Island Life - 2009

Vol. 11 - No. 54 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday December 31, 2009


Welcome to the 11th year of this weekly column. This space is updated each week, 52 times per year.

This site has been in continuous operation since late 1998. Issues published in past years can be viewed by clicking on the "Archives" hyperlink at the bottom of this page.

This page is modified each week on Sunday evening, or Monday morning, depending on how the booze holds out. Send news, clues and rumors to To re-visit January-July 2009, go to the new ARCHIVES section.

If your monitor make this page HARD TO READ then use the text resizer in the sidebar.


DECEMBER 31, 2009

Its NYE and the Staff is still hard at work for next year's site modifications. But as the Editor lets people out the door one by one, time to reflect with one last video, sent courtesy of Chad, as a sort of reflection on the past decade and last year in particular.

The original poster commented about his video, "It's been perhaps the most hideous year in memory. Things can't get any worse, can they?"


And so to all, goodnight.

DECEMBER 27, 2009


This week's photo comes from the Huffpost listing of Weirdest Xmas decorations and requires no more comment than, would you rather he have done it down the chimney?


There is nothing that can get you in the Spirit of XXXmas like a good tavern song, and the annual SantaCon (they happen in NYC, LA and Babylon Across the Water each year) always manages to provide. There are several versions of the Official Songbook, but some of the entries just keep coming back year after year -- pun intended there.

This year the rampage took place December 14th. Since some of you may have missed the mayhem, either because you were busy or because you needed to be at work the next day and couldn't risk spending a couple nights in jail, we here provide one of the official songbooks in PDF format. Click on the photo.

Also, Chad has worked up an entry of his own and posted that melodic morsel on his own site at HUMANWRITES.

Enjoy your ditties in moderation. Always sing responsibly. Heh, heh, heh . . . .

For information on this unusual Convention, and how to print your PDF copy, go to

Of course, with the End of Decade, the Horrible Aughts, coming up, there is still time for some of you to entertain yourselves with Holiday junk.

Here are some seasonal highlights for all of us who ordered Chinese takeout on Xmas Eve.

THE REF (1994)
15 years ago, Denis Leary made this film about a dysfunctional Connecticut couple and their bat-shit crazy family, which will definitely make you feel better about your own. Leary plays a criminal who takes an entire family hostage, then tries to arbitrate their internal disputes. Its funny. No, it really is!

BAD SANTA (2003)
Billy Bob Thornton does the most twisted version of Santa you've ever seen, complete with a foul-mouthed, criminal midget sidekick. Much better than any of the horror picture versions of a sick and twisted Father Xmas.

Yeah, this movie is awesome. Dudley Moore + evil John Lithgow + a sled that runs on candy canes and hope = unintentionally hilarious so-bad-it's-fabulous film.

Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Rita Wilson, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, and Adam Sandler starred in this odd cult vehicle with numerous cameos of folks performing California weird to the max. It's curious "insider facts", such as this was Kahn's last movie and Rita Wilson was married to Steve Martin at the time. Director Nora Ephron is the voice of the LA Times' automated phone message in the film.

It was neither a critical nor a commercial success. It is a remake of the French film comedy Le Père Noël est une ordure (1982) (Father Xmas is a heap of refuse).

You really have to be Californian to appreciate this critically-panned movie set in Venice Beach that features Steve Martin running a suicide hotline business which is about to be evicted and a frosty Kahn getting locked into a an elevator on Xmas eve. Subplots feature a homicidal maniac, a very pregnant Juliette Lewis kicking out the indolent father of her child after destroying all of his clothing and an over-the-top Liev Schreiber doing a muscular transvestite just looking for love and understanding. The movie is really quite bad, but there are a couple pretty good moments, including Sandler singing a little song that compares his deep love for Rita Wilson to grape jelly while playing a mandolin and Kahn trying to occupy herself in the stalled elevator by singing rap to a child's karaoke machine. Kahn is pretty good in just about all of her scenes, in fact.

ELF (2003)
Will Ferrell as a over-sized, hyperactive, sugar-devouring Elf is a lot of fun to watch as he seriously moves through the big adult world with child-like innocence, getting drunk with Jeff Bridges in the mailroom, getting attacked by a feral raccoon and getting beat up by Peter Dinklage (the dwarf in The Station Agent), who has been brought in as a fixer for a troubled publishing house. Plot involves the simple-minded Ferrell coming to New York after growing up among the sugar plums in Santa's workshop after Santa accidentally bags the boy during one inattentive Xmas house visit. Ferrell must find his real mom and dad and strive for acceptance as he has grown too large and ungainly to inhabit the fantasy world of diminutive elves any longer. James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel, and Amy Sedaris all pitch in. Small factoid: the snowman at the north pole is played by Leon Redbone.



The brough-haha over the SunCal Initiative has been detailed enough we don't need to rehash that to introduce a public meeting at the Mail Library (1550 Oak Street) to be held January 7, 2010 at 7:30 PM. Speakers for and against the Initiative will deliver presentations and then the floor will open up for questions.

The League will have printed material available there and online at and


This past year was notable for losses, coming off of a seriously deadly 2008. In no particular order the following folks passed on.

Michael Jackson
Bea Arthur
Bob Bogle - Ventures guitarist
Norton Buffalo
Dom DeLuise
David Carradine
Walter Cronkite
Farrah Fawcett - actress, sex symbol
Don Hewitt
Sen. Edward Kennedy
Claude Levi-Strauss
Robert Macnamara
Les Paul
Karl Malden
Ed McMahon
Natasha Richardson - actress, philanthropist
John Mortimer - writer & barrister, Rumpole of the Bailey
William Safire
Soupy Sales
Patrick Swayze - romantic lead actor
Koko Taylor
Mary Travers - musician, Peter, Paul & Mary
Authors John Updike, Frank McCourt, Jim Carroll and Dominick Dunne
James Kitson - Island-Life reporter and beloved friend.


He began life as a darling of the stage as part of a musical dance troupe calling itself the Jackson Five -- and apparently never left it. Not for one second. Denied a childhood by his stagemothering parents he never grew up and is perhaps one of the few whose public persona was inextricably bound to his off-stage life. He never enjoyed a private existence, confessed to his closest associates that he felt like the loneliest man on earth, and suffered from at least two disfiguring diseases, including lupus, which altered his skin tone and caused hair loss. Nevertheless, he did manage to convert this relentlessly public persona into a well-loved one that accomplished a great deal in smashing color barriers left and right.

Some even claim that there could have been no President Obama without his crossover success.

The diseases from which he suffered typically result in horrific blotching and asymmetric pigmentation over the entire body. An unsuccessful attempt to restore his natural skin color may have been performed on his hand, hence the eternal glove. In medical circles, it is commonly known that one has only two options for evening out skin tone, and it was decided -- by whom, we will never know -- to completely bleach out the man's skin. The paparazzi and the tabloids maintained a fairly cruel field day about his appearance, featuring all kinds of wild accusations.

His later life was marred by child abuse charges and at least one horrific incident in which the performer caught on fire during the filming of a Pepsi commercial.

The problems that assemble from America's peculiar cult of the individual celebrity tend to obscure his accomplishments against racism, against his health problems, against his wretched upbringing and those successes in music and performance the heights of which momentary impostors like Brittany Spears and Lady Gaga can barely aspire. He had managed to live himself into the entertainer's Entertainer.

Despite the fire accident, the child abuse accusations, the questioning of his children's parentage, his health problems he was engaged on a massive comeback tour when he was essentially murdered by sycophantic anesthesiologist who routinely administered surgical grade knockout drugs to counter Jackson's insomnia. It was not a good end to a troubled life and millions mourned his passing around the globe. He was 50.

Beatrice "Bea" Arthur (May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009) was an American actress, comedian and singer whose career spanned seven decades. Arthur achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, winning Emmy Awards for both roles. A stage actress both before and after her television success, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Vera Charles in the original cast of Mame (1966).


Robert Lenard "Bob" Bogle (born January 16, 1934 - June 14, 2009) was a founding member of the legendary instrumental combo group The Ventures. He and Don Wilson founded the group in 1958. Bogle was the lead guitarist and later bassist of the group. In 2008, Bogle and other members of The Ventures were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the Performer category.

The Ventures were an American instrumental rock band formed in 1958 in Tacoma, Washington. The band, formed by Don Wilson and Bob Bogle, two masonry workers, has had an enduring impact on the development of music worldwide, having sold over 100 million records, and are to date the best-selling instrumental band of all time.


Buffalo, the son of a harmonica player, was born in Oakland, CA on 28 September 1951 and raised in Richmond, California. In high school he performed in a series of bands. By the early 1970s he gained renown as a San Francisco Bay Area musician, playing with several Bay Area groups including Elvin Bishop.

In early 1976 Buffalo joined the "farewell" European tour of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and was recorded on the band's final live album We've Got A Live One Here!, which included Buffalo's song Eighteen Wheels. After the tour, Buffalo returned to California, briefly played with a number of local bands, and later in 1976 he joined the Steve Miller Band's Fly Like an Eagle national tour. He also played harmonica on the band's hit follow-up album Book of Dreams, released in May of 1977.

His harmonica work also appeared on the 1977 album Sweet Forgiveness by Bonnie Raitt. Not long after the release of his second album in 1979, Buffalo and his band were featured on the PBS music television program Austin City Limits. In 1981 he produced an album for the popular Northwest band Wheatfield. He was a member of the Mickey Hart band High Noon in the late 70s and early 80s with Merl Saunders, Mike Hinton, Jim McPhearson, Vicki Randle, and Bobby Vega, and played with Saunders on the Rainforest Band album It's in the Air in 1993.

Buffalo also appeared in and worked on several films. He did a cameo appearance in the rock movie, "The Rose" starring Bette Midler, where he was a member of the band (on harmonica and trombone) and spoke a line or two. He had another cameo in Michael Cimino's 1979 film Heaven's Gate starring Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Sam Waterston and Jeff Bridges. He also co-wrote the music for the films "Stacy's Knights" and "Eddie Macon's Run" with guitarist Mike Hinton.

In addition to his work on recordings and on stage with Steve Miller (for over 32 years), who spotlights Norton’s playing in his shows, Buffalo has also been highly sought after as a recording artist, having played on over 180 albums by artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Johnny Cash, Kate Wolf, Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen, David Grisman, Juice Newton, Laurie Lewis, Elvin Bishop and George Kahumoku Jr.. To date, Buffalo has been nominated for two Grammys and was part of the Doobie Brothers Grammy award winning LP "Minute By Minute". Norton is featured on Kenny Loggins new children's CD that was released in the Spring of 2009 and his work will appear on several albums to be released in 2010.

Around the Bay, he was well known as a stage partner to the incendiary slide guitarist Roy Rogers, whom he met in 1987. They cut a couple well-recieved CDs together. Their live performances never failed to astound audiences with the amazing energy and virtuosity of both players, with Norton shaking and jumping so much during his play that spare harmonicas would fly out from his pockets all over the stage.

He was a genuinely warm and humane performer who gave back to the community in several ways, including rehabilitation programs for prisoners at San Quentin and other facilities.

On September 2, 2009 Buffalo was diagnosed with stage 4 Adenocarcinoma of the lower right lobe of his lungs. The next day. he found out that it had spread to his brain. Norton retired to his home in Paradise, CA were he sought treatment at Feather River Hospital and where he passed away October 31, 2009 at the age of 57.

Dominick "Dom" DeLuise (August 1, 1933 – May 4, 2009) was an American actor, comedian, film director, television producer, chef, and author.

Although he appeared in countless B-movie slapstick vehicles from the 1950's onward, DeLuise was probably best known as a regular in Mel Brooks's films. He appeared in The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Silent Movie, History of the World, Part I, Spaceballs, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Brooks' late wife, actress Anne Bancroft, directed Dom in Fatso (1980). He also had a cameo in Johnny Dangerously as the Pope, and in Jim Henson's The Muppet Movie as a wayward Hollywood talent agent who comes across Kermit the Frog singing "The Rainbow Connection" in the film's opening scene. He was one of the last of the "borscht belt" broad yuk-yuk over-the-top comics of his generation to remain alive and working.


David Carradine (December 8, 1936— June 3, 2009) was a popular American character actor of stage,and screen. He was a director, martial artist, spokesman and musician. In his four decades of acting he was best known for his role as Kwai Chang Caine in the 1970s television series, Kung Fu. More recently, he acquired notoriety for his role in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill. He appeared in more than 100 feature films and was nominated four times for a Golden Globe Award.

He is a bit of a local hero here, as, after a miserable stint milking cows on a farm in Vermont, he returned to Northern California where he graduated from Oakland High School. He attended Oakland Junior College for a year before transferring to San Francisco State College where he studied drama and music theory. There he wrote music for the drama department's annual revues while juggling work at menial jobs, a fledgling stage acting career and his studies. After he dropped out of SFSC, Carradine spent sometime with the "beatniks" of San Francisco's North Beach and Venice, CA, occasionally getting arrested for petty crimes.

For three seasons, David Carradine starred as a half-Chinese, half-Caucasian Shaolin monk, Kwai Chang Caine on the ABC hit TV series Kung Fu (1972–1975) and was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for the role. The show, which took place in the "Old West", helped to popularize the martial arts and Eastern philosophy in the West and immortalized the character of Kwai Chang Caine, often referred to as "Grasshopper", in popular culture.

Although the choice of a Caucasian to play the role of Kwai Chang Caine upset some in the Asian community, the show served as steady employment for several Asian-American actors. In addition to Keye Luke and Philip Ahn, who held leading roles in the cast as Caine's Shaolin masters, Robert Ito, James Hong, Benson Fong, Richard Loo and Victor Sen Yung frequently appeared in the series. Kung Fu ended when Carradine quit to pursue a movie career, but he reprised the role of Kwai Chang Caine in 1986 in Kung Fu: The Movie. Brandon Lee, son of Bruce Lee, in his acting debut, portrayed his son.

In 1976 he earned critical praise for his portrayal of folksinger Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory (1976) for which he won a National Board of Review Award for Best Actor. He was also nominated for a Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle Award for his role as Guthrie. He then played Abel Rosenberg in The Serpent's Egg (1977), set post-World War I Berlin, the only English language film made by legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman.

He was an accomplished multi-instrumentalist musician, and in all of the films in which he portrayed someone playing music, he actually did the part with no dubbing. For his kung fu character he made flutes out of bamboo that he had planted on the Warner's Brother's lot which he played on the program. He later made several flutes for the movie Circle of Iron (AKA The Silent Flute) one of which he later played in Kill Bill.

Although his career went into a long decline, his role in Tarantino's film propelled him back to top marquee status and at the time of his death in Thailand, still under investigation for possible homicide, he had at least a dozen film projects on the table.


Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (November 4, 1916 – July 17, 2009) was an American broadcast journalist, best known as anchorman for the CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–81). During the heyday of CBS News in the 1960s and 1970s, he was often cited in viewer opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America" because of his professional experience and kindly demeanor. Although he reported many events from 1937-1981, including bombing in World War II, the Nuremberg trials, combat in the Vietnam War, the death of JFK, Watergate, and the Iran Hostage Crisis, he was known for extensive TV coverage of the U.S. space program, from Project Mercury to the Moon landings (with co-host Wally Shirra), to the Space Shuttle. He was the only non-NASA recipient of a Moon-rock award. The Beatles' first American TV broadcast was for Walter Cronkite. The title "anchor" was invented as his role. In later years, he appeared as a host or guest-star in many TV broadcasts.

He also remained an active voice during the Bush years in opposition to what many saw as the usurpation of religion and the churches in favor of political goals that were morally checkered -- at best. He provided his name and support to an interfaith coalition of broadly distributed churches and clergy in an attempt to wrest control of the Nation's soul from the mercenary objectives of the Bush Administration and the NeoCon agenda.

Donald Shepard Hewitt (December 14, 1922 – August 19, 2009) was an American television news producer and executive, best known for creating 60 Minutes, the CBS television news magazine in 1968, which at the time of his death, was the longest-running prime-time broadcast on American television. Under Hewitt's leadership, 60 Minutes was the only news program ever rated the nation's top-ranked television program, an achievement it accomplished five times.


Edward Moore "Ted" Kennedy (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009) was a United States Senator from Massachusetts and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected in November 1962, he was elected nine times and served for 46 years in the U.S. Senate. At the time of his death, he was the second most senior member of the Senate, and is the fourth-longest-serving senator in U.S. history. For many years the most prominent living member of the Kennedy family, he was the last surviving son of Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., the youngest brother of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, both victims of assassinations, and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., killed in action in World War II.

Despite a long list of well-documented personal and family tragedies that featured the murders of both of his brothers and surviving a disastrous plane crash, Senator Kennedy remained a recognized lion of the Senate, who commanded significant respect from everyone on both sides of the aisle. The recent passage of the first major health care coverage bill in American history is credited by most knowledgeable observers as a posthumous credit to the indefatigueably liberal man who dedicated his life to benefiting the condition of the Common Man.

More than 300 bills that Kennedy and his staff wrote were enacted into law. Unabashedly liberal, Kennedy championed an interventionist government emphasizing economic and social justice, but was also known for working with Republicans to find compromises between senators with disparate views. Kennedy played a major role in passing many laws, including laws addressing immigration, cancer research, health insurance, apartheid, disability discrimination, AIDS care, civil rights, mental health benefits, children's health insurance, education and volunteering. Over the course of his career and continuing into the Obama administration, Kennedy continued his efforts to enact universal health care, which he called the "cause of my life."


Claude Lévi-Strauss (28 November 1908 – 30 October 2009) was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called the "father of modern anthropology". Lévi-Strauss sought to apply the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure to anthropology. Levi-Strauss never accepted the notion that Western civilization was unique and privileged: in his contact with Indigenous peoples in Brazil and Indigeous peoples in North America, he emphasized that the savage mind had the same structures to the civilized mind and that human characteristics are the same everywhere. These observations culminated in his famous book Tristes Tropiques, which positioned him as one of the central figures in the structuralist school of thought, where his ideas reached into fields including the humanities and philosophy. Structuralism has been defined as "the search for the underlying patterns of thought in all forms of human activity."

Most of what he took as careful statements made as consequence of precise observation filtered through contemporary linguistics is now taken as commonplace, although at the time, his ideas were considered extraordinary. The idea that multicultural analysis has significant validity, for example was a new idea, as well as the leveling of all cultures to similar common denominators lacking relative valuation. In other words, he said the subculture of investment bankers in NYC was no better and no worse than that of the tribal Nuer or the Pygmies of the Congo and that all of Western Civilization had no more important significance than China or Persia.

Among his important thought analyses was the attempt to locate a cross-cultural "language" by way of looking at myths.


Les Paul was a guitar and electronics mastermind whose creations -- such as multitrack recording, tape delay and the solid-body guitar that bears his name, the Gibson Les Paul -- helped give rise to modern popular music, including rock 'n' roll. No slouch on the guitar himself, he continued playing at clubs into his 90s despite being hampered by arthritis.

Lester William Polfuss was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin, on June 9, 1915. Even as a child he showed an aptitude for tinkering, taking apart electric appliances to see what made them tick. Video Watch Paul dazzle on his guitar »

"I had to build it, make it and perfect it," Paul said in 2002. He was nicknamed the "Wizard of Waukesha."

In the 1930s and '40s, he played with the bandleader Fred Waring and several big band singers, including Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and the Andrews Sisters, as well as with his own Les Paul Trio. In the early 1950s, he had a handful of huge hits with his then-wife, Mary Ford, such as "How High the Moon" and "Vaya Con Dios."

His guitar style, heavily influenced by jazzman Django Reinhardt, featured lightning-quick runs and double-time rhythms. In 1948, after being involved in a severe car accident, he asked the doctor to set his arm permanently in a guitar-playing position.

Paul also credited Crosby for teaching him about timing, phrasing and preparation.

Crosby "didn't say it, he did it -- one time only. Unless he blew the lyrics, he did one take."

Paul never stopped tinkering with electronics, and after Crosby gave him an early audiotape recorder, Paul went to work changing it. It eventually led to multitrack recording; on Paul and Ford's hits, he plays many of the guitar parts, and Ford harmonizes with herself. Multitrack recording is now the industry standard.

But Paul likely will be best remembered for the Gibson Les Paul, a variation on the solid-body guitar he built in the early 1940s -- "The Log" -- and offered to the guitar company.

"For 10 years, I was a laugh," he told CNN in an interview. "[But I] kept pounding at them and pounding at them saying hey, here's where it's at. Here's where tomorrow, this is it. You can drown out anybody with it. And you can make all these different sounds that you can't do with a regular guitar."

Gibson, spurred by rival Fender, finally took Paul up on his offer and introduced the model in 1952. It has since become the go-to guitar for such performers as Jimmy Page.



Robert Strange McNamara (June 9, 1916 – July 6, 2009) was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968. Following that he served as President of the World Bank from 1968 until 1981. He was born in San Francisco.

Known as a policymaker with a fixation for statistical analysis, McNamara was recruited to run the Pentagon by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 from the presidency of the Ford Motor Co. He stayed seven years, longer than anyone since the job's creation in 1947.

His association with Vietnam became intensely personal. Even his son, as a Stanford University student, protested against the war while his father was running it. At Harvard, McNamara once had to flee a student mob through underground utility tunnels. Critics mocked McNamara mercilessly; they made much of the fact that his middle name was "Strange."

After leaving the Pentagon on the verge of a nervous breakdown, McNamara became president of the World Bank and devoted evangelical energies to the belief that improving life in rural communities in developing countries was a more promising path to peace than the buildup of arms and armies.

A private person, McNamara for many years declined to write his memoirs, to lay out his view of the war and his side in his quarrels with his generals. In the early 1990s he began to open up. He told Time magazine in 1991 that he did not think the bombing of North Vietnam _ the greatest bombing campaign in history up to that time _ would work but he went along with it "because we had to try to prove it would not work, number one, and (because) other people thought it would work."
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Finally, in 1993, after the Cold War ended, he undertook to write his memoirs because he felt some of the lessons of Vietnam were applicable to the post-Cold War period "odd as though it may seem."

"In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam" appeared in 1995. McNamara disclosed that by 1967 he had deep misgivings about Vietnam _ by then he had lost faith in America's capacity to prevail over a guerrilla insurgency that had driven the French from the same jungle countryside.

Despite those doubts, he had continued to express public confidence that the application of enough American firepower would cause the Communists to make peace. In that period, the number of U.S. casualties _ dead, missing and wounded _ went from 7,466 to over 100,000.

"We of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of our country. But we were wrong. We were terribly wrong," McNamara, then 78, told The Associated Press in an interview ahead of the book's release.

In a separate interview with NPR's Terry Gross after the book's publication, however, he remained unapologetic about America's involvement in Vietnam and about his anti-communism.

Karl Malden (born Mladen George Sekulovich March 22, 1912 – July 1, 2009) was an American actor. In a career that spanned more than seven decades, he featured in classic Marlon Brando films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and One-Eyed Jacks. Among other notable film roles were Archie Lee Meighan in Baby Doll, Zebulon Prescott in How the West Was Won and General Omar Bradley in Patton. His best-known role was on television as Lt. Mike Stone on the 1970s crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco.

Edward Leo Peter "Ed" McMahon, Jr. (March 6, 1923 – June 23, 2009) was an American celebrity, comedian, game show host, and announcer. Most famous for his work on television as Johnny Carson's announcer and sidekick on The Tonight Show from 1962 to 1992, the one-time fighter pilot also hosted the original version of the talent show Star Search from 1983 to 1995, co-hosted TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes with Dick Clark from 1982 to 1986, and presented sweepstakes for the direct marketing company, American Family Publishers (not, as is commonly believed, its main rival Publishers Clearing House).

McMahon annually co-hosted the The Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon. In the 1970s and 1980s, he anchored the team of NBC personalities conducting the network's coverage of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

He may be best remembered as the quintessential host show "sidekick", a TV format that appears largely to be on the wane as tastes in entertainment change. His passing essentially marks the end of an era in broadcasting.


Safire described himself as a libertarian conservative. A Washington Post story on the ending of his op-ed column quoted him on the subject: "I'm willing to zap conservatives when they do things that are not libertarian. [After the 9/11 attacks,] I was the first to really go after George W. on his treatment of prisoners."

Safire spent more than 30 years writing on the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. In his "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine and 15 books, Safire traced the origins of words and everyday phrases such as "straw-man," "under the bus" and "the proof is in the pudding."

Safire penned more than 3,000 columns, aggressively defending civil liberties and Israel while tangling with political figures. Bill Clinton famously wanted to punch the curmudgeonly columnist in the nose after Safire called his wife "a congenital liar."

In his "On Language" column in The New York Times Magazine and 15 books, Safire eruditely traced the origins of words and everyday phrases such as "straw-man," "under the bus" and "the proof is in the pudding."

And as a speechwriter in the Nixon White House, Safire penned Vice President Spiro Agnew's famous phrase, "nattering nabobs of negativism," a tongue-in-cheek alliteration that Safire claimed was directed not at the press but Vietnam defeatists.

Safire was also wrote several novels and served as chairman of the Dana Foundation, a philanthropy that supports brain science, immunology and arts education.

Along with George Will and William F. Buckley Jr., Safire's smooth prose helped make conservatism respectable in the 1970s, paving the way for the Reagan Revolution. A pioneer of opinionated reporting, Safire's columns were often filled with sources from Washington and the Middle East, making them a must-read for Beltway insiders.

After voting for Bill Clinton in 1992, Safire became one of the leading critics of Clinton's administration. Hillary Clinton in particular was often the target of his ire. He caused a mild tempest when he called her a "congenital liar"; Hillary responded that she didn't feel offended for herself, but for her mother's sake. According to the president's press secretary at the time, Mike McCurry, "the president, if he were not the president, would have delivered a more forceful response to that on the bridge of Mr. Safire's nose."

Safire was one of several voices who called for war with Iraq, and predicted a "quick war," with Iraqis cheering their liberators. Many readers who followed his columns in The New York Times felt dismayed when he consistently brought up the point that an Iraqi intelligence agent met with Mohammed Atta, one of the 9/11 attackers, in Prague, Czech Republic. This theory had been debunked by the CIA and other credible intelligence agencies[5] (see Mohammed Atta's alleged Prague connection). Still Safire kept insisting that this theory was true and used it to make a case for war against Iraq. Safire had also said that "freed scientists" would lead coalition forces to "caches (Of weapons of mass destruction) no inspectors could find." This never happened, and no weapons of mass destruction were ever found.

He also was notably wrong on insisting that the Vietnam war was winnable and anyone who questioned the possibility, was a dunderhead.

Soupy Sales (January 8, 1926 – October 22, 2009) was an American comedian, actor, radio-TV personality and host, and jazz aficionado. He was best known for his local and network children's television show, Lunch with Soupy Sales; a series of comedy sketches frequently ending with Sales receiving a pie in the face, which became his trademark.

Soupy Sales, born Milton Supman, in Franklinton in Franklin County, North Carolina, is another one of those entertainers who outlived the end of an entire slapstick style of comedy in which the highest point was a pratfall or a pie in the face. According to one commentator, "If you never thought a pie in the face was funny, you just didn't get Soupy Sales.

If you didn't want to splat him with a fluffy cream pie, or - even better - if you never yearned to be on the receiving end, well, you weren't a Soupy Sales fan.

Not everybody was a Soupy Sales fan. Some kids even turned off the TV and went outside and played."


Koko Taylor (September 28, 1928 – June 3, 2009)was an American blues musician, popularly known as the "Queen of the Blues." She was known primarily for her rough, powerful vocals and traditional blues stylings.

One of the last Old School blues belters, she was born Cora Walton in Shelby County, Tennessee, as the daughter of a sharecropper. In the late 1950s she began singing in Chicago blues clubs. She was spotted by Willie Dixon in 1962, and this led to wider performances and her first recording contract. In 1965, Taylor was signed by Chess Records where she recorded "Wang Dang Doodle," a song written by Dixon and recorded by Howlin' Wolf five years earlier. The song became a hit, reaching number four on the R&B charts in 1966, and selling a million copies.

She recorded nine albums for Alligator Records, 8 of which were Grammy-nominated, and came to dominate the female blues singer ranks, winning twenty five W. C. Handy Awards (more than any other artist). After her recovery from a near-fatal car crash in 1989, the 1990s found Taylor in films such as Blues Brothers 2000 and Wild at Heart. Taylor influenced musicians such as Bonnie Raitt, Shemekia Copeland, Janis Joplin, Shannon Curfman, and Susan Tedeschi. In the years prior to her death, she performed over 70 concerts a year and resided just south of Chicago in Country Club Hills, Illinois.

She was always well received when she came to perform in the Bay Area.


John Hoyer Updike (March 18, 1932 – January 27, 2009) was an American novelist, poet, short story writer, art critic, and literary critic.

Updike's most famous work is his Rabbit series (the novels Rabbit, Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit Is Rich; Rabbit At Rest; and the novella "Rabbit Remembered"). Both Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit At Rest received the Pulitzer Prize. He published more than twenty novels and more than a dozen short story collections, as well as poetry, art criticism, literary criticism and children's books. Hundreds of his stories, reviews, and poems appeared in The New Yorker, starting in 1954. He also wrote regularly for The New York Review of Books.

Describing his subject as "the American small town, Protestant middle class", Updike was well recognized for his careful craftsmanship, his unique prose style, and his prolifigacy. He wrote on average a book a year. It has been said that he had written at least one article about virtually every major writer of the 20th century and some 19th century authors.

Updike won an array of awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes for Fiction, two National Book Awards, three National Book Critics Circle awards, both the 1989 National Medal of Arts and 2003 National Humanities Medal, and the Rea Award for the Short Story for outstanding achievement. The National Endowment for the Humanities selected Updike to present the 2008 Jefferson Lecture, the U.S. Government's highest humanities honor.

Because of his profligacy and the numerous American awards, he will probably remain within the forefront of American letters for some time although he has no conscious emulators, there is no author who claims influence and no critic has pointed to any author with indication of influence. He is generally regarded as a high "stylist", somewhat in the bloodline of Nabokov, however it can be difficult to attach significance to his character's concerns when they are so insistently of the same limited derivation, a White, solidly middle-class, Protestant America that is rapidly shrinking against the forces of multiculturalism and which always had problems perceiving the broader universe beyond itself. As has been said of Theodore Dreiser, who is largely unread nowadays although he was once highly regarded as a giant of American letters, Updike is likely to stay fixed like a boulder in the mainstream of American literature for quite a while; and no amount of washing shall carry him away.


James Dennis "Jim" Carroll (August 1, 1949 – September 11, 2009) was an author, poet, autobiographer, and punk musician. Carroll was best known for his 1978 autobiographical work The Basketball Diaries, which was made into the 1995 film of the same name, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Carroll.

In 1980, he released the popular album "Catholic Boy," which, according to his fan Web site, expressed the "[b]omb-fear anticipation, the optimistic nihilism and glittering darkness of the 1980s."

The track "People Who Died" was one of the most-requested songs on FM radio at the time, and as Newsweek's Barbara Graustark noted then, "it propelled [Carroll] from underground status to national attention as a contender for the title of rock's new poet laureate."

The release of the song coincided with the death of John Lennon. The success of the album was attributed to the powerful combination of pure rock 'n' roll with Carroll's poetic sensibility and ability to write from his own experience.

The fan Web site sums up Carroll's approach to music by quoting him as saying, "There ain't much time left, you're born out of this insane abyss and you're going to fall back into it, so while you're alive you might as well show your bare ass."

In addition to two follow-up albums, Carroll was a best-selling author of six books.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Moderately cool weather with moody skies gave way for a seasonal dockwalloper on Saturday, departing to make folks to the East of here a bit more miserable and let Sunday roil with clouds and sporadic sunshine.

Samhain has come and gone, along with that fat jolly fellow in the red suit. Hope you all got what was coming to you. Thanks to Ira Flatow on NPR's Science Friday for helping us all learn just how Santa gets to about 200 million households within about six hours of our realtime without being observed. Hint: some time travel is involved along with state-of-the-art Hi-tech. Santa does employ green renewable technology for his workshop.

Many of us around the Bay got away for various remote escapes, and those who did not, worked at their jobs, if they had them. Others just hunkered down during this Recession Season.

Its the last week before the decade turns over, hopefully to a better one and also a better year. Times have been dismal all over, even at Mr. Howitzer's accustomed to boomtimes real estate office. Things have not been selling, rentals have not been spurned and the general sense is of exodus from around here in those cases people have a place towards which to flee.

The rest of us gather ourselves around and hold tight as best we may. Its the time of visitation and renewed acquaintance and folks who have no other options other than to live right where they always have make those sudden visits door to door, where the heavy knocker knocks and the hinges swing and its all "So glad to see you! time with the tree there in the corner or the fire going in the grate, and the inflatable Santa riding his infallible motorcycle all lit with internal lights out in front on the grass.

They say the customs of this time go way back, far back into the dim and musty reaches of history to when people believed the tree of life sent its roots far down into the caverns of the center of the earth and that's why we decorate the tree each year with lights. Its the tree of light and of life you know.

In other places they throw the Yule log on the fire and so burn up all the bad luck and sorrow of the past year.

Not a bad idea right now.

At the Almeida house, they are all bedded down for the night, with the kids in their comforter beds and shreds of wrappings still littering the foyer and stacks of cardboard boxes ready to be carted down to the recycling, but Pedro and his wife are all worn out and ready to relax there while the fire in the place clinkers down to its last embers and each of them on the sofa with their arms around one another, glad not to be out on the waves this night or the morning for its a Fisherman's Holiday, and none of the restaurants taking catch anyway right now. Until Monday. And let the Big Rigs handle that day for once.

Its really a sort of in-between time when the soul catches breath and waits for the Next Thing. The New Year. What will the New Year bring? An end to the "Housing Crisis"? An end to the Great Recession? Nobody knows, not even Geithner. Not really. It may be all bad or it may be all good. Nobody knows for sure and here we are.

This is the last entry of the 00 decade and the last issue for 2009, which started out so grand with a wonderful Inauguration, and then to be dragged through endless debates that should have been resolved with simple common sense in a few minutes while the Nation churned. Its worth it to note that OO is generally regarded in polyglot Europe as the universal symbol for toilet.

All of that is concern for Big People. We, on the Island, are not Big People. We would rather toast our toes before the banked fireplace than go out on Adventures and all kinds of foolishness. We are more Hobbitlike than Hero-like. And none of of use like or admire anything about Orcs and their like, although we may have disagreements among ourselves from time to time, for that is the way things are.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household is all gathered there for the evening dinner as the last hours of the dolorous year of 2009 tick away on the clock above the door. In the corner, the decorated tree sits in its washbasin, lit with rewired circuit-board LEDs and Marlene's inherited ornaments that are well over one hundred years old.

Everyone is there: Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Pedro, Occasional Quentin, Rolf, Suan, Alexis, Crackers, Mancini, Sarah, Pahrump, and Februs, along with the dogs, Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. There is no place for a table big enough to host all of them all together so each one fetches a plate and goes to sit wherever there might be space.

Because of the generosity of the Food Bank, there is plenty for all and at the end of the feed they all go to their respective places to talk and to digest. Because of the rain, Snuffles Johnson has been sleeping on the porch so somebody brings out a plate of beans and chilies for the old man, for which he is very grateful. Out there, through the cloud wrack, the first full quarter moon shines upon the chopped Bay. The First full moon shall magically appear on December 31st, according to Beth's Farmer's Almanac. That will surely be a sight to behold.

Simple pleasures. Full moons and plates of beans and rice. And all the lights of distant Babylon glittering like a jeweler's display case clad with velvet.

After a while the dishes return to the sink and Marlene flops down to let somebody else clean up while she looks up at the ruins of her erstwhile wedding dress nailed there to the wall ever since the disastrous Poodleshoot of '08. "Later on," she said, "People will talk about things that happened like 'that was the Great Recession of Oh Seven', or 'that was the election of Oh Eight.' We never will hear talk like that ever again." She paused. "We really should call Reverend Freethought." She said. "Make sure she is all right."

"I'm sure she is okay." Andre responded. But then added, "Will give a call tomorrow." Pause "Do Unitarians have days of rest?" He asked.

In the Island-Life Offices, it had come round to the end of the week time and all the material had been sent to proof. As usual, the Editor remained in his cubicle while far down below, in the dungeons, Chad remained behind tidying up a few things for the new widgets before they were installed.

Except for those two, the offices were silent and dark. All the copyboys had left long ago. Over at the European Desk the linotype spat a few lines about events on St. Stephen's Day and then was still. The Office Menorah, having burned out a few bulbs, had been unplugged a couple days ago. Channukah was over anyway.

This was the time of expectation, of waiting for the next tick of the clock, the ball to drop, the confetti and fireworks, the world to begin again.

As the Editor sat in his pool of light, his head surrounded by the remaining white hairs in an aureole, bent over his task at his desk, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the expectant waves of the estuary as the train wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the patiently lit gantries of the Port to parts unknown.

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

DECEMBER 20, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the blog that calls itself "". It consists entirely of hundreds of fotos of questionable jolly men with beards and bellies, and many more children who clearly would rather be just about anywhere than in the clutches of this wierd dude who smells funny and dresses like a mad clown from one of the Friday 13th movies.

Makes you kinda wonder just why this guy sneaks around into people's homes after everybody is supposedly in bed. Or maybe the kids just know that the origins of Santa reside in the German Knight Rupecht who didn't give out any presents but came around every year to beat nasty bad boys with a bundle of sticks he carried in his backpack. You can view more bad Santas by going to http:\\


This week we had a plethora of videos dealing with Xmas carols, Senator Franken putting the lid on a surprised Joe Lieberman, who apparently was blithly unaware that the vast majority of his party and, perhaps of America, regards him now as a rock-stupid moron who is shortly going to realize that virtually nobody stands behind him to the slightest degree.

So as to ease the pain of the Holidays we provide a video that has nothing to do with Sarah Palin, Joe Lieberman, or Santa Claus. Now some of you might be fans of that LA imp named Quentin Tarantino. He recently outed a movie that was a large What If about Jewish partisans exacting violent revenge upon the Nazis which provoked many critics to sigh, "oh if that were only true."

In fact it was true, in a sense. Jewish boys would never descend to something so obvious, and largely irrelevant as scalping. Nor did they descend to the lowest levels inhabited by their enemies. According to the promo "a small contingent of German Jewish intellectuals exacted the perfect revenge--returning to Europe as U.S. soldiers to defeat the enemy. Groundbreaking and unforgettable, THE RITCHIE BOYS is the never-before-told tale of a handful of German nationals who used their language and cultural knowledge to wage psychological warfare against the Nazis and to liberate Europe. Still sharp as octogenarians, The Ritchie Boys--a medley of hilariously unlikely soldiers--vividly recall their treacherous and heroic slog through World War II, from their training at Camp Ritchie, Maryland to the beaches of Normandy, from dark weeks spent in a German POW camp to D-Day ebullience."

The film also records the return of these survivors to the bombed-out villages of their childhood and the feelings created by the sight of their favorite haunts reduced to ruins. Out of necessity.

Some of our Staff here knew a couple of the Ritchie Boys personally, and the evenings have been lively in the newsroom with reminiscences. Enjoy.



The Island racked up another first with the discovery of Tonya Foti's body found strangled to death in her home at the Point, making this the 2nd homicide this month on the Island. The woman was last seen alive by a neighbor who shouted in through the normally unlocked front door that she was taking the kids to school. On her return from that trip, the same neighbor found her dead on her bed.


Neighbors reported heavy police presence after an officer was forced to shoot and kill a police dog during a robbery investigation at the Coast Guard Recruiting center on Central Avenue at the foot of Webster. The suspect, Douglas Kirk, was arrested after emerging from the center carrying an armload of stolen electronics. The death of this dog halves the canine unit roster, which lost an animal due to exposure in a sealed car earlier this year.

The Island Hospital is facing staff and pay cuts to make ends meet shortly after Kaiser withdrew its Med-Surg contract from the troubled hospital, even as the newest LAFCO chairman has promised that the hospital either becomes financially independent from special property taxes within a year or will shut its doors. Negociations are now underway between management and union representatives over the pay cuts.

BofA on Park Street got robbed again by a fellow with a note and a gun on Tuesday. But since no traffic ordinances were violated, the perp got clean away . . . .


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The rather frigid temps of late have yielded to relatively balmy and overcast skies in the forties.

All the messengers sent off in search of the Wobegon Mayor have returned and not a minute too soon as the snow has really socked in that part of the world for now. Hamsters tend to prefer warmer climates and they don't do so well with snowshoes and skies, so they are all pretty happy to be back here in California. There are more than a few of us who feel that Clint Bunsen would not regard an hamster wearing a parka and snowshoes with any degree of seriousness, no matter how earnest the message.

Most Californians regard snow as something rather fanciful and perhaps something of a CGI effect created to embellish Stephen King adaptations and colorful Victorian melodramas made by Merchant Ivory, but not a real thing that happens to people and halts school sessions in any place but Canada and Nebraska, which are pretty much the same thing to us. There, they actually play hockey on real ice.

Then there are stories about New York, but then New York has its own idea about itself, which has never matched any sort of reality we can hold in our heads. If it fits not within the boundaries of Rogers and Hammerstein, then it simply cannot be true or must be about some other place.

We know all about musicals and their special versions of reality here. We have a patent on that kind of stuff.

Of course we know all about New York. What you do is stand in Times Square, which has been entirely vacated by pickpockets out of Universal Goodness or magic, and you catch snowflakes on your tongue until the ball drops on New Years Eve. Then Gene Kelly waltzes with Ginger Rogers down Broadway to the sound of swelling strings. Sure, thats the way it is over there.

Okay, maybe not.

To get back to the Golden State, which is where we all live.

Monday night the Old Earth turns her face in her rocking chair furthest away from her Sun, who would be happy to warm his mother's face at this time, but that lucky old Sun is busy rolling around Heaven all day.

Its the darkest and coldest night of the year that happens this Monday night and all the Wiccans here are gathering for their annual celebrations and incantations.

We are going to need a powerful number of spells and such to pull all of us out of this darkness this time, and we are sending special messages to all of the witches and warlocks we know to help do something about it. This is a mighty dark time on the Island, this season, with folks losing their jobs, losing their homes, losing their loved ones, and all kinds of mean nasty kinds of goings on to get in the way.

Over at Marlene and Andre's Household they are all gathered there during this time because of the job situation and the relative warmth and sanctuary of that place. The boys all managed to scavange an Xmas tree again this year and bring it home on the Flexible Flyer Wagon that serves as occasional ambulance and Provisions transport for the House. So down Grand Street the merry parade came with Occasional Quentin proceeding with a tambourine and Andre following behind with a guitar and Javier playing either a flute or a coronet and there was all sorts of jumping up and down and eggnog and merriment about this tree they found cast aside as too badly off to sell on account of it being half burned due to some kind of electrical connivance of some kind and so they brought this tree, which some unkind folks compared to the Xmas tree in a Charlie Brown Xmas similar to the one the City of Fremont set up, and they set it there in the washtub with little ceremony. Then they all sat down and had a Xmas dinner of bread soup that couldn't be beat and went to bed and did not get up until the next morning when they all began to decorate the tree there and they turned the really burned off side to the wall leaving a few branches which still had some green on them sticking out a bit sore but honest to the room.

Suan hung a passel of condoms there of all different kinds, some sparkly and some shiny, and Marlene brought out her grandmother's Russian ornaments and Occasional Quentin found stuff along the shore he hung up there as well -- conches, and abalone and sand dollars and wilkins -- and pretty soon there she stood, all lit up and looking pretty much like an Xmas tree should look, a beacon for the lost souls that had gussied her up like a lighthouse beacon.

