Vol. 12 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2010
Welcome to the second half of year 2010. The year's content is split into two parts to allow easier page loading for slower browsers. Each year tends to approach the equivalent of 380 typewritten pages.
To go to the present time, click on this hyperlink: NOW!
Here's another pic from Chad's photo treasure trove. The owner of the bookstore is an accomplished painter, and the wall on Walnut was probably done by him.
It may be the Left Coast is the Best Coast but some traditions span the Nation, even during such divided times as these. After the Uniter-Not-a-Divider finally left office (not a second too soon!) the pundits discovered recently -- after actually talking to Americans -- that the country really IS harshly divided.
Oh well. Back to Tradition. Something to bring us together a little bit.
Every year the radios play it along with "Grandma Got Run over by a Reindeer" and "Somebody Stole my Santa Claus Suit" as partial amelioration to Holiday treacle. You know: Sean McGowan of the Pogues singing that song with Kirsty McCall.
So here you go for the last video of the year, A Fairytale of New York.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The Pineapple Express is not a freight train nor an icecream dessert but a periodic weather phenomenon that visits here every decade or so. Looking at the Dweeb Reports that Howard Schecter issues out of Mammoth Lakes from last September we note this startlingly accurate gem of a prediction:
"...MODERATE/STRONG LA NINA FALLS ARE USUALLY ACCOMPANIED BY AN EARLY SNOW STORM (SINGULARITY TYPE), THAT CAN OCCUR ANYTIME FROM MID SEPTEMBER TO MID OCTOBER HERE IN MAMMOTH, FOLLOWED BY AN EXTENSIVE PERIOD OF DRY WEATHER FOLLOWED BY COLD UNSETTLED WEATHER DEVELOPING IN NOVEMBER.
THE WINTER OF 1973/74 WAS A STRONG LA NINA THAT WAS AN EXCEPTION....WHICH STARTED IN THE FALL AND CONTINUED THROUGH A GOOD PART OF THE SPRING.
THIS MAY BE THE WINTER OF THE PINEAPPLE CONNECTION FOR NORTHERN/CENTRAL CA.......IT IS OVERDUE!
Wednesday, September 08, 2010 9:14:54 AM"
The system is several thousand miles in size, and develops significant moisture from the mid-Pacific around Hawaii (hence the name) with several fronts ramming through like boxcars behind a locomotive to California, bringing successive storms, one after another -- just like what we have been enjoying lately.
There is no knowing when the system will stop as it always seems to run until it just loses energy.
What this means is that we are likely to get quite a bit of additional wet weather for a while, alternated by single days of sunshine. We have already collected over seven inches in the last couple of storms in NorCal, while SoCal had a whopping 20 inches forecast for Xmas.
A 20-mile stretch of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway between Malibu and Oxnard was closed to commuters after a rock and mud slide Sunday night. The California Highway Patrol said no one was hurt.
Eastbound Highway 71 in Pomona was closed because of potholes and flooding, and a number of mountain roads were closed.
The system hit the state Friday after a large storm front moving out of the Gulf of Alaska met with subtropical, moist air coming across the Pacific Ocean.
In Kern County, officials declared an emergency after two days of intense rain, a move that provides responders with faster access to country resources. The Bakersfield Californian reported that the rains left many neighborhoods around the county dealing with high water. Some roads were closed and some homeowners stacked sandbags in hopes of staying dry.
The Los Angeles area, including downtown, Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley, received 3 inches to 4 inches of rainfall, while some northern mountain areas were hit with more than 7 inches.
Rainfall records weren't just broken, they were obliterated. The weather service said 3.45 inches of rain fell in Pasadena during three days. The old record was 1.5 inches in 1987.
The Santa Maria River briefly overran its banks Sunday and caused flooding in Guadelupe in Santa Barbara County, forcing an underdetermined number of people to leave their homes, fire officials said. The Santa Maria Times reported that the high waters began receding in the evening.
Flash-flood warnings were in effect for some areas, particularly mountain areas still scarred by recent wildfires, while flood warnings or flood advisories were issued for most of the region.
The rain even made it risky for racehorses to run. Hollywood Park canceled its final seven races Sunday after rain made a section of turf leading to the main track too dangerous to navigate.
The storm uprooted numerous trees. In Woodland Hills, north of Los Angeles, a eucalyptus tree crashed onto the roof of a home, while a 40-foot tree fell onto an apartment building in Glendale. In West Hills, a downed tree crushed a car. No injuries were reported.
Soaked hillsides gave way to some minor mudslides in canyon areas and flooding in a few low-lying streets, but nothing serious, Seto said.
In Los Angeles, residents of a Bel Air Estates home had to be evacuated when a retaining wall collapsed and mud surged into the house, fire department spokesman Erik Scott said.
Rain and high winds caused substantial power outages to customers in the Santa Cruz Mountains and in the South Bay, Pacific Gas & Electric officials told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Sierra Nevada ski resorts reported up to 18 inches of fresh snow Sunday. Forecasters said the area could get similar amounts every night until Saturday.
Snow levels in Southern California were around 7,000 feet because the storm was so warm, but Tuesday night's anticipated storm will be much colder, meteorologists said, and that should allow snow at elevations as low as 5,500 feet.
According to the NWS report, dated the day before Xmas, As the "Pineapple Express" system swept Pacific Ocean moisture across the southwestern U.S., Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in six counties.
The huge and powerful low pressure system off the West Coast pushed precipitation right into the Great Basin.
"It takes a lot of energy to push that moisture over the mountains," said NWS meteorologist Dave Bruno. "This kind of storm could march right across the country and create a lot of bad weather along the way. It could affect the Southern Plains on Thursday and Friday. If it sticks together it'll hit Florida by Saturday."
WENN NEUE BESEN GUT KEHREN, ALSO KEHR DOCH WIEDER ZURUCK UND HAU' DOCH
It's goodbye to Der Governator at the end of this year, and California's flirtation with a real attempt to run politics "outside the box". The legacy of the famous B-movie action star remains checkered, however, as the square-jawed Republican learned only painfully that politics in the US is all about brokering deals, not imposing what you want on people will-nilly like a Banana Republican Dictator. In the end, the savage Great Recession clobbered the State after the would-be Conservative made good on his promise to pull back the "Car tax", only plunging the deficit worse into the hole as services got cut back right and left with disastrous consequences.
Not even his party affiliation helped Der Gropinator as personal requests for help from Bush and Co in Washington got him only the cold shoulder. In his second term, the actor seemed to learn some lessons, so we have to give him a lot more credit than we are willing to award to most of the present GOP membership, moving a lot more into the Moderate realm with a willingness to negotiate rather than dictate.
Californians ultimately chose somebody who had done the job before to try and dig us out of this mess.
'WAY, HAUL AWAY BOYS, WE'LL HAUL FOR EVER AFTER
Its the end of the year and time for a retrospective of Those Who Passed On. As if you were not depressed enough. But lets not lament the passing of these shooting stars; on the contrary, lets jubilate that these giants once walked among use so as to distribute their gifts.
Starting off close to home, Larry Trippy the fellow who sold newspapers from the antique wooden kiosk that has been peddling the news since WWI passed away this year due to natural causes after a three decade stint there. He was 60. They called him the "Prince of Park Street and was universally well-liked. According to the Island blog, "Joe Churchward Jr., who owns The Churchward Pub on Park, which Trippy frequented, said the former Marine from Ripley, N.Y. was a great guy who enjoyed music and Iggy Pops "Candy" was his favorite song. Larry also who loved to read graphic novels.
Before he took over operation of Pauls Newsstand, Trippy worked at the AMF Bowling Center in Alameda and at the Macarthur BART station.. He had lived in Concord before moving to Alameda.
R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass, who was one of the most electric and successful figures in music until a car crash 28 years ago left him in a wheelchair, died of colon cancer at age 59 in mid January.
Before the crash, Pendergrass established a new era of R&B with an explosive, raw voice that symbolized masculinity, passion and the joys and sorrow of romance in songs such as "Close the Door," ''It Don't Hurt Now," ''Love T.K.O." and other hits that have since become classics.
He was an international superstar and sex symbol. His career was at its apex, and still climbing.
Friend and longtime collaborator Kenny Gamble, of the renowned production duo Gamble & Huff, teamed with Pendergrass on his biggest hits and recalled how the singer was even working on a movie.
"He had about 10 platinum albums in a row, so he was a very, very successful recording artist and as a performing artist," Gamble said Thursday. "He had a tremendous career ahead of him, and the accident sort of got in the way of many of those plans."
Pendergrass, who was born in Philadelphia in 1950, suffered a spinal cord injury in a 1982 car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down, still able to sing but without his signature power. The image of the strong, virile lover was replaced with one that drew sympathy.
But instead of becoming bitter or depressed, Pendergrass created a new identity, that as a role model, Gamble said.
"He never showed me that he was angry at all about his accident," Gamble said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "In fact, he was very courageous."
Pendergrass left a remarkable imprint on the music world as he ushered in a new era in R&B with his fiery, sensual and forceful brand of soul and his ladies' man image, burnished by his strikingly handsome looks.
Gamble said Pendergrass was one of a kind as an artist and boasted a powerful voice and "a great magnetism."
"He was a great baritone singer, and he had a real smooth sound, but he had a real rough sound, too, when he wanted to exert power in his voice," Gamble said.
Robert Culp, the actor who teamed with Bill Cosby in the racially groundbreaking TV series "I Spy" and was Bob in the critically acclaimed sex comedy "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice," died after collapsing at his home at age 79 in March of this year.
This one also comes close to home, for Culp was a born and raised native of Oakland.
"I Spy," which aired from 1965 to 1968, was a television milestone in more ways than one. Its combination of humor and adventure broke new ground, and it was the first integrated television show to feature a black actor in a starring role.
Culp played Kelly Robinson, a spy whose cover was that of an ace tennis player. (In real life, Culp actually was a top-notch tennis player who showed his skills in numerous celebrity tournaments.). Cosby was fellow spy Alexander Scott, whose cover was that of Culp's trainer. The pair traveled the world in the service of the U.S. government.
Culp followed "I Spy" with his most prestigious film role, in "Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice." The work of first-time director Paul Mazursky, who also co-wrote the screenplay, lampooned the lifestyles of the sexual revolution of the 1960s. Bob and Carol (Culp and Natalie Wood) were the innocent ones who were introduced to wife-swapping by their best friends, Ted and Alice (Elliott Gould and Dyan Cannon).
He acting in a number of other movies however his teaming with Cosby, however, was likely his best remembered role.
Cosby won Emmys for actor in a leading role all three years that "I Spy" aired, and Culp, who was nominated for the same award each year, said he was never jealous.
"I was the proudest man around," he said in a 1977 interview.
Both he and Cosby were involved in civil rights causes, and when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 the pair traveled to Memphis, Tenn., to join the striking garbage workers King had been organizing.
The pair teamed again for several other more serious projects, yet the lightheartedness of the series treatment of the Cold War was what really attracted audiences to their work together.
He was not an especially accomplished author, nor highly intellectual when compared to his peers, however the author of Love Story, which became a mainstream classic tear-jerker had enjoyed the best of education and professorship at the world's top-notch Ivy league schools.
Segal was a Yale classics professor and screenplay writer when he turned a proposed movie about two college students, preppy Oliver and smart-mouthed Jenny, into a novel. Published in 1970, "Love Story" was a weeper about a young couple who fall in love, marry and discover she is dying of cancer. It was a million seller guaranteed to make readers cry and critics scream.
A much bigger audience caught up with the film version, which starred Ryan O'Neal and Ali MacGraw. Directed by Arthur Hiller, with a plaintive, Henry Mancini-composed theme song that wouldn't quit, "Love Story" gained seven Oscar nominations, including one for Segal for writing the screenplay, as well as for best picture, best director and best actor and actress. It won one Oscar, for best music.
Segal also wrote a sequel, "Oliver's Story," published in 1977, and made into a film, with O'Neal again in the lead male role. Segal would later say that Oliver was based in part on a couple of Harvard undergraduates who later became quite well known: Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones.
He was adored, and mocked. The famous "Love Story" line, "Love means never having to say you're sorry", became a national catchphrase, but provided endless fodder for jokes. John Lennon countered that "Love means having to say you're sorry every 15 minutes."
Even O'Neal parodied his earlier role. In the comedy "What's Up Doc?", he responded to the famous line with the riposte, "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."
A rabbi's son, born in New York City in 1937, Segal also had a long, distinguished academic career in classics, gaining a doctorate at Harvard and teaching at Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth while writing era-defining screenplays and novels. He worked on surreal popular works like the 1968 screenplay to the animated Beatles film "Yellow Submarine" while also publishing works on Greek tragedy, Latin poetry and ancient athletics.
Segal passed away after a long bought against Parkinson's disease.
The death this year of J.D. Salinger at age 91 ended one of literature's most mysterious lives and intensifies one of its greatest mysteries: Was the author of "The Catcher in the Rye" keeping a stack of finished, unpublished manuscripts in a safe in his house in Cornish, N.H? Are they masterpieces, curiosities or random scribbles?
And if there are publishable works, will the author's estate release them?
No comment, says his literary representative, Phyllis Westberg, of Harold Ober Associates Inc.
There is a lot of speculation about what may be just laying about because of the long hiatus since the man's last published work and rumors about supposed intensive output from the very reclusive writer who penned the definitive signature literary masterpiece of his generation with "The Catcher in the Rye".
Salinger began publishing short stories in the 1940s and became a sensation in the 1950s after the release of "Catcher," a novel that helped drive the already wary author into near-total seclusion. His last book, "Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour," came out in 1963 and his last published work of any kind, the short story "Hapworth 16, 1924," appeared in The New Yorker in 1965.
Former Secretary of State Alexander Haig, a four-star general who served as a top adviser to three presidents and had presidential ambitions of his own, died February 16 of complications from an infection. He was 85.
Haig's long and decorated military career launched the Washington career for which he is better known, including top posts in the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations. He never lived down his televised response to the 1981 assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.
Hours after the shooting, then Secretary of State Haig went before the cameras intending, he said later, to reassure Americans that the White House was functioning.
"As of now, I am in control here in the White House, pending the return of the vice president," Haig said.
Some saw the comment as an inappropriate power grab in the absence of Vice President George H.W. Bush, who was flying back to Washington from Texas.
The native of Philadelphia and West Point graduate served honorably and well as a soldier for years before Fate pulled him into Politics. After seeing combat in Korea and Vietnam, Haig was tapped by Henry Kissinger to be his military adviser on the National Security Council under Nixon. Haig "soon became indispensable," Kissinger later said of his protege.
Nixon promoted Haig in 1972 from a two-star general to a four-star rank, passing over 240 high-ranking officers with greater seniority.
The next year, as the Watergate scandal deepened, Nixon turned to Haig and appointed him to succeed H.R. Haldeman as White House chief of staff. He helped the president prepare his impeachment defense -- and as Nixon was preoccupied with Watergate, Haig handled many of the day-to-day decisions normally made by the chief executive.
On Nixon's behalf, Haig also helped arrange the wiretaps of government officials and reporters, as the president tried to plug the sources of news leaks.
He briefly served under the Ford administration after Nixon's resignation and before hopping over to lead NATO as supreme allied commander for four years. He dropped from that post in protest over the Carter administration's handling of the Iran hostage crisis.
The rock-ribbed conservatives brought him back to serve a prickly 17 month tenure as Ronald Reagan's secretary of state, however they didn't know their man as the proudly independent warrior scrapped with virtually every major senior official, including Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and national security adviser William Clark.
At one point he was seen pounding a table with his fists in frustration at the obstructionist sluggishness of Washington D.C. bureaucrats and what he saw as bloating of the national debt via foolish fiscal policy. He is generally credited with having stabilized relationships with the Soviet Union, which may have helped provide some sense of security for officials there to proceed with eventuall dissolution of the USSR.
Another entertainment icon of the Cold War, Peter Graves the tall, stalwart actor likely best known for his portrayal of Jim Phelps, leader of a gang of special agents who battled evil conspirators in the long-running television series "Mission: Impossible," died in mid-March just shy of his 84th birthday.
Although Graves never achieved the stardom his older brother, James Arness, enjoyed as Marshall Matt Dillon on TV's "Gunsmoke," he had a number of memorable roles in both films and television.
Normally cast as a hero, he turned in an unforgettable performance early in his career as the treacherous Nazi spy in Billy Wilder's 1953 prisoner-of-war drama "Stalag 17."
He also masterfully lampooned his straight-arrow image when he portrayed bumbling airline pilot Clarence Oveur in the 1980 disaster movie spoof "Airplane!"
Graves appeared in dozens of films and a handful of television shows in a career of nearly 60 years.
Graves' career began with cheaply made exploitation films like "It Conquered the World," in which he battled a carrot-shaped monster from Venus, and "Beginning of the World," in which he fought a giant grasshopper.
He later took on equally formidable human villains each week on "Mission: Impossible."
Every show began with Graves, as agent Phelps, listening to a tape of instructions outlining his team's latest mission and explaining that if he or any of his agents were killed or captured "the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions."
The tape always self-destructed within seconds of being played.
The show ran on CBS from 1967 to 1973 and was revived on ABC from 1988 to 1990 with Graves back as the only original cast member.
The name might not ring a bell, however you almost certainly have seen his photographic work, for whenever a major event happened in the world, he either captured the event itself or its perpetrators. An Associated Press photographer who captured on film every U.S. president from Herbert Hoover to Bill Clinton, covered the D-Day landing in 1944 and climaxed a 66-year career with an iconic shot of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks, died in late march at age 92.
Over more than six decades, the New York City native covered every kind of news and chalked up a roster of celebrity subjects unmatched by any other photographer of his time.
Among his favorites, he told an interviewer in 2001, were Marilyn Monroe in husband Arthur Miller's Manhattan apartment and Winston Churchill in financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch's.
Churchill had just returned from delivering his famous "Iron Curtain" speech at Fulton, Mo., Lederhandler recalled. "As I knelt in front of his chair for the shot, Churchill growled, 'Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes.'"
His other subjects over the years were a panorama of the 20th century's proud and profane every New York mayor from Fiorello LaGuardia to Rudy Giuliani; Haile Selassie; Eleanor Roosevelt; Queen Elizabeth II; Elizabeth Taylor; Sophia Loren; heavyweight champs Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali; Gen. Douglas MacArthur; gangster Frank Costello; convicted spy Ethel Rosenberg; bank robber Willie Sutton; Bertrand Russell; Aristotle Onassis; Groucho Marx; Malcolm X; Anwar Sadat; Yasser Arafat; Nelson Mandela; Frank Sinatra; the Beatles and Luciano Pavarotti; among others.
When asked, Lederhandler had stories about most of them.
Many world figures were photographed at the United Nations, which Lederhandler covered on a regular basis.
Two weeks after the German dirigible Hindenburg crashed and burned while landing at Lakehurst, N.J., on May 6, 1937, a packet was delivered to the AP photo desk in Manhattan. Its contents were prints of AP Wirephotos showing Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess and other top Nazis. The photos had been shipped by the AP Berlin bureau aboard the airship and survived the disaster, though scorched and charred around the edges.
After being spread on a desk and photographed for a story, the pictures were about to be thrown away when junior employee Lederhandler scooped them up and took them home. In 1998, he gave them back to the AP, which made an unexpected centerpiece for the news agency's century-and-a-half birthday observance.
Drafted into the Army in 1940, he became an officer and on June 6, 1944, led his Signal Corps camera team ashore with the 4th Infantry Division at Utah Beach, toting two carrier pigeons along with his camera gear.
But when he attached film canisters for the pigeons to return across the Channel to England, the second one, evidently confused, flew inland instead.
A month later, U.S. troops capturing Cherbourg found a German army newspaper left by fleeing Germans with one of the photos on Page 1, duly credited to "U.S.A. reporter, Lt. Lederhandler."
On Sept. 11, 2001, Lederhandler was at the AP office in Rockefeller Plaza when terrorists crashed two hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center.
He crossed the street, took an elevator to the Rainbow Room restaurant atop the 70-story GE building and shot photos of the twin towers ablaze in the distance with the Empire State Building in the foreground, standing vigil over a chaos-torn city.
The widely published picture appeared on the cover of New York magazine and a best-selling book. Lederhandler said later that the experience had spurred his decision to retire at age 84.
WILMA PEARL MANKILLER
As the news reported, its hard to forget a personality with a name like Wilma Mankiller, but the two time leader of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, awardee of a Presidential Medal of Freedom, world traveller, acquirer of celebrity friends like Gloria Steinem and one of the most famous Native Americans on the planet had a lot of credits to her besides her name.
The native Oklahoma had been relocated to San Franciscan by the Urban Indian Relocation program when she began visiting the group which had electrified the nation by reclaiming the abandoned island of Alcatraz on behalf of all Native peoples.
The experience galvanized the woman into jumpstarting community projects which collectively galvanized any number of other American tribes into taking action on their own behalf and helped to reforge the image of Native Americans as being proud, vital, intact and worthy of respect in the 21st Century.
After the Alcatraz incident (1977), she returned to Oklahoma with her two daughters in hopes of helping her people there.
By 1983, she was elected deputy chief of the Cherokee Nation, alongside Ross Swimmer, who was serving his third consecutive term as principal chief. In 1985, Chief Swimmer resigned to take the position as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. This allowed Mankiller to become the first female principal chief. She was freely elected in 1987, and re-elected again in 1991 in a landslide victory, collecting 83% of the vote. In 1995, Mankiller chose not to run again for Chief largely due to health problems.
At the time she became chief, the Cherokee Nation was male-dominated. Such a structure contrasted with the traditional Cherokee culture and value system, which instead emphasized a balance between the two genders. Over the course of her three terms, Mankiller would make great strides to bring back that balance and reinvigorate the Cherokee Nation through community-development projects where men and women work collectively for the common good, based on the Bureau of Indian Affairs "Self Help" programs first initiated by the United Keetoowah Band, and with the help of the Federal Governments Self-Determination monies. These projects included establishing tribally owned businesses (such as horticultural operations and plants with government defense contracts), improving infrastructure ( such as providing running water to the community of Bell, Oklahoma), and building a hydroelectric facility.
Under the US Federal policy of Native American self-determination, Mankiller was able to improve federal-tribal negotiations, paving the way for today's Government-to-Government relationship the Cherokee Nation has with the US Federal Government.
Examples of progress included the founding of the Cherokee Nation Community Development Department, the revival of Sequoyah High School in Tahlequah, and a population increase of Cherokee Nation citizens from 55,000 to 156,000. "Prior to my election," says Mankiller, "young Cherokee girls would never have thought that they might grow up and become chief."
A survivor of breast cancer, lymphoma, kidney disease, and a near fatal car crash, she finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer in April.
Another female social activist in the vein of Mankiller was Dorothy Height, whom many might not know -- because of our society's tendency to minimize female accomplishments -- however most Americans have seen her photograph emblazoned on the front page of their hometown newspapers, unfortunately without knowing who she was, for she often stood right next to folks like Martin Luther King.
Obama certainly knew of her and commended her legacy highly. Ms. Height was accorded a place of honor on the dais on Jan. 20, 2009, when Mr. Obama took the oath of office as the nations 44th president. In a statement on Tuesday, he called Ms. Height "the godmother of the civil rights movement and a hero to so many Americans."
She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years from 1957 to 1997, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004.
One of the last living links to the social activism of the New Deal era, Ms. Height had a career in civil rights that spanned nearly 80 years, from anti-lynching protests in the early 1930s to the inauguration of President Obama in 2009. That the American social landscape looks as it does today owes in no small part to her work.
With Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm, Betty Friedan and others, she helped found the National Womens Political Caucus in 1971. Over the decades, she advised a string of American presidents on civil rights.
Ms. Height stood near the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in Washington.
If Ms. Height was less well known than her contemporaries in either the civil rights or womens movement, it was perhaps because she was doubly marginalized, pushed offstage by womens groups because of her race and by black groups because of her sex. Throughout her career, she responded quietly but firmly, working with a characteristic mix of limitless energy and steely gentility to ally the two movements in the fight for social justice.
As a result, Ms. Height is widely credited as the first person in the modern civil rights era to treat the problems of equality for women and equality for African-Americans as a seamless whole, merging concerns that had been largely historically separate.
Lena Horne, the enchanting jazz singer and actress who reviled the bigotry that allowed her to entertain white audiences but not socialize with them, slowing her rise to Broadway superstardom, died in May of this year at 92.
Ms. Horne possessed drop dead gorgeous good looks, looks which she sometimes regretted as the means to fame and fortune. The very talented chanteuse whose striking beauty and magnetic sex appeal often overshadowed her sultry voice, was remarkably candid about the underlying reason for her success.
"I was unique in that I was a kind of black that white people could accept," she once said. "I was their daydream. I had the worst kind of acceptance because it was never for how great I was or what I contributed. It was because of the way I looked."
In the 1940s, she was one of the first black performers hired to sing with a major white band, the first to play the Copacabana nightclub and among a handful with a Hollywood contract.
In 1943, MGM Studios loaned her to 20th Century-Fox to play the role of Selina Rogers in the all-black movie musical "Stormy Weather." Her rendition of the title song became a major hit and her signature piece.
She was wildly popular with audiences and univerally acclaimed as a singer by every critic and reviewer. But Horne was perpetually frustrated with the public humiliation of racism.
"I was always battling the system to try to get to be with my people. Finally, I wouldn't work for places that kept us out. ... It was a damn fight everywhere I was, every place I worked, in New York, in Hollywood, all over the world," she said in Brian Lanker's book "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America."
While at MGM, she starred in the all-black "Cabin in the Sky," in 1943, but in most of her other movies, she appeared only in musical numbers that could be cut in the racially insensitive South without affecting the story. These included "I Dood It," a Red Skelton comedy; "Thousands Cheer" and "Swing Fever," all in 1943; "Broadway Rhythm" in 1944; and "Ziegfeld Follies" in 1946.
