursed by specially aweful acoustics. TV on the Radio probably sounded pretty good to fans who knew the material and the lyrics. To us, the sound was atrocious, badly mixed, way too much bass and drum-heavy and lyrically unintelligible until the drums and bass took a break. Both lead singers -- the band enjoys two -- could only be comprehended in those moments when the one singer shifted from basso to tenor.

This is a fairly complex band with a brass section, two keyboardists plus the front man on synth, rhythm guitarist, drummer, guitarist/bassist/vocalist, lead vocalist, and various percussion instruments. None of this was well served by the sound at the Fox, as the mix all turned into sonic mud. Moments of relief came when one performer did a long tenor sax piece absent drums and bass and general background noise.

Now this is a band with two lead singers, one of which shifted from basso to tenor and then whistling with ease. In other words, this band requires and demands attention and far better sound than what they got. Eventually we just left before the set completed, longing for an opportunity to hear what the band can do in a better environment. Sure, they were exciting from a rock and roll standpoint, launching into pieces the fans already knew well without a hitch, driving up the energy and getting the pit roused into a huge pogo arena, but rock 'n roll and music are sometimes two different things. Friday night, TV on the Radio proved exactly that point without intending to do so.

Friday night did introduce us to a new band doing some exciting, creative, challenging new stuff, so we end up saying that TV on the Radio is well worth watching for the future. Very reminiscent of Joy Division and the more energetic David Bowie, with jumpy cuts that savored of Gang of Four, while still retaining a sort of Afro-pop suggestion, the band defintely has a place in the New Order of music, possessing a sound that is all their own and a drive that is propulsive and infectious in a positive way. We were left wanting to buy the CD, which is probably just what a good concert should manage to accomplish in the end anyway, notwithstanding stage buzzes.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Mark Twain's memorable lines that the coldest winter he ever suffered through was a summer in San Francisco seemed to come through in spades with record low temps following the heat wave we had here. Gulls flying inland indicated a spate of fowl weather out there and we have reports of unseasonable rain showers in normally arid Bishop far to the east of here.

The fava beans are all about five feet tall with the pole beans following up and the dahlias begining to really burgeon down there by the Old Fence. The tree squirrels have all been scampering by to examine the status of the late sunflowers and you can see them marking down in their account books just when will be the most likely month to conduct a raid of particularly devastating proportions.

With the cooling temps comes cooling ardor, and all the guys are creeping out under their various rocks and hiding places to restock their beer and frozen pizza supplies, hoping that the Mating Rituals of Spring have safely passed. The leggy Joanne has run off with her Poet to Glen Ellen, so the Editor has thrown open his office door again to harangue the indolent copyboys and columnists in relative safety once more.

"Chad! Chad! I want that damn jukebox issue put to bed pronto! Chad! Where is the boy keeping himself? Who has the Special Election Analysis? Where the hell is Denby? I want that music review on my desk by morning!"

So it goes in the offices at Island Life.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie has been serving up the Gaelic coffees and hot toddies like it was still winter around here. Inge from the travel agency came in and Javier could not stop staring at her like she was a creature from another planet. Which she might as well have been in so far as Javier was concerned, as she was Norwegian, Lutheran, platinum blonde, well endowed with strikingly good looks and securely well employed.

None of which Javier was and would ever be. For he was Latin, Catholic, dark, and singularly underemployed with famously vile security attached only to his facility and skill with a mop and a broom. As it has been said: no money, no Honey.

Her legs went from the ground up to some fantastic place under an impossibly short skirt.

It may be mentioned that he entirely forgot, for the moment, the lovely Leona of San Leandro who had so ferociously seized his affections only a short while ago. Which only goes to show you the nature of the male species. They are like dogs; they would hump a tree if they could.

Brad, who worked for Mr. Howitzer's property management firm came in and immediately began hitting on her. He was moneyed, employed by money, and secure in his position. Property, in the form of land and structures upon it, has become the New Gold in California. Even here on the Island. Even during the current Meltdown. Brad glittered and wore a tie even after work.

She turned to regard him with heavy lidded eyes which had seen much and which offered no compassion.

"You remind me of certain impresarios working for the porn industry," she said.

He failed to understand the import of this and protested that he was into property management. Real estate, in other words. He had certain properties he was sure she would like to see.

"When I think of your penis I imagine a toad oozing puss from a thousand poisonous warts and I begin to feel nauseous," she said. "In fact, I think I am going to throw up in your lap, which might ruin your entire evening. Sorry."

Brad, stupidly imagining that power and prestige protected him from certain experiences failed to take note of the warning. He laughed it off. Nobody in this bar had the pull he had. His pull came from the notorious Umbsen family of San Francisco. He was a man used to getting his own way and full of the belief that what he owned was well deserved because of native ability and capacity.

That's when she did throw up right there into his lap.

This event caused a number of things to happen. After Brad had been carted off in a cab and several solicitous patrons shunted aside and all the brough-haha died down, the unsteady Inga asked Javier to take her home.

Seems she had swallowed three or four too many stingers that evening. A stinger is composed of particularly aromatic alcohol spirits and if ever anyone throws up in your lap after drinking a few of those, you definitely will remember the event for a very long time.

Javier, always the gentleman (dammit!), brought her home and tucked her in, trying not to look down there (she wore pink, for your information).

"You are rather sweet," she said. "I predict you will find someone to really blow your mind and everything else besides. Gawd this entire room is spinning right now . . ."!

Javier got out of there as best he could and as soon as he could. He did not want to have to spend the night shoveling vomit into a trashcan. Things were bad enough as it was.

The heavy leaden fog lay upon the sky and the streetlights sent cones of desperation down upon the beaten streets. Javier paused with his collar turned up to the edges of his cap as he walked down the way to his rented apartment. Somewhere a siren wailed a lost call for assistance.

Meanwhile, Suzie and Dawn finished cleaning up the mess left behind. Just another weekend night. From far across the estuary the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating over the water as the engine chugged through the Jack London waterfront to places unknown.

And in the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie cracked open her anthropology textbook, for in the City that knows how to keep its secrets sits one bartender still pondering Life's Persistent Questions.

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


MAY 31, 2009


This week's photo comes courtesy of Rex, the Island-Life spiritual advisor and House Musician. Its a picture of what happens when dumb luck or Providence smiles upon you in the midst of misfortune, for this is the car Rex was driving at about 80 MPH when the front tire blew out in Arizona recently.

The people following him assumed that no one had survived, as the car was completely cloaked in dust clouds after it finally came to rest after an uncontrolled career across the desert.

The car, being a musician's car, has been put back on the road. Rex's latest CD, Father is With You, is available on


Here's show a parody of the Beatles "Lady Madonna" which pokes fun at our unrealistic hopes for what Obama can accomplish. Were that it were true.



The first week in June, being the first week after all graduations have completed here, marks the kickoff of the summer season in most things, making this issue rather long and packed with upcoming events. Don't forget Ben Harper blowing into the venerable Fillmore this week, riding high on a crest of new-found energy.

Monday, several galleries will showcase the post-Spring offerings.

Earth & Sky Oasis - a women's spa in babylon for the hoity toity amongst y'all, will feature the work of the mellifluously appelled Anne Karin who works in glass, paint, and sundry multimedia, starting monday. the spa is located near the chic chic shops and the un-chic pigeons of union square at 391 Sutter Street, Suite 710 San Francisco, CA 94108. First timers call 415.989.0014. Folks can gander at Ms. Karin's work at if scented candles and too much opulence fails to ignite your wicker basket, she will also exhibit in Union Square with the Artist's Guild of San Francisco, starting Friday, 6/5.

June 5th is First Friday for a lot of places.

Debra over at Frank Bette on the Island reminds us of SAGA open mic for singer/songwriters on Friday 2-4pm. The early time is probably to accomodate musicians who often work night shifts to pay the bills. sign ups for those courageous enough to hang their hearts out in public start at 1:30pm. The FBCA is at 1601 Paru Street (corner of Lincoln Ave) on the Island.

Things are warming over their at the brand new gallery, Slate, where Seckinger has concluded her intriging multimedia run to make way for what appears will be a monthly rotation of local artists at the Gallery.

Starting on Friday June 5th, a solo exhibition of black and white photographs by Piedmont artist Michele Hofherr will open at SLATE Art & Design at 4770 Telegraph in the Temescal district of Oakland.

Hofherr often works in series, filming one subject for several months at a time. This show will present works selected from two such series: Flora and Frost. Both use a simple approach, using film and available lighting to focus on fine details of natural elements.

Relevant details are as follows:

Michele Hofherr: Reflections. Opening Reception June 5 7-9PM, Exhibition June 5-27
Open Thu-Sat 12-5, and Tue-Wed by appointment
SLATE art & design, 4770 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA

Strange de Jim would brain us with a heavy iron fantod mounted on railroad ties if we failed to mention that Pro Arts will kick off its annual East Bay Open Studios, this time featuring -- in addition to Jim -- some four hundred artists.

The Island will include Jim, who works in scuplture and mixed media painting and Susan Laing, who creates fabulously rich and beautiful works out of wool felt. It is impossible to tell that Ms. Laing works directly from organic natural dyes and raw wool material obtained directly from the farms to achieve the deep, lustrous blues and reds for her shawls and wall hangings. Since the two artists live together, you get a two fer special at 728 Santa Clara.

Also on the Island, the whimsical Wanda Fudge will display her wares at 1610 Minturn. Ms. Fudge put ashore on the Island after many world travels and a successful shop in Beverly Hills that once catered to the stretch limo set.

The Island group has printed up its own show catalog, so stop by Minturn or Santa Clara Avenue or Margaret Fago's studio on Mozart to snag a map and artist locations. Pat Payne, she of the extraordinary lifesized metal eagles, will also be showing at 2121 Alameda Avenue. Bring your camera for that one.

After your day of art goggling is through, head on over to the Herbst Theatre in Babylon on the 6th of June for an evening of love sonnets from none other than the President of the Organization of English Majors, Garrison Keillor. (The Pres. of the Org. of English Teachers would be, of course, a POET.) On Saturday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m., Garrison will spin this anthology of originals (some sweet, some sad, some salty) into an evening of verse, song, and insight. The event is a benefit for the 826 Valencia College Scholarship Program. Founded in 2002 by author Dave Eggers and educator Nínive Calegari, 826 Valencia is dedicated to helping students improve writing skills and helping teachers get students excited about the writing. The 826 Valencia scholarships are funded through an annual literary series of programs produced by City Arts & Lectures, Inc.