It did not matter that a few branches had been singed. She was an honest to god Golden State fir and well loved for all of that by the folk that gathered around her while Andre played Richard Shindell's "You Stay Here " on his guitar that night.

For a brief time, as all of them there, refugees and Native Californians and the hopelessly lost sat there looking at the tree in its humble washtub weighted with a cinderblock, all was calm, all was peace.

Tomorrow would change nothing of this situation, but for now, there was the tree and for now, there was peace in that little household of gathered souls.

And from far across the water, lit furtively by the garish lights of the container gantry cranes, came the long ululation of the throughpassing train as it wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London waterfront from the Port to parts unknown.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a reasonably painless and worry-free Solstice time.



DECEMBER 13, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from the seasonal variation in the Pagano's Hardware shop window, where every year the season's changes are reflected by the display. This time we have a most sober presentation after the whimsey of the Halloween period.

The display typically remains lit through the dark hours of the night.


There are so many really good -- and really aweful -- songs that handle this time of year, from the cult classic, "Homeless for the Holidays" by Danny Knapp, to the wildly unprintable "Frosty the Pervert" (Bob Rivers) and Valby's "12 Dirty Days of XXXmas", which begins with the memorable line, "On the 1st Day of Xmas, my True Love gave to me, a hum job in a pear tree."

And let us never forget South Park's disgustingly scatological "Mr. Hanky".

Yes, there are always a few out there willing to do battle with the dragon of enforced merriment and jollity that is so often coupled unwillingly to forced obligation. Seems there never are enough Spirits to visit all of the god-damned Scrooges out there, and you damn well know they would be back to their old tricks robbing the Tiny Tims and the grandmothers of the world to the last penny come January 2nd anyway.

In that vein we return to the old tyme traditional feeling for this hoary chestnut, written by Jon Rox and sung by Gayla 1953.

As the saying goes, if you must wish for the impossible, like peace for the world and common sense for Congress, then always wish for something Really Big.



The Island racked up another sad stat as this rather wretched year winds down to its last days. The body of Darin Gregory Vinall was found Dec. 2 in his townhouse on the 100 block of Parfait Lane on Bay Farm Island, police Lt. Bill Scott said. His sister had called to request an investigation as the real estate man had been absent from his usual haunts for some time. He was found in his bed with a single gunshot wound to his chest.

An additional complication -- possibly -- resides in the fact that Vinall was due to appear in court to answer a child molestation charge.

Court records available online show that Vinall was to have appeared in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland on Tuesday. He was free on $60,000 bail, according to the public records.

Vinall was a graduate of San Francisco State University and worked for Harbor Bay Realty in Alameda.

Vinall had recently separated from his wife, Julie, who has also worked as a real estate agent, neighbors said. He had been living at the three-bedroom townhouse on Parfait Lane for about a month, where neighbors who didn't want to be named said they had seen him riding bikes with his two children.

The police and family are releasing very little information at this time due to the ongoing investigation.

Because of the seriousness of the incident we are quashing comment and rumors here in favor of the investigation.


A number of folks gathered at Old Island High Gym to get H1N1 vaccinations to folks considered "at risk". People should know that the County is expected to get about 50,000 doses for the estimated 600,000 at risk residents.

About 1.6 million people live in Alameda County.

Its the State that determines who is eligible for the vaccine, and the Island hospital has received no doses to distribute. Nor have any of the pharmacies that normally give out flu shots. Generally, the uninsured and those who are clearly infirm are first in line for the vaccine.

This information is public, but there is one suggestion with which we take issue on the prompting of our in-house nurse practitioner, Sharon, who says that using soap and water is probably ineffective in sterilizing hands, and that a better choice is a wet-apply hand disinfectant with ethyl alcohol. Most people do not wash their hands nearly long enough to kill germs and the cloth towels used to dry them become vectors for spreading disease.


Silversword Jewelry and Gifts on Park Street will become the latest casualty to the Great Recession when it will close its doors after over thirty years of doing business next to the Pampered Pup. The clientel served by the self-taught silver- and goldsmith Frank Lopez counted Eddie Money, Phyllis Diller and Santana among its ranks during the years he also ran the Park Street Art and Wine Faire.

Lopez credited his broad-minded landlord, John Leavitt, for keeping the rent affordable and so allowing the business to attain its longevity.

Lopez plans to move to Hawaii, where he has some connections there already.


Fighting illness and weather, we sent a couple of folks over to the annual Live 105 Not So Silent Night in what appears to be a family tradition.

We have had representation at every NSSN, save one year, since the local radio station at 105.3 on the FM dial ran the Green Xmas acoustic series, starting off with David Byrne. Which was about thirty years ago, putting our Live 105 in-house Activist at more shows for more years than DJ Jared has been alive.

Hoo boy.

The show typically features the best and the brightest from the Alternative end of the music, with the most recent years featuring a lot of heavily-inked thrash punk, post-punk, post-grunge stuff heavy on the bass/drum/guitar setup. Death Cab for Cutie made an appearance one year, so its not all thump-thump set to ten on the gain dial. The multi-band shows typically sell out within a day of ticket announcement and this year was no exception.

The usually dour and unexcited Jim Harrington (Contra Costa Times) waxed effusive about this year's presentation, which ought to tell you something.

Showed up late (show begins at 6:00pm and ends past midnight) so we missed the local band opener and Metric. Came in during Vampire Weekend's energizing set.

According to the Presskit, Ezra Koenig, Chris Baio, Rostam Batmanglij, and Chris Tomson formed the band early in 2006, when they were finishing up their studies at Columbia University. Taking their name from a movie Koenig made during his freshman year, the band started out by playing gigs at the university's literary societies and at parties.

The result is a fairly infectious preppy sound that the band claims is based on Afro-pop melodies and rhythms. They describe their sound as "Upper West Side Soweto". Well, we have an insider line to that stuff and if you are expecting Fela Kuti, go figure something else. There are insistent drum-beats and 10th fret frenetic pulls (on f-hole archtops) on things like "Cousins" and "A-Punk" reminiscent of gumboots stuff, but the all-white band from East Coast Ivy League is just a tick too fast to really sit in that record store slot comfortably. There is nothing laid back about them, which is just fine, for they are very likely to do very well, and of all the bands that night, are most likely to break past the Alternative label. If they continue. For its scary to note that the kids are just one year out in the open and just now starting a world tour with all three NYC dates completely sold out, along with dates in Great Britain.

30 Seconds to Mars is rock band from Los Angeles, formed in 1998. The band features actor Jared Leto as vocalist, rhythm guitarist and songwriter with his brother Shannon on drums and Tomo Milicevic on guitar. Unlike other thespians who also rock, Jared refuses to allow promo material for the band to mention his acting career. Vocally, he reminded one of our group of the lead singer for Filter, while other critics have mentioned he sounds more like Maynard Keenan of Tool.

Lyrically, well, there is something in the zeitgeist about what they do, for the songs are all about fantasy outer space encounters and spaceship battles. Woolfmother comes to mind. A number of groups, from Led Zep to Jackson Browne and Neil Young have mined this territory from time to time (remember Ziggy Stardust?), but lately we have been hearing a lot of entire bands and albums devoted to the extraterrestrial, like this life we live right now is not wierd enough.

Jared has said that the songs have an underlying message that can be interpreted in many different ways, depending on the listener, much in the way that "After the Gold Rush" or the Bowie vehicle "The Man Who Fell to Earth" are about what humans do to one another than escapism.

That said, the Leto brothers appeared well on the way to owning the packed stadium, with Jared doing everthing from leaping into the audience, pressing the flesh from the stage on his knees, to miking the audience participation right up to their hit single, "Kings and Queens", which is going through some heavy rotation right now. One thing you can say for Leto: that man can work a crowd hard and work hard to get there he did.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of their climactic song, with just minutes left on the clock, disaster hit the band with a ferociously bad timed total and complete power outage, with not so much as a squeak allowed from any of the mikes.

The look on the man's face when he realized he did not even have a way to provide stage patter to fill in the silence was devastating and for a lesser mortal would have caused a furious stage walkoff. After a couple of minutes, power was restored, lights came back up and to give Leto enormous credit, he not only restarted the song from the beginning with energy and zip, he actually got the audience to sing along, forcing the energy level way back up to earn a well-deserved standing ovation.

AFI (short for 'A Fire Inside'), is commonly thought to be a fairly recent East Bay band, but the band was formed in Ukiah in 1991 during high school. The band broke up as the members went their seperate ways to college, but reunited as they dropped out of school to continue their Misfits-inspired punk in 1995. They caught the ear of the Nitro label and hooked up with Offspring's Dexter Holland for a track or two. Davey Havok had been to UC Berkeley and the band played at the famous punk venue Gilman Street, which led to the members settling here in the East Bay. Davey Havok does vocals, Jade Puget guitars, Hunter Burgan bass and Adam Carson pounds the drums.

Havok came out dressed in a silver lame lounge-suit and proceeded to posture and jump and swish his way from one side of the stage to the other, whild Puget and Burgan made good use of their wireless amp connections to run criss-crossing across the stage and do whirls while continuing to play. Puget does have an "irritating emo-haircut" as one reviewer put it, but looking closely at the man's technique revealed a good deal more complexity going on with fancy pull-offs, extensive righthand hammer-ons and rhythmic mashups that show how putting your time in with an instrument while avoiding drugs really pays off.

Relative newcomers on the block, Muse, proved to be the big seller of the evening. As mentioned before, Jim Harrington could not stop glowing about their performance. Muse is an alternative rock band from Devon, England. Since their inception, the band has comprised Matthew Bellamy (vocals, guitar, piano), Christopher Wolstenholme (bass, backing vocals), and Dominic Howard (drums). Muse are known for their energetic and extravagant live performances and their fusion of many music genres, including progressive rock, classical music and electronica.

They have released five albums since 1999.

What can one say about one of the best NSSN's in a long time? Nothing to add to what Harrington has written. Other than this youtube clip of Muse performing "Uprising" along with a little audience participation.


Support live music wherever you are, for live music is the surest sign that there just may be intelligent life somewhere in the Universe.


Its been a blustery week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A real dockwalloper set in here to sluice the entire Golden State from stem to stern, make all the Tahoe ski haunts happy, and then move on to make much of the West and Midwest really miserable with loads of snow.

During the early part of the week, nighttime temps dropped below freezing, resulting in a fair number of comedies come morning as Californians unaccustomed to chill tried to get their cars going. On one report an Islander tried to free the windshield of ice in the sub-freezing pre-dawn hours by splashing water on the glass.

Not a good idea.

Javier forgot to take in the basil he had been hoping to carry through the winter by taking the pot for walks in the garden sunshine. He left the pot out overnight during the freeze and in the morning his plant had become more useful as a source for chopsticks than pesto as the rain pounded the remaining green tatters.

The chives have all surrendered to the enemy, and the summer savory has circled its wagons in the pots in various defensive maneuvers. Mr. Peepers, the squirrel, has kept out of sight, perhaps to do what his kind is supposed to do during winter.

Old Fats, the grandaddy raccoon, was seen recently, humping along St. Charles on three legs and hauling a useless fourth behind during the rain. Life is rough, but life continues. So it goes.

Seems during this time we are all hunkering down under whatever happens to be pelting down. Channukah began Friday evening, and all over the Bay Area the first candle was settled into its place with a little prayer: "You abound in Blessings, Adonai Our Lord. You have kept us alive. You have sustained us. You have brought us to this moment."

Some say that we light the menorah largely in a symbolic attempt to get somebody Upstairs to take notice and turn on the lights even as the earth spins to its darkest and coldest time. Its a sort of whistling in the dark, making this Channukah. If this keeps up, we are all gonna freeze to death in the dark. So hey! Lighten up a bit!

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, the place has been warm and crowded. Warm, because all fifteen house inhabitants have taken to sleeping indoors, and crowded because of what makes it warm.

Because of the generosity of the Food Bank, the normal rations of Anything Goes Spaghetti and Bread Soup have yielded to actual meals, consisting largely of whatever was brought to the kitchen in quantity. Last week, it was forty pounds of zucchini and onions. This week, Marlene is puzzling over just what to do with several four-pound loaves of processed turkey, canned vegetables, packets of noodles in every size and shape, and a brick of Ronald Reagan-era cheese that has never been refrigerated. Along with several loaves of french bread that have reached a condition best described in Italian.

Ah! Tetrazzini!

Soon enough the girl is hard at work, and can allow a couple helpers in there. In a stroke of luck she locates Occasional Quentin's stash of ninty-nine cent gallon tokay under the floorboards of the porch -- as good a cooking sherry as there ever was. It surely will be a feast.

Over at the Old Same Place, Suzie is helping put up the seasonal decorations with Padraic and Dawn between servings of piping hot "Gaelic Coffees" and hot rum toddies. After they are done, the windows of the bar are as festive and gay as any Mexican restaurant happens to be all year long, but with a special emphasis upon these green LED lights Padraic found somewhere.

During the down time, they sat around one of the tables, talking about the usual subjects.

"They say that on account of the Recession there aint gonna be any more travel of people from place to place. Everybody will have to stay put where they were born," said Dawn.

"I can see through to that right away," said Padraic. The Republic has thirty-five million citizens but only eight live on the Island. The rest are dispersed through the world. Its a metaphor, cute as a hoor it is. No way any amount can return there. Not the way things are. The ones who are there wherever they are, must needs stay and suffer all the more. That is the luck o' the Irish for all history and all time."

Suzie, who had Aisling upon her mind, said, "Surely some may stay where they are. Like seeds takin' root. Sure some may thrive."

"I don't know, I don't know," said Padraic. "There is a powerful wind coming down from the North and a great change is comin'. I don't know about anything anymore. The Silversword is going under because of the times now, you hear?"

Dawn reached out to each of their hands on the table. "Now hear me. We have each other and for now we have this little snug and we shall not let go for all the world for this is all we have; we have each other."

There in that pool of light, a mirror of another pool of light that shone down on Marlene fixing up tomorrow's dinner in the shabby household of fifteen souls and yet another pale fire islanding the Editor as he sat at his desk with all the newsroom now emptied out and the activity of the day stilled into dark shadows all about the offices. Himself, with his aureola of thinning white hair, the desklamp, the desk and all around the world of darkness. Except in the distance, far across on the other side of the newsroom, the flickering trident of the office menorah.

Marlene looks up at the charred remnants of her erstwhile wedding dress which had been nailed to the wall a couple years ago and sighs. So became the dream of becoming middle class. Instead of a white picket fence and her own children she had fifteen immature supposed-adults to feed from her open scars. O the injustice of it!

Yet. there is no other moment than this. There is no other life.

In time enough, Marlene will walk alone along that muddy path along the low wall to that shouting gate through which Denby passes each year on El Dia del los Muertos, but at that time her trip will be one-way and she will not return. Until then she had mouths to feed and things to do. Life was yet to be lived before the end. She inhaled a deep breath.

And so she bent to it with a will, stirring the pot. Tomorrow is a long time. In the window of the Household, the menorah glimmered with its three candles, for this was the third night of Channukah.

Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train wafted over the island like a kiss, as it ululated across the rain-pocked estuary, as the locomotive wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront headed from the garishly lit gantries of the Port to parts unknown, on this third night of the Festival of Lights.

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



DECEMBER 6, 2009


This weeks photo comes of the lawn next door to the Island-Life Cultural Events Coordinator.


This week's video is excerpted from William Shatner's interview with Rush Limbaugh in which Shatner catches Limbaugh comparing health care to disposable amenities. Its interesting to note how people with money see things like health care and food and such as just tradable assets. If you don't have any, just go out and buy some. Its that easy.


Island staffers trundled on over to watch the 33rd annual yacht parade from a wharf at Jack London Square. This year, the theme was "Xmas Carols", so there were quite a few boats outfitted with speaker systems as well as the lights and inflatable Jack Frosts. One enterprising owner used the sail of his 15 foot Sunfish as a projection screen for a movie of a band playing.

The harbor pilot led the procession that looped in a mile-long oval along the estuary.

All kinds of boats showed up decorated to the nines, from sail to powered excursion boats.

Even a few people-powered rowers appeared in the parade.

The background was lit by coastal industries, including here the lights of the Port and an oceangoing container ship.

From the gaudy to the elegantly tasteful. . .

Even commercial boats were represented, as here the harbor tug made its appearance with blasts of its foghorns.

One crowd favorite was a 12 footer traveling entirely dark save for a forward running light and a rigging mounted design that changed from a star . . .

To Spongebob Squarepants.

Also popular were a pair of sea-kayaks. Each of whom made two full circles around the oval.

It was a jolly parade lasting a couple hours, and in the end a fine time was had by all.


A couple Lifers reported back on the recently closed run of five shorts by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) at the Berkeley Rep with positive feedback.

The first piece, titled "Flip, Flop, Fly!" derived from two actual personalities, both of whom died in 2002. Geraldine, Queen of Albania, after living a fairytale existence that moved from rags to palace, she was exiled for most of her life after Italy invaded that country in 1939, and was allowed to return shortly before her death at the age of 92.

Lucia Pamela was a flamboyant entertainer whose trademark was the blurring of lines between fact and fiction. Pamela racked up many colorful achievements over the course of her lifetime. She was crowned Miss St. Louis of 1926. She managed an amusement park in Fresno, where she also dressed up as Mother Goose. She had two radio programs: The Encouragement Hour and Gal About Town. She started an all-girl orchestra that she called Lucia Pamela and the Musical Pirates, as well as a musical duo with her daughter (who went on to own the St. Louis Rams later in life) that she called the Pamela Sisters. She also claimed to have once visited the moon -- prior to the Apollo missions. Her musical documentation of this visit, recorded in 1969, remains a cult classic among aficionados of American kitsch. Kushner has the two of them meet on the moon.

The "East Coast Ode to Howard Jarvis" picks up on a true story about a misdirected tax revolt in New York City in 1997 in which city employees, including a number of police officers managed to avoid having federal income tax withheld from their paychecks for years. The scam began with a set of instructions purchased through a website. The instructions were sold many times over and directed individuals to claim 98 dependents and declare themselves entities separate from any kind of federal oversight. Howard Jarvis was the man whose strong detestation of any sort of taxes produced the populist voter's revolt that put Prop 13 into place in 1978. Jarvis, himself was a demagogue who ran unsuccessfully for office many times on an antigovernment platform that leveled invective against any and all institutions, such as public libraries, fire departments, and public schools.

Jarvis had been dead 10 years when the New York City tax scam was uncovered, but his legacy of tax revolt may have paved the way for the widespread evasion scandal. Jim Lichtscheidl shines in this one-man piece, playing at least two dozen characters by varying his vocal inflection and body language.

"Dr. Arnold A. Hutschnecker In Paradise" refers to the man who acted as psychiatrist to Richard Nixon, the only therapist ever to have had a president as a client. Nixon certainly remains a controversial figure, but Hutschnecker was no stranger himself to contention and not shy about asserting his opinions, Hutschnecker left Germany for New York in 1936, under powerful persuasion, after publicly calling Hitler a pig. He later proposed that the United States government should require political leaders to obtain a mental-health clearance before being allowed to take office. He found himself embroiled in controversy after the release of a 1970 White House study on crime where he is said to have suggested that seven- and eight-year-old perpetrators of serious crimes be treated in “camps.” He later clarified that he was offering this in the context of his own positive associations with summer camp as a child. He remained active and outspoken on issues where mental health intersected with politics well until his death at age 102 in the year 2000.

In the long-titled "Terminating or Sonnet LXXV or “Lass Meine Schmerzen Nicht Verloren Sein” or Ambivalence", a gay man, suffering from violent neurosis insists on seeing his female therapist after she has terminated the official business relationship because he frightens her. Each character has behind them a lover who speaks in the scene without physically being in the room. The suggestion at the end of the piece is that the therapist is about to die, either as a matter of course or by her own hand.

"Only We Who Guard The Mystery Shall Be Unhappy" has Laura Bush, portrayed by Kate Efrig, invited by an angel (Valeri Mudek) to read to several dead Iraqi schoolchildren on the other side, none of whom speak but who emit songbird music from their mouths, specifically Messiaen's classical interpretations of songbirds. The angel describes the horrific circumstances of each child's death and then Laura Bush decides to read to the children from The Brothers Karamazov, specifically the "Grand Inquisitor" chapter, because she figures that having passed over to the other side these kids can handle it.

In lesser hands this scenario would decay quickly into obviousness and specific political rant, however Kushner, who is perhaps the most talented of lyrical writers for the stage today, lets the material rise above all that to explore quite deeply morality and responsibility. Our Reviewer mentioned that the play also reveals the problematic trap of Fundamentalist Christian philosophy, which, if taken to its furthest extent, self-damns its strongest proponents.

Taken as a total theatre experience, the five plays all deal with the tensions between the surfaces of peculiarly American Dreams with all of their illusions and their abutment against harsh truths. Each playlet features either people who have died or who are about to die as well as polarities between imaginative illusions and "realities." The effect is surprisingly moralistic without being preachy, remaining solidly engaging theatre throughout. Our man said the series was well worth checking out.

Who’s who

Tony Kushner, Playwright
Tony Taccone, Director
Annie Smart, Scenic Design
Anita Yavich, Costume Design
Alexander V. Nichols, Lighting and Projection Design
Victor Zupanc, Sound Design
Lynne Soffer, Voice and Speech Consultant
Marcela Lorca, Movement
Kimberly Mark Webb, Stage Manager
Mina Morita, Assistant Director
Cast (in order of appearance)

Jim Lichtscheidl
Valeri Mudek
Kate Eifrig
J.C. Cutler


Band Musicians, bell ringers and the Jolly Man in Red braved a real dockwalloper with rain and wind last Saturday to entertain some 500 folks out at Southshore Mall . . .

After the Court nixed the rather silly lawsuit against the Unified School District over the Lesson 9 anti-bullying curriculum, the Board is nevertheless revamping the classes to encompass equally all conceivable groups, but is somewhat at a loss since nobody has anything like it anywhere in the US -- except for just, "Don't call names and don't hit." Lesson 9 earned national attention when a group of radical fundamentalists based in Texas tried to halt the curriculum and unseat three Board members in a fit of pique. Oh you behave!

Persons apprised of the Island's idiosyncratic enforcement of traffic ordinances by the doughty Officer O'Madhauen better be aware that the annual "Avoid the 21" enforcement program will kick off Dec 15 with two staffed checkpoints here. The program ends January 3, and you better also know that the "tank" where DUI suspects are taken is unheated and no one is allowed a blanket or a coat, for they don't want any "hangin's"...

Another item to mark on your calendars as a "must do" is the annual KPFA Crafts and Music Faire taking place over in Babylon at the Concourse Exhibition Center (8th x Brannan Streets) on December 12 and 13th. Check for details.

Berkeley is holding its Open Studios every weekend through to the Penultimate Day Before. Check for more info.


It's been a chilly week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.

Its looking like we will have to call back all our messengers now trying to locate the Mayor of Lake Wobegon due to weather that is not conducive for Californians to operate. Everyone had been issued the books "Leaving Home" and "Pontoon" as guidebooks, however those particular tomes don't mention much about winter and what happens up there. A few enterprising souls offered to go fish for the bowling ball lost during Kyle's aerial mishap with the parasail from the Lake, but we think the time window for lake access in Northern Minnesota has closed to all save for the hardy Norwegian fishermen in their heated ice huts.

Its about 49 degrees here on the Island (that's ABOVE zero), and everybody is moaning all about the bitterness of it and the record breaking of the weatherman. Friends report they are shoveling snow in Michigan now. Yes, perhaps Minnesota can wait a few months. Ja, sure.

In fact, its warmed up a bit to allow the rain storm to come waltzing in at dusk with a breezy flounce and a fringe of dark tassels on the horizon like some spirited gal from Oaxaca swirling a dark mantilla.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household, all the denizens there are chipping in what they can during this time of the Great Recession. Andre's band, No Future in Real Estate is seeing the Holiday gig pool drying up, as many businesses forgo the annual Company Party. Mancini lost his job when the NUMMI auto plant closed up, and Jose got let off from Pacific Steel. As a result a band of inmates heads on over to the Strict Episcopal Church for the handout there on Tuesdays, and those with transport hop on over to the Point for the Food Bank Weekly there.

Over at the Church the system goes as follows: Everybody herds into a room where a Church lady hands out a red piece of paper as part of the Official Count. After the Count, the same lady hands out the lotto numbers to make the food pickup. If you come late, you do not get a red piece of paper and with no paper, you get no number and so you get no food. If the numbers run out, same story.

So Jose and Mancini were in there last Tuesday seeing all the arms reaching out toward the lady who looked like the hub of a great human wheel, which like the kids bicycles of old times had colored papers attached to the spokes. She turned this way and that, handing out the little paper rectangles, and for every hand that pulled back another took its place so it looked like the great wheel was turning around and around.

Welcome to the 21st Century, dudes.

Mancini got the lower number, 47, while Jose got 120. When Mancini got in there to the basketball gym, the tables were all arranged in a U shape. You checked in as an Official Indigent at the top of the U on the left and then followed the line collecting items from the stations along the way. There were some wrinkled zucchini, some onions, a few packages of produce with expired dates, and some apples which had seen better days -- all of it donated. But there was loads of bread of different kinds and pastries, also all past expiration dates, because that is how it all works.

By the time Jose would get inside there would not be much left, so Mancini tried to stuff his bag with everything he could get for the House. Each one of them had listed themselves as single person households so that the cumulative total would come out ahead of just one of them claiming 12 members.

Because that is how it all works.

Once he got outside, he talked briefly with Jose and then headed for the bus station. There, the sun shone on the yellowing leaves of the Oak trees and cars drove by much as usual. But there were hundreds of people at the Church.

There was a guy there from Solano County who told him he had come to the Island so as to be closer to the City and maybe find work after he had lost his house and his car. In Solano County the unemployment was topping 40% and there was simply no work to be found at all. He was lucky for his pension from being in the Marines. There was another guy there, a tall man in the old olive drab coat of the Army who started talking to the guy from Solano. The tall guy had been in the Army in Iraq but there seemed something odd about him and the way his eyes drifted. He had patrolled Anbar and survived three IED attacks before they discharged him. But it was hard to tell how much of what he said was true.

The guy from Solano called the tall guy a "walkie-talkie", meaning the guy could walk around and hold some sort of conversation but that was about it. There was a woman there who seemed to be taking care of him.

This is the year 2009, Mancini thought to himself. And finally America had become just like what it was during Ronald Reagan's early years as a boy -- with bread lines and widespread misery. The bus came and climbed aboard with his provisions for the household.

Across town, in another part of the world, Lionel's business at the Pampered Pup was going great guns, for during hard times, hot dogs and fast food always do very well. He looked down the street to Jacqueline's Salon where his Heart's Desire held court around the hairdryers and then up at the gloomy sky before going in and laying down a mat at the door for his customers. Mrs. Almeida hurried by, however, for the skies were clouding over and she needed to get home to secure the chickens in the coop behind the house. The chickens were illegals, although not a bird among them knew of the fact. It is against the law to keep livestock or poultry within city limits, but Mrs. Almeida hailed from Portugal and she could give a solid fig for any such silly ordinance. To appease her conscience she freely distributed eggs to the neighbors, gave alms to the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, kept the place clean and neat, and made sure no roosters hung around to alarm the authorities.

She had just finished making everything shipshape and locked up when the first drops began to fall, and so scurried indoors.

A young raccoon investigated the fortifications there as light began to fail, and finding all disappointingly secure sat back to survey the Unattainables until the patter of rain drops, and the barking of Tugboat, annoyed him enough that he went away.

All across the Island the lights flicked on behind the drawn shades of nighttime as the rain developed from a gentle patter into something persistent. A good thing and a great gift from Somebody in the third year of the California drought.

Down by the old fenced-in Cannery with its weed-decorated railway tracks and dripping brick, Officer O'Madhauen sat in his Crown Vic, sipping coffee from a Styrofoam cup as he watched for speeders coming out of the industrial park, headlights off, but console LED's glowing blue and red. Down Santa Clara, the lights of the newlywed Ramirez couple glowed brightly and a gay laughter floated out into the rain from within. The former Ms. Morales and Mr. Ramirez had survived an entire year of matrimony after their rather tumultuous wedding last Thanksgiving. Lately the couple has been seen collecting items from garage sales along the order of bassinets, perambulators and glass bottles. And loads of pink and blue towels. Yes, things seem to be moving along nicely there in the Ramirez household.

The lamp burned from the high room of Mr. Howitzer's mansion on Grand Street where the wealthy man was examining the computer printout of his relatives beside a stack of holiday cards purchased in bulk from the Bohemian Grove Publishing House. The cards were printed with petroleum-based dyes on certified paper that came acid-treated from rare Amazonian forest pulpwood. He was checking to make sure that nobody on the list would get a five dollar bill who was not supposed to. Especially valued nephews got a Krugerrand and a subscription to the National Review with their card. Return receipt requested.

Inside the Old Same Place, Eugene is regaling anyone who will listen with more tales of bravado against the Teabaggers and with Mr. Howitzer's escaped swine, while Suzie and Padraic served up hot toddies and what Padraic calls "Gaelic Coffee".

"I shall not sully the name of the Auld Sod with such a beverage," says Padraic. "No daycent Irishman would think of soilin' the Water O'Life with anything so base as coffee and whipped cream. Cute as a drowned hoor is that idea . . .".

All of this was observed from a periscope that protruded above the surface of the rain-dimpled waters of the estuary. It was the Iranian spy submarine, the AIS Chadoor. Its captain noted in the ship's log, "All happy families are more or less dissimilar on this Island; all unhappy ones are more or less alike." He paused with the pencil pressed to his lip. "Are we not all spokes of a great wheel?" He realized this was not proper for the log and so erased the last part, but did so imperfectly intending to write over the palimpsest later with something like record of latitude and longitude. He lowered the periscope and the submarine glided out of the estuary and across the Bay, and thence through the Golden Gate to the ocean, running silent, running deep.

In the Island-Life Offices, the Editor sat at his desk in the cube lit by a single desklamp, surrounded by the endless darkness. All of the copyboys, writers, reporters and runners had gone home for the night, as it was Sunday. Machines hummed in the darkness. The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the rainswept estuary as it passed through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the high dripping gantries of the Port to parts unknown.

After it had passed, the Editor remained, one man at work at his writing table with a single desklamp surrounded by the endless darkness, the teletype occasionally burping a one-line communiqué from somewhere else in the world out there. Some indication that somewhere out there, something exists. Long past one A.M., the Editor went to the window in the restroom, the only one that opened to the air and stood looking out at the courtyards lit by streetlamps and poll-mounted halogens as the rain fell softly to the concrete. The simple smells of wet leaves and rain wafted through the window. The sound of rain falling. There is no other life; This is the one we all have.

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


NOVEMBER 29, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from Chad who presents a good lesson in how to be concise.


We were getting really sick of That Woman dominating the news with inanity and her equally as inane as well as uninformed admirers, so we cast about for this Video of the Week.

Every year the news is full of stories about dangerous toy recalls and product warnings, but there are few who try to list those supposedly safe toys produced by people who just do not get it when it comes to kids and parents. Monstrous product design mistakes, like "Wanker Tarzan" and "Cleaning Wagon Marie" are good candidates for the Utter Failure award in the category of toys for kids.

Here is a short movie about a new talking Elmo doll, which unfortunately includes in its repertoire death threats to the tyke that fails to deal business effectively.

Don Corleone Elmo anyone?


The Island food bank handed out over 500 frozen turkeys with some sides on Tuesday, 11/24 to a long line of hungry and desperate Islanders. The good people expected to hand out the remaining 250 birds on the following day. People showed up well before eight am at the organization's warehouse out on the Point to get in line for the 11:00am hand out.

We talked to several people in line and learned quite a number of hard luck stories in this Great Recession.


Actually, it should be "mulieres cantat", but nevermind; that Stephen was always a solitary sort. The 31st Celebration of Women Craftsfair took off this past weekend at Fort Mason with over 2,200 attendees on the first day and over 1,900 the second day, resulting in record-breaking numbers for the annual benefit for the SF Women's Building. Most of the artisans reported positive sale results for their handmade wares. There was all sorts of ceramics, shawls, jewelry, clocks and brightly colored tchotchkes of every description, as well as a luscious food court -- to add to the famous Greens restaurant out there as well, and all sorts of happy jumping up and down. In the end, a fine time was had by all.

The Fair continues next weekend 10-5.


Listen Muse, as we grant orisons to you, Glaucous Athena. O grey-eyed goddess of hunters and the wild things of the woods, grant us wisdom and keen sight to descry thine companion, the farseeing owl, and perceive also festive fox, orotund opossum, reckless raccoon, vapid vole, and scampering squirrel, he of bushy-tail and nuts.

Anoint the tongues of the Sacred Sons and Daughters of the Golden West so that we may speak of the Poodleshoot as it was in the Days Gone By of 2009. Give us breath to praise brave deeds, heroic battles and tremendous feats of honor. Let us sing of arms and men, they who never were at a loss. They who traveled far after the sack of Crab Cove and saw the City of Man and learned its ways. They who endured many troubles and hardships in the struggle to save their own lives and so bring back the homes of the Island to poodle-free safety. They did their best, but could not save themselves, for they consumed the swine of Mr. Howitzer, the real-estate developer, which is considered trafe. Verily, even the pigs-in-a-blanket is anathema. And so the Developer, who considers himself a god, had them all arrested.

On The day of the Poodleshoot, rosy-fingered Dawn arose and pushed back the shutters of night to allow Phoebus to mount his golden chariot and so, preceding the day, she trailed her gauzy banners of cloud and mist, leaving behind a sort of dew upon place after her passage. Gently, she flushed, and gently she kissed the eyelids of the sleeping Padraic, but he stirred not. Gently she nudged the man, who only mumbled and snorted as he remained held fast in the soft wooly folds of Morpheus. Playfully, she noodged him once again, but he remained walking in that shadow kingdom of the most somnolent God.

Then she gave him a mighty whack, and that got him up all right, for Dawn O'Reilly was not a woman to be trifled with at any time of the day. And so Padraic bestirred himself to make ready for the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ.

So it was that Padraic rolled out the barrels of the Water of Life and set up the Pit for this year's festivities.

The affair began with the traditional playing of the Paraguay National Anthem, as arranged by Terry Gilliam, and performed by the Island Hoophole Orchestra, with Denby on the Verpflixtemusikwappenguitar, Karen Rega on tenor tuba, Ken Collins upon the Hardart Banjobandsaw Anomaly, Pat Aston on tea and scone, and a pennywhistle section including Suzie, Aisling, Rachel Linzer, Carol Taylor, and Beth Turnbull, with Oscar Kring on drums. Sean and Nancy Grey contributed their part on Hazmat Tube-shriekers while Pat Rodriguez put in a particularly illuminating performance of Aida in high C. Hanford-Freund added a choral portion with Mumble and Threat in various low thirteenth keys too numerous to mention.

The Island Times reported that the performance was "highly unusual", and "extraordinarily provocative", among other things. Jazz Weekly reported "not since the sonic walls of cacophony produced by Pharaoh Sanders during his heroin phase have we heard such amazing sound." The Island Gerbil more modestly reported that "the performance often approached something akin to music with astonishing unpredictability."

The critic for the Contra Costa Times succinctly reported pretty much as he always does for anything other than Ibsen, Shaw, and Mahler, "Simply appalling."

Once this was done, the Native Sons of the Golden West gathered in a circle for their Invocation, chanted in the language of E Clampus Vitus. The men moved in a circle with their pinkies interlocked, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise, before chanting, "Heep heep Hepzibah!" and all jumping into the air simultaneously. They then sang their parlor charter song, "Die Launische Forelle," At the conclusion of which, each emitted a delicate fart.

After the ritual pouring of libations, the Official bugle was blown by Susan Laing and the hunters moved out into the field. Soon the air was filled with the gleeful holiday sounds of AK-47s, the cracks of freshly oiled Winchester rifles, the occasional crump of percussion grenades, cries of "Poodle there!", and the homey whoosh-bang of bazookas and RPG's. In short it was a jolly, sunny day for a Poodleshoot.

Soon enough Mark Peters of Santa Clara brought in the first batch for the barbie in the form of a neat pile of fajita-ready poodle on a plate.

The Official Ruleskeeper, MaryBeth of Marin, inquired as to the authenticity of what patently was no longer recognizable as canine, let alone breed of dog.

"Here ya go," Mark said. "Pre-shot digital pix of poodles in motion with the hits duly recorded. Did that with a mini-cam mounted on the turret."

"On the Turret?"

"Hell yeah. Right above the 50-cal. Great home movie aint it?"

"Fajita poodle ready to go. Okaaaaaay . . . ".

"50-cal will do that. Hoo-ya!"

Things were going swimmingly until a group of hunters ran into a passle of poodles on punts piloted by a parade of Teabaggers, who clearly were flaunting the rules by bringing in a load of fifi's with their pelts dyed pink, blue and white and holding them just offshore but within the municipal boundaries of the Island. As is usual for Teabaggers, the party refused to reason, but instead sent several mortar salvos to the Strand before defiantly raising their rally flag -- a picture of Fred Phelps bearing a sign that said, "God Hates You." Which caused Rev. Sarah Freethought of the First Organized Unitarian Church of the Island much grief.

Soon, the Strand was littered with anti-tax initiatives and leaflets bearing Teabagger slogans released from cluster-bomblets. Slogans such as "Death to Sick People!" and "Don't you touch my Premium toot-toot!"

Our boys dug in there on the Strand near the outhouses as the Teabaggers beached their LTO's and thence ensued a great deal of argumenting and screaming back and forth in which the hunters called for honest debate and the Teabaggers vituperated and cursed "Get sick and die you Commie Socialists!" with great redundancy.

While this was going on, the day grew long with little to show for it at the barbie on account of the boys being pinned down on the beach, so Eugene went with some scouts to the East End and found there a brace of porkers grunting and uprooting the native bunchgrass near the disputed bicycle/pedestrian bridge, long an article of contention here.

The pigs being outside of a pen, it was deemed salubrious for all concerned to get them inside of something or somebody, preferably well soaked with a spicy sauce from Everett and Jones, so they shot a couple of them and were stringing them up there for to be made into chops and ribs when along came Mr. Howitzer, the Developer, to whom the swine belonged. They had gotten loose from Harbor Bay Isle, where a lot of pigs like to keep themselves, although not these particular ones, for they had a mind to wander and uproot and alter the landscape, much as Developer animals are wont to do frequently.

Howitzer, having with him his blunderbuss and his trusty pigdog, Eisenhower, had him round up the hunters who all surrendered as it was violently against the rules to kill a non-poodle breed on this day, and so they were all brought to the courthouse on Shoreline where the weapons were impounded and all arrested.

But, because of budget cutbacks, there was no longer any trial for criminal matters at the courthouse -- which may seem odd to non-islanders, but all must understand as we own an hospital which does no geriatric, no obstetric, and no trauma treatment, it makes sense we would also have a courthouse where nobody can be tried for crimes. Nor is our jail any great shakes either, so all of them were fined and given a lecture to and released while the commissioner and the police returned to their thanksgiving dinners with tears in their eyes on account of no longer being able to try anybody at all for committing their special crimes.

So Eugene and the crew, which consisted of Paul of Marin (who happily would have shot Eisenhower and the rules be damned but for a clear line of sight), Steve Vender, Doyle of San Francisco, and Jim Cassell, all returned to the Pit, bypassing the Strand where a most contentious and long-winded filibuster was in progress.

When Padraic saw everybody returning empty-handed with tears in their eyes and the day gone and all the fajitas long since consumed, he broke open the emergency freezer and threw several flanks of ahi on the barbie.

Eventually the folks down at the Strand got away by putting up cardboard cutouts and a tapeplayer that looped the phrase, "Let me just say one thing . . .". through a loudspeaker so that the Teabaggers, never ever ones to allow anyone else to get in a word edgewise were consumed with imprecations, defamations and vitriol of the most debate-nixing kind. Discuss anything? We'll have none of that! And so on.

And so the sun set on the Island Rev. Freethought said grace over the tuna burgers and gave thanks that this year, at least this year, her church building was spared extensive damage during 11th Annual Islandlife Poodleshoot and BBQ. They then set to and all had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn't be beat before going to bed and not waking up until the next morning.

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

NOVEMBER 22, 2009


This week's photo comes from the Huffington Post via Chad. Heck, ever since the Fox surrogate left CNN, what else is there to read?


We really need to apologise for this shameless media jumping on the bandwagon, but there is an unkillable "Freddie", a rabid vampire werewolf, a hideous specter-boob stalking the media right now and no amount of common sense seems able to drive a stake through this things inane heart. At a recent awards banquet for PSA makers "30 Rock" star Tina Fey ran through a bit of her famous impersonation before regretfully commenting, "I'm afraid I'm gonna be doing that bit until the day I die."




The Holiday Season kicks into high gear after the Poodleshoot here.

Starting off at the venerable Fort Mason the Women's Building will hold its 31st annual Celebration of Craftswomen at the Herbst Pavilion where the event willoffer a unique opportunity to find gorgeous, one-of-a-kind holiday gifts, fine crafts, and contemporary art all by women. The show features the work of 300 female artists - 150 different artists each weekend.

The Celebration of Craftswomen will be held from 10-5 on two weekends: Nov. 28-29 & Dec. 5-6, 2009. Admission is $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and students, and free for children under 12. A two-day pass that can be used any two of the four days is $15.

This event benefits The Women’s Building, a multi-cultural community center where women and girls achieve self-sufficiency and pursue their dreams. Monies raised though the raffle, admission fees, and booth fees go to the organization. Programs offered by The Women’s Building include a free bilingual Spanish/English information and referral service, educational support for low-income adults, financial counseling, and community events that promote arts, culture, and discussion. The first women-owned community center in the U.S., the Women’s Building houses ten diverse community groups and has helped launch more than 160 women’s programs and initiatives in San Francisco.

For additional information about the Fair, visit The Women’s Building Celebration of Craftswomen web site: or call the information line
415-431-1180 ext. 15.

Island-Life staffers typical assist with setup and take down of booths during this event, so drop on by and say hello. Its always worth the price of admission just to stroll down the aisles and see the amazing handmade work on display.

After the Poodleshoot, the Winter Season really kicks off in the Bay Area.

Both the Island and Jack London Square will collaborate in the Lighting ceremonies, with Silly Hall igniting our tree here at 5:30 pm accompanied by jolly music and the inimitable Dancing Xmas Trees. You have your choice of that event or riding the Alameda/Oakland ferry in the 33rd Annual Lighted Yacht Parade on Saturday, December 5th, at Jack London Square in Oakland. This Bay Area tradition features hundreds of festively decorated boats as they cruise along the estuary in competition for prizes. The public can participate in the festivities by riding the Alameda/Oakland ferry, which will also be entered into the competition.

The special Lighted Yacht Parade ferry service is only available from the Alameda Main Street ferry terminal located at 2990 Main Street. The ferry departs from Main Street at 5:15 PM and returns to the terminal at 6:45 PM.

The parade competition can be viewed from shore at Jack London Square, where there also will be music and booths, as well as from the Wind River parking lot area on the Island. Last couple years there were nearly 130 boat entries.

On the first night of Hannukah, there will be the annual lighting of the Menorah in Union Square in Babylon.

Closer to home, the annual NSSN, a sort of family tradition with us at Island-Life, ramps up with a series of concerts that will also be competitions for the local band designated to lead off the annual popular event which moves this year to the Oaktown Oracle Arena to accomodate the extreme popularity of the multi-band extravaganza. This year the show headlines Muse, 30 Seconds to Mars and AFI (who actually have learned to play their instruments now!). Just kidding. AFI has developed significantly in depth, along with several other band survivors out of the post thrash-punk period and so are worth checking out. The event sold out on the day of ticket release, however if you listen to Live 105 they typical offer ticket handouts on the "be the nth caller" scheme. Show is December 11, Friday.