Early in her career Horne cultivated an aloof style out of self-preservation, becoming "a woman the audience can't reach and therefore can't hurt," she once said.
Later she embraced activism, breaking loose as a voice for civil rights and as an artist. In the last decades of her life, she rode a new wave of popularity as a revered icon of American popular music.
Her 1981 one-woman Broadway show, "Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music," won a special Tony Award. In it, the 64-year-old singer used two renditions -- one straight and the other gut-wrenching -- of "Stormy Weather" to give audiences a glimpse of the spiritual odyssey of her five-decade career.
A sometimes savage critic, John Simon, wrote that she was "ageless ... tempered like steel, baked like clay, annealed like glass; life has chiseled, burnished, refined her."
When Halle Berry became the first black woman to win the best actress Oscar in 2002, she sobbed: "This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. ... It's for every nameless, faceless woman of color who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
After a period of seclusion, she was pursuaded to reenter the public eye by a friend, and discovered that time had mellowed her bitterness.
"I wouldn't trade my life for anything," the woman who had once thrown a lamp at someone who had made a racist comment said, "because being Black made me understand."
Its pretty difficult to summarize the mercurial, erratic, wild man of Hollywood who blazed across the silver screen -- and the nation's psyche without ever even considering the thought of doing anything half-way.
The success of "Easy Rider," and the spectacular failure of his next film, "The Last Movie," fit the pattern for the talented but sometimes uncontrollable actor-director, who also had parts in such favorites as "Apocalypse Now" and "Hoosiers." He was a two-time Academy Award nominee, and in March 2010, was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.
After a promising start that included roles in two James Dean films, Hopper's acting career had languished as he developed a reputation for throwing tantrums and abusing alcohol and drugs. On the set of "True Grit," Hopper so angered John Wayne that the star reportedly chased Hopper with a loaded gun.
He married five times and led a dramatic life right to the end. In January 2010, Hopper filed to end his 14-year marriage to Victoria Hopper, who stated in court filings that the actor was seeking to cut her out of her inheritance, a claim Hopper denied.
"Much of Hollywood," wrote critic-historian David Thomson, "found Hopper a pain in the neck."
That had to be largely because Hopper, like colleage Jack Nicholson, never held back from anything he did or said.
He already had a bad boy reputation when he collaborated with another struggling actor, Peter Fonda, on a script about two pot-smoking, drug-dealing hippies on a motorcycle trip through the Southwest and South to take in the New Orleans Mardi Gras.
On the way, Hopper and Fonda befriend a drunken young lawyer (Jack Nicholson, whom Hopper had resisted casting, in a breakout role), but arouse the enmity of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.
"'Easy Rider' was never a motorcycle movie to me," Hopper said in 2009. "A lot of it was about politically what was going on in the country."
Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time. The film caught on despite tension between Hopper and Fonda and between Hopper and the original choice for Nicholson's part, Rip Torn, who quit after a bitter argument with the director.
The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The success propelled Universal Pictures to drop a cool million dollars into Hopper's next project, "The Last Movie", which struggled through drug-fueled orgies on location in Peru, and a year-long film editing in which Hopper dropped LSD so as to give himself "inspiration."
The movie tanked.
With the return of the "difficult to work with" moniker and bad boy image, Hopper left for Europe, where he collaborated with the then relatively unknown Wim Wenders and Werner Herzog. His depiction of slimy, unreliable American who abandons his associates in a pinch in the German "The American Friend" is startling in its truth and clarity by the detoxed Hopper.
He returned to the States where he made a remarkable comeback, starting with a memorable performance as a drugged-out journalist in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," a spectacularly long and troubled film to shoot. Hopper was drugged-out off camera, too, and his rambling chatter was worked into the final cut.
He went on to appear in several films in the early 1980s, including the well regarded "Rumblefish" and "The Osterman Weekend."
His portrayal of a disreputable crazy biker living in a shack with a pistol and an inflatable love doll in the "River's Edge" was one of many near genius performances in which he seemed to be saying, "See what I can do!"
But alcohol and drugs continued to interfere with his work. Treatment at a detox clinic helped him stop drinking but he still used cocaine, and at one point he became so hallucinatory that he was committed to the psychiatric ward of a Los Angeles hospital.
Upon his release, Hopper joined Alcoholics Anonymous, quit drugs and launched yet another comeback. It began in 1986 when he played an alcoholic ex-basketball star in "Hoosiers," which brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.
His role as a wild druggie in "Blue Velvet," also in 1986, won him more acclaim, and years later the character wound up No. 36 on the AFI's list of top 50 movie villains.
He returned to directing, with "Colors," ''The Hot Spot" and "Chasers."
Through the Nineties he worked at a frenetic pace, which surely will have film buffs scrambling for the next one hundred years just to catalog all the projects, however in his later years the increasingly sedate former wild man turned to pitching commercials for financial services that targeted the elderly and giving money to the Republican Party, although he endorsed Obama in 2008.
He also turned to painting, sculpture and fine art photography, always seeking some way to express something never fully realized by all the frenzy of his previous years.
SENATOR ROBERT C. BYRD
A conservative West Virginia Democrat who became the longest-serving member of Congress in history and used his extensive knowledge of the institution to shape the federal budget, protect the procedural rules of the Senate and, above all else, tend to the interests of his state, died at age 92.
It is impossible to speak shortly about the career of a man that spanned such a length of American history and social change that he himself came to reflect the revised tenor and spirit of the American people.
Starting in 1958, Mr. Byrd was elected to the Senate an unprecedented nine times. He wrote a four-volume history of the body, was majority leader twice and chaired the powerful Appropriations Committee, controlling the nation's purse strings, and yet the positions of influence he held did not convey the astonishing arc of his life.
A child of the West Virginia coal fields, Mr. Byrd rose from the grinding poverty that has plagued his state since before the Great Depression, overcame an early and ugly association with the Ku Klux Klan, worked his way through night school and by force of will, determination and iron discipline made himself a person of authority and influence in Washington.
Although he mined extraordinary amounts of federal largesse for his perennially impoverished state, his reach extended beyond the bounds of the Mountain State.
As chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on the District from 1961 to 1969, he reveled in his role as scourge, grilling city officials at marathon hearings and railing against unemployed black men and unwed mothers on welfare.
He was known for his stentorian orations seasoned with biblical and classical allusions and took pride in being the Senate's resident constitutional scholar, keeping a copy of the Constitution in his breast pocket. He saw himself both as institutional memory and as guardian of the Senate's prerogatives.
As a young man, Mr. Byrd was an "exalted cyclops" of the Ku Klux Klan. Although he apologized numerous times for what he considered a youthful indiscretion, his early votes in Congress -- notably a filibuster against the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- reflected racially separatist views. As those views moderated, Mr. Byrd rose in the party hierarchy.
A lifelong autodidact and a firm believer in continuing education -- vocational schools, community colleges, adult education -- Mr. Byrd practiced what he preached. While in the U.S. House from 1953 to 1959, he took night classes at law schools. He received a law degree from American University in 1963 and is the only member of Congress to put himself through law school while in office.
In addition to his multivolume history of the Senate, Mr. Byrd was author of a 770-page memoir as well as "Losing America: Confronting a Reckless and Arrogant Presidency" (2004), a well-received and stinging critique of what he considered President George W. Bush's rush to war with Iraq.
In his book and on the Senate floor, he was scathing in his contempt for the Bush administration's doctrine of "preemptive war" and "regime change." He castigated his fellow lawmakers for swiftly delegating to the president the decision to go to war.
On March 19, 2003, Mr. Byrd delivered the first of what became regular attacks on the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq. "Today I weep for my country," he said in a speech on the Senate floor. "I have watched the events of recent months with a heavy, heavy heart. No more is the image of America one of strong yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed."
His early years in politics started right off with a controversial bang after he had announced his candidacy for House of Representatives from West Virginia's 6th Congressional District. During the Democratic primary, his principal opponent revealed that Mr. Byrd had been a Klan member in 1942-43.
Mr. Byrd bought radio and television time to acknowledge his Klan affiliation, characterizing it as a "mistake of youth." He apologized repeatedly over the years, describing it as "the greatest mistake of my life."
The governor demanded that Mr. Byrd withdraw from the Democratic ticket, as did most of the state's newspapers, but friends and neighbors donated 50 cents here and a dollar there so he could keep his campaign going. He won with 57.4 percent of the vote and was reelected by larger margins in 1954 and 1956.
With both of West Virginia's Senate seats up for election in 1958, the 40-year-old congressman decided to make his move. Mr. Byrd lambasted President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his "lack of strong leadership" on foreign policy, his weak response to the Soviet scientific threat symbolized by the Sputnik satellite launch and his inability to stem the tide of recession.
Mr. Byrd won handily, even though the United Mine Workers initially opposed him and the coal companies worked to beat him.
It did not help his early image that he filibustered for 14 hours against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, however time and continued presence in the Senate and his sincere desire to learn everything he could about everything more than moderated his once strident opinions about race.
He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and most of Johnson's "war on poverty" programs. "We can take the people out of the slums, but we cannot take the slums out of the people," he said. "Wherever some people go the slums will follow. People first have to clean up inside themselves."
His detractors labeled him a racist hillbilly, but quietly over the years he worked to shed that image. When he arrived in the Senate in 1959, he had hired one of the Capitol's first black congressional aides. When a vote on making King's birthday a federal holiday came up on the floor of the Senate in 1983, Mr. Byrd told an aide, "I'm the only one who must vote for this bill." In 2008, Mr. Byrd endorsed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) for president.
In 1971, he ran for the position of Democratic whip and defeated the incumbent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, at a time when the Massachusetts senator was distracted by a personal scandal. In 1969, Kennedy had driven a car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, Mass., and a young female passenger drowned. Mr. Byrd relied on votes from Southern and border-state senators, including a deathbed proxy from his old mentor Russell.
When he became majority whip, Mr. Byrd was the third most conservative senator outside the South, but within weeks of assuming whip duties, his voting record began to moderate. Although he never relinquished his conservative, moralistic demeanor, he began to support most civil rights legislation, including the Equal Rights Amendment. He also continued to vote with Senate liberals on housing, unemployment benefits, Social Security and public works projects.
"A leadership role is different," he said, "and one does represent a broader constituency."
DANIEL LOUIS SCHORR
In July, America lost one of its preeminent journalists, and one of the last, if not the very last, proteges of Edward R. Murrow. Schorr won three Emmy Awards for his television journalism.
His first paid assignment occured when a woman jumped off the roof of his Bronx apartment building and he phoned in the story to the local news service. The five year old Schorr was paid $5 for his efforts.
Following several years as a stringer, in 1953 he joined CBS News as one of the recruits of Edward R. Murrow (becoming part of the later generation of Murrow's Boys). In 1955, with the post-Stalin thaw in the Soviet Union, he received accreditation to open a CBS bureau in Moscow. In June 1957, he obtained an exclusive interview with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Communist party chief. It aired on CBS's Face the Nation, Schorr's first television interview. Schorr left the Soviet Union later that year, because of Soviet censorship laws. When he applied for a new visa, it was denied by the Soviets.
In January 1962, he aired the first examination of everyday life under communism in East Germany, The Land Beyond the Wall: Three Weeks in a German City, which The New York Times called a "journalistic coup". After agreeing not to foster "propaganda" for the United States, Schorr was granted the rights to conduct the interviews in the city of Rostock. By airing everyday life, Schorr painted a picture of the necessity for a Communist state to seal itself off from the West in order to survive.
In 1971, after a dispute with White House aides, Schorr's friends, neighbors, and co-workers were questioned by the FBI about his habits. They were told that Schorr was under consideration for a high-level position in the environmental area. Schorr knew nothing about it. Later, during the Watergate hearings, it was revealed that Nixon aides had drawn up what became known as Nixon's Enemies List, and Daniel Schorr was on that list. Schorr read the list aloud on live TV, surprised to be reading his own name in that context.
In an incident that ought to stir up recognition, Schorr provoked intense controversy in 1976 when he received and made public the contents of the secret Pike Committee report on illegal CIA and FBI activities. Called to testify before Congress, he refused to identify his source on First Amendment grounds, risking imprisonment. This did not mollify CBS executives, and Schorr ultimately resigned from his position at CBS in September 1976.
In appearance and temperament, he was one of Murrow's gray-suited boys all the way, and although not a fan of rock music, Schorr became friends with composer Frank Zappa after the latter contacted him, asking for help with a voter-registration drive. Schorr made an appearance with Zappa on February 10, 1988, where he sang "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime". Schorr delivered the eulogy on NPR after Zappa's death on December 4, 1993; he professed not to understand Zappa's lengthy discourses on music theory, but he found a kindred spirit -- a serious man with a commitment to free speech.
William Saxbe, probably the only true Republican maverick worthy of the name in any positive sense, became the fourth attorney general to serve under President Richard M. Nixon and presided during the Watergate investigation, died August 24 at age 94.
Nixon's first two attorneys general were accused of Watergate-related crimes and the third, Elliot Richardson, resigned to protest Nixon's efforts to limit the investigation into the break-in and cover-up attempts.
Searching for a nominee who would be easily confirmed, the president chose Saxbe, a lame-duck one-term U.S. senator who had once labeled the Nixon administration "one of the most inept" in history.
"He was probably the only one who could have got confirmed as attorney general of the United States after the 'Saturday night massacre,'" Bennett said, referring to the 1973 firing on Nixon's orders of Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox and the resignation of the Justice Department's top two officials.
Saxbe took office in 1974 served for just longer than a year. He resigned Feb. 1, 1975, six months after President Gerald Ford took office, to become ambassador to India, a post he held until January 1977.
Saxbe's first mission as attorney general was to convince the public and the White House that he would brook no interference with the operations of the independent Watergate prosecutor. Those involved said he made good on the promise.
The Watergate scandal, which involved a 1972 break-in at Democratic National Committee offices later traced to the Committee to Re-elect the President, led to the resignation of several in the Nixon administration as well as convictions related to cover-up efforts. Nixon resigned in August 1974 and denied involvement, but audio tapes he later released on a judge's order showed he had tried to inhibit the investigation.
By midsummer 1974, Saxbe was convinced Nixon had lied to him and to the American people, Saxbe wrote in his 2000 autobiography. He said Nixon "wrecked the Republican Party" and that he didn't go to Nixon's funeral in 1994.
"He had lied to me ... and he tried to involve me in his lies. I never can forgive him for that," Saxbe wrote.
Saxbe was known for strong opinions and blunt comments. In 1971, he referred to Nixon's aides H.R. Haldeman and John Ehrlichman as "a couple of Nazis."
And his comment about the resumption of the bombing of North Vietnam in 1972 was widely reported: "I have followed President Nixon through all his convulsions and specious arguments, but he appears to have lost his senses on this."
Such comments dismayed the Justice Department hierarchy when he was in office.
As attorney general, he pushed for legislation limiting access to criminal records of suspects and to files relating to investigations.
After Ford became president, Saxbe's work included ordering the 1974 filing of an antitrust lawsuit that eventually led to the breakup of AT&T into seven companies.
Saxbe had been a favorite of Ohio voters -- a member of the state House of Representatives at 29, majority leader at 34, speaker at 37, Ohio attorney general, then U.S. senator. As the state's attorney general, Saxbe was a voice for capital punishment and stiff sentences for gun-related crimes. It was his stances on these issues which led some in the GOP to believe they had someone malleable as well as "on the message."
When he got to Washington in 1969, he surprised some fellow Republicans by taking unexpectedly liberal positions, such as his stand against development of anti-ballistic missiles.
Few people know the truth, but the founder of one of the largest and filthiest of porn empires started public life as a would-be priest enrolled in a seminary and that the magazine, "Penthouse", was begun as a way to fund his career as a struggling artist, begun after dropping out of the Catholic church.
Guccione started Penthouse in 1965 in England to subsidize his art career and was the magazine's first photographer. He introduced the magazine to the American public in 1969 at the height of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.
Penthouse quickly posed a challenge to Playboy by offering a mix of tabloid journalism with provocative photos of nude women. The centerfolds were dubbed Penthouse Pets.
"We followed the philosophy of voyeurism," Guccione told The Independent newspaper in London in 2004. He added that he attained a stylized eroticism in his photography by posing his models looking away from the camera.
Guccione built a corporate empire under the General Media Inc. umbrella that included book publishing and merchandising divisions and Viva, a magazine featuring male nudes aimed at a female audience. He also created Penthouse Forum, the pocket-size magazine that played off the success of the racy letters to the editor.
Guccione and longtime business collaborator Kathy Keeton, who later became his third wife, also published more mainstream fare, such as Omni magazine, which focused on science and science fiction, and Longevity, a health advice magazine. Keeton died of cancer in 1997 following surgery, but Guccione continued to list her on the Penthouse masthead as president.
Guccione lost much of his personal fortune on bad investments and risky ventures.
Probably his best-known business failure was a $17.5 million investment in the 1979 production of the X-rated film "Caligula." Malcolm McDowell was cast as the decadent emperor of the title, and the supporting cast included Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O'Toole.
Distributors shunned the film, with its graphic scenes of lesbianism and incest. However, it eventually became General Media's most popular DVD.
Guccione also lost millions on a proposed Atlantic City casino. He never received a gambling license and construction of the casino stalled.
Legal fees further eroded his fortune. Among those who sued were televangelist Jerry Falwell, a California resort, a former Miss Wyoming and a Penthouse Pet who accused Guccione of forcing her to perform sexual favors for business colleagues.
In 1985, Guccione had to pay $45 million in delinquent taxes.
The next year, U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography issued a report attacking the adult entertainment industry. Guccione called the report "disgraceful" and doubted it would have any impact, but newsstands and convenience stores responded by pulling Penthouse from their magazine racks.
Sales dropped after the Meese commission report and years later took another hit with the proliferation of X-rated videos and Web sites. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, Penthouse's circulation dipped below 1 million in the late 1990s and fell to about 463,000 in 2003, the year General Media Inc. filed for bankruptcy. Over the first six months of 2010, Penthouse reported circulation of barely 178,000.
"The future has definitely migrated to electronic media," Guccione acknowledged in a 2002 New York Times interview.
In 2004, a private-equity investor from Florida acquired Penthouse in a bankruptcy sale. Penthouse and related properties are now owned by FriendFinder Networks Inc., a Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that offers social networking and online adult entertainment, including some with the Penthouse brand.
Ironically, the man who only wanted to live as an artist painting pictures wound up selling off his multimillion dollar collection to pay off debts, unload his mansions, and selling off the majority of his publishing empire. He went back to painting full time by 2007, and his works were shown at venues including the Butler Institute of American Art in Ohio and the Nassau County Museum of Art in New York, said April Guccione, who married him in 2006.
Its recent enough that we need not say much about the career diplomat who engineered the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war.
World leaders on Tuesday praised U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke for engineering the end of the 1992-1995 Bosnia war -- Europe's bloodiest conflict since World War II -- and for seeking to bring stability to war-torn Afghanistan.
Even Holbrooke's main opponent in the war in Bosnia, Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, expressed "sadness and regret" over Holbrooke's unexpected death Monday following surgery for a tear in his aorta. Karadzic had been hoping to call Holbrooke to testify in his genocide trial.
But in Afghanistan, the Taliban rejoiced at news of his death, claiming it was caused by failures in the U.S.-led war there and Holbrooke's "grappling with a constant psychological stress" from his position as President Barack Obama's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"The protracted Afghan war and the descending trajectory of the Americans' handling of the warfare in the country had a lethal dent on Holbrooke's health," the group said on jihadi Web sites monitored by SITE Intelligence Group, a private U.S.-based group that tracks Islamic militant communications.
Well, you just can't please everybody all the time.
Holbrooke, a 69-year-old foreign policy veteran who worked in Vietnam as a foreign service member during the war and advised four Democratic presidents, had been serving until his death as special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan in the Obama administration. Though Holbrooke is believed to have seen the war in Afghanistan as winnable, he allegedly struggled in his dealings with the Afghan government - particularly when it came to the country's widespread corruption and lack of functional public services.
In a statement, President Obama called Holbrooke, who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize seven times (including for his work brokering the war-ending Dayton peace accords in former Yugoslavia), a "true giant of American foreign policy who has made America stronger, safer, and more respected." The president also praised Holbrooke's work in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In his final words before emergency heart surgery, Richard Holbrooke, the influential U.S. diplomat who died following complications from the surgery, urged an end to America's nine-year old Afghanistan conflict.
"You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan," Holbrooke told
his Pakistani surgeon before entering into surgery according to family
members, the Washington Post reported.
The Island-Life staff bid adieu this month to our mascot and good friend of 15 years, Herr Professor Doktor Graf Friederich von Oakland-an-der-Meer.
The Doctor got his name from an incident during a staff person's visit to then East Berlin before the Wall came down. There on the former Bismarkallee, a couple American tourists queried an official about a statue of an imperial-looking military general riding a horse while wearing a three-corner hat and with the classic pose of one hand stuck between his shirtfront buttons.
The official burst into laughter, exclaiming, "Ach, meine Gute! Napoleon! In the main capitol of the DDR! How terrible is that! Right here in our city, a statue to a notorious Capitalist! No, that is not Napoleon, but a bad one just as well. That is Friederich Der Grosse!"
Somewhat chastened at being reminded that it had been Prussia which had formed an alliance with Duke Wellington to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo, rendering any homage to the French tyrant highly unlikely anywhere in Germany, East or West, the Americans went on their way with the official person still laughing.
So, that is how Friederich got his name. He became a Doktor when he passed his Exams.
He enjoyed bookcases, reading chairs, and assaulting small mobile objects,
both living and inanimate. A student of Joyce and Nabokov, he often pondered
upon the spherical prison of Time, but did not appear to get overly emotional
about it. A student of physics, he successfully unified several tangential
issues regarding chaos and string theory, for which he was awarded an
OBE by the Royal Academy of London, and was on the point of sending a
communique to Stephen Hawking regarding the motivational tweaking that
could conceivably rescue the Human Race from certain annihilation in fifty
years; he called his theory "Necessary Altruism". He passed
away after issuing some editorial suggestions for the December 5th issue
of Island-Life during the early hours of Monday, December 6, 2010.
Its been a soggy week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
Its the night after Xmas, and we hope all of you got what was coming to you. Earlier in the week, the Solstice passed with its usual Druidical and Wiccan ceremonies around here. Winter has begun, which they probably figured out up in Minnesotta without having to get a gander at the wall calendar. Tuesday, Old Gaia sat out on the porch of the World, a blanket of forests and plains sweeping away from the feet of her boney mountains. The light fades and now is the time when Gaia inclines her head away from Mssr. Soleil to look within herself, explore a bit of that shadowy Lilith that balances out all that sharp Yin under her tam o'shanter of clouds. The lights flicker as the skies move, causing the Irrlichter dappling the frozen ground.
It's the last week of 2010, a year that began with a lot of promise for a new decade, and which wound up being a terrible trial for most of us. We've got rabid nutcase Teabaggers running wild, we have absolute angelhair wackjobs like Sara Palin being taken seriously, we have an Economy that resembles more a lump of limburger cheese than the ediface of an Empire, we have the vast majority of what we buy to use each day made by slaves in a country with avowed antipathy in both its ideology and in each individual to each and every citizen born and raised here and to the most cherished beliefs all of us have no matter where we were raised.
You buy their cheap socket wrench, their flimsy flashlight and their cheesy Zhuzu hamster toys and they despise you and regard you with disgust even as they take your money.
Debtor nation, you stink.
Down at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic and Dawn are getting ready for the Big Night that will be NYE, which is for bars all over the equivalent of Black Friday Weekend for retailers. This year there was a lot of pseudo-newsy whistling in the dark as "reports" of "the biggest Black Friday ever" started drifting in, starting about 9 am -- before the stores even opened.
Same thing as last year.
Suzie and Dawn string up additional foil streamers in between pouring Fat Tires and shots for the regulars. Old Schmidt has his schnapps and beer and Eugene sits there with his customary mojito. A lot of the Not-From-Heres have left town during the Great Recession, making the vacancy rate on the Island the highest its been since the Navy was here, however the Man from Minot is there at a table, staring into the candle with his Gaelic coffee beside him. California is a rough place to be when things go bust, but the temperature in Minot right now is about 44 degrees below zero, which pretty much rules out comfortable living as the winter winds come blasting down from Winnipeg. You cannot even do ice fishing in North Dakota, like they do in a neighboring state -- there are no lakes.
Chad was absent, having managed to find an hottie on the Facebook of Dating. He had not peeked out of his rooms for a couple of weeks, and the rumor was that he had finally found happiness, or at least a lustful semblance thereof. Suzie felt a little envious, but was happy for the old hippie.
Ever since the tango disaster with Jorge she had kept her hair chopped ultra-short, but the weather had now changed so she wore a cap all the time now to keep warm. She shivered back to her place behind the bar and picked up her anthropology book.
Each sits in his or her place, dreaming winter dreams in the rustling bar while a George Winston tune plays softly over the speakers, remembering, remembering. . .
When you were a child in the time of black tree bones and razor light cutting the shadows, and everything hidden beneath the mantle of white crust that forms when rain falls after a deep snow. The iron pump handle wears a robe and the BBQ grill has disappeared beneath a hummock. The wind pushes the rice grains of snow crystals like miniature armies across the frozen steppes and things are solid and still in that black and white cold world, except for the shaking beneath of intense chill deeper than outer space.
And you as a little girl went running across that expanse of the steppes year after year, unable to make any sort of snow angel in the hard crust until one year, the heaviness and gravity broke through and you plunged down, never to be angel-light again. The snow got beneath the mittens and burned your skin and you wondered what had happened to the hummingbirds and the robins . . .
"Yo! Can a guy get a drink around here?"