Several of us are planning to sneak into the august man's dressing room so as to impel the famous author to reveal the name and location of the current Mayor of Lake Wobegon.


Just over the wire we have this notice of a rather extraordinary event.

Berkeley Arts & Letters + KPFA Radio + University Press Books present *An Evening with Eduardo Galeano*
with his new book, Mirrors: Stories of Almost Everyone.

On first meeting President Obama recently, President Hugo Chavez gave him a copy of The Open Veins of Latin America, a brilliant book written twenty years ago by Eduardo Galeano. This news sent the book overnight to #2 on Amazon's bestseller list.

WHEN: Friday, June 12, 7:30 pm

WHERE: First Congregational Church of Berkeley, 2345 Channing Way, near Durant, Berkeley Tickets: $12 advance, $15 door.

Tickets: Phone order: 800-838.3006. Also at the following venues:
Black Oak Books, Booksmith, Mrs. Dalloway’s, Modern Times, Pendragon, University Press Books, Walden Pond.

One of Latin America’s most distinguished writers, journalists and historians, Eduardo Galeano is the author of the Memory of Fire Trilogy,Open Veins of Latin America, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, The Book of
, and many other works. Born in Montevideo, in 1940, Galeano lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for many years before returning to Uruguay. His work has inspired popular and classical music composers from all over the world. His admirers include Isabel Allende, Julio Cortazar, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ariel Dorfman, Arundhati Roy, Sandra Cisneros, Mike Davis, Studs Terkel, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, and of course Hugo Chavez.

Galeano is widely rumored to be on the short list for the next Nobel Prize in literature, so we urge you all to attend this event, which benefits KPFA.


The long saga of the short life of Troy Lancaster has come to an end with the sentencing of his killer, Michael James Edgar, who was sentenced in Alameda County Superior Court on Tuesday to serve 51 years to life in state prison for the slaying of the 19-year-old Lancaster in August.

Edgar's guilt was never in question due to the numerous witnesses who observed Edgar standing over Lancaster pointing a pistol at the still living boy, although Edgar claimed to have been miles away at the time.

At the time of his death, Lancaster had just started working at the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex on Central Avenue. He was a 2007 graduate of Alameda High School and Edgar's friend.

According to investigators, Lancaster had visited the Esperanza public housing complex to pick up a theater job application from Edgar's girlfriend.

The court also heard that Lancaster had a crush on the 17-year-old girl, who had confided to Edgar that Lancaster was making advances toward her and was sending her text messages.

Edgar was also angry with Lancaster because Lancaster had accused him of taking a "cheap shot" at a mutual friend during a physical fight that took place just hours before the slaying, prosecutors said. Apparently Edgar had gone over to the man with whom he had been fighting and kicked him while the man was laying down and resting.

Edgar has a long record of violent offenses, and as a parolee was forbidden to own or carry firearms. A jury convicted Edgar in March of first degree murder, using a firearm to inflict death and being an ex-felon in possession of a firearm.

Like Lancaster, Edgar was an Alameda resident. He was convicted of second-degree burglary in 2007 and was on parole just 49 days when he was arrested for the homicide.

Lancaster's mother told his killer as he waited to be sentenced Tuesday that she forgave him and that she prayed God would show him mercy.

"When we forgive someone, it allows us to release so much anger and pain," said Sally Lancaster, whose son, Troy, died after he was shot while visiting the Esperanza public housing complex. "It's not for us to judge what makes some people do what they do."

Staff members here at Island-Life remembered Lancaster as a handsome boy who was just starting to clean up his life after minor adolescent scrapes.


The AUSD approved the controversial anti-bullying program this past week, which is meant to teach kids to get along with one another despite differences, but which stirred up a hornets nest from some parents who did not like the idea that sex would be intimated in any fashion. Immediately, right-wing organizations promised to sue against the curriculum, which includes tolerance learning to LGBT kids and kids of LGBT parents, all of which leads us to exlaim, "Can't we all just get along?" Oh yeah. That was the point of the new curriculum . . .

Actionalameda recently pointed out a serious issue that remains to be addressed in the controversial SunCal development program for the Point; nobody has yet acquired the water rights for an additional 4,000 plus homes. If you live east of the Mississippi, this may seem a non-issue, but here where a good 12 inches of rain in a year is considered "moist", getting water to new subdivisions can be murderous business -- literally. EBMUD, which handles the East Bay water districts, is looking to get new water supplies by flooding certain scenic sections of Amador County so as to expand the existing Pardee Reservoir -- thus far, Amador, which relies heavily for outdoorsman tourism for its income, has balked at allowing any such destruction of revenue-earning fields and streams.

A Doug Linney, member of the EBMUD board, will be a crucial vote in getting this rammed through. Problem is that Linney is also listed as a "strategic advisor" for SunCal and is also on contract with SunCal to get their ballot initiative passed. Can you say "conflict of interest" and "graft"? I knew you could . . .

For details, go to .

On the other side of the ticket, the HOMES project is still pushing the SunCal project with various videos, a plethora of which can be found on Youtube along with videos illustrating the counterplan of converting the land to open space. Go to . for their take.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Offshore storms have been shunting Arctic tradewinds down along the coast, keeping the days cool and overcast with high fog, resulting in weather Mark Twain notably detested. Still, the purple glads are erupting along the Old Fence, the tomatos appear well on the way, and the pole beans are climbing higher, hinting of glories to come.

As the Recession drags on, the newly unemployed guys on the block have been gathering for chatter and beer around the patio tables at Old John's place. Franco is back from the visit to his parent's village in Italy, but he is one of the few still collecting a paycheck, driving a grader for the dump at Davis Street. Franco bears the unique distinction around here of being arrested for talking in Italo-American.

That's right, Franco was arrested for talking just like any paisano.

It was a day in which Officer O'Madhauen was answering a domestic dispute call with his buddy Sgt. Fussbottom, when the sergeant spoke to Franco out there in the courtyard. Naturally, Franco replied pretty much as natural for a Central European with sweeping arm guestures.

The officer told Franco to put his arms down and Franco responded with additional guestures, "I can't -- I am Italian."

The Officer once again ordered Franco to put his arms down, then inexplicably asked if the man had any tattoos, perhaps suspecting the 40-year old of being a member of the Crips or the Bloods or the infamous NorCal Poodle gang. This only led to Franco's protesting his innocence with ever more animated motions.

So the officer arrested him for waving his arms, took him down to the Station off Park Street in his shorts and flip flops until Joe had to come and bail him out.

That was bad enough. You should have seen the arraignment, with the Commissioner just shaking his head until he put his face in his hands.

Tommy and Toby put out their sloop, The Lavendar Surprise, the other day when the sun busted through over the Bay, even as the dense fog hung like the high walls of Mordor beyond the Golden Gate all day. Susan and Lynnette came along for the ride along with Marlene and Andre, whom they had met during the infamous wedding debacle of last Thanksgiving.

As long-time readers will know, a pitched battle between the hunters and a brace of purebreds invaded the nave of the Chapel of the Sanctified Elvis on Central Avenue, as well as the Unitarian Church next door, causing no end of mischief, explosions, fire, and at least one destroyed wedding dress. Those of you who missed it will just have to hunt down for the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ to read all about it.

That had been the last opportunity for Susan and Lynette to get properly hitched before a gang of cynical bigots put the kibosh on their domestic plans with the outrageously ignorant Proposition 8. The courts then decided that the State has the right to meddle with the People's private lives according to the dictates issued by a handful of shrieking pulpits. Which was all quite disheartening.

Marlene, who also had been at the Chapel of the Sanctified Elvis with Andre, had to commisserate, for it had been her dress that had been utterly ruined, the Chapel fee wasted, the wedding called off, and now it was back to cooking bread soup for the gang at the house on Otis, where twelve people resided in defence against the usurious rents.

"I could have been Middle Class," said Marlene bitterly.

So there they were, out on the Bay, trying to forget their troubles with the brisk wind spanking the spinnaker and the bowsprit slicing merrily through the spray spit of Bay fume. Coming about! Booms ahoy!

And all that nautical stuff.

Meanwhile Mr. Cribbage was out in his own eighty footer, The Indomitable, with his usual associates of Mr. Howitzer, the Blathers (of the Sacremento Cotton-Blathers), and the Pescatore family. Although a Captain of Industry, Mr. Cribbage had done what most captains of industry do with regard to their corporation ships: he had hired a crew to pilot the boat, for in matters of sail and steam, Mr. Cribbage knew and cared for little. He just liked the idea of being a Captain of Industry and owning the biggest boat in the Marina.

Mr. Blather was talking about how he had saved the much beloved municipal MILF Golfcourse from closure due to the dire economic straits of the City. This had been accomplished by having certain officials shunt budget resources from funds originally assigned to health programs for children to the more useful purpose of geriatric exercise for health. In the form of golf.

Golf is a naturally Conservative sport: one dresses well, has a manservant carry the instruments, walks or drives as one wishes, and there is no sweating. Its all adroitness and proof of superior, inate ability upon a landscape which has been bulldozed, graded, flattened, manicured and trimmed to remove most of what occurs in Nature with just enough of Nature left so as to remind everyone just who was Boss around here.

In any case, some of those officials were down below decks liberally partaking of spirits from the no host bar. In this matter, the word "liberal" was all right. Meanwhile, Jose, alone of all the crew who spoke fluent English, was high up in the crowsnest admiring the view while pretending to fix the yardarm snabbit on the pusillanious pulley rachet, or something like that. He knew nothing of sailing or boats, just like Jorge in the wheelhouse and the rest of the crew, for Mr. Cribbage was wont to save on dollars by hiring his crew from the men standing at the gas station on Fruitvale waiting for driveby employers.

Jorge, alone among all of them had once worked on a small fishing boat off the Yucatan, but the rest of them hailed from Sinaloa, were very hard workers and who imagined like Mr. Cribbage that sailing couldn't be all that difficult to pickup along the way. Swab the decks -- just more of the usual on a floor that moved.

So the group was having a jolly jolly there until Mr. Pescatore got it into his mind, after two or three -- perhaps four -- apple martinis, to include the sport of bird hunting on this excursion. So he pulled the 12 gauge riot gun from the locker where it was kept to dispel potential pirates and took aim at an albatross perched on the rigging. With the first blast, every man from Sinaloa dropped to the decks, including Jorge, for although sailing might be alien, gunshots in the Fruitvale district were not. When Pescatore let loose again, Jorge made up his mind he would not come up for anything except to lock the door of the wheelhouse, which was largely encased by thick glass.