Largely because of the proximity of event, we usually miss the equally as prestigious KFOG benefit titled "Concert for Kids", which this year moves to our hometown Paramount Theatre in Oaktown. Brandi Carlile and Mat Kearney will share the stage for KFOG's 24th Annual Concert for Kids at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, December 12. If you cannot make NSSN, this is likely to be an excellent show in a great venue.

Speaking of KFOG and benefits, the 16th Live Archives CD is out, and this one sounds like a winner, with a number of live, unreleased tracks that also have not seen much airplay, and featuring well-established acts, like the Pretenders and Indigo Girls, along with folks like The Decembrists and Gomez. The CD, a total benefit for Bay Area Food Banks, is available from Peets coffee outlets.

Over at ACT, the collection of shorts called "Tiny Kushner" is still underway, and this night we have folks checking out the show for a review. We apologise for missing the usual early shows this time.

After the experience at Yoshi's West last week we are remaining on the warmer side of the Bay for The Taj Mahal Trio 12/2-12/6, followed by Dan Hicks 12/8-12/9. Charlie Hunter plays both sides of the bay, coming to us 12/15-12/17.

For NYE, besides Jackie Greene at the GAMH, Brett Dennon with ALO at the Fox, we note Les Claypool at the Fillmore in a certain bass-heavy exponential explosion of cheesy wonderment.

Also to notch on your brand new calendars will be a memorial for Norton Buffalo to be held at the Fox 1/22-1/23 in the new year, with just about everybody who ever played with the man, including slide wizard Roy Rogers. This one is a 100% benefit for NB's family.

Oh yes, the Island has its own humble offering in the form of Saga Open Mic at the Frank Bett Center for the Arts. This typically takes up a couple hours in the afternoon on Saturday, with the next one happening December 5 from 2-4, so if you are planning to attend either the tree lighting or the yacht parade, this one will be a nice warm-up for either event. Hosted performers for the open mic will be piano jazz musicians Susan Newman and Eliza Shefler.

Our wandering homie minstrels Houston-Jones return to the Island for a gig December 18 and we are hoping performing with Wes Craven shall not go to Peter Tucker's head.


These days of declining newpaper influence begin to make the Violent Femme's reference more and more arcane. In any case, here are some notable items that came over the wire this past week.


Debbie Benyahia, External Affairs Specialist for AC Transit informs us that the AC Transit has released a Revised Service Adjustments Plan proposal, which includes the restoration of about half the service hours originally proposed to be cut. The public is invited to review and comment on the revisions at A community open house will be held on Tuesday, December 1, from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., at the AC Transit General Offices, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland, CA 94612. The public will have the opportunity to learn more about the revised plan, talk with planners, and offer comments.


Paganos hardware, an Island institution for over fifty years, plans to open a store at Southshore Mall.

Pagano's will open next spring in a building near Shore Line Drive across from Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Pagano's will keep its store at 1100 Lincoln Ave., where Andy Pagano first opened for business in 1950.

The new hardware store will open with 8,322 square feet of space in a building that now houses Great Clips, Corbitt said. Great Clips will move to another location within the center.

This move capitalizes on the pullout of Orchard Supply Hardware from that Mall. Last year the City Council cleared the way for Orchard Supply Center to open at the 540,000 square foot center, despite some residents saying the chain would undercut local businesses — including Pagano's — by pulling customers away from neighborhood stores. Since then Sears Holding Inc., Orchard's parent company, has put the kibosh on its Island plans in the face of the sluggish economy.

Orchard Supply Hardware was set to move into the building that once housed Safeway. The project called for increasing the building size by 1,500 square feet from 37,230 square feet and installing a 35-foot front parapet, as well as for new landscaping, benches and bicycle racks outside.

Orchard Supply is the second business to yank its plans for that building, following Nautilus 24 Fitness dropping its plans to convert the space into a gym.


The first contender to the unenviable tomato and brickbat target known as the Mayor's Office has announced her candidacy. Councilperson Marie Gilmore announced her decision Tuesday to contend for the Nov. 2, 2010 election. Mayor Beverly cannot run again due to term limits.

Marie brings enviable academic credentials along with her six years on City Council as assets. A graduate of both Stanford and the prestigious Boalt Hall School of Law, she certainly does not lack for smarts and we wish her all the best.


Suncal may be running into another snag on its effort to ram through an unsavory ballot initiative that gifts the developer with all kinds of special bonuses. Oaktown across the water there would be directly impacted by the addition of businesses and homes which would dump additional traffic on Oaktown's Chinatown district. The City attorney for Oaktown, Alan Yee, is also head of the Oakland Chinatown Advisory Committee, and he -- as well as other Chinatown officials -- are hopping mad over this plan on the Island being conducted and voted on with no Environmental Impact Report. A lawsuit preventing the initiative to go to ballot is in the works.

Yee's basis for lawsuit may be on the thin side and be resolved on a technicality, as he is demanding to be supplied minutes of private meetings between Suncal reps and the Island City Council, something which is exempt from the existing "sunshine laws."

Right now, the entrances and exits between Chinatown and the Island observe total gridlock virtually every day even as things stand now with no addtional traffic.


Any day now somebody is going to start blasting Skinny Puppy during a LAFCO meeting and the whole farce will fall apart. Kaiser recently pulled out its surgical services contract from the steadily diminishing Hospital, which has already seen trauma, natal, geriatric and a dozen additional programs waltz away in the name of cost cutting, while the LAFCO property tax support remains on the books.

For a hospital which cannot perform births, cannot handle psychiatric cases, cannot treat geriatric issues, has no telemetry in emergency or ICU, has to send emergency patients off the Island to Highland, and now cannot perform operations, the place is remarkably solvent with a profit of over half a million dollars.

They better bank that cash against the mandated earthquake remediation that is likely to be in the 100 million dollar range when and if it happens. If it does not happen, of course, the entire facility must close down.

In an off-the-record conversation with a Kaiser insider we learned that Kaiser's move is part of an orchestrated plan to take over all services on the Island along the lines of previous takeovers. Its clear they know the hospital is in serious Trouble and they full well mean to take advantage. Well, perhaps then, the Island will finally get a full-service hospital worthy of the name.

This is all due to the practice of medicine being turned into the practice of business. Turn the practice of medicine back into medical practice and dump the business for profit part and suddenly it all works fine and the Island can have its hospital. The only real way to get there is with a single-payer system.


Its been a rocky week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay and on the edge of the North American Continent. When you stand here facing America, you stand with your back to the sea facing East; there is no other place to go. One can always head on down the coast, but inevitably the moment comes when you must drive your knife through your belt scarf and say, "Here is where I stand and here is where I will live or die. Today is a GOOD day."

Stray Jack passed away this past week, leaving many of us in tears who already had a full load of grief to bear. He was a bold and curious kitty who used to raid the dumpster when the building had one, and was then confounded when the dumpster was replaced by a neat row of kitty-proof plastic bins. Number Six took care of him as long as they lasted here. But their own relationships went sour and first the one then the other moved out.

So neighbors chipped in then and various folks set out kibble or whatnot for Jack, who always remained the skittish and nervy fellow that he was, never allowing anyone to come too close.

Beth moved into Number nine and soon took an interest in the guy, as she does for all living things, including the birds and the squirrels. And so Jack was happy, according to his fashion, for some five more years.

Some neighbors acquired a tom they allowed to go wild with no care of any kind and this cat soon beat up and drove off all the cats in the neighborhood for he grew large and unrestricted and marked his territory liberally.

Jack, with no place to eat, grew malnourished and became ill. Eventually the neighbors had their cat de-wormed, fixed up, de-loused and all of that usual stuff but for Jack it was too late.

Beth took him in and in his last days, Jack allowed himself to be held and loved and so he passed away. Javier provided a place in the corner of the garden for him to be laid to rest.

In addition to this loss, Denby has been mooning about the offices on account of Strange de Jim. Come around the corner and there he is, Denby staring off into space near the fax machine chittering out the AP newswire. What? Yes. Time to get about that ACT review. Right on it then . . . !

He misses the old guy terribly much and we are all hoping for the best as we approach the annual train wreck known as The Holidays.

Nobody around here is looking forward to that annual horror with much enthusiasm right now.

A spate of storms have passed through here, leaving everything in a moisty sorty of bog, while the skies have all gone somber with heavy high fog or rain clouds. Evenings have been chill, for NorCal, although we hear that these temps are a heaven-sent boon to folks up in Minnesotta.

we have a few Floridians and folks from SoCal who have been huddled around their gas grates and propped open stoves lately on account of the temperatures getting to the -- gasp -- almost 40's.

The native San Franciscan continues to stroll about wearing sandals and shorts, regardless of the weather. For he is really trying to put the shame to the "Bostons" who roll about with menthol and comforters, afflicted with the ague whenever the temperature drops below sixty-five.

They will never understand us in St. Paul, for we have our own culture here. One that hearkens back to the Peraltas and the Spanish adobes of the old land grants. Indeed, NorCal seperates itself from SoCal with its eternal and infernal iterations of "Whatever!"

Whatever. Down at the Old Same Place Bar, things are once again settling in back to normal, or what passes for normal there, after last week's brough-ha-ha.

So we should leave that nest of issues and love complications to visit Marlene and Andre's household where things are getting tight on space. Since the temperatures have dropped, everybody who had been sleeping on the beach now is taking up space inside the lodgings. Occasional Quentin is back underneath the coffee table and Snuffles Johnson is once again sleeping in the couch hole on the porch. Martini, Suan, Jose, Tipitina, Rolf, Xavier, Pahrump and Februs inhabit the livingroom in sleeping bags with Johnny Cash, Bonkers and Wickiwup, dogs all. Another six people swap shifts sleeping in hallway bunks. This is all because the landlords have raised the rents to such a usurious rate that no human being can really afford to pay the full amount -- hence everyone has sub-subletted their spaces just so as to make the extraordinary payments. It's Mr. Howitzer's fond desire to earn before retirement in excess of one million dollars per annum from the one bedroom cottage he owns on Otis. Against this desire and rampant . . . greed, nothing stands except bare humanity. As for housing codes, neither he nor any household member gives a flip.

The past few weeks have been flush for folks have discovered the local food banks, so the sparse dole of bread soup and fried bread have given way to an assortment of meals involving actual and real vegetables. With everybody packed in there at night, the house manages to save on utility bills by turning off the heat entirely. After Suan comes in from her vigorous shift as a stripper over in the Crazy Horse Saloon, it gets quite toasty in there.

Everybody is grateful for Suan's employment, as she is one of the few individuals who actually has a job during The Great Recession. Work is work, as they say.

Over at Jaqueline's Salon, the former resident of Big Bear Lake in upstate Minnesotta is having no trouble at all with the weather around here, including the brief squalls that blew through here during the week. When someone complains about the cold, it being all of 55 degrees outside, she just nods and says, "Ya sure."

Fewer folks are coming in for "treatments" these days, on account of the economy, but there remains the occasional snip and bob and neaten-up job to help pay the rent.

At the Old Same Place Bar, no sooner had things calmed down there than the semi-finals for the World Cup put Padraic into a terrific wax. He has even taken a French flag and put it up behind the bar after soiling the middle of it with an inkstained handprint, referring to the infamous handball performed by Thierry. France won that match 1-0 against Ireland and it will be a cold day down below before Padraic forgets about it.

"A nation of thieves. Cute as rotten hoors, they all are," said Padraic, as Eugene put his hand on the man's shoulder in consolation. Everyone had come for the Poodleshoot Planning party.

Oh la la. Everyone has troubles. Back home, the Old Sod is rather soggy, and all for buckets of rain inundating that island to the point most of the West is entirely drowned and the famous Lake Hotel castle on the Killarney Lakes -- now a single ocean -- is almost completely submerged.

Old Schmidt's friend, Andre, dropped by to issue a formal apology to Padraic on behalf of the entire nation of France and things got emotional. People elsewhere in the world take football, otherwise known as soccer, very seriously and wars have been fought over disputed goals.

The business with the flag behind the bar pained Andre, however he sucked it up and issued his apology. "Mon ami, we are not a nation of thieves -- save perhaps a few in arondissment Pigalle and in Marseilles, definitely in Marseilles -- and we grieve this unfortunate occurance as well. Ah! Please, do not weep so. Accept the use of my handkerchief. No, go ahead and keep it now. As I was saying . . .".

Troubles never come but in dozens and as the song goes, when life looks like easy street, there is danger at your door.

So there they all were, long time friends clustered in grief and anguish in the Old Same Place Bar. The Native Sons of the Golden West were there and so were the members of the Women's L7 Auxilliary of San Leandro. They might have troubles but at least they had each other during these trying times, the times of the Great Recession.

The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the disturbed waters of the estuary as the mystery train wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the Port to parts unknown.

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

NOVEMBER 15, 2009


Howling Wolf used to sing a song about Evil. We all know about Evil here at Island-Life. From Chad we have the portrait of Evil Incarnate and the Portrait of Bad Poo. Observe the sneer of power and the look of cold command. Look on these works, ye Mighty and despair! The Evil Poo and the Bad Poo conjoined!

All are invited to the 11th Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. Rules are posted in the sidebar.

Headline photos courtesty of Chad, who risked his life and his psychic aura to obtain these images.


There is no question that the sexiest writer/intellectual in the Bay Area is Marin-based and Chile-born Isabel Allende. In this week's video, the local author discusses women, creativity, the definition of feminism -- and, of course, passion, in this talk.



Unexpectedly got tix to review Leon Russell at the new Yoshi's in SF so went over there to examine the venue and the concert. Yoshi's West is much larger than the venue in Oaktown, with a larger main room as well as a balcony. There are no booths as found in Yoshi's East, and the tables are packed in more efficiently, however we found the acoustics to be very much inferior.

It was early in the week, but the place was SRO with every slot filled.

When the band came on their opening medley of Stones and old time rock turned into sonic mud with bass and drums not in synch and way over-amped. The bassist (doubling on vocals), Jackie Wessel had to motion the soundman to up his voice mike several times.

We took a walk during the single 90 minute set and heard definite variations in the acoustics from the balcony to the floor. One of the ushers there mentioned there are even variations going from right to left for all the shows, with the better sound away from the mixing board.

Leon Russell (born 1942 in Lawton, Oklahoma) came on staged aided by a cane. His voice has lost much of its power and he did not help much by arranging the vast majority of the foreign material with quixotic tempos and positively wierd rhythms, such that the classic "Georgia" and the Stone's "Wild Horses became nearly unrecognizeable. This can be a real winner when a master takes an old chestnut to a different stratosphere as the Talking Heads did with the old blues number "Take Me to the River."

Unfortunately, a sort of foxtrot "Wild Horses" failed to work and Russell's voice, being largely overwhelmed by the orchestration made it that more difficult to figure out just what was going on.

In the entire set, Leon Russell played no more than three of his own songs, causing one of our companions, a former member of the successful sixties group "Joy of Cooking", to put her head in her hands and shake slowly from side to side.

Towards the end of the set, the bassist and drummer left, which allowed the fairly accomplished pianist Brian Lee and guitarist Chris Simmons to really shine, with Simmons performing a very capable "Walking Blues" on slide guitar, and Mr. Lee belting out a fairly decent blues version of "That Lucky Old Sun" (written by Beasley Smith and Haven Gillespie, made popular by Frankie Laine).

The rhythm section returned but this time the group really jelled as they launched into a '50's rock and roll medley with ensemble singing, playing the music with traditionally expected tempos and rhythms in 4/4, and the lead guitarist doing as much of a Chuck Berry duckwalk as one could do on the postage stamp stage, ending the concert on a high note.

We sure wish there had been more ensemble singing to add punch to the vocals, as this is where the group really shined, but they never did an entire song that way.

Leon Russell began performing in Tulsa at age 14, went on the road right after high school with Jerry Lee Lewis. After that gig, he settled in LA to become one of the most sought after session musicians in the business.

After recording on several hundred hit records in the 1960's, Leon built a recording studio in his home in 1967 where he and Marc Benno recorded songs which were released on two critically acclaimed records as the 'Asylum Choir'. Leon co-produced, arranged, and played piano, organ, and guitar on Joe Cocker's second album, 'Joe Cocker!' in 1969. He also recorded and toured with 'Delaney & Bonnie & Friends'. Leon founded Shelter Records with partner Denny Cordell and released Leon's first solo album, "Leon Russell" in May, 1970. It included Beatles George Harrison and Ringo Starr, Rolling Stones Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts, Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, and Klaus Voorman. The album contained classic Leon songs, 'A Song For You', along with 'Hummingbird', and 'Delta Lady'. Shelter Records was home for not only Leon but many other artists such as Freddie King, Don Nix, J.J. Cale, Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Gap Band, Dwight Twilley and Phoebe Snow. Leon played on and produced three Shelter albums for blues guitarist Freddie King.

Leon organized and led the band behind Joe Cocker for the famous "Mad Dogs & Englishmen" tour of the U.S. in March-May, 1971. The huge 11 member band included 3 drummers and a 10 member choir which played 65 shows in 48 cities. The tour was filmed for the movie "Mad Dogs & Englishmen". The live double-LP album on A&M Records reached #2 on the U.S. album charts and sold over a million copies.

On August 1st, 1971, Leon joined George Harrison and friends for two performances of the Concert For Bangladesh at Madison Square Garden in New York to raise money for refugees. His "Jumpin' Jack Flash/Youngblood" medley was considered the highlight of the show by some. The album earned a Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

He went on to gather several Gold Record awards for solo work, becoming Billboard Magazine's "top concert attraction for 1973".

At the height of his popularity, he began recording country-western albums under the pseudonym "Hank Wilson", and toyed with the bluegrass genre. In this new incarnation he performed with Willie Nelson and with Earl Scruggs, garnering Grammy awards in the process in the early 80's.

Clearly the man is a giant in the music industry with lasting impact, hence we are hesitant to criticize the show, however it was generally agreed that, while the current outfit he is touring with undoubtably possesses high voltage energy, they occasionally do not gel together and that Leon's vocals outside the studio probably should take a well deserved rest.

Oh yes, play rock and the blues the way they are supposed to be played. The wacky arrangements just do not work.


Toddled on over to the Peralta Hacienda for its 2nd Saturday event. The non-profit org, Friends of Peralta Hacienda Historical Park has just finished an ambitious multi-media setup with period music, slide presentations, and audio to accompany the standard tour through the 1870 vintage house, located on the 23 acres that are left from the astoundingly huge Spanish domain of 44,800 acres that once extended from San Pablo down to Fremont.

The park, which includes the landmark Antonio Peralta House built in 1870, is located at 2465 34th Ave. in Oakland's Fruitvale district.

The Peralta Hacienda Historical Park is considered by many to be one of the most significant historical sites in the East Bay. According to the history files, it was the area's first European settlement after the establishment of Mission San Jose.

The park is a remnant of the 44,800-acre Spanish land grant awarded in 1820 to Sergeant Luis Maria Peralta (1759-1851) in recognition of his 40 years of military service. His San Antonio Rancho encompassed most of what today is Oakland, Berkeley, Emeryville, Alameda, Piedmont, Kensington and parts of San Leandro.

Peralta's four sons managed the extensive rancho, from the homes they built in different sectors of the property. Third son Antonio Marie Peralta (1801-1879) built an adobe dwelling on the site of today's park in 1821. Over time, he built a second larger adobe, and as many as 20 guesthouses for the steady stream of travelers who would make their way along the Eastern branch of the El Camino Real during that period. Don Luis Peralta never lived there on his lands, preferring to stay in San Jose where the Mission there grew into one of the largest in Alta California under the stewardship of Father Duran.

In 1868, a major earthquake caused damage to the adobes. Antonio, by then a widower with four daughters, decided to build the currently standing frame house.

The house itself was constructed according to the current fashion of Victorian Italianate archetecture. Most of the structure visible is original material.

A real treat and a significant addition to capturing the flavor of the time when the glorious age of Spanish-Mexican haciendas was coming to an end was the addition of live music, performed by the spritely and well-versed Dawn Kooyumjian on a restored melodeon, accompanied by Nina Egert on Spanish vocals. The two of them really brought to life the bouncy zest for life as experienced by the Peraltas.

Dawn performed the "Jolly Brothers Gallop" and a curious nocturne called "Monestary Bells" adapted from piano to the melodeon as well as "The Gypsy Chorus" from "The Bohemian Girl". She also did "Jaleo Juarez" and that age old classic "La Paloma".

Melodeons were small reed organs made only in the United States. The Peraltas were known for their musicality and hospitality since the times of the original Spanish- and Mexican-era adobes on the family's East Bay rancho. On the instrument Dawn used, there were padded locations to place the oil lamps so as to illumine the sheet music at night.

We talked briefly with the performers who had done extensive research into period music, and found that they readily offered information as detailed as anything from the tour guides.

Long time Lifers know that our staff is working on a book about this period so it was fascinating to listen to the music of the time bringing to life the Golden Age of California in a way that no dusty textbook can provide.

We sincerely hope that this component results in a long-lasting gig for the performers.


The 10 year retrospective is chirping along with additions each day. We have the Poodleshoot items up in HTML as well as the sidebar shortcuts and our editorial hamsters have been busy on the wheel converting the old stories into readable form that is arranged chronologically in the "10 Years of Stories" section. Now you can read all about Ms. Morales and get up to speed with Suzie in a jiffy.

We are also steadily repairing defective sidebar links, so keep trying if you get 410 and 401 errors.


Its been an unquiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. With the temps dropping at night and a brief rain shower things are looking more like they ought to. The hydrangea finally has decided its time to curl up to sleep and the evening air is tangy with woodsmoke from all the chimneys that have returned to service.

Over at the Old Same Place Bar, things were just about to return to normal after Suzie's fateful trip to Italy where she abruptly discovered her newfound amour, Jorge, was wanted by Interpol. Padraic had had to fly to Rome to fetch her from the manacles of the carabinieri, and it was only after first Suzie had taught all of her cellmates to sing the chorus to "Alice's Restaurant", and second, Padraic had gotten into an altercation with the Swiss Guard on trying to get the Pope to intercede that the two were both unceremoniously escorted to the airport and there deported to the USA in a blaze of paparazzi flashbulbs after the Pontiff had declared both of them to be silly nuisances providing far too much fodder to the daily tabloids.

Indeed, the local excuse for the National Enquirer in Italy showed both of them in unflattering photos placed on the same page as "Batboy found Living in Malta Cave!" and "Princess Di is Alive and Well Living on Planet Venus." Padraic was much put out by the newpaper accounts describing him as Suzie's father.

"I am not your father!" shouted Padraic. "I am not nearly that old!"

Suzie wisely kept silent the whole way for fear that they would never make it past the Straits of Gibralter for all of his carrying on.

So there they were in the Old Same Place Bar when Dawn looked up to see who had just come in the door, her knowing the regulars and what they liked so well that the client would have his drink set before him even before settling in at the barstool.

Dawn appeared to recognize whoever it was, while Padraic was in the back and Suzie down below re-attaching the Fat Tire beer keg.

As usual, Dawn's reaction was modest and subdued -- for Dawn.

"Jaysus. Mariah and Joseph!" She screamed. "OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD OH MY GOD . . ."!

Up popped Suzie from behind the bar and when she saw who it was she screamed and fell back against the vermouth and gin.

Various others in the bar responded with gasps and shouts as each befitting their kind of animal they were by nature.

At this ruction, Padraic came barreling around the corner, exclaiming, "Christ you would think all of you are coming in the final drop of a naked orgy in here with this brough-haha . . .".

Then he, too, stopped and shouted, "Well lookee here! Cute as a rabid skunk caught in the windmill!"

At that, Padraic flew across the room, well flew as best as a dumpy middleaged tavern-keeper can fly, and thence began to destroy the object of attention as he stood there by means of strangulation, saying only, "Where's my damned Kerry Stick until I murther the bastard proper!"

Far from calming the situation, this served to provoke yet more ruction in the room, as Dawn and Suzie scurried around the bar to try and pry Padriac fingers from around the man's throat.

"Aisling!" said Dawn, for indeed it was he, "Where the divil have you been?"

"Arrghaahhghrrrrahh!" said Aisling, which did not help elucidate things in the slightest.

"You damned rat! I'll teach you a lesson in how to treat an honest girl. They'll have to bury you five times or more before I am through with you!" said the enraged Padraic. "They'll have to dig a seperate hole for every piece of you!"

So with Suzie shouting "Stop, stop!" while pounding on Padraic's knobby fingers and Dawn shrieking in a fit, "For the sake of God man, do ye want to hang for murder here!" and Padriac grimly throttling Aisling, Suzie's pre-Jorge beau, Eugene Gallipagus came up behind Padraic and neatly smacked him across the pate with its thin array and poor protection of vanishing hair, employing a wine bottle he had carefully selected in the process. A spray of wine and bottle shards went everywhere.

Padraic's eyes sort of rolled back and down he went to the floor, releasing Aisling who desperately gulped in lungfuls of fresh air as he sat heavily in a chair.

Old Schmidt collected the end of the bottle so that there would be no more violence.

Both Suzie and Dawn began interrogating the boy who responded as best he could.

"Where have you been? Why have you not written? What has happened? Why are you back now?"

"Aaauuuuhhhh!" gasped Aisling.

A glass of Fat Tire was put in his hand and a few sips of that invigorating ale seemed to do the trick.

Meanwhile Old Schmidt examined the bottle label that had brought down Padraic. "Châteauneuf-du-Pape! And a good year too! Next time, better use the Fusel."

Eugene simply shrugged, but at the mention of that expensive beverage, Padraic stirred from the floor.

"Why have you not written," asked Dawn again. "Where have you been?"

"Long Kesh," said Aisling, finally. "The H Blocks."

At the mention of that dreaded place everyone stood back.

"Long Kesh," said Padraic. "Your not an IRA terrorist -- you're an idiot. There oughta be a difference. Ohhhhh this hurts", he said as he got up.

Someone offered him a tylenol, but he waved it away as he sat heavily in a chair across from Aisling. "Oh Châteauneuf-du-Pape! Oh that hurts indeed!" He faced Suzie who stood in shocked silence. "The Maze is it now! What is it with you and terrorists? Can't ya find a daycent Christian boy around here?"

"I'm not IRA," said Aisling. "It was a case of mistaken identity."

And so the story all spilled out of him. He had managed to tick off a member of paramilitaries, one of those splinter groups that split off from the UDF, a group calling itself the Ulster Devout Defence Exemplary Rabble (UDDER) which had concieved of the novel use of cows as walking IED's against the British, the IRA, overcharging local keepers, cell phone users in cars, spitting in public, and anybody who they did not like. So the UDDERS had informed on Aisling, telling the Guarda that Aisling was really Dirty Harry Hanrahan, the worst sort of IRA bomber and behind the bush bugger that had ever lived. Hanrahan was so hated that when they grabbed Aisling they reopened the long closed Her Majesty's Prison Maze, otherwise known as Long Kesh, just for his honor.

They figured out quickly enough that Aisling, far from being Hanrahan, was no sort of radical in any sense of the word, possessing as he did and still does all the violent tendencies and yen for adventure of a small Hobbit, however the very act of reopening the notorious Maze had caused a tremendous ruction between what passes for conservatives and liberals in this country.

Here, as in Northern Ireland, those sorts of battles need not be over anything sane, need have nothing really to do with the central issue, and need not have any sort of practical resolution, such as letting the poor man go or getting something done about health care.

So there he languished in the prison all by himself with only a few guards to keep him company -- not even enough manpower to field a decent football team, which resulted in them locking up the place on Sunday as all the guards went off to their towns to get in a scrum or two before returning bright and early Monday morning.

So Aisling had spent a fairly miserable year eating the worst of food -- boiled to death English cooking -- and being very lonely all by himself for most of the time. He didn't write for he did not want anyone to know where he was for all the shame of it.

Once they had let him out -- largely because the idea was to convert the building in which he was kept into a sports stadium perfect for playing rugby and football even as others dickered over turning the place into a museum or a "leisure village".

Whatever. They kicked him out and ordered him to stay well away from any form of cow. So he headed on down to Dublin where they have no more cows running about, nor any UDDERS of any description, there to scrape the pennies together to come to America even as Ireland's Economic Wonder began to tank along with the rest of the world. Soon enough it was back to living on the dole and credit tabs several miles long.

The story of how he managed to gather the money together is a long one best reserved for another time, and does involve some activity which may be percieved as somewhat on the far side of the Law. No bombings or terrorism or anything similar for he was done with all that. The important thing was that he had come back for Suzie.

And there he sat, right there in that chair.

Dear sweet Suzie stood there taking it all in with her toes pointed slightly inward and one hand holding the other, biting her lip. She looked at Dawn.

"Aisling, I should tell you that a few things have happened while you were gone," Dawn said, and the room became very quiet. "You can't expect a girl to wait forever for something without so much as a promise."

At that Aisling hung his head. He was a young man who had gotten into and out of trouble, had many adventures and had come a long way and it began to look like it was all for nothing, that he would have to return penniless and brokenhearted to Ireland. Life is hard my friend, but sometimes it just plays out that way, try as you might.

"Well, seein' that is the case, I guess I should be on my way now. Sorry to have been any trouble. About the wine, I'll try and make it up to ya." And with that he stood up and began moving for the door. The little crowd which had gathered around parted like the seas before Moses as the faces stared at him with pity.

"That boy is about to go and you'll not see him ever again . . ." began Padraic.

He never finished for Suzie flew across the room, as young girls have a talent for so doing, or perhaps one can say they have a sort of magic about them which enables that, meaning fly across the room,for its exceedingly difficult to phrase it all proper and get it down so people understand, however, in any run-on case, she flew across the room in a manner which caused all the English majors to gasp or groan, each to their like, and having reached her objective there, she threw her arms about him, nicely punctuating both paragraph and sentence.

Everyone there, save perhaps for the odd English major, applauded with enthusiasm, while not a few wept with joy.

Even Padraic did so, although he also commented, "I forsee problems here. Mainly of the Visa persuasion, but others besides."

"Ah," said Old Schmidt. "Zee Hollander haff dis sayingk vich goes 'Wer den leef het, hat keen sorg fur den Weg.' But zeese luff sings, personally, I know nossingk, nossingk, nossingk! Personally."

"Schmidt, none of us has the slightest idea what you are talking about," commented Eugene.

"Ah, 'Wer den leef het . . .' means Dey who luff have, have no concern for the way. So ist das."

Right then, as the two lovers held each other in the doorway of the Old Same Place Bar, from far across the way, the eerie call of the throughpassing train ululated from across the estuary from where it wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the Port to places yet unknown.

And that is just the way it is on the Island. Have "keen sorg fur den Weg" and a great week.



NOVEMBER 8, 2009


This week's photo is of the man known in these pages as "Strange de Jim", whose real name is Jim Kitson, formerly of Santa Clara Avenue on the Island.

The flags are flying half mast here at the offices for Mr. Kitson, a very well-beloved artist, husband, raconteur, man-of-the-world, and dear friend passed away suddenly on Tuesday afternoon after taking a stroll down to Crown Beach.

Jim was born here in California in May and recently celebrated his 70th birthday among friends at Rancho Nicasio. He leaves behind a loving wife and companion of 29 years as well as hundreds of friends from Europe to Mexico and all over California.

His own father, born in 1890 in California, was a man of the Old School California, and who worked with Mulholland on the aqueduct projects that turned the Central Valley into the breadbasket of America.

Jim served in the Navy and travelled to Mexico, where he developed many long-lasting friendships. He also travelled to Canada where he hooked up with a high school friend and drove a hopped-up Austin-Healy of the kind featured in James Bond movies.

A free spirit, he also lived for a time in La Honda about the time Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters lived in the area.

He obtained degrees from San Francisco State University and from the Art Institute at a time the entire country was in turmoil, with San Francisco providing the epicenter for social change.

He was notorious for living life to the fullest extent possible at every moment. On camping trips with friends he would blurt a four-letter expletive every step of the way on a difficult traverse -- as friend Doyle commented, "That descent was well over one thousand steps -- I counted them, for every step he took he cursed." But at the end of the hike he would typically pull out several full bottles of wine from his backpack.

Another time, while in Mexico, he helped his friend haul a load of scrap metal that began dragging on the ground behind the truck, causing a great deal of noise and sparks to fly. In an effort to take a short cut, he drove the pickup through a hole in a fence only to find, too late, that he and his friend Augustin were in the middle of a major international airport tarmack facing down a Boeing 747 trying to take off.

He loved collecting bone and skull samples, as many graphic artists do. One time while in Mexico he found in a pasture a bighorn sheep's carcass, from which he removed the head so as to later macerate the flesh from bone and keep the skull and horns. The head he placed in a plastic bag which he threw into the back of his truck where it remained for several days as he drove around Mexico. When it came time to return to the US, the border agents stopped the long-haired, tie-died, bearded, jive-talking, young Kitson to grill him and go over the truck, as they planned to do, with a fine-toothed comb.

The Agent demanded to know what was in the bag, so Jim told him the truth.

The Agent refused to believe him, so he opened the bag -- which had been enjoying the hot Mexican sun for several days now -- and stuck his head fully inside.

Jim was ordered away from that place with speed. The Agent also evacuated, but in a different manner.

All fun aside, a man must make a living, and so Jim invented, single-handed, the eco-tee-shirt business, with hand-drawn images of endangered species, often featuring his totem -- the hawk. The business flourished so well it ended as creative-centered businesses often do, by someone stealing his ideas via the Xerox machine and underselling the product. When a Singapore-based conglomerate stole his idea "I Got Crabs at Fisherman's Wharf", he closed up shop.

Times change and so do people. After Jim came to the Island he cultivated his sculpture and formal painting skills to a high degree, producing talismanic and iconic works out of heavy stone and large beams of wood he found in scrap heaps. He became a member of the Pacific Rim Sculptor's Society and the East Bay ProArts organization. It seemed that in coming to the Island, he aquired a maturity that matched his years well, and so he gathered a constellation of friends and admirers here, many of whom are famous in their own right. He also served as a kind of father-figure to members of the Island-Life staff and to all the children in the neighborhood, whom he enthralled with his stories and his collection of found objects and animal skulls.

To his friends and admirers, he was known as "El Hawk". He owned, in addition to a stuffed real hawk, a life-sized bronze of a hawk in flight he had made himself. Much of his creative work involved shaping metal, to which he carefully applied layers of patina.

His wife, Susan, was inspired by his example to take on the labor and art of working with textiles, eventually settling upon wool as the medium and felt as the product. Her work is often exhibited and every year is highlighted at the annual Celebration of Women Craft Fair at Fort Mason.

If success is measured, as referenced by the song written by Fred Smalls, as the love you leave behind, Jim Kitson was a highly successful man and he will be sorely missed by a great number of people.

The Editor has drawn a curtain over a portion of the Offices.


From Chad we have several monologs done by the late genius of comedy, George Carlin. In this one, Carlin lists the things we all share in an effort to put an end to the artificial divisions in our society. With a few laughs.



Lt. Gov. John Garamendi comfortably defeated his four opponents in a special general election Tuesday for an open U.S. Congress seat in the East Bay, according to complete unofficial election results.

Garamendi, a Democrat, beat Republican David Harmer and three other candidates in the race for California's 10th Congressional District, which includes much of Contra Costa County, as well as parts of Alameda, Solano and Sacramento counties. The district is historically liberal in temperament.

The election will fill the seat vacated by Democrat Ellen Tauscher, who was nominated in March for a State Department position that she accepted in June.

Garamendi received about 53 percent of the vote, compared to nearly 43 percent for Harmer, according to the unofficial final vote count of the secretary of state's office.

Voters in Walnut Creek overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure that will make way for developers to build a Neiman Marcus store in the city's downtown Broadway Plaza area, according to complete unofficial election results.

Measure I amends the city's general plan and zoning ordinance to allow the two-story department store to be built on the corner of South Main Street and Mount Diablo Boulevard.

A development agreement that was part of the measure requires the developer to provide street and intersection improvements and financial contributions toward parking and transportation improvements, but allows the developer to meet the city's parking requirements with an employee-only parking lot while doubling the square footage currently permitted for the site

Walnut Creek voters also appear to have passed a parcel tax measure to help fund the Walnut Creek School District.

Measure H, which required a two-thirds approval, appears to have won more than 75 percent of the vote. The measure will impose an $82 annual parcel tax beginning in 2010. The measure, which has no expiration date, replaces an existing $82 parcel tax, which expires at the end of June 2011.

San Francisco voters Tuesday approved four of five ballot measures, refusing only to enact legislation allowing billboards along a section of Market Street, according to preliminary election results.

It was an atypically sparse ballot for San Francisco voters, and elections officials completed their initial vote tally just after 10 p.m.

A total of 69,733 ballots were cast, according to the Elections Department.

Voters approved Proposition A -- establishing for the city a two-year budget cycle, instead of the current annual cycle, and adopting a five-year financial plan -- with nearly 69 percent of voters approving.

Proposition B, eliminating a City law requiring supervisors to have two aides, was approved by just over 52 percent of voters.

Proposition C, allowing the city to enter into a new naming rights agreement for Candlestick Park, received nearly 58 percent approval.

Supporters said the measure could bring in about $1 million per year to San Francisco.

The measure also specifies that half of the revenue the city receives be used to fund recreation center directors.

Defeated was Proposition D, to create a Mid-Market Special Sign District on Market Street between Fifth and Seventh streets and allow outdoor general advertising signs. A portion of property owners' revenue would have gone to arts and cultural programs.

The measure would have permitted digital billboards and other signs, as large as 500 feet, on building rooftops and walls. Just over 54 percent of voters rejected the measure.

Proposition E, which more than 57 percent of voters approved, will ban an increase in advertising on street furniture such as Muni bus shelters, and prohibit new advertising on city-owned buildings.

In the only other items on the ballot, City Attorney Dennis Herrera, running unopposed, was easily reelected, as was Treasurer Jose Cisneros, who was also unopposed.


KFOG has released its annual fundraiser CD for Bay Area Food Banks and the item appears to be a winner and a keeper this year, from its accoladed coverart by Vasco Morelli to its winning content. A preview indicates some real collectables here, including excellent unreleased live tracks of Susan Tedeschi, Chuck Prophet, Little Feat, Indigo Girls and the Pretenders, among many others.

Copies go on sale now at Bay Area Peets Coffee and Tea locations.

Live 105, the Other Radio Station, has released dates and tickets for its own annual Not So Silent Night event, which has become a sort of family tradition around here ever since that event was called "Green Xmas" and featured acoustic performances.

The very non-acoustic AFI and Life on Mars will be featured this year along with a slew of refreshing newbies in the Biz. AFI has been a long-time fave here in the Offices.

Widespread Panic is taking over the Fox for the three days running 11/12 to 11-14, so be prepared. Brett Dennon is handling NYE over there with ALO.

The rest of us at the Entertainment desk are still getting over the death of Strange de Jim, but we will all be back in fine form next week.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the San Francisco Bay. Lately the weather has been properly overcast and the nights have chilled to the point of requiring those down comforters be brought out of the attic. We have gotten some disturbing news from messengers up to Lake Wobegon about our efforts to achieve Sister City status, and those messages have been far from encouraging.

Some of us have been concerned about the health of the Man in the Red Shoes enough to create Care Packages filled with things like turkey soup and such. Not a few of us feel his illness was caused by bad peppers from Arizona, so a whole passle of us wanted to ship out a box of decent jalapenos to rectify the situation.

It may be that a dour Norwegian bachelor farmer looks askance at a messenger hamster from California, but persevere we shall. A Mighty Fortress is our God and all of that. Hooha!

While Office staffers begin work on the annual Island-Life CD, others are hard at work preparing for the annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. Denby has been gathering up the stray members of the Island Homeless Men's Choir for yet more execrable musical treats. Another Holiday Season appears well on the way to misery and destruction as per custom and good old Tradition.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, things are still in an uproar ever since Suzie got back from Italy. Turns out her prospective beau, Jorge, had been a member of the notorious Red Guard, which had kidnapped General Aldo Mori years ago and terrorized all of the country. It seemed likely that he would be in jail quite a long time.

Just why an Argentinian would become a member of an ultra-left nationalistic Italian terrorist group is anybody's guess. While Dawn blubbered and Suzi sat in tearful silence Padraic let loose after holding it in for several days.

"What on earth gets into you girl with these boyfriends? Can't ya foind a daycent Islander to get in thruble wit?"

"Well, there was Aisling," she said and then burst into tears over that bad memory.

"Leave the girl alone ya omadhaun, ya! said Dawn.

There was yet more of the same until a voice piped up at the end of the bar.

"Hey! Can I have a Fat Tire and a shot?" It was Eugene Gallipagus, fortifying himself early for the Poodleshoot. "This is still a bar, aint it?"

"Right!" said Padraic. "Get to work you two. Work is best for broken hearts. Work, work, work."

Pretty soon the regulars streamed in and things were moving along as usual.

Fat Tire is an ale made up in Berzerkeley by the New Belgium company where the staff there are more than usually fanatical about bicycles, which is not nearly as hazardous as being rave about firearms or skydiving so they are all right. Bicycles are peaceful machines, and if anything need be mechanized it might as well be a bicycle, for no bicycle ever wiped out in a snowstorm to kill a busload of nuns and no classroom of children was ever found buried inside of a bicycle. One will note that terrorist bombers never employ bicycles, for they would feel quite ridiculous. No, bicycles are all right in our estimation.

In any case, the beers of New Belgium are a staple at the Old Same Place and many a customer has stated emphatically "I'll have a Fat Tire" to have another say, "That's too bad. I have a pump in my trunk."

Over at the Almeida household things are considerably calmer, for now that the crab and oyster seasons have started there is food on the table and things are plush, as Pedro comes steaming in each day fully loaded to the gunwales with those eager snappers destined for the kettle abord his merry boat El Borracho Perdido. His black lab, Tugboat, bounds down to the dock to help tie up by grabbing the line in his jaws and carrying it over to the post there while the passing Father Guimon waves at Pedro, who is a member of his flock at the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint. Ah yes, all God's children. And the humble fisherman at his trade. And he, the Fisher of Souls. The world full of symbolism with the week's earlier overcast drizzly situation now gone in favor of California sunshine.

"Woof!" says Tugboat.

Woof, indeed. And the good Father walks on thinking these thoughts, composing Sunday's sermon and trying to figure out how he can manage to snag a few sopranos from Pastor Inquist's choir for the Holiday Banquet. The Lutherans really sing much better than any of us, he thinks ruefully. we could maybe loan a few tables for their own banquet in exchange. Just for an evening.

He did not plan on sharing any of these ideas with the Bishop.

Night has fallen now, and as the nights have gone chill, well chill for the Island, which is a bit more temperate than upstate Minnesotta, folks have largely gone indoors. The machines of the Island-Life Offices hum in their corners, and the copyboys have all gone home leaving little pools of light at their desks.

From far across the way now comes the long wail of the throughpassing train as it wends its way through the dark and shuttered warehouses that border Jack London Square, heading from the Port to places unknown.

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



NOVEMBER 1, 2009


This week's photo is seasonally adjusted for horror inflation and rental listings. We note that this house is available for rent, and also that it seems this corner house on Lincoln has a hard time staying occupied. Hmmm. . . could be the strange knocks in the attic, the flapping screen door or the sudden shrieks from the sink?

Ah. The Ghost of the Indentured Tenant.