The customer's request knocked away Suzie's reverie. "Yeah sure. What'll it be?"
The man stood wearing a bulky suede coat -- it had stopped raining -- and a watchcap over his intensely blue eyes. "One Power. Make it a double on the rocks."
Sure thing, she said and reaches for the whiskey.
Beautiful dreamer, the man said. Or so he seemed to say. Maybe he just said, Baby its cold outside.
Just then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the dreaming cold waves of the estuary and the dripping Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week and a safe NYE.
DECEMBER 19, 2010
A HAZY SHADE OF WINTER
This week's photo comes from Chad's trove of images. Kinda speaks for itself.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Sorry to inform folks East of here that the seagulls started coming way inland midweek in advance of a "reely big shew" offshore. The storm front looks to be well over 900 miles long and about as wide and it started dumping precipitation on Friday, getting really serious into Saturday, and causing the sky to light up with electricity Sunday in a major dockwalloper. The old KRON weatherman says this will keep up well into next week to the weekend at least, bringing some three to four inches of wet stuff before its half done. Other sources confirm this report.
Also hear that a storm front is marching up from the Gulf, which ought to add to general misery throughout the Midwest well past the 25th. Just do not try to fly or drive anywhere for a while.
The weather service said the freezing precipitation will start as snow and gradually change into sleet and freezing rain by Wednesday and into Thursday morning for the Southeast US.
Up to half an inch of ice is expected to accumulate across Kentucky and Tennessee and possibly into northern Mississippi and Alabama, raising the risk of downed power lines for residents across the region.
Winter storm warnings are in effect across much of Kentucky and southern Indiana, according to the National Weather Service.
Good news for folks looking for deep powder in the Sierra for their athletic entertainment, though.
BUT, FLOWERS NEVER BEND WITH THE RAINFALL
Those pesky raccoons got themselves into the news again when they engaged in a lively rumble with housepets after using the unlocked doggy door here on the Island. The residents, seeking to intervene also took the brunt of teeth and claws before the masked bandits scampered away. Must be Island Newbies, as just about all of us who have lived here a while know to lock those darned doggie doors securely after sundown so as to avoid this very problem . . .
Someone puckishly blamed the thieving raccoons for swiping Xmas ornaments from the fabled displays on Thompson Avenue. The street has been called "Xmas Tree Lane" by reason of the extraordinary displays put up year after year by long-term residents there. Raccoons or not, the perps are dastardly Grinches of the worst kind. Are there no Workhouses for the likes of these . . . ?
The County, in an effort to save $$, will be consolidating all Family court operations at the George E. McDonald Hall of Justice here on the Island. Meanwhile, all civil and traffic departments currently located in Alameda will be moved to Oakland with traffic departments moving to the Wiley W. Manuel Courthouse and civil departments moving to the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse.
We do not know how this will affect our traffic Commissioner, who has always seemed to us to be a bit of a character, necessitated by the often quixotic enforcement of traffic ordinances here. For some odd reason, certain fishing violations are lumped here under Traffic Court jurisdiction, so it will be interesting to see how Oakland handles "Fishing without a Line" issues.
On the flip side, we note that getting all of Family Court is hardly a plum, for these tend to be the most acrimonious and often violent civil cases brought before the law. Many times, while working for County Counsel, we witnessed full scale brawls erupting from the courtroom, necessitating intervention by Sheriff Deputies with tasers and pepper spray.
Given the slim chance of another property tax passing with 2/3rds majority next election, the Unified School District is already making plans to handle the contingency of failure with calculated cutbacks and school closures. Starve the government until there is nothing left but military, this is what you get . . . .
Sign pollution. A dreadful thing to be sure. But the complainers are not shooting at billboards or obnoxious advertising; they are talking about the leftover campaign signs left by candidates after the last election. Okay people, so you lost. Collect your damn signs, show a little civic pride, and maybe you can reuse them next time. And you folks picking nits about campaign signs and parking between the lines and leaf blowers -- please get a life. Life will be far more pleasant and aesthetic without your goddamned ugly snarking about nothing important . Sheesh . . . !
I HEAR THE DRIZZLE OF THE RAIN / SOFT LIKE A MEMORY IT FALLS
Its been a soggy week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Many of the Season's usual festivities have been forestalled or held under dripping umbrellas. At Marlene and Andre's household the annual collection of the tree, always a dicey affair with sometimes somewhat illegal enterprise took place under Blakean clouds of thunder and black premonitions. Javier secured a secondhand toss-off discard of a tree at well over half off, which, given the dire circumstances of the Great Recession, was the best they could afford.
It was a six footer Douglas Fir exhibiting some fire damage up the side, needle loss and rough treatment all around. No decent family would have it in the livingroom, but a tree was a tree and the Household was not one to be picky. As usual, Javier, Pahrump, Jose, Xavier, Marlene, and Martini collected the tree and carted the sad dripping thing on the wheeled Flexible Flyer wagon that functioned as handtruck and basic transport to bring the article from the lot outside the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint.
So down Grand Street they went in a crowd surrounding this tree on a wagon with Officer O'Madhauen cruising by with a suspicious eye and looking for any sort of infraction as an excuse to write a ticket not a soul among them could have paid, a fact of which the Officer knew to his dismay. And so no ticket was written that night and all were glad.
Finally the tree was brought in to the house and put into its steel washbasin there and lo! What a sad thing it was! For it had lost the greater part of its needles and had gone all brown in the rest and there were the scorch marks up the side as evidence of some terrible disaster. It was not so much as a Xmas tree as a skeleton reminder of what could have been.
They all stood there looking at this thing and then they all began to attack Javier for the gall of having thought to bring it here. And they called him all sorts of mean nasty names and such and he was felt much abused.
That's a mean, nasty, ugly stick of a thing and what you mean spending good money on this?
Then Marlene appeared with a box that contained her grandmother's glass globes, so precious, all that remained of that distant past.
"Okay now, lets decorate the tree," she said.
And that humble rack of twigs and needles was hung with the old Russian
ornaments, and with lights and with all manner of adornments, humble thought
they were, consisting of condom packets, tinsel of used aluminum foil,
re-purposed LED and rewired-circuit boards, barbed wire, until Lo! The
humble tree that was, now surpassed all its fellows in glory by reason
of adornment and care!
And so it was that the tree in Marlene and Andre's household, anchored by cinderblock in an old steel washtub became a kind of light of Heaven, or at least what heaven there is.
That night Marlene and Andre looked upon the tree in their household while all the residents lay about in their sleeping bags, on their cots or, as Occasional Quentin, underneath the coffee table. There it was, blinking quietly with its LED circuit boards cobbled together by Mancini from found parts in the trash bin, its tinsel of used aluminum foil, condom wrappers hung by paperclips, and Marlene's saved Russian globes shining in the half light as the tree zigged and zagged its crooked way from its cinderblock foundation in the old steel washtub.
Dinner that night had consisted of a turkey tetrazzini swiped by the bandmates of No Future in Real Estate at a gig for the Elks Lodge (BPOE!) where Quentin, Javier and Denby had lined their trenchcoats with plastic bags so they could shovel down entire serving trays until they went sloshing out to the parking lot to unload everything bound by twist ties onto the Flexible Flyer wagon and so go home with that and scads of hot-cross buns and butter patties to share with the House, for they did not have much, these folks in the midst of the Great Recession, but they had each other.
Along the way they greeted a family of some ten raccoons ambling along in search of open trash bins and cat dishes left out in the rain. The masked bandits grumbled and snorted at their fellow thieves before continuing along with their raids, for let it be remembered that among those who hung beside the Man on the Cross, there was not a patrician, nor a landholder nor a banker, but a set of common thieves. For the landlords and the patricians it is as difficult as a camel to pass through a needle's eye, but it is said that among those thieves that day, to at least one was given the keys to Heaven.
And there in that Household with Marlene and Andre stood among their fellow Fallen Angels, Suan, Martini, Jose, Javier, Denby, Quentin, Marsha, Tipitina, Sarah, Pahrump, Rolf and all the dogs (Bonkers, Wickiwup and Johnny Cash) they held one another close. They had to, for no one could afford to pay PG&E to heat the house and it had come to a cold Winter's time.
A great Peace descended upon the rain-pattered Island then. No sirens wailed, no screams were heard, and no one got shot. Just the patient shush of the rain falling made sound on the night before Solstice.
Wouldn't you know but then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the peaceful waves of the estuary and the weedy Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 12, 2010
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE
Ivy, owner of the local Garden Nursery on Lincoln, reminds us that this Season is one filled with all kinds of spirituality, beside that which is honked insistently by nutcases protesting Walmart's secular displays.
SANTA GOT A D-W-I!
And seems so did this little feller trying pretty hard to scamper without much success.
Children, let this be a lesson to all of you -- leave off them fermented pumpkin seeds and definitely don't try to drink and climb. Where was Officer O'Madhauen during all this?
NOW I'VE HEARD THERE WAS A SECRET CHORD / THAT DAVID PLAYED WHICH PLEASED THE LORD
Dropped in for the final opening of Park Street's Autobody Art Gallery, the Island's first and certainly not its last venture into the realm of commercial Fine Art. The Directors and Owners, Colin Herrick and Jacqueline Cooper let us know that "financial considerations" involved this momentary hiatus in active shows, however the space will remain available for rent as studios for artists. Essentially, the Great Recession smacked this one down, despite loads of talent and work that reflected distinctly NorCal Bay Area sensibilities.
The final show -- pro tem -- featured work by Renee Castro and Ken Davis with a theme centered around the Neptune Beach Amusement Park, which operated at Crab Cove from 1917 until 1939, when the Depression and changing entertainment habits forced its closure. It was a massively large enterprise, although admission was only ten cents, and easily rivaled the famed Playland at the Beach with its rented cottages, Olympic swimming pools, carnival rides, park expanses, and celebrity events. Today, not a trace of it remains except in memories.
True to Autobody's aesthetic and direction, the work of both artists highlighted younger Gen X sensibilities unique to the Bay Area. Behind Autobody's thrust is the culmination of a local movement in search of regional identity that is constructed from deconstructed parts: Tattoos, the Woman Warrior, artifacts of a lost Age which for some reason had no chance to engender inheritors of its gaudy legacy and an overriding sense that the Official Historical Narrative is badly in need of reformation.
Both Colin and Jacqueline undoubtedly learned a great deal from this foray into commercial fine art, and they appear to have more than enough energy to keep on doing. Colin mentioned that "Perhaps in a few months things will change and we will be back to it." There is no question these two Islanders are in for good and certainly will make a return in some spectacular way later on.
YOU ASK ME WHAT I WANT THIS YEAR, WELL LET ME MAKE THIS KIND AND CLEAR
Someone sent us a buzz about Kat Ellis who has founded a website and joined an increasingly larger movement -- or series of movements -- dedicated to decommercializing Xmas. At least for themselves and people who know them.
Followers are avoiding shopping malls and opting to save their money, make their own presents or provide free services like baby-sitting or massages as gifts.
"The holiday season is about sharing time with loved ones, not going into debt," said Cat Ellis, a Facebook "Buy Nothing Christmas" follower. "It is entirely unnecessary to spend money in order to show others that you care."
In addition to the Facebook page that Ellis and some 1,700 people follow, websites called buynothingchristmas, buynothingday and revbilly are encouraging people to stop spending a lot of cash on gifts and reduce holiday consumerism.
Aiden Enns co-founded buynothingchristmas.org and said during the holidays, his site attracts up to 7,000 hits a day from people wanting to learn more about the movement.
"Our website challenges people to de-commercialize Christmas and connect in simpler ways, such as spending time with friends and loved ones and giving to less-privileged people," said Enns.
I DON'T WANT PRESENTS WRAPPED IN STRING, OR DESIGNER LOVE OR EMPTY THINGSThis is a reminder that we West Enders will be hosting Winter Island on Webster Street in a series of free events December 16-30. The center for these things will be under an heated tent at the corner of Webster and Pacific. There will be some events costing a nominal admission fee of $5-10 however anyone who brings in a store receipt from any business on the Island will be given free tickets. Folks who come to the movie screenings of "Miracle on 34th Street", and "Its a Wonderful Life" will get free popcorn and sodas if they can produce a register precept.
Residents who attended recent open-forums on the future of the Point now that the grudge-bearing and grumpy SunCal has left town except for the bad odor and their lawsuits (guaranteed to really interest any other potential communities where this rather distasteful outfit may want to fleece ... um, conduct business) all pretty much said what Frank Mataresse, Doug DeHaan and Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcroft said before the elections. They want the City to devise the Big Plan, not some self-aggrandizing out-of-towners. Also revealed is that even with the City evicting several businesses out at the Point for fear that they might want to stay and thereby inhibit development leases at the Point earned some $12 million, up from $8 million a few years ago. Perhaps the City ought to look at doing more of this. Is this the unaccustomed sound of Common Sense now reverberating through the land?
Next election is in March and everyone better be ready to vote yea or nay on a school funding parcel tax plan, because the District intends to go forward with this idea which will require a full 2/3rds majority to pass.
Remember we reported on the ambulance service issues a while ago? Okay, quite a lot has happened since then. Right now the firefighters provide exclusive transport services, but this contract has been put in jeopardy by the current contract expiration and the finances for $857,851, which is not in the firefighter fund. The money will now come from the Mayor's General Fund for the coming year, however the future holds another property tax to keep it going.
The Island Hospital is again in hot water, this time over its habit of redirecting stroke victims off the Island to certified stroke centers. The Hospital has no certification although the FD transport is required to take folks first to the Hospital. According to Sources, the Hospital Administration "is aware of the problem and is working on it." Certification is expected next year.
In a truly pinched-spirit event, one Island family discovered that an anonymous person who had been threatening them with unspecified action if they did not silence their barking pooch finally poisoned the dog with rat killer. The dog may now be silent (rest assured, he was no poodle!) but because of the letter threats the crime moves beyond pure animal cruelty into another realm entirely and this total jerkoff may expect federal agents to come rap, rap, rapping upon his chamber door any day now.
Wussup with the turn-signals lately? Seems the local Non Compos Mentis chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Confused is once again back in town. The larger and more preposterous the vehicle the more likely the driver will either fail to employ the signals or perform the notorious Stealth Turn Maneuver by signaling to turn right in the right lane before abruptly yanking the wheel to the left. Is it these people are afraid of flashing lights, or the signal tick-tick is so maddening out of time with their blasting of Black Sabbath/Metallica/Brittany Spears that they had their signals removed? Perhaps its Paranoia. "If I don't signal, they'll never know where I am going! Ha! Ha! Ha!"
JUST A CHANCE THAT MAYBE WE'LL FIND BETTER DAYS
This marks the first year in fifteen years and more that Island-Life did not attend any of the LIVE105 Not So Silent Night concerts. Nor did we attend the KFOG Concert for Kids, this year, entirely due to the pinch of the Great Recession. That and family illness.
Bela Fleck is going to do incredible things to banjos with the Flecktones at the Fox December 16th.
Still sailing on seas of cheese and neverminding the elephant, local boy Les Claypool will be resurrecting the awesome Primus for the enviable 30th-31st dates at the Fox. Please note in small print, The Residents will eyeball you on the 30th as warm-up.
Yoshi's has a killer lineup from this week's Charlie Hunter to Maria Muldaur's Xmas Show December 15, followed by guitar wunderkind Robben Ford 16th-19th, and then, AND THEN ! The Island's own Natasha Miller on the 20th. Expect jazz. Expect sultry. Expect the best. For its Yoshi's East in Oakland, on the Warmer Side of the Bay.
NYE Lala Hathaway will R&B your souls into the new year.
It's been a moody week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The "deck is high" the weatherman said earlier today as they say around here regarding the pogonip, but the foghorns start tolling as the density starts rolling and by morning everyone is awake to the tugs tooting as the gulls are looting somewhere in the opaque gray slab of nada and another day begins in Northern California. You stumble in the half-darkness over to get the coffee, happy enough the autodrip worked this time and through the dew-transluscent window you can see the lace hydrangea insisting with a few last purple heads that its and you're glad we're both not in Minnesota or the East Coast right now.
Nebraska would never have you and Oklahoma is too radical as is much of the savagely Conservative Texas. The Republicans destroyed Louisiana and Mississippi -- because it was entirely too easy and they knew the people there would never figure it out -- and Alabama along with Georgia is atavistically wild with subhuman inbreeding experiments and strange Deliverance creatures skulking through swamps and mossy salons where fine ladies dandle teacups between fetid hairy-palmed monsters, pretending not to notice the carrion smell and the hanging genitalia of the Old South, which the New South has been strenuously trying to beat to death on each Saturday night with sword canes and rock and roll. It will take time and everything the Indigo Girls can give but Now is Now.
So you wind up in California. Either because you were born here (or Nevada, which is almost the same thing) or you arrived like a plunging son of a Minotian sculptor, smashing down in flames, molten wax and really badly messed up plumage.
Well the superstructure framework made really good material for shelves, which everyone thinks you bought from Ikea and with your meaningless dayjob captained by Mr. or Ms. Turdbrain, you fit right in.
Right about now, it occurs to you that you have read entirely too much Gore Vidal lately. And this is a thought that no one in Minnesota, in Nebraska, or in any of the other places from which you may conceivably have originated will ever say to themselves.
Its either the Vidal or the Hunter Thompson. Or maybe the absinthe. It looked so green there on the shelf and now that its legal and made here right on the Island you wondered what it would be like to drink pure Neon -- not the halogen, which is a gas, but neon light. So you bought a bottle and brought it right home and poured yourself a glass and downed it right then and . . . oh my . . . it was not like drinking light at all.
You begin to feel rather odd and things start moving and you figure, well, now is about time to read the usage instructions there and the little booklet that came with it and . . . shock, you are simply shocked. It says, "Place three drops of absinthe upon a sugar cube held over a cup of water and so strained, the resulting intoxicating beverage should be more than enough to satisfy. ABOVE ALL ELSE, DO NOT OVER INDULGE AS THE PRIMARY INGREDIENT OF THUJONE IS HIGHLY TOXIC! THAT'S WHY ITS CALLED WORMWOOD, DUMMY -- BECAUSE IT KILLS WORMS!"
Oh dear. You did make a mistake, now didn't you. How much was that you swallowed? About 10 ounces? What is a juice glass anyway? More than three drops . . . Nevermind! Poisoned! And this time you really did not want to commit seppuku or whatever they call it; to the hospital! Right away!
So off you go to the Island hospital where they make you wait and wait and fill out forms and you tell them you are poisoned and they tell you, just wait a bit the doctor will see you in a moment.
This is too much. You are about to die and the failure to pass single payer health care is now affecting you directly in a way you did not anticipate, since you had Kaiser.
But just having Kaiser is not having health care, its just insurance, which is by definition a roll of dice. Its definitely not saving your life right now. You think you are getting heart palpations. Which must be something terrible and perhaps irreversible. You will end up on a bench like Forrest Gump eating shrimp out of a bag. A vegetable eating shrimp.
Somewhere in the back of your mind you retain this legend that absinthe was a powerful aphrodisiac which produced intense and prolonged priapism, sometimes so extreme that they had to bind everything up tight as Russian babies, or sometimes even . . . use a knife!
You reach down there and start hunting around to see if anything like this might be happening until the woman sitting next to you with bad elephantiasis or something equally as gangrenous, calls for the guard.
The fluorescent lights are buzzing, the guards are coming, you are about to stroke out to become Forrest Gump or maybe Sean Penn in that movie about the slow guy anyway , the fat lady next to you is shouting "Pervert! Pervert!" And your heart is about to blow out from palpitations or something fibrillating like that.
Sometime in the blue hours of the early morning in terror you burst through the doors past a woman giving birth and a fellow who fell through a plate glass window to confront someone who looks like someone in charge, perhaps the Doc on Duty. Armed guards take hold of your elbows.
The doctor, who turns out to be an intern, listens to your panic story and calmly tells you to go home, drink a lot of water and sleep it off. In order to legalize absinthe they allow so little thujone that it would never hurt you unless you tried to down the entire bottle, however the extremely high alcohol content (180 proof and more) would make you so sick you would never finish. Just go home.
But the guards will not let you go home. Not this time, buddy. And they haul you off to the slammer with your feet dragging where they put you in there with thin, pale nervous junkies picking their scabs and one enormous guy named "AL" who has tattoos bigger than your thighs on his massive biceps. Trespasser. Pervert. Drunk in public too. O the ignominy.
"Come over here, boy," says Al as the guard walks away snickering.
Right now this would be a good time for a slice of rhubarb pie.
Yes, nothing gets the sting of shame and humiliation out of your mouth like a slice of Baba Rebob's Rhubarb Pie.
Mama's Little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb
Meanwhile over at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie is cleaning up after a busy night. The telly broadcast the Army-Navy game in which Wyatt Middleton returned a fumbled ball for 98 yards, breaking record books all down the line. San Diego cornerback Antonio Cromartie holds the record for pro ball returns at 109 yards on a missed field goal by the Vikings in 2007. This remains a Navy town and the entire bar burst into cheers at the ninth win of Navy over Army.
Old Schmidt was in there with his gardening implements after landscaping all day for the Cribbages. Mr. Cribbage couldn't decide if he wanted the hydrangea over on the top terrace where it might dominate too much, or down on the bottom with the darned low things Rosalyn put in there because they like shade, so he had Schmidt haul the six-foot high bush up the slope for a view and then down again and then back up while he made up his mind. Finally he had Schmidt build an entire new terrace which was bolstered by full-length railroad ties he had pilfered from the former Beltline property. At the end of the day, Old Schmidt needed to lean on his shovel as a walking stick to get from the car to the bar where he had his usual bump and a Fat Tire with his implement leaning up against the brass rail.
Eugene, looking to make a witticism at the old guy's expense pointed out the tool and exclaimed, "Somebody dead drunk here?"
Old Schmidt replied. "Iss fur shoveling dee snow."
This set back Eugene a yard or so, not difficult to do with a man like him. "Old Schmidt, there is no snow here."
"Des Schnee Winters kommt noch. Aber nieman weiss nit' irgen'wann. Zo vee shovel because by steps of snow we climb to Herr Gott. It is that way lifelong - our christian duty." And here a twinkle appeared in the old man's eye. "Besides, wer schaufelt nit', schaefft nix. Der Mann in Red Shoes agrees. So ist das."
And all who were there sat back amazed at this wisdom. And a merry round was had by all and in the Old Same Place Bar was had fellowship and spirits well into the night and each resolved to take up their labors with greater zest than before.
And the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the patient, tireless waves of the estuary and the sanctified Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
DECEMBER 5, 2010
PLANT A SANTA ON THE FRONT LAWN / GROW A LITTLE MERRY TONIGHT
This week's photo comes from the archives. This charming couple was up in Tahoe one snowy winter. The figures were part of a mini-golf course. With theme parks like this, no wonder the kids grow up strange.
IS 50 CENT TOO SHORT TO BUY AN ICE CUBE? LET'S CEE DANGER MOUSE . . .
Family illnesses and family chore obligations kept us out of the loop but lots of stuff happened this weekend, despite the occasional downpours. Friday saw First Fridays up in Oaktown's Temescal, where Post-Modernity held court at SLATE Gallery on T-graph.
Jack London lit up the Square with its traditional 80 foot Douglas Fir at the Marina there and loads of activities for the kids . . .
The Island held its annual Mayor's Holiday Revels and lighting of City Hall with the ever popular Dancing Xmas Trees despite the rain down there on Santa Clara Avenue. Folks wanting drier festivities can still enjoy the Winter Island events taking place on Webster Street all month long. . .
Don't have feedback yet, but Zorro rode up to the Peralta Estate for a fundraiser benefit this past Thursday. Draconian cutbacks have reduced funding for the very worthy programs there to a tenth of what they were to support this last vestige of Spanish Colonial California . . .
The charming and witty Melissa Gans lets us know that High Street Comedy showcase kicks off December 7th at the High Street Station Cafe (located at 1303 High Street X Encinal). Cover is reasonable at $5 - $15 so drop those frowns and start laughing for this nightlife intro for the Island, 'cause everything looks like up from here. . .
Haven't heard yet, but Santa is expected again on Xmas Tree Plaza, the traditional mailbox dedicated to a single North Pole destination, and the big odd-looking pipe on the corner of Grand and Palmera will again boast the bright white and red stripes of a candy-cane. A few East Enders also have some generous spirit, and so Christmas Tree Lane in the 3200 block of Thompson Avenue (between High and Fernside) already has begun with its lavish displays of lights . . .
The annual Parade of Lighted Yachts took place yesterday, which always is an entertaining few hours for those daring to brave the cold and rain on the estuary. Missed that one too; darn those obligations . . .
Animal Control vans have been out and about, so it looks like Endstation for those pesky raccoons around here . . .
PSA - YOU'RE THE REASON I DISCONNECTED THE PHONE
The local weekly rag sent a heads up about the upcoming release of cell phone numbers to telemarketers. Those who do not want to pay for obnoxious text ad minutes and pleas for cash and your time from people promising to enlarge body parts, reduce mortgages and enrich yourself and Mr. Olulu of Kenya/Nigeria/Egypt/Kazakhistan with money stolen from some hapless third world treasury should leap to call the National do-not-call list at 888-382-1222. You must place the call from each cell phone you want to protect from unwanted calls.
O CHRIS MUST PEE
From that former Python, Palin, here comes a loverly bit of Holiday Spirit for all of us fully expecting a lump of coal in the stocking -- same as last year.
Its been a blustery and rainy week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. All the sunflowers are beaten with their seed-heads down, orange petals all gone and rain drops falling like tears. But in the windows of certain houses, the march of the candlelight across the menorah's arete.
"When is Chanukah this year," the young man asked the older man wearing tephalim. "On the 25th day of Kislev. Same as always." Said the old man, nodding and smiling.
Its the Festival of Lights, once again. And just like that other thing
that ends December, its both more wonderful and less important than the
ballyhoo which features so much which has nothing to do with either.