Everyone in the Fruitvale knows, gunshots mean stay away from the windows for dear life.

With the third blast, a bloody mess of feathers plopped down onto the deck, sending a fine spray everywhere, including onto the glass of the wheelhouse.

Ahhhh! Dios y madre, prayed Jorge with his companion Pedro. Esta narcotrafficantes!

Meanwhile the boat continued on its course, performing a wide arc that would terminate in short order against the broad side of the Kobyashi Maru, she of the Hanjin line and some two football fields in length as she steamed ponderously with a full load of containers from the Port of Oaktown.

The gang of passengers all raced over to the wheelhouse door where Mr. Cribbage shouted for Jorge to open up. Jorge looked up to see the blood spray from the murdered albatross on the glass and put his head down to continue praying. Surely they would cut off his head and boil his body in acid! All of the Anglo imprecations from the other side of the door fell on ears that failed to understand anything. It was Pedro who suggested that it was not pirates or drug dealers but the gringos had all gone crazy from too much gin. Another reason not to open the door.

From high above, Jose saw the puffs of smoke and the stampede. He also saw the immense Kobyashi Maru approaching fast, and so he slid down with smoking gloves along a guywire to stamp on the roof of the wheelhouse.

¡Jorge, gire el barco! ¡Gire el barco! ¡Vamos a estrellarnos! shouted Jose. "Turn the boat! We are going to crash!"

In answer, Pedro reached up from the floor and gave a mighty yank on the tiller, causing the ship to heel sharply to the left, missing the frantically hooting Kobyashi Maru, but heading straight for Angel Island, fifty yards from which the boat ran sharply aground in the mud with a tremendous shudder that sent Mrs. Pescatore and Mr. Blather right over the railing into the water. Jose flew right off of the roof to land on the lifeboat's tarp covering, where he lay groaning.

Several of the crew jumped into the water, not to save the two passengers, but to swim for the relative safety of land.

Jorge got up to shut off the frantically churning engines while Pedro opened the door.

"Idiot!" shouted Mr. Cribbage. This, both Pedro and Jorge understood quite well. Pedro looked at the blood on the glass, then closed the door again.

All of this was observed by the crew on the Lavendar Surprise and Tommy put the little boat about to see if there was anything they could do to help the clearly distressed Indomitable from which screams of anguish came floating across the water.

"Well", said Lynette. "We may never get married, but it could be worse."

Meanwhile, from its subterranean hideout, the captain of the Iranian spy sub, AIS Chador, reeled in the periscope shaking his head. "Oy gevalt!" said the Captain, who then ordered the sub to put out the Golden Gate before the Coast Guard arrived and Allah knows what else kind of trouble. So it was the Chador ran silently, ran deep back out to sea.

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


JUNE 7, 2009


This weeks' headline photo is a shot of the moon over the Jack London marina.


Everybody likes a little non-PC silliness once in a while. Especially when the subjects are manifestly more stupid than anybody you know. If you remember the BTO (Bachman-Turner Overdrive) you will like this takeoff of "Taking Care of Business".



Due to Javier's abrupt absence due to Birthday Avoidance and various other internal disturbances, this week's issue comes late and truncated. We also are getting ready for the Annual Island Life Mountain Sabbatical, an event many of you look forward to, as we remain silent for at least two weeks.

Also we are preparing for substantial format revisions here to including more multimedia.


Theatre season is now into post-season, but Season holders can expect to get their tix in August for next year's run. In the meantime, there is always Cal Shakes, Shakespeare in the Park, and Stern Grove for the hotter months. Fine things coming up at the Shoreline, just so long as it is not Hip-Hop which is getting some bad cred lately due to concert violence. Expect more frisking at the entrances from here on out.

Counting Crows are returning with Augustana, certainly not ever a threatening event of any kind. In a rather thin Spring Season, BFD is standing out with an always stellar lineup, also taking place at the Shoreline.

In late July, the Wakefield Jazz quartet will play during a benefit for the Island Animal Shelter here, which is primero uno on the chopping block for upcoming cuts, so we really urge you all to attend. We will provide more info as the date approaches.

Neko Case is in town until the 10th at the Warfield. Many like her, a few are afraid of her. She is a Power and she will not be a waste if you go hear her. Femi Kuti coming around end of June. That is pretty much all there is until the Greek kicks in during July. Go out and sample the local Unknowns in this time. Good opportunity to do so.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The uncertain weather has been up and down with clouds and occasional rains all week, but the weekend turned out fairly fine with spangled clouds and bursts of sunshine. All along the strand you could see the kite-flyers with their machines and out on the full tide the wind surfers scooted along with their bright colorful parasails.

Heard that Garrison brought his road show to the Golden State down their in LA, which is a place very similar to California. In fact many people actually believe Los Angeles is all of California, but don't you believe it. Those people are loose cannons in the Church of Our Lord and none of us decent Catholics and Lutherans up here will have anything to do with them.

For the longest time we had two governors, one for NorCal and one based in LA for the SoCal set and that was fine by us until the gringos came and confused everybody with the United States, a concept nobody can agree upon to this day.

By now all of the graduations have taken place, the athletic fields littered with streamers and program notes all cleaned up, the joyful grads all gone off to find jobs or travel. Hard by the Island-Life Offices proud parents stood by as the kindergardners advanced to the next levels at the Island Pre-School.

Over at Mount Diablo College, Island-Lifer and musician, Kenneth, celebrated his own victory after some ten years or so on the long range plan for his Bachelor's. Hard times, divorce, poverty and the usual Life Troubles couldn't hold back excellence, so we congratulate him.

The Editor sat back muttering to himself with a stiff one over ice, complaining about "that execrable Elgar." The Editor, of Irish extraction, cannot abide the sounds of Elgar, whom he vilifies with hot language virtually every year around this time.

"Why not Mozart? Why not Beethoven? Think of the marvelous Mendelsohn! But instead they chose that pompous windbag, Elgar!"

All the new grads from Washington Middle School trouped by, sheparded more or less by Tipitina and Sarah at the House on Otis, while Jose lay there groaning with his leg in a cast after last week's unfortunate incident abord Mr. Cribbage's boat, "The Indomitable." Far from being heartily thanked by Mr. Cribbage for averting a catastrophic nautical disaster that surely would have entailed significant loss of life, Jose was fired from his position and dumped upon the docks -- after the Coast Guard came along to tug the stranded ship from the Angel Island shoals.

They were only trying to help Jose feel better, but Jose called out for more Vicodin.

Each year the "middies" hurl their caps into the air at Annapolis and the infectious enthusiasm rolls like a wave westward in countless highschool venues draped with bunting in the school colors in a tidal surge of young exhuberance of change and excitement with that wave splashing up against the Pacific Coast in a multicolored spray of caps and ribbons and shouts of freedom for here in the Golden State, everything seems possible.

But for some the years pass, the spirit gets heavier as the ernestness of aquiring wealth takes over and one day, there you are, wacking the errant dandylions with a weedwacker and a heart problem complicated by recalcitrant kidneys in front of your big house stuffed with geegaws, the mansion of a California King, and even though you own the largest yacht in the marina, like Mr. Cribbage, and you are convinced you have made the right choices, all the children see with gaping mouths is a sad, unhappy, bitter man weighed down with cares and nostril hair, something they never want to grow up to be at all.

But as the kids troup by at Marlene and Andre's household, Jose rouses out of his stupor and makes a kind of Peruvian flute out of straws from the fastfood Booger Thing and plays a little tune that makes them laugh. Then they go off to help with Andre's band, No Future in Real Estate, rehearse songs from other bands with names like Rancid and Garbage. And all of this was far more pleasurable than Go to Work Day when they all had observed the wretched of the earth laboring in the cubicles of the firm run by Mr. Cribbage.

Because it had got to that time of year again, Javier had been confronted with the immanent possibility of Birthday Celebration. As he had no desire to risk his life, destroy property, or endure another catastrophe in any way similar to last year, he managed to secure himself safely this time well away from trouble and People Who Earnestly Wish to Do You Well.

Mark Twain commented on these sorts of folks, which perhaps may be found in other places other than California and Mill Valley in particular, but that is all beside the point. MT stated quite emphatically, "If ever you observe someone approaching you with the obvious intention of 'doing you good", you should run as hard and as fast as you can in the opposite direction."

Javier's expedient was simple. He located Eugene Gallipagus's Poodle Blind that still sat out there in the marsh and hauled down into that pit a case of very good, well aged Glen Morangie with several boxes of sterno and MRE's, which have improved significantly since his memories dated circa 1974. Not all that much, but decent scotch was never part of the original Grunt food program.

There he embedded himself while the leggy Joanne headed north to Modoc with her Poet, the lovely Leona headed south to San Leandro with its wild fandangos, and the rest of humankind did whatever it did during the early weeks of June, for Javier hunkered down there with his scotch, the MRE's, a battery-driven TV, and a small parlor guitar with a t-shirt stuffed into the soundhole.

Javier's aversion to contact needs, perhaps, some explaination. For Javier, love was always a life-threatening enterprise. Dianne, or her friends, had run him down with her car, Amy had assaulted him with heavy concrete objects dropped from the roof, Roberta had tried to set him on fire, more or less successfully, and Marina had shoved him down a long flight of stairs with his arms full of iron fantods. As a consequence, this falling in love business had resulted in a brisk commerce for the emergency room and Highland's Trauma unit, where they all had got to know Javier quite well.

Spring was a time especially hazardous for Javier, for Spring in California is notorious for wanton couplings.

One of the interns there wanted to know just why Javier could not pick women who were, perhaps a bit less incendiary than, say, Sharona, who had destroyed his car, his record collection, and his apartment.

"Well, Dianne had seemed at first like a plain gal from the Midwest prairie, as simple and as pretty as a cornflower, but we did not find out until later her relationships with coke dealers was so intimate . . .".

That explains one, but that fails to account for the others, such as Vicki with the knives . . . .

Ah well, exciting women are always so interesting, Javier said, not letting go of his Latin heritage . . . .

It was a weekend of Full Moon and High Tide, with streaks of magenta glowing through the sunset clouds like banked embers longing for release, all of which means Trouble when the weather gets that perfect temperature of sun balanced by breeze stirring the ardent magenta bougainvillea. Javier got wind of a plan by Sharona to throw him into some kind of oubliette or wind tunnel, so thats when he decided to just check out this year into the hunting blind. Works for ducks and poodles. Maybe might work for other species as well. Certainly for Interesting Women. Almost certainly.