You have to wonder what local slide guitar maestro Roy Rogers must be feeling after losing his best friend, John Lee Hooker, and then, as of a few hours ago, one of his best stage partners of some twenty years. We are very sorry to report that local harmonica whiz Norton Buffalo passed away a few hours ago due to cancer. Here is a video of Norton playing Terraplane Blues with Roy.


Buffalo, the son of a harmonica player, was born in Oakland, CA on 28 September 1951 and raised in Richmond, California. In high school he performed in a series of bands. By the early 1970s he gained renown as a San Francisco Bay Area musician, playing with several Bay Area groups including Elvin Bishop.

In early 1976 Buffalo joined the "farewell" European tour of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and was recorded on the band's final live album We've Got A Live One Here! [4], which included Buffalo's song Eighteen Wheels. After the tour, Buffalo returned to California, briefly played with a number of local bands, and later in 1976 he joined the Steve Miller Band's Fly Like an Eagle national tour. He also played harmonica on the band's hit follow-up album Book of Dreams, released in May of 1977.

His harmonica work also appeared on the 1977 album Sweet Forgiveness by Bonnie Raitt. Not long after the release of his second album in 1979, Buffalo and his band were featured on the PBS music television program Austin City Limits. In 1981 he produced an album for the popular Northwest band Wheatfield. He was a member of the Mickey Hart band High Noon in the late 70s and early 80s with Merl Saunders, Mike Hinton, Jim McPhearson, Vicki Randle, and Bobby Vega, and played with Saunders on the Rainforest Band album It's in the Air in 1993.

Buffalo also appeared in and worked on several films. He did a cameo appearance in the rock movie, "The Rose" starring Bette Midler, where he was a member of the band (on harmonica and trombone) and spoke a line or two. He had another cameo in Michael Cimino's 1979 film Heaven's Gate starring Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Sam Waterston and Jeff Bridges. He also co-wrote the music for the films "Stacy's Knights" and "Eddie Macon's Run" with guitarist Mike Hinton.

In addition to his work on recordings and on stage with Steve Miller (for over 32 years), who spotlights Norton’s playing in his shows, Buffalo has also been highly sought after as a recording artist, having played on over 180 albums by artists as diverse as Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Loggins, The Doobie Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Johnny Cash, Kate Wolf, Commander Cody And His Lost Planet Airmen, David Grisman, Juice Newton, Laurie Lewis, Elvin Bishop and George Kahumoku Jr.. To date, Buffalo has been nominated for two Grammys and was part of the Doobie Brothers Grammy award winning LP "Minute By Minute". Norton is featured on Kenny Loggins new children's CD that was released in the Spring of 2009 and his work will appear on several albums to be released in 2010.

Around the Bay, he is well known as a stage partner to the incendiary slide guitarist Roy Rogers, whom he met in 1987. They cut a couple well-recieved CDs together. Their live performances never failed to astound audiences with the amazing energy and virtuosity of both players, with Norton shaking and jumping so much during his play that spare harmonicas would fly out from his pockets all over the stage.

He was a genuinely warm and humane performer who gave back to the community in several ways, including rehabilitation programs for prisoners at San Quentin and other facilities.

On September 2, 2009 Buffalo was diagnosed with stage 4 Adenocarcinoma of the lower right lobe of his lungs. The next day. he found out that it had spread to his brain. Norton retired to his home in Paradise,CA were he sought treatment at Feather River Hospital and where he passed away October 31, 2009 at the age of 57.


Partiers and dog-walkers are banned from the Strand for a while during cleanup of the oil spill that occured Friday as a tanker was taking on bunker fuel from a facility two miles south of the Bay Bridge.

Cleanup crews today will continue mopping up an oil tanker spill that killed an unknown number of birds and left tar balls on the shoreline at Crown Memorial Beach and Ballena Bay in Alameda, the U.S. Coast Guard reported Saturday.

About 400 to 800 gallons of oil spilled from the Panama-flagged Dubai Star during refueling operations. As a consequence the Alameda County shoreline between the Bay Bridge and the San Mateo Bridge was closed and taking of fish and game suspended.

The spill killed an unknown number of birds and left tar balls on the shoreline at Crown Memorial Beach and Ballena Bay on the Island. Oil trajectory models predicted that the spill also could reach shorelines at Bay Farm Island, Yerba Buena Island and Treasure Island.


Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney announced Sunday afternoon that the San Francisco- Oakland Bay Bridge will not reopen in time for the Monday morning commute, and urged Bay Area drivers to plan alternate routes.

"We want to let motorists know that unfortunately they need to plan that the Bay Bridge will not be in service for the morning commute," Ney said Sunday.

Caltrans crew members, material providers and inspectors have been working for nearly a week to repair a section where two rods and a crossbar fell onto the upper deck of the eastern span of the bridge Tuesday evening.

Ney said crews were still working on the repairs and that stress tests would be performed on the bridge later Sunday night.

Metal fatigue, apparently caused by high winds on the bridge, caused the steel crossbar and two steel rods that were part of the original repairs to fall onto the bridge last Tuesday evening.

The crossbeam and rods, about 5,000 pounds worth, crashed on the cantilever section of the bridge near Yerba Buena Island and damaged three vehicles, but no one was seriously hurt.

Please note that Caltrans offices are closed for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Fridays in the month by Executive Order of Der Governator Arnold.

BART has been running trains overnight for the past two days but will take their trains out of service tonight to inspect and prepare them for the Monday rush hour.

BART will not run overnight trains Sunday into Monday morning, but will extra trains with larger capacity through Monday. The agency needs to pull its trains out of service to inspect and prepare them for Monday rush hour, according to a BART spokesperson.


The SUNCAL ballot initiative suddenly got a serious pushback this week when Councilperson Frank Matarrese joined Mayor Beverly and other Councilpersons in opposing the Initiative while supporting the Plan itself. This defection means that a majority of City Hall stands against the Initiative, which has been controversial from the getgo to the extent that several hundred persons have requested their names be withdrawn from endorsement of the proposal. CP Frank has the same reservations others have in that the Initiative appears to be an end run around the normal process of negotiations between the developer and City Hall.

Virtually every aspect of the Initiative contains elements that go in favor of SunCal and against the favor of the City; it has, in fact, little to do with the Plan as originally presented and agreed upon between SUNCAL and City Hall.

It will be interesting to see if SUNCAL uses the election results, which most probably will result in the measure's defeat, to try to back out of any part or all of the development plan. They have been known to do just that in the past, as witnessed by the state of the Oak Knoll project over in Oaktown, which now sits derelict with decaying buildings.

It is a little unclear just why the Initative was presented, as the company stood to earn quite a lot of money from the Plan as originally written.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Because of the local Holiday, all the little messengers have been called in from their persistent attempts to contact the Mayor of Lake Wobegon regarding the pressing matter of Sister City Status. Some say the message has gotten through, some say the message has gotten through and is being evaluated, and some say the message has gotten through and been discarded as utter rubbish.

Still others say the message has been intercepted by officials of the Professional Organization of English Majors and is even now suffering the editorial fine-toothed comb, after which procedure the document shall return bleeding with red emendations and request for resubmittal.

Its all very distressing for the Editor and he is likely to lose his remaining grey hairs over the rumpus.

In other news, the Rulebook for the 2009 Poodleshoot and BBQ is now up. Yes, this is the time when leaves swirl about the ankles of Jane and Brad as they scamper through the woods in matching camo fatigues, their cheeks ruddy with the snapping, crisp Fall air, and exertion, and that powerful Desire that fills young girls at this time of year around here.


The little filly longs to wrap her fingers around the firm, smooth, hard stock and blow Fifi to smithereens with her brand new 32-20 Mossberg loaded with hollow-points. Ah, the pleasures of the autumn hunt!

Padraic will again be master of ceremonies -- as well as the keg -- and Dawn will fire up the barbie.

Speaking of Padraic, Dawn, and Barbies, our own dear Suzie has returned from her brief sojourn in Italy where things did not go well. Turns out Jorge was wanted by Interpol for his involvement with the Red Guard over there and when Suzie, attempting to defend her man, claimed that he was with her, an honest and mostly law-abiding American, they clapped her in jail along with him, albeit in seperate cells.

Seems being an American does no good anymore in other countries right about now, so it took Padraic flying over on the very very "red-eye" express and all manner of appeal to the Embassy and the Pope and Common Cause against terrorism to convince the Carabinieri that the pair were more trouble than they were worth.

Padraic got into a little dustup with the Swiss Guard when he kept trying to get in and talk to the Pope about it all, but that's all a complicated digression not to be bothering us right now. The Pope sure as hell didn't want to be bothered about it at all, thats for sure.

While in jail, Suzi kept teaching her cellmates Woody Guthrie songs, but it was when she taught them a certain Arlo Guthrie lyric (Arlo is a relative of Guthrie, if you didn't know that) which drove the warden and the guards near mad with its repetitions (meaning the lyric, not the relationship), they finally ejected her with irritation.

"You can get anything you want in Alice's Restaurant . . ."

So, they have never heard of anybody being ejected from jail for musical disturbance -- usually its the other way around here in America -- but they were ejected and told never to be seen or heard around Rome ever again and the Police put stamps in their passports saying all kinds of things in Roman and Latin and Italian meaning they was to be turned away at the border if they ever tried anything so foolish again.

They kept Jorge, as it seems the Argentinian consulate wanted to have nothing to do with him.

So with tears in their eyes they headed off to the airport under guard and boarded a plane that eventually took off and flew entirely without stopping all the way across the Atlantic Ocean until it got to America where stopped in New York City, meaning first it landed and then stopped, and there they boarded another plane that took them back home to California, which turns out is not such a bad place and it has better pizza, believe it or not, than Italy.

But we'll talk about all that and what happened in the cell and in the court and all about Jorge's red pants later on. Right now, things are hopping down at the Old Same Place Bar the day after Halloween which is also the last day of El Dias de Los Muertos. Right now, we need to talk up some of that good old Tradition.

Over in the Offices the Editor was pounding on the door of the Office Toilet with all the Staff there behind him and poor old Chad needing to pee real bad, but Denby remained securely locked on the other side refusing to come out.

"Denby! Come on out now! Be a man about it!"


"Fer chrissakes open the door. Ya sound like a bullock being dragged off to be made into something more edible. Open the door!"


"Denby, its Tradition. We all draw straws, every one of us. Every year, no exceptions."

"Not me. I'm opting out this year. Make Javier do it."

"He's done it already and he's not The One. You have to draw. We all do. Nobody has drawn the shortest one yet."

"Why me? I draw the short one every year!"

"Come on now. Buck up. Its Tradition. Think of the East Coast and so on. They are full of that Tradition all the time over there. Come out. Besides, Chad has to pee."

"Have him use the Editorial Office. You have one all to yourself."

"You know I can't allow that. That throne is for me and me alone. Come out now I order you!"


"Dennnnnbeeeeeeeee!", wailed the agonized Chad.

"Well, I guess I am just going to have to have a word with the Social Coordinator, a certain Ms. Sharon, and we just might have to put you on the Disco Rap DJ circuit for a while until you are again in her good graces . . . ".

"Ahhhhrrrrg! Not that!"

Suddenly the door burst open. Chad abruptly pushed forward, entered and slammed the door behind him.

"Right then. Thats a man. Okay now, bring up the cup."

Javier stepped forward with a pewter chalice which held what appeared to be several straws. All of them rather short looking.

Denby covered his eyes and drew. And held it up. It was compared. It was the shortest straw of course. And a great sigh of relief passed through the Staff of the Island-Life Offices.

Denby groaned with anguish.

Now, now Denby. This is Tradition. Go now. The Editor said.

And he slapped the man on his back and sent him out the door as at least one voice muttered, "Glad its not me this time."

It is Tradition. Every year about this time Denby draws the short straw and is given The Dream. The Dream goes like this:

From the offices he walked along the path that borders the Strand and came to a stone wall. He could not remember a stone wall being there, about two and a half feet high and extending for infinity in both directions, but this one seemed to have been there for eons, with scraggly weeds crowding up against lichened stones. There was no gate or path through but something called us from the dim otherside and so, hesitating a moment to leave the relatively well-lit path, he slogged through the sand before the wall and stepped over into a dark mist and a voice seemed to echo in the darkness, "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate!" and the words flamed inside the skull as if poured in molten steel.

Well thats a funk.

On the other side the ground sloped down as usual to the water for about thirty yards, but he could not see the far lights of Babylon's port facilities or the Coluseum. In fact, the water had the appearance of extending out beyond to Infinity. But all up and down the strand bonfires had been lit, as is customary among our people in this part of the world, and towards one of these he stumbled among drift and seawrack.

A small child wearing a nightdress ran past and disappeared as quickly as she had come, a Daughter of the Dust.

At the bonfire's edge a bright voice greeted us, "Denby! What are you doing here now? Is it your time at last?"
A spritely gal with a blonde poll appeared and reached out. But her hand went right through our arm, leaving a clammy, cold sensation.

"Oh!" She said. "You are not one of us quite yet! Well, come on and visit for a while."

The girl flit back to the firelight around which a number of forms sat or stood.

"Penny, its you," He said. "We miss you. . . ".

"Oh Denby, you were always so . . . lugubrious. Lighten up and don't be so dead!" came the response. And her laughter was a sparkle of diamonds in that dark night.

Sitting around that fire, we recognized many faces. And many more all up and down that beach.

Strange words in another language reverberated inside the skull: "si lunga tratta / di gente, ch'io non avrei mai creduto / che morte tanta n'avesse disfatta" echoing and echoing down long hallways of mirrors into eternity. None of this seemed to make any sense at all.

There beside the firelight, reclining upon an ottoman and dressed in a silk gown lay a familiar form capped with luxurious chestnut curls. A number of gentlemen stood and sat about her, some with cornicopia and platters laden with grapes, oranges and mangos and a cat lay at her feet. She jumped up and greeted him with delight.
"Lynn! Lynn you are here!"

"And there YOU are! Big as life!" Here a peal of girlish laughter erupted from her. "You should come join us for The Revels. We all dress up in medieval costume, just like in the old days of the Society of Creative Anachronisms. Might loosen you up a bit."

"Well, maybe later on," he said. "How have you been?"

"Oh I am fine! Its everyone else I am worried about. I am fully done and cared for already. Its you that has the problems. Really Denby, you just turned half a century now, I hear. Tell me this? What do you want to be when you grow up? I mean, if you could be anything at all."

This perplexed him a bit, but then Lynn had always perplexed him just such a way.

One of the little girls scampering through almost ran into him then, and stood there suddenly looking at him with big dark eyes which seemed to hold entire spinning galaxies before she ran off.

"Oh you think about it," she said. "Oh will you look at that! Just look! Aren't you something!" She was referring to the cat, which had crept under the ottoman to hide behind the overhanging fringe and bat at a horseshoe crab.
This caused Lynn to erupt into peals of laughter which she interrupted briefly to look over her shoulder at him and wink, saying, "Bye bye!" And she vanished.

A familiar voice called out from the ring of fire. It was Carol, a younger and slimmer woman than we remembered, with a head of golden curls we had only seen in a photograph. "Hello Denby. Still writing I see."

He told her she was looking well, and a girlish fit of laughter erupted. "At the very least we get to look our best here. Just because Mayakovsky does not mention eyelashes and lipstick doesn't mean an old girl can't fix her self up for the Revolution."

"You haven't changed a bit. You know that was quite a service with Jack holding forth like in the old days of the Beats. Must have packed every lefty poet in town in there . . .".

"Oh really. I didn't go. It didn't seem it would add much and I never was one to fish for compliments."

He asked here if she had any prescience for "The Revolution," and she responded that no one in this place had any more foresight than before. "You just need to pick your battles carefully and be smart about it," she said, simply. "I really don't think there will be a Revolution in America; the big Middle Class is all too comfortable with yielding up important things for the sake of an easy-chair, as you have seen the past few years. There still will always be The Struggle in various forms, and I see you taking part from time to time. Now I am out of all that and have enough to do meeting new and old friends. Say hello to David when you see him -- but don't tell him you saw me. The boy is sensitive."

A bulky form rose up from next to her and we were astonished to face once again someone we thought we would never meet again. This time, he greeted this ghost first. "David, you are here." This David, not Carole's David, had been the foremost among that rowdy group of uncontrolled bohemian artists called the "Babarians" after their meeting place Cafe Babar in the City.

David was, as usual, sardonic and terse in his response. Did you expect me somewhere else? Here he had found alternative companions and a few more besides. Tonight, he visited among the lesser known. As it turned out, he was gratified and surprised there were as few differences between him and Denby than first imagined.
"I always had thought in the beginning we were extraordinary, we Cafe Babarians, but when I met you doing the same scut work as I did to get by, I learned the differences are not so great and that was a painful lesson. As for you," he turned to look far out across the water. "You must suffer a great deal more to become as hard as we were. Unfortunately, there is yet hope for you." The form of David stepped back into the darkness and that of Michael appeared, floating at least six inches above the earth as he sat zazen.

"Michael, I am still trying to find the center of my ethnic identity . . .".

"No!" he responded more emphatically from his devout position, his fingers jabbing with insistent energy like spears, "I wanted you to find the center of yourself independent of history -- whether you are Jew or Sufi it does not matter! You are a soul spinning ecstatically through the universe and without a center you just become dizzy and fall down." Then he added, somewhat sardonically, "And I notice you tend to fall down frequently. Know yourself, then you can wear the beautiful Mask and write about it. Excuse me as I must now return to my conversation with Ghandi."

Another voice called to us. "Well, Denby, you were right when you told me to stop following everybody and to make my own stand. But I made my stand in a place not my own and stood up in the firefight, and so wound up here. And these people are not my people tonight. Most nights I sit with Patton and Eisenhower and Sherman. And many from The Other Side."

That voice belonged to Johnny, wearing the torn uniform of an Army officer. In the closing days of 1972 he shipped off to 'Nam, lying about his age, along with about thirty others, a futile Children's Crusade.

"Johnny, why did you do it? Why did you fudge the records and go in unofficial? When they found out, they struck your name from The Black Wall. You got declared noncombatant because you were underage. . .".

"That's not what it ever was about, Denby. About a million guys from the NVA never wound up on that Wall and never will and its my sentence to meet each one of them and spend unnumbered hours with them here. I have my own concerns now and my own resolutions. This here is my last stand and there is no other."

A couple jogging by paused in the moonlight beside the bonfire, a Black man and a white woman. "Well," said the man, "How surprised I am to find a Ghost down here." Eric stood there in a lean track-suit -- black, of course, with white stripes -- his beard neatly clipped, his 'Fro a reminder of some other decade. Beside him stood blonde-haired Julie, wearing a suit of dazzling white.

"Julie, Eric, you found each other. Eric, I though you were shot down in DC, and Julie, there was that window . . .".

"Oh, all that is old history," said Eric. "You should live for the now and pay more attention to what's around you. White men is the Devil, as Fanon said. No surprise when planes smack into buildings because of it. You give my Brother Tom a call when you get back; he could use some help right about now. As for me, this fine lady keeps me company these days."

"Let the memories push you forward, not hold you back. One headlight," said Julie.

"Gotta run. Take care of yourself, Denby." And the two were gone, running down the strand.

Another figure came jogging along, a trim man with a trim salt and pepper beard who paused in front of him.

"Well, Jack, how are you now."

"Ah Denby. Been a long time since I have seen you. Gained a little weight I see."

"A few minor injuries." Denby said.

Jack patted his stomach. "One of the benefits of waiting here. In this place. Get to keep just as trim as I always was. Hear you have been climbing mountains or some such thing."

"Something like it," Denby said. He looked to the water where there was a wharf he had not noticed ever being before. A skiff was approaching, poled by a figure who had eyes like wheels of fire. An animal or animal, looking like dogs seemed to be with him.

"Yes, after a while, we go one at a time to the City on the Other Side. I was a doctor, as you know, but that counts for little in the grand scheme of things here. Other things are . . . more important."

With that, Jack was gone.

A figure appeared with sticks rapping out a rhythm on drift logs. He had curly hair and a slim figure.

"I don't know you, " Denby said. And the figure paused his drumming. "My name is Michael. We never met. I ... crossed over ... in Thailand. You know my sister. And we have been living together, you and me, for some fifteen years now."

They faced one another, the ghost and the drummer. Ever since we first learned of Michael his habits and resume have filled our days for he was the brother of the Adored and so closest to everything that we hold dear. Not a day goes by when she does not say, "Michael did that." or "Michael said this about that." If ever there were one who remained in effect after the crossing, Michael was the man.

She had raised her brother in a solitary home after mother had died before her thirteenth birthday and father had gone nuts among the nuns in some distant House for the Mentally Indigent. The long loop of the years had roped in their consecutive lives into a kind of family existence with Xmas'es and Fourths and Thanksgivings spent among the rag tag of punk society that is for such that manage to survive under severe conditions while she fought her way through nursing school and he through rock bands and finally aviation in the doomed world of Reaganomics. He had a lot of questions to ask this Michael.

"You cannot stay here now. You must go back now for your term." Michael said. "In the meantime, take care of my sister -- and anyone's sister for that matter. Study clouds and wind patterns. Look at the sky as often as you can. Go now."

Brief flashes in the darkness. Little girls wearing nightdresses running barefoot between the groups, playing tag with bright eyes. Wind brought sea spray across the tidal mud flats.

"Who are these", he asked.

"They are the not yet and never was, said Penny, with a trace of rueful wistfulness not characteristic of her. "Of us and of others with you."

It took a moment to register. And then she said to come with her now. Time was finished and soon the change of the hours would come.

Penny took him back to the wall, which he would not have found otherwise, as sight seemed to have become blurred by some saltwater carried on the air.

"Oh, you'll be back before long," Penny said. "Try to enjoy your stay where you are at for now. Fling yourself into Life while you still have it; at this point I don't regret a thing except waiting far too long to take up skydiving." She paused at the wall and looked with big eyes, a half-smile on her face. "And practice your singing. You really need lots of practice." A wet something touched his cheek and she was gone.

And after he climbed over that low wall, everything back there receded into a mist and there was only the stretch of water out to Babylon and the lights of Bayview and Hunters Point and the ring of the Coluseum. One by one the distant bonfires winked out until there was only the long and lonely empty length of beach with the lights of the apartment houses behind him.

He walked back to the Offices where only the Editor sat there behind his desk, his eyeglasses perched on his nose and his remaining hair flying about in an aurole about his head.

Any idea when the Recession will be over? he asked Denby.

They didn't tell me, Denby said. No idea.

The Editor sighed. Rather bad this time, wasn't it?

Denby said nothing. The Editor reached back behind him and brought out a bottle of Glenfiddich with two glasses. "Probably doesn't matter. When the Recession ends and who knows about it. Would anyone really do anything different if they knew? Doubt it. The way things are going, we all are going to need more than a stiff drink to get through and a stiff one is all we got. Ice?"

As they sat there with their glasses filled with ice and Glenfiddich and as the watches of the night turned over to reluctantly start the next day, right on schedule, the long wail of the throughpassing train as it ploughed through the Jack London Waterfront ululated across the moonlight diamond-sparkled waves of the estuary, across the chopped waves of the Bay, across the humped hills of Babylon and through the high singing wires of the barren and traffic-less Bay Bridge, over the turretted antennae of San Bruno Mountain and the quiet plots of Colma where the dew formed out of the fog, falling softly through the universe upon all, upon all of the living and the dead.

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


OCTOBER 25, 2009


This week's photo comes courtesy of Javier's garden, and is seasonally adjusted for unemployment and inflation as well as the housing construction index.

Well, its appropriate for the Season anyway.

This healthy large fellow is about an inch across the body, and is not particularly venomous to people. He is of a variety called "wolf spider". His web stretched about two and a half feet to three feet between two daisy bushes.


We followed the senate battle for the Minnesotta Senatorial slot with some interest, having some ties up there in the Great White North and some appreciation for Franken's intelligence and common sense approach to things for some years prior to his bid for elected office. For a while after the disputed election was resolved Franken sort of slid beneath the surface as the freshman representative learned the ways and means of Capitol Hill, its forms and procedures and customs.

We are happy to see and hear that Minnesotta managed to come out on top with an excellent, principled and level-headed representative after the long dispute.

Recently, a matter of a woman seeking her day in court against her former employer Halliburton/KBR was brought to his attention. When Franken learned the facts of the case, in his own words he "was livid". This week the video is of Al Franken questioning the woman and the legal representative for KBR. Senate proceedings can be formalistic and tedious, so there are about four minutes before things really start hopping, so be patient. Its worth sitting through.


And Sen. Franken's final appeal to the chambers in which he summarizes the facts of the case for the Senate. The measure passed along strict party lines. Thirty GOP Senators voted against the amendment regarding seeking justice against crimes of rape. When the thirty Republicans lined up against an amendment that would have required defense contractors to allow their employees access to U.S. courts in cases of rape or sexual assault, Jon Stewart ripped them to pieces.

"I understand we're a divided country, some disagreements on health care. How is ANYONE against this?" he wondered.

The vote against the amendment has sparked outrage at the all-male, all-white bloc of thirty Republican senators. HuffPost readers have been particularly infuriated by the GOP opposition and have regularly posted the names of the offending thirty in the comment section of even unrelated stories. A mock website - -- has sprung up.



The Bay Area recently commemorated the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, sometimes called around here the "Five oh Five Quake" because of the time of day when the tremblor hit.

Here is a remembrance from one of our Staff.

There were two of us, me and my collegue, and we were finishing up the day in a tiny center office in Building 84, which was a six story brick building on the campus of San Francisco General Hospital. Our Department of Family and Community Medicine was a general practice facility attached to the Medical University. A psychiatric unit was housed on the same floor and its Director, Howard X had just left for the day to drive back over the Bay Bridge to his home in Oakland. We watched through the iron-barred window as several of the UCSF people we knew who worked in the main hospital building standing at the bus stop, boarded the trans-bay van on its last stop of the day.

About fifteen, twenty minutes passed as we began closing up the filing cabinets when a deep rumble approached, like the sound of a fast approaching airplane. The table and floor began vibrating and my collegue, a veteran of the 1972 LA Quake dove under the desk, while we looked in astonishment at the iron bars at the window which turned furry, so rapid was the vibration. Beyond, a great cloud of smoke billowed like armageddon up from what we learned later was the laundry facility, which had emergency valves that automatically released all steam pressure during earth movement.

My colleague stared up with big eyes from under the desk, saying, "What are you doing?!" We were transfixed by the sight of the furry iron bars and the immense billows of white clouds erupting from across the way.

After a long moment, the first shock was over and people spilled out of their offices to the central Nurse's Station, where the woman there had a radio and a portable TV going. A disaster had just happened and the trauma units for the Hospital were being mobilized. A portion of the Bay Bridge was down and a section or sections of freeway had collapsed, with hundreds of 911 calls pouring in - that much we knew already.

We offered assistance but were told to get out of there and respond if called, as we were non-medical personnel and would only get in the way until CP's got organized wherever needed. Because the elevator had stopped, we descended through the fire escape stairwell to the ground floor.

I took my colleague home with me as she lived in the East Bay and it was reported that BART and bridges were all down, or closed.

On the drive back to the central Mission District all of the streetlights and stoplights were out. All of the house and apartment lights were dark as it approached dusk. There was no electric light anywhere except that as we approached the Inner Mission District we could see knots of people gathered around those who owned battery-powered TV sets, the kind that run on 9-volts and have six-inch screens.

I parked the car and we wandered through the streets clogged with people. From the north we could see plumes of smoke we learned later were fires started in the Marina district.

From the stoop gatherings we learned that the Bay Bridge had dropped a span, killing a few people and that all other bridges had been closed pending safely checks. BART had halted all trains, and the trans-bay train had stopped under the Bay, so that the passengers had to debark in darkness far under the surface of the Bay to walk to Treasure Island.

My colleague and I assisted visitors who had become trapped in the suddenly isolated City. SFO had halted all flights in and out of the airport pending check of the runways. The 101 freeway in any case was impassable because support pylons had fired up through the asphalt as the ground surface had liquified during the largest earthquake since 1906. A frantic couple from New York wanted to leave immediately on the first plane out, but there were no planes. A brick retaining wall had crushed their rental car seconds after leaving it for a restaurant.

Because the telco system, both cell and landline had shut down with sporadic connectivity, long lines formed at those working pay phones which still could get a long distance call through. A system developed at those phones whereby the person at the head of the line held a list of all the names of the people behind him as well as telephone numbers to call. The first duty, after reassuring the direct party at the other end was to read off the list of names and numbers so that whoever it was, wherever they might be, they could call and notify the persons on the list from the area which still possessed telco coverage. Thousands of strangers became bound together by this simple resolution.

I walked around shutting off gas mains with a big pipe wrench, on request, to nearby apartment buildings, as the absentee landlords and management companies had no one present to secure the safety of the buildings. My colleague had to live with me for four days until the trans-bay ferry system could allow her to return home and feed her starving cat. Meanwhile we learned that Howard had escaped death when he had selected the first exist off of the Cypress freeway the instant he had felt the tremors and seen the freeway buckle in front of him. Later he said, he looked back over his shoulder and saw that the place where he had been only seconds before had turned from a double decker freeway into a single pancake of horror that shrieked with screams of people trapped in their cars beneath tons of concrete and fractured rebar.

People living in the blighted poor neighborhoods on either side of the collapsed freeway rushed out of their homes to try and save whomevever they could. They became the true heroes of the Bay Area during this time, as the wrecked freeway continued to crumble dangerously during rescue efforts.

The UCSF van never reached its destination. The Cypress dropped directly upon it, killing everyone inside.

In SF, the fires in the Marina were brought under control by a disciplined fire department, which possessed vastly better resources than that of 1906. Gradually, the Mission District returned to about as normal a condition as it ever had enjoyed.

SFGH handled the fortunately low number of casualties with ease. The City's preparation for just such an emergency paid off well.

The terrific enormity of the evils begun by the Reagan-Bush era quickly erased thought of this disaster as California struggled to cope with the punishment foisted by an angry and vindictive Administration, childishly piqued after having an entire state vote decisively three times in a row against the Reagan Revolution.

I had a brief affair with the colleague at SFGH, until that too, became erased, like all other minor and petty circumstances, by the events of History. Having conscientiously burned all the photographs, I wonder, what the heck became of Whatsername. All that is left behind after crushed concrete, broken automobiles, and ashes is a median strip park from Emeryville to 7th Street along Mandela Parkway. And ashes.


The person reported as missing last week has been found in Modesto and returned to his family.


Things are getting rough out there as we note a surge of burglury, theft and armed robbery types of crimes happening weeks earlier than usual. We generally see robbers taking advantage of the stockpiles of Xmas gifts during the Holiday Season, but now we are seeing theft-type crimes occuring far earlier. We have seen, in addition, a surge of interpersonal violent robbery crimes, including a home takeover robbery in the 2200 block of San Jose Avenue where a couple gangsters barged in on a friendly football game gathering with shotguns and pistols. Another person was robbed at knifepoint within a block of the Offices here. Yet another person returned home to find that their cat had been locked inside a glassed shower cubicle with the water turned on full and the drain stoppered.

Finally what appears to have been a "rumble" with baseball bats and knives took place on Pensacola Ave. last week. A knife-wielder was brought down with blows to the head and taken to Highland Trauma Center.

As no traffic ordinances were violated in this time, the perps of all incidents got clean away.

Anyone with information about these crimes is asked to call APD at 337-8340. Please include license plate and vehicle description if available.


The Days of the Dead, lasting a week and officially terminating with extraordinary displays November 1, are now upon us. Still, this is the Bay Area, which finds this time one splendid excuse to party to the max and "liven up" the front yard. The Island is no exception. Here are just a couple yard displays withing a few blocks of the Offices.

Here is a happy couple on Thau Way. Ladies, if you want to hook that Someone Special, this may be the way to do it.

Here is a spirited gathering.

Alas poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio; a man of infinite jest.

Some folks just like to hang around the trees.

At another household, one fellow issues a stern warning to the creepier members of our society.

The best installation was on Lincoln Street, where its clear, even the Dead know how to party.

A closer look at the canapes gives new meaning to the term "fingerfood".

Every good host knows to inform his neighbors what is going on, while inviting them all as well.

No matter how modest the man, imbibe a bit much of the spirits and soon, he is misbehaving while hanging from the rafters. Oh Uncle Harry . . . !

And every family has an Aunt who is sure to cut loose as well by sliding down the banisters . . .

Nice quiet places with lots of greenery are perfect for picnics.

At every party, someone's nephew is sure to spend the entire time sulking in the corner. Or UP in the corner as the case may be.

The party mood knows no limitations. Any time is a good time for a cheerful margarita.



It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the recent dockwallopers here the weather has segued into an unseasonably warm pattern of sunshine and higher than usual temps. The SoCal people visiting here love it to pieces, but those of us long-timers and lifers are wishing for some decently nasty weather to polish off the edges and make it all more like things oughta be.

One really needs a reason to complain so as to stay sane, and if all one has is religion and politics, then things can get down right nasty. One needs the weather to provide complaint and one only need to look to the LA basin as an example where the normalcy of human dissatisfaction has failed due to perpetually pleasant skies.

This is the season that breeds tiny monsters, if you have noticed. Parties have launched everywhere around here as the Bay Area Halloween season has begun along with the Mexican Dias de los Muertos. All the hoopla is geared towards a sort of orgasmic culmination this year on October 31, which happens to be conveniently placed on a Saturday this year, meaning there are far too many places to go and be seen than can be encompassed by any single individual.

Next week, the Island-Life offices will once again hold the traditional drawing of straws to see who shall be designated to cross over to "The Other Side from which bourne no traveller returns."

This is the time when all the folks who can do so decorate their lawns or their porches with such memento mori as suits the venue. Last Halloween Tommy and Toby held a party at their flat down by Otis with Marlene and Andre helping out. Marlene and Andre are the town punk rockers and they had come up from the West End to visit. Their skateboards were leaning against the wall. Susan and Lynnette had driven over from Park Avenue on their bicycles and Suzie came as well along with a number of others.

Lynette, who is Jewish, had managed to bring over a casserole in her saddlebags without spilling a drop. This casserole was stuffed with oysters, shrimp, crab and pork. Surprisingly, it really was quite good.

Besides the usual feral female cats, a couple pirates and assorted space aliens, the apartment overflowed with a Mr. Hanky (that was Chris Lindberg, who held a devotion to the South Park television show), the Almeida family dressed as a bag of marshmellows, the Island-life Editor come as a dead and rotting Ronald Reagan, several members of Congress dripping with blood and looking a bit vampirish, three Bin Ladens, and at least one premature Xmas present. Tommy, dressed as a hamster and Toby, dressed as an elderberry bush got into an argument that started over the spoiled flan on the stove. This sequed into a heated discussion about Toby's relatives, who did not approve of Tommy, nor their "lifestyle."

"That's where you get your finicky finicky finicky sort of attitude about toothpaste! You are just like Uncle Albert!"

"Oh you think you are so . . . so neat! Well you!"

Lynette, dressed as a chimney sweep sat there nursing an unaccustomed Manhattan on the comfy chair while a hamster in the kitchen shouted at a weeping berry bush.

In an evening which had begun acrimoniously, and which showed signs of descending into atavistic savagery, Claude, visiting from New Mexico, managed to intake quite a bit of punch which somehow got him into the mood to breakdance, but all he could do was spin around on his back on the floor. He had gotten into a tiff with Mr. Hanky, the Xmas Poo a little earlier over the nature of women and certain unpleasant memories had stirred up. The two had been married to the same woman, although at different times, and now the woman was with neither man. When an otherwise distinguished professor of physics in his sixties dressed as a cockroach begins spinning around on his back in the livingroom, weeping all the while it makes for an ugly sight and Shanti, wearing an appropriate Arkin Pest Control outfit began shouting at him.

This of course got our pair of punks in a dither, and so two zombies started shouting "eff you!" with ratcheting enthusiasm, but since they always said that to each other, few paid any attention.

The door was open and a girl, about eight or nine walked in. She was barefoot and wearing what looked like an old-fashioned nightgown with a Peter Pan collar. The time had just passed midnight.

The girl walked up to Lynette through the crowd and stood in front of the woman. This is what she said.

"Please tell them to stop. I can't rest. Please. It hurts."

Well, of course. Late hour. Neighbors and all. It was a wonder no one had called the cops.
Seeing this, Susan walked over to stand there and block any more cockroach gyrations and Claude came abruptly to a halt with his eyes staring wildly up at the ceiling. Susan told Shanti to be quiet while Lynette went into the kitchen to intervene between the hamster and the elderberry bush. An odd chill filled the room.

The little girl looked somehow familiar, with her dark hair tumbling down in sleepy curls. She stood there, not smiling, then turned and walked out of the door, down the steps and over the breakwater dune to the beach with the full moon lighting everthing up quite clearly. There, she kept on going out over the mudflats exposed by the low tide and vanished out on the Bay as Lynette and Marlene and Andre stood there in the doorway, watching.

"Effing A!" said Andre. Everyone else was as quiet as the grave.

Meanwhile, over at the Old Same Place, done up with spiderwebs and grinning jack o'lanterns and plastic spiders like all of the bars throughout the Bay Area, Padraic was taking a call from Europe while Dawn and all the regulars around the bar were wondering what the heck was going on.

"Sure miss that Suzie back there," Eugene said.

Suzie had left a few days ago to go to Italy with that Jorge she found, a member of the dance troupe of which Old Schmidt's nephew was a member. Old Schmidt had thought to hook up Suzie with his nephew from Germany, but as it turned out, his nephew had been as gay as blazes and so another member of the troupe had hooked up with Suzie by means of the tango, a notoriously erotic dance of significantly Hispanic origin. The end result can be described as "consequences of Love, or falling into such a similar situation."

Now Padraic was on the horn with Italy and by the look on his gob, things were not well, no not well at all.

Why on earth is the girl calling here at such expense? said Dawn. She should be gallivanting the light fantastic and admiring the frescos of Rome.

Padraic got off of the horn and then took down his hat. This is not something Padraic does often and it did not mean well. Next he opened the till and removed more than one thousand dollars in cash and then headed for the door. This was something that Padraic never did at all under any circumstances.

This also, did not mean well.

Are ye daft man, what the feck are ye doin'? said Dawn.

I am goin' ta bring the girl home, said Padraic.

The general expostulation can be summarized as "WTF!"

They -- meanin' she and that worthless son of a cute hoor -- have both been arrested as terrorists wanted by INTERPOL and so I am going to fetch her out and leave the cute as a drowned rat bastard named Jorge behind for I care not what comes of his damned hide! I fly this night to Rome.

With that, Padraic was gone.

A fair amount of consternation remained in the bar after that and it took a number of Fat Tires and double shots to wade through all of the explanation and expostulations.

Little could be gleaned from the scant information available, so all set down with calendars and notebooks to await what would arrive from the plane from Rome in one week hence.

Ghosts and transformations galloped throughout the land during this time. Strange revenants and disturbing monsters stalked beneath a crescent moon. This is the time of werewolf howls and bloody shrieks, of dismal reminders and disturbed graves. Things we have made in error rise up suddenly from slabs and speak through filthy swaddles in the night while creatures of the imagination fly out of the musty caves of the past to circle around us and hang beneath the dripping eaves. We call on our Wiccan friends to reign in this unleashed panoply, this obscene saraband of hopping, flopping, flailing, crawling, oozing, trumpeting, shrieking, wailing, galloping Lovecraftian terror with the strict lines of holy pentangle.

Across the dark and haunted waves of the estuary comes the ululating wail of the throughpassing train as it wends its way through the dark and shuttered ways of the Jack London Waterfront, bearing dank and dark mysterious cargo from the Port to places unknown.

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

OCTOBER 18, 2009


Don Dixon provided the melody and the words in 1985, but this week's headline photo is of newly born critter found traveling over the lawn towards the sweetpeas out behind the Offices.

The song begins

i saw a girl
she reminded me of you
she did the things that a girl like you might do
her body was green & she had two vicious jaws
she polished her mate as she kissed him with her claws
i'll survive
it was on tv
she had six strong legs & it frightened me
she had insect eyes
but i could still see that the look she gave him
you give to me

Guess he felt the gal was out of his league.


Our clever folks across the Pond, you know, the same folks that brought us both Monty Python and the execrably dumb Bennie Hill have put together a sharp documentary that captures the heart of the Age through which we have lived for the past twenty years, and which continues to this day. Yes, the BBC has on file "Stupidity: The Documentary". The first portion of the hour-long special is available here on Youtube.


To catch the rest of the surprisingly insightful and contemplative film, best go to GoogleVids at STUPIDITY.

Just don't try to repeat any of the stunts you see on film at home. Oh yeah, the films says a bunch of you are going to do that anyway.


Alameda police are seeking the public's assistance in locating a missing 29-year-old man who has schizophrenia and diabetes.

Dante Marshall, of Alameda, was last seen at his home Sept. 27 when he left to go to a flea market at Laney College. Police said it is not clear if he attended the event and he has not been seen since.

Marshall, who sometimes appears to have the mental capacity of a 12-year-old, is without medication, which he takes daily, police said.

He is accustomed to using public transportation and has a history of going missing. In other incidents, he has been located in San Francisco, Dublin, Petaluma, Modesto, Monterey and Reno, Nev. Police said he has recently inquired about traveling to San Jose and to Disneyland in Southern California.

Marshall is described as a black man, 5 feet 10 inches, 340 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt, blue hooded jacket, blue jeans and white and orange shoes. Marshall may tell people his name is Michael or Bobby Hill, police said.

Dante must take daily medication, but had none with him when he disappeared.

Law enforcement agencies throughout California and Nevada have been notified of his disappearance. Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts is asked to call Alameda police at (510) 337-8340.


The Island Sun reported that a large number of foreclosures are concealed from the official statistics due to the manner in which banks and lenders are handling the properties, largely by slowing the foreclosure notice procedure, reserving properties off the market, or posting absurdly high For Sale prices -- in effect, another form of market reservation. A large backlog of properties has accumulated as prospective sellers wait for the deal that brings in pre-housing slump returns of 4 to 5 times the original price. The Island has about 117 foreclosures listed by realty expert Bud Gorham of Cal Resources, while RealtyTrac shows record numbers of defaults in the pipeline not yet listed as foreclosed.

In a bright spot Sunday an interdenominational gathering at the First Congregational Church expressed strong support for the Island's LGBT families and individuals. The message, issued in conjunction with National Coming Out Day and overtly in response to the invasive recall attempt of three AUSD Board members who voted for an anti-bullying curriculum, was "Faith, Love and Acceptance." That's a message of which we think the Big J-man would approve.

The Recall effort is substantially funded by ultraconservative groups based in Texas.

Her Honor, Mayor Beverly, has joined with the Chamber of Commerce to issue a thumbs down to the developer initiative pushed by SunCal on the Base Project. The Mayor has realized that although the project plan is a good one, it is one that needs to be subject to the usual round of point by point negotiations on behalf of the city, not one that gets cast in unchangeable form in which all points work in favor of SunCal and not the Island. So we here have to give Mayor Bev a slap on the back for her timely realization that she and the Council have good heads on their shoulders, have the ability to negotiate well for the City, intend to do well for the Island, and those things are the things for which we elected them in the first place.


The gigs for NYE are being announced just now. Right up we have local boy, Les Claypool, sailing on seas of cheese into the Fillmore to fill the space under the purple chandeliers with bass-heavy noise and weirdness.

At the Great American Music Hall bluesman and Sacto native Jackie Greene does a two night stint into the new year, while the punk band, X, will roister over at Slims with the all-original stable of hands.

Closer to home we have folkie Brett Dennon taking over the Fox, accompanied by local bands ALO and Sambada.