"So a lamp burns through a battle. So a child is born. What of that? These things and more wondrous happen every impossible day. Brothers and Sisters look around you. Do you not see the miracles happening? The world is bright and sparkling with miracles every day. The trees growing along Santa Clara still after all these years of savage utilitarianism anger at roots. The baby in a pram smiling. The smile is a miracle. The baby is a miracle! The mother pushing the pram is a miracle! This morning I observed a policeman speak with courtesy and respect to a citizen and I was all amazed at Power relaxing its fist! The air glimmers with all Creation, each part of which, from the darting paramecium to the elephant a miracle. Where are all the hummingbirds that come to my feeder in the Spring? Where have they gone this Winter or any other? Yet every Spring they return, each an hovering astonishment.
It is for this that the lamp burns through the battle. It is all of Creation for which the Child was born. This Season, celebrate your Traditions, of course. They are important, for they remind us to celebrate Life and all that is and all that will be. And the grand hope that what is to come will be better for all of us. . .".
Thus spoke Reverend Freethought this Sunday on the subject of miracles as she continued at length for another three-quarters of an hour.
December is the time of arrivals and departures. Travel agents and carriers love this month. Seems everyone is hell-bent on getting to somewhere else before hurrying back just as quickly to the place from which they had come. Officer O'Madhauen tears his hairs in frustration at the wildly creative traffic heading to and from the airport and the malls.
This is the time when East Coasters make preparations to return in a great migration to the reasons they left so as to reinforce their conviction to stay in a place with really great weather and really awful company and poor living conditions that make squats in Newark look well kept. Something about Hackensack and Weehawken and the pine barrens ejects people like human cannonballs to the West. And something about everything in-between compels these people to come to California. Nebraska, after all, has worse weather than New Jersey and none of the delis. Its embarrassing, or should be, to say that some place has less or worse culture than Jersey, but it's true. It's really true. We've been there. Just believe it. Spend a few minutes in central Virginia and you will know true desolation.
And so each year folks who have not taken root here yet get on that plane, get their junk molested by grinning TSA folks and endure endless lines so as to endure a few hours of Uncle Miltie complaining about his prostate and the damn "queers and socialists and pinkos" and drunk Cousin Bob from Athens, Georgias plunging his hands into the mash potatoes at the dinner table and a few more hours of handling snow and ice among drivers who handle road rage by practicing it daily and mom's complaints about her artificial knee/elbow/hip/heart implant before fleeing in a whirlwind of torn wrapping and Lord 'n Taylor boxes, leaving the fruitcake/pudding/ugly socks/Bavarian cuckoo in the airport trash, which causes a total emergency shutdown with terminal evacuation the following day until the bomb squad can come out and do their thing to the unexplained package left unattended. See ya next year.
Folks who have always lived here just drive out to the Valley to Gran'ma's or up the 101 to the same or in circles to visit friends, so as to contribute helpfully to the godawful traffic situation. Some people are known to get in their trucks, hop on the freeway at the most congested and get off when the way clears only to head back and repeat the procedure at the same onramp as before just for vicarious thrill while blasting old Jefferson Airplane tunes from the stereo. Knew a guy who did this ten times until the truck ran out of gas and the fellow left his vehicle blocking the lane rather than coasting to the shoulder out of sheer joyous spite against "the tourists" -- which means anyone who has lived here less than twenty-five years. He just sat there in his cab smoking a doobie until the CHP came along, grinning like a fool with the CD player going full blast to drown out the honking.
Hopping dividers and medians, erratic U-turns and inexplicable halts in the middle of flow are not the only forms of arrival and departure, for we have the metaphorical aspect as well. A sort of arrival is happening right here in the offices.The HTML coder for Island-Life, Chad, seems to be bounding about with a curious gleam in his eyes, a spring in his step, a sort of j'ne sais quois atmosphere, for our dear colleague appears to have fallen madly, wildly, lustfully . . . well, you know. These things happen. Not all of our jaundice could have protected him.
Meanwhile those of us who gotta work while others go out dancing, like Marlene and Andre and Denby, are busy in search of or preparing for gigs for the Season. Andre's band No Future in Real Estate still does not have a NYE gig, and this is very bad news, for this is already December. Of course few are the venues who want a cynical punk/rockabilly band on joyous NYE, unless it is Social Distortion, and Mike Ness can spread himself only so thin.
Andre's band is not Social D by a long shot, so he is scrambling, making frantic phonecalls while Marlene strides back and forth in the kitchen, making angry bread soup in her Goth Aspect.
The Great Recession is still ravaging the land, even though those who got it are spending lavishly. Perhaps in realization that since it all will go, might as well spend and enjoy for now. Meanwhile those who have not, like the household of Marlene and Andre, face a lean and tough Holiday Season. Andre may have to swallow his pride and do the NYE ball at the Native Sons of the Golden West Parlor 47&1/2 again. That gig is sure to end in drunken shouting and recriminations and atavistic savagery as band members stuff backed potatoes, cheese, and stuffed cod from the buffet into their coat pockets so as to at least get something from the surely badly paid or unpaid situation.
Meanwhile Denby, also without a gig, has been practicing crappy songs by Gordon Lightfoot and Fleetwood Mac and the like so as to have something to play on the BART platform. O his is a sorry state and pity the performer who is without a gig on NYE. As he polishes a tasteful version of "American Tune" he can hear Officer O'Madhaun screaming outside at some hapless motorist trying to arrive somewhere.
Even as a departure is making ready. The Editor has been pacing back and forth. Suddenly he stops and the light fills the remaining white hairs that float about his sparse crown like an aureole. Behind the door, the Doctor Friederich, an Island-Life staffer for fifteen years lies on his last bed. Behind the walls, the beetles tick, tick their watches. The breath goes shallow, ebbs away . . .
It is a matter of hours now before the spirit of the good Doctor leaves for "that bourne from which no traveler returns." Fifteen years shall fold up like an envelope and farewell spirit.
Yet somewhere a child is born, thrust along a narrow channel and a corridor and in passing, Dr. Friederich will slap hands in passing with that new life. One goes to the Other Side, the other to this one we all know. "Yo kid. Keep it real." And Friederich is gone. To that beach to meet Denby next year when he draws the short straw once again. According to Tradition. Yet in another crib a squalling miracle.
In the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie contemplates the elf outfit that Padraic has chosen for her to wear as uniform for the next couple of weeks. It looks really tarty with its short miniskirt. At least she does not have to wear something that evokes reindeer with antlers.
In this time, everything tends toward the commercial, while the miracles tend to get shoved aside. The lamp oil gets forgotten amid the general concern for the price of Arabian gasoline, or disconcern as idiots pilot their antisocial SUV's with full intention of destroying anything they hit. Maybe, amid this time of hardship people will start to look harder at what matters most. Probably not, though. Given history.
In the window of the bar she screws in another bulb to represent another night of Hanukah."Since Wednesday, and I wonder why I bother."
Soon the room fills with thirsty men and the balm of Gilead flows from the taps.
During a cigarette break out back she is sitting among the kegs and the racks when a solitary hummingbird appears to alight on a stack of milk crates. The bird is iridescent in the half light of the security flood, with a green breast and red tinges on the wings. It looks curiously at Suzie before blasting upwards and to the south, heading for Rio where it will join its brothers in annual migration.
And the woman left that place and entered and spoke not of what she had seen but kept counsel to herself of these things she had seen for it had been said before, "go forth and speak not of these miracles". But she was beautiful and counted among the blessed among the angels and they kept watch over her so that no evil should pass.
The long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the miraculous, rain-pattered waves of the estuary and the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey along the wet, glistening rails to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 28, 2010
THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE ONE I LOVE
This week's headline photo is a shot of SFFD men on the roof of Green's Restaurant at Fort Mason where a fire broke out in the kitchen area on Friday afternoon. Before Daniel Broderick created the organized SF Fire Department in the late 1850's, San Francisco had burned down nine times in less than eight years previously. The last time the City burned in any serious manner was after the 1906 Earthquake, which ruptured all the water mains. See story below.
JUST A SIMPLE RHYME TO OCCUPY MY TIME
Five trucks and two commanders responded to smoke billowing from around the oven vent flue on the main building at Fort Mason. The situation was determined not to be as serious as thought, and a single commander remained to oversee crews for two trucks to put out the blaze.
On Monday, the recorded statement that landmark restaurant Greens was closed for repairs on Friday evening remained online, however the backup kitchen was able to continue to provide service to customers. The business office at Greens reported that the problem was caused by a flue filter and "was not serious despite the number of firetrucks that responded." Saturday the restaurant was fully open to serve customers and the restaurant remains fully operational. All reservations made will still be valid.
Once again, staffers went over to help out at the Celebration of Craftswomen, the annual benefit for the Women's Building in Babylon. Although a tremendous amount of traffice appeared to be moving in and mostly around SF, the numbers reported by the Staff indicated attendance of about 2350 people on Saturday, and about 1600 people on Sunday. This is compared to about 3500 people last year on the first day.
Artisans reported mixed results (in a random sample) with about 50% indicating heavy sales that met booth costs plus expenses, and another 50% of craftswomen who experienced poor sales that barely met or fell under meeting costs for the show.
Seems the Great Recession is still having an effect even though everyone interviewed said the show had the best variety and highest level of quality merchandise than ever seen before.
Here a proud artist sits among her handmade felt works. All items are made from raw wool and natural dyes.
Here a lady dances among the stars and angels.
Ms. Mann specializes in these joyfilled figurines, which could emblemize the Craftsfaire itself.
The Flying Phoebes are a club of dollmakers who banded together to reduce the individual booth cost of $450. They will be back for the second weekend.
This miniaturist creates tableaux inside quail and other wildfowl eggs.
Wonder who is going to save that worried pig's bacon.. .
EAT MY SHORTS
Its a lame duck Congress and Senate and the same goes for here on the Island, although there really was very little change in the governing body of the Mayor's office and Council. The Council recently looked at new ways to upgrade Webster Street, once a short strip of bars, tattoo parlors and strip clubs that serviced the Navy. Also, the idea of improving the Posey Tube with its drab paint that also covers the windows is being examined by the Council.
School Board with its new members is planning another version of the parcel tax that has been shot down twice at the polls for March elections. This time they are proposing a flat tax that applies equally to all. Except with an inexplicable cap on mega-businesses. Sigh; when will they ever get it right . . . ?
Dionisio Molina did not get away with murder. The man who ran down and killed a pedestrian on the beachfront promenade two years ago, and then tried to nail two more people on the same walkway after smacking down a stop sign and a light pole in a rather exaggerated fit of rage he blamed on medication was sentenced in a plea bargain to 11 years in prison. Jurors in a previous trial deadlocked on the charge of 2nd Degree Murder, but prosecutors indicated they were not going to let this particular hit and run get away.
Two years ago a flurry of hit and runs in the East Bay created an epidemic of the violent violation, such that even an Island-Life staffer was blasted in her Toyota by a speeding SUV driving with its lights off and running stop signs at ten o'clock at night.
Molina got 10 years in prison for the killing of George Marceline on July 5, 2008 and another year for assaulting two investigating police officers. In her decision Judge Carrie Panetta noted that Molina has shown absolutely no remorse for any of the crimes committed . . . .
PUTTING ON THE DOG
This year the Poodleshoot began on a fairly decent day, a bit overcast but with none of the rain that has been pelting the Bay Area each weekend since the start of Winter.
As per Tradition, 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 and Paul B. on Verpflixtemusikwappenguitaren, Mary-Beth on the dental-floss acoustic bass, Sue Laing on tuba, Mark Peters and Jaime Reilly on Elgar Memorial Tube Shriekers, Mike and Agnes Rettie on Squirrel Nutter Defenstrators, Steve Vender with 8-gauge shotgun and Colt 45's, Doyle Mcgowan and Jessica along with 12 ex-wives and boyfriends on the 80 key Argumentarium Farter with Pipes and Steam.
Many of the media in attendence commented "the performance was simply remarkable," while 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 as led by David Phipps and chanted in the language of E Clampus Vitus. The men moved in a circle with their pinkies interlocked, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise, before intoning, "Heep heep Hepzibah!" and all jumping into the air simultaneously. They then sang their parlor charter song, "Die Launische Forelle," After they had done this, they moved again in a circle as before, concluding by bowing deeply, dropping their drawers and thence emitting a sort of 21 gun salute.
After the ritual pouring of Wild Turkey libations, the Official bugle was blown by Susan Laing and Tally of Marin, after which 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, fine beginning for a Poodleshoot.
This year's special guest, in lieu of the Consolation Guest Award to the awardee, former Veep Buckshot Dick, who could not make it on account of reported ill-health, the Search Committee had to fasten on the first Zippy boldface Personality that likes to hunt in any manner -- no matter how unsporting -- and who was a shameless media hound eager for any free or paid-for access to any limelight whatsoever.
Yep, that former Governor of Alaska, Ms. Palin, accepted the invite.
"Blast away with donated guns and ammo on somebody elses dime? You betcha!"
Some members of the Committee protested that hiring Sarah Palin to attend the event pandered to a slumming reflex akin to combing the local trailor park for one's date to the Prom or the Homecoming Dance, but Buckshot Dick had been in the hospital a while to have a pacemaker put in. The guy had been in there for about a month because to have a pacemaker put in, the chief surgeon needs to locate the main pump, and this the best medical teams in the world had failed to accomplish to date. Nobody could figure out just what kept the old guy walking around as the sera in his veins read a temperature as cold as icewater and it appeared doubtful the man had any heart at all.
Anyway, back to the Poodleshoot.
Wanda Fudge won a prize for 1st Kill of the day by the ingenious means of her animated poodle doll decoys, which contained mini mp3 players that spooled out endless streams of Robert Goulet and Brittany Spears. The enterprising Ms. Fudge snared her prey with trays of warm treacle and dispatch was done with machete ($9.99 from Cabelas), resulting in very clean catch.
Susan Laing, the horn player, managed to incapacitate three blue poodles by holding an high C note for twenty seconds, which burst their eardrums and shattered the glass of the drug store where they had taken refuge such that they were drenched with such a mixture of perfumes and salves they expired due to mortification of their sensibilities. Those which did not, died by means of self-laceration upon the broken glass on the floor. Cleaning these carcasses, however proved to be quite arduous.
Beatrice (Bea) Benjamin won a style award for using a wire neck snare on an extended painter's pole and a lariat while riding her scooter down Shoreline, whooping like the cowgirl she is. She earned extra points by way of demonstrating remarkably accurate knife-throwing skills with a nine-inch genuine horn-handle Bowie. Broke them puppie's necks and strung 'em up ready for clean and dressing at the fish house.
Maureen of Petaluma took several nice silverhairs with her laser-guided Ruger and got Honorable Mention at the Pit for her Vache et Chien au Fromage recipe. Not exactly grill, but fine eating nonetheless.
Clebia, late of Brazil, was provided an assist by an unnamed companion and Beatrice Benjamin's dog, who was loaned out to various hunters as a pointer and fetcher. Clebia employed an explosive bolo with great effect over near Washington Park.
Graham, late of England, accompanied by his lovely wife, Liz, proceeded along Grand Street with walking canes which did triple duty as single shot 30 caliber rifles and 48" epees. Graham also wore an ingenious codpiece designed by the same fellow who did the effects for the first Alien movie. This device delt effectively with the nasty sniffing habits of these canines by means of a spring-loaded jaws equipped with razors in the first ever recorded instance of phallus dentata. Observers commented the effect was sudden, explosive, violent and highly effective. A wicker creel was used to tote the catch, of which the couple enjoyed six between them before ending their casual stroll.
A posse, consisting of Beverly Johnson, Frank Matarrese, Doug DeHaan, and Marie Gallant held a friendly competition between themselves and the New Order Hunter's Club, consisting of Mary Sweeny, Tracy Jensen, and Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft. It seems although rivalry continues, the atmosphere has improved for these former political antagonists. Adam Gillit and Rand Wrobel tried to join clubs, but as nobody would accept them, they entered the 'Shoot as free agents, forming their own clubs with open invitations.
Such is the delightful camraderie on Poodleshoot day, when all the old contentions are -- momentarily -- laid to rest.
Being politicians, their weaponry consisted of the usual conservative line of shotguns, 32-20's, and range pistols with a few mortars and mines thrown in for zing.
A momentary hiatus occured when Officer O'Madhauen pulled over Doyle McGowan and Jessica Vanderbeck of San Francisco on Otis near the Southshore Mall for jaywalking at an illegal speed.
The good Officer was of good mind to issue a goodly sermon about traffic and pedestrian safety while writing up the $150 ticket and the two obediently put down their military grade flamethrowers and their pistols to listen to their sermon.
"An so ye be meanin' ta be walkin' outside the lines now, do ya?" said the Officer, always zealous in protection of the City's traffic ordinances above all things.
A shot from Leonard Gardener's blunderbuss zinged overhead and wanged off of the lightpost as he spoke.
"The safety of Society depends upon the strict adherence of all inhabitants and citizens to the letter o' the law," continued the Officer.
A line of short geysers stitched its way across the median as Eugene attempted to nail a Grand Poo running down the way with a human arm clenched in its jaws. Eugene had never handled an AK-47 before and had never had lessons in how to do so, but thanks to the energetic efforts of the NRA and people who actually read the Constitution, a man like him or lesser was entitled to go into any emporium and walk out with such a marvelously destructive power and thence let loose at will anywhere at all in the city. The burst of gunfire came up short at the edge of the squad car.
"Hey!" Warned O'Madhauen. "Mind the striping now! Take care o' th' the divider paint!"
"Sorry!" shouted Eugene, who let loose a stream of loud bullets down the way to Trader Joes as the poodle ran hell for leather in the right lane.
"You now!" Shouted O'Madhauen. "Get on the pavement or I'll cite ya!"
The poodle dutifully zigged over to the sidewalk before dashing into the parking lot of the mall, still with someone's arm in its jaws and followed by Eugene and a couple other hunters, all blazing away with 50 cals, sending concrete chips flying as they did so. A couple palm trees toppled onto parked cars.
"Now then, as I was sayin', the fabric o' society here depends upon the firm adherence to the Rules of the Road, the CVC and the Municipal . . .", continued Officer O'Madhauen.
Down at the beach Denby was playing a movie theme song composed by Mark Knopfler near the end of day when lights speeding a few hundred feet above the water and the whump-whump of rotors announced the approach of a fast-moving helicopter. Little sparkles appeared at the door of the chopper and everybody ran for cover as 88's starting pounding the beach.
The Special Guest had arrived.
FAAA-WHOOMP! Geysers of sand, hunter poodle parts erupted to high heaven. The former Alaskan governor had managed to commandeer a Huey "Puff the Magic Dragon" chopper and the rockets started hitting the beach to wreak terrible carnage. Tracers started arcing from LTO's offshore to soften the approach.
Yes, Sarah had enabled the return of the Teabaggers, who sorely desired to establish a foothold here in California. Having failed during the elections, this had become their Final Solution. T-Day.
"Runaway! It's Palin going rogue again!" someone shouted.
Readers may recall how last year the Teabaggers had attempted an assault by means of barges ("They came across the water in barges, numerous as beetles"). They were confabulated only on technical principles, and the crowed was allayed by means of ahi tuna. (Not sure what that sentence means, says Editor, but stet.)
Meanwhile things looked dire for the Island and for California in general. If the Evil Teabaggers were to establish foothold here, there would come the harrowing of the Island and following the horrid harrowing would be no end of poisonous invasion throughout the Golden State. There would be confusions and consternations and misreadings of everybody's Constitution and the darkness of Mordor would creep across the land from the land where everything happens first and the end of Civilization would be at hand, for the elimination of all Government is the establishment of the State of Anarchy by definition and we will all end in some atavistic darkness on our hands and knees barking into extinction amid the reek of fouled language beneath the blood-smeared idols of the Great Confabulator and Greenspan.
O the horror, the horror.
From afar, from the Marin Heights and Mount Tam, from the Grizzley Peak, from the San Leandro waterfront and from Newark where the citizens care naught for all that happens to their city, all who watched the rumbles of distant battle and the sudden orange flares on the horizon of explosion stood amazed at the tumult and wonder.
Onto the beach the LTO's dropped their ramps and the orcish types sallied forth, grunting and waving their treatises and their obnoxious, divisive signs and their weapons of confusion and of fear, for Fear is the chief weapon of the Teabagger. That and curious sexual practices. They were an hopping, flopping, stalking, striding, tooting, oozing, screaming saraband of Lovecraftian horror advancing upon the sweet innocent earth of the Golden State, the land so beloved of our honored Gaia.
Reverend Freethought of the Unitarian Church prayed for the salvation of California. And her prayers were heard by the Sisters of Wicca and the Daughters of the Golden West who assembled there along the Strand to face the Dark Enemy. There stood Columbia, she of that nation and now of ours, clad in breastplate all of brass. And there stood Beatrice, with her spear and her noble dog beside. There stood Maureen, armed with chef's cutlery to the nines. Wanda stood there and Susan and they raised up their arms and howled to the sky for they were of California and its soul, and death meant nothing to them save end of all and what use living if one enslaves oneself.
And there behind them Sista Boom set up a long rank of drummers so as to drive the ranks forward and hearten them with the rhythm of the Earth.
When the two lines met there was dubious battle. Up above the gods and
goddesses had each taken sides, much as in olden days. On the one side,
Athena, grey-eyed goddess, stood with Hera, Demeter,
First this way, then that seesawed the Battle of the Strand. Old Gaeia groaned to feal the tumult on her flesh torn by the engines of war. All the creatures of the earth fled from that smokey tumult of fire and dispute. The Right Wing folded in upon itself and the Left collapsed under the assault. The Constitution was singed and Human Rights were debased. It was said the hand of the father was turned against the son and that of the son against the father and brothers fought to the death on the sanguine, smoky plain until Old Gaeia cried out in pain to her brother, Neptune, he of the seasalt eyes and beard of long seaweed. Neptune rose up his massive trident and brought it down with great force, once, twice, three times. And lo!
There from the depths arose he of ancient Tara, Finn ni'Cuchulain, Giant of Howth. The stars shook in the heavens and the sea foamed as the old god arose from the depths, his beard a writhing mass of sea serpents dwarfing the Loch Ness creature and his hair dripping the Leviathan and immense cephalopod back down in the great wash that flowed from his green body. And each that fell from his locks was as great as the greatest oceanliner ever devised by the hands of men. Entire archepelagos vanished beneath the swell caused by his rising from the depths and his roar of anger swept the snows from the summits of Whitney and Everest. The ancient forces of old had been called forth to rescue the Earth.
Finn McCool had risen and he was wroth.
The Giant reached out his hand and pulled and pulled upon the skirts of the sea until the very flow of the tides reversed itself. Into this flow was pulled the entire submersive fleet of the Iranian Navy, the AIS Chadoor, which found itself yanked back from its investigation of certain disturbances around the Koreas across the Pacific with incredible speed.
All along the Strand the water pulled back, leaving the LTO's of the Teabaggers stranded and their war machines struggling in the mud not unlike the corrupt armies of ancient Egypt pursuing the Chosen. Then, when the water returned, their boats overturned and their machines drowned in a great hissing of steam. Then arrived the Chadoor which beached itself and from the hatches emerged the mujadeen armed with scimitars shaped like the moon and which shone like the stars and they fell upon the poodles and the Teabaggers there and began a great slaughter and so the scales of battle tilted in favor of the Californios who drove their enemies before them like leaves before the wind until the foes of genuine Democracy and California were utterly undone and there was weeping and scattering of ash in the Land of White Tennis Shorts and the Tom Delay was found ajudged to be guilty of all manner of crimes and their chieftain banished into exile.
The warbird of Palin was brought down with nets and the Palin made her escape upon a parasail, so it was said that Sarah Palin went parasailin' into the sunset and she was neither seen nor heard again in these parts again, for which the people were thankful.
Then there was great rejoycing at their victory in holding off the vicious assault of the Teabaggers in the Golden State and much smoking of the pipes and bongs of peace and another flank of poodle was laid upon the barbie by Padraic in celebration and the sweet rains descended to cleanse all the land of gore and filth, thus pleasing Gaeia who much loves the rain upon her skin.
Mayor Beverly nodded her head and blessed this day of victory and drank deep of the horned cup of uisc'qebah and that of mead.
Thus ended the 12th Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ.
RECIPES FOR GRILLED/ROASTED POODLE
It is a food made by mixing dog meat with seasonings and vegetables,
The standard amount of ingredients for one portion.
200g of boiled dog meat, 20ml of gravy, 50g of green onion, 50g of leek,
(2) Cooking instructions
Put gravy and vegetables into heated pan and roast them, and after vegetables
Ingredients: 700 g Poodle Shoulder, sliced thinly
Suggest marinade the poodle for about 3 hours.
Prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat. (For best result,
use a charcoal grill) Grill the dog slices until the meat is done and
the edges are nicely charred on both sides. Remove the meat from the grill
and cut into smaller slices, if desired. Serve immediately with the accompaniments.
ITS HARD TO WAKE UP WHEN ALL THE SHADES HAVE BEEN PULLED SHUT
Its been a cold and rainy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. That Thanksgiving thing has come and gone with all of its Presidential turkey pardons, unpardonable distortion of the historical record with regard to those violent, thieving and thoroughly amoral Pilgrims, and lots of family strife and discord engendered by the silly removal of the main thing that kept everything under control -- distance. By now everyone has returned home, wills have been rewritten disowning everybody, and things have settled down to an even keel between brother and sister and cousin and nephew.
Except for those living with Auntie after getting out of prison. And Uncle Bob, who thrust both hands into the mashed potatoes, trying to emphasized some kind of point since forgotten, probably never will get help for his problem with alcohol. And all the angry history.