At the end of the Dangerous Period, Javier climbed, or staggered, out of there and checked in to work at the Island-Life Offices, smelling of marsh, sterno and booze. The Editor wisely sent him home, where he crawled into his sleeping bag on the floor at Marlene and Andre's and slept the sleep of the blissfully damned.

Meanwhile, the Writer, who does not love or who will never be loved, sits over the white oval drawn by the desklamp upon the even plain of the desktop while all around the darkness extends beyond to the limits of infinity. In the far distance, the Editor sits in his glass cubicle lit within an oasis of light. It is nighttime in the Island-Life Offices and all of the copywriters and subsidiary personnel have left for the evening. In a dungeon, down below, Chad is laboring over some new marvel of code that will delight the kiddies, his own lamp pooling an island of light around him. All through the darkness that surrounds the Island, here and there sit souls hunched over their endeavors, each a miniature monestary during this dark time. Each hoping beyond hope that somewhere out beyond the darkness resides a like mind.

Suzie, working in the Old Same Place Bar, turned with barcloth wiping the sweat from her face to suddenly encounter on the bartop, in lieu of a tip from some unknown patron, a perfect, dewy, long-stemmed rose, an apparition out of nowhere. A line of sour men ranged down the bar into the dimness and the hazy jar of pickles, each looking into the shallow lilypad pool of himself. A few people sat in a cluster at one table, immersed into themselves, and others strewn at various points of the compass seemed likewise occupied, whether alone or together. There was no sign of the donor. She lifted the rose and inhaled its scent.

There are few things more beautiful than a lovely woman with jet black hair holding a perfect red, red rose. Somewhere, some place, a stranger was imagining this very moment, a perfect setup for the eye of the mind.

Right then, the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the choppy water of the estuary from the Port of Oakland and the Jack London Waterfront, as the train headed south to places unknown.

Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets. But deep within the Old Same Place bar stands one bartender still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions.

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


JUNE 14, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from out on the Strand where windsurfers took advantage of suddenly clear, warm skies.


This week's video won Week's Best Of among quite a crowd of contenders, including a grandma mouthing off at a cop getting tasered, Riki "Garfunkel" Lindhome and Kate "Oates" Micucci singing about sex with ducks in a bathtub, and a gay Jesus lip synching "I Will Survive" who eventually gets hit by a bus.

Winner comes from America's Best Xian, Betty Bowers, who takes time to explain to less informed Christians the curious details of the Lord's concept of marriage with specific quotations from The Book. See for Betty's interviews with famous folks, helpful pew styling tips, and really spiritual commentary right from below your own Bible Belt.

Now isn't that special.


Over 150 daring chalk artists, young and old, greenhorn and professional, showed up to decorate the sidewalks of the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley this past Saturday during the 13th annual Chocolate & Chalk Art Festival a couple weeks ago.

For the second year in a row, the first place winner was Imad Obegi who drew “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which was still able to be viewed near 2113 Vine St. a few days ago. Commenting on his piece, Imad Obegi said, “the idea of the “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came to me when I was having fun with the thought that the day has come when pigs can fly – ‘Swine Flu.’ A week or so later…during a meeting, the phrase “Swine Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” came to mind. The more I thought about it, the funnier it sounded. The fact that the world went crazy over the possibility of a swine flu epidemic and the fact that the H1N1 virus strain is a combination of the bird flu virus and the swine flu virus needed to be conveyed as a comical image. I added the dots to represent viruses shedding from the pig’s body but not to be so explicit as to ‘downer’ the humor of it. The pig is happily flying, oblivious to the fact that he is targeted to be terminated despite the fact that it wasn’t all his fault. . . .

More artwork and other winners are posted at


For over 36 years, the Webster Pharmacy has greeted folks with old tyme wisdom, simples, powders and classic photographs in a store that always felt like a Rod Serling time machine episode, but no more. Owner Ed Clark has shifted operations to the new modernized Safeway at Southshore Mall so that the 67 year old pharmacist and his wife can spend more time with the grandkids.

In fact, the Webster Pharmacy's history extends way back to the nineteen twenties when the site provided, besided "medicinal spirits" phones for bookies to place bets in a sort of speakeasy environment. It was only when Ed Clark took over that the place took on its Norman Rockwell charm...

The SunCal saga continues with a group threatening lawsuit over the initiative, which the group feels was placed on the ballot under false pretenses. About 160 people have asked to have their names removed from the ballot initiative due to claims of deceptive practices by signature gatherers. Another group has indicated that although some 4,000-5,000 housing units are listed on the proposal, the plans actually allow for a full 10,000 more to be built in subsequent projects on the land. Which oughta be an eye-opener for some folks around here . . .

The "Save Your City" campaign run by the League of California Cities (estab. 1898) has nothing to do with the Save Our City group which is fighting the SoCal project, but is a program to fight der Governator's plan to snag some $2 billion worth of local funds to rescue the Golden State from its present financial troubles. Because of Arnold's plans several cities, including Oaktown across the estuary, are seriously examining bankruptcy contingency plans.

In echoing hallways of dark memory, we recall how Frank Matarrese solomnly declared during a City Hall meeting a couple years ago, "Time is running out, people, and the bill is coming due on this budget . . ." .


The ProArts East Bay open Studios wound up its two week run and our own happy group of makers and dyers concluded a largely successful run this time as folks realize that, artwork is far better than stock as an investment for future appreciation during a downturn.

The revivified "Jingletown" section of Oakland began its planned monthly artquake series of events as well, while the upncoming Temescal District held a street fair this weekend. With Jack London Square now holding weekly film, dance and Tai Chi events, the East Bay looks to have firmly set its cap on at a forward looking angle.

Over at the Kitson-Laing collaborative project on Santa Clara, Ms. Laing performed what was interpreted as some performance art improv. Turned out the lady was flat out exhausted after several days of schmoozing.

Notice the tasteful felt scarf. Available from Feltworks for only $94.99 . . . .


Went out to the Strand for the annual sand castle contest there, a delightfully marketing and fee-free event in which one and all were invited to cast their temporary creations just ahead of the advancing tide.

Here are are just a few of the many dozens of animals and fanciful worlds created for the moment, certain to be destroyed within hours, if not by sun, then by the advancing salt bay.



Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The high fog and chill temps gave way on the weekend to glorious sunshine and well marbled skies. The glads are still spiking up to heights well over five and a half feet tall, and the beans have started flowering by the Old Fence. Tiny greenish swellings on the dahlias forcast summer glories to come and the tomatoes are all showing promise.

It is 2009 and deep in the heart of the Second Depression, with folks out of work everywhere, stores closing up, and the population of the Golden State actually declining for the first time anybody can remember. Still, the red poppy created by Luther Burbank blooms wildly in the field next door, for the flowers of the field reapeth and soweth not.

Over at Andre and Marlene's household, Marlene puts the finishing touches on the weekly bread soup for dinner. This time the reddish stew is complemented by day-old bread from the Mastic bread drop. Later in the evening, after everyone has had their fill and the pots have been wiped clean with bread rinds, Occasional Quentin pulls out his harmonica and Andre lugs his battered Martin from its equally as battered case and they put on a blues number there on the porch, paying mind to keep clear of the hole where Javier nearly burned the house down on his fiftieth birthday last year.

Oh let us pause in life's pleasures, and count its many tears . . .

Suan leans up against the porch post while Mancini and Rolf and Sarah drape a ragged blanket over themselves with Bonkers and Wickiwup keeping them warm as the fog rolled in from across the Bay. In the distance, the twinkling lights of Babylon draped themselves from the old Candlestick Park up over the hump of San Bruno and down into the vales between Potrero and Telegraph Hill. Down in front, Jose and Pahrump played fetch with the bounding Johnny Cash.

Many times you have lingered around my cabin door
Hard times come again no more.

Its a cold, hard life sometimes, but in the household on Otis there was one more meal and the warmth of community for now as the sun gave up its last rays from far beyond the Golden Gate. From the other side of the Island, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated from the Jack London Waterfront across the estuary.

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

JUNE 21, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from roving Coder and Island-Life staffer, Chad and is titled simply "Sky."

The Flemish masters live again.


Mayor Beverly arose in great indignation at the announcement that the County is considering closing the main bridge connections to the Island. In a fairly astounding announcement, County officials mentioned a complete severance of the Island from the mainland during "selected off hours".

While any number of merchants are wailing over lost business due to the minimal closures due to retrofitting work, such a draconian measure by the County would doom any number of hundreds of businesses here, including the brand new movie theatre and freeze the ferry and tunnel services into immobility.

According to prior County budget reports, the cost to operate and maintain the County-owned Estuary bridges is approximately $1.9 million. The revenue sources for the bridge operations/maintenance include a special Measure B earmark of approximately $600,000, which the City of Alameda agreed to provide in lieu of funding a project to resurface local City of Alameda streets. Additional funds available to the County Public Works Agency for the bridges include $15 million in gas tax, of which Alamedans provide approximately $750,000, and $24.3 million in property tax revenues, of which Alamedans provide approximately $1.2 million. The only direct service Alameda's residents and businesses receive from the County Public Works Agency is the operation and maintenance of the bridges, and Alamedans contribute approximately $2.55 million for this service.

Hanging in the background is the old assertion that maintenance of the bridges is the duty of the Army Corps of Engineers, not the County nor the two principal cities involved.

Her Honor's furious response is available here:



Video of the week comes from the UK where notorious graffiti artist Banksy is holding an exhibition at the Bristol Museum. Although condemned by some, Banksy's illicit work on public space has commanded six and seven figure prices at Southby auctions when owners of the structures had the walls removed and preserved for exhibition and sale.


The SunCal Saga continues with the latest revelation in what is becoming a Bay Area Opera of grand proportions, in that the RAP (Revitalize Alameda Point) group which has been collecting signatures for the initiative to give SunCal a straight passthrough for their project for the former Navy Base lands stated they were giving a by to the upcoming election, opting instead to apply all the signatures for the minor election in 2010.

This little bit of snarkiness allows the group to assemble better forces to push through the initiative in an off-election year and provides for some cooling off time as a large number of islanders have become incensed at the scummy Big Business deceptive tactics employed by SunCal.