Closer in time, we have the annual Bridge School Benefit hosted by Pegi and Neal Young for two days at the Shoreline 10/24-25. No Doubt, Jimmy Buffet, Adam Sandler, Sheryl Crow and Gavin Rossdale are the big lights along with others. Gavin is front man for the alt-rock band Bush, and also happens to be married to Gwen Stefani of No Doubt.

Scroll down for the complete schedule for different venues for October.


Last week saw a tropical typhoon ride in on the tails of a storm front, resulting in winds measured in some places at 98 mph pushing over six inches of rain in twenty-four hours. Whoah! Winds over the bridges and the Island measured a more moderate 65mph, resulting in hella foliage flying through the air. Monday should see some rain, but nothing like what we just experienced.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Things are drying out after the recent dockwalloper blew through with such vehemence last week. Old John's landlord, Curtis was seen over the Old Fence marching all around the property he owns with first a broom, then a blower, then a highpowered vacuum strapped to his back as he removed every offending particle of leaf and detritus which had invaded his pristine concrete yards while Old John looked on, drinking scotch and soda.

Hey, relax Curtis! he said.

"Ahhhh!" the landlord replied. A dour man who owns property in Northern California.

Those two qualities should no coexist, i.e., that of being dour and that of owning property in California, but they do. Its a mystery. If one is so priviledged to own property in California, that soul should exult, should jubilate, should jump up and down with glee each day in the morning for having what so few possess and so many desire.

By contrast over at Marlene and Andre's household, a modest one bedroom bungalow that is home to Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Jose, Pedro, who sleeps in the closet on a cot, Occasional Quentin who occasionally sleeps under the coffeetable, Rolf, Suan, Alexis, and Crackers, not forgetting Mancini,
Sarah, a statuesque R&B singer for the band called "In Memory of Sister Rosetta Tharp", Pahrump, plus the dogs Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash. In addition to any number of cats and hamsters and Snuffles Johnson, the bum who sleeps on the porch in bad weather, and under it in worse weather.

Marlene and Andre enjoy the bedroom to themselves; the others make shift and sleep in shifts.

This setup is necessary because of the usurious rents charged by Mr. Howitzer, realtor and landholder.

Nevertheless, it is a jolly crew which seeks to make light of the worst of circumstances, always ready with a quip and a laugh and a helping hand to those in need. Besides, they all have a healthy respect and admiration for each other, which is a good thing in a household of 17 people.

When Jose broke his leg during the Island-Life Flyover (see sidebar) it was Pahrump who got him treated at Native American Health, claiming Jose was his half-brother from the Reservation at Pyramid Lake. Of course neither Jose nor any soul in the house and for blocks around on the Island had a sou of medical insurance, so Jose would have been turned loose from the Highland Trauma Unit with no pain meds for as long as a broken leg lasted if Pahrump hadn't put in the word for him.

That's the medical system in America today: if you have insurance, you pay a couple thousand dollars of deductible and pay a bit more for copay, assuming they don't deny you outright, as nearly happened to Mr. Cribbage during his heart attack a few weeks ago. If you have no insurance, you suffer.

The Household has its own System, and that system involves either Pahrump or Suan who is on CMSP Indigent Care Status. Mancini used to help out with his Union-paid plan, but since he lost the job at the former NUMMI plant and could not afford the exhorbitant COBRA, it was left to Pahrump to take care of the guys and Suan take care of female problems. The way it works is this, faulty though it may be:

Suan listens to the persons ailments, goes into the County Clinic, details them verbatim to the doc there as if it were she herself, obtains the scrip for drugs, fetches the meds, and, with a minimum of bureaucracy, the really sick person gets well. Of course there are sometimes problems. She nearly got herself lined up for a colonoscopy one time when Maria had bowel problems, and, since she works as a stripper and not as a nurse or a doctor or anything like that, there remains the potential for faulty diagnosis as she fudges a few questions.

Oh you didn't have an infection; you're pregnant. Sorry about that. Glad its not a tumor . . .

But, given medicine as business and the insurance scam the way it is, this is the real way people get by. Certainly not the best way. Otherwise, they simply die. Like the Congressman said. The plan is, die quickly. No insult there at all; its the Truth.

Fortunately, the jolly household hangs together during the Great Recession of '09. For it has been said by none other than the Founding Fathers, "We better hang together or surely we will all hang seperately."

These are Californians. This is life in America the way it is. This is the year 2009. None of this is made up. Only the names and faces have been changed.

Over at the Old Same Place, nobody has any health insurance either, except for Eugene Gallipagus -- even now sucking down another gin sour at the bar -- but that is not the reason the place is in a tizzy. Eugene works as an Insurance Adjuster, so he is fully covered by Kaiser, save for the employee portion that everyone seems to be paying for now, plus copay (of course).

You found a guy! Dawn said to Suzie, in a merciful seque from boring insurance matters, as well as a tie-in from last week's entry. Not that nephew of Schmidt from Germany is it?

No, he's from Argentina, said Suzie. His name is Jorge.

Jorge is it. An' you'll be wantin' to run off to Argentina now, is it. I can see how it goes here. About to leave is he?

No. He wants me to come to Italy, Suzie said. He's of a dance troupe and that's where they are going to perform next. He says he'll show me the castles of Tuscany. I've never been to Italy or anywhere.

Castles of Tuscany, now! The mainland of Europe, now thats a fine thing! But this boy . . . this man. Can he provide? Proper like?

Well, he's an artist of course, and doesn't have a lot of money. But he has something. And something is something I never had anyway.

Well, said Dawn. What do you think of that? Our little bird thinking of flyin' the coop here. Leavin' our little Island!

Padraic had been silent through much of this exchange. Well, I must say I shall be sorry to see her go. She's a hard worker for sure and a pleasure to be company on the dull days. But for a chance to leave this shithole full o' flies and dung, well, if I were younger and in her shoes, I would go for it. Leave the Island with its narrow-minded so-and-sos and the talk. Always the talk, the damned talk. And the way things are, the economy and all, its all cute as a drowned whore in the canal. You know of course, you ever come back, you have a home here on this Island.

Ah me dear. You are like a daughter to me now after all this time, Dawn said. Do write us a bit about the big world out there.

Suzie heard the words in her mouth as she said she would, making it all suddenly decided. I have a right to happiness, I do, she said. Its a shot at it.

Right then, right on cue, as Suzie laid out the cards of the Tarot, the long wail of the through-passing train ululated across the water of the estuary from the dark and shuttered lanes of the Jack London Waterfront, headed from the Port to parts unknown, a mystery train full of potential promise and hope and new visions of the future.

She turned over the card of Fate and revealed by the lights of the bar was the most ominous card of all, causing Dawn to gasp, "Oh darlin'! Don't go!"

This story shall be continued next time. Meanwhile in the Old Same Place Bar sat one bartender pondering Life's Persistent Questions -- Suzie Maldonado.

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




OCTOBER 11, 2009


While shooting for this week's issue, Old Schmidt noticed a curious artifact captured hovering translucently over the modest middle-class houses on Lincoln Street.

Don't worry -- its just the view of the future under the Republican Health Plan.

Ah, Mephistopheles!


As most everyone knows by know scads of folks from the Vast Right Wing have flocked from their various foreign cities and towns to the Great State of Maine so as to overturn the laws on legalized marriage for all people regardless of gender or ethnicity. This outside influence is naturally something Maine citizens just love to pieces. We all remember fondly how welcome those intruders were who barged into Terry Schiavo's hospital room not long ago so as to thwart the will and intentions of her nearest family.

The group Stand Against Marriage Equality Maine put out the call for an actress to pretend to be a "working waitress type" for their television advertisement against equality in Maine. Here is a proposed "Yes on 1" TV ad starring an actor posing as just such a "working waitress type".


More information at IRREGULARTIMES is available for the inclined.


Okay now, back to serious business here. We note from the seagulls orbiting the Lucky's parking lot and the Blakean skies that a big dockwalloper is headed our way, due on Tuesday according to the prognosticators. Time to break out the impermeables and the London Fogs.

Speaking of gales and lashings, our AC Transit reporter notes that the recent proposed line changes have been "postponed" after the stormy public meetings at HQ. The official reason is that "Staff will suggest that the Board postpone any action until there is more clarity on at least two pending variables that could substantially impact the amount of funds available to the District.

The uncertainty centers around two potential funding sources:

a. Proposal to divert CMAQ (and potentially RM2) funds from the BRT project into the operating budget;

b. Implications of the recent State Supreme Court decision on CTA lawsuit that now prohibits the State from diverting funds designated for public transit."

The proposed reductions in service, Orwellianly titled The Service Adjustment Plan, were suggested due to the problems in funding. Now problems in funding are hitching the changes in the service.

Go figure.

On the upside, the Ardenwood Park and Ride lot expanded with space for another 300 cars last week.


Better slow down and follow the CVC to the letter for a while, as the normally highly rigorous Island Traffic enforcement is going to get much more severe for a while due to a nearly tragic incident that happened Monday near Haight Elementary School where a motorist struck a child, knocking her down.

Fortunately, the girl sustained only bruises after getting tagged by a Plymouth Voyager going 20 MPH. The girl was darting between double-parked cars at the time. The driver was not cited but the scare was enough to put Officer O'Madhauen fully on the alert.

Increased police patrols around school zones will ticket speeders, violations of pedestrian right-of-way, LA "shuffle stops" at stop signs, as well as other violations.

We note the usual seasonal increase in thefts of all kinds ramping up early, including a theft of some $650 worth of electronics from a boat stored at Stone's Boat Yard and one fellow who ordered a margarita and enchiladas at La Pinata, then asked the waiter if he was "in good shape" before zipping out the door without paying for his $20 meal.


Sean Colvin is starting on Monday a four night run at Yoshis West in Babylon, which ought to be an excellent venue to see and hear the local folkie on top of her new CD release.

Noise Pop and Another Planet are presenting the Treasure Island Music Festival this coming weekend. The jazzy group Brazilian Girls are opening Saturday, but Sunday sees the Flaming Lips, The Decembrists, Yo La Tengo, and Bob Montana among others.

Here on the warmer side of the Bay, we have the punkish Gogol Bordello at the Fox on the 15th, followed by Snow Patrol and a curious mix of leads taking a break from their usual bands, featuring Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis on the 17th.

In a noiser vein, Stone Temple Pilots arrive on the 20th.

Up in Berkeley, please note that the pint-sized portion of dynamite calling herself Ani DiFranco, will perform at the Zellerbach Friday the 16th.

DiFranco has expressed some desire to step away from performance, which we think is a shame as she is quite a dynamic and sophisticated performer who stands head and shoulders above the vast majority of singer/songwriters out there with a jazzy sophistication that ranks up there with the best of anything Joni Mitchell has done.

Litquake, tenth issue of the name, continues through the week. Monday features a low-cost poetry reading at Grace Cathedral as a benefit for Poetry Flash. Check for other events going on as part of this literary extravaganza.

By now everyone knows that the main Holiday here is not Xmas or that other thing with turkeys, but Halloween, for which the Bay Area typically gears up in a week-long party involving music, costumes and lots of misbehavior. As part of this, the Cow Palace in Babylon will hold the 30th Exotic Erotic Ball for two days running, 23rd and 24th. As the name suggests, costumes -- and clothing -- are optional, but naughty misbehavior shall be de rigeur. See EXOTICEROTICBALL.COM for information. About the same time, the largely unadvertised "Hooker's Ball" will hold forth with the real thing somewhere in SF.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the last gasp of Summer's heat, we have begun suddenly the change of the seasons with the nights hosting chills and high fogs dominating the skies during the day. All the tomatos have fallen from the withered vines and the exhuberant dahlias have collapsed after a riotous summer party into molding heaps with the occasional flameburst of color still shining through the murky tangle.

Now that the peas are long gone and the polebeans past all hope with yellowed, falling leaves hanging on brown and dessicated strands, the old fence now shows its battered boards to the dim sun and all along Santa Clara the oaks are figuring out they had better do something with all that foliage now turning golden.

This is the time of changes. Its the time when goodbyes and memories mingle in the foyer going in and out.

We hear that the first snow storm has blanketed the northern territories of Minnesotta, but here the changes are subtle, yet still requiring attention.

Tommy and Toby have reefed the sails of their sloop, The Lavendar Surprise, for the Season, while Pedro Almeida is gearing up the El Borracho Perdido for crabbing and other cold season fish, for the industrial fisherman knows not the pleasure of vacation during foul weather.

Over on Chestnut Street the usual suspects argue amongst themselves as to the real origins of the Irish Coffee.

Here on the Island, various families get into a gentle rivalry over the seasonal decor, with cobwebs, spiders, ghosts and ghouls featuring promenantly on otherwise staid porches and lawn fencing.

Gourds begin to appear and soon the familiar pungent scents of the season drift on the air: cardemom, clove, cinnemon, and nutmeg.

Mr. Howitzer emerges from his doorway, looks up at the oak tree there and raps his stick sharply upon the pavement. Upon which two leaves detatch and drift lazily downwards as per orders.

"Right!" Mr. Howitzer snaps and walks on with his dog, Eisenhower, trotting on his leash.

Over at Marlene and Andre's household the sleeping berths are once again crowding up as folks come in from the chill after spending the warm summer nights down on the beach or under trees at Crab Cove. Snuffles Johnson has moved from he normal summer spot at Jackson Park near the Dumb Friends memorial back to the porch. The guys found a sheet of plywood which now covers the hole made by Javier's fiftieth birthday celebration fiasco and have placed over that another sofa someone was throwing out after a foreclosure here.

The spate of foreclosures and evictions has resulted in a little boom for the house, which has re-equipped itself with a number of cast-off pots, chairs, mirrors, toilets, shelves, coffee pots. kitchenware and iron fantods of every description. One day Quentin showed up towing on a decrepit flexible flyer wagon a full-sized spinet, which lacked only about twenty keys to be fully serviceable.

It wound up serving well as a planter for squashes out back among the ironmongery of the yard.

Over at the Old Same Place, where Padraic steadfastly refuses to call an Irish Coffee by any such name, insisting that a true Irishman would never adulterate the honest flavor of the Water of Life with anything as base as java, things are in a tizzy. In lieu of the name found commonly throughout the Americas, Padraic pushes Gaelic Brew or Scotch Java.

Things are not in a tizzy due to beverages of any kind. No. Things are in an upset because of what happened when Suzie got enmeshed in a blind date with Schmidt's nephew, Konrad, who arrived from the Old Country for a visit with a travel group.

Konrad, contrary to expectations, was neither dull, nor as homely as Schmidt. He was not a dwarf, nor did he have a big red nose and he did not wear lederhosen, but stood blond and angular and muscular as any dream in Playgirl.

The travel group turned out to be a dance troupe, and Konrad turned out to be as flamboyantly gay as blazes, as he unfurled a purple feather boa on arrival.

"Now I am in foreign country America and I can finally be myself!" he shouted. "Lets go right now to AsiaSF!"

A couple tourists in the airport glanced curiously at him before hurrying on. This is going to be a very long weekend, Suzie thought to herself.

At AsiaSF, which is a sort of outrageous drag queen venue with neon-hued specialty drinks and a bartop runway for the lipsynching actors, Konrad really seemed to enjoy himself, at one point jumping up on the bartop himself and taking off his shirt with a guy impersonating Tina Turner.

After they got out of there following what felt like an eternity of time, Konrad turned to her in the car and said, "You are not exactly what was told me you are."

Um, likewise.

"Ja. I think so. Here you are in lumberjack shirt und jeans and sneakers. Und not even gay. Ja? Not even a little bit. Ja?"

Suzie had to admit that was the case.

"I sink we make some small changes. I haff goot time and you haff goot time. So iss besser."

The changes involved a small shopping spree at reasonably priced place South of Market, at the end of which, Suzie was dressed in a floor length red dress slit up to some place she did not want to imagine right then, and high heels.

He stood there stroking his chin looking at her in the shop. "Ja, die Unterhosen -- you don't need zem. If its good, you don't need zem und, if iss not, vell, you don't need zem. Zo! Lets go."

They met up with other members of the troupe at the Avalon Ballroom where a Latin group was playing and people were dancing on the floor with the usual flailing of limbs and ardency of NorCal.

"Here is Jorge of our group, ja? He is not German, but machs nix. You two, you and you, dance now." With that Konrad was gone, a butterfly off in search of other flowers.

Jorge took her right hand in his left and smoothly put his solid right arm around her, placing his hand in the small of her back. "This is tango," he said. "You know tango?"

Suzie inhaled a warm musky scent from the man. This most assuredly was a man. She shook her head.

"No matter. I am from Argentina. I will take control now."

Take control he did. Deftly, smoothly, as only a professional dancer can, he moved the two of them around the floor, teaching her little moves and things to do along the way. She felt herself moving into some place above the stars, a place outside of the limits of earth and the heavens.

By the end of the evening, Konrad was proved right -- she didn't need the underwear.

It was still the time of the full moon, the full harvest moon, just starting then to wane and its light spilled over the softly breathing forms and the chiascuro of blankets and dresser with knicknacks and tchotchkes. The long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the choppy waters of the estuary and the waving fields of weeds at Buena Vista flats just as it does each week under the full and the cresent and the eclipsed moon regardless.

And this ululation jarred Suzie awake from her dream at the bar, bringing her into the present time, as Dawn looked at her with a curious look, such as Dawn was wont to do.

"Girl what on earth has got into you?" Dawn said.

"Uh, I met a guy," said Suzie.

Thats when the tizzy in the bar began.

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

OCTOBER 4, 2009


This week's headline photo comes from an award-winning pic taken by our in-house staffer, Chad. Its of the Towata Flower shop that once sat on the corner of Santa Clara and Oak Streets. It closed this week after sixty years in business at that location.

Anna Towata, co-owner with her late husband, John, has decided to retire at age 92.

John Towata grew up on the Island, while she grew up in Sonoma. Both had a flower shop on Park Street prior to WWW II, but lost that when both were interned due to their Japanese ancestry.

Although the incarceration was unfair and hard, they both returned to the Island to become model citizens, volunteering with Meals on Wheels, Kiwanis, Elks, and the Island Hospital Auxiliary as well as operating their flowershop on the corner from 1945 onwards.

Island staffers are among the many who have frequented the business, and we fondly remember Anna Towata as being very helpful in assembling bouquets for "hometown honeys".


Thunder and lightning failed to strike and no more plagues occured than usual last week, even though the Center for Inquiry hosted hosted a most dreaded day to threaten Divine Wrath, International Blasphemy Day.

Well, ok, so Congress failed to enact that one, but still. All over the world atheists, skeptics, freethinkers and free-speech advocates marked Blasphemy Day by mounting their soapboxes—figuratively and literally—and uttering words and displaying images that may cause offense.

While it may sound as anachronistic as a witchcraft trial, blasphemy remains punishable by death in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, Ireland recently introduced a defamation law making blasphemy punishable by fines up to 25,000 euros ($37,000 US). What’s more, six U.S. states (Massachusetts, Michigan, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wyoming) have laws that, in some way, prohibit or regulate blasphemy, noted Ron Lindsay, a lawyer and president of the CFI International in Amherst, N.Y.

CFI also cites efforts by the United Nations to introduce anti-blasphemy resolutions that many say would curtail free speech about religion.

Sept. 30 was chosen for the inaugural Blasphemy Day because it is the anniversary of the 2005 publication of the controversial Muhammad cartoons in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. The cartoons resulted in worldwide riots by outraged Muslims and widespread self-censorship by media.

Part of the, um, celebration, features an art exhibit in Washington that will mark the first-ever International Blasphemy Day on Wednesday (Sept. 30) at the Center for Inquiry DC near Capitol Hill in the Nation's Capitol. The exhibit features the work of graphic artist Dana Ellyn, who says her “Blasphemy” paintings are a tongue-in-cheek expression of her lack of belief in God and religion.

Included here is a sample representation entitled "Jesus does his nails".

Besides the Washington art exhibit, Blasphemy Day events include:

-- a Blasphemy-Fest! at CFI Los Angeles that will feature a talk about free speech followed by three provocative films;

-- supporters worldwide have been encouraged to take up The Blasphemy Challenge ( by uploading their denials of faith to YouTube. A typical recording: “Hi, my name is Ray and I deny the Holy Spirit. (pause) No lightning. Maybe next time.”

-- a Speaker’s Corner, modeled after the famed soapbox in London’s Hyde Park, and a Blasphemy Challenge at CFI Toronto;

-- a blasphemy contest held by CFI International, in conjunction with its Campaign for Free Expression, in which participants are invited to submit phrases, poems, or statements that would be, or have been, considered blasphemous. Winners will receive T-shirts and mugs printed with their winning phrases.

There were, of course a few heated responses on the Internet, but otherwise the day appears to have gone off largely without notice by anybody.

One of the most poignant postings was placed by a Xian in response to extreme language from his own side.

"As a true believer, I pray for those of you making such harsh judgements of the artist (Dana Ellyn). She is a simple child of God. Please find it in your hearts to love instead of hate." Posted by ppea.


There is something so . . . so . . . evocative, so redolent, so pungently familiar about these Neo-Cons and their earnest desires to re-write history, establish concentration camps without oversite, abolish civil liberties, nix all dissent, and basically shout down any and all opposition of any kind that we just cannot leave it alone. Here, Adolf Hitler finds out about Palin's resignation from office as Governor of Alaska.



Some of you may have noted the recent interview between Katie Couric and Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wherein the wiley President held up a photograph of a certain woman in response (and ham-handed avoidance) of Couric's photo presentation of the woman murdered by paramilitaries during the recent post-election unrest there.

The woman killed for simply walking near a street protest became an icon for the pro-democracy movement in Iran and something of a poster child for the international community upset with things going on in Iran today.

In the US few, including Katie Couric knew who the second woman was, even though her image had also become something of a cause celebre around the world, as well as a pet focus of the Iranian President. To give Couric some credit, the leap from the one murdered woman to the other posed a rather strained relationship, and a clumsy effort to evade the question.

Nevertheless, she should have been better prepared to handle such a wiley and resourceful and intelligent figure as Ahmadinejad, who danced laughing rings around former "President" Bush with childish ease.

The end result was a failed opportunity to call Ahmadinejad to account for any number of things, including the murder of one woman. Couric is no slouch when it comes to journalism -- she is capable, informed and experienced. Her failure was a systemic failure that is borderline disastrous; we had be much better prepared to handle critters like Ahmadinejad in the future or we are all lost.

As virtually everybody noted during the expiring days of the Bush Administration, American journalism today has a number of problems and the past eight years have been years of failure to address those problems with really bad consequences.

Hamid Dabashi of CNN made a very important observation worth quoting here:

"The answer is in an endemic provincialism that still very much defines American journalism. There is often a fundamental analytic split between issues that have domestic importance, such as the conduct of the Iranian regime in handling the election protests, and those which Americans tend to view as purely foreign issues, such as the German courtroom killing.

Until we eliminate that split, in a shrunken world no longer divisible into domestic or foreign categories, we won’t see that world more clearly.

The enduring lesson for the professional journalist of the next generation is to not just be familiar with the internal affairs of a country whose head of state is being interviewed but also to have a comparative and trans-regional perspective to fend off diversionary tactics."

The woman in the foto presented by Ahmadinejad was Marwa Ali El-Sherbini, an Egyptian pharmacist and the mother of a young child. She was murdered during a hearing at a court of law in Dresden, Germany, by a man against whom she had testified after he insulted her for wearing an Islamic headscarf.

While tending to her child in a public park in Dresden, Germany, El-Sherbini was verbally assaulted by a man identified as "Alex W." Bystanders intervened with varying degrees of success until police arrived. Alex W. was charged with defamation and found guilty by the district court and fined. During the trial, Alex W. asserted that ‘people like her’ were not real humans and therefore cannot be insulted. The Public Prosecutor successfully appealed the verdict to achieve a higher conviction due to the openly xenophobic character of the incident.

The particular language employed by Alex W. was overtly Neo-nazi in flavor, and the current political climate in Germany is particularly directed towards zero tolerance of fascist ideology, if only because all such proponents of facism have turned to criminal activity as well as social unrest and violence.

During the appeal hearing Alex W. strode across the courtroom and attacked her with a knife with a 18 cm (7 in) long blade, which he had taken into the courtroom in his backpack. El-Sherbini received multiple stab wounds to the upper body and arm (at least 16). During the attack Alex W. was allegedly shouting ‘You don't deserve to live!’. While trying to protect his wife, El-Sherbini's husband Elwi Ali-Okaz was stabbed at least 16 times to the head, neck, upper body and arm. A police officer, who was in the court building testifying in an unrelated case was called to the scene to intervene, but mistook Elwi Ali-Okaz for the attacker and shot him in the lower leg. A criminal investigation against the police officer was ongoing as of 25 August 2009.

Marwa El-Sherbini died on the scene, succumbing to her injuries. Alex W. was arrested on the scene.

Elwi Ali-Okaz, critically wounded in the stabbing attack, was in a coma for two days. He subsequently received physical therapy for several weeks in a hospital near Dresden for the stabbing and shooting injuries.

The incident was reported pro forma in German press as a "backpage story", however an international furor soon developed, with much of the comment occuring in Egypt, the country of the victims' ethnicity. Much of the Middle-East also reported extensively on the issue and some news organs inflated the event as "typical of Western Islamophobia". Pakistan also reacted with numerous protests, none of which were reported here.

As for Iran, Iranian President Ahmadinejad blamed the German government for El-Sherbini's murder and called for international condemnation of Germany . In a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demanded firm action against Germany and stated that ‘there is a strong view that the crime was a pre-planned attempt engineered by the judicial system and security forces’.

So, even if Ahmadinejad's claims are farcical, Couric should have had the infrastructure of information supply to have provided this juicy information. One woman was killed by a systemitized police apparatus designed to suppress dissent. Another was killed by a fanatical racist idiot thug acting entirely on his own and taking advantage of an increasingly chaotic situation in which the existing apparatus was not set up to handle his kind of malevolence. This distinction was a supposed no-brainer for which we had not the brains to handle.


Bob Dylan is at the Greek this coming weekend. But he hardly needs any props from from the likes of us.

Ledisi is performing for free on the same day, however, for those of you living like 20% of the rest of California without a job, Ledisi is performing as part of Oaktown's "Concerts in the Redwoods" series, a program we wish we had known about sooner. Check out Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park on 3300 Joaquin Miller Road in Oakland. We have seen the venue and we can promise a gorgeous setting. Visit for more info.

Don't have much happening at the new Paramount, which is odd, given the excellence of the venue. The Fox is staying pretty hot with a drooling list of shows, which unfortunately are priced to the max for tix in these hard times.

October 15 Gogol Bordello
Apostle of Hustle

October 16 Snow Patrol & Plain White T's

October 17 Monsters of Folk- Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward, Mike Mogis

October 20 Stone Temple Pilots

October 22 Echo & The Bunnymen performing Ocean Rain with Orchestra &
She Wants Revenge

October 24 Mika & Gary Go

October 30 Regina Spektor & Jupiter One

That's it for Oaktown.

Complete list of shows at GAMH: Complete list of shows at SLIM'S:

-Boz Scaggs & the Blue Velvet Band -Datarock (Thurs. 10/1)
(Thurs. & Fri. 10/1 & 10/2) -KALX Presents: Asobi Seksu / Loney,
-Billy Bragg (Mon. & Tues. 10/5 & 10/ dear (Fri. 10/2)
6) -School of Seven Bells (Tues. 10/6)
-Toubab Krewe (Thurs. 10/8) -People Under the Stairs (Wed. 10/7)
-Ingrid Michaelson (Fri. 10/9) SOLD -KFJC Presents: Teenage Jesus & the
OUT! Jerks (Thurs. 10/8)
-The Tommy Castro Band & the -Polvo (Fri. 10/9)
Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue (Sat. -Satyricon (Sat. 10/10)
10/10) -Thursday (Sun. 10/11)
-Mono (Mon. 10/12) -Juliette Lewis (Tues. 10/13)
-KPIG Presents: the subdudes (Tues. -Say Anything (Thurs. 10/15)
10/13) -Wax Tailor (Fri. 10/16)
-Great Lake Swimmers (Wed. 10/14) -Brother Ali (Sat. 10/17)
-The David Bromberg Big Band (Thurs. -Adrian Belew (Sun. 10/18)
& Fri. 10/15 & 10/16) -Live 105 Presents: Owl City (Mon.
-Why? (Sat. 10/17) 10/19) SOLD OUT!
-La Roux (Sun. 10/18) -Ghostface Killah with special guests
-Jay Reatard (Mon. 10/19) Souls of Mischief (Tues. 10/20)
-Patrick Watson (Tues. 10/20) -Hyper Raje Records Presents: High
-Blind Pilot (Wed. 10/21) Like Five / David Baron (Thurs. 10/
-Helios Creed / Chrome (Fri. 10/23) 22)
-Sunset Rubdown (Mon. 10/26) -The Bouncing Souls (Fri. & Sat. 10/
-An Evening With Emilie Autumn (Tues. 23 & 10/24)
10/27) AGES 18+ -Rakim (Sun. 10/25)
-SF Jazz Presents: Cindy Blackman's -The Heavy (Tues. 10/27)
Another Lifetime (Wed. 10/28) -MC Chris (Wed. 10/28)
-Joshua Radin (Thurs. 10/29) -Melt Banana (Fri. 10/30)
-No Age (Fri. 10/30) -15th Anniversary Soapbox Party

As for the Fillmore, under the purple chandaliers we have the following:

Thu, 10/08/09 Foreigner
Fri, 10/09/09 Mutemath Fall 2009 Armistice Tour
Sat, 10/10/09 Tower of Power
Tue, 10/13/09 Sunny Day Real Estate
Sat, 10/17/09 The Jesus Lizard
Tue, 10/20/09 Brandi Carlile The Give Up The Ghost Traveling Show
Wed, 10/21/09 Brandi Carlile The Give Up The Ghost Traveling Show
Thu, 10/22/09 Matisyahu
Fri, 10/23/09 Train
Thu, 10/29/09 Rusted Root
Fri, 10/30/09 Lucha Vavoom
Sat, 10/31/09 (RED)NIGHTS Presents Built To Spill - a concert series that saves lives
Sun, 11/01/09 (RED)NIGHTS Presents Built To Spill

That's it for the City.


Various Island-Life staffers stumped on over to Babylon for the annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, eighth in lineage this time.

The HSBF began life as a sort of strictly bluegrass conference indoors in the classrooms of a local college in downtown Babylon as a reflection of the musical passion of its patron, a certain Warren Hellman, who is both financier and banjo enthusiast. It quickly grew sufficiently to warrent outdoor venues so Warren set up a stage in Speedway Meadows in Golden Gate Park and paid for all the park fees, the sanitation, the security and the costs of the musicians to attend. Of course you would not have any self-respecting bluegrass lover traipsing around linoleum and flourescent lights -- whats called for is grass between the toes and blue skies above.

Enough bluegrass lovers loved that sort of thing to flock to this festival in greater numbers, and so the stages morphed into three, then four, then five and now as of this year, six stages of music, with concessions, port-o-jons, sanitation, security, sophisticated amplification and sound mixing boards added to the stacks of amps and whatnot and Warren still paying for all of it just to have a party to host his friends for free in the park for about three days and Emmylou Harris winding up ending the festival purely by default each year, making her own tradition in the process. Of course the strictly bluegrass rule fell by the wayside, which is typical with rules among bluegrass folks and the stages began to host a more diverse selection of American music.

Along the way, the few dozen bluegrass students swelled into something like one hundred thousand folks coming into the park from all over the world just to take part in this event and our man Warren just as chipper as a chipmunk hopping on a log about all the music and goings on. He has actually performed on a stage or two but usually prefers to sit back and enjoy the sight of other's joy.

Some estimates put the weekend attendance at somewhere near 750,000 people, easily putting the HSBF well over the top as the largest outdoor festival of any kind in the United States.

So it was we trundled on over to catch the very first act for Saturday, Eliza Gilkyson. Eliza is SoCal born, but based now out of Austin, Texas. Recording serious music since 1969, "born under a bad sign" could have been her signature song as one signed label after another folded, along with a marriage or two before success arrived. Not until 2004's "Land of Milk and Honey" did she manage to forge together the earned and learned cynicism together with some critical recognition and serious airplay.

"Far across the world, a woman straps explosives to her chest / and walks into a shopping mall / a life devoid of sympathy or any tenderness / is hardly any life at all" she sings on that CD in Tender Mercies, a song about women trying to find some foundation of belief in an often chaotic and violent world.

The effects of the political climate over the past few years has given impetus to her work and we expect that the past few years of repression and severe authoritarian obnoxiousness will result in a burgeoning of a number of artist's careers. That is usually the way it goes.

Saturday she pulled out the stops during the most unenviable slot at any festival anywhere, numero uno and first in the day before noon on a side stage, and we can say that she performed admirably. She was tight, she was controlled and she was on the note at every moment with precision. She also persuaded a member of our team to go and buy two of her most recent CD's, a staffer who had no prior knowledge of her work. Now that is showmanship.


During the shift from one stage to another we encountered one of the festival's Curiosities, Der Silbermann, a fellow decked out in the outfit as seen here, complete with a voice projection system.

People of all kinds are welcome to the HSBF, even, um, "metalheads".


After this fellow, we found ourselves at the brand new Gold Tower Stage, which was owned and dominated by Buddy Miller in all of his Blues Glory. Buddy rocked, blasted, bluesed and sashayed before a packed crowd at the new "6th stage".

In addition to releasing several solo albums over the years, Miller has toured as lead guitarist/backing vocalist for Emmylou Harris's Spyboy band, Steve Earle on his El Corazon tour, Shawn Colvin, and Linda Ronstadt. He co-produced and performed on Jimmie Dale Gilmore's 2000 album Endless Night. He has also appeared on several albums by songwriter/singer Lucinda Williams. In recent times, he has performed with all of the usual HSBF suspects, including Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch, and David Rawlings. Shawn Colvin was a singer during the early years of his band.

After touring with Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Miller suffered a heart attack in Baltimore on 19 February 2009 following his performance as part of the MammoJam Music Festival and underwent triple bypass surgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, so it can be said that Miller is a true Blues survivor.

After a few hard rocking numbers spaced by some surprisingly good gospel blues, he welcomed none other than Robert Plant up on stage. Plant was buffed and healthy looking, clearly enjoying his moment on stage and we have to say that his vocals demonstrated far more diversity and range than ever we experienced during his screaming Led Zepplin days. While the period with Alison Krauss may have been an odd mismatch, we have to give the man credit for pursuing musical arts in new directions, something from which the new kids on the block could learn much. Robert clearly was enjoying himself as he swung the mike around by its cord, grinning like a kid getting away with swiping four Mars Bars from the 7/11.

Not content with a visit by one of Rock's star icons, Buddy welcomed Emmylou Harris up on the increasingly windy stage.

Due to various snafus and the increasingly packed crowd, which had to have smashed all record numbers for attendance by that point, we missed both Jorma Kaukonen and Boz Scaggs, both performing at the notoriously narrow and difficult to approach Rooster Stage. It may be said that for this stage, if you are not there with a posted space at eight o'clock in the morning and cannot climb trees, you simply will not see whomever performs there, due to the narrow defile of the area in front of the stage.

It was becoming so packed with humanity by the afternoon that we moved with Sister Bea back to our blanket spot in front of the Banjo Stage, earning several testy "F-You!s and A--hole B---! in the process just returning to our belongings.


Steve Martin, yes he of Roxanne and Pennies from Heaven and many, many standup comedy routines came on to play the banjo and perform with a rather good bluegrass group called the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Martin can do many things well -- he is a consummate entertainer. But what he does best is turn a phrase or line up a cutting rejoinder with intelligence, or abruptly turn the entire course of a play on its head with a few guestures and a certain intonation. He can also play the banjo quite well and can compose music for it that is enjoyable. But the main spot on the main stage on one of the most prestigious music festivals in the world? Welllll.... Perhaps genius has some limits.

He doe look good in a hat and a spotless sportcoat.



From the packed sea of human flesh that occupied the Banjo Stage area, we trundled to the further corners of the festival and were lucky to catch the Old 97s, the kind of act that really gives zest to the festival. The Old 97s are full-bore jumping up and down, energetic downstroke punk rockers and they performed entirely well.

The band almost was a casualty of the Music Biz in that their label, Elektra, was acquired by Time Warner and so the band on the cusp of success was subsequently dropped after a merger with AOL. As a result, you probably have never heard of them.

If that should not make you furious about corporate greed in music, nothing will. They definitely got a bum rap and have been fighting back ever since with hard hitting alt-country music that is getting edgier by the day.

They were joined during an energetic set by Exene Cervenko of the punk band known as X.



If you have not heard of Nick Lowe you have been stone deaf for about 40 years, no matter who you are. For that long he has been recording well-recieved albums from his base in England. Along with vocals, Lowe plays guitar, bass guitar, piano and harmonica. He is best known for his songs "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding" (a hit for Elvis Costello), "Cruel to Be Kind" (a U.S. Top 40 single), and "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass", as well as his production work with Costello.

Lowe produced Elvis Costello's first five albums, including My Aim Is True, This Year's Model, and Armed Forces. He also produced The Damned's first single, "New Rose", considered the first English punk single, as well as the group's debut album, Damned Damned Damned.

He and Dave Edmunds formed a duo group, calling themselves Rockpile, which unfortunately ran into classic label restriction problems that eventually put the kibosh on the project. Their best known song, attributed to Lowe, is probably "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll).

Rock critic Jim Farber has observed: "Lowe's recent albums, epitomized by the new At My Age, moved him out of the realms of ironic pop and animated rock and into the role of a worldly balladeer, specializing in grave vocals and graceful tunes. Lowe's four most recent solo albums mine the wealth of American roots music, drawing on vintage country, soul and R&B to create an elegant mix of his own."

Indeed Lowe has stated that he never wants "to become one of those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still does the same shtick they did when they were young, slim and beautiful," he said. "That's revolting and rather tragic."

Saturday it was the worldly balladeer we all heard, strumming an acoustic guitar entirely solo while caressing the vocals with his smooth and practiced soprano voice. Unfortunately for Lowe, the annual tradition of a major technical snafu at HSBF fell on his shoulders, and, as pursuant to tradition, the "Headmaster of Rock" smoothly shrugged off the problems with amp feedback and blowing grit on the Star Stage to prove this performer stands above the rest.

When the tech crew realized that Lowe's instrument was using a bad cable they orchestrated a balletic maneuver in which the cable was swapped out in mid-song as Lowe did "Oh Heart, don't do it to me."

When the cable popped out, Lowe simple raised his arms while singing the title refrain, and then returned to strumming once the new cable was inserted without a single hitch in his voice, earning some well-deserved applause.

Another high point was his gorgeous version of “What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?”


Gillian Welch is best known for her song I'll Fly Away" on the Grammy-winning soundtrack of the Coen Brothers hit film O Brother Where Art Thou. Welch also had a cameo in the film, as a woman in a record store trying to obtain a copy of the Soggy Bottom Boys' recording of "Man of Constant Sorrow".

It was in Boston, while attending the Berklee School of music she met and began dating David Rawlings, who would become her long-time musical partner. In 1992, they moved to Nashville and began building a career. Her 1996 album, Revival, was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album. She and Rawlings toured with Emmylou Harris, Patty Griffin, and Buddy Miller in 2004 as The Sweet Harmony Traveling Revue. The duo is fond of making surprise appearances at concerts throughout the American South.

Saturday, Welch performed with significantly greater pizazz than in the last HSBF, where she and Rawlings sounded overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of people. This time they both rose to and above the occasion as the wind continued to increase in strength, blowing back Gillian's summer dress and hair with borderline gale force. At one point, the performer stated, "I see they have taped down the microphone here. Heck, they should have taped ME down instead!"

Welch played guitar, banjo, and harmonica while belting out songs with energy that was nine times above what we had heard her do before while Rawlings threw himself into the playing with zest. As customary at HSBF, the duo were joined by other performers, including The Old Crow Medicine Show. Emmylou Harris made a surprise appearance with her and Rawlings to hold a lyrics sheet and sing a beautiful version of “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” (from the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack).

The highlight of the set had to be the duo singing The Band's "The Weight" with the Old Crow Medicine Show. We got a video of most of that but its too big to upload. If folks want to hear a track from that set they can go to Heather Browne's blog

As it had already been quite a long day from nine in the morning until six, and the ferocious wind was chilling our bones we decided to miss Steve Earle.

For the 2nd Day of the Fest (actually 3rd, as Lyle Lovett had performed in the park Friday evening at what people said was a pleasant "potluck") we decided to stick to one stage, the Arrow Stage. This meant that we would miss Mavis Staples, Neko Case and Allen Toussaint.

Island-Lifer Helen, however, later reported that New Orleans native Allen Toussaint tore up the Gold Tower Stage with a cracking good set.


We did catch a piece of the quirky Robyn Hitchcock at the Rooster Stage however. The English-born Hitchcock, while primarily a vocalist and guitarist, also plays harmonica, piano and bass guitar. Hitchcock's lyrics are an essential component of his work and tend to include surrealism, comedic songs, characterisations of English eccentrics and melancholy depictions of everyday life. His themes include what many psychologists view as the roots of modern neurosis - namely, death, sex and eating. (Recognising this theme, he released an EP in 2007 called "Sex, Food, Death and Tarantulas".)

Hitchcock cites Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett as a major influence, besides Bob Dylan and John Lennon. He has collaborated on song material with Nick Lowe, former Led Zeppelin bassist John Paul Jones, Peter Buck and Gillian Welch. In a filmed interview he stated, "At heart I'm a frightened angry person. That’s probably why my stuff isn’t totally insubstantial. I'm constantly, deep down inside, in a kind of rage."

He has also collaborated with director Jonathan Demme on several films, and appeared in Demme's remake of the Manchurian Candidate.

Personally, we thought he performed capable solid rock with his own signature twist. He is worth checking out again.


Over at the Arrow Stage, we managed to catch American R&B icon, Booker T with the Drive By Truckers, a quirky pairing that actually worked out far better than one would think.

But toward the end, Booker walked up to the microphone and talked about being in Monterey 40 years ago with his friend Otis Redding. He then lit into "Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay". The hush of the crowd gave way to a soft sing-along, and finished with tens of thousands of people whistling along. Words don’t do justice to a special moment like that.

The Southern Roots rock Drive By Truckers put in some very capable funk grooves, and it was clear every member of the man admired and idolized Booker T who has contributed songs to the American Canon that will last easily another 100 years.


The Houston-born Rodney Crowell is considered to be part of both the alternative country and the mainstream country music camps. He is a contemporary of Steve Earle and, like Earle, was also influenced by the songwriting greats Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt. Crowell played guitar and sang for three years in Emmylou Harris' "Hot Band".

He was married to Rosanna Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, from 1979 to 1992.

Saturday he played rockified Americana, which seems to be something of a increasingly larger genre these days. His songs tend to be more thoughtful about the state of America than your average Nashville tune, with one song based on his reading of the 4th century A.D. philosopher Epectitus. That one proved to delightfully danceable, as was most of his set.

While at moments his lyrics descend a bit into cultural masculine stereotypes of the truck-drivin' blue-collar man ("I don't eat no sushi") for the most part he trends to the intelligently poetic while retaining a firm sense of humor. In fact, critics have noted that his most recent Cd offering "Sex and Gasoline" is all about looking at the world from the woman's point of view. Or at least trying to, as in “The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design”, which begins, “If I could have just one wish / Maybe for an hour/ I’d want to be a woman / And feel that phantom power”.