"If its what he wanted and If its what she wanted
Some things will never get better no matter what.
As the man said, "All happy families are more or less dissimilar. All unhappy families are more or less alike."
Hey ho. So it goes. One can learn much from the Russians, who always remain terribly cynical, but seldom depressed, always reaching their arms around the world and Life like great bears, lovable and dangerous and exhuberant about things like irises.
In the Island-Life offices, the Editor sits after all the staff has gone home after putting out the late edition. Late because of the Holiday and needing to get the call from the Green's Business Office regarding the fire and staffers helping out at the 32nd Celebration of Craftswomen. Ah well, life is what happens when you are busy making plans.
The Editor goes to the fridge and makes himself a sandwich with two slices of bread, mayo and turkey. Dash of pepper and some lettuce. The windows open now, letting in the cold, brisk air. Even though the temperature has dropped he enjoys the freedom of opening the windows ever since the painter scaffolding that enclosed the building for two months got taken down.
They are no longer torturing us. For now. Until they come up with something else. And all the relatives have flown back to the East. Now, there is the cool, cool rain. Something for which to be thankful.
The long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the grateful, rain-pattered waves of the estuary and the Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey along the wet, glistening rails to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 21, 2010
This week's photo is of the far estuary side. Moored there is one of the APL freighters, all named after former American Presidents. This one is the "John F. Kennedy". The Port at Oaktown is the fourth largest in the country, and one of the largest non-military ports in the world.
THESE ARE THE DAYS
Well you remember that guy you saw -- don't say you didn't watch (we have people and they know everything you do) -- that guy sweeping down helplessly caught by the Indian Ocean tsunami a few years ago. You watched him, his antics caught by a cell phone camera, as he struggled to hold on to the patio pillar until the force of the water was too much and so he let go and swept right beneath the fellow taking the video with this "oh shit!" expression on his face.
Well, the man survived.
There is another video of him being tended by a baffled nurse standing there with a small bottle of salve and a single ball of cotton while he sits there with about a thousand cuts all over his torso, but grinning happily. Hey man, I'm alive!
YOU CAN GET ANYTHING YOU WANT AT ALICE'S RESTAURANT
The crisp leaves are falling and the sharp smell of cordite drifts on the air as the juniors all hone their sharpshooting skills for the 13th Annual Poodleshoot and BBQ. Some of you may be sitting down to tables laden with savory stuffings, easing off that overfilled feeling by settling into the couch in front of the Boob Tube to look for another wardrobe malfunction on the gridiron, or hiding in the basement with your Barbie collection, but some of us will sally forth no matter the weather to do battle with insipidity, poor aesthetics, and misplaced sentiments by blasting every damned poodledog one can bring within sights of a fully loaded Mossberg.
Then again, times are tough and we know that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. This is America after all.
Those of you, who for some inexplicable reason dislike eating dogmeat fresh off the barbie, will be going out to rescue the sad retailers of our Nation during Black Friday by purchasing all kinds of crap that finally has been appropriately priced as to value and so rescue the Economy, make President Obama look better and flip the finger in the face of sourpusses like Glenn Beck.
Why retailers do not price things the rest of the year reasonably so reasonable folks can afford the wares, is anybody's guess, but in America we cherish our most foolish traditions.
In any case much of this shopping mania concerns gifts to give during the annual dreaded period of atavistic savagery and bleak depression known as The Holidays wherein people who do not like each other, but are bound by hoops of social necessity, trade obnoxious presents which neither party desires or can use.
The fruitcake was invented to accomodate this need.
CVS has started selling a line of vibrators in various shapes, which you can give as stocking stuffers with the line, "I know this will help you with your back/neck/shoulder problem", while concealing the real sentiment of "Maybe if you had more orgasms -- at least one -- you would become a more pleasant person."
All that by and by, folks who want to give something of value to someone they actually like -- a rare but not unknown situation -- should mark on their calendars that the 31st Celebration of Craftswomen launches the day after Thanksgiving at the usual location in Fort Mason and continues through the weekend and the following. There will be other festivals and such right up to the horrific debacle of December 25th but the Craftswomen affair has remained the Season premier event. Even if you don't buy anything, its well worth the price of admission to stroll the aisles and view things made by craftswomen who come from all of the Western states to participate.
KFOG has its annual Live from the Archives Vol 17 out and available from most Peets coffeehouses around the Bay. This annual collection, which benefits Bay Area food banks, typically sells out as a collector's item, for the tracks consist of unreleased live performances by top marquee artists. And then there is the KFOG concert for kids, which will have only the one date at the Masonic Auditorium this year, headlined by the Doobie Brothers.
Live 105 is back, unfortunately, to the Shark Tank in San Jose for its annual Not So Silent Night, however they are holding a pre-show event called "Club Not So Silent Night" in the City at Mezzanine the night before, perhaps realizing that the Tank is not well regarded by many of us for its atrocious acoustics.
Mezzanine is located at 444 Jessie, the only street named after John C. Fremont's wife, who was a pistol in her own right. Riot Grrrls take note.
The ever delightful and mellifluously appelled Lisa Bulwinkel informs us of a "Snow Day" happening in Berkeley on December 5. Bring your boots and mittens to play in the snow that is predicted to gently fall in Andronicos parking lot at 1550 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley on Sunday, December 5, 10AM-3PM. Visit with the Snow Queen, make holiday crafts, and sip hot cocoa. This is a free event for children of all ages sponsored by the North Shattuck Association. For info go to www.gourmetghetto.org. Its another Bullwinkel show of course.
NOVEMBER'S GOT HER NAILS DUG IN DEEP
Its been a rainy week on the Island, our hometown in California set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The week began brooding and overcast, but dry, however the weekend brought a real dockwalloper that knocked down branches and toppled the three-story scaffolding that has surrounded the troubled St. Charles Apartments next to Paganos for a month or two.
At least two wild turkeys chose this past week to flap and stroll around the Clinton and Lafayette Gold Coast area, perhaps realizing that the Island was a good refuge right about now. Just not a refuge for poodles, in particular.
This month marks the 75th anniversary of the first trans-Pacific airflight, which took off, coincidentally, from this very Island in 1935 as part of a regular mail delivery service. A ceremony took place this weekend out at the Point. The plane, dubbed in category a "flying boat", was a Martin M-130. Just three were built and the China Clipper eventually wrecked off Trinidad in 1945 with all hands aboard lost. The pilot, Captain Edwin Musick, died in 1938 when Pan Americans Samoan Clipper (a Sikorsky S-42) caught fire in the air above Samoa.
As an interesting factoid, the Bay Bridge under construction at the time, proved a sudden navagation to Capt. Musick, who realized that the heavily laden plane would not be able to rise above the deck on take off. So Musick calmly piloted the China Clipper between the caissons underneath the main deck. And the navigator on board was Fred Noonan, the same man who became Amelia Earhardt's navigator on her final flight.
The Native Sons of the Golden West are preparing for their annual Holiday Potluck at the Meeting Hall. This one is always held the day after Thanksgiving, as most folks want to be with their families on that day and it does create a great way to dispose of leftovers.
Doctor Kamp's turkey tetrazzini, made from donated orts, is always a big hit. Also Mrs. Almeida's Portugese version of lutefisk baked in a tomato sauce. This year, Juanita plans on bringing an improved version of her jalapeno Hot Dish.
Its not bad, really. Really, its not.
There is another reason for the the potluck, besides social engagement. The potluck allows Islanders not affiliated with the Annual Island-Life Poodleshoot and BBQ to find refuge during the violent mayhem that sometimes ensues. Should bomb craters, anti-aircraft weapons, small-arms fire, strafing by AK-47s, or flaming barricades make returning home on a particular evening a dicy affair, the hall is equipped with folding cots and plenty of provisions to last through the carnage.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic is busy out back with his special brew called The Water of Life, while Dawn and Suzie have been busy scrubbing up the barbie for another fine feast. In the snug the old timers trade tall tales of poodle hunts in the old days while the Navy still maintained a pied de terre on the Island. Gone are the days when the shadows of giants striding across the earth cast fear and loathing in the hearts of the savage yip-yap, all glowing with infernal dyes of rose and pink. Gone are the days of mighty Finn Cuchulain, Finn McCool, he of Howth and girth and fierce demeanor. O sing sweet muses of how Finn slew the Great Pink Pandy of Pleasanton with his skein dubh and his blackthorn.
So spake Padraic when he entered and all who were there sat amazed and agape at the recollection of those halycon and mythic days that unfolded before the toppling of the topless towers of Ilium and the collapse of the bicameral mind in Western Consciousness. Padraic bowed his augustan head and retired then, leaving the topers and the tipplers to their wet work.
And you know, that's when the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the wine-dark waves of the estuary and the storied Buena Vista flats as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its journey to parts unknown.That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 14, 2010
THEY FELL JUST LIKE EMBERS AND SET US ON FIRE
This week's photo comes from staffer Chad and is of a spot a block or so from the Union Street offices.
Kinda says it all about the Season.
Whew! That was a busy and intense election season for the Island, with the end result after all the screaming and crying is that both Mayor and Council experience little more change than shuffling of chairs. The latest updates from ROV indicate that Lena Tam rose in the rankings to second place behind Rob Bonta, however this changes nothing as Gilmore's seat still remains to be filled by outgoing Mayor Beverly Johnson.
There's some sour grapes going on from ousted Health Care District board Member Leah Williams, who lost to Elliot Gorelick. She's been stamping her feet and uttering all sorts of accusations about the way Gorelick represented himself as a pharmacist by profession, when it appears that he is an intern pharmacist at Kaiser. Whatever. The guy got more votes, simple as that. Let it go, gal.
Newly counted provisional and mail-in ballots, tallied by the assuredly by now exhausted staff at ROV didn't cause much change in State propositions, however the Secretary of State, the reelected Debra Bowen (DEM), indicates that there remain about three office races still in the "too close to call" category. Among them, the Attorney General race has shown more surprising shifts and flip-flops than the Kentucky Derby. As of Friday, Kamala Harris led Steve Cooley as follows
Wow, that's close.
In another close Congressional race for the 11th District end results could go either way, although McNerney has been steadily pulling away from Harmer..
In Oakland, Don Perata gave a concession speech after being defeated for Mayor by Jean Quan in Oakland's first try at Ranked Choice Voting. He must have realized the sheer volume of animosity against him was so enormous that there was no way he could have squeaked through several years without getting seriously caught with his hand in the till and/or being caught up in sizable scandals involving his unsavory connections. He had already tried to fight the RCV system previously, and had badly lost on that go-around, so he declined to challenge the ROV vote count.
Folks not knowing what the Perata fuss was all about can go to a website devoted to fighting Don Perata tooth and nail. The site is http://www.notdon.org and is pretty impressive in its scope as well as its surprisingly admirable equitable treatment of all other candidates.
As mentioned previously, Jean Quan becomes Oakland's first female mayor, and the first Asian-American mayor of any US City.
Regarding the controversial marijuana proposition, which got shot down statewide, it is interesting to note that pro-pot tax measures passed in every single town and city which featured such an item. According to AP writer Marcus Wohlsen, "On Election Day, all 10 cities with local measures on their ballots approved new or higher taxes on marijuana sales that put the need for cash above the stigma of a federally banned drug.
The same was true in Colorado, where medical marijuana was approved in 2000. Nine municipalities approved higher sales taxes on medical marijuana products this year. So far, no Colorado town with a marijuana tax question on the ballots has rejected it.
The embrace of pot as a legitimate revenue stream signals the continued mainstreaming of marijuana in both states, despite the defeat of California's Proposition 19."
It does seem pretty clear that, notwithstanding the knee-jerk response in some to conflate pot with harder class III prescription drugs as well as illegal drugs such as heroin the movement to ultimate legalization looks to have time on its side for success. The arguments against it are so disorganized as to resemble, chuckle, chuckle, a pipe dream.
ON AN ISLAND
HE'S JUST A DOG
The eighty-year old woman who suffered a purse-snatching at the same time as a dognapping during a mugging here, is happy to have her beloved Yorkshire terrier back in her household. Helen Bignone was walking her dog October 30 on Encinal near Fountain Street when two men demanded her purse. When she refused to comply, one thug grabbed her purse and the other grabbed the dog leash and fled.
Proving the sad state of our schools and the relative low mentality of our former students, the two failed to comprehend that dogs like "Deuce" all have tracking microchips. The car used during the mugging was found quickly and then one of the muggers followed soon into custody. The dog had been sold to a pair of homeless people for a few dollars. A woman in Hayward, observing the couple walking the dog on a makeshift leash made of wires, bought the dog as a humanitarian gesture for $20 and soon contacted the police when she learned of the robbery, which achieved significant press coverage around the Bay.
TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT
Fire Chief David Kapler has resigned in the wake of blowback about his alleged improper use of municipal gasoline privileges for his private car. Because he resigns before the contractual 3-year investment period had passed, he legally surrenders all retirement benefits, although his lawyer indicated he may sue if retirement benefits are denied.
Can you believe that there are any number of blues songs about dogs, frogs, crawling kingsnakes, pigs and pigmeat, bears, opossums, and fish of several kinds, but one is hard put to find a decent song anywhere about raccoons. Where's Buddy Guy when you need him?
That is by way of referencing the two raccoon incidents we had here recently in which people walking their dogs managed to get dogs and, by intervention, themselves into raccoon tangles.
For your info, this is a time of year when a number of animals that include hibernation or semi-hibernation in their schedule become especially active. They have been doing their thing for thousands, or millions of years, but people have encroached significantly into their territories, resulting in altercations that usually result in the animal getting the worse end of the stick.
Now we don't wanna get all Avatar on y'all but this is to let you know that there had been a family of about ten raccoons living in the St. Charles District up until recently when property management folks, a rather objectionable animal species in its own right, began causing unholy ruckus with property fixups and general local disturbance that featured cutting down of trees which had been frequented by this raccoon family among other species. So it appears the raccoons felt themselves rousted a la District 9 and went off to find other neighborhoods, some of which seem to have already hosted their own raccoon families.
The timing of the incidents with the property ruckus is just perfect to suggest this is what happened. So we got raccoon families tussling with one another and then there are the people to deal with. More than likely there are now about twenty-five raccoons. living in a few blocks that used to host about nine or ten. And those raccoons are hongry.
Raccoons belong to the bear family, and their name in other languages usually features the bear reference. Their bear-qualities come out pretty clearly at times, for bears cannot abide dogs in any case, usually have a curious attachment to water that is either severely antipathetic or strongly hydrophilic and pretty much a viewpoint that regards the world as a vast potential dinnerplate to which they should have unlimited access. In other words, all bears want to eat as a first priority and anything that gets in between them and food is something to be attacked and destroyed.
Garbage cans are considered by all bears -- and that includes raccoons -- as food supply bins. Any reliable food supply will be revisited again and again on a regular basis and the bear will become accustomed to any minor inconveniences very quickly.
So the rule is do not feed bears of any kind. Do no let bears get comfortable with fetching food from any place near you; seal up that can and close that dumpster. If bears associate you with food, eventually their dim little brains will turn you and yours from a food source into food itself, and for animals that can get pretty large with teeth and claws, that can have a bad end for both parties.
This does mean STOP PUTTING OUT FOOD AT NIGHT FOR THE STRAY CAT! and STOP FEEDING THE GODDAMNED SQUIRRELS!
Hope that was subtle enough and you understand.
Opossums, which we have here as well as raccoons, are marsupials and will not hurt you. For one thing, they are far more pleasantly stupid than bears and for another, they are far less aggressive. Although uglier than raccoons by a factor of ten, they are harmless. Nevertheless, do not feed them either.
If you fail to heed these instructions, we will summon flocks of Canadian geese to come poop on your house and your lawn. So there.
As for the errant family of ten that used to dwell here,
they will be handled with the usual heavy-handedness we know so well.
All of them, dad, mom and kids, will be captured and destroyed by County
GET ON THE MAGIC BUS
We've been following the dizzying ups and downs over at AC Transit, which appear -- if you can believe the latest press release -- have finally settled down some after an arbitrated labor settlement between management and the unions. According to the press release, dated 11/9/2010,
"The arbitration panel in the AC Transit labor negotiation has reached a decision between the transit district and the union representing its 1,750 of its bus drivers and mechanics for a new three year contract. The decision was reached in time to halt the weekend service cuts planned for December as part of a cost reduction program by the transit agency.
The binding decision calls for contributions from the members of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192 to their health and benefit plans, work rule and holiday changes, and will help the district reduce its protected deficit by approximately $38 million over the term of the contract. "
Past actions by the district to save money included:
Rider Fare Hikes: Local riders are paying more due to the 25 cents per trip fare increase and $10 increase in the price of a monthly pass. Transbay riders are paying more due to the 50 cents per trip fare increase and $16.50 increase in the price of a monthly pass. Youth, senior and disabled riders are paying more due to the 15 cents per trip local fare increase and 30 cents Transbay increase.
Service Cuts: Riders also had bus service reduced in March by 7.8% or $10.3 million in service hours; a second round of service cuts in October that further reduced service by 7.2% or $11.4 million in service hours.
Some management and administrative cuts are also referenced, however this does not concern us so much as the previous items mentioned in the press release.
The cutbacks have been especially onerous for the low income folks in the East Bay. One line cut back was the line that went past the Island food bank warehouse out at the Point -- the end result of this one was that kids went hungry as time-strapped mothers could not get out to the scheduled distributions to get powdered milk, bread and vegetables.
Its about time that this lunatic and cruel idea of cutting services back until there is nothing left comes to an end with a stake in its rotten heart.
STACKED DEAD ACTORS
Dear Terence of the Berkeley Rep has sent us scads of dishy stuff happening at the always forward-thinking company. Most folks know by now that the venerable Rep is moving administrative offices and shops across town to new digs. Here's the old news report for those of you late on the action:
Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre announced an ambitious plan for expansion. Taking advantage of a favorable real-estate market, and generous terms arranged because of the nonprofits long history serving the local community, it has purchased a 62,000-square-foot building at 999 Harrison Street in West Berkeley. After completing some essential improvements, the new space will save the Theatre $250,000 each year. Berkeley Rep will be paying 50% less for 50% more space!
With this spacious new facility, the Theatre unites its artisans and administrators under one roof for the first time in decades while cutting costs, improving efficiency, supporting the local economy, and upholding the tradition of light manufacturing in West Berkeley. It will also free up space in the Thrust Stage on Addison Street to provide new amenities for audiences coming to see its shows.
This acquisition allows the Theatre to consolidate all its pre-production activities into one campus: the new facility will house the costume shop, prop shop, scene shop, storage, and administrative offices, which are currently divided among five different locations in two cities. Eventually, Berkeley Rep also hopes to use the space to house rehearsals.
All performance-related functions will continue at the Theatre. For example, the box office will remain on Addison Street, and sound, electrics, and wardrobe crews will of course continue to work backstage. Working conditions for those employees will greatly improve, because the building will house fewer people, while staff members moving across town will also enjoy more comfortable conditions in a roomy new facility filled with natural light.
To outfit the new space with safe work conditions for employees in its technical shops, Berkeley Rep must raise $3.5 million. The nonprofit has already secured seed funding, thanks to generous contributions from the Bechtel Foundation and the Valley Foundation. Union Bank has also agreed to finance a portion of the improvements immediately.
Okay, that's for the old news. Terence also mentions a couple of upcoming items at the Rep. To start, he mentions the teen program starting up to get those youngsters involved in living, active theatre. O put aside that neoclassical fustian!
Berkeley Repertory Theatre may be preparing to move its offices and shops
to a beautiful new campus across town, but its School of Theatre isnt
going anywhere. In fact, local high-school students are invited to take
over that building for the annual Teen One-Acts Festival. For the ninth
straight year, teens can invade the School and try their hands at acting,
directing, playwriting, producing, and technical theatre.
MUSIC DO I HEAR? HA HA, KEEP TIME!
KFOG has announced its annual Concerts for Kids, taking place December 7 at the Masonic Auditorium. This year the Doobie Brothers will be helping the Marines program Toys for Tots and the Make it Better program that seeks to reduce in-school harassment of kids for real or perceived sexual orientation.
And CDs of the highly collectible Live Archives CD are still available from Peets coffeeshops. Proceeds support Bay Area food banks. We got a copy here and there are some really tasty tracks, as every year. None of the live performance songs by top marquee acts are commercially available elsewhere.
At the other end of the dial, so to speak, LIVE 105 has announced its lineup for this year's Not So Silent Night which returns, unfortunately, to the horrible acoustics of the Shark Tank in San Jose again.
Was someone asleep at the wheel when the booking happened?
Line-up for the over eight-hour extravaganza features
Not listed is the eventual winner of the local band contest. The event normally sells out within hours of announcement, but the location and the rather thin lineup and the execrable economy mean that tix are still available a week later.
Concert happens 12/10, a Friday, and music starts at 6pm, continuing unto the early hours of next morning.
IN COLORS RED AND GOLD, JUST LIKE MOONBEAMS IN OUR EYES
It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The weather has been cool, overcast and appropriate for autumn in most places. Nights, the sonorous tone of the foghorns has rolled across the Bay as the old pogonip has wafted through the Golden Gate, same as usual. Rain took a break here even as our storms headed out to dump loads of snow on the Midwest. Only the seagulls were laughing.
Its come to that special time of year when the bracing wind comes sweeping down out of the North, stirring the spirits and bringing blood to the cheeks. Yep, 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 and young boys 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. The boy wants to plunge his fire-tempered blade deep into the juicy vitals of a tender, moist well coifed Wirehair breed. Ah, the pleasures of the autumn hunt! The delights of poodle blasting! Put aside all thoughts of wimpy Palin snagging those frilly moose from the comfortable safety of a plush helicopter. Boots on the ground and dog meat is what we are after each Poodleshoot, with its savage, atavistic descent into the bloodlust fury of killing in honor of those original American brigands and thieves, the Puritan Poodleshooters.
The Official Rules are now up for all wannabe poodleshooters for the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ.
Down at the Old Same Place Bar Papoon and Babar shared a drink together, as per a private ritual between the two of them after every major election season. While Papoon's party, the Not Insane Coalition had kept significant share of power in the Golden State, Babar's party, the Ponderously Conservative Party had won back a number of seats nationwide, although locally he had not done so well. This did not help Babar's mood very much, for the governorship had been a great prize in this State of some 38 million souls. It appears that the new radical libertarian group calling itself the Carpetbagger Party split much of the vote with the Twee Party, a party that also calls itself the Fey Party. Seems the group has gathered around a personality named Tina Fey, onetime Governator of Alaska who quit to make money giving speeches and go on television. Tina Fey has attracted a large following by way of shooting large animals like moose and caribou from helicopters while doing her nails and saying things which make no real sense but sound cool and sort of patriotic like "You betcha!" and "Those darned folks are at it again, you know" with a dweezled Canadian accent. She claimed to be able to shoot Russians and spy on their naked orgies from her front porch. She's made the ditsy female seem cool because she carries an AK-47 around with her and looks good in a bathing suit, which appeals to the NASCAR vote. Whatever that is.
To make matters worse, Eugene Shrubb had popped up again like a bad penny, touting a new book titled, "Smirk: Heh, heh, heh. Gotcha!". He stood up on a porcelain throne and started haranguing people with the phrase, "Miss me yet?" over and over until people pelted him with rotten fruit and he went away, saying over his shoulder, "You better not misunderestimate me."
Ever since Shrubb's administration made being ignorant and dumb as rocks okay for Americans, things have gone well for stupid people who finally got a chance to work on their self-esteem issues, so maybe his eight years were not a total fiasco.
Heigh-ho. The issue was late this time around because the Editor had to actually work for a living on the weekend, a situation the Old Man detests, for he does not believe work really exists. Not for him and not for anyone related to him.
Mr. Howitzer held a soiree out at his mansion on Grand Street for all of his developer friends. A number of representatives from SunCal were invited as well as the people seeking to turn Ballena Bay into a series of twenty-story high-rise condos. A number of Realtors showed up as did a few developers looking at the Boatworks area. These people could be recognized by the fact they arrived wearing bibs, as they constantly salivate, a condition known as Developer's Drip.
Mr. Howitzer, looking to show that the Island was a place of Fine Living by the Bay, had purchased an whole hog from Encinal Market with the idea of having a grand Hawaiian style luau with tiki torches (rented from the tiki-tacki theme bar on Lincoln), hula girls and loads of leis draped everywhere.
When the hog arrived in a great big trailer pulled behind a pickup truck bearing the logo for Parmesan Farms, Mr. Howitzer, prepared to haul some serious meat with the help of a couple guys picked off the corner at Fruitvale and his manservant, Dodd, was astounded to see the delivery man pop open the back and lead out a perfectly large and perfectly healthy well-formed hog on a rope.
"Okay," said the man. "Where you want him?"
The day workers looked at each other and then at the hog and then at Mr. Howitzer and then started laughing.
"Um, I ordered a hog," said Mr. Howitzer.
"Well if this aint a real hog, my name is Julius Caesar," said the guy from the farm. "Hey, they don't like them dogs."
Eisenhower, Mr. Howitzer's weimariner was kicking up a ruckus from his chain. The pig looked at Eisenhower and appeared to be sizing up the odds in combat, finding most of them in his favor.
"Woah, I can't take this pig; I need to feed a dinner party tonight."
The man evaluated the hog and evaluated the crew assembled there. "Weeeeel, this one's got a fair amount of pork on him. String him up and get him cleaned out and you kin feed damn near an army I reckon. A course, if your party is tonight, I suggest cutting him up a bit rather than spittin' him whole over coals. Cookin' a feller this large is like to take a while. Though you might wanna singe of them bristles first. You got a lift like they use to haul up an engine block?"
In vain Mr. Howitzer tried to convince the driver to take the increasingly restive hog back. Some mistake had been made.