It may still be the best plan available to the Island population, but this group is hardly earning confidence by their squirrely methods to get the plans approved, their deliberate burial of assumed budget costs, and their fairly obnoxious attitude that reeks of "you dumb farmers just don't see we already got it all zipped up tight", and consequently confidence in their honesty is plummeting day by day.

In other news relating to this brough-ha-ha, an organized protest rally against the Suncal proposal took place on the 13th here

About 100 people attended a rally Saturday at Jackson Park to protest a possible ballot initiative that could pave the way for 4,800 new homes at Alameda Point.

The residents, many of whom held signs protesting the initiative, heard from six speakers who focused on the perceived problems of the development in relation to traffic, the environment and city finances.

The rally was intended to help energize an opposition movement to the initiative, which needed 6,000 signatures by June 25 to go on the ballot. As of Tuesday, SunCal said it had 8,000 signatures on petitions and would plan the vote for 2010.

"Our sole purpose is to defeat the SunCal initiative," organizer Reyla Graber said, following the event. "That is because this initiative is such a bad deal for Alameda at so many different levels."

SunCal's plan calls for more than 3 million square feet of commercial and business park space and 145 acres of parks and open space, as well as a new ferry terminal, library, schools and a fire station.

Opponents of the plan are firing at low-ball estimates for toxic waste cleanup, infrastructure costs to install city-class roads, sewage and electric services, and traffic abatement plans.

Only 200 million dollars are alloted for building the ferry terminal, library, schools, fire station as well as the traffic amelioration plans in total, for example.


The Island-Life Social Coordinator yanked us all out to far-off Mare Island along the Delta for a double-threat Saturday. Mare Island is a sort of curious deposit along the channel that dumps water from Susuin Bay into San Pablo from the American River. Martinez, home to a couple biker gangs and a small middle class neighborhood of family homes sits on the one side of the channel. The bankrupted town of Vallejo sits across another artificial channel and Mare Island itself, once a Navy base devoted to ship repair and maintenance is well steeped in PCB,lead, acids, and other toxics that saturate the soil there beneath an otherwise well-cared for town of new developments.

In any case, the place combined a Juneteenth celebration with a Pirate festival. Yeah, go figure. Juneteenth is a popular day this side of the Mississippi which recalls on that day the long time it took before news of the Emancipation Proclamation traveled from far-distant Washington DC to the furthest corners of the Texan empire and California.

Freedom is always good news to learn whenever it arrives, no matter how tardy, and so the celebrations tend toward the joyous.

Across the road from the library grounds that hosted the band stage and booths, a long stretch along the water there revealed a motley crew of pirates from every corner of the globe. Every corner, it seemed, except for Somalia, where the pirates are all too real.

A pirate festival is less about the realities of "stand and deliver", than fantasy and imagination, for we all are more than well aquainted with the pirates of Wall Street who recently raided our 401K's without swashing a single buckle.

There is a certain amount of pleasure in imagining creatures like Ken Lay and Bernie Madhoff being made to walk a literal plank over a sea of literal sharks, but we all know that will never happen.

It would be entirely too just.

On the other hand, the hapless teenage Somalians with cutoff jeans and AK-47s pursuing their own individual form of Capitalism hardly seem the romantic types portrayed by the likes of Johnny Depp. Justice is not what any of them are likely to experience.

The pirates of the Renaissance and Baroque periods, often employed on contract by national governments to prey on the ships of enemies, seldom ended up well. Blackbeard, Bluebeard and all the rest ended up being hung from the yardarms of their ships. In a curious and atypical instance, the only pirate to assail the California Coast, Hippolyte Bouchard, wound up dieing in his own bed in his sleep after a long and peaceful, post-pirate, middle class existence. But not after sacking and burning Monterey.

This leaves the world of pure fantasy, with Tinker Bell and Captain Hook.

This pirate here keeps things secure with his stuffed monkey. The pistol helps as well.

No, the pirates of the pirate festival have little to do with anything that exists or ever existed outside of Peter Pan musicals. Its an excuse to dress up and act wild and be a star on one's own stage, a peculiarly American phenomenon. That said, the festival is garish and fun and free to enter and loaded with all sorts of saucy wenches, parrot-bedecked rovers, tankards of ale, prancing Caribbean zombies and phantasmagoria straight from the condensed Id. Kids love it because they get to wack each other with plastic swords. Adults love it because they get to act sexy and dangerous in a safe manner.

Notice how in this fencing game, the foils have their customary practice buttons covered with bright orange safety foam.

It must be the same spirit that motivated the Society of Creative Anachronisms, which regularly held medieval jousts, wizard gatherings and mead-fueled roistering up here in NorCal, which were less historically accurate than wildly imaginative. Just a chance to inhabit that ludic area of the mind once again, be a child but this time with better designed toys and realistic swords that hang heavy.

On the swords, we wandered over to the weapons tent to survey the pricey items there and found largely cheaply made and very light pseudo weapons of "rat-tail construction". Better not "clash" these costume "arms" for the result just might be a piece of metal flying through the air into somebody's eye when the blade snaps at the hilt.

All in all it was a fine day at the pirate's festival. Arrgh!



Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The high fogs have burned off a bit, leaving a brisk wind whipping over the Island and we can see the high frozen clouds heading eastward under the fluffy locals.

All around the Bay Area Solstice time is celebrated in any number of ways. The following Monday, mysterious markings will appear at Lands End in Babylon and at the tower in John McLaren Park where covens have held their age old rituals. Up in the Hills, black scortch marks remain where offerings to Kuknu were made. On the Island, things trend to the more prosaic, as the new moon and the first day of summer is greeted with BBQ and golf.

To each their own.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual Father's Day breakfast buffet there on Alameda Avenue between Park and Oak above the museum and the Abodanza kids ran amok among the blueberry pancakes and sterno-trays of piglet sausages.

The buffet is yet another attempt to raise funds for a plaque to go out there where the transcontinental railroad first crossed over onto the Island way back when the Union Pacific had to hastily make an ad hoc terminus in lieu of the unfinished Oaktown Station.

They had been all rushing so hard to make the appointment at Promotory Summit in the middle of the country they had all forgot to fix up the terminus here, so hoo boy, they all had to scramble to make a place for the train to arrive on its historic journey across the country because the official terminus was not yet built.

In any case, the Native Sons had been bickering with the E Clampus Vitus chapter here as to how much either organization would pay for the plaque, with the ECV stating the exact position of arrival to be in dispute, so things had been run at a standstill for quite a while. In reality, the contact at ECV was Mr. Burbage and the contact at the Native Sons was David Phipps and the two had shared a common hedge between their houses on Grand Street for some time and this hedge had been the subject of a long acrimonious property dispute between the two landowners for some time, such that the two would communicate with one another only through the media of hired gardeners who at least shared the commonality of stemming from Sonora in Mexico.

Generally their conversation began with one fellow claiming, "Mi Senior says your Senior needs to cut back the weeds."

"Mi Senior says your catawba is overshadowing the hydrangea."

And so on. As a result of the hedge dispute, the historical plaque dispute had reached a standstill.

As it was Father's Day all over, Tipitina, Suan and Sarah all took their fathers out for brunch at Mama's Cafe on Sunday for a House Excursion. If ever a brunch was destined to end up in a blues bar, this was it. But when the arrangements first got made, it had seemed like a really good idea.

Suan's father, a distinguished Ivy League professor who entirely disapproves of Suan's every life decision and manner of being -- and never spares moment to remind her of such -- sat with his glasses on the edge of his nose peering at the menu while Sarah's father, who arrived at nine am already drunk, slouched beside him. Tipitina's dad, Adolpho, refused to speak English to anyone at the table, including his daughter, even though he could speak and understand it perfectly well. Instead, he spoke his own version of Louisiana Creole.

Bonkers and Wickiwup banged their tails on the ground outside while tied to a magazine kiosk.
As it happened, Mr. Washington got into a discussion with Mr. Barrows on the merits and foibles of Richard Brautigan, while Sarah, who knew some basic French and Spanish tried to converse with Adolpho.

"You are not a whore like that other one." said Adolpho courteously, indicating the innocent Suan. "Nous sommes Cajun, mais nous avez the pride of the Bayou." He spoke his own version of Cajun French with careful Louisiana inflection.

Glomming on the word "Cajun", Sarah responded, "I don't know much about Cajun music -- we do roots blues. Name of the band is 'In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharp."

"Ah, Rosetta Tharp is good name for your mother." said Adolpho, who also did not understand more than a word of what she had just said.

"She must be proud of you. If she is still alive that is. Or even if she isn't, still proud."

Tipitina was asking Suan how the tip thing got handled in a practical manner since the nature of Suan's work precluded pockets.

"Well, sometimes there is the French Maid outfit with the apron as the last thing to go," Suan offered, never really having been queried on this line before. She worked as a stripper for the Crazy Horse and so was the major rent-payer over at the house on Otis Street where twelve people shared a two bedroom place. "And there is the feather headdress." she added.

Her father did not know what she did for a living, but disapproved of her lifestyle on general principles, much as stern fathers often do, working largely upon suspicion and general conservative attitudes. She clearly had not married and had not become a stockbroker for Mason Tillman in the City. If she had become a stockbroker in the City, all the questions and suspicions that nagged him between lectures would be put aside. And so his fatherhood was one of boundless regret.

He hailed from that generation which maintained that in a world run by stupid People, the best way to handle oneself was with firm rectitude and stiff belief in one's own solid character, back ramrod straight, for if you get lucky, you have luck and yourself to thank, and if the mob comes and beats you and knocks you down, at least you have yourself and your honor, and this set of values had born him well through a lifetime witnessing too much adversity and suffering in others. Anyone could rise above it all, just as he had done, for he had done well, working his way through college, acquiring Professorship, buying a house in a good neighborhood, getting married and having at least this one surviving child.

As for Claude Barrows, his regrets directed themselves largely at himself. An odd-job man, he had turned his hand to music to make a few dollars, using that trade pretty much as he had done cabinet-finishing, house painting, ditch digging and carpentry, with a desultory and half-finished attitude of "why bother", since it will probably all wind up a wrecked mess turned out wrong and nobody appreciates good work anyway. The world had set itself against Claude from the very beginning, or so he felt. Against himself and against all the people like him. There was no use in trying, as the System had it all rigged up for the Fortunate Ones. Might as well just sit there on the stoop with a Colt 45 in that old paper bag. Get by making this or that sort of thing in a half-assed way. Every once in a while he gets up the gumption and really sets to it with a will, but then something always happens in the end. Wife runs off with the bass player or the earnings lost in the first roll of dice on the corner. The one thing he had made, well, helped make, was Sarah whom he taught the guitar when she was just six years old. How she looked then with her little brown arms barely getting around the body of that old Martin dreadnaught.