There remained a bit of dancing room for Crowell, but all that vanished as several thousand people pushed into the meadow to see and hear the alt-rock Aimee Mann perform songs from her Grammy-nominated albums. As soon as she came out on stage, prepared for the gales that blasted the place yesterday in a black leather jacket, she looked out over the sea of faces and exclaimed, “Holy shit! There’re way more people here than I expected! This is awesome!”

We got this setlist from another blogger.

The Moth
Nightmare Girl
Build That Wall
Par for the Course
This is How It Goes
Wise Up
Save Me
You Could Make a Killing
Little Bombs
Thirty One Today

In vocal style she is reminiscent of Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. Musically, she is straight alternative with that odd dissonance that comes from deliberately mismatching lyric content to orchestration in a way that says in every note, "things are not okay." Rolling Stone has called her "the Raymond Carver of pop: author of precisely observed tales in which broken characters arrive at quiet epiphanies."

Much of her music has to do with deep disappointment, either with people or with living circumstances, that is looked at with a cynical twisted smile. She amused fans by announcing certain songs from her CD "come from Smilers." The actual title is "Fucking Smilers."

Fortunately for everybody, the weather held to a coolish sunshine with none of the wind blast experienced yesterday and a lot of folks there were smiling with no irony intended at a very good set performed by a largely overlooked alternative artist.


We didn't know what to expect from Todd Snider, as we knew nothing about him. That day, the boy from Beaverton, Oregon converted quite a few to solid fans with his wry stories, self-deprecating sense of humor and pretty solid musicianship.

He has been toying around in the top 100 charts since 1993, but the usual label problems have hindered him from full radio success.

Rolling Stone’s Christian Hoard said Snider’s “America’s Favorite Pastime” is definitely the best song written about the no-hitter pitched by Doc Ellis of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1970 while he was on acid.

Well, we don't know many songs about that one, but Snider definitely got a roar of approval when he sang that one from the Arrow Stage. This marks a return to the same stage on which he performed in 2006 to critical acclaim. reported "I think it would benefit you to know that Snider has an insane mixture of Mitch Hedgberg, Arlo Guthrie, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Prine, and the remaining percent is just…Todd Snider. He’s certainly one of the more entertaining guys I’ve seen perform in a long time."

We would have to agree. It says something that his statement from the stage, "I am known to sometimes go on at length in a ramble for 18 minutes at time . . .". is no threat. His barefoot aw-shucks just another "tree huggin’, peace lovin’, pot smokin’, barefootin’ folk-singin’ hippies like me" schtick may be a bit of a put on, but it sure is enjoyable and it works. Everybody loved him to pieces.


After two solid days of music and a chest cold coming on, we decided to forgo the Latin rock of Malo, headed up by Santana's brother as well as Little Feat, however Helen stayed on to report later that their version of the classic "Willin" was done with extraordinary delicacy. Since they were stacked on at the end, the band jammed a little past the official 8:00pm close time. Nobody there minded a bit.

Folks wanting to hear some samples can go go to hear MP3 selections. Most of these probably will not be up there long, so support the generous artists who come to play for free at this remarkable festival by buying their official music, their swag, and tickets to their shows.



SEPTEMBER 27, 2009


This week the headline photo comes from Island-Life photographer Old Schmidt who went up to the famous Richmond Rod and Gun Club to photo the occasion of a gentleman's surprise 70th birthday celebration.

Pictured here is a selection of Californians spanning three generations.

The star of the event is the distinguished-looking man dressed in a Hawaiian shirt backed by the gal with the flowing silver locks. To paraphrase the Poet, look on these faces ye Commons and exhult! All the root stock of a simple craftsman who specialized in honeycomb metallic structures. Which just happened to provide the shielding to the first Gemini spacecraft, among other things. Apparently the senior Mr. Stephanson (absent from the photo and now passed away) was a man who was granted and utilized respect without demanding it from other people. A trait sorely absent in today's world.

One could go on, but there they are, a slice of America itself, with yet more of the Melting Pot inside the building.

At one point during the celebration, the honoree stood up and gave the expected speech, in which he said, "When you die and go to heaven, at the gate you will be asked two questions, the first of which shall be, 'What kind of joy have you given to others?' I am so delighted to see here the evidence of so much joy . . ."

Indeed, when California is at its best, it distributes joy from a boundless cornicopia. Because that is how we are.

During the party, a group of folks of all ages were taking the three hour test to get a hunting licence, which in the State of California is no minor task. We noted that a couple folks were returning for re-test after flunking the first time around, so we offer a mite of advice for the rest of you. The bird that "looks like a chicken with a thick bill" is probably neither migratory nor an "upland game bird", for upland game birds are listed as follows:

# Wild Turkey
# Pheasant
# Quail
# Grouse
# Chukar
# Dove
# Band-Tailed Pigeon

No way any pigeon or dove looks like chicken. Ducks and geese are both classified as waterfowl. So there. That outta help ya.

Read Island-Life every week and you will learn things. Yes you will.


Seeing all these rabid raging numbskulls canting and complaining about this and that during the health care "debate" makes ya wanna hollar. Some of these fools were screaming like bulls about to become steers weeks before any details about any plan were presented, making most of us long for a bit of comic relief.

Here is some from comic Will Ferrell. It does help put things in perspective as well.

Protect Insurance Companies PSA from Will Ferrell



According to the AP 11 California hospitals were fined for code violations by The California Department of Public Health which assessed the penalties Thursday for failures in care, such as leaving sponges or other surgical tools inside patients.

What is amazing is that Highland Trauma Center, which only a few years ago faced serious issues regarding its accreditation with JCHAO, was NOT among the list of those fined.

In NorCal, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Berkeley, Alameda County got dinged, which is no surprise. The hospital failed to ensure the health and safety of a patient when the hospital did not follow its surgical policy and procedure. This resulted in a patient having to undergo a second surgery to remove a retained foreign object.

We followed the case of a woman who went through a corrective hystorectomy for prolapsed uterus and were horrified by the bad care, the lack of attention from the primary physician, and the miserable follow-up, which resulted in a necessary second surgery involving stapling the internal organs to the spinal column.

This is not exactly superlative care. In fact, the entire series of treatments seemed designed to feed the insurance companies before ejecting the patient like a pod into the stratosphere. We personally observed the staff yank a morphine drip abruptly from the patient's arms to send her out into the world without providing case summary, feedback, doctor's reassurance or any physician attendance at all, or any post operative instructions in the slightest. Only due to the patient's awareness was a post-op pain med prescribed. Otherwise the morphine drip would have worn off and intense pain resulted from the body cavity procedure with no amelioration.

Fined? Hell, the entire operation should have been shut down or reorganized by people who recognize that human beings are involved, not test rabbits in a lab gifted with money purses suitable for excisions. Who at least have Earth Firsters rooting for them.In the present excuse for a "system", human beings don't even have that.

AC Transit Board of Directors will hold the second of two public hearings concerning proposed service changes:

Wednesday, September 30, 6:00 p.m. -- 8:00 p.m.
California School for the Blind Theater
500 Walnut Avenue, Fremont

A lot of people are up in arms about service cutbacks just when folks are starting to lean more on the public transit system. Times are hard and the people really need to depend upon public transit, so this shrinking back of service is especially problematic. Go and make your voice heard. And for the duration, for god's sake, stop voting for stupid Republicans.

This transit thing refuses to go away. Last week, The City released its Traffic Impact Report for the Alameda Point project. According to the blog Stop, Drop and Roll, its a pretty good report -- except it promises nothing, offers nothing, and resolves nothing. In terms of resolutions, that is. Which is pretty much what you would have expected in that SunCal has indicated no resolutions of any kind for "traffic mitigations", promises nothing in that regard and really offers no assistance even if someone should come up with a plan. Its like, SunCal says it has this comprehensive development in mind , but gosh, has no idea what kind of effect this thing will have on anybody. And, furthermore, SunCal's ballot initiative excludes SunCal from any responsiblity for the traffic issues.

That is really the hardcore nut of the recent report: SunCal says somebody needs to come up with something. We have a general idea, but really that is not our purview and we will not pay for it.

Enuf said.

Not enuf said. SunCal delivered today the signatures to the County Clerk office regarding the ballot initiative. They needed 6,000 and they got 9,000 plus of which about 500 will be subtracted due to claims of misdirection by signature-takers. We looked briefly into the signature-taking groups and found they are pretty much a scummy group of freeloaders, rail-riders, hobos, and amoral scoundrels typical among those that thrive when times are difficult. Advice is to stay clear of them as much as possible.

Latest unemployment reports show that the Golden State is not among the worst of the worst among the Unemployed for our rate of 12.25 is only fourth in line behind leaders Michigan and Connecticut. Of course, our rate is somewhat understated in that another 10% have simply had their benefits expire while another five percent have simply stopped looking for work in this down economy, leading to a real figure of something like 20%, which puts the Golden State in the Great Depression League.

Indeed a brief survey of any shopping mall in the area reveals down figures and closed businesses.

Butte and Amador Counties both boast figures above 20% as based only on the still valid unemployment claims benefits.

On the positive front, a group called OMGGOPWTF is collecting humorous anecdotes about extremists in the GOP. Log on to OMGGOPWTF.ORG and take the test which presents likely and real statements made by frothing-mouthed extremists of the Radical Right Wing, asking visitors to vote on the most likely quote. Each accurate vote contributes a dime to a worthy cause.

The Berkeley Rep reports that both the Vibrator Play and Wishful Drinking, both premiered at the Rep, are now approaching Broadway productions on the heels of several recent celebratory debuts here which ended up on the Great White Way.

According to the marketing director at the Rep, "In the last four years, four shows have moved from Berkeley Rep to Broadway – including Bridge & Tunnel (2006) and Passing Strange (2008) – and the Theatre has helped send 12 shows to New York in the last 12 years. This list of hits also includes Danny Hoch’s Taking Over (2008), Ruhl’s Eurydice (2007), Tony Kushner and Maurice Sendak’s Brundibar (2006), Naomi Iizuka’s 36 Views (2002), Mary Zimmerman’s Metamorphoses (2001), Hoch’s Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop (1998), Anne Galjour’s Alligator Tales (1997), and Philip Kan Gotanda’s Ballad of Yachiyo (1997). In fact, Berkeley Rep’s devotion to creating new work has delivered 18 shows to Manhattan in the last 22 years – and the Theatre has upped the ante by promising to commission dozens of new plays by 2013."

It does seem that the Rep is recently in the past few years on a roll with killer scripts and exceptionally talented people, putting ACT and the entire Babylon establishment to shame by virtue of outstanding excellence. We would expect the coming season at the Rep to be the one to watch for innovation and excitement.


Litquake marks the 10th anniversary for the literary festival in Babylon, kicking off with a Black, White, and Read Book Ball October 9th. See for details.

Books Inc the West's oldest indie bookseller chain will have a Harvest Moon Sale of 30% off any hardcover book at any location. Sounds good to us.

1st Fridays returns here and elsewhere with a gala at Frank Bette Arts Center on Lincoln. This time around the festivities celebrate the writer in residence.

Also part of FBCA, an open mike for singer/songwriters will be available there on Saturday, 2-4pm.

Leonard Cohen will return for an unprecedented fourth and final visit at the HP Pavilion in San Jose in November. Tix have tended to waver in the three digit range so you better get yours now.

Dar Williams will drop in for an unusual visit for this normally Fillmore and Lilith Fair-based gal to Yoshi's East here on the Warmer Side of the Bay October 4th. This will be a rare appearance for the large venue-hosting, sweet-voiced folkie who started getting a bit edgier with the song "Empire of the Sun" a while ago. While we do not expect her to start doing the pogo in middle of performance, or start ripping into 184bpm downstrokes it should be interesting to hear and see what the years have wrought on the author of "The Babysitter is Here" in a small performance space. Yes, we do live in interesting times.


A cursory review of reported police activity on the Island during the week of 9/14 to 9/20 brought up the following stats:

13 petty thefts
7 burgluries
7 vandalism reports
7 stolen vehicles reported
6 ID thefts
3 grand thefts
3 battery arrests, 1 with grave bodily injury
2 brandishing deadly weapons
1 assault with a deadly weapon
1 home invasion robbery

So it was a low incidence week. This was not including relatively low levels of DUI, reckless driving, possession of narcotics, possession of stolen property and trespassing arrests.

We also had 2 dogbites and 1 electrocution of a public employee while painting a stoplight post.

Its the Island. What can we say.


Tony Award-winner John Gallagher, Jr. stars in the world premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot, staged by Tony-winning director Michael Mayer at Berkeley Rep. Photo courtesy of

Took in the premier of Green Day's "rock opera" based on its Grammy award-winning CD opus "American Idiot", which sold more than 12 million copies worldwide. It was clear that within hours, if not minutes, this premier got the lion's share of reviews from all the usual sources, even though the LA Times had sat on reviews for weeks as it observed rehearsal after rehearsal. We noted that Jim Harrington submitted his own offering within 45 minutes of the show on the 23rd. Nearly all of the reviews, both positive and negative seemed to miss the point of the work. All of the reviews were obtuse and confused. Some said it was horrible and dreck. Some said it was okay but flawed. Some said it was regrettable and best forgotten. Some said it was our local boy's in the spotlight, and yay yay yay for them.


Okay then. This is what Island-life saw and heard 09-23-09 at the Berkeley Rep. We saw a visual and audibly stunning presentation that garnered shouts of joy and three -- not less than three -- curtain calls with standing ovations from a very enthusiastic crowd.

The world premiere of Green Day’s American Idiot, staged by Tony-winning director Michael Mayer at Berkeley Rep.
Photo courtesy of

So Jim Harrington's dour opinion beside, we see that the audience clearly loved the production and the audiences are lining up at the door sufficiently around here to delay the anticipated Broadway rollout for this, so what is really the complaint about what is eminently a successful production?

We tend to pick on Harrington because in his typically sour and disapproving mode, he resembles a mohawked punk with a bad attitude more than the rest and so we tend to listen to his angry and vindictive diatribes.

Then again, American Idiot certainly garnered quite a few of those Grammy Thingies. So shouldn't we take a bit of that into account?

Anyrate, the Berkeley Rep production of Green Day's music must stand on its own. Tom Hulce, of the obnoxious Mozart fame, produced the thing and so brought in the best and the brightest of NYC's Broadway to perform, which may be the beginning of the end of the criticism here. Everytime we think of that asshole shouting "Give them what they want. They want Spectacle!" some of us here want to beat on the brat with a baseball bat.

Okay, calm down.

The production is chock full of the usual Broadway ensemble coordinated dancing and misty-eyed formulaic tear-jerking crap that so turned off Harrington for good reason. Its also got some astounding stage work and at least one show stopping aerial ballet that had a number of the audience gasping for breath. One thing about Hulce -- he was able to bring in the best and brightest performers and technicians from NYC working today. Just about everybody in the ensemble, dripping with talent, also has performed with star-billing bands, including Tony Vincent who puts in a scenery-smashing performance as the glam rocker/junk dealer St. Jimmy. Vincent fronted the band Queen for its performance before Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee.

Our job here at Island Life is to talk about what works and highlight the stuff that does good so people go see and hear stuff they would not otherwise see and hear. The primary goal of the "critic" is to shunt people aside from dreck and warn artists that self indulgence will not be tolerated.

There are ideas buried in AI, and on occasion they are overtly expressed. Really, the significance of the idea that we all spend our lives becoming who we are is rooted in the milieu that produced the work. These really are not typical middle class suburban kids, and none of the makers of the work or music come from that milieu. Neither Billy Joe nor any of the members of Green Day, and certainly not Tom Hulce, ever came from or lived in the mythical suburbia of America in American Idiot -- all of them grew up and lived in densely urban environments quite at odds with the suburbs, so there is no meeting place here.

The "Jesus of Suburbia" is a creative concept about an imagined world that somehow must exist if only because imagining the real world where one lives is far too painful. So of course, this imagined myth is destined to fail because it never was based on reality in the first place. Billy Joe would say that the myth fails because of deterministic functions that say we really cannot be anything other than what we already are. Revolution is a lie and nothing will ever change. He looks for something called "home" as the rescue point even though legions of the lost have no such reference point to return to. Its a shallow and arid solution not available to most who have seen the fire burn behind them. That's why the play does not really end with the "return home" but a reflection upon whatever happened to "whatshername". Everybody else is left permanently damaged.

The good thing about Green Day is that they accept and exhalt the rage that ensues from the necessary The good thing about Green Day is that they accept and exhalt the rage that ensues from the necessary frustration that ensues. The bad thing about Broadway is the way that it channels rage into silly choreography and "anthemic moments", Which turn out to be meaningless. Kind of what Green Day has been about, really. Or Rock 'n Roll. Silly stupid anthemic moments, which turn out to be all that we got in the end anyway, since its all f---ed up to begin with.

Among the critics, we noticed that the more traditional sorts turned up their noses, while the more edgy and world-experienced folks seemed to like the work more. Has a lot to do with the difference between people who have looked seriously at the cans of dog food in the aisle and the hamburger helper to decide which is going to be cheeper for dinner. When it comes to that kind of division, your social divide begins to really mean something. When it comes down to critics, it becomes a division between levels of experience. Either you have been there or you have not.

There are always those who just do not get it however. In a review published by the San Jose Mercury News, music critic Jim Harrington of the Oakland Tribune slammed the production by writing: "There will hopefully come a day when the stage adaptation of 'American Idiot' is seen as just a curious misstep in Green Day's otherwise highly enjoyable career." He went on to say that the "music sounds processed and stale, handled with kid gloves by way too many players and sung by more than a dozen actors that have rehearsed the original fire right out of the songs.

Avila of the SFBG said producing the 2 Grammy album as a made-for Broadway production was must have been something of a no-brainer. And sure enough, there are no brains in this show, just lots of songs and outfits and group dancing and mild thrashing and writhing around amid high-grade eye candy. It lasts 85 minutes, or an eternity, I'm not sure which came first."

There are a lot of assumptions regarding the way the world works that precede the listener well in advance of any interpretation, and it all relates to personal experience. The family is all fucked up. Several divorces are in the pipeline. All kinds of abuse are layered beneath the surface. The job situation is a laughing stock. Don't talk to me about politics; are you crazy? Take responsibility for my life? My life is wrappered in anomie and dreck and filth and that is just the starting point, dude.

Its true that the characters are not "fully fleshed out" and the storyline is thin, but the work does not present itself in any way as pretending to fourth-wall realism. Its an opera for chrissakes; you would no more expect character development from these iconic representations than you would from Thor in Wagner's Ring Cycle or any of the big-belted heroines in Verdi. Some things, like the medieval morality plays, do not demand Shavian nuance. Rock has never been anything nuanced, or ever tried to be. Two minutes thirty seconds at 186bpm and its on to the next emotion.

Tony Vincent as St. Jimmy. Photo by LA Times

We just say, look at how the audience reacts to learn whether something works or not. Clearly the audience loved the work with fist pumping enthusiasm. The active set (designed by Christine Jones) with its rafter-high skyscrapers, projections, TV screens and mutating lattices that change from fire-escapes to city busses was stunning. The songs are all excellent, the nine piece band performed energetically, backdropping the action. The choreography by Steven Hoggett was flawless.

The end is summarized quite simply by Gallagher's Johnny: "This is a portrait of my town and my life and my rage."

Harrington, who we may add did not like the wildly successful Arabian Nights by Mary Zimmerman, is a god damned f---d up punk at heart himself. Avila and he probably always sit together in dour expectation of tedium and failure. F--k both of you and god love you.

Who’s Who

Green Day, Music

lyrics by billie joe armstrong
book by billie joe armstrong and
michael mayer
Michael Mayer, Book / Director
Steven Hoggett, Choreographer
Tom Kitt, Orchestrations / Arrangements / Musical Supervision
Christine Jones, Scenic Design
Andrea Lauer, Costume Design
Kevin Adams, Lighting Design
Brian Ronan, Sound Design
Darrel Maloney, Video and Projection Design
Carmel Dean, Musical Director
James Harker, Stage Manager
Michael Suenkel, Assistant Stage Manager
Jim Carnahan, Casting
Carrie Gardner, Casting
Lorin Latarro, Associate Choreographer
Austin Regan, Assistant Director
Kara Harmon, Assistant Costume Designer / New York
Janice Lopez, Assistant Costume Designer
Stephanie Buchner, Assistant Lighting Designer
Barbara Samuels, Assistant Lighting Designer
Aaron Sporer, Assistant Lighting Designer
Mike Farfalla, Assistant Sound Designer
Austin Switser, Assistant Video and Projection Designer
Patricia Commer, Physical Therapist
Liz Caplan, Vocal Coach

Cast (in order of appearance)

John Gallagher, Jr., Johnny
Michael Esper, Will
Matt Caplan, Tunny
Mary Faber, Heather
Rebecca Naomi Jones, Whatsername
Tony Vincent, St. Jimmy
Christina Sajous, The Extraordinary Girl
Declan Bennett, Ensemble
Andrew Call, Ensemble
Gerard Canonico, Ensemble
Miguel Cervantes, Ensemble
Joshua Henry, Ensemble
Brian Charles Johnson, Ensemble
Chase Peacock, Ensemble
Theo Stockman, Ensemble
Ben Thompson, Ensemble
Alysha Umphress, Ensemble
Morgan Weed, Ensemble
Libby Winters, Ensemble
Lorin Latarro, Swing
Omar Lopez-Cepero, Swing


Carmel Dean, Conductor / Keyboard / Accordion
Trey Files, Drums / Percussion
Alec Berlin, Guitar 1
William Evankovich, Guitar 2
K. Joseph Shaughnessy, Bass
Kathy Marshall, Violin
Erin Benim, Viola
Rachel Turner Houk, Cello
Matt Hohensee, Associate Conductor
Michael Keller, Music Coordinator
Colleen Darnall, Music Copyist


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. As usual a savage heat spell has set in during the first days of Autumn, while other places enjoy a respite from the temperatures, we have been handling scortchers into the hundreds around here. The sunflowers are all wilting now, and the cosmos, once going great guns, are beginning to pull back. The polebeans and the tomatoes have all expired due to Seasonal Confusion Disorder although Beth has managed to encourage the old Hydrangea to flower anew.

Beth talks to the hydrangea you know, but we all pretend she is talking to the stray cat, which seems somehow more normal.
Now you just keep pushing out leaves and such and blooming. I know Javier is looking for the first opportunity to wack you back down to size but don't you have none of it.

And so on.

Javier thinks Beth is a wack job of a different order, and so he steadfastly waters the herbs and the beans, the carrots and the onions, but stays away from Beth's hydrangea and this drives Beth into a frenzy.

Will you PLEASE remember to water the Russian mint and the hydrangea!? she says.


In other parts of the country the leaves are turning and all sorts of changes are going on, but right here we are living in a kind of waiting room of the seasons. Sure we see the fog banks developing along the shores, and sure we notice the changes at night, but we hold off that inevitable change a little longer, hoping for a continuation of the Endless Summer, even though such a thing would be disastrous.

Relatives have been sending notes down to Jaqueline at the Salon about the changing leaves. Really you should come up and see it right now.

Yeah sure. Fly on up for meatloaf supper. And leaves. Think we shall stay here where its warm without the heater turned on, thanks.

It comes later and with more subtle renditions, but we do have our turning of the leaves here. The oaks all along Santa Clara Avenue turn golden and suddenly start letting loose blizzards for the streetsweepers and guys with those irritating leaf blowers to handle. Here and there the vine maples, quietly behaving themselves all year with demure dress suddenly put on brilliant scarlet arrays, taunting the bluehaired pines with saucy abandon. Devils in red dresses.

But all that is yet to come while we wilt under what some call "Indian Summer".

Night falls and brings cool temps and the fog. Heard Garrison is back in top form in his red tennies and his avuncular mein after a minor stroke. Don't go yet, Garrison; we'll want to keep you around on NPR for another thirty years or so.

Speaking of which we also heard KQED is having difficulty raising funds during this Recession/Depression time. The NPR member station is among those who depend for 85% of their funding on private donations made during those interminable pledge drives. Never would have heard former Bush administrator Wolfawitz state publicly "We never thought things would turn out so badly." if it were not for NPR's Fresh Air. Run, walk, drive (but just don't drive like my brother) to donate at any time at WWW.KQED.ORG.

Down at the Old Same Place bar Island-Life's in-house photographer, Schmidt is well into his cups. Seems the recent elections in Germany have put him in a bad mood and every once in a while he lets out an expostulation that, apparently, means things are not well.

"GottverdammteidiotischeundbescheuerteSayDayUUUUUpolitischeParteiderGangsters!" says Schmidt suddenly while Eugene Gallipagus looks at him with amazement.

"Mind repeating that?" says Eugene.

"Please do not," says Suzie from behind the bar.

Schmidt grumbles and stares into his mug of Fat Tire. "Noch een Kurze!" he says, and Suzie pulls down the bottle of schnapps. She does not understand German any more than Chinese, but she understands Schmidt, who clearly has the Blues big time. Germany has, like the US, been going through some rough economic times ever since the US President sexually assaulted the German Bundespresident, Merkel, in front of the TV cameras.

Merkel went to therapy and, being made of sturdy stock, eventually got over it. She was just glad Bush didn't show up unannounced at some graveyard to accidentally praise the Wappen SS or the Gestapo like some beaming idiot.

Suzie has the blues herself, but her problems come and go to Ireland. Dawn catches Suzie staring out the window, and says, "Will ye quit moonin' about that boy now. There's plenty a fish in the sea and better lookin' if you ask me."

"I haff mein Neffe, Konrad commingk next veek." said Schmidt. "You got together mit de group and visit ze Frisco, ja? Show zem ze Coit Turm, undt ze Fisherman's Wharf undt ze Mission burritos. Maybe see show in playhouse, rock concert, dancingk -- vateffer de Jungs do zeese days, Ja?"

Both Dawn and Padraic thought this was a capital idea.

"Does this Konrad look like you?" Suzie said unenthusiastically. Schmidt sat there with his balding pate, his rim of fly-away grey hair, equally gray hair sprouting from his ears, heavy spectacles sitting above a big nose and florid paunchy jowls perched above his squat frame that evoked the image of a barrel with arms and legs attached.

"Der Konrad ist mein Neffe! He is Family!" said Schmidt.

O I do not think this will go well, Suzie thinks.

"But, most important. No Tango!" Schmidt said suddenly. "Der Tango ist hochst gefaerliche Zeug."

Suzie just looked at him uncomprehending.

"I mean der Tango reminds him off a bad affair mit ein Spanische girl. Heart quite broken. So. No more Tango. Causes all kinds of trouble. Streng verboten der Tango. Zoh ist das."

"I don't think you need to worry." Suzie said, imagining a short, fat kid dressed in lederhosen showing up with a group of guys all chubby as spaeztle dumplings.

Right then, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the mysterious choppy water of the estuary as it wound its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront from the Port of Oaktown, heading for parts unknown.

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

"Wake Me Up When September Ends"

Summer has come and passed
the innocence can never last
wake me up when September ends

like my father's come to pass
seven years has gone so fast
wake me up when September ends

here comes the rain again
falling from the stars
drenched in my pain again
becoming who we are

as my memory rests
but never forgets what I lost
wake me up when September ends

summer has come and passed
the innocent can never last
wake me up when September ends

ring out the bells again
like we did when spring began
wake me up when September ends

here comes the rain again
falling from the stars
drenched in my pain again
becoming who we are

as my memory rests
but never forgets what I lost
wake me up when September ends

Summer has come and passed
The innocent can never last
wake me up when September ends

like my father's come to pass
twenty years has gone so fast
wake me up when September ends
wake me up when September ends
wake me up when September ends

(Lyrics by Billy Joe Armstrong)


SEPTEMBER 20, 2009


Each day the weatherman reports anticipated temps into the 80's, while the nights have sashayed into a jacket-required coolness. The geese that summer here have started forming chevrons in the air and there is talk about a wind coming down from the North. So we present here the last sunflowers of summer in these waning days.



This week we segue from serious, in-depth reporting and incisive commentary to indulge in good-natured foolishness and aw-shucks moments. Chad has found a video of a re-enactment of a 1960's study called "the marshmallow test". In the late 1960s, psychologist Walter Mischel performed a series of tests on preschoolers referred to as The Marshmallow Tests. Mischel would give a child a single marshmallow, then leave him or her alone in the room with it. Before he departed, he'd make each kid an offer: if they wanted to, they could eat it immediately -- but if they waited for him to return, they'd get two marshmallows. The tests were designed to examine willpower and the mental processes behind delayed gratification.

This may say something about the nature of scientists in this field more than it proves anything about human nature, however it is fun to watch the kids deal with this precious situation.


For the Fall event lineup we have the following early announcements. After Green Day's rock opera "American Idiot" opens at the Berkeley Rep to much anticipation and licking of lips among the critics, the major social and musical event of the Season returns courtesy of Neil and Peggy Young. The Bridge School Benefit Concerts return to Shoreline October 24-25, starring Neil Young, No Doubt, Chris Martin, Sheryl Crow and many more. This one tends to be a real highlight by way of its informality and genial collegiality as old Neil brings the entire ensemble on stage for a final collective jam on the last day.

Fogheads will know already well in advance for a significant event this Spring: Mark Knopfler will make a stop at the Paramount Theatre on April 13, 2010. Tickets go on sale at 10am this Friday, but Fogheads can get presale tickets from 10am-10pm Thursday 9/17. If you did not know, a Foghead is a registered listener to the radio station KFOG, 104.5 on the FM dial.

The Booking agent for the venerable Fillmore seems to have gone entirely schizo with a wildly varying bill that starts with hardcore punk rockers Revolting Cocks on 9/23. Swampy New Orleans-based Galactic follows up on 9/25 while Hope Sandoval brings the Blues into town the following night. Two days later Alice in Chains lays on the heavy metal on 9/28, followed by bluegrass sweetheart Gillian Welch. The Dark Star Orchestra brings some Grateful Dead for three consecutive days 10/2,3 & 4. Foreigner brings big hair, fog machines and serious synth pounding on the 8th. Tower of Power brings the horns to blow out the brass on the 10th and Brandi Carlile reminds all of us what it was to be young and snappy and still full of the blues way back when. Then, on a Thursday night, 10/22, Matisyahu brings some serious orthodox jewishness into the mix.

Local on the warmer side of the Bay, we see Bob Dylan coming to the Paramount. Are tickets still available? Doubt it.

Biggest event at the Paramount is the appearance of Noam Chomsky speaking on the Middle East as part of a benefit for the MIddle East Children's Alliance. That takes place October 3.

Around the corner at the Fox, we see that those adorable Mexican kids, Rodrigo y Gabriela are performing 9/23 in the middle of the week. Snow Patrol takes over on the 16th and the Stone Temple Pilots do the 20th. November looks like the real winner here, starting out with Robert Randolph and his lapsteel prowess, but that is another month away. Only to note that the Pixies and Widespread Panic will be taking six days in the early part of the month. Save your pennies.

Entirely free and worth noting, is Jack London Square's "Dancing under the Stars" which winds up with Rhumba and Cha Cha to the sounds of Salsa Caliente. Event starts with a dance demo followed by dance instruction and then open floor to live music at 8:30pm.

People should also note that the restaurants at Jack London are offering discount tickets online, so be sure to sign up where applicable for Scotts and Jacks Bistro.

KPFA sent us a schedule of events regarding their Fall Author's series, which kicks off September 24th with a conversation between ROBERT SCHEER and PETER RICHARDSON on Ramparts Magazine.

Recall the short (1962-1975) but utterly remarkable life of Ramparts magazine, which, originally founded as a Catholic literary quarterly, quickly became the premier leftist publication of its era. Deeply committed to the civil rights and antiwar movements, Ramparts’ list of contributors – Noam Chomsky, Cesar Chavez, Seymour Hersh, Angela Davis, and Tariq Ali, among others – forms a veritable who’s who of politics and journalism. It was in its pages that Che Guevara’s diaries and the prison diaries of Eldridge Cleaver first appeared, and it is where neo-con David Horowitz cut his teeth in journalism, before renouncing his left-wing political radicalism.

The list goes on: Ramparts published the first conspiracy theory about JFK’s assassination; it was the first to reveal that the CIA had backed the National Student Association during the Cold War and its article about the use of napalm on Vietnamese children (another first) caused Martin Luther King Jr. to speak out against the war for the first time. Although Ramparts folded in 1975, it left an important legacy. Former staffers Jann Wenner and Adam Hochschild founded Rolling Stone and Mother Jones respectively. The magazine’s combination of high audacity and solid reporting deeply influenced a generation of progressive writers and remains an inspiration for investigative journalists.

Author Peter Richardson situates Ramparts within its Bay Area context and assesses its impact on the national stage, while bringing to life the way in which Ramparts entertained readers, mirrored the New Left’s fascination with the media, and exemplified new possibilities for American journalists. Richardson, chair of the California Studies Association, teaches at SFSU and is the author of American Prophet: The Life and Work of Carey McWilliams.

Robert Scheer is the editor of and a contributing editor of The Nation. From 1964 to 1969, he was managing editor and editor-in-chief of Ramparts, after which he spent close to twenty years at the Los Angeles Times. His most recent book is The Pornography of Power.

TIME: 7:30 PM

LOCATION: Berkeley Arts & Letters and KPFA @ FCCB (enter from courtyard) in the sanctuary at 2345 Channing Way at Dana, Berkeley

$12 advance ($6 students with ID advance) at Brown Paper Tickets or 800-838-3006 /$15 door

After that tidbit, we note MAX BLUMENTHAL, author of Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement That Shattered the Party, will speak on September 29th at KPFA.

Award-winning journalist and documentary videographer Max Blumenthal has become one of the most important journalists writing about how the Religious Right fringe movement became the Republican Party mainstream. Whether it was his revelation of Sarah Palin’s involvement with a Kenyan pastor who boasted of epic battles with witches, or his exposé of the eccentric theocratic multimillionaire behind California’s Prop 8 anti-gay-marriage initiative, Blumenthal’s reporting goes almost instantly viral, shocks thousands, has been cited everywhere from MSNBC to the New York Times, and has landed him interviews on Fresh Air and The Rachel Maddow Show.

Republican Gomorrah -- Blumenthal’s remarkable, muckraking debut -- is an exposé of the dysfunction, scandal, and crime from the heart of the Religious Right, the fringe movement that has come to define the Republican Party. Blumenthal describes the people and the beliefs that establishment Republicans, like John McCain, have to kowtow to if they have any hope of running for president, and how moderates have been systematically purged from party ranks. He shows why the unqualified Sarah Palin was the party’s only logical choice and how her most fanatical supporters will be setting the strategy for the Republican assault on the Obama administration. Not only an exposé, Republican Gomorrah reveals that many of the movement’s leading figures are united by more than political campaigns; they are bound together by a shared sensibility rooted in private trauma. Their lives have been stained by crisis and scandal -- depression, mental illness, extra-marital affairs, struggles with homosexual urges, addiction to drugs and pornography, serial domestic abuse, and even murder. Inspired by the work of psychologist Erich Fromm, who analyzed how the fear of freedom propels anxiety-ridden people into authoritarian settings, Blumenthal explains in a compelling narrative how a culture of personal crisis has defined the radical right, transforming the character of the Republican Party for the next generation and setting the stage for the future of American politics.

Max Blumenthal is one of the most constantly cited young liberal journalists in America and is regularly featured on the Rachel Maddow Show, Democracy Now and the Countdown with Keith Olbermann. His articles and video documentaries have appeared in The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Huffington Post,, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. He is a correspondent for The Daily Beast, a research fellow for Media Matters for America and a Puffin Writing Fellow for the Nation Institute. Visit him at


Police blotter reports about two grand thefts a day last week, added to your basic burgluries of about three per day. Fair number of vandalism reports and one dog bite reported. On the upside seems a lot of stolen bicycles got "found" and the battery reports dropped to about two for all of last week. One irate fellow tried to ram the police car when the boys in blue tried to arrest him. This kind of thing does not add positive notes to your arrest file and so the man was booked and jailed for the time being. We are happy to note that more than a couple folks were pulled over and cited for yacking on the cell phone while driving.

A number of media outlets reported on the politicized aspects of the recent Webster Street Fair, nee Peanut Butter and Jam Festival, which included folks from the pro and anti Suncal ballot measure setting up tables as well as folks on the School Board recall initiative, both pro and anti showing up. No serious disputation was reported and the entire festival went off peacefully.

Insiders report that over 500 folks have yanked their signatures from the SunCal ballot initiative on the basis of misinformation supplied during the signature collection process.


There is a full moon scheduled for October 1, according to the folks at Jack London Square (actually, the real Harvest Full Moon is dated October 4) so they are having a moonlight sale event at the wharves complete with used and new items for sale, music and all sorts of wandering entertainment. Those of you still with jobs or some form of income should drop on by. They say that the East Bay will spearhead the Recovery. Whenever it starts.


Had the honor of dining this past week with Mrs. Tillman, founder of an Episcopalian church in the City which attempts to deal with the issues that cause Black and White to not get along. Mrs. Tillman was some 93 years old and as spritely as a dove on your windowsill.

It is not usual that Island-Life staff dine with church founders of any stripe, but the ways of the Lord are mysterious indeed.

The dinner was held at Oaktown's new Pican restaurant, a venue that looks to establish itself on the map as a Michelin 4 star destination. A glance at previous reviews indicates that the owners are doing something right and filling an important niche in Oaktown, which wants an upscale, uptown, neat your tie sort of place to help rectify its rightful place in the world.

The food portions are modern California style modest-sized, which means that a real full meal that fills the belly requires appetizer, entree plus additional side, and desert to get the sense of really having "eaten".

Most diners rave about the sea bass, which we tried, and we can say that the fish is excellently well prepared on its bed of crab-endowed grits, a combo which works out far better than it sounds.

No idea how that bass was marinated, but it could have used another half pound of flesh on the plate to satisfy our eater who tips the scales at 200 pounds. The asparagus salad was surprisingly good.

We noted that all main entrees looked about as slim as the "small plate" chicken livers ordered by a wise member of the party.

The duck entree looked savory and was pronounced so by the main guest of the evening, however, since the attendant greens looked "odd" to this 93 year old veteran from Louisiana, she shoved those aside. "They aint the way I made 'em in Louisiana," she said. Meaning, the greens had been sauteed and not boiled for three or four hours.

Another diner had the fried chicken, which we tried. For breaded and deep fried chicken it was tender and moist and all of the things one wants, but not something deserving of the price tag applied. We noted that the diner polished off the gouda mac 'n cheese, but left the majority of the chicken on the plate.

Since one aspect of the venue features a bourbon list of some 97 varieties, we tried out a limited edition of a rare local variety, which is served neat next to a glass of ice. Cannot go wrong with good bourbon and the sample we had was excellently smooth.

To summarize, we would say that one needs to bring a decently expansive credit card to the table at Pican's as well as a revised expectation regarding "Southern" cooking. Order a couple appetizers as well as an entree and several drinks and one is well into the $60 per person range, but then one is well fed.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A late hot spell has persisted late into the month after a rather cool summer putting the finish on the devastated tomatos but encouraging the basil and dahlias to keep right on moving. It all balances out in the end.

After some Official somewhere Important announced the end of the Recession was in sight, and any number of folks out there started bickering about verbiage and definitions of "Recession" and so on an argument started up over at Marlene and Andre's household which has seen nothing of any end to anything with a good god damn to all the bean counters and lets us just call this Hard Times with unemployment and poor cash flow. Some of those folks thought it was great the Golden State had stabilized unemployment at 11.9%. Now the latest report has us at 12.2%.

See, folks like us got no say in the things that matter, said Martini. We just got to roll with it and find the best place to weather the storm when it comes.

Sure enough, said Javier. But where you gonna go to get away in times like this?

Heck, don't tell me get on down to New Orleans. Don't tell me there you can be poor and happy. Look what happened to Raif and Simpson, said Alexis. They got told 'in New Orleans you can be happy being poor'.

What kind of idiot said that, said Tipitina, who should know. New Orleans in summer is like getting kicked in the balls with iron-tipped shoes. It never was no fun being poor in New Orleans.

Buncha Lowell kids from the City is all I heard, said Alexis. Now after Katrina we don't even know if them went down there is dead or alive. Fucked up misdirection I say. Fucked up con-job. Fuck em all next time, I say.

They were all silent for a time, remembering that destroyed city, once accounted among the great cities of the World and the jewel of America, now wrecked and forgotten along with its five million former inhabitants. Which included for a brief time Raif and Simpson. Among others. They remembered their lost friends. Friends who had drowned or been crushed during the terrible hurricane and its aftermath of government destruction and ignorance.

On a more positive note, Susan and Jim went to the newest production by the ACLO. This production happened to be of the broadway musical called "Hair". Also of note,their daughter Aphasia, happened to have a starring role therein.

The last time the couple had gone to the theatre was for Cal Shake's production of Midsummer Nights Dream, which Jim had pronounced "extreme" at the time on account of Puck being played by a woman wearing fleshcolored tights, as well as the Bard's notorious ribaldry. That was 1989.

So there the old couple sat watching their girl prance around with a bunch of kids who were not even gleams in their parent's eyes when the show first opened in 1969. They sang nevertheless with a great deal of zest about Sodomy and masturbation and then, there she was, with all the others, right out there in front on stage for the entire town to see -- stark staring naked wearing not much more than a great big smile while Susan sat in her seat with her back straight and her two hands on the handle of the purse in her lap while her husband sort of sank in opposition, slowly like a beachball with a small puncture in it in his seat.

People tend to think about California as some wild and crazy place where the people spend their time in hot tubs or galloping through the marijuana groves, however it should be noted that the American Conservative Baptist movement began here and it was not so long ago that no lady of means went out of the house without her hat and her pristine white gloves. Beyond the unruly coastline stretches 800 miles of heartland that pretty much resembles Oaklahoma in most of its ways and means. Jim and Susan were from that part of California.

When the show was over Jim and Susan looked at one another.

"I am going to talk to her." Susan announced.

"Good." Jim said shortly.

She stood up sharp and began moving toward the Green Room, still holding her purse with both hands in front of her like she was carrying a defensive weapon. Jim had sunk back into his seat.

There was a crowd backstage however, which paused her for a moment. All the twenty-somethings running back and forth with that sixties hippy hair and the multi-colored shirts. She could see the sharp angles of the greasepaint on their faces now that they were up close without the hot lighting gels shining on them. Everybody was tremendously excited -- the cast had gotten, save for Jim and Susan, two standing ovations.

What could these kids know about that time? It wasn't all lovey peace and happiness. The terrible things that went on. Johnny coming back from the war in a flag-draped caisson. Which his mother broke open one night in a terrible fury and then dragged over to the church in her stationwagon, shouting up front there in front of all the people, "See! See all of you! This is what your war has done!"

Death is always ugly, but violent death in the tropical jungle is hideous.

And all the lives ruined. Ruined by bad decisions based on drugs or politics or some outrageous thing. Kids quitting school to run off to communes and the like. And she herself, the little girl from modest Modesto, had wanted to be a dancer. But she had done the sensible thing and gotten married instead. If not for that she, too, could have been like this kids here . . .

A towseled towhead girl sprinted past her to leap up and wrap her legs around a boy, who fortunately was stocky enough to take the blow and hold her up. They laughed and laughed. Youth. As they are, so she was.

But then marriage and the first child lost. And the long time of grief and watching the hot dry fields baking under the California sun. Then the move to the Island so Jim could be closer to work and the one child that lived while all around them the world went through its own changes. Except for the Island, which kept at least the face of Old Times in its art deco tiled buildings, its neon signs.

Just then her daughter, wearing a blouse and floor-length paisley skirt saw her.

"Mom! Mom! Whats wrong? Why are you crying?"

"I . . .we . . . we are so PROUD of you." she said with tears pouring down her cheeks.