The farmer responded, "Can't do that right now. You'll have to take and keep him a while as I need the trailer for some other deliveries. Seems you is the only one wantin' to pig out hereabouts. Everybody else wants chickens, a couple goats, 'least one cow. Can't put them all back in there with the hog, 'cause he's liable to get excited when the drugs wear off."
"Drugs? You gave the hog drugs?"
"Standard operatin' procedure. Them hawgs git so excited they're liable to have a heart attack during transport and law says you can't butcher and eat no animal that's died somehow mysterious. So this here pig is high as a kite right now. And he needs to stay put until I can get back with a load of porcine Quaaludes. So to speak. Otherwise I take him back and one dead pig is one hella serious amount of cash, fella. This guy is yours for the duration. Ciao."
One of the dayworkers seemed to know how to handle animals, while his friends, lifelong city dwellers, stood back and commented in rapid-fire Spanish as the hog got led to the back. There he sort of flopped down into the coi pond with a grunt as if knowing this was the place for him. Dodd ran around the edge tossing back a few stray, floundering fish, each worth more than one thousand dollars on the market for such things.
Mr. Howitzer waved at the pig and Dodd. "Dodd, get a lift with hook and chains and deal with this, would you? Thanks." And with that, Mr. Howitzer took Eisenhower out for a walk.
Dodd sat heavily in a chair as he and the hog regarded one another. "Mi hermano, estamos en el mismo barco juntos," said Dodd, who spoke several languages somewhat fluently. The day workers all started to laugh again.
Dodd, considering his options, sent the workers out to the markets to fetch all the Ahi they could buy as well as loads of fruit and vegetables. One of the workers returned from the Port with an entire Dorado, a fish that easily weighs some eighty pounds. He refused to understand questions regarding where he had obtained such a thing in such short notice, shrugging and lifting his arms. "No comprehende!" Soon the immense barbie was set up to smoke the tuna instead of pork while the former main course noshed on piles of apples, peaches and celery in the pond. Everyone called the hog "Hermano," which means "brother".
Mr. Howitzer returned with his dog and was eventually pacified by warnings about potential trichinosis, choking on unsinged bristles, and the certain problem of what to do with about 100 pounds of pig offal subsequent to butchering and cleaning. And the blood. And the stench. And guests to arrive in 90 minutes with you expecting to roast a couple hundred pounds of meat in what time? Besides, a living hog laying there contentedly will render the luau an air of rustic authenticity. As if the entire thing had been just so planned.
Mr. Howitzer, in a rare fit of reasonableness, agreed with Dodd. "Dodd, you are the very reason I keep you on."
The dayworkers got paid, the guests arrived, the party galloped forward as such affairs tend to do, while Dodd made sure to overpour every mai tai, every highball, every pina colada, until the realtors, their wives, all the developers, and all the hangers on were schlockered to the nines, while the alert pig watched it all go down until the party moved mostly indoors to watch slides of ambitious projects that built and built again on every square available inch of the Point, a place which induces Developers Drip in many, for if there be an inch with nothing upon it, the Developer's mantra is "Build, build, build!" Skyscrapers, sports complexes, office parks, row houses upon row houses built upon row houses and arcing bridges and sky trams leaping over the estuary to the vastly "improved" Oaktown Port, become a zone of condos and patisseries and elegant bath and bedroom fixture outlets filled with chrome and marble.
It was shortly before nine when the raccoons arrived. With all of this food laying about, for the pig and the . . . guests who had been stuffing themselves all evening, the yard was prime feeding territory for scads of raccoons who rappelled down the lianas in a small army to feast on pineapples, mangos, coconuts, sweet corn, tunafish, bread, apples, pears and just about anything a small bear could cram into his mouth after delicately washing the food in the coi pond next to Hermano, who only grunted while they chattered among themselves in their wash-bear language. A few squirrels came down to join them. A solitary opossum showed up and sat there gnawing a corn cob, looking like a fat white balloon with a nose and paws.
Dodd, coming out to smoke a cigarette for a break from serving the crowd inside, observed the destruction taking place in the yard. "Hi guys," he said. "Get it while its good."
There had to have been over twenty animals scampering over the piles of food there. Mr. Howitzer, coming out in search of Dodd saw what was happening and gasped. He ran back inside. All the developers emerged in a state of rage. How dare they, those plebeians! Mr. Cribbage shook his blackthorn stick and shouted "Remember Toad Hall!" before leading the phalanx against the animals there. Then ensued a pitched battle of developers against raccoons, the squirrels and opossum retreating immediately before the onslaught. Cribbage and Howitzer laid on with their sticks, as did others, but Mrs. Blather fell and was severely mauled by teeth, losing her pearl necklace while the barbie went over with a great crash in a shower of cinders and sparks, setting the hardenbergia trellis on fire.
Amid this descent into atavistic savagery, Dodd retired to the lounge and made himself there an Old Fashioned with Makers Mark. The pig, finding the disturbance annoying, had left the pond to waddle in and so occupy the couch.
While he sat there, his cell phone rang. The hog observed his conversation.
"Yes dear, I am still at work. . . Yes, well Mr. Howitzer is like that sometimes . . . Be home soon." Then he hung up and paused meditatively while the roar of the pitched battle outside floated through the hallways.
"You know Hermano," he said. "Some people just need to relax a bit and let go."
Hermano grunted in response.
And that's when the long wail the throughpassing train ululated across the chuckling waves of the estuary and the weedy, barren, spectral Buena Vista flats and the decrepit brick cannery as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its casual journey to parts unknown.That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
NOVEMBER 11, 2010 (SPECIAL EDITION NEWSBREAK!)
JEAN QUAN NEW OAKLAND MAYOR
After days of counting and recounting ballots, Alameda County ROV announced late Wednesday after the 10th pass of Ranked Choice votes Jean Quan had edged over the heavily funded Don Perata 50.98% to 49.02% to become the nation's first Asian-American mayor of a major U.S. Metropolitan area. She is also Oakland's first female mayor.
Perata held a lead of over 12% ahead of Quan after first choice votes were counted, however he failed to garner anything near 50% with barely 33% of first choice votes as the substantial anti-Perata movement candidates split the votes among themselves. Rebecca Kaplan almost certainly pulled significant numbers from Quan, for as she was eliminated in the final RCV count, her 2nd choice voices went heavily to Quan by the thousands.
"We've been waiting 158 years to have a woman mayor," Quan said to cheers on the steps of City Hall after learning of her win. "We've been waiting over 200 years to have an Asian American woman as mayor of a major American city. And, we've been waiting about four years to get ranked-choice voting.
"This is a race people are going to be studying for a long time."
Votes were counted under Oakland's new ranked-choice system, which allows voters to list their first, second and third-place candidates. Don Perata had challenged the voter-approved system a year ago, knowing that the anti-Perata movement would split the vote among several candidates, however the courts denied his effort, mandating that Dave MacDonald's office put the system into practice on November 2. He was correct, as nine candidates ran on the same ticket "Anything but Perata", and their cumulative total was over 70% of the vote.
Perata's office has indicated they may challenge the election, however no firm decision has been made. The State Assembly Senator is scheduled to deliver a press conference today.
Quan will step into an office that sees a shrinking budget that includes a $50 million deficit next fiscal year, a violent crime rate that has worsened during the diffident reign of departing Dellums -- a situation likely to worsen due to 80 police officers slated for layoff on top of the 70 already handed pink slips -- a seriously bad economy and a multicultural population brew of nearly half a million souls. According to Census figures the city is 36 percent black, 31 percent white, 21 percent Hispanic and 15 percent Asian.
Today is Veteran's Day and the sun is shining in this part of California. Enjoy the 'Que and thank a Vet.
NOVEMBER 8, 2010 (SPECIAL EDITION NEWSBREAK!)
At least two races have changed direction as Dave MacDonald's ROV workers continued to process the new Ranked Choice voting for Oakland Mayor. Councilwoman Jean Quan led ex-state senator Don Perata by two percentage points, 51% to 49% after 2nd and 3rd choice votes were added. Results can be downloaded from the www.acgov.org website in PDF format.
Ranked Choice votes come into play when no candidate garners more than 50%. It does appear that no one who voted first for Quan or Kaplan selected Perata as either 2nd or 3rd choice.
Statewide, LA's Cooley appears to be leading Kamala Harris in the race for Attorney General.
An update will be provided today after five by ROV.
CORRECTION - PROPOSITION 21
Whoops! Somebody did not read the results properly. Prop 21, which would have instated the Car tax did NOT pass. Which means that the only vehicle surcharges that will be applied during registration will be levied by local governments. The offending Staff have been duely punished by means of the Official Island-Life oubliette.
FIGHT THE POWER
The partial power outage on the Island which effected the morning correction schedule for Island-Life.net is still under investigation by AMP. A circuit went down, causing automatic shutdown of surrounding good circuits as part of a failsafe safety measure. AMP is gradually bringing up circuits block by block to locate the cause.
NOVEMBER 7, 2010
DEATH SAYS NOTHING BACK
This week's photo comes from the mellifluously appelled Lisa Bullwinkel, who runs an event production company called Hoopla. This image is called "Dancer & Portrait" and is from the Dìa de los Muertos Celebration in the Gourmet Ghetto (Berkeley) on Tuesday.
Costumed celebrants gathered around the ofrenda to fallen bicyclists lit with black lights, and another to the mountain lion that was shot in the district weeks earlier. Faces were painted into skulls with flowers and crosses. Aztec drummers and dancers adorned with feathers and rattles led the candle light procession around the district spurred on with the sound of their mournful conch shells. Costume contest winners shown here are Patricia Navarro as a dead Brazilian dancer and Jeska Lapin who placed her own face into a faux painting. Other winners were Juliana Flenaugh and Devi of Outback.
5, 6, 7, 8 NOW'S THE TIME TO LEGISLATE
People may have noticed the midterm elections just passed. Once again we had staff working the polls from 4AM to 10:30PM on Tuesday. We did notice a heavy turnout this time around, with folks trickling in to vote right up to 7:58PM, which was confirmed by Dave MacDonald's office at ROV which reported the following numbers:
There were technical glitches with registrations done online and the county website went down for about 40 minutes, however things went fairly well for this election involving two paper ballots and the Ranked Choice system in place for three East Bay cities.
Ah, but first to our dear, dirty Island. Voters put aside most of the hot air about the supposed "SunCal Slate" to select Marie Gilmore for Mayor. With Rob Bonta as the only new face coming into Silly Hall as freshman Councilperson, we have Councilperson Marie shifting up from her seat to allow departing Mayor Beverly Johnson to shift down. Because Gilmore still had time to go on her Council seat, Lena Tam reoccupies her seat there, although the numbers for the two vacancies mean voters chose Bonta and Johnson for Council, the seat vacated by Gilmore means Tam gets another shot.
Voters probably split between departing Council members Matarrese and DeHaan on the Mayor's office, with a few floaters to Daysog, who served on the Council a few years ago, but the end result is pretty clear as the numbers attest.
Looking at the numbers we see Jean Sweeney did far better than expected, given her lack of practical experience and Tam really was not that far behind Beverly Johnson, indicating that folks did not buy the nasty accusations about her alleged leaks of privilege City business. Rob Bonta ran on his record of turning around the finances of the Health Care District from red to black, so people probably had the budget in mind when he was chosen. Other factors in other races indicate that $$$$ was very much on everybody's mind in all districts across the County and most certainly across the Nation.
Combining the votes of Sweeney, Ashcraft, Jensen and Gillitt, we come up with a total of 13480 -- more than the total of the top two contenders combined, which also suggests that the spirit of antipathy toward the established Old Guard is something to which the old faces on the Council should pay serious heed. As a couple of the more informed Letters to the Editor recently indicated in the local weeklies, this election here was not just all about SunCal.
As for the LAFCO district election for who handles the contentious Hospital, here are the numbers from ROV, with just four persons vying for three seats.
A discussion of hospital issues is way beyond the limits of this week's space, but suffice it to say that Deutsch, Chen and Gorelick appear to be all capable individuals with realistic understanding of problems facing the facilities.
The hotly contested USD seats provided a model of how to go about campaigning without mudslinging. Well, without too much mud anyway. Experienced administrators captured control of this unruly beast which is likely to make nobody happy for a few years to come. Two seats on the Governing Board were up for grabs.
Some interesting and innovative ideas were floated during the campaign, which did help to distinguish the different candidates from one another. The AUSD is facing a multimillion dollar shortfall with school closures inevitable, so this one was followed carefully. The voters appeared to dump the idea of going 100% charter school in favor of seen what comes of the one school on the island which has already opted to follow that route while allowing the seasoned fighters who know the nuts and bolts try to battle this one out during the Great Recession, which shows no signs of changing course.
Across the water, both Berkeley and San Leandro chose mayors via the new Ranked Choice system. Here are the initial results on the first run for Oakland Mayor.
The ROV runs several passes through the computer to sort out the RC 2nd and 3rd choices. At the end of Thursday, the relative rankings remained unchanged with Jean Quan never rising above 25.5%, staying continually ahead of Rebecca Kaplan. Perata's name recognition simply could not be overwhelmed. He is a flamboyant, very savvy manipulator of the media, turning even FBI investigations and criminal indictments to advantage, and he seldom misses an opportunity to grandstand. He is not a very effective politician, but he does reward friends well with all kinds of lucrative contracts, special government perks and generous support while Quan tends to work quietly to get things done. Kaplan is very dynamic, however she occasionally latches onto projects that are more symbolic than substantive for the community. Both Quan and Kaplan, however, have political legs with long careers ahead of both of them, so we wish them well.
Bear in mind that the RCV count is not finished, which may result in changes to the final standings. Also, not all absentee ballots have been counted.
Oakland is a troubled City. Dellums leaves the place worse off than he found it, having essentially treated his entire tenure in office as a pre-retirement sojourn. Talking with the citizens of Oakland we got a sense of jaded cynicism about Perata and the mayor's office there. They know the man is as corrupt as Mephistopheles, but they have a sort of depressed concept about city government similar to those living in New York who believe the Mafia there keeps crime organized and in check. In other words, people believe if there were no Mafia, then the City would descend into anarchy with widespread, ungoverned crime. Oaklanders know that Perata has exchanged substantial sums of money with the police union and has made certain promises to restore the lost beat cop jobs. Fine, if that's what it takes. Let Perata engage in white-collar shenanigans and dirty deals with the Port property. Just so long as he restores police protection and does something about governing the horrific murder rate.
As the topper to this story, Don Perata not only styles himself publicly as "The Don", he has a nameplate -- last used when he was in Sacto -- which reads "The Peratas", and which features the "r" in his name presented as a pictograph of a gun a la The Sopranos.
In addition to Mayor, Oakland voted on several measures that all dealt with the budget problems. Measure X sought to levy parcel taxes on homes and apartment units so as to restore the lost police jobs. Measure W looked to add a $1.99 tax per month to residential and business lines, as well as mobile phones; $13 per month tax on trunk lines to raise $8 million for the general fund. Measure BB looked to modify a previous measure that had looked for assurances that the city would maintain a minimum police staffing level. Measure L was to double the existing parcel tax in an effort to resolve Oakland's own USD budget problems. Measure V imposes an additional tax on existing Marijuana medical dispensaries and conditionally imposes a tax on non-medical pot sales pending passage of Prop 19.
Here is how Oakland voted on those measures.
Measure L - PARCEL TAX - DEFEATED (needed 2/3 majority to pass)
Measure V - Tax on Marijuana - PASSED
Measure W - UTILITIES TAX - DEFEATED
Measure X - PARCEL TAX - DEFEATED (needed 2/3 majority to pass)
Measure BB - modification of Measure Y - PASSED
Clearly, Oakland had no taste for additional parcel taxes or any tax, in fact, that would stress already heavily stressed residents.
County residents did approve Measure F, which will add $10 to the fees associated with registering a vehicle in the county. The new fee will generate $11 million/year for the county. A simple majority vote was required to enact the new tax.
In District Assembly and Congressional races, there were no surprises. The incumbents here more than adequately represent the vast majority of citizens in their Northern California districts here, and the large margins reflect sentiments here that the Tea Partiers are not welcome. Stark and Lee in particular are practically rock superstars here for their frank and undiluted presentations in Washington.
Not much to discuss there. It does get more interesting the higher up one goes in the food chain, so to speak.
Although Pelosi may no longer be Majority Leader on the Hill, she retains her seat. As does Barbara Boxer who convincingly trounced the heavily GOP and self-funded Carly Fiorina, who reportedly spent, similar to Meg Whitman, some $120 million dollars of her own fortune on trying to oust the combative Boxer. Here the County results say it all.
Can you say "blow out"? I knew you could.
County results for Governor followed similar lines.
Statewide, of course, margins were much narrower, but the end result was the same.
GOVERNOR - STATEWIDE RESULTS
SENATE - STATEWIDE RESULTS
Whitman proved that she is in no way prepared to run the fourth largest economy in the world. She made mistake after mistake, and fumbled the recovery each time to double the damage. The voters understood we cannot let someone again take eight years to learn how to be a governor of the Golden State. We need someone who is experienced and who will work with people as well as listen to them, not someone who will issue edicts, attempt to rule by fiat, and attempt strong-arm tactics that will either be disregarded entirely or vigorously contested by any number of injured parties.
All down the line for the lesser offices, the results followed the same pattern, with the Golden State deciding, by majority, to go with a solidly Democratic Executive branch, while pretty much preserving the Assembly makeup in the same proportions. Again, the largely better educated and better informed coastal areas trended to voting for Democrats, while the sparsely inhabited, more rural, and less heterogeneous areas of the interior voted like imitation Red States, save for the Tahoe area, which gets better access to media.
As a point to note, when we traveled to Bishop we found it was nearly impossible to get access to any voice considered liberal, vaguely left or even centrist. All radio, most newspaper outlets, and all local TV, including cable were dominated by FOX and conservative branches of Clear Channel, which typically would purchase something like, say a Larry King interview, heavily edit the thing to make any liberal guest appear to be a boring windbag, and time the presentation against shows that were filled with jazzy, snappy editing. As an example the local cable station posted an interview with the wife of a Democrat that lasted 2.5 hours. Larry King's entire show normally lasts no more than one hour with many different segments; this entire thing had been concocted from outtakes and normally excised filler. Fair and balanced? We think not. In fact, we now know most certainly not.
As for the statewide propositions, the entire country, and the Federal Government, looked to the first in our little list of items meant to deal with the effects of the Great Recession, shuffle the structure of state government via redistricting, and deny or hand a favor to bloated, vile, depraved and thoroughly revolting businesses.
Well, okay, we don't pretend to be "fair" or "unbiased".
Prop 19 will return again, no question about that. It lost because the actual text of the law was poorly written, but also those folks who happen to like pot and the idea of easily available pot fell into two camps against the proposition fighting the splinter of folks in favor. Existing growers in the north counties, afraid that legalization would mean massive corporate takeover and the certain destruction of their profitable businesses all lobbied against the proposition. Then there is the group that disliked the text of the measure, claiming it did not go far enough towards ensuring protections, which has led to the interesting spectacle of pro-legalization adherents shouting and cursing at one another. In Berkeley of all places.
Against this fractured bloc, the massive array of knee-jerk opposition, conservatives who dislike anything smelling remotely of liberality, and a number of seniors who still think "Reefer Madness" was based on scientific fact ensured the failure of this first attempt at legalization.
The two redistricting propositions were approved and denied according to as much common sense as could be mustered. The original plan to end gerrymandering by means of a citizen's commission took a hit with Prop 20, which replaces that People's group with a selection of carefully chosen individuals. Not as good as what it replaces, but better than simply confirming everything in place by handing redistricting to the elected legislature by means of Prop 27. Couldn't fool the people this time, guys.
Car tax is back, Der Governator's wishes notwithstanding. Prop 21 failed to pass, putting that one back in addition to local municipalities and counties which have also passed similar measures. And its the pain in those local governments which got Prop 22 passed, halting the robbery of local coffers by the State.
Common sense prevailed again when voters dumped the clearly self-aggrandizing Prop 23, which might just as well have been labeled the Gift to Chevron Act.
People got a little confused by the double negatives of Prop 24. Right now, certain businesses get tax breaks. These breaks include carrying over losses from one year to the next to lower the overall tax owed. They also allow businesses to spread out tax credits to affiliates; this really only applies to very large businesses. Finally, corporations that extend across state boundaries -- again, very large businesses -- can chose whether they will be taxed on property, payroll or sales. For example if Bigbox Corp earns $18 million dollars in sales, but owns a cardboard shack in downtown Oakland worth about $18 dollars they can choose to be taxed on the shack and not the gross sales.
98% of the businesses in California cannot take advantage of any of these loopholes and they never will.
Prop 24 would have ended those loopholes to the benefit to the State of some 1.3 billion dollars. Which happens to be pretty close to our state deficit, come to think of it. The only thing left now is hand-wringing and sighs. Common sense did not prevail.
The passage of Proposition 25 is the single biggest thing to happen this time around. In fact, we think it is bigger than the governorship. Finally, after three decades of really bad budget work, the effects of which we are experiencing right now, the one thing necessary to start on the beginning of the first step of the initial attempt to launch a preliminary fix to our budget problems has passed. This one step is more important than any balanced budget discussion, for it shunts aside all of the nonsensical, obstructive, damaging hindrances to getting things done with the Golden State's money.
Prop 25 was another one of those Jarvis-folks things that attempts to
throw up stumbling blocks to raising certain fees. That's fine it passed;
because it will make no difference. Those fees will be raised at the local
instead of state level. Prop 22 kind of ensures that process.
Basically, it has always been difficult to get the incumbent Executive Branch to address the economy during election campaigns. Of both parties. The Great Recession is on in full force (there were 175 families standing in line at the last Island Food Bank distribution) and particularly galling was the long Health Care debate which the GOP pundits successfully turned to propaganda uses on several fronts. In the end, the insurance companies won anyway in gutting the public option, many independents soured on the lack of promise fulfillment on this and other areas, and the general tenor of the country is dissatisfaction with both parties, while the GOP appears to be well on the way to absorbing and co-opting the Tea Party movement with all of its energy and resources.
It is also interesting to note that a quick analysis of the Dems who lost their jobs reveals that the vast majority of them were so-called "blue dog democrats." That is to say, the party is well rid of these folks who voted and spoke like Republicans anyway. Republicans captured six seats from the Democrats by defeating incumbents in Arkansas and Wisconsin and winning open seats in Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania. Illinois, with its contentious seat once held by Obama, was a lost cause two years ago. Specter of Pennsylvania has always been a moderate, but the former Republican who shifted sides had long been a target by just about everybody. Sestak, the ultimate winner in PA of the Primary over Specter never had a chance against the experienced campaigner in Toomey. As for Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, good riddance.
North Dakota, Indiana and West Virginia all had voted for McCain during the Presidential Election. Their Senate seats had all been held for long periods by individuals who either had died or decided to retire from politics prior to this midterm election, leaving relative newbies to contend with very experienced and well-funded GOP tools. Rand Paul's win in Kentucky is simply overt confirmation that the Tea Party is now virtually owned by the GOP. In a recent Rolling Stone article a close aid to Paul stated, "I simply do not recognize the man any more." "P'owned" by the GOP.
The GOP now has control over the judiciary and the Legislature again, but they have a scant two years to make something good look like it happened, working against the same obstacles and resistance that the Democrats and Obama (two separate entities) faced. Obama still managed to accomplish a fair number of things during the past two years, despite fighting not only an uncompromising and entrenched GOP but his own party as well. It would be foolish to count him down and out at this stage.
If the GOP makes the bonehead error of wasting time and energy attacking health care, the voters will respond in another two years the same way they did this time around. They also stand to lose all their gains should they or any of their fringe elements attempt any more scams and deceptions along the lines of the ACORN videos, which were proven to be misrepresented, deceptive outright concocted lies to the American people conducted by a charlatan. They did destroy ACORN, but you can only get away with that sort of thing once.
The bottom line is that if there are not more jobs and more money for the people within two years, it will be another round of "Throw the bums out."
NEW TIMES! NEW TIMES! NEW, NEW, NEW, NEW TIMES!
Whew! That was a bit of verbiage. This is to let you know that on Election Day former candidate for city office, Adam Gillitt announced the formation of a nonprofit news foundation for the City of Alameda. Designed to provide unbiased community news, information and opinion, the foundation will also provide mentoring to local youth in the craft of journalism.
Said Mr. Gillitt, "I envision a site that is able to look at news stories from a neutral, citizens perspective. I also envision a site that will ask difficult questions instead of shrinking away from them. It will be a site that fosters honest discussion, where people will be responsible for their views, and not allowed to degenerate into ad hominem insults. In short, it will be a site that is community-sourced, with a range of views from all over Alameda."
The Alameda Post will be a nonprofit foundation with a board comprised of community members who will oversee fundraising, editorial content, allocations of funds, and mentoring programs. The program will have content online at www.alamedapost.com, on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
We don't have any more information other than what came in the press release about this issue, but on the face of it, we think its a good idea in general. We look forward to seeing what comes of this, hoping that this leads to less acrimony among all those concerned.
"WHAT IS A PIER BUT A DISAPPOINTED BRIDGE . . .".
Repair work continues on the Fruitvale bridge to replace its worm-eaten pilings. Work is likely to continue well into and perhaps past 2011.
Caltrans will close onramps to the Nimitz at 42nd Street in Oakland, starting 11/11/10 and continuing through 11/15 for earthquake and code retrofitting to the busy I880 overpass. Expect similar closures to occur periodically until 2014.
The City will be holding forums during the post-SunCal era under the title, "Going Forward" in which discussion about the Point and what to do with it will be held on three occasions in three separate locations, all 6:30-8:30pm. Those dates and locations are:
1. Tuesday, 11/9 - Grandview Pavilion, 300 Island Drive
Those not able to attend can fill out a workbook form online at www.alamedapoint-goingforward.com.