Suddenly, in the middle of conversation about poetry, Claude burst into tears and all conversation stopped as people looked at him.

Claude looked at his daughter and said, "You are the only beautiful thing I ever made."

"Dad, you are drunk again." Sarah said.

Mr. Washington commented that it appeared brunch was over and he called for the check. How on earth had Suan collected such a group of friends or ever heard of this place. He strongly suspected Mama's of being a hotbed of Lesbianism, a lifestyle about which he had yet to form a firm opinion.

If he had known with certainty that Suan's current lover was the fetching and intelligent Jamaica Jones, it is quite possible he would throw a fit. Never mind her employment status.

But as she stood up he noted the grace in her body and check noted to himself the way she resembled her mother.
Out on the sidewalk they all shook hands, hugged, did what each person's character called forth and each pair went its separate ways. Suan and her dad took the Mercedes out to MLK Park along the water and there she got the Old Man to take off his shoes and so got him to remember how they had gone fishing in those waters long before folks got worried about eating anything out of the Bay.

They ended up walking hand in hand, him thinking, well, she is what she is and no matter about lifestyle for she is of flesh and blood of her mother. Can't deny that. After all she did not turn out so badly.

Meanwhile Sarah had a few drinks together with her dad at the Top Hat Lounge, a place with lots of red vinyl upholster and lighting set considerately dim so as to help smooth out the features of whomever one had encountered there for mating purposes. He talked about missing her mom, as bad as she was, and about early days when jazz was bopping all over the place in Oaktown. After the bar, she put her father to bed and sang softly to him "Where is my good man?" by Memphis Minnie.

As he drifted off on the sound of his daughter's voice, he thought to himself, now what dad is so lucky as to be able to sit down and have a few drinks with his daughter. What a voice she has . . . .

As for Tipitina and Adolpho, they returned to the Island and after a brief visit to the playground at Washington Park, where she submitted to being pushed in the play set swing, they did their own beachside walk there along the Strand not far from the house on Otis. He wanted to know if Tipitina had found a nice Creole boy yet.

Dad, you know me and Roger been together five years now.

He come from good family?

Skipping to the chase, she said he was from Minnesota.

Good Catholic?

He's Lutheran, dad. From San Leandro.

He sighed. At least he is not from Wisconsin.

She did not know how this could be an improvement, but she let it go.

Adolpho had come with his father and mother years ago from the bayous during World War II, along with so many others out of the Southlands, who came to help build the immense warships that helped defeat the original Axis of Evil. Most of them stayed, at least the ones who did not experience the terrible Port Chicago disaster, but Adolpho had returned to kin in Metairie to knock about there and New Orleans, working odd jobs and trying to build up a Cajun sense of himself, even though those few years by the Bay had changed him and put a mark upon him so that everybody there knew him for something different.

So it was he eventually returned to the Bay to take care of his ailing mother after his own father died of some kind of toxic consequence from the alphabet soup of chemicals involved with building things like ships. His mother died not six months later and he just stayed and married Marybelle Jennifer and pretty soon with a house full of kids, the years passed and there was no returning to Metairie.

All of the kids turned out fine, including this one. But still, the Bayou water was in his veins, undeniably so. As he sat there on the strand he started singing a little French blues to himself and his daughter put her arm around his shoulders.

Fathers and daughters. There is no summary long enough to encompass a life and all that is in it, she thought to herself. I know this man and yet I will never understand him.

And so the sun set with flaming rooster tails of crimson and gold as the fog billowed in through the Golden Gate far across the water. And far across the water came the eerie ululation of the night train passing through Jack London Waterfront.

That's the way it is on the Island. Thank your dad one time and gave a great week.

(sotto voce: This is for you, daddy)
I took my love, I took it down
Climbed a mountain and I turned around
And I saw my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Till the landslide brung it down (Oh,)
Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Mm hmm hmm hmm
Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Well, I've been afraid of changing 'cause I've
Built my life around you
But time makes you bolder, even children get older
And I'm getting older too
Oh, I'm getting older too
Ah-ah, take my love, take it down
Ah-ah, Climb a mountain and turn around

And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, a landslide'll bring it down
And if you see my reflection in the snow-covered hills
Well, a landslide'll bring it down, oh-ohh
The landslide'll bring it down.
(stevie nicks)

JUNE 28, 2009


This week the headline photo comes from Sharon and is of a car backseat in the parkinglot of the Laurel District Lucky's in Oaktown just over the water.

Behold the grim visage the stern look of command. My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings . . .



The annual summer season is in its post-Spring doldrums, with lots of the good local bands on tour away from home, however these items are worth noting with the two high notes, Death Cab for Cutie (July) and the Outside Lands Festival (August) still to come.

Houston Jones had their CD release party over at the Freight and Salvage. Understand a cranking good time was had by all there. Missed also the quirky and delightful Australian Xavier Rudd at the Fillmore. Nobody rocks out with a reggae didgeradoo like Mr. Rudd.

Tracy Chapman pops up her head "Telling Stories" with her acoustic guitar August 21. Meet the gal who spent 21 days in a Virginia jail for her lover, for her lover.

Paolo Nutini brings a big of Euro flavor to the refurbished Fox Theatre September 12, but there is little of interest on the slate until then. Those adorable Mexican kids, Rodrigo y Gabriela are going to rock the purple chandeliers September 23 with acoustic pyrotechnics. You have not lived until you have heard them do Metallica covers on nylon string guitars and gotten the entire audience to sing "Wish You Were Here" along with.

The Outside Lands festival takes over GGP 8/28 - 8/30 with the following acts of interest:
DAY ONE: pearl jam, incubus, thievery corp
DAY TWO: Dave Matthews Band, black eyed peas, Jason Mraz,
DAY THREE: beastie boys, ween, modest mouse, band of horses, Robert Randolph, Bret Dennon, Calexico

Closer to the date, we notice Coldplay at the shoreline July 13, with current Press Room faves,
Death Cab For Cutie fronted by Andrew Bird July 11 at the Greek Auditorium.

Local boys, Luce perform July 11 at the Great American Music Hall, while Marin local Joan Baez appears among the eucalyptus and fog with Blame Sally the next day, July 12 for a free concert at Stern Grove.

Did we just say "FREE!" Yes we did.

Tori Amos rocks out on the harpsichord July 13 right here on the warmer side of the Bay at the Paramount, warbling in the upper register and doing things to piano stools of which Pat Robertson would not approve.

Those irrepressible Canadians, the Cowboy Junkies, appear with Son Volt July 17 at the Montalvo Winery

Continuing a blastingly good July, those V-twin engines of the acoustic world, the Indigo Girls will seriously stir up the s---t July 20 at the venerable Fillmore.

Finally, homeboy Adam returns to reprise the Counting Crows with Augustana July 26, but closer to home at the Greek this time.

Trey Anastasio reunites Phish for some serious tie-die and extended solos August 5 at the Shoreline, while SoCal native Jackson Browne rolls in August 19 to the unstoppable Paramount Theatre. Still alive.


This week the video comes from Chad who has long pushed for presentation here on this subject of global ecological involvement. The video is a full-length movie of some 93 minutes, so we cannot post all of it here, but provide a hyperlink to its free youtube location.

The main site where you can both view for free and purchase a download of the movie is:

We can say that the photography alone is absolutely stunningly beautiful, consisting of landscape pans from many different parts of the globe, and the musical score well matched to the material. This is a film among films that either change lives or bolster ineffective cynicism. It is far more elegant and watchable than "An Inconvenient Truth", BTW.

As an observation, we note that the film goes beyond the issue of global warming with its clearly disastrous consequences, to include the broader concept of human stewardship of the given Earth. Agree or disagree, you will have to admit the film requires response.

If you knew you had only 10 years to live, what would you do?


The latest flap over at Silly Hall, besides the unsurprising news that SunCal has put off introducing their controversial Initiative until the 2010 elections, is the brough-haha over the proposed bridge closures, which pretty much would doom every business on Park Street and murder the daily commute, at least the commute by car. Because cessation of bridge maintenance would cause Maritime Law to kick in, every drawbridge would need to be kept raised, because maritime traffic trumps land access.

SunCal Yes, the Developer on everyone's lips. Turns out the Initiative was not an honest effort to present to the voters the Point redevelopment Plan but an attempt to lock down in stone and legal bonds what had been up for point by point negotiation with the Mayor's Office. The contract with SunCal was and is already in place, and the Plan in process of execution. But the actual numbers as to amounts SunCal would contribute was not yet defined, meaning if the Initiative passes, SunCal gets a waiver on cost overruns and has the right to walk away from any number of promises, whereas without the Initiative, SunCal still develops the land, but will need to answer to all the negotiated items. Meaning the 200 million for Ferry terminal, parks, and other public amenities is a maximum cap, not a guarantee of work. Remember, somebody still has to pay for things like the environmental impact reports.

At first we kinda liked the idea of more affordable housing out there, but this whole thing is really beginning to stink.

Of course if SunCal chips in to pay for the bridges, well, we just might rethink our position.


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

The cool weather turned hot and bothered and sent all kinds of folks out of the area to the surrounding lakes and parks and whatnot. Down at the Strand, windsurfers and parasail boarders cavorted just offshore in the shallows.

Everyone here looks to be fully recovered from that flu that went around, knocking staffers flat and sending them in queues to the loo. Poor Javier sat there with a bucket looking miserable and, well, sick as a dog, so he got no dates for his birthday.

Gradually everybody is returning to social activity which nausea, flatulence, and the runs tend to preclude.

Lynette and Susan returned from this year's Pride celebration in Babylon, sunburn, tired and happy as did Tommy and Toby who sailed their little ketch, The Lavender Surprise, over to the Marina there for the two day festivities. This year's theme was culled from the Constitution of the United States, always a worthy document to draw inspiration from.

Even Justices Roberts and Scalia would have to agree on that one.

Over at the their clubhouse, the Native Sons of the Golden West held a pre-July 4th BBQ to ostensibly plan for the annual Mayor's Parade, however it was really just an excuse to fry up some brats and down pitchers of Paul's homemade scratch margaritas.