"O mom." she threw her arms around her in a young embrace.

Later she found Jim standing in front of a bronze plaque out front and he had the most curious expression on his face. The plaque was the commemoration of the boys who died fighting in Korea and Vietnam.

"Well?" he said, turning to face her, still with that odd expression.

"I told her that we were . . . are proud of her." she said.

He nodded curtly. "Good."

And they went out together into the night. As they walked quietly, not saying anything to each other, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the estuary from the Port of Oakland as the train clicker-clacked through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, headed toward parts unknown.

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


SEPTEMBER 13, 2009


The character known on the internet as "crasher squirrel" has been showing up in all sorts of interesting places -- detente summit meetings in Geneva, the Oval Office, mountain bike races, etc. All of which indicates that this squirrel is really an important feller who gets around to all the most important venues and events.

Well, we at Island-Life took another closer look at some old records, and lo! Turns out that this rodent has been really busy for quite a long time out vogueing Vogue while hanging with the hippest of the hip. Some 2,000 years in fact.

So for all you unbelievers out there, proof positive the Last Supper really did happen. The proof is in the squirrel. He also was at a speech in Medina about 800 years ago, but we couldn't print that for fear of being jihaded like Salman Rushdie and certain Danish newspapers.


Got a note from the Moveon folks about a song REM has come up with in support of universal health care, which this country badly needs as the current excuse for a "system" enters its death throes. Last check revealed that the insurance companies and special interests are approaching one billion dollars in total bribes and "gifts" to congress in an effort to block the needed reform. Any rate here is the music video to go along with the song.




Islander Mike Rettie has secured an enviable domain name for his website: and he is not letting that one go to waste. As reported here a few weeks ago, Mike found a box of old negatives while combing through an estate sale that happened to be for the former president of the Sierra Club. The box turned out to be a treasure trove of unpublished photographs of some astoundingly famous people, including Ansel Adams and Norman Clyde and Jules Eichorn, men who essentially climbed and named all of the major peaks and passes in the Sierra Nevada from the early 1900's through the 1950's. We'll keep a hyperlink active in the sidebar as Mike slowly and arduously restores these precious photos.


Island-Life trundled on over to the Fox for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs this past week. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are a New York City-based indie rock band. The band consists of lead singer Karen O, drummer Brian Chase, and guitarist Nick Zinner. In 2000 they formed a trio, and were later joined by second guitarist Imaad Wasif in 2006 for touring purposes. The band has recorded three studio albums; the first, Fever to Tell, was released in 2003. The second, Show Your Bones, was released in 2006 and was named the second best album of the year by NME. Their third studio album, It's Blitz!, was released on March 31, 2009.

The band was preceded by two warm-up acts, the first of which we missed and the second we wished we had. Yacht consists of two people and a canned band. This sort of thing seems to be getting popular as folks mess around with cheaper versions of ProTools and Guitar Hero to synth beats that can be replayed from a laptop without the sticky problems of band member personalities, the need to practice one's instruments, and how to divvy up the door take.

Yacht basically impelled one of us to walk out and down two vodka martinis at the bar.

Yacht is about as good as this sort of thing gets, but the reality is that one is watching a couple people prance around on stage in front of moderately interesting arty screen projections, which is only slightly more lively than watching a DJ spin mashups with strobe lighting. The term is "technoclash", a term we are told is not used any more. Well, maybe for a reason. The style is supposed to be tres hip. Well, even with physically attractive performers like Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans, this sort of thing tires quickly. When its bad, it really feels like a terrific waste of time and money. In the case of Yacht, one reviewer commented "the songs felt flat". Truth is, once you get over the momentary urge of wanted to schtupp the cute performer(s) there is little to hold the attention. At the end of the day, its all visuals and canned music. There is the added piece of the vocals, but the Fox works against anybody in that area with what appears to be truely atrocious accoustics.

That Evans sure is a sexy looker, but we'd like her more if she put her lips to a saxophone or her hands on a set of drums.

We've seen more than a couple shows now at the restored Fox, and we have to conclude that the bad sound is not due to an off night at the mixing board. Sonic mud has been pretty consistently erupting from the speakers there, with the end result of largely unintelligible lyrics no matter how good the band.

In the case of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, NYC's latest hottie trio plus one, muddy vocals mattered little to an adoring SRO crowd that knew all the lyrics by heart. The sold-out two-night run delivered in spades to a wildly cheering throng with stunning visuals as well as ear-crunching rock.

Karen O is also eminently schtuppable with her Cat Power bangs and her affable New Yawk wierdness, and she also has the moves to watch, but she also is gifted with a powerful voice and some lyrical talent for catchy pop riffs of the sort you want to take home with you. The group looks so impossibly young -- we could never have been like that -- but they are on a roll and it looks like this one has some serious legs. They already know how to vary the dynamics from screetching howl to soft ballad and deliver the material dramatically with Rolling Stones flair.

Instead of Imaad Wasif, there was a female keyboardist/bassist who remained largely unlit through the entire show. Her keys added a significant amount of depth to the music which other reviewers noted, but nobody seems to know her name. If anybody finds out, send a line.

We had a discussion about Karen O's vocal style, with one staffer saying they reminded her of Concrete Blonde, while another said it sounded more like a female Aerosmith fronted by Grace Slick. Whatever. YYY has their own distinctive post-punk sound that puts aside the lumberjack shirts for some serious glitz as these show photos indicate.

Maps is the song closest to a hit (it reached #14 in 2003), but the opener off of their newest album, "Runaway", may be the sleeper that rocks this excellent band into the heavy rotation arena.

Setlist from is as follows

Dull Life
Gold Lion
Heads Will Roll
Miles Away
Soft Shock
Cheated Hearts
Date With The Night
Y Control

At the end of "Zero" a cascade of sparkeling confetti snowed down on stage, covering up a triumphant band.

The song "Maps" prompted a mass sing-along, so we provide the lyrics to take with you for your next concert.

Pack up;
I’m straight;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say

Wait, they don’t love you like I love you; wait, they don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you.....

Lay off;
Don’t stray;
Well, my kind's,your kind;
I’ll stay the same!
Pack up;
Don’t stray;
Oh say, say, say;
Oh say, say, say!

Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …
(guitar solo)
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you;
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
And wait! They don’t love you like I love you!
Wait! They don’t love you like I love you …


Upcoming, we note Robert Zimmerman is coming to the Bay Area for a rare performance at the notable Greek theatre in Berkeley and so our Coordinator has secured tix already for October's appearance. Bob has been vilified and exhalted for his various phases, accused of self indulgence and put down for ruining all of folk rock, but one fact cannot be denied; Bob Dylan remains the premier poet and lyrical voice of at least three generations of Americans.

He is probably the best singer/songwriter/poet to have emerged from the Americas in the past four hundred years.

We do not award accolades lightly here at Island-Life and so we urge those of you still able to beg and borrow to make an effort to attend to this appearance, which may be near to the last of a true American Icon.

Its nice that one of the most wildly famous performers in the world is coming to perform on the warmer side of the Bay instead of the Fillmore or the Warfield.

Gee, maybe those jerks over there should have thought twice about evicting 3,000 musicians from that still vacant building south of Market. What you get when you put dollars ahead of Life and Culture . . .


There was no more peanut butter for the former Webster Street Peanut Butter and Jam Festival this year. Skippy was purchased by a Japanese food conglomerate which has little regard for Americana beyond its greenbacks, so the corporation yanked its support. The West End Business Association decided to have a party anyway, and so the event was held in defiance of glowering skies over this past weekend.

The usual suspects put up craft booths, including the inimitable Wanda Fudge, who we learned is quite a personality who once ran a clothing boutique in Beverly Hills that was frequented by everybody who had a chauffeur piloting their limo.

During our visit, the eastside stage hosted the local Capoeira group for a demo. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art practiced to music. Its freewheeling acrobatic style developed in the crowded favelas of Brazilian cities where the high flying kicks of Japanese and Korean styles are impractical.

The style is practiced in the states here largely as a means of healthy exercise.

Also present were several examples of what the brand new Rhythmix Gallery is doing. Here is a lady promoting an event to take place October 24th.

She was happy to display the proud grandparents of her baby. Such a lovely baby it is too.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A dockwalloper set in to drench the place during the Friday night repose, disturbed by thunder and lightning all through Saturday.

Heard the Mayor is back in Lake Wobegon after his vacation to Florida or Hawaii or wherever the fellow went, so we are gearing up our Messenger hamsters, our passenger pigeons, and our usual lines of miscommunication in our ongoing effort to secure Sister City status with that august burg.

We are really hoping to get this done before NPR goes broke, for as you all know the public radio station is hurting in these recessionary times for cash. So you readers out there could do well to secure your tax break by making a donation online at and keep the Man in red tennis shoes.

We always wanted to be just like Mr. Keillor. To grow old with a wildly successful long-running radio show, have a string of published books on the shelf, be surrounded and entertained by the great and talented, have fabulously gorgeous Scandanavian women hanging of one's arm, dispense avuncular knowledge with the wisdom of the ages to adoring fans, and go to work wearing red tennis shoes.

Instead, we just got old. That part we managed all right.

The ambulance pulled up to Mr. Blather's rental house the other day. Seems Mr. Blather fell down while pruning the hedges outside. His lips looked a little blue and his eyes rolled back in his head, which his tenants Muffy and Brad thought unusual. Somebody ran to call 911 and when the paramedics got out one of them asked if this was a matter of a heart attack.

That's when Brad said, "He's a realtor and a landlord. I didn't think he had a heart."

The paramedic didn't think that was funny.

The other fellow bent down over Mr. Blather and asked him the first question any primary care provider asks in the Northern California before anything else.

"Are you Kaiser?" he asked. His nameplate said "Alex".

"Ralph Blather", answered the man from the ground.

"I can't help you if you aren't Kaiser." said Alex who started to walk away.

"Hey! I've just had a heart attack!" shouted Mr. Blather. "I have insurance!"

"Well, if you aren't Kaiser, can you pay for transport? It's three hundred dollars." said the other paramedic helpfully. His name was Willy.

"Three hundred . . ."! It looked like Mr. Blather was about to have another heart attack. Sweat was busting off his forehead like a cartoon.

"Its that cheap because the hospital is only three blocks away. If I were you, I'd take the transport, else you also gotta pay for admission. And that can take a while with all the paperwork." said Alex. "Whaddya wanna do?"

"I'll pay! I'll pay! I'm fully covered! Just get me to the hospital!"

"He got a source of income?" Willy asked Brad and Muffy.

"Well, he owns this building."

"That don't mean nothing in California," Willy responded. "Plenty of good-for-nothings own property in this state now."

"You can say that again." Muffy said.

Mr. Blather waved a fistfull of C-notes in the air before falling back unconscious.

"All right. Cash it is", said Willy.

The two professionals then bundled Mr. Blather onto a gurney and rolled him into the back of the ambulance.

"This guy got any family or contacts around here?" Alex asked.

"Well I think he's been divorced about three times." Muffy said. "But I don't know if anybody cares about him. You can contact his office at Howitzer, Hanford, Blather and Cribbage in the City for more info."

Alex wrote all that down, asking Muffy to spell out the name of 'Cribbage' before getting in beside his partner. The ambulance sped off with its lights flashing.

That night Brad told this story over at the Old Same Place Bar.

Suzie wanted to know when the buisness was going to start offering health insurance benefits.

Padraic was incredulous. "You want benefits working as a bartender in a local? I can't afford that!"

As it turned out nobody in the bar had any health insurance at all except for Padraic and Dawn.

Brad asked how much the deductable was.

"About five thousand dollars. After that, they pay 80 percent. Which seems about average."

"Ever use it?"

"At $5,000 are you kidding?"

They all meditated on this for a while.

"Thank god we are not like the Canadians, the French, the Germans, the Italians, the Spanish, the Swiss or any of them Scandanavians", someone said.

"No", said Padraic. "We are like Malawi, Uganda, Somalia, Uzbekistan and Bangladesh. But at least we ain't one bit Socialist and haven't been at all since 1939."

They all had a drink then in the name of Free Market Enterprise, the fruits of which are liberally distributed in this time of bounding economy and thriving real estate.

Right then the long wail of the train passing through Jack London Waterfront came ululating across the water as it left the Port for destinations unknown.

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




This week's photo comes courtesy of Beth on the Island and is the product of inheriting a sad-looking bunch of sticks from a departing tenant. O see what Nature hath wrought. With a little help.


"The question is not how many conservatives does it take to screw in a light bulb, the question is how many does it take to screw up a light bulb?" -CC Emmett

Actually the thought of a conservative screwing anything brings on a kind of nausea. . . .


The main news, unless you are some dweeb who thinks the return of the exquisitely irrelevant musical "Wicked" to the main stage somewhere is important, remains the unnecessarily acrimonious debate over health care reform, which the Industry is fighting with far too much money.

Which should tell you how inefficient these bastards are. For example, it shouldn't take over six million dollars in "donations" to convince Jesse Helms to vote conservative, for example. See the story below on the Common Cause data.

In any case, there is no shortage of footage showing idiots acting pretty much like, well, idiots. Such as the "Teabaggers" shouting down a wheelchair bound woman for daring to ask a question during one "town hall" meeting.

Say, isn't "teabagging" a gay sexual act? Nevermind. They can call themselves what they want. We know what they really are.

Here is a teabagging protest (Ha, ha, ha! Teabagging!) filmed in all seriousness on the last day of August.


We promise to try to find something a little less obnoxious for next week.


We got a hold of a tasty jewel recently. Common Cause is an independent, nonpartisan group dedicated to tracking the money flow to and from Washington D.C. They have come out with a comprehensive report that details committed by committee, person by person, the exact dollars funneled into Congress in an effort to derail any sort of health care reform and the amount stood at a staggering $373 million (as of June 2009) with the amounts ramping up significantly, with a 73% increase in 2008 alone.

Common Cause spares no one and no party, with even handed reportage on both sides of the aisle to show how both Dems and GOP have gotten on their knees to suck at something better depicted in a Cronenberg film.

This year, with an average contribution rate of some $1.4 million per day to lobby Capitol Hill, the amount stands to top half a billion dollars by the end of the year to top over three billion dollars spent on lobbying efforts since the year 2000 when Secretary Clinton, then Senator, first proposed significant reform.

The amounts are so staggering as to defy belief, but all figures are public and fully documented. Figures quoted here are from the Executive Summary.

These amounts are so huge they wander into the areas of partially resolving the National Debt and fixing any number of social problems were the dollars better applied.

It is inconceivable that anyone accepting well over five million dollars a year from a single group will act impartially in this matter, which is all the more concern that we focus a sharp light in this area.

Readers can snag the PDF version of the report from A copy is kept here on file and available by request.


Island police are checking whether a man who robbed a bank last week may have carried out other East Bay bank robberies.

No one was hurt during the Aug. 27 robbery of Citibank on Webster Street, where the man passed a note to a teller demanding cash.

Surveillance photos from recent robberies in other cities show a man with a similar description as the suspect in Alameda, police detective Rod Rummel said Tuesday.

Among the robberies are several that have taken place in Berkeley over the past five months, as well as a July 31 robbery of Commerica Bank on East 14th Street in San Leandro.

But because no traffic laws were violated, the perp got clean away.

Island police ask anyone with information to call 510-337-8340.


Islanders may console themselves as regards the rather accentuated emphasis upon traffic enforcement here over things like common sense and catching criminals when they here of the Jericho, Arkansas case in which a man protesting two court-mandated traffic tickets within a 12 hour period was shot by the officer in court as a sort of warning to all to obey the speed limit signs.

Wait a minute, the guy was shot? In Court?! By a traffic cop?! Yes, and the man shot happened to be the Chief of the Fire Department.

Hoo boy. Talk about FUBAR.

Seems Fire Chief Don Payne reacted heatedly in court at having to return for yet another session there after unsuccessfully contesting a ticket earlier in the day.

Heated response is one thing, but shooting a man is another and the consequences shall fall heavily upon a department that had garnered significant local hatred for its excessive and idiosyncratic enforcement of traffic laws in a town barely three blocks long.

Now the police chief has disbanded his force "until things calm down," a judge has voided all outstanding police-issued citations and sheriff's deputies are asking where all the money from the tickets went. With 174 residents, the city can keep seven police officers on its rolls but missed payments on police and fire department vehicles and saw its last business close its doors a few weeks ago.

"You can't even buy a loaf of bread, but we've got seven police officers," said former resident Larry Harris, who left town because he said the police harassment became unbearable.

Sheriff's deputies patrolled Jericho until the 1990s, when the city received grant money to start its own police force, Martin said.

"When I first moved out here, they wrote me a ticket for going 58 mph in my driveway," 75-year-old retiree Albert Beebe said.

The frequent ticketing apparently led to the vandalization of the cruisers, and the department took to parking the cars overnight at the sheriff's department eight miles away.

It was anger over traffic tickets that brought Payne to city hall last week, said his lawyer, Randy Fishman. After Payne failed to get a traffic ticket dismissed on Aug. 27, police gave Payne or his son another ticket that day. Payne, 39, returned to court to vent his anger to Judge Tonya Alexander, Fishman said.

It's unclear exactly what happened next, but Martin said an argument between Payne and the seven police officers who attended the hearing apparently escalated to a scuffle, ending when an officer shot Payne from behind.

Doctors in Memphis, Tenn., removed a .40-caliber bullet from Payne's hip bone, Martin said. Another officer suffered a grazing wound to his finger from the bullet.

Alexander, the judge, has voided all the tickets written by the department both inside the city and others written outside of its jurisdiction - citations that the department apparently had no power to write. Alexander, who works as a lawyer in West Memphis, resigned as Jericho's judge in the aftermath of the shooting, Fairley said. She did not return calls for comment.

Meanwhile, sheriff's deputies want to know where the money from the traffic fines went. Martin said that it appeared the $150 tickets weren't enough to protect the city's finances. Sheriff's deputies once had to repossess one of the town's police cruisers for failure to pay on a lease, and the state Forestry Commission recently repossessed one of the city's fire trucks because of nonpayment.

City hall has been shuttered since the shooting, and any records of how the money was spent are apparently locked inside. No one answered when a reporter knocked on the door on Tuesday.


On Labor Day, you can enjoy a potluck with a purpose at Slow Food Alameda's Eat-In in Franklin Park.

The event, taking place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday, is one of almost 300 public potlucks nationwide planned by Slow Food USA as part of a campaign to draw attention to the quality of food served in schools. The Eat-In will include children's activities and speakers who will talk about the school lunch program in Alameda.

This month, Congress will discuss reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, which governs the National School Lunch Program and provides lunch for about 30 million schoolchildren each day. The National School Lunch Program spends about $1 on food and about $1.50 on administrative and other costs for each free meal, organizers say. Slow Food USA wants the program to spend $2 on food to improve the quality of meals served in schools.

Slow Food USA also wants Congress to create nutritional standards for food that is served at schools or stocked in school vending machines, to fund grants to teach schoolchildren about healthy eating, and to create incentives for schools to buy local produce, which supports local economies and reduces pollution caused by transporting food over long distances.

The slow food movement began in Italy in the 1980s to protest the spread of fast food. The movement encourages the use of food that is fresh, healthy, and grown and transported in ways that protect both the farmer and the environment. The movement promotes home cooking, locally grown produce and shared meals.

The Eat-In is at Franklin Park in Alameda, on Paru Street and San Jose Avenue. Bring a dish to share, eating utensils and chairs or blankets to sit on. To learn more about Slow Food Alameda's Eat-In, visit


Please note that the "swimmer's itch" reported to be a problem a while ago persists here along the strand, which is why the windsurfers wear full body suits even though the water temperatures in the shallows remain in the sun-warmed eighties. Parents are reporting their kids returning from the water with "huge reddened welts". Its those abnormally warm temperatures which allow a particular fish parasite to thrive in the shallows which extend out some one hundred yards from the beach. The parasite burrows into the skin and then dies, but leaves this rash. Recommendation is to shower thoroughly after exposure and keep the kids out of the water, better yet.


The Right-Wing driven recall against three members of the School Board has passed the first hurdle and is now underway even as a counter signature list is being gathered in opposition. As an additional bit of info, we add that none of the recall members is paid one thin dime; all are volunteers to the community.

We hope some of you feel ashamed and embarrassed on hearing that fact.


At least one person is up in arms about the stoplight armature painting. You have seen it: the intersection is half-blocked with orange cones and a cherry picker lifting some poor soul up there to slather green paint while his cronies all sit there munching sandwiches or waving a rather confusing warning sign that can mean either STOP or GO BACK, or TURN LEFT DETOUR or JUMP UP AND DOWN. Letters to the editor have complained that painting the armatures is silly, stupid, wasteful and irresponsible during the current fiscal crisis, especially given that many of the armatures are made of aluminum or plastic and require no painting at all.

So we are all out of work and eating on food stamps, robbers are looting the banks at will and the schools are going begging for funds, but hell; those stoplights sure look purty in fresh paint.


It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The hot spell has yielded to gratefully cooler temps and cloud-wracked breezy days fortelling changes to come. A thunderstorm is forcast around Bishop and more are forcast down south where the boys are battling a tough fire in the San Gabriel Mountains. Maybe we will post a story about how our Fremont crossed through there during the Mex-American War; it was really something.

The humid weather has dropped loads of morning dew in the pre-dawn hours, and it is thought that the hurricane in Baja is largely the cause of it. By late morning, the dew has all burnt off and the afternoon is cloudless and free of moisture as an ideal baby's bottom.

School has begun in many districts and so the streets are somewhat quieter now, with the kids in school and the parents all out of work. Island-Lifer Paul recently journeyed out to buy a used stratocaster from a fellow who used to be an investment banker. Fellow sat there among the ruins auctioning off his toys and possessions.

They say the End is in sight and the Recession already bottomed out. Don't you believe it. We are in this thing for the long haul and you better be in that frame of mind too or else. Housing here remains 20% overvalued so there are plenty of vacancies right now. Half a mil for a one bedroom cottage? Are you crazy?

Meanwhile we continue to encounter born and raised folk here on the Island every day. Folks born and raised here and not likely to go away any time too soon.

Over at Marlene and Andre's place the situation is growing desperate. The situation there has always been desperate, but then, that is always the way.

Mancini lost his job pushing a broom over at the former NUMMI auto plant, which closed down recently, sending him and about 4,500 other people to the EDD, so he has been hanging out at the house a lot lately. Jesus had his hours cut back as caretaker at the 7th Day Adventist Church as well as Tipitina who fills in as an accountant for Cribbage, Babbage and Umbsen in the City. The local businesses are all cutting back on expenses for special functions and even wedding organizers are turning to the beatbox and cheap DJ's for their entertainment, which means Andre's band "No Future in Real Estate" is having trouble getting gigs.

This Labor Day weekend, the gang all hung out by the BBQ. There was nothing to throw on the non-existant coals other than dollar corn (six ears for a buck) from the Special at Plucky's Supermarket, but they hung out anyway watching the windsurfers and clueless getting "swimmer's itch" down by the Strand.

That night, Marlene, who had collected day-old bread from the box at Mastic with Piedro, cooked up some of her bread soup with the corn and Bonkers managed to kill a rat that had been living under the woodpile so a fine dinner was had by all.

Xavier came in from his job blowing leaves and Pahrump went out with Alexis, Crackers and Quentin to a job Alexis had got cleaning up the meeting hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West. The Native Sons tended to get pretty rowdy during some of their shindigs, and the hall was littered with empty Fat Tire bottles, pizza crust, expended .45 caliber shells, sodden t-shirts, shoes, and women's underwear. Xavier shooed away a raccoon picking desultorily through the detritus when they got there.

Crackers took the lid off of a pot sitting on the stove and found a baby opossum in there among the remains of the vegetables. The opossum looked up at Crackers and sniffed and Crackers looked down at the opossum. He put on some work gloves and lifted the animal out of the pot.

The others watched him carry it to the door, leaning on their mops.

As he carried it out the front, which faced the marina there, a gaggle of brightly clad Not-From-Heres scampered down the wharf from an excursion boat. They all wore bikinis and were as blonde as the sun.

"Guck' mal an! Eena Geschoepf!", one of them said, pointing at the animal in his hands.

"Nay. Is'n Beutelratte. 'Opossum' auf Englisch.", said another.

The beauties all gathered around the helpless and grinning Crackers as they cooed and gabbled in their strange language.

An older woman wearing a khaki shirt and dockers came down the wharf and barked something at the girls who scampered off.

"Tchuss! Bye bye!", they said, bouncing down to the walkway.

Crackers put the opossum under a bush, where it decided to play dead purely as a matter of course. He went inside.

"Ah pulchritude." said Crackers. "Wish Rolph was here to translate."

"They ain't never gonna have nothing to do with the likes of us," said Xavier. "You know that."

"Old Indian saying," said Pahrump. "No money, no Honey."

After they got the place cleaned up they sat out watching the sun set over the marina. Down in Mexico, hurricane Jimena was stirring things up, but the air was calm over the cove with a slight breeze. The southern weather had brought up extraordinary clouds, however, and so each evening provided a brilliant light show of flaming incarnadine streaks slathered with white cockatiel feathers across the sky from one end of the horizon to the other until it all gradually dimmed to washes of deep blue and then black as the stars came out one by one, hesitantly and timorous at first, then boldly with confidence as more of them joined the congregation. The moon rose from her chambers and with stately grace took her position with authority trailed by shimmering silver robes and attended by a single handmaiden star.

The dark bay gradually changed from a dirty and crumpled woolen blanket into a carpet of diamonds stretching out to the lights of the City across the water, each wavelet a brief flicker.

"Everyone has the stars," said Pahrump, looking up. Somewhere a siren wailed into a distant crisis, then denouement."Everyone has the stars, but its not the same for everyone."

Just then, the long wail of the train passing through the Jack London Waterfront came ululating across the water as it travelled from the Port to places unknown.

With these small gifts, the three got up and returned to the house and whatever bread soup might remain in the pot.

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





The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is now closed for construction

The bridge will reopen by 5 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8.

While the bridge is closed, a 300-foot-long section of the original East Span will be cut and moved out of the way, 150-feet above Yerba Buena Island (YBI). A new double-deck section will then be slid into place, connecting the bridge with a new half-mile-long detour connecting the East Span to the YBI Tunnel. Traffic will flow on this new detour until the new Bay Bridge opens.

The traffic shift will allow crews to demolish a portion of the original bridge, and build a new (permanent) connection from the tunnel to the new East Span.

The new eastbound and westbound roadway alignment will require traffic to slow down to 40 mph on the detour.

During the closure, motorists are encouraged to take public transit and/or alternate driving routes. The public can find the latest information on transportation alternatives by calling 511 or visiting

More information at


Sections of 880/92 are also being temporarily re-routed. Note the map:


Route 238 going both directions will enjoy construction today through the weekend. Expect more delays there as well.

It is Friday, 8:30am. If you are not OUT OF TOWN BY NOW, fergeddit. Note the problems near Golden Gate Fields and up 101 near Windsor.


AUGUST 30, 3009


This week's headline photo comes from our SoCal contact, Dan Richard, who has just completed a Road Trip cross-country to take the temperature of the Heartland and everything between the coasts.

This is located in Alliance, NE and is titled "Carhenge." Dan documented this trip in his usual inimitable manner, complete with attacks from pitbulls and wierdness on his blog. Here's the link;

The closer you get to the heart of the country, the worse the coffee gets, but the better the pie.


Our Island-Life Music Desk person was hit with a few nasty surprises last week in the form of unauthorized bankcard charges, suspicious telephone calls asking for credit card numbers and questionable mail about "strange" cashier checks. Perusal of the Police Blotter reveals some nine Identity theft problems were reported between August 17 and August 23.

ID theft has become quite a serious problem on the Island and around the country in general. Not even people who avoid using the computer online are immune from scammers who sometimes will lift addresses and telephone numbers from public records and then run through a random series of bank account numbers until the thieves get a "hit".

Typically the initial charges will be low amounts, as the thieves figure the victims will put off dealing with relatively minor amounts.

In another case, an Islander learned that his social security number was used in New York by someone who supplied the number for his employer's W2. This condition remained unknown until the IRS challenged his 1040 form gross income.

Security and police recommend obtaining credit reports annually from all three of the major credit tracking agencies and rigorously tracking bank account expenditures. Even in the case of pending charges determined to be false, the amounts in question are considered "encumbered", which can reduce the account's total available funds, resulting in rather unpleasant overdraft charges and bounced checks.

The major credit agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion are required by law to supply their reports free of charge to consumers. The website for combining a request to all three is


Some people better start rethinking the cost of keeping the Island Hospital as a sentimental piece of nostalgia. The facility, after cancelling its in-patient senior treatment facility, obstetric and natal units and forswearing a trauma center finally turned a profit of some $400,000 this year, which helped to offset the prior year's loss of 2.5 million dollars. Unfortunately, many of the buildings, built in 1925, do not meet earthquake codes and retrofitting is expected to cost about $200 million. Can you say "New Parcel Tax"?

SUNCAL seems to have a problem keeping promises already. The latest flap is all about how someone noticed that an eleven acre park had been removed from the final plans being submitted for the ballot initiative. The land in question is part of a 213 acre parcel in what is termed The Northwest Territories. The area has an unusual status in that it is classified as public trust land, and was to be handled by a developer who backed out as master developer there in 2006. The park was on the pre-ballot initiative plan, but was inexplicably removed and Suncal now claims the park was never part of the deal. Could be that those 11 acres happen to be prime real estate with a gorgeous view of the Bay. Perfect for a park, in fact. Or mansions for the wealthy. Can you say "Greedy, greedy, greedy"?

The recall of three members of the School Board (Tracy Jensen, Neil Tom, and Ron Mooney) is going forward. The religious group that is spearheading the recall claims that the will of the majority as expressed at a public meeting on the anti-bullying curriculum was thwarted when the Board voted on the curriculum. The lesson plans had already been requested by sixty-two percent of the Island teachers. The curriculum, contrary to what some believe, does not mention sexual activity of any kind. The pro-recall folks need to submit over 8,447 signatures to the County Registrar (ROV) within 120 days after being told to do so by the Registrar. Once the signatures are certified as valid by the ROV, the County Board of Supervisors must schedule an election. Can you say "this is a lot of imposition and hullaballoo"?

In a curious footnote to an AP wire item about the rescue of four men who spent eight days adrift in the Gulf of Mexico, we noted that one survivor, suffering from what he says are "probably second degree exposure burns" attempted to seek help at a hospital emergency room in Texas, but had to leave when after several hours passed, no one had seen him. So the man who had just spent eight days out on open water simply left because it was taking so long. Can you say "we need single payer health care"?

I knew you could.


This week the news is all about one thing and so, as the nation mourns a tremendous loss, we provide this video of our President, courtesy of MSNBC, as he eulogizes Ted Kennedy.



Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the area got bodyslammed with triple digit temps, things have cooled down a bit. The dahlias are all going great guns, but the tomatoes are all doing poorly this year due to the persistent fog that hung around and the unusual cool weather. Sunflowers are all popping out at full strength and in the corner by the Old Fence, the wildflowers are sowing havoc, while the pole beans continue to erupt at regular intervals, so the season is pretty much moving along according to schedule. The eggheads are all talking about a mild El Nino brewing in the Pacific, which means this winter is likely to be a wet one.

Denby sweated out the last of his pneumonia during the heat spell, so that quarter is looking healthier and about 20 pounds lighter. Chad and the coding gang have been hard at work on more improvements to the site and we continue to fix hyperlink breaks and generally neaten up the place.

Our messengers have returned from upstate Minnesotta, again unsuccessfully, to report that Lake Wobegon Mayor Clint Bunsen has gone on vacation, so there is nobody up there to approve the request for Sister City Status.

The end of August is always a time of last minute scampering and final end-of-season hooplas to take advantage of what may be the last dry days for a while. The former Peanut Butter Jam, now the Webster Street Jam will take place here and there will be First Friday jubilations all over the East Bay as the artists buckle down for serious production to fill anticipated desires for the winter holiday period.

Everybody with a boat worthy of the name has been out sailing at every opportunity, including Toby and Tommy in their sloop, The Lavendar Surprise, while Pedro Almeida has been putting in long hours fishing for tilapia in his workboat El Borracho Perdido. Down at the Strand, Marlene and Andre took the dogs for a romp and old fashioned fetch and the usual Sniff and Greet with the other canines out there walking their owners.

Hello, sniff!

Sniff! Hey there! Butt sniff!

Sniff! Nice butt! Sniff, sniff! Wag, wag. Sniff!

And so on.

Someone wrote a letter to the Editor about some dogwalkers misbehaving at the Official Dog Park, which has some of the hounds up in arms. Seems a few owners have been running about ungoverned without leashes and otherwise acting unruly. Creates a bad image of the Island it does. Mrs. Cribbage humping Mr. Pescatore's leg and so on. Nothing worse than a cocker spaniel embarrassed by his owner's lack of decorum at the Dog Park and all the setters have been deploring the sad decay of manners in our time.

As Austin Powers would say, "Oh behave!"

Lionel, he of the Pampered Pup on Park Street, is of the opinion that a good hot dog is always a good hot dog. Indeed the inexpensive and simple fare of the Pampered Pup is Recession proof and he has been selling wieners, bratwursts and sausages hand over fist lately. Just sold fifty pounds of meat to the Native Sons of the Golden West for their End of Summer Grillfest. Lately he is a happy man for he still has his sights set on Jaqueline of Jaqueline's Salon. Both he and Javier were in costume during the terrible debacle of last Halloween, so he believes he still has a chance of investigating Jaqueline's spandex, and so he goes about humming to himself all day long and looking stepping out every now and then to look through the salon windows down the way. Its summer, the weather is perfect, business is great and life is good.

Such is the nature of the male; animals, all of them.

The Island-Life photographer, crusty Schmidt, orders a bratwurst to take with him into the Old Same Place Bar. He remains dour and unsympathetic as usual. "Dee luff sings make idiots," he says before leaving with his own dog, a shaggy object reminiscent of a mop.

"Misthaufen! Komm' mit!"

Inside the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie pours a Fat Tire for Schmidt and sets down a water dish for the dog. The golden light of August streams in through the open door and the window and dust motes dance. Misthaufen puts his shaggy head down and sighs on his paws.

Its the end of summer and its a dog day afternoon. Because that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.


AUGUST 23, 2009


Nothing says summertime quite like sunflowers. Here you go.



One would have thought eight years of the likes of George Bush and the Neo-Cons would have tempered public discourse simply as a reaction against prolonged imbecility. But no. Never "misunderestimate" the power of stupidity. The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has limits.

Few arenas have demonstrated the insistent drive of some people to refuse to employ that grey matter between the ears as Rep. Barney Frank's recent public sessions on health care, which have become famous for the planting by the health care industry of shills charged with disruption of the proceedings.

No bills have been passed, no decisions made, no Executive Orders issued, yet some people have been shrieking as if their private parts have been removed with hot iron tongs.

Here is a video of Barney Frank (D-MA) responding to a rather shrill person who refuses to discuss anything in any reasonable or rational manner.


LANG LANG at Zellerbach Auditorium, Berkeley.

The brilliant Chinese pianist will discuss his amazing life and powerful art with classical pianist Sarah Cahill. Lang Lang will also be signing copies of his autobiography, Journey of a Thousand Miles, September 8th.

The 27-year-old Lang Lang has played sold out recitals and concerts in every major city in the world and is the first Chinese pianist to be engaged by the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and the top American symphony orchestras. He recently appeared in Time Magazine's annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Recognizing his powerful cultural influence, in 2008, the Recording Academy named him their Cultural Ambassador to China.

Born in China to parents whose musical careers were interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, Lang Lang has emerged as one of the greatest pianists of our time.

Journey of a Thousand Miles documents the intimate story of a family who sacrificed almost everything -- his parents’ marriage, financial security, Lang Lang’s childhood, and their reputation in China’s insular classical music world -- for the belief in a young boy’s talent. And it reveals the devastating and intense relationship between a boy and his father, who was willing to go to any length to make his son a star.

Tuesday, September 8, 7:30 PM
Zellerbach Auditorium, UC Berkeley Campus
2430 Bancroft Way (at Telegraph) Berkeley

Tickets: $20 ($10 students) advance at Cal Performances at or at Cal Performances box office on campus (510-642-9988)

Lang will perform a concert the following evening at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco.

JOANNE FOX at Slate Gallery, September 4–26, 2009

SLATE art & design presents a solo exhibition by Joanne Fox titled: Language, Image and Gesture starting on Friday, September 4th in the Temescal district of Oakland.

Joanne Fox’s work engages viewers on multiple levels combining lush brushwork in rich colors with passages of text and reproduced images printed on plexiglass. These multi-media paintings invite viewers to look in a particular way–”reading” not only the text but the images, working to decipher meaning from the relationships between them. And while Fox’s work may invite the viewer to look for an anecdote, the meaning is innately subjective with each personal examination.

Saturday Sept 12 / 7–9 PM

4770 Telegraph Ave (@48th)
Oakland, CA 94609

Gallery Hours:
Thursday to Saturday 12–5 PM
Tuesday & Wednesday by appointment

Eat Real Festival - August 28th-30th

Street food, fresh summer fruits and veggies, live music, handcrafted local beers, ice cream sold from the back of a bicycle. Come find it all and more at Eat Real, a free festival, taking place August 28-30 at Jack London Square. Buy from your favorite street food vendors, pick up a ticket for the Beer Shed and sample from among the 40-something microbrews, or shop in the Market for local produce and artisanal snacks. In between the good eats, enjoy the non-stop entertainment and activities that include chef demonstrations, dance performances, bands, films, food competitions, and lots more, for free.

To learn more about the Eat Real Festival please visit,

SAGA - Saturday Afternoon Gallery Acoustic Open Mike for songwriters September 5.

Come and participate in, or simply enjoy, performances of live acoustic music, in a sunlit room full of fresh air, the latest art exhibit and delightfully congenial company at the Frank Bette Center for the Arts.

Saturday September 5, 2 to 4 pm

Frank Bette Center for the Arts
1601 Paru Street (corner of Lincoln Ave)
Alameda, CA 94501

Support live music wherever you live, for live music stimulates positive morals in children, soothes the tattered nerves, eases the soul, ameliorates bad vibes, stimulates the local economy, heals the body politic, and cures all manner of ills including but not exclusive to chilblaines, social diseases, halitosis, poor eyesight, post-nasal drip, inflamed gout, rheumatism, falling hair, outrageous conservatism, nervous jumping up and down, knickerbocker knees, dry membranes, financial distress, and many other problems. Besides, its good for you too.

CHOMSKY in Oakland

Paramount, Oct 3 - Benefit for Middle East Childrens Alliance.

Internationally renowned political linguist, Dr. Noam Chomsky will speak at the Paramount on "Obama, the Middle East, and the Prospects for Peace”.

Ticket prices ranging from $Hoity Toity$ to us folks in the upper balcony at $22. There will also be a reception prior to the 7:30 talk with tickets in the $250 range.

The Middle East Children's Alliance (MECA) is a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization founded in 1988 and based in Berkeley, California. We support children and families in Palestine, Iraq and Lebanon through:

* Direct aid, including food, medicine, medical supplies, and clothes as well as books, toys and school supplies. Since 1988, we have sent more than $10 million in aid to children in Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine

* Financial support and professional assistance to community organizations in the West Bank and Gaza that help meet Palestinian children's needs, including clinics, kindergartens, counseling centers, libraries; accessible parks and playgrounds; sports teams, and dance, music and art programs

* Educational and cultural programs in the US to increase understanding about the lives of children in the Middle East and the impact of US foreign policy on people in the region

* University scholarships for Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the US.

Jack London Square -Various

Summer is staying hot on the Square with Dancing under the Stars continuing with disco this Friday, but Latin rhumba on the following in September.

The Sunday Farmers Market now has extended hours and is offering free yoga classes starting 9:30am.


Coming to the Fox, downtown Oaktown in September:

Yeah Yeah Yeahs September 9th & 10th. Bringing Southern Rawk 9/11 will be Flogging Molly. Ben Harper, who tore it up here last year returns 9/17 for one night only. That one, given the energy of his last performance here, will likely sell out fairly fast.

Over in Babylon, the Outside Lands Festival returns to the Golden Gate Park 8/28-8/30 with a stellar lineup. Pearl Jam, Incubus and the Thievery Corporation open up Friday, followed by Dave Matthews and the Black Eyed Peas on Saturday. Sunday, however looks the most interesting, for following Tenacious D, we observe Modest Mouse, Band of Horses, Lucinda Williams, the very dynamic Robert Randolph, Brett Dennen, Calexico and others.

Modest Mouse has a Gang of Four frenetic feel, as well as more tattoos. Band of Horses got picked last minute to fill out a slot at Pegi Young's Bridge School Benefit, and did quite well. Robert Randolph does things with the lap steel at speeds no normal human being should be able to accomplish and Brett Dennen is the moody folkster with intelligent lyrics. Calexico, is, well, Calexico with hot sauce.


Among those who love chilies, "chiliheads" they call themselves, the true aficiondos know of one particular variety that has the reputation of being the tastiest and the most redolent of chili flavor of all. This variety, genetically engineered by students at the University of New Mexico -- purely by chance -- is known by the county which now grows thousands of tons of the pepper each year -- Hatch County, New Mexico.

Until recently NorCal residents who knew of the smokey succulent pepper had to order theirs via air freight. Until now.

Enterprising folks at Raleys/Nob Hill Foods pursued a local connection in New Mexico where Raleys once maintained a couple stores. Islanders can now get their Hatch chilies right in town. Furthermore, for two days each year, Raleys sets up a roaster in the parkinglot, just like what happens all over New Mexico during the Chili Season, and there the bothersome skins are roasted off in a broiler.

We talked to an employee of Raley's named Eric, who stated that well over 500 pounds of the Hatch chilies would be roasted in the tiny broiler in two days, with virtually every pound sold long before finishing the batch.

We talked with Eric briefly on Friday, where he and his assistant appeared calm and cool, but by Saturday afternoon, the two were scurrying to meet the ferocious demand for the admittedly tasty vegetable.

A medium-hot Hatch chili can be eaten right off the fork -- we had one as a flavor test -- but the aroma and savor of the chili meat is quite something.

Although the labor-intensive roasting will stop until next year, fresh chilis from Hatch New Mexico will be obtainable at Raleys as long as the season's crop holds out.

One of our staffers here bought two twenty-five pound cases of the things. True Chiliheads never burn out; they just have another margarita.


Last week we reported Pete Stark was forging ahead with Town Meetings despite the Radical Right Wing's attempt to sow dissension by means of disruption at such things. See above for the video of Barney Frank's response to a nutcase that came to one of his discussions.

With interest we noted Rep. Stark's (Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee) measured and intelligent response to a wide range of questions during the hour-long session on the Island. As Kate Quick of the Island League of Women Voters noted, "while we witnessed some lively debate, it was civil and on point."

Over 400 people showed up for the periodic session held by Stark at City Hall, however as the room employed had capacity limits, only 170 were allowed in by lottery.

The majority there appeared to be in support of health care reform, although there were some vocal dissenters. We believe Pete Stark abley and effectively represents this district in the wishes of the majority here and we commend him on his efforts.


The latest flap at the AUSD features a second lawsuit sponsored by the conservative Pacific Justice Institute, which desires that purely Christian teachings of its own design be taught in the schools. This lawsuit is also against the recently adopted anti-bullying curriculum and seeks to punish the district for omitting an "opt out" option from the curriculum.

The real reason behind the two lawsuits, one of which seeks to remove several members of the School Board, is revealed in language used by Kevin Snider, chief counsel for the PJI, who said ". . . they (the PJI) disagree with using the power and prestige of the school to teach children that LGBT 'lifestyles' are normative and moral."