Its been an unruly week on the Island, with heavy clouds rumbling over the tumultuous hustings, tearing loose campaign posters and causing the bunting to flap in the breeze until finally the rain busted loose on Sunday in torrential downpours. Its the wicked time of year when strange smokes hover over the empty lots, leaves skitter across the pavement when there is no breeze and shadows walk among us. Now is come to El Dias de los Muertos, the Days of the Dead, which last for two days, when we remember, according to tradition, those who have walked on to the Other Side never to return.
It is the time, once again for Denby to make that pilgrimage. You know. That Special Visit.
Every year, the Editor assembles the staff in the Island-Life offices at night after the sun has gone down to draw straws by candlelight, all according to tradition. Every year, first the one, then the other approaches the cup and, trembling, removes their little stick. Every year, Denby approaches the cup, draws a straw, and every year, according to strict tradition, Denby draws the shortest straw.
He has tried drawing first. He has tried drawing last. He has tried drawing in the middle and he has tried to avoid the ritual altogether, but tradition is very powerful when the spirits are at work.
And so it was he put on his coat and he put on his hat and so walked out the door, this year the same as the last, with people gathered in fearful little knots, whispering among themselves as he went. "Sure glad it's not me."
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 that's 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 Coliseum. 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, barefoot and wearing a nightdress ran past and disappeared as quickly as she had come.
At the bonfire's edge a bright voice greeted us, "Denby! Back again so soon? Is it your time at last?"
A sort of pale glimmer drifted over the dark sands, a woman dressed in white with frizzy platinum blonde hair. She reached out with her left arm. But her hand went right through his 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. There are some new people here."
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.
"Hey Penny, is there somebody around here with a big voice who keeps shouting things in Italian . . . ?"
"What are you talking about? Don't be silly."
A man appeared sauntering along the beach there. He was looking out over what would have been the Bay, but none of the bridges could be seen although there was a distant glow that could easily have been San Francisco. The man turned and saw Denby and spoke. "I know you! You are a friend of Beatrice. I met you before!"
Someone beside the fire spoke up. "Beatrice? Dante Alighieri's Beatrice!?"
"No a different Beatrice," Denby said.
"Wasn't there something about Dante and a lobster? Was the lobster named Beatrice?" Somebody asked.
"No," somebody else said. It was Michael Rubin, a former professor at State. "That was Beckett."
"Beckett owned a lobster named Beatrice? I didn't know that," a former poet said. "How bourgeois."
"No, it was just a story," explained Michael. This provoked an animated discussion around the bonfire over the quirks of geniuses and their curious pets.
"Yes, Bea was never one for standing on a pedestal to be admired from afar," the man said in a slight southern drawl to Denby. "She sure never had anything to do with guiding anybody through Heaven, I and assure you. Be-a-Tricks, I called her. How is she doing?"
"Robert," said Denby. "She's had her ups and downs. We all have."
"Hm," Robert said. "She helped with the restaurant. After so many years I finally got things together and figured out what to do with my life. And then suddenly its all over. How about that?"
"Suppose that's just the way it goes. Soon as you have it all figured out, there is no time left and its time to go. Can't be concerned about all that any more. Never really had a chance to tell Bea . . .".
A small child wearing a granny gown ran past them and disappeared into the dark shadows of the tufted dunes.
"Tell her what?"
"Oh . . . nevermind. Look there's the ferry! And . . . Ah! The fare!" A glimmer was approaching from far across the water, angling to the left of the beach. It looked like there were two wheels of fire aboard. As Denby noticed this, Robert took what looked like a gold coin from his mouth, then, inexplicably, put it back. Several children ran laughing towards a sort of jetty to which the ferry was heading. There seemed to be some excitement happening over that way.
"I have to go now," Robert said. "Say hello to Bea for me." Then over his shoulder he added, "Better not mention you saw me, though."
"What the devil is going on, Penny?" Another little girl, about eight or nine, ran past him in the other direction.
"That is not the best authority on whom to call right now," Penny laughed. "You don't think that we spend all of eternity beside a campfire on a beach do you? This is just a waiting place for the ferry."
Denby started moving toward the ferry landing but something in Penny's voice when she spoke again stopped him. "I don't think you better go over there. He has a guard dog and . . . well, it would not be good for you."
"What's with the coin in his mouth? Why does he get to go and all of you stay?"
"Robert's time has come. Perhaps because he just learned what he needed to learn. As for the coin, just be glad we are not living in ancient Egypt. Crossing the river used to be really rough back then!"
"Close your eyes a moment. . . "
Suddenly Denby was standing in a close room of stone which stank of blood and offal which several incense braziers failed to dispel. A sort of half-man with the head of some animal stood holding a dripping sword in front of a black door. To his left a man stood with his shirt torn open in a puddle of blood with his back to Denby facing the door. To the thing's right a large scales rose up with two big golden platters hanging from chains. On the one side was a feather, and on the other side a warm, pumping . . .
Denby's eyes snapped open and he was back on the beach in the dark beside a bonfire. "Jesus fucking Christ!" he said.
A familiar voice spoke to him. "Really Denby, that sort of language will not be tolerated around here."
A fortyish man with straight, dirty blond hair and a beard sat in a chair wearing a brightly colored short-sleeve shirt, khaki pants and sandals. A ring on his left hand flashed in the firelight as he removed a cigar from his mouth. "You find a job yet?"
Denby began shaking.
"I think you better sit down. Still have a touch of that pneumonia, I expect."
As Denby sat down two little girls in gingham dresses ran past.
"So you are not headed for the ferry landing either." Denby said.
"Oh. I expect it will be quite a while for me. If at all. Might even be sent back for another go around."
"Another go around?"
"Well yes. If you . . . if things end abruptly like they did with me, well, you might have to go back and live everything all over again."
He shook his head and relit his cigar. "No. To relearn everything and get it right."
"Well you certainly are looking well. Right now. Jim."
Jim grinned. "If you had never seen pictures of me when I was younger your mind's eye would have shown me as you saw me last. White hair, false teeth, and . . . everything eroding . . .". A spasm of pain, or memory of pain flickered across Jim's face and then he was himself again. "You know Denby, you never want to live with regrets, but then you never want to end up in a place where everything is leaving you."
A girl with dark chestnut hair flowing behind her ran up, put her hands on her hips and said, "Boo!" before running off.
"Boo to you too! Ha ha!" Jim said. "I kind of like those girls."
"What are they?" Denby asked.
"Oh, some of them are mine." Jim puffed on his cigar. "Some yours. That girl, Penny can explain it better than I can."
"You know Sue is rather pissed at you."
Jim meditatively flicked his front teeth with his thumbnail. "I can imagine."
"You bastard." Denby said quietly and forcefully.
"You know, for a writer your language is rather primitive. Take my advice: if you want to write and write well, you have to take the material the same way you take a piece of copper or wood. You take your time and work it with what you know. Patinas take time to develop. There are chemicals for every effect, just like anything else out there -- the sulfuric acid you gave me is under the sink by the way; you better let Sue know about that stuff." Somewhere an iron bell tolled. "Anyway . . . oh heck, there is so much to say and now either an eternity or no time at all."
Penny was standing there. "Time to go now, Denby."
"I have a lot of questions to ask." Denby said.
"I am sure you do," said Jim. "But you know, I have a lot of questions too. The truth is, not everything is answered. . . ".
A girl ran up and would have leapt over his legs but Jim reached out and grabbed her by the waist to pull her down on his lap where she put her hands to either side of her face before blurting, "Boo!" and laughing. "Boo!" said Jim, laughing also.
Brief flashes in the darkness. Little girls wearing nightdresses running barefoot between the bonfires on the beach, playing tag with bright eyes. Wind brought sea spray across the tidal mud flats. A girl ran right up to Denby and stared up at him with big dark eyes a long moment before whirling about to run off with her long hair flowing behind in the air like a flag.
"Who are these", he asked.
"These are the Daughters of the Dust. They are the not yet and never was," said Penny, with a trace of rueful wistfulness not characteristic of her. "Of Jim and his past. 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..
"Didn't you say something like that last time . . ." Denby started, but she was already 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 Coliseum. 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 aureole about his head.
"Any idea when the Recession will be over?" He asked Denby.
"They didn't tell me," Denby said. "No idea." His body was shaking and he had to sit down. "These repetitions are worse than an Irish novel."
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?"
"I would give quite a lot right now to have just one tiny, hopeful sign of something . . . something . . .", Denby trailed off.
The Editor's bushy eyebrows went up. "Well if you don't know exactly what you want or need its going to be damned difficult providing," he said. "But I can show you one way, possibly, to be happy. Come along with me." The Editor led Denby along the dark aisles of the nighttime offices of Island-Life to a window on the far side. The hour was late. "Look there," he said, giving Denby his glass of whiskey.
Across the narrow way they could see a woman moving about a brightly lit room with several articles of furniture and a crib holding a baby. The baby was bawling absolute mad hatter screaming tears of the sort guaranteed to send most non-parents, and on occasion a few parents, into spells of murderous rage. The woman turned from the child to adjust the console of a stereo player, an old type from the seventies with a brightly lit analog dial. She then turned to lift up the squalling child and, while clearly singing along with the stereo, began jumping up and down while holding the infant close to her chest. Denby was so astonished he stepped back and nearly dropped his glass, for the baby stopped crying and, as could be seen even from this distance, began to laugh before falling asleep.
"What on earth is the song?" said Denby. "What is that music?"
"Well I went out there one night to listen beneath the window," the Editor said. "It's um, I think that new young people's stuff. Oh what's it called? I forget . . . Ah yes! Punk. That's what she is listening to. Punk it's called."
Denby wanted to inform the Editor that Punk had been around for a while, but nevermind. They went back to the Editor's cube.
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, as the locomotive wended its way through the Jack London Waterfront the long wail of the train whistle ululated across the moonlight diamond-sparkled waves of the estuary, across the spectral 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 turreted 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 31, 2010
WALKING WITH A GHOST
This week we have a pic of seasonal flowers for El Dias del Los Muertos, which the gabachos celebrated early in Berkeley and the Fruitvale although the actual days are November 1-2 in Mexico. Any case, here ya go.
Katie Makkai, a veteran poetry slammer, defining the word "pretty" at the National Poetry Slam 2002. A must-see for anybody who has ever raised girls, married a girl, or met a girl.
Island-lifer Graham reports that the Annual Bridge School Benefit exceeded expectations under the tent, and even those out in the rain had a great time for Peggy and Neal Young's acoustic blowout. Old Neal has a new one out that reportedly crunches like the masterful "Weld" . . .
Gorillaz played the Oracle Arena to a packed house, which was no mean feat for tix started at about $125 a pop for the band which has built itself around the concept of being "virtual musicians". Various "real" musicians, notably Bobby Woman and Mick Jones (The Clash) joined a seven-piece female string section (dressed in sailor garb), an eight-piece horn section (wearing Jason-style hockey goalie masks) for the 100 minute set . . . .
The ghouls and werewolves of the Great Recession savage AC Transit service, starting Halloween with a 7.2% reduction on 70 lines. This is on the heels of the 7.8% reduction that occured this past March. The new cuts are expected to save $11.4 million dollars for the financially troubled agency. Maybe those new Belgian buses were a bad idea . . .
Game 3 of the Texas-San Francisco series earned the second-lowest U.S. television rating for a World Series game, according to figures released Sunday to AP. The Rangers won 4-1 in a game that started 91 minutes late due to rain. News over the wire has Giants up 4 to the Rangers with zip at the end of the ninth in Game 4 of the World Series. And it looks like the Giants are headed for the trophy this time around . . .
The wind-up to the giddy month-long season that is Halloween around here culminates tonight as the skies clear for the kids to scamper up the luminaria-bordered walkways and the installations which some families spend weeks designing, building and assembling. Once again the big ten-foot long purple spider is clambering up the house on Grand Street. Each year there is an Island-wide competition to see who has the most elaborate, most outrageous display.
Of course, some of the businesses set the bar rather high right off the (vampire) bat.
Vampires nosh on potato chips?
The sign at Pagano's Hardware says "Service to Die for".
After the last Lord of the Rings movie came out a few years ago, this sort of theme became pretty common.
Frodo? Is that you?
Beneath the big purple spider on Grand Street, another popular theme -- the restive graveyard.
A little detail from that.
Pleasant gates, walkways and doors become the Pathways to Hell this time of year.
The creative genius comes out in the gracenote details. This one was tucked up in the corner of the porch.
These homeowners gotta have kids.
Every year this house comes up with a unifying theme. Last year they did the Haunted BBQ Party.
Madame Curie . . .
Albert Einstein . . .
Darwin. Note the little guy in the tree . . .
And Ben Franklin.
Mythbusters? Guess they are scientists too . . .
All around the Island a little whimsy.
In 72 hours it will be all over, save for the intolerable triumphalism and self-congratulatory tooting. While the victors roister in rented hot tubs with nubile young things and rotten champagne, the losers will issue speeches of exhortation to "press on" even as the caterers strip down the bunting and haul away the sterno-heated trays from campaign headquarters all across the country, across the Golden State and even this very little town.
This was a nasty and divisive election season, full of hardball politics and savage ad hominem attacks. In the end it will all come down to ordinary folks marking up their paper ballots. Most of them, apparently, have already done that via mail, as we have report from several precincts that far fewer ballots were issued than "usual".
For the record, Alameda County will have 785 polling places served by 27 return centers that will open the sealed transport boxes to process the votes.
Late polls indicate that many nationwide races are running neck-and-neck between Dems and GOP challengers, however there does appear to be less cause for alarm on the part of the Democrats, and less cause for exhuberation on the part of the GOP, which is unlikely to take full control of Congress or the Senate. However, the voters are fickle and anything can happen.
It may not make much sense to oust 2 powerful voices speaking for California in the form of the Boxer and Pelosi, as they occupy signification positions in the present Administration in Washington, however the People will decide that. The People and a fistful of dollars.
It has been said that Democracy is the worst possible system ever devised -- except for all of those which have already been tried.
The Island is looking at short-term cutbacks no matter what happens. We will still have to live together so it would be well to put acrimony aside and start working together to make this Island a better place. Whatever happens on Tuesday can always be moderated or ameliorated further down the line.
MUST BE THE SEASON OF THE WITCH
It's been a rainy week on the Island, our hometown in California set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. A couple weeks ago those Canadian geese chevroned overhead en route to Rio from Minesotta. With the rains, the last sunflowers are drooping and the dahlias all going to mildew. Many of the houses wrapped up their installations in black plastic until the thunderheads gave way to unruly yet dry skies Sunday.
Papoon and Babar have each retired to their respective campaign headquarters to brainstorm last minute strategies, which features robocalls, radio spots, sending out minions to knock down one another's signs. A bipartisan committee has raised funds for a ball-gag and a straitjacket and now a group of volunteers are out hunting for Adam Gillitt, armed with a 5150 order.
That tactic is not likely to fly very far, as Adam has stopped yelling at everybody in public places and all the Independents are threatening to murder him first.
Officer O'Madhauen regards all of this calmly, promising to be very strict on anyone jaywalking, shuffling through yellow lights or failing to park between the indistinct lines painted on the street ($30 ticket, people!)
Meanwhile, the Dark Lord SunCal lurks in its Tower of Evil in Mordor-Irvine, sending out the baleful glare of its All-Seeing Eye while any number of Sarumans scamper around City Hall (which is missing its own Fallen Tower) plotting evil ways to ravage the Shire and its innocent Hobbits.
Yes, once again the Island threatens to produce material suitable for Comedy Central.
As every year, this time is far too full of fun and fantasy to leave strictly to children. Parties happen all over the place and
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." Except, according to Tradition, poor Denby.
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 midterm elections. Toby had been pro-SunCal and Tommy had been virulently for keeping the entire Point an open space conservation district. Toby, a converted Log Cabin Republican since he had met Tommy, slammed down a pan of flan, which did not help the settling of that delicacy in the slightest.
"How can you possibly hold such a silly opinion! You are as silly as a ninny!" Toby said, which was quite hurtful. 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. She had gotten into a snit with Susan over Proposition 19 (Marijuana legalization: Lynette for, Susan against because her brother had died of an heroin overdose).
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 a fight bet made well over forty years ago at The Embers in the City, and certain unpleasant memories had stirred up. Inside the large tootsie roll costume was Steve.
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 seventies 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 which looked rather fetching, began shouting at him while the Xmas Poo began knocking back these potent Brazilian cocktails made by Clebia, who actually came from Brazil. Clebia did not need to wear a costume -- she wore what came naturally to any artistically-inclined woman from Brazil in a scheme of long flowing orange so that she resembled a tasty pumpkin. She, owning a B&B in the City, had opinions about the business tax that no one agreed with, but because she was well-bred and of fine character, she held aloof from the arguments.
The lovely Susanne, dressed like a figure from a Leonard Cohen song, observed the contention and found Occasional Quentin to engage in deep conversation, largely because he seemed like an harmless idiot -- which, in fact, he is -- and so they actually had a meaningful discussion about animal nature which touched upon ptarmigans, deer and hummingbirds. It was a kind of an oasis of sanity in that place rife with politics.
The Re-districting Propostions drew in Doyle, dressed as a talus mountainside, Leonard, dressed as a dead distinguished author, Suan dressed in her stripper's outfit from the Crazy Horse, and Molly, who had come as a jungle cat. Although four people discussed the issues, they somehow came up with five different opinions, and this resulted in a fair amount of shouting and arm waving.
Marlene appeared among them, dressed as a zombie and pleaded, "Please, for goodness sake and goodness sake and goodness sake, stop your infernal bickering and enjoy yourselves! Maureen has gone to all this trouble to make this food for us and Clebia and her friend Laurie. This is our friend Paul's retirement party."
Andre, her bedmate, also costumed as a zombie, tugged on his lip piercings.
This was true about the celebration, for Paul was retiring as chief janitor to the rest-rooms for the St. Paul Basilica in the City, a position he had held for more than thirty-five years. Paul was present, dressed in a large furry suit which is called a "lounge suit" by adults and a "onesie" by knowing parents. The clergy had tried to prevent him from retiring, as such anomalous ideas as personal self-direction and voluntary retirement are frowned upon by the Church in general. Besides, the synchronicity of his name and the name of the basilica had caused over the years a sort of superstitious fear to develop among the Administration who had come to rely seriously upon the Keeper of the Keys. Caramela, who had left the Church some time ago to live in Sin with a truckdriver from Sacto, had appeared at the party dressed in a nun's habit. Sin is a small town near Paradise, California.
There was a brief pause before someone asked Marlene about the change to the vote requirement to pass the annual budget and she unwisely deferred a response. This resulted in a fresh round of arguing and bickering and breaking of glass.
This of course got our pair of punks in a dither, and so two zombies started shouting "eff you!" at each other with ratcheting enthusiasm, but since they always said that to each other, few paid any attention in the general disarray.
Things really began to decay with long-term hatreds and grudges coming up. "I should have left you in the ditch," Graham, dressed as a 17th Century British Aristocrat with a walking cane, shouted down at Claude, who paused in his spinning.
"What? You mean in 1969? And left little David in the back!" Claude said, quite hurt.
Little David, now forty-something man with a family of his own, stood there in his sailor suit and began singing the lyrics to a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta and adding little gracenote lyrics of his own. Oom-papa oom-papa. . .
Graham's wife, dressed as Marie Antoinette, reminded him that it was he, Graham, who had supplied the Purple Windowpane to Claude that day.
Quentin, trying to be nice, managed to resurrect an half dozen painful memories and insult Graham six times until the poor man started to weep until he joined the Poo in tossing down several stiff ones in succession. Laurie, dressed as a body-builder, offered to break Quentin's arms. "He's an idiot," blubbered Graham. This made Quentin start to cry and Susanne threw her arms up in exasperation.
"Oom-papa, Oom-papa", went David, trying to get his dad to collect himself.
O the air was heavy with History and Politics and family dynamics.
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 and her dark eyes were very large. 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. Poor child, trying to sleep. Seeing this situation, 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 as a sense of shame filled all of them. Keeping this girl awake with their arguing about nothing, about silliness.
The little girl looked somehow familiar, with her dark hair tumbling down in sleepy curls, as if she evoked something seen on a poster or the side of milk carton. She stood there, holding the most serious expression on her face, then turned and walked out of the door, down the steps and over the breakwater down to the beach with the full moon lighting everything 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.
At the Sanchez's, the former Ms. Morales and Mr. Sanchez were gathering up everything after a night of door-knocks and trick-or-treats, for their house was known as a "safe house" as Ms. Morales was still a schoolteacher at Longfellow. The procession of goblins, ghosts, witches, pirates, hoboes and Cindarellas had dwindled down to the occasional teen who would show up with a bag and hardly any costume, gone too old to seriously take costume seriously and not gotten old enough to appreciate it for the fantasy. Mr. Ramirez handled those cases with a stern talking-to and the teens left chastened to go forward with the necessary rituals of teenage activity in America.
Mr. Sanchez had bought the house from the executors of the estate of Mr. and Mrs. Strife, the same parents who had produced Pimenta Strife, who even now was recovering from the effects of too much nitrous inhaled at the Exotic Erotic Ball in the City.
It should be hardly no surprise how Pimenta turned out, for her parents spent much of their waking hours justifying their family name. Sarah Strife had been a Blue Dog Democrat and her husband, Sam Strife had been a rock-rib Republican who made Eisenhower look liberal. Where she was fiercely jealous, he was fiercely possessive. There's was not a marriage made in Heaven or Hell so much as the Plain of Discord.
If he was hot, wanting the windows open, she wanted them closed on account of her thyroid. If she wanted ornate French furniture, he wanted Amish simplicity. If she was Lutheran, he was Catholic. She was analog; he was digital. Both rebelled against their upbringing to arrive in opposite directions and cross-purposes. No one could ever figure out how the two had ever gotten together in the first place. Truth was, he came back from Korea with a fire in his loins and a mindset about that for which people and women were intended and he definitely made a distinction between the two.
She, for her part, had delved into the Beats, had absorbed the latest thought by the Feminists and had come to the conclusion that the way to resolve the Male Problem was to seize the bull by its horns, so to speak. Extremely metaphorically.
So, some three months pregnant, she had married him -- as there were few practical options in the 1950's on the Island, which always remained a decade or more behind the rest of the country -- and so they found themselves with the one factor in common of guilt, for Guilt is the one thing that Catholics and Lutherans and Jews all share. Possibly Moslems as well, which would be indicative of how we all are, really, in relation to one another.
So they had this child, a squalling brat who did not improve from that position, who became a Troubled Teen, then Juvie Hall Bad Company, then a perfect nymphomaniac punk living in the City until the City got too limiting by way of its high rents and narrowing attitudes and she returned, an ugly duckling with tattoos to the Island. For the Island provides a kind of refuge for lost birds. Canadian geese that never made it to Rio because they didn't have that much strength. Ducks from Audabon refuge at Lake Merritt gotten a little confused. Hummingbirds, which never need explanation. Seagulls escaping offshore storms.
Then there was the affair Mr. Strife had with Rachel, the dance teacher from the Metronome. When that came out, there was no end to the argument and accusation.
Mr. Strife died one day while out in his garage tinkering with a Morris Minor -- he really had been quite a retentive personality and trying to maintain a Morris Minor was quite within his character. He came out to bark at someone parking across the markings on the asphalt there (taking two parking spaces, he called it) and fell down, quite dead from an heart attack.
Mrs. Strife died about a week later, just after all the flowers and the greetings and the well-wishes had been cleared from the piano in the foyer. The piano had never been employed for music, but had been purchased because Mrs. Strife had felt some kind of musical instrument should be in the house and that a piano was the most sedentary, conservative and established of musical furniture. And besides, it really pissed off Mr. Strife, who would have preferred something practical like a coping saw.
Now, every time there is a full moon, or a high tide, or unusual weather, Mr. Sanchez and the former Ms. Morales can hear these footsteps up above, angry murmurs in the hallway, doors slamming, and this eternal bickering, this sniping and carping and accusation which likely will pursue the former couple down through eternity for that appears to be their fate.
While outside, unplugging the inflatable spider, Ms. Morales looks up and can see the shadow figures of two people shouting at one another and these figures are standing in her own bedroom with the lamplight on, their shadows gesticulating on the curtains.
"Strife people, go away. In the name of god, please go to sleep. This is no longer your place now. Please let us be and go to where you need to go. Leave us in peace."
Suddenly, just like that, the lights went out and all was quiet. But she knew this simple exorcism would not be enough and they would be back again.
The long wail the throughpassing train ululated across the haunted waves of the estuary and the weedy, barren, spectral Buena Vista flats and the decrepit brick cannery as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off on its ghost journey to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 24, 2010
PICTURES AT AN EXHIBITION
This week's photo comes from Islander Beth, who lives at the troubled St. Charles Apartments where the tenants have been going through some regular and period uproar, the latest being a massive exterior painting project that involves encasing the entire three-story building in a scaffolding frame which is draped with black mesh. The scaffolding prevents opening the windows during the off-work hours and the mesh shuts out the light at all times. Beth took this photo out of her bedroom window.
One must suffer, apparently, for Great Art.
HELLO DARKNESS, MY OLD FRIEND
Darkness was no friend three times to Islanders this weekend as the Island lost power to some 70,000 people from the West to the East End. The first two times lasted no more than five minutes apiece during the day (around 2 PM), but around six-thirty the power went out again, plunging the entire Island into pitch darkness for over an hour.
The cause of the problem, according to AMP's Bill Garvine, was an outage within the PG&E grid in Oakland. Although the Island possesses its own independent power utility, at least two PG&E substations still provide power services and the Island grid is connected to the one in Oakland, resulting in automatic (and sometimes manual) shutdown here when problems occur over there.