Paul and the Marin-based Mugwhump Incompetents sat out on the porch making sounds with guitars that grew progressively more discordant as the afternoon drew out its shadows and the vat of margaritas dwindled and ebbed. While Paul assiduously attended to the usual musical values of timing, harmony, rhythm and the Circle of Fifths, as usually practiced within the American folk idiom, Denby segued from all of these into something that sounded suspiciously like punk rock, nearly always an unfortunate occurrence on an acoustic instrument unless your name is Billy or Mike.

While Beatrice twanged a Leonard Cohen tune, MaryBeth thumped the old washtub bass and David played some kind of blues which may have been Son House or Stevie Ray Vaughn or perhaps Bob Dylan. It didn't really matter as each one of them was playing an entirely different song and getting drunker by the hour.

Tucker and Rumsey, giving up the remarkably ineffective mouse hunt, both began to howl in a key reserved usually for chalk on blackboards.

The noise got so bad that the family of raccoons crept out from under the floorboards where they had been living ever since the time David and Jose had tried to trap one of them, nearly destroying the meeting hall in the process.

The big daddy bacon looked over his shoulder with reproach at the band before ambling off to find some quieter locale to rest.

It all ended badly when Denby started to pogo, a bad move on old floorboards for a man weighing in excess of two hundred pounds. The boards buckled, cracked, then gave way with a sudden snap and Denby went right through to his waist. This must have caused some kind of sympathetic vibration, or perhaps the instruments felt they had been tortured enough, for the bullet amps all blew out such that a fat blue spark drifted through the air to set the drowsing Jim Kitson on fire. In his beard.

"Idiot!" Beatrice shouted at Denby.

Everyone scattered, with Jim running down to the marina through a formerly calm gathering of ground squirrels and bacons to the water where he jumped in with a sizzle.

At that moment, Sue came out to announce, "Beans are ready!"

The rest of the evening went somewhat cantankerously.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie was tending bar with a temporary ink "tattoo" of a black tear beneath her left eye, done in memory of Michael Jackson, when a group of Bozos trooped in and all sat at the bar to order the newly legalized absinthe. Absinthe is now made here on the Island, should anyone ask, however Suzie was curious to know what was up with the red noses, the orange hair, the baggy overalls and the big shoes with pompoms.

Well, said the first one, who was named Bob, I'm a Bozo and he's a Bozo and she's a Bozo too. Squeeze Louise (many like to). Are you a Bozo too?

Suzie had to admit she often felt like one.

Well I guess we are all Bozos in this bar.

They had come from the Pride Parade and had gotten up their outfits to mourn the recent death of the King of Pop. Or if not mourn, at least chase away the sadness.


Well, said Bob, none of us can sing and none of us can dance. But we sure can be entertaining, and Michael Jackson was the Entertainer par excellence. Here, Ralph, do a pratfall off of that stool for us.

Ralph obediently slipped from his stool as if greased and then, after laying face up on the floor, moonwalked back to his starting position.

Life is full of sadness and misery and nasty circumstances like all of Somalia and Darfur, incontinence, erectile dysfunction and Rush Limbaugh, as well as death in general, said Bob. Here, have a nose.

He handed Suzie a bright red ball but the thing would not stay on, so Ralph presented a Groucho Marx combo mask with spectacles, nose and whiskers.

Some guy is gonna see you like that and fall madly in love, said Louise.

Remember when we first met? A bozo named Ray said to Bob. We were both dressed as chubby-cheeked hamsters.

How could I ever forget the full moon rumba and the terra cotta fish, said Bob.

The two clowns hugged one another, then brought out their rubber chickens.

Hey, lets have a song! Ralph said. For the good old days.

The Bozos all gathered together in front of the bar and began to warble as everyone at the tables gawked.

Ben, the two of us need look no moooooooore
We both found what we were looking foooooooorrrr
With a friend to call my own
I'll never be alone
And you, my friend, will see
You've got a friend in meeeeeeeeee . . . .

Then they all wacked each other ceremoniously with their rubber chickens and returned to their absinthe cocktails.

Don't be sad, beautiful lady, Bob said to Suzie. Someday somebody special will come along and knock you right off your feet.

Probably with a rabbit punch, added Ray. And they all nodded.

Right then the long wail of the late night train came ululating from the dark Jack London Waterfront across the water flecked with lights from the silent and pondering container cranes of the Port.

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.

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

JULY 5, 2009


This weeks headline photo shows a man resting beside the remains of a campfire, a familiar sight in summer. Except for who this man happens to be.

The man is Norman Clyde and the image comes from a cigarbox of negatives found by Island-Lifer Mike Rettie at an estate sale. The estate being liquidated turned out to be that of Lewis Clark, one-time Director of the Sierra Club.

Mike realized he had found quite a treasure of California history, as the shoebox contained informal photos of many rather famous mountaineers, inluding Ansel Adams, and so he has put up a website hosting a selection of the finds.

Since our Camping Section has remained popular through the years, we thought some of you who know who Norman Clyde was will appreciate this image.

Mike's shoebox discovery can be found online at the family website, shared with his tam-knitting wife Agnes can be found at Look for Glen Dawson's pictures of the 1931 Sierra Club High Trip. Ascents of Eichorn pinnacle, Finger Rock, the Palisades and other notable achievements can be found there.


During a conversation with someone recently one of our staff members mentioned that "health insurance would be a thing towards to which to aspire one day." The listener just could not understand this situation. Health insurance is so important. However, the listener just bought a house in California, which tends to put one in a special category that is inhabited by a vast minority of persons, as no normal person can simply buy a house in the Golden State and expect to keep it for long.

Our staffer simply gazed back with a look that recalled Beyonce Knowles in the above mentioned movie.

Truth is, at least a third of the country has no health insurance. Truth is, even of the 230 million Americans who do, it doesn't matter. That's right, if you have insurance and are paying through the nose, the coverage covers but little and you probably are better off just dropping what you have entirely or forking over for the 100% coverage for anything less is pointless. At medical costs today, those 80/20% plans are useless. What is 20% of $200,000 and can you pay that, especially since you most likely will have no income in such a situation?

And what if your condition bridges a year? You pay your $20,000 out of pocket (plus the deductible, plus all the non-covered expenses in the fine print) but sad luck if you go to hospital in October, for at the turn of the year, you start all over with another deductible and 20% come January; that's another $20,000 plus, you unemployed sod.

In a casual survey, we learned that out of five Island-Life staffers, just two were fully insured, and one of those -- working for a health care agency -- had to pay out of pocket thousands of dollars for procedures EVEN WITH INSURANCE!

The truth is, the situation is badly broken and getting worse day by day, and forces are at work to keep it that way, very powerful forces. Things have been going badly for quite a long time as witnessed by this documented conversation in Emergency at Kaiser Oakland.

Man comes in, obviously bleeding from a wound.

Man: I have been shot.

Nurse: I can see that. Are you Kaiser?

Man: Nevermind about that. I have been shot . . .

Nurse: I need to know if you are Kaiser.

Man: I am shot and I am bleeding . . .

Nurse: But are you Kaiser . . .?

Man: I am shot and I am bleeding to death in front of you!

Nurse, taking out some forms: I need you to fill out these forms here. Please first thing indicate if you are with Kaiser . . .

Man: I am shot . . . !

This documented conversation would never have come to light were the man not Eldridge Cleaver. But this idiotic situation recurs hundreds of times a day in major cities all over America. Don't laugh; it could happen to you. And you most certainly are not as famous as Cleaver.

Because the conversation here continues now at the national level and our President Elect has presented reasonable corrections to the obviously wrecked systems, we include a segment of the movie Sicko here as Movie of the Week.

As a side note, one of our Editorial Staffers indicated that the opening scene of the man stitching his own wound is no fake, as he did the same for himself for an injury sustained in ever so liberal South Dakota. It does take a few shots of whiskey, however.

You can watch the entire movie in 10 minute increments at this website. Better to rent the DVD.


Of course B sharp exists; you just have to know where to look. Such as behind the davenport.

In upcoming events we note the Crucible is holding its expanded and revamped Fire Arts Festival this year in a new location in Oakland right off the West Grand Avenue exit, between the Oakland Army Base and the East Bay MUD Facility, at the corner of Wake Avenue and Engineer Road.

Basically, its near the Oakland Outer Harbor within sight of the Toll Plaza for the Bay Bridge.

Limited parking will be available, both in the free and $10 variety but FREE shuttle service from West Oakland BART will be provided. We are not sure how this will work for the final night which tends to "climax" in a grand finale with all machines going off all at once to musical orchestration around midnight.

The catch is that tickets ramp up each night to the tune of $55 for general admission and a whopping $105 for the Hoity Toity admission to the amenity-stocked Pavilion.

Clearly Director Michael Sturtz has become aware there are two kinds of patrons in the Bay Area: those with pots of gelt and then, the rest of us. He certainly seems to be fixed on the upwardly mobile trend of collaborations with things like the Ballet, the Symphony and the Opera, ticket prices for which events make a C-note look like chump change.

The new location way out there pretty much ensures no more freebie gawking through the fence for passersby.

Also we note fewer Burning Man installations and performances this time. Seems in the past there has been a bit of friction between the two clashing cultures of Burning Man and Crucible, according to insiders. So no Mutaytor. But you do get the lead singer of Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer.

If you got the cash and are in the mood for spectacular, go to for details.

More in line with our Recession budgets, tomorrow continues Jack London Musical Mondays with Carlos Godinez performing his original Latin jazz-pop compositions in the early evening after five hard by Heinold's.

Thursday, "Dead Calm" will be the maritime-flavored free movie shown on the East Lawn.

Carlos should whet yer whistle for a reprise of the incendiary Strunz and Farah, who electrified the acoustic world a while ago by melding Farah's Iranian heritage with Strunz's South American licks to make some really tasty stuff. The duo appears two nights running at Yoshi's East, July 8th and 9th.

The following three nights will be owned by none other than South Africa's Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo is a male a cappella group that sings in local traditional vocal styles. They rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his album, Graceland and have won multiple awards, including three Grammy Awards, and boast numerous platinum records. They have a new CD out which honors the Zulu warrior/statesman who unified disparate tribes into a cohesive and powerful nation.

At the Paramount, Tori Amos will do things to a piano stool that cause maidens to blush and make young men long to be turned into just such an article of furniture, while tickling the ivories and pitching notes into the upper register in a bevy of oblique lyrics. If none of that makes sense, you have not heard and seen Tori Amos. And you probably are not an English Major, either. At least one of those conditions can be rectified July 13th for $39.50/$55.50. She, also, has a brand new CD out.