Calling the essence of being gay a "lifestyle" is a typical catchphrase of the homophobic right wing.

All of this brough-haha about a curriculum that does not feature sexual orientation until Lesson 9 has managed to once again put the Island onto the national stage.

Those of you who may not have seen kids through public school recently should know that the age-old problem of how to handle the bully has ramped up significantly in potential consequences as we have first hand reports of the use of knives, clubs, broken glass, and, in one instance, a trash can, used against the victims, not to mention the coma-induced beatings.

And that is just elementary school, dear parents. Quite a few of these things went unreported, so we scoff at Snider's nonsensical and irrelevant quote of "only" 170 violent incidents last year as being rather underrepresentative.

Then again, some 170 violent incidents in a year. How many school days are there in a year any way?


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The morning high fog yielding to sunny afternoons has continued each day, and so we are all bracing for the annual end of season heat wave that always postpones the Fall.

Its that time of year in Northern California when everybody seems like they have just exhaled and are pausing before taking the next breath. By that we mean to say that summer, with all that it entails, its summer scents of cut grass, lemon verbena, pine, and diesel exhaust from the parkinglot next door, its kids out of school with its attendant minor vandalism, its sudden absences as folks vanish on something called "vacation", and its generally genial dry weather causes a sort of relaxation in normal folks who find the time to sit outside wherever there is a place to sit with other folks like themselves.

Time has stopped, and this moment sitting in the chair is the same moment that was ten, twenty, thirty years ago, with the same sorts of folks and the same sort of drink tinkling in the glass under the umbrella which has not changed for over one hundred years or more.

On the East Coast they are watching fireflies glint off and on. In Minnesotta, they are beating off the mosquitos and the chiggers with chemicals, electric zappers, and baseball bats with routine fury. Its all tradition.

The kids are all returning from the places their parents have sent them to get a little peace around the house. Places with names like Angels Camp and China Camp in the Sierra. Or the uncle's homestead in Grass Valley. Places where they learned to take dumps in the outdoor latrine and short sheet somebody's bed.

Over at Marlene and Andre's place, the group all sat out there drinking jug wine on the ruins of the porch that nearly got totally destroyed on Javier's fiftieth birthday, and among the ironmongery and discarded sofas of the yard where morning glories had invested the premises with an earnest desire to beautify what had been heretofore regarded as a toxic dump by most of the floral kingdom. Four O'Clocks glowed crimson in the corners until the light had faded.

All of the inhabitants of the one bedroom cottage were out there: Marlene, Andre, Occasional Quentin, Piedro, Jesus, Tipitina, Marsha, Xavier, Rolph, Suan, Mancini, Sarah, Pahrump and the dogs Bonkers, Johnny Cash, and Wickiwup. Together they were joined by Februs, an employee of Island-life, and by Snuffles Johnson, a bum employed by no one.

As Marlene had prepared one of her special Recession Bread Soup dinners substantiated by summer vegetables from the garden, and various folks had scored more than a score jugs of Gallo, the inhabitants were in a generally genial and reflective mood.

The conversation was all about summertime memories. Snuffles remembered the first time he had been thrown into Juvie for swimming in the Mall's reflecting pool in the Nation's Capitol. He was an East Coaster.

Suan and Sarah both remembered skinny dipping in the stream that ran through Sunol at out at the quarry at Shadowcliffs, although they had done so seperately and at different times. Xavier remembered the family picnics from Babylon down through the citrus groves of Sunnyvale and Mountain View in the old Rambler with the windowframe straps, long before there was a Silicon Valley. Columbus french bread and Columbo salami in a wicker hamper and the old Rambler.

Mancini remembered running the length of Alma Street to get to Trestle Glen and so come around the high school back to Eliot and back to Park Boulevard to get away from bullies.

Wait a minute said Xavier. You can't do that. It's not possible.

You could once, said Pahrump. Before 580. It was called one time Indian Gulch before Trestle Glen. Been a whole lot of changes.

My father fought for a long time against them. Them taking the house away, said Mancini. He was one of the last holdouts when the state come and knocked down all the houses to make the freeway through Oaktown. I never sawed them knock it down. Was away at school. Just saw the graders and the fencing and the dirt. We used to run off of the roofs of some of the houses and jump into the dirt and get into trouble. But my dad wasn't the same afterwards. I don't know all of it, just my grandpa had something to say about building it. Then they built the freeway and all the men who had houses along the way lost 'em. That's progress for you.

They were all silent for a time.

Look, there is a falling star! someone said.

Marsha touched Mancini's hand. Falling stars are forever, she said. There will be no end to falling stars.

Right then the long whistle of the throughpassing train ululated across the water of the estuary from Jack London Waterfront, a sound of something headed from somewhere to someplace else strange and unknown.

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



AUGUST 16, 2009


Welcome back, friends. This week's photo comes from 12,800 feet on the Glacial Divide and the Island-Life Annual Sabbatical. This was knipsed looking back on the return.



This week we provide a link to the Onion which supplies this marvelous addition to haut cuisine and zero carbon footprint zero-guilt fast food.

Ta co Bell's New Green Menu Takes No Ingredients From Nature



Our roving Cultural Events Reviewer fell into a SWAT and helicopter morass while travelling over to Marin to get the scoop on a theatre production by one of Broadway's Finest, but never collected the details, due to circumstances too many to mention. Among the circumstances were a protest by several hundred folks at the highly and notoriously toxic Chevron refinery in Richmond, where fully armed and kevlar-protected folks stood around in the sweating heat to guard against several hundred jolly folks marching along with banners and lying down in the street.

According to the officlal papers: "On August 15, a rally at the Richmond BART was held, followed by a march on the Chevron oil refinery. The protesters called attention to Chevron’s polluting oil refinery in Richmond, to oil industry expansions - killing people and the planet for profit, and to Chevron and Big Oil standing in the way of solutions to climate change. At the end of the march there was a non-violent civil disobedience action against the refinery. A critical mass, "bike for climate justice" also meet at the Richmond BART and followed the main march to the Chevron refinery."

We could not determine if arrests were made, but it does appear the protest was largely peaceful and went unnoticed at the nearby bridge Toll Plaza where considerably more violent doings had taken place only a few days previously. There an assailant had emptied his shotgun into a supposed rival suitor's head and torso in the parkinglot before marching over to the booth to execute his former beloved with about eight blasts through the window. The murderer later killed himself with the same weapon.

Some people just need to relax.


By now everybody should know the latest flap in Silly Hall involves the outraged reactionaries seeking to unseat three school board members for daring to pass through an anti-bullying curriculum for elementary students. The Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petition was sent to the three School Board members over the weekend. The propnents of the recall are seeking to have Ron Mooney, Tracy Jensen, and Niel Tam removed from the School Board.

As is typical of the Far Right Wingnut echelon, the methodology is to be loud and shrill so as to give the impression of majority opinion. Or at least, loud and obnoxious opinion. Recall proponents need to gather 8,000+ signatures to put the idiotic idea on the ballot. Waste of time. Waste of money.

Lauren Do has spoken out about this issue, and John Knox of Stop, Drop and Roll has initiated a counter-petition in support of the AUSD which already has several hundred signatures. For the petition against the petition, go to STOP, DROP AND ROLL.


Pete Stark, god bless the man, continues his round of town hall meetings in the face of the Right Wingnut fury and full intent to sow discord on the healthcare reform issue. Others have fallen by the wayside, but Pete keeps on soldiering despite the flack.

He was here at City Hall this last Friday. He'll be here on the island again September 12th.


As part of the Bay Bridge Seismic Retrofit Project, the Bay Bridge will be closed in both directions over Labor Day weekend 2009 in order for Caltrans to perform seismic safety work on a section of the bridge slightly east of Yerba Buena Island. The closure will begin at 8:00 p.m. on Thursday, September 3, and the bridge will reopen by 5:00 a.m. on Tuesday, September 8.

For status on other closures and the new bridge, go to


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The moderately cool temps here translated to sub-freezing temperatures in the High Sierra, and a few of the staff came back from the Annual Mountain Sabbatical coughing and wheezing from bronchitis.

That's what you get for taking time off.

Its been a bad year for tomatoes around here. Many of the ones that gave fruit are dying off and many more have yet to yield in this globally warmed century. All the glads have glad-handed and stand now brown and withered like stark monuments to a forgotten war. Folks are still getting pole beans and the zucchini is threatening, as usual, to take over the world.

Little Jimmy got caught shoplifting candybars at the 7/11 and Johnny failed to make the turn while drag racing on Otis Friday night, smashing through the fence into the backyard of the Almeida family, really stirring up Pedro's labrador dog who hasn't been this excited since a jackrabbit got flushed from the Strand by the weedwackers, who were only trying to eradicate the Non-Native Species of grass there.

Johnny was basically unhurt until Mrs. Almeida hit him on the head with a rolling pin after he pulled himself from the remains of the rose bushes.

In all, its a normal summer on the Island. Everything happening same as usual, like clockwork.

No sooner did the staff return from their freak snowstorm in the mountains then the weather turned bright and sunny, allowing Occasional Quentin and the usual assortment of folks at Marlene and Andre's place to start sleeping on the beach again.

A bunch of folks went out the other night after dinner to count shooting stars. Its a time of the waning moon, right in the heart of the Perseids and the night sky looked like a blanket with holes punched in it. Far across the water, Babylon strung itself out along the peninsula like ropes of jewels in Shreve's. Those with honeys cuddled up while others, like Quentin, lay out there alone yet together with the group.

What are you doing? Suan asked Mancini.

He was flicking his bic lighter.

I am signalling to the UFOs, said Mancini.

Well stop it, said Suan. It reminds of Vegas.

Andre, sitting with Marlene on an old railroad tie, quietly strummed his guitar and softly sang Dylan's "Not Dark Yet".

Xavier, who had just gotten a letter from girl he knew in the Reserves from Iraq, asked Pedro if things would ever get any better again. He had a girl in the war, so he was not feeling so hot right then.

Things have been pretty bad for quite a while, said Pedro.

Is and was is all we'll ever be, offered Jesus de Silva.

Look! Look! There's a big one! exclaimed Tipitina.

Everyone went "Wow!" Then Andre put aside his guitar and the night was silent for a time and silently, the stars fell, one after another, but still leaving an entire heaven of pinpricks and flickers, arranged pretty much the same with minor variations as it has been for the past five thousand years. It was a quiet summer night on the Island, with no sirens in the distance.

From far across the other side of the Island came the sound of the train passing through Jack London Waterfront as it ululated across the estuary from the Oaktown Port.

It was a quiet summer night on the Island, and nobody got robbed or shot.

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


AUGUST 2, 2009

No updates 8/2 - 8/15 due to the Annual Mountain Sabbatical.


JULY 26, 2009


There will be no update next weekends 8/2 - 8/9. The Island-Life offices will be closed for the Annual Mountain Sabbatical in Kings Canyon.


This week's photo comes from Chad, who captured these gentlemen at work behind the butcher counter of the Chestnut Meat Market.

You wouldn't want to order food from a silly skinny feller, now would you?


Toddled on over to the 29th Art and Wine fest on Park Street. This year the weather stayed sunny and moderate, as were the crowds, which appeared a bit smaller than years past, notwithstanding the free entry and gratis music at both ends of the street.

Drink tickets were still five bucks plus the one time charge of a fiver for the commemoration glass. You could get a fancier glass for a sawbuck, an item the Association realized was a keeper for collectors who have been trading the glasswork at rather high prices.

There was the usual petting zoo with bored chickens and a somewhat addled lamb, bounce houses and other fun stuff for the kids.

As for the "art" part, wellllll, the old Art in the Park did better with that. Not a single local studio artist was represented, and perhaps the $300 per booth entry fee had something to do with that. This is a meat and potatoes town, not a chic chic boulangerie, guys.

Was pleased to see Lloyd Gregory, once a main fixture at the old Fifth Amendment Bar in Oaktown, appearing at the Buena Vista Stage and again on Sunday at the Encinal Stage. The man has been performing with intelligence and deft finger-style for over four decades, and now is branching into jazz standards to pay the rent these days. He has a solo CD out now with interpretations of jazz standards by Errol Garner, Louis Armstrong, and others.

Saturday he was joined on stage by Janice Maxie Reid (keyboards), Joe Thomas (bass & vocals), Robert Stewart (sax), and Billy Johnson (drums). Nice to have a little Grammy talent up there to help out.


Oakland Art N soul will take over Frank Ogawa Plaza on the 8/15 weekend. Originally a totally free event, the ambitious booking of top ranked musical acts and general good vibes ramped up the popularity until they had to fence it off and charge a very reasonable fee for admission. Come on down and check out some good music, great people, hearty soul food, poetry, and many other excellent divertissments from the warmer side of the Bay.

The EB Express will host the Subcultures: Best of the Bay party at the Oakland museum 8/7. Entrance is generally free but there will be the usual loads of event tchotchkes to buy and proceeds from alcohol sales will benefit ONECALIFORNIA FOUNDATION. The 5pm-midnight festival will feature "live spray paint art", dance performances, electronica for those wanting to do that, comedy and improv, and, of course, top notch music from a variety of artists, including Goapele and jazz artist Faye Carol.

A little balance from the tattooed, surly and black shirt-wearing crowd will be offered by local punks, Fracas. Their promo material includes the information that "all of the band members have broken bones. Some have repeatedly broken the same ones." Sounds like a plug.

Third Eye Blind has emerged from internal personnel struggles to come back and perform at the renovated Fox on 8/17. They have a new CD out, so expect new things from the kids.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The fogs have been hanging in late and returning early, so the tomatoes are all taking their time producing around here. The weekend, being generally recognized by the Establishment as significant, provided for a bit more sunshine, so all the families were out and about. Many went out to the Strand to enjoy the water ebbing back from high tide and scamper among the tide pools.

Over at Marlene and Andre's crowded household they had a fine repast of polebeans plucked that day from the ironmongery trellis out back where a sort of Recession Garden was battling against the sandy soil, trash and discarded pieces of various American automobiles, which are well known for longevity in afterlife. Someone had used the bed of a Ford pickup as a compost bed and it now hosted several surpisingly healthy tomato bushes. Garlic, onions, and similar savory things sprouted from the wreck of a Geo Sport, which has spent its past fourteen winters as an Anger Management Object, taking the worst end of a nine pound hammer, an acetelene torch, and a detached mitre saw at various times.

The skeletons of more than a couple Morris Minors leaned up against the Old Fence and the frame of an honest to god caddilac stood upended from the hole into which it had been pushed many years ago.

When Mr. Howitzer took possession of something for which he had no use, no need and no apptitude to repair, he typically had it hauled to the back of his property on Otis, where, somehow, these things which he loathed to donate to charity as simple give-aways, managed to disappear on their own by degrees.

Mr. Howitzer was so constructed as to absolutely detest the very idea of giving something away for nothing, even for sake of a tax break, unless it were to the Ronnie Raygun Star Wars Memorial Fund, the Bohemian Grove Benefit, the Hoover Institute, and such things, for Mr. Howitzer was possessed of more money and possessions than reason.

At the Household, the denizens gradually stripped the repoed vehicles of everything sellable and useable, disposed of toxic waste appropriately on Waste Days, and converted these seizures into planters. In the end, it all worked out for the best.

Except for the poor sap who defaulted on a payment to Mr. Howitzer; that person, of course, got the worst of it in losing his broke-down Geo Sport.

After this fine meal of beans and rice gotten from the Charity Basket Depot, the group headed on over to the Old Same Place Bar where Marsha continued with her story of how she came to California.

As you may recall, Marsha tended bar at the Belchertown Bar in New Jersey, and everybody knew about her plans to leave the Garden State to head West, including her poor friend Alesha, who begged her to ship back a sand dollar garnered from the beach there to show she had arrive safe and sound.

Such is the mindset of those all along the Jersey Shore. Sure, you can find a sand dollar anywhere; they hawk them in every kitschy shop along the boardwalk. Just put one in a box and send it.

From an ocean 3,000 miles away.

Do they even have sand dollars in the entire Pacific Ocean? No idea.

In any case, how her plans came about to leave such a charming place with such a homey name as "Garden State", needs to be related, even in brief.

Contrary to popular opinion, not much of New Jersey is Paradise, nor is much of it a garden.

We hate to disabuse all of you of this notion, but only a small portion of New Jersey is verdant and useful for raising horses and all that is up around Trenton and New Hope, PA, which is full of Gay People, so there you go.

Some may object. There is Cape May and the charming Pine Barrens, the latter of which are full of pines and, well, barren. Sand. Cape May is full of rocks, salt and, well, barren. Rock.

The weather is not so good either.

Okay, so much for New Jersey. It does have its charms. Even without the Sopranos and all that.

Back to Marsha. She came home one day and found the usual, and expected, note of apologia. The man she had been seeing had left that morning with Eulalia Shumacher, distant cousin to the Shumachers of New York and something of a bon vivant, bubbly socialite, never to return. He had taken the good car with the keys, his shoes and most of the bank account, leaving the rent notice and his own letter on the fridge.

She opened a random cupboard to pull out a bottle of Johnny Walker and a glass that had once seen a washing cycle many moons ago when the machine actually worked and poured a tall one.

In retrospect, he had never told her he loved her, or even if he had liked her very much, and never made love in the conventional sense except at night in a sort of useful fashion. She had had a suspicion for a long time that he was fooling around. You know. Stains on the shirts. Late nights away. Nervous explanations. Telephone calls. Embarrassed requests for money. The usual.

The bottle quickly went to the pile in the trash bin among the many others and her eyes lit on the past due notice for the lease and to the letter from a friend in California.

The letter was an invitation unlike all the others in her life. Always, throughout her short life, the requests of her had been for some kind of surrender, some kind of abjection. Please do this for me. I need 20 dollars. I want a blowjob. Show your tits. Come work for me; I don't pay much.

This was a note offering a simple place to stay for a short while to learn something different.

She wrote back, got a response, and soon, all the official notices went out. Everybody in the restaurant knew: their bird was flying the coop and they knew she would not be back any time soon.

It was the night before she was to leave. That's when Alesha made her confession. "Honey, he beats me every night. Please send back a sand dollar."

It was with grim determination that Marsha got behind the wheel of that rusting Rambler with the puppy Bonkers there on the passenger seat. She was no ordinary woman, but a woman on a mission. She carried a promise and more besides as she set out across the vast steppes of the American plains, having all sorts of adventures along the way.

All the people she met along the way. Beth, with her shattered voice, survivor of brutality. The French woman whose children nearly drowned. Karen with her indomitable struggles from the black pit of despair, bad marriage, theft, and psychiatric hospital horrors.

These stories she would carry with her across the mountains, the young pup yapping and pooping beside her in that old rattletrap car.

Until she finally arrived in dense fog, somehow misdirected onto the Island by somebody not from here.

That's where Andre found her, looking out over the water at the Strand, wondering how the devil to get over there in a leaky Rambler with a labrador puppy.

Looks like you need a place to stay, said Andre.

I don't need nothin', said Marsha, still pure New Jersey. Who the hell was this guy anyway with the rings in his nose and his jacket?

Right then Bonkers bounded across the strand to greet Wickiwup, who sniffed. Sniff. Butt sniff. Good sniff! Yeeah! Sniff! Great butt! Sniff ahoy!

Right then the two dogs managed to figure out what was friend and what was foe right away.

So that is how Marsha came go join the little household on Otis Street.

So they all sat back and sighed. That is the way it was. In the Early Days, when dinosaurs strode the earth. And people could be people to one another. And dogs led the way. The way it should be.

Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train made its way through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront.

It wavered across the choppy estuary, across the Buena Vista Flats, across the old Beltline railbed, across the dark brick cannery, across the new developments of the industrial park, across the Gold Coast District and across the Old Same Place Bar, where our people huddled for warmth and conversation in a clean well lighted room on this chilly July evening.

That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week. See all of you in a couple more.



JULY 19, 2009


If Dorothy had tried to follow the Yellow Brick Road to this Oz, she would have had to swim, as this week's headline photo is of the Babylon skyline as seen from the Crab Cove Marina -- with about two miles of water sloshing between the two points.

Those trees conceal the furthest western edge of the Island, beyond which there is only Bay until you come to the distant glittering facets of Babylon's fortress ramparts piercing the fog. Photo is courtesy of Island-Life staffer, Rex Suru.


This week's video comes from occasional singer/performer/Island-Life contributor/socialite Suzanne L'Etoile. Besides having talent in the vocal realm, Suzanne also possesses -- or is possessed by -- a passion for Latin dance, especially the tango, as one will see by this little film made in Holland. Don't worry if you miss any subtitles; the story will make itself clear soon enough.


This video was nominated for an Academy Award in 2008. Do you still have passion?


Here are a few short-takes on news items this past week.

Tuesday the old Beltline Railway finally conceded defeat in their battle to escape the terms of a 1924 contract that allowed the City to buy back property allocated to the railroad back then at then current prices, regardless of increased valuation over time.

The property includes 22 acres of a former railroad yard near Nason Street and Constitution Way, along with about a half-mile strip about 200 feet wide that runs east and connects the yard near Sherman Street. Other smaller parcels across the city are part of the property.

The Alameda Belt Line stopped operating the railroad in 1988, announcing that it planned to sell the property to a developer for $18 million. A little donkey engine was seen operating on the rails well into the late 1990's.

A local community activist who spent years studying the history of a former railroad property discovered the contract clause during research on the issue. As a result, the City can buy the parcel at a hair under one million dollars.

Jean Sweeney is the name of the person who contributed countless hours of research into the project.

Several Blogs and the Island Journal report that someone has stolen a bell from the Fire Station 5 on Alameda Point. According to the Blog, the bell is described as measuring "about 14 inches tall and is topped with a chrome eagle. It's worth about $1,200. It was wrapped in a cloth and stored inside a cabinet."

Because no traffic infractions took place, the perps got clean away.

Contact the Alameda Police Department at 510-337-8340 if you have any information regarding this bell.


Normally staid Orange County got a little wilder last weekend during the 30th annual mooning of Amtrak. Proving that the conservative and rather Republican enclave can be just as flaky and weird as the rest of us, a suburb down there has hosted a wacky all-day ritual for the past 30 years. For 30 years "Mooners" have congregated in front of the chain link fence adjacent to the train tracks at the Laguna Niguel depot, giving rail passengers a "California Hello". The people of Orange county as well as Amtrak are aware of this summer tradition. This all day event is held across the street from the landmark "Mugs Away Saloon" which has two live bands playing throughout the day. The Sheriff's department was on scene as the crowds were a bit rowdy last year.

In true SoCal fashion, the police requested that "moons only" be displayed without accessory hardware or plumbing and absolutely no alcohol be displayed in any form.


You know things are getting tough when the headline begins with the phrase "Another Closure . . .". The Island Restaurants Blog reported recently that Tiny's Candy Store recently threw in the towel next to the defunct Dock Cafe on Webster. The two add to the closed Tillies in crimping the style of the refurbished Webster Street.

Over in Mariner Square Village, the cigarette store with the health spa, Cuts, and the printer ink supply shop all left a big block of empty space.

At the renovated Southshore Mall, large corner properties remain vacant, although there is hope that Trader Joes and Borders will retain and pull in younger, more affluent shoppers. Mervyn's however and Ross did a lot to provide reasonably priced items for the less-well heeled and more typical traditional Islander. Ross was effectively evicted prior to the Mall renovation by way of unreasonable lease revisions and Mervyn's simply went bankrupt.

On Park Street, vandals smashed one of the big display windows of the now vacant Ron Good Chevy dealership.

On the upside, insiders report fairly brisk business at the renovated cineplex. Its a Recession: movies always do well.

The building that once housed Central Cinema remains empty however, after its owner was forced to close up shop as part of a gentrification policy in Silly Hall. Anybody wanna lease a former mortuary/moviehouse?

He was a quick, observant and witty man with a handlebar mustache, a wry sense of humor, and a sparkle in his eye from far off Persia. He loved NASCAR and bluegrass and he tended bar at our local, McGrath's Pub. He was Reza Honarkhah and he was memorialized at McGrath's this Sunday for many hours by hundreds of people who loved and remembered the man well. Testaments to the man can be found all over the Internet on local bluegrass sites.

Reza passed away at the age of 50 on July 8th due to cancer and we sure will miss him.

Contributions in his name can be made to Victory Junction, The entity seeks to provide summer camp experiences to kids with chronic medical and cognitive disabilities.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. We finally got a bit of warm weather around here for a spell, leading some people to believe that summer might really happen. All the gardeners went out to sit or kneel in front of their respective tomato bushes, all heavy with dense green globes, green now for some three or four weeks, and the gardeners all could be heard pleading with embarrassingly plaintive voices for things to start blushing a bit before Fall.

Its the Bay Area; you garden, you reap what you sow, and the sowing is often bitter and dry.

In SoCal you plant a pepper bush, you get honest to god peppers. Peppers that will make your eyes water when you cut them open. Here, you get these tiny lumps that you can chomp down like grapes or corn chips, so poor is their lack of heat.

Things have been somber around the newsdesk in the Offices here after the news about Walter Cronkite. A few folks, still upset about Michael Jackson, had to be put on sedation. Cronkite, largely absent from the public eye for many of the recent years, seemed to embody an image of The America That Was and Is Not.

After leaving his main anchor job of whatever interchangeable network it was, he appeared before the TV cameras to deliver the occasional Special Event, such as the Lunar Landing, but folks inside the networks hardly wanted anybody incline towards outmoded concepts like Truth and Integrity anywhere near the microphone.

That business of telling all of Middle America that the Vietnam conflict was not winnable and the best course was to exit as gracefully as possible still stuck in their craws.

During the horrific Bush years, nobody but nobody in power wanted anything to do with Integrity. God no! Loyalty is what they wanted, not integrity. The spin doctors definitely wanted nobody around who would tell it like it is. After all, they prided themselves on making their own Reality.

Meanwhile Cronkite worked behind the scenes to lend his name and reputation to a group of theologians and ministers and clergy who had become outraged at the usurpation of their belief system by a group of violent cowboys in the Executive Office. This latter part of his life's work has been largely overlooked by folks looking to cash in on nostalgia. It is mentioned that Cronkite became disillusioned with what became of the Media. What is not mentioned in near enough detail are the ways he tried to do something about it.

While it is true that Cronkite was an icon and image of an imagined Middle America that no longer exists, and narrowly existed if it ever really did exist, a sort of Father Knows Best pipe-smoking font of avuncular wisdom and homespun whitebread values, his exemplification of JP Murrow's steadfastness for truth in reporting and adherence to personal integrity remain solidly valid for all times and all persons.

That he became an Icon of an imaginary Middle America was really no fault of his own. There was no pretense in the man and when he presented himself, he presented himself as honestly as possible.

That is why for nearly eleven years Island-Life has signed off each week with a variation of Walter's own broadcast closure.

Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Marsha was sitting with Pahrump, Jose, Javier, and Xavier, all from Marlene and Andre's household on Otis. They were sitting there because, as the summer nights remained chill, all denizens who slept there at night were, in fact, sleeping there at night.

Since nearly fifteen people paid infrequent rent to sleep there, things could get crowded after lights out.

The usurious state of rents in the Bay Area being what it was, the house on Otis had simply opted to take on ever more roommates to level out the landlord's extortion. On hot summer nights, folks found accommodations along the beach and in the parks. But latterly, it had been chill.

The house on Otis was not unusual. There were places in Babylon where people had nailed shelves stacked five bunks high in former hallways and livingrooms to get well over sixty people to sleep in one bedroom apartments. Many bunks were rented in eight hour stints. Hey. Gouge for rent, this is what you get: inevitable push-back.

In any case we have already heard about how Occasional Quentin grew up in the Bay Area and was arrested for trying to swim across Golden Gate Park. We have heard about how Tipitina's father came from Louisiana during the war years to help build the ships that would defeat the Axis. You have read about how Rolph lost his mother, quite suddenly, while standing on the bridge over the River Spee opposite the Molecule Man and so came to San Francisco with a stolen passport after many trials. Still to come, the story of Javier and his father's battle to save the family home from Caltrans, which seized the property to build the 580 freeway.

Now, we come to Marsha. Hers is the story that is so common it disappears. Hers is the story of one who came to the Golden State, not with flowers in their hair, but with grim determination in a smoking, battered Volvo, with a broken alarm clock, a tattered guitar case, and a dog named Bonkers and not much more in assets other than a late-night tearstained half-torn promise to a friend she was sure she would never see again, a promise carried long over the long miles and baked deserts and dust of the empty plains, held close to the still beating heart, enfolding that promise like a treasure.

That promise was a simple promise and she would never forget it. It was the night before she would leave the Belchertown Road behind, her job as a bartender -- with all of its fabulous career potential -- and all of the Jersey Shore forever. Everybody knew all about it, especially her friend Alesha.

They had been friends for a year or so, ever since Marsha had wandered in there looking for a job after troubles in Redbank. It was a big place, with a restaurant attached and a stage where local bands played covers of bad dance songs to largely indifferent clientele.

That night Alesha had made a confession to Marsha there in the bar. She told Marsha that her relationship to Rudy was not all that it appeared to be.

"Everybody says he is so handsome, such a catch. The girls are all envious. We go to the Bowl 'n Rock and they all get google-eyed. But its not that way. Not really. Rudy . . . Rudy, he beats me. He beats me, it hurts so much, but I can't leave him. You know this small town. . . The way people talk . . .".

Marsha tried to problem solve. Offer suggestions. Shelter maybe . . . But Alesha would not hear of it.

"Honey, I am never gonna leave; I am gonna die hear. You found a chance; you gonna leave. Honey, you promise you get there, to that California, you walk down there on that beach and you find a sand dollar. Or any old shell. Just as long as you find it yourself. And you send it to me. Would you do that? Would you do that for me?"

And Marsha said she would.

Across the vast expanse of the American steppes and the towering ramparts of its mountain ranges, Marsha kept on with Bonkers looking out the window, serious, contemplative. Carrying that promise. Through thunderstorm and theft and breakdowns and driving off the road in North Dakota and more besides she held that promise to her, close.

Months later, one day, she found herself there, living in the City. On a Special Day, she walked down to the Ocean Beach and bent to pick up a sand dollar she found there and she put it in her pocket to carry back and send to a friend from whom she had heard nothing for many months.

Because some people need to know the idea of California still exists, out there beyond the limits of the imagination, a place that still fastens desire, a place as necessary to America as hope.

Next week, more about Marsha and why she came to California.

As Marsha began her story in the Old Same Place, Suzie wiped down the counter and from far off across the choppy water of the estuary came the long wail of the throughpassing train as it wended its way through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront.

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

JULY 12, 2009


This week's image comes from the House Recession Garden. Like a lot of Californian households, the House here has put energy into a garden that helps cut back the grocery costs during this nasty Recession caused by rampant greed and 20 years of govermental regulation laxity.

Starting with the side plate and then going clockwise, you see leeks laying on a bed of Swiss chard and collard greens. Then we have strawberries, dill, sage flower, parsley, dried and fresh thyme, two kinds of chives, summer savory, fava beans, two kinds of potatoes, two kinds of green beens, then a tomato over basil in the center.

We forgot to include the snap peas and oregano.


This week we once again enjoyed riches. We have a trailer for a new movie titled simply "Age of Stupid", which features Pete Postlethwaite appearing as a man living alone in the devastated post apocalyptic world of 2055, looking at old footage from 2008 and wondering why people didn't do something about a couple rather obvious problems. The link shows just a snippit of a full-length feature film:

Then there is one can't miss video of a couple of lovesick Russians singing a song about how they can watch their beloved "Misses Palin" from Russia. That one is at

The winner this week trumped all others because of our main mission of supporting live music everywhere, and was sent courtesy of Strange de Jim on the Island. The professionally done music video was done by a man frustrated by his failed attempts to get satisfaction from United Airlines after their baggage handlers destroyed a $3,500 Taylor guitar in an outrageous act of public malice observed by hundreds of people. After nearly a year of seeking restitution, in a final conversation between the musician and the airline United's representative finally admitted that, although United admitted the incident had taken place and admitted employee malfeasance, United would do nothing about it. The musician, Dave Carroll, told the rep that he would therefore make three songs about the incident, produce them professionally, and have them widely distributed. Here is the first one.


BTW, we note that this is not the first time United has acted with outrageous callousness to people, as during a file cleanup we discovered this little item dated 2005.

It's a sign composed by disgruntled former employees of the airline which terminated pension benefits for retirees, effectively forcing 65-80 year-old people to seek public assistance or continued employment. In those cases where employment was still possible. About nine of the ex-employees brought the signs to the 2005 Super Bowl and were broadcast on national TV.

This corporate obnoxiousness needs to stop. And we are really all very sick of mealy-mouthed pencil-necks blatting the eternal whiny refrain "But its legal." Farting in crowded restaurants is legal. Cutting in line is legal. Outsourcing jobs to China during a Recession is legal. Gouging tenants with rent increases during hard times is always legal. What happened to all our 401k funds was perfectly legal. Lots of things are legal, but do you like it? Is it right or just or ethical or kind?

Living a life like a howling, shrieking baboon, wrecking all that is beautiful and strange while grabbing everything for yourself and leaving a wide swath of destruction is legal. But it needs to stop.

We don't even ask for decent civility; we only ask for acknowledgement to a connection to the rest of humanity, however tenuous.


On a more homespun note, we got a number of items over the transom this week, including one about the remains of the old Beltline railroad, traces of which can still be found around the Island, most notably in the massive trestle that edges the Fruitvale bridge. The conversion of part of the old railbed into a park with a walkway features in the short story, "Dos Erizos". Rail lines once ran down the length of the Island on Lincoln and a couple other streets. As some folks may know the Transamerican Railroad first terminated here, as the Oakland terminus building was still unfinished when the golden spike was driven at Promotory Point.

There is a blog post about the still visible traces of that rail system called Ghosts of the Alameda Belt Line.

The post is full of great pictures of Belt Line sections and can be found at



We recently learned from our Canadian contacts about a wonderful project in the works by Rezolution Pictures, which is seeking to present alternative filmic images of Native Americans and tell their stories in their own words. From RP's website:

"Rezolution Pictures has just wrapped interviews with some of the biggest names in show business for the upcoming Reel Injun, exploring the evolution of the image of North American Native people in cinema and television.

Filming in Los Angeles, director Neil Diamond interviewed legendary musician Robbie Robertson, actor Adam Beach, comedian Charlie Hill as well as writer, musician and activist John Trudell. In New York City, we sat down with iconic indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, Chris Eyre, director of the Sundance-winning feature Smoke Signals, and screen veteran Wes Studi. Upcoming interviews include Clint Eastwood.

Rezolution was also successful in obtaining a rare interview with Sacheen Littlefeather, who made Oscar history in 1973 with her impassioned statement on behalf of Native Americans while accepting Marlon Brando’s Academy Award for The Godfather.

While out west, the Reel Injun filmmakers shot location footage at historic Monument Valley, where many of Hollywood’s most famous westerns were filmed."

CBC Newsworld is the main broadcaster for the film which is co-produced with the National Film Board of Canada.

For more information on the film you can visit their website Youtube also has a trailor and directors comments.

Sounds like a worthy project with talented people involved.


We are still in the laborious process of sorting through something like 4,000 text pages, several hundred reviews, hundreds of story snippets, thousands of news items, and over 20,000 images spanning well over ten years, cataloging, establishing provenance and generally making things more trustworthy. Many thanks to Chad for many long hours of work on the code and design.

We now have a Copyright Policy and, moving forward, will start to enforce that immediately.

We believe that we are the only non-standard web entity that has such a thing out of several million web sites around the world. The Usual suspect news organs, of course, already have theirs in place, sorta, by way of their established print versions.

You will note the new search engine up there, version 1.0, which has the capacity to search the past 10 years of Island-Life by any word. The next version will be a bit more elaborate and drop searchers closer to the desired story item.

We are pleased to expand Rex's role from Spiritual Advisor to Staff Photographer and Music Event Reporter. Rex is a professional musician who has performed at Ashkenaz and whose CD "Father is With You" can be found at CDbaby. His focus will be International Afro-Pop and Pan African music, so we are pretty excited to have him with us.

Of those of you who asked about hopping on the wagon in the early days, we can now say that we are ready to take on more staff as part of the ever growing, ever informal, Island-Life family.


We are pleased to report that local faves, Four Year Bender are remaining united after members taking time off to pursue individual projects and that they are appearing as warm-up at the Great American Music Hall, which has been taking some risks lately by showcasing local unsigned talent. FYB will be fronting for Tiny Television and Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band, so be there early at 8:00pm. The Bender got some heavy rotation on KFOG a couple years ago for a song about a guy locked out of the house in the snow by an angry girlfriend. Their definition of a good night is one in which the morning after you cannot remember where you left your pants. Wry lyrics and a melodically rolling Americana style that is an offbeat combo of Wilco and Weezer -- pleasantly countrified, drunk and hapless. Check out the band Wednesday July 15th.


The summer's organized anarchic mayhem kicked off with a benefit for a new artists collective, Big Art Studios, founded by ex-Crucible members Dan Das Mann and Karen Cusolito. Dan and Karen signed a lease on the entire property once occupied by the American Steel Foundry. The facility now includes a 250,000 square foot industrial warehouse, a 50,000 square foot pristine studio warehouse, a 14,000 square foot event space, and a suite of offices for a wide variety of uses.

We got there during an unusual regional rainstorm, which brought a positive awe-inspiring augury to the event, as seen here. Pedestrians and security personnel all gawked as this splendor.

Over 80 artists and small green businesses call Big Art Studios their home for creative endeavors, and this great variety of individuals and skill sets comprises a truly diverse and vibrant community, replete with inspiration and cross-pollination of all kinds. A partial list of art forms reveals, in addition to the usual industrial and fire arts,

- energy storage systems developers
- biodiesel producers
- worm farmers
- urban organic gardening advocates
- art car enthusiasts
- large scale sculptors
- jewelers
- chocolate makers
- painters
- piñata makers
- art car enthusiasts
- musicians
- photographers

The fundraiser was called "Sand by the Ton", and featured 3 live music stages plus 4 additional electronica music stages for dance, hundreds of vendors, a free camera obscura, 200 tons of sand, 5 swimming pools, lots of fire bursts, and a carnival-themed midway between massive kinetic sculptures. Mr. Megavolt showed up with his enormous Tesla coil. Here he is at a Burning Man a few years back.

A bit of hidden politics runs behind the scenes here, as we do know the schism of folks from the Crucible occured after a serious industrial accident over there. From insiders we also know that not a few folks at the Crucible were a little unhappy with percieved dictatorial, authoritarian regimentation and imperviousness to input on the course of program direction. We also noted that many of the performers that once appeared at the annual Crucible Fire Arts Festival appeared at Big Art this weekend, including the very popular Mutaytor, but we did not detect any sort of animosity at the largely all-inclusive anything goes event, and so would assume that there is no basis to friction between the two entities. Michael Sturtz, a driving force at the Crucible, was listed as one of the performers, indicating some positive and collaborative cross-pollination.

In general the atmosphere was a sort of an ebullient urban version of a Burning Man event with a healthy dose of additional ribaldry. The Extra Action Marching Band helped close out things, and if you need to ask what they are about, then you are probably underage and shouldn't be told. Security was omnipresent, but not intrusive or intimidating. People just partied like the animals they were. Here is a shot of one of the electronica stages.

This lady was something to watch as she, er, blew up her, um balloons.

Then there was the more child-like sand-castle building, of course.

This gal stands well over thirty feet high. A closer look reveals both propane conduits and moveable armatures. Didn't get to see her in action, though.

But half the fun and performance resided in the audience, which made it up along the way.

A word on these kinds of events, which may list impossibly early starting times: don't even think about walking through the doors before nine-thirty, with ten being more optimal, as very little interesting happens until a couple hours after nightfall, and generally things climax well after one in the morning. This goes especially for Crucible festivals.

Schmidt had trouble with new camera equipment, so we apologise that we don't have better pix this time around.


Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Other than a few gunshots and the usual sort of minor mayhem of a slowly converting ex-Navy town, things bubbled along pretty much as any small town sliding into the Summer. The weather turned curious and moody for the weekend, letting micro storms dampen parts of the East Bay under roiling clouds, but otherwise it has been cool with high fog hanging in there until afternoon, breaking up into sporadic intense sunshine for a few hours and then chilling up again for evening overcast.

Over at Marlene and Andre's squat on Otis, the relatively mild temperatures meant that all doors and windows could stay open and folks could crash out on the porch and out back, where Occasional Quentin occasionally snuggles down among the morning glories and four o'clocks of the garden with his jug of Gallo.

Some innocent once asked why there are so few wine and cheese shops on the Island. That's because this is the land of box wine and nobody around here would consider spending more than a sawbuck for five liters of grape juice to be a sane proposition. Up in Marin they got the afficiondos gathered around the hot tubs. Here, we got the "go fish and do" gathered around the deep fryers. Somebody around here even wrote up a review of fish 'n chip places like it was haut cuisine. What makes it California, as opposed to any other place, is that you get a slice of avocado as a optional condiment. Used to be bean sprouts, but that practice died out with the hippies.

One thing we got that makes us different from Minnesotta, besides fish tacos, is artichokes. Artichokes in early summer mean you grew up in NorCal, no two ways about it. Artichokes and skinny dipping in the Shadowcliffs quarry. But that is another story, bordering on the thin edge of legality.

In the Offices, the Editor has been getting ready for the annual Mountain Sabbatical Retreat, which this year will take place August 1st through the 15th.

During the Sabbatical, the entire place shuts down, all the emails back up and the newsdesk sits there dead and silent while far away the Editor thrashes the staff up and down steep mountainsides above 11,000 feet elevation with a fifteen foot long bullwhip and a megaphone. At night the staff huddles without tents or campfire after a meal of couscous and thin bouillon under the frigid stars, keeping waterbottles in their sleeping bags so they do not burst from freezing overnight.

Its a relaxing vacation and always very salubratory. You want to lose weight in a serious way? Screw the Atkins diet; come on vacation with us. Its what we get in lieu of getting paid.

Its all done in the Spirit of '49. But without the avarice.

It's past the witching hour now, well past, and the Editor begins closing up the place for the night, putting the weekly edition to bed, just a solitary man in a glass cubicle filled with light, his sparse remaining hair flying about his head in an aureole.

Quentin stirs in his bed of bound-up morning glories, each bud sleeping quietly all around his snoring head until the sun prods them to unfold, each by each, one by one.

Officer O'Madhauen sits in his Crown Vic down by the old abandoned brick warehouse along Buena Vista, watching idly for the errant yellow light runner, sipping coffee from a styrofoam cup.

In the House of the Two Stone Lions, Mr. Howitzer puts aside his plate, milk and cookies effectively demolished, and turns down the silk coverlet of his bed.

After closing time at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie steps out into the fresh salt sea-borne air and walks steadily down beneath the line of streetlights that illuminate the way to her door. Next week, folks will be gathering at Hearts Desire Beach before everybody scatterguns in all directions for the summer. She has time off coming up, but with tips so bad lately, it will have to be a "stay-cation" for her for sure.

As she reaches her door, the black and white form of Rocky, the neighbor's cat, comes mewling around her ankles, looking for someplace warm to spend the night.

Right then, the long wail of the train passing through the Jack London waterfront came ululating across the unruly summer waves of the estuary as it drove its way from the Port to parts unknown.

She turns the latch and enters, closing the door and leaving Rocky to stand out there, gazing for a moment at the closed door of fate and circumstance.

Summertime has begun in the Bay Area. Have a great week.


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1999 - 2009


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