Emergency generators in some of the larger businesses, such as Lucky's in Marina Village, retained lights and cash register operations so that customers already in line could check out, however store officials barred new customers from entering. The Library shut down after the first two outages in the day although it also possesses emergency power supplies and audience members watching movies at the Paramount were guided out of the building by staff.
Gusty winds and the recent rains may have been a factor in causing the outage.
ADVISORY: those folks with cell phones can set their units to call them or produce a distinctive ring-tone at preset times, turning those appliances into mini alarm clocks.
Also, with the onset of the rainy season we are likely to see falling branches and occasionally entire trees saturated with water bring down power lines. Obviously, one should stay well away from such areas where a line has fallen, even if no visible power activity seems to be happening. The number to call at AMP is 748-3900. The line is available 24/7.
FUSSING AND FIGHTING / DROWNING IN EMOTION
Amid the excitement over the playoffs and the Giants getting to go to the World Serious (pun intended), folks may have forgotten the mid-term elections are coming up.
This time around the Island has witnessed an unprecedented explosion of bile, venom, hardball politics and outright chicanery which makes Jon Stewart's call for a "Return to Sanity" more and more attractive.
There was the nasty attack on Tam, her vigorous defense and then succeeding nasty attacks against her political opponent within City Hall, Gallant. While this has been going on, Islanders have been getting robo-calls and mailers viciously slamming any number of persons from Mayor Beverly Johnson to candidate Frank Matarrese and then some. Candidate Rob Bonta has been accused of taking "foreign money" from outside the Island, indeed outside the state, when it turned out his contributions came from family members temporarily residing in New York.
In taking a gander at some of the mailers, we noted postmarks from some blank organizations, such as "Alamedans for Good Government" stating office of origin as San Francisco.
In the news we have had the curious spectacle of various candidates getting checks in the mail from bogus entities, the apparent (or claimed) involvement of SunCal officials, and all kinds of letters to the editors of the Journal and the Sun making any number of wild accusations. Candidate Adam Gillit has been jumping up and down with outrage, sometimes justifiably so, as in the case when his campaign literature was removed from a table at a public faire on Park Street by a suddenly officious member of the Democratic Party. Then again, in the general poisonous atmosphere, sometimes not.
Since Island-Life does occasionally report local news -- not as thoroughly or focussed as say, John Knox White, theislandofalameda.com, or Lauren Do -- we do maintain an interest in things East Bay and so get quite a load of Press Releases as well as E-mails about events and news. The E-vitriol over this election has been stunning. No question about it -- even some of the "reputable" blogs have gotten themselves roped into passionate advocacy of which they should be ashamed.
Well, the very term "reputable blog" has an obnoxious odor about it that demands a discussion unto itself, along with full apologies from those abusers of the English language who have employed it.
In any case, to remain focussed here, we deplore the nastiness, but have enough experience with politics to know that such will never change, not in this or any other city within the peculiar world that is sometimes called "the political arena" in America. What we can do as Citizens and those of us who might consider ourselves to be in any way shape or form members of the Press community, is refrain from stupidity, outrageous nonsense, and inflammatory oversimplification ourselves.
One of us here on staff lived a couple years in the Republic of Ireland, and observed time and again how visitors got dragged into this or that violent dispute -- make no mistake, the disputes in Ireland can be very violent in every sense of the word -- despite the initial claims of objectivity and detachment. You are either a Protestant or a Catholic and you stand to one side or the other, and both sides always have an interest in making it clear and apparent that no one can ever be in the middle of anything. Does not matter if you are born Baptist or Buddhist; you must stand in support on one side or the other and be ready to give your life in so doing.
This is absurdity enacted at the highest -- or lowest -- level. And we seem to be doing precisely the same thing.
Or to bring it on home, Jon Stewart, the comedian we mentioned earlier, had some interesting and insightful things to say to all parties on all sides during a recent public NPR interview with Terry Gross.
"Looking around this room I can imagine that most, if not all of you, would welcome any amount of Palin or Beck bashing. And there are those among you who think that if those people ever assumed power that this would be the most dreadful thing ever to happen to the country. And I tend to agree -- somewhat -- that it would be bad, but you know what? We will survive. . . We endured a Civil War for crissakes! We are not that fragile. . . The thing I learned about that whole episode (Comedy Central's reputed depiction of the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit), the thing I took away was the realization there is a difference between someone who wants to kill you for what you believe or do, and someone with whom you disagree. Look; there is not that much difference between me and Glenn Beck or any of the FOX newscasters. I happen to think they are wrong, but I don't see them as enemies. I do see them as opponents. That's the difference . . .".
Stewart also pointed to a great failure in American media to make the important distinction between calling any particular politician, such as the current or past President of the United States, on individual bullsh--t and calling the politician total Bullsh-t and anyone who disagrees a traitor along with any number of other names. The media has fallen down on the job and if we are to be truly"reputable" blogs, we need to start acting like adults in meeting our responsibilities straightforwardly.
Naturally, people accustomed to this space will know that Palin, Beck, FOX news, the NeoCon movement and the Teabaggers are regarded by everyone on staff here as ridiculous creatures lacking common sense. And that we trend, if not directly along Democrat Party lines, at least along lines loosely defined as Liberal or Leftist in today's parlance. But then we have never made any secret of that; one of the things this space does is parody, and that parody tends to lampoon the sort of hyper-rigidity that has been characteristic of neo-Conservative thought in recent years.
We also remain unapologetically and virulently antiwar and anti-military in general, although we give some props to the Navy for sentimental reasons. Coming to this space is entirely voluntary; we do not inflict our opinions on people in any other venue online.
To return to the point. This election will end in a few days and we will live with the consequences. If Boxer or Pelosi do not win, we feel that will be a bad thing and generally unwise for the Golden State, given that the two stand the best chance for directing money this way with a Democrat in power as President, however we do realize the Golden State and Alameda in particular have suffered hard times before and we will come through this time somehow, some way. If a flat tax supporting the schools happens or does not happen, the consequences really are going to be fairly minor in relation to all the other things going on. We will have kids and they will go to school and we will still have to live with one another.
Time was, we are reminded by someone who helped out at the polls one year, that no person of Color could cross east of Grand Street. If a Black girl went to the Paramount theatre to see a movie -- the same magnificent theatre that has been restored during so much contention here -- the police would snatch her up and drive her back to the West End. There are people alive today who remember those days very well.
At the end of the day, its an Island and we have to live together. There is no getting away from your neighbors while living on an Island; just ask the Irish. We are reminded of a speech a teacher of martial arts once gave to his students after they had passed their difficult tests to earn their rank. He said, "I congratulate all of you, for you have now become soldiers. But not soldiers of war. War is not what this is all about. You have become Soldiers of Humanity."
Well bloggers of the blogosphere, media pundits and wonks, the choice is yours. You can become partisan soldiers, killing and destroying indiscriminately and according to the dictates of distant War Pigs. Or you can become Soldiers of Humanity.
Oh yes, this is a reminder that the mail-in ballot requires 78 cents postage this time around. Thank you Jon Spangler.
HERE COMES THE RAIN AGAIN / FALLING ON MY HEAD LIKE A MELODY
It's been a rainy and blustery week on the Island, our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The dahlias, which had been doing so well late in the year are starting to droop with the mildew and the late sunflowers sown and tended by Javier, who kept coming out to harangue the squirrels over the seedheads, bloom a strange and misplaced yellow back there in the dripping garden. Polebeans are still giving up yield, but we can see their days are numbered along with the dahlias.
The Mid-term elections are upon us and things have gotten very acrimonious. Babar's supporters have installed a fortress-like headquarters on the East End around the corner from the sports bar there on Park Avenue and any time a Papoon supporter ventures across Park Street itself, a legion of sharpshooters beans the unfortunate fellow with jujubes shot from wrist rockets gotten at Walmart, driving him back to the West End. This is especially unfortunate for Papoon as both the Starbucks and the Peets in town sit right there on Park Street so no decent coffee can be had for the Liberal HQ except for the beleaguered Starbucks there on the isolated and very exposed outpost of Lincoln and Constitution Way. And Papoon, being the token Liberal he is, prefers Peets over Starbucks. This is a serious problem for a political campaign headquarters, which is always fueled substantially by gallons upon gallons of very strong coffee. Now that the skies are leaden and the electorate indolent and dismissive, all the more reason to jolt the phonebank with more strong java.
Because of the rain, our normally exuberant expressions for El Dias de los Muertos have turned into dripping, sodden zombies and rather pathetic spiderwebs. The big purple spider reappeared on Grand Street only to deflate with the onset of bad weather.
Mrs. Almeida has hidden her concern as Pedro heads out each day on his boat, El Borracho Perdido, to engage in the time-honored employment of fisherman beyond the Golden Gate. She sees the clouds and the rain and the swells, and worries, but for Pedro, an old hand at this ancient occupation, this is just more of the same old, same old. He is out there with the engine puttering along and the nets out and sits in the warm cabin much as any man might sitting in the cab of his International Harvester over the immense ocean that is waving acres of alfalfa or beans in the heartland of Nebraska or Minnesota or North Dakota anywhere in the packed masonry of states. One could step out from the tractor into that sea of corn and drown in the middle of Iowa, in the middle of that uncaring immensity as deep and impenetrable as the ocean. Some do, from time to time.
But as long as the captain stays in the cabin, sits in the chair of that tractor, everything will be all right. Sitting there, during the long hours he has the radio friend beside. Yes, once again, the radio is your friend.
He likes to listen to a program in the early hours, one of those old time variety shows with a host calling out from St. Paul along the long radio waves. Over the years, he imagines himself to be quite the connoisseur, the expert. O that last show that was a good one. Not half bad with the banjo player band and all.
But the time is getting on for his own operation to get on. Do what he is supposed to do. Real in the nets, sort out the catch. Separate the good ones from the bad ones, the keepers from the discards. Its what all fishermen do. Its what they know. Its all that Pedro knows.
And as he chugs back into port beneath the Golden Gate the long wail of the through-passing train ululated across the soul-dappled waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the spirit-train headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 14, 2010
OUR HOUSE, IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
This week's headline photo is of the troubled house on St. Charles Street which has appeared shrouded as a Death Angel in steel tubes and plastic. No, its not meant to be a Halloween House of Horror Installation.
Appears the long-suffering residents, after enduring a massive re-pipe job that involved replacement of every hot water pipe in the building, massive dust and interior wall destruction during that process, then radical removal of covering foliage that shielded the building from sun, and then extensive sewer work, followed by a scouring of the storage areas, now must deal with a total paint removal and repainting job.
No surprise that nearly one quarter of the tenants have abandoned ship, with many breaking lease in less than a year to get out from under increasingly capricious management.
Toddled over to Frank Ogawa Plaza to catch a filming and discussion in the middle of a Minimalist/Conceptual Art exhibit curated by the very talented and very busy Danielle Fox with Alice Lehrer in conjunction with ProArts. As any exhibit setup and promoted by Ms. Fox does, thoughts and ideas spun and much was learned to provoke this essay.
Conceptual/Minimalist art tends to pull its antecedents from movements that came to public notice during the fulminating period of the late 1960's, although many of the assumptions regarding how to approach Postmodern art come from far earlier work that arose from the ashes of WWII.
A BIT OF HISTORY HERE . . .
At the end of 1945, the modern world smoked in ruins. It was quite clear that artists seeking serious expression in any media could no longer rest comfortably with traditional forms or even the avaunt garde which had existed prior to then. All of the artists who had managed to survive had managed to do so precariously and through immense physical danger. The new world order featured two Superpowers, with eventually the third nascent power of China to gradually emerge over time from its own shell-shocked hell. Russian art, and by extension art in all of its governed territories, fell under strict state control which mandated a fallback to blocky Futurist styles in representational art, and Brechtian expressionism in dramatic/performance arts. Other forms of art persisted but were vigorously suppressed by the authorities. Five thousand years of Asian art development fell under the control of either Communist control or the instability of Southeast Asian wars. Revolution in China sealed off that vast nation from the world for nearly a half century and Mao's Cultural Revolution also practiced vigorous suppression of anything perceived as "intellectual.".
It fell to artists in the West and the industrialized countries to find a way to express themselves in a new World Order which seemed anything but orderly. As Nagasaki and Hiroshima demonstrated, and as the two Superpowers constantly threatened, every living thing on earth could be vaporized in moments and with not a single rational soul in any position to say or do otherwise. Even though the Ultimate Evil had been defeated, evil remained among us and, as became more and more clear, not always on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
As events unfolded on the world stage, and developments unraveled on the American national stage, it became increasingly clear to everybody that all of us were ruled by imbeciles, our careers and futures were guided by events outside of any sane person's control, and our lives were governed by brutal idiots who did not care a whit whether any one of us lived or died.
THE COLD CONFRONTATION AND THE CEREAL BOX OF MEANING . . .
As Paul Celan, the foremost poetical mind of his time, turned in despair from his final meeting with Heidegger, the foremost philosophical mind of his time, to ultimately commit suicide after failing to get any sort of explanation for what had happened to him, the nation of Germany or eight million Jews, the Post-Modernists turned from the function of art and any responsibility to explain anything. They did not even try to assemble anything new as the Cold War dragged on with its bizarre adoption of paperwork and information-gathering as the new battlefield, upon which occasionally and tragically real human beings would still die, albeit in dank windowless rooms or along the unmarked space of a razor-wire topped wall. No Art and no text means anything any more than the side of a cereal box. It simply is what it is.
IMAGINARY GARDENS WITH REAL BUGS IN THEM . . .
This was not a world in which watercolors of Pont Neuf, Tahitian nudes, or the gardens of Arles would be welcome in the art world. Indeed, representation went entirely to the side as artists struggled to manifest, while still trying to remain essentially true. And when the world did not blow up in obvious apocalypse, as the line of barbed wire across Bernauerstrasse became codified into cement and concrete blocks and formalized with warning signs and America's newfound wealth provided an illusion for some that stability and security were possible -- at least in America Abstract Art became a commodity and a sort of comfort level was attained in the salons, at least overtly. Calder had his mobiles, which looked safe enough to mass produce. The Italians had their gently rounded, stylized animals to set in the garden. Very tasteful.
Meanwhile those darned Post-Modernists remained at work, although they did not have such a name -- except in France -- as such. And all the groups which had been shoved into the kitchen, the slophouse, the workfarm, and the back of the bus began clamoring for something so outrageous and upsetting as equal treatment. While linguistic arts took its own course, plastic and visual arts dabbled with performance in events called "Happenings" during which anything could happen. Sometimes not much more happened than a man riding around in circles on a bicycle. Othertimes, bizarre, wild and flamboyant actions would take place involving sex, nudity, violence. Oh my.
The Happenings gradually petered out in favor of more permanent representations, submerging for a while until they would reemerge as Performance Art, but they initiated to the mass of humanity the unusual presentation of art presented without explanation. In other words, they presented the idea of Art that asked for no preconceptions, no prior knowledge, no elitism of knowledge.
THAT DARNED STRUCTURALISM AND THE "100 GREAT BOOKS" . . .
As an aside -- very important to getting at most serious art today -- structuralist criticism, which assumed that not only all "serious" art is invested with meaning, also has qualities that can only be fully understood by looking directly at the artist him or herself, and in particular at the particular artists' biography. Typically contemporary artists will always insist that the work stands on its own with a life independent of that of the artist and looking at the life of the artist through the Cult of Personality is a waste of time. Even though the vast majority of educated people over the age of forty have been steeped thoroughly in Structuralist approach, the vast majority of curators and artists exhibiting today make the basic assumption that at no time are we to ask personal questions of the artist to gain entry to the work -- unless the artist makes biographical material a part of the frame by providing such information.
ON TO SOUP CANS AND MARILYN MONROE IN DAY-GLO . . .
Now we return to Postmodernism via the round-about route of linguistic arts to slip past Andy Warhol's soup cans and Pop Art to Pop Art's stepchild, Conceptual Art amid the social welter of feminism and civil rights engagement. Since Art has no inherent meaning, or Truth, beyond what the viewer finds there, criticism in the linguistic arts had devolved into exercises that created new works of art that were intended as spinoffs of the original employing the technique of Deconstruction. Problem here is that if Deconstruction always results in a new Work of equal or greater value than off of what it was spun then there quickly becomes no point to reading another word, for example, of Jane Austen, Bronte or Shakespeare since all value is rendered equal.
Exactly the point, said the Post-Moderns. We aim to level and eradicate the hegemony of all those white middle-aged men, and false pieties that exalt artificial ideas of Taste that only serve to support elitism and Colonial Western ideology as well as mentality. We seek cross-cultural pollination and broader ideas of what is good. We already know what is good; it stands off the page. The work is luminescent with its own qualities like a glass sphere held in the palm of the hand.
Well, that is all fine and good as idea, but in execution, the original Post-Modernists remained embedded solidly within the very Western ideas and culture they sought to level. For example none of Robbe-Grillet's novels ever escaped solidly French, and certainly solidly Western, ideas. One can just imagine Ang Lee doing his own "Last Year in Marienbad." In fact, Postmodernism essentially expired in the late 1950's in favor of other ideas and movements, much like any art theory, although certain methodologies, such as the term "deconstruction" have persisted.
BECKETT'S "THE UNNAMEABLE" AND GODOT ARRIVES . . .
Conceptual art brings the viewer back to the core ideas that the viewer brings to the object certain things to import and necessary has some kind of guide on how to apprehend what is seen. Minimalist art seeks to present the absolute distillment of an idea that has been rarefied to its core image. Think Samuel Beckett in his shorter pieces, like "Footfalls", and the relentless reductions in things like "Happy Days" or the trilogy that ends with the frankly terrifying "The Unnameable".
With Beckett we return to the original impulse that started all this abstraction and "difficult art", for we remember that Beckett remained in Paris through World War II to fight with the Partisans. His intellectual drive to rarefy things to a monad is based on pretty strong emotions and is not the dry remove of a dispassionate academician.
THOSE DARNED FRENCH AT IT AGAIN . . .
Now we segue back to the social unrest of the late 1960's and also back, curiously enough to the French by way of two fellows, Deleuze and Guattari. Their work has been seminal across the board in all of the arts, primarily in linguistic arts, but also in plastic arts, especially as cited by artists. Both of them taught and wrote at the experimental University of Paris VIII at Vincennes/St. Denis, where Foucault was also presiding. Its a bit much to go at all more than superficially into their ideas, and how Deleuze's concept of "difference" and "identity" derive from a rather obscure linguist who never published himself a word -- Ferdinand de Saussure -- however suffice to know that although Conceptualism and Minimalism appear on face to be rather shallow, the core of this art is rooted in some deep stuff concerning metaphysics at the heart of which resides the concept of being that is both constantly differentiating and which is all-inclusive into a unified whole (univocity). As the Wikipedia notes, "For Deleuze, there is no one substance, only an always-differentiating process, an origami cosmos, always folding, unfolding, refolding. Deleuze summarizes this ontology in the paradoxical formula "pluralism = monism" (Deleuze & Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus).
Okay now, friends (if they have stuck through this far) should see why we brought up our dear beloved Protestant Sam Beckett. It all comes back to those "failed meditations", those attempts to rarefy everything until there was nothing between the Self and, in Beckett's case, The Spirit.
FINALLY, (DRUMROLL) THE PROARTS EXHIBIT !
Oh yes, we did go to an exhibit curated by Danielle Fox and ProArts. Remember that? According to the notes here, "Concept + Craft, curated by Danielle Fox and Alice Lehrer of Slate Art and Design, takes a resolutely aesthetic, corporeal look at the "women's work" craft tradition - including sewing, weaving, spinning, stitching, ironing, and basketry - as it has evolved, influenced by Minimalism, Land Art, Pattern and Decoration Painting, Conceptualism, and, of course, Feminism."
Well, that latter word there probably should be left out, given the studiously apolitical approach we noted after listening to the individual artisans speak about their work. Feminism is such a large block in the mind loaded with associational freight we can understand now why the artists would have it both ways -- they are women presenting consciously Women's Work in a framework that highlights femininity, but the 3rd Generation of Feminists which has put Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and the entire Separatist movement behind them in search of something better than "Dry" riotgrrrrl stuff is yet too limiting to the discussion.
Its enough to say that work done by women has long been devalued by the Society at large and the work these artisans do looks at that, deals with it, and moves on.
DeWitt Cheng of the East Bay Express wrote "Mung Lar Lam, Jessica Martin, Caroline Seckinger, Patricia Thomas, Anna Von Mertens, and Alicia Woods explore a number of topical issues with elegance and intelligence - and seriously great craftspersonship."
Its interesting the reviewer took the same, or similar, take regarding the craftsmanship of the works involved. In Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, Matthew Crawford investigates how society has devalued manual labor trades, even though those trades involve far more intellectual capacity than the rather mundane and mindless drudgery of so-called white-collar work. The gender seperation here is really arbitrary, as precisely the same thing has happened to so-called "women's work", except the devaluation extends up the ladder to the salons and the art galleries where women are typically underrepresented.
The curators consciously selected certain artists and the frame for the exhibit to highlight questions regarding value in craft and craftswomanship. Interestingly, it was the most minimalist of all of them, Lar Lam, who brought out the most poignant and affecting responses. She reported that people have left her exhibits of simple, unframed, meticulously ironed squares of cloth in absolute tears. She also is the one who combines live performance of production with her exhibits, evoking the "Happenings" of the 1960's and also providing by that the visual cues on how to respond to the work. Some of the attendees mentioned they flashed on images of their mother or grandmother ironing for hours and days at a time.
She also referenced the facts that the cloth was all from factory "discard" piles and was, in this case, all relating either in color or in actual textile origin, to military use.
Patricia Thomas, unfortunately, was there suffering from the flu, however she had some things to say about her "Death Bride", which formed an unplanned companion piece to Seckinger's wedding dress "deconstructions" and her totemic "artifacts" made of wire and artificial hair and her "Kingdom Done", a brass chandalier totally covered in black yarn and adorned with two gold wire crowns, sort of hanging there casually as if tossed away by casual potentates or draped there by revolutionaries after the fact. "Death Bride", with its ghostly veil lined with thorn branches had a Greek mythic quality to it, scary, painful, sad, powerful, and evocative all at once.
Seckinger appeared the most willing to discuss at length what she was about and how she ran through what seemed to her exhaustively permutations on wedding dresses which had the connective tissue between the "whalebone" ribs removed. To Seckinger, marriage is a sort of enforced Institution as well as a cobbled-together and arduously maintained set of relationships that largely feature work and more work and repetition similar to factory employment. With the word "repetition" one should naturally evoke the spirit of Robbe-Grillet and the early Post-Modernists, for that was a key concept.
There is a lot more to say about this exhibit, which ends in a week, but enough is enough. Next time Ms. Fox or SLATE fields a gallery opening, expect to be challenged and exhilerated and disturbed. We like that.
AINT GONNA BE FOOLED AGAIN
Soon the air shall be filled at the end of the month of October with the unearthly howls of tortured souls and the gibbering of slobbering spirits from the sulphurous pits of Hell amid the garish colors of outrageous display and the sweep of bloodsucking vampires and dreadful witches in a ghastly saraband of hopping, flopping, tootling, self-agrandizing, over-the-top Lovecraftian horror. Yes, we are talking about Election Season.
Last week we talked about the State issues. This week, we look at the Island and some local East Bay races.
For local props, we have on the Island only the County-wide Proposition F. Here is the text for that one:
"An Alameda County Vehicle Registration Fee, Measure F is on the November 2, 2010 ballot for voters in Alameda County.
The ballot proposition, if approved by voters, will add $10 to the fees associated with registering a vehicle in the county. The new tax/fee will generate $11 million/year for the county. A simple majority vote is required to enact the new tax.
The Alameda County Congestion Management Agency board voted to put the measure on the ballot. So-called "county congestion agencies" are allowed to place measures like this on the ballot under a law passed by the California State Legislature in October 2009. "
The purpose of this fee is to raise money substantially to just maintain the roads and to ease congestion.
Looks like we will get the "car tax" back one way or another, however even though other counties are considering similar measures -- if they have not already done so -- the problem with this manner of road funding is that the clear result will be that poorer counties will get poorer roads, while the more well-heeled counties will get better roads and folks will be fine so long as they never drive anywhere outside their county across the boundaries of one of those places with no funding. How on earth one is to safely drive through places like Inyo or Mohave is something people need to think about.
For the unenviable position of Chief Brickbat Magnet we have five candidates for Mayor of the Island at a time that is not propitious for person looking to be remembered well. The Great Recession is savaging the Golden State's municipalities and nobody is likely to come out of this smelling like roses.
As a recent EB Express article indicated, the candidates distinguish themselves publicly by their approach to what happens out at the land once occupied by the Navy as a major port and airfield. At present, the City earns about $11 million dollars per year from existing tenants, however the vast majority of the land remains unoccupied and many of the buildings are in disrepair. Parts of the area have been designated sanctuary for migrating birds, such as the least tern, while other unusual structures and open spaces are occasionally put to use by momentary affairs, such as music festivals and the weekly antiques auction.
A developer, SUNCAL, had planned to convert the majority of the space to mixed residential/business use, featuring addtion of some 5,000 living units, however, the developer -- with a history of failed projects throughout the West and a troubling financial relationship to the disreputable Lehman Brothers outfit -- proved to be an unruly partner by arbitrarily changing its original plans, attempting to do an end run around negotiations with the City by means of a dreadfully self-serving single-issue Special Election that cost taxpayers nearly three-quarter of a million dollars and which sought to grant itself a laundry list of financial perks while absolving it of any serious costs or considerations for traffic amelioration, and then instigating feuds within City Hall while tossing any number of threats at the City in general.
SunCal's hired signature-gatherers for the Special Election initiatve used deceptive practices to such an extent, several thousand voters requested their names be removed from support of the increasingly odorous proposal. Having failed with this Election, Suncal then continued to prove not only its inability to understand how things work in a small town like Alameda, but also its inability to work productively with anybody at all in town, finally