Around the corner, July 26th, R&B artist Eric Benet drops in to the renovated Fox Theatre with the extraordinary jazz vocalist, Ledisi. This performance will have reserved seating ranging from $46-$86. Seems that Ledisi got some buzz going on.

All the First Fridays that got postponed in the East Bay due to the national holiday will take place July 10-11, including a reception on Saturday (7-9pm) for Slate Gallery's newest offering, Jessica Martin. Martin does multimedia sculpture of "imaginary objects" as well as abstract acrylic painting.

Slate can be found at 4770 Telegraph in the up n' coming Temescal District. Check out Slate.

From Rosalie at KFOG we get the following acoustic tipoffs:

JOAN BAEZ, BLAME SALLY -- July 12 -- Stern Grove (FREE!)
TORI AMOS -- July 14 -- San Jose Center for Performing Arts ('case you miss her locally)
COWBOY JUNKIES AND SON VOLT -- July 17 -- Montalvo
INDIGO GIRLS -- July 20 -- Fillmore

Blame Sally is most famous for that quirky tune about the struggling group of artists living in the desert, including one member who claims to talk to UFO aliens every night by means of a portable transistor radio. Homegirl Marinite Joan Baez is famous for being, well, famous. And Robert Zimmerman's former girlfriend.

Son Volt does the blues, and speaking of which, we gotta give good props to the movie "Cadillac Records", which is a fairly accurate historical presentation of the rise and fall of Chess Records in Chicago, which pretty much busted the color barrier in radioplay music, smashed racial barricades right and left and thrust African-American music directly into the main veins of American culture making things like Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones and Jack White entirely possible.

If it were not for a couple of Polish immigrant Jews named Chess, we would never have experienced the young Michael Jackson. Think of that.

The story is a bit simplified, which seems always to be necessary to make a movie in America these days, but entire movies could have been made on the bio of any one of the various artists and characters that inhabit the film. The role of Leonard Chess's brother, Phil, is minimized throughout, and Leonard's son, who brought the Rolling Stones to America, is barely referenced at all.

The other details, of Etta James' early drug addiction, the setup by Leonard between her and her supposed father, Minnesotta Fats in a purchased restaurant, and the postmortem rescue of Etta's house in Leonard Chess's only recorded last wishes are all truely depicted. And yes, Leonard Chess died of a heart attack in his car, but driving to the studio, not away from it. Little Walter did die of injuries sustained during a craps game, but he died at home in his bed after his assailant hit him in the head with a hammer.

Minor issues. In essence, the film did seem to get most of it right, including the instinctive rivalry that developed between Muddy Waters and Howling Wolf.

It's not perfect, and we wonder at the veracity of the depiction of the relationship between Etta James and Leonard Chess, but the Blues tend to be angular and difficult to pin down ultimately. Aint nothing but a good man/woman feelin' bad? And then some. You can talk all you want about pentonic scales and I-IV-V 12 bar structures, but that dont mean crap when it comes to playing the real song.

In the movie Adrien Brody (as Leonard) tells Etta James, "You sing the blues so well; you don't have to live it." and Beyonce just looks at him with a pitying look that says a world of "You don't know shit about it."

As it was told to us by those who know, you don't choose the Blues. The Blues choose you.


LaVal's over in the tony Harbor Bay Landing Shopping Center got held up last week by two teen gunmen who apparently knew that an employee was about to make a large deposit of register reciepts in a local bank around eleven pm. The gunmen fled in a car, but as no traffic ordinances were violated, the perps got clean away . . .

An armed holdup occured this past week in the 1500 block of St. Charles where it intersects with Santa Clara near the Island-Life offices, which pulled a post-mortem response of some five police cars, however no details can be released at this time, because the investigation is actively in progress . . .

Better start looking before tossing as a County-wide ordinance will soon go into effect that fines folks for mixing recyclables with garbage, including "green container" waste. If your green can is in the garage collecting drywall and plumbing overflow, better clean it out now and get that sucker to the curb. The ordinance was passed January 28th, but goes into effect October 1 of this year . . .

La Moosilini's Publicity Handlers (i.e. that of Sarah Palin) are chucking litigious fits over rumors concerning the erratic woman's sudden resignation from public office in Alaska. We know why Palin really resigned: its to give birth to the lovechild gotten from either McCain or Michael Jackson. Trouble is the frisky ex-governor does not know exactly who is the real dad . . .


The 34th Annual Mayor's Fourth of July Parade took place here on the usual date, but with a noteworthy mark of distinction, as this year our tiny Island earned the distinction of the longest parade in the United States at some 3.3 miles long with its 148+ entries, some with multiple floats.

We could not get proper images of every entry, but our photographer, Schmidt, tried his best. Here then, is the record. And for the record, this is the first year Mayor Beverly was so distracted by the budget that she forgot to direct the driver of her float to try to run down our representative. You still can see the driver seeing us and thumbing his nose, however.

Perhaps the newly litigation-aware departments in City Hall notified Her Honor that murder at the start of the parade would really slow down the entire event to an uncomfortable degree.

In any case, here is a selection of the entries for this year, starting right off with Mayor Bev. Its a small town; we go by first names here.

Our Grand Marshal of the Parade happens to be Rev. Bauer of the Immanuel Lutheran Church.

We Islanders like to keep our vehicles running as long as we can. This British model dates from 1938.

Park police.

Here is the man charged with keeping Officers O'Madhauen and Popinjay in line. He also is the man who whipped the boys into shape after they got into trouble playing with their radios and having parties in the City Jail.

No more station "brownouts"!

On the Yoshi's East float, a jazz band.

Detail of the complex Crab Cove entry.

Mark Betz has appeared as The Little Tramp in the Parade each year for the past 25.

Note the mane on that horse!

The Island cineplex entry.

Joseph Matthew has been a favorite with his dancing horses every year for a while. If you want to know what the original cowboys really looked like, this is it.

A little high-steppin' Abe followed by . . .

High-steppin' Uncle Sam.

From the tiki bar around the corner, the Meshuggah Surf Boys. Not your daddy's kletzmer.

Patriotic cows?

This is udderly silly . . .

Every small town needs a marching band and a line of cheerleaders.

Just you try doing hula hoop for three hours.

That's 1st Lt. Leroy Gillead, surviving Tuskegee Airman in the cockpit. Sir!

Was '69 really 40 years ago . . . ?

The USS Hornet is docked in the West End. It was the carrier that fetched the returning space capsules for all the Gemini missions.

War stuff in every parade.

Kung fu in every parade.

That's a Chevy V-8 under there.

Another really good idea.

From McGraths Pub. That's proprietor Peter waving back.

Our local theatre troupe, ACLO.

A marching jacuzzi? Oh-kaaaaay . . .

No wonder they lost the colonies.

More good ideas: Truthfulness, benevolence, forebearance. Falun Dafa is related to the persecuted Falun Gong in China.

Louis Freeman's 13th appearance in the parade.

And that was the 34th Annual July 4th Parade. Biggest little parade in America.



It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We have moved from the bright Spring into the high morning fogs and chill evenings of Bay Area Summer, but the days trend to scattered cloud and sunshine, pulling the windsurfers to the high tides of the waxing moon on the Bay side of the Island.

It turned out to be a gorgeous weekend for the Independence Day hoopla and all the families went out to the Strand for volleyball and BBQ. The ground squirrels out there all had a fine time snatching stray dorito chips and hotdog buns back to their burrows.

Because of the Recession, there were a lot less illegal fireworks going off, as folks didn't see the point in spending scarce funds on things that go pop one time. Wally, however, managed to snag some industrial fireworks from a cash-strapped city in the Valley, which cancelled its own display. The City Council of Happenstance sent out official notices to everybody to just drive on over to San Jose to watch theirs.

At the last town hall meeting the City Auditor said they could either have a Fire Chief or fireworks this year due to Der Governator's snagging all the municipal funds from all the towns throughout the Golden State and the Council figured that a year's worth of fire protection was a better deal than a day's worth of sparkles, so they sold such fireworks as they had to Wally who presented fake papers that presented him as Officer for the City of Muck in the county of Silicone Valley.

There is no such city and there is no such county, but Wally paid cash and was gone out of there pretty quick in his pickup.

So that is how Wally came to be at the meeting hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West with Paul and David and Claude and all the rest of the gang with a truck full of explosives and a mouth full of promises.

So all the kids were there and everybody waiting for the sun to go down with hopes that the fog would hold off -- which it did -- and Wally commenced setting up the rockets on the lawn there in front where it rolled down to the marina.

Now the fireworks you get from across the border are one thing, but the municipal fireworks used by towns like Oaktown and Babylon are handled and set by professionals who use computers and electronic fuses to set the things off from special tubes designed for the purpose. They do not do what Wally did, which was dig a little hole with a trowel and set there a short length of PVC pipe, nor do the pros light the fuses with a bic lighter.

No, Wally may have been a certifiable something but a certified explosives engineer he was not. He went on down the line and lit about eight home-made fuses one after the other and stood back.

The first one flared up inside the tube, setting the plastic on fire and then shot out sideways as the tube melted. The thing arced over the marina where it exploded on Mr. Howitzer's 60 foot yacht in a most spectacular manner, setting the teak deck on fire. The second one simply exploded right there in the tube sending hot plastic droplets in all directions and scattering the families to the four winds. Some of the plastic landed in flames on Wally's pants which he promptly shucked into the marina. The explosion meanwhile knocked the tube next to it flat, so the rocket shot out horizontal through the parking lot until it hit an SUV's windshield and exploded inside the cab, setting that on fire as well.

The next two fired straight up and detonated about forty feet in the air, igniting the trees and the roof of the meeting hall.

The other rockets went off in quick succession, each steadfastly refusing to launch straight up, but firing instead in cockeyed directions horizontally along the shoreline, across the marina, or back across the parking lot.

Wally and David got real busy with the hose at that point.

Which is when the helicopter turned from its surveillance of more modest illegal fireworks out on the Point to shine a bright searchlight down on the doings around the marina. Somebody across the Cove called 911 to report a terrorist attack when a rocket clipped down his clothesline and destroyed the jacaranda. The wail of sirens ensued.

Gee, said Rachel. Wouldn't this be a good time for lemon rhubarb pie?

Mama's little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb pie.

Yes nothing takes away the pain of shame and humiliation and molten plastic sticking to the skin quite like rhubarb pie.

Later, as Wally used a boathook to search for his keys which had been in the pocket of his pants, the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the water as the freight wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront.

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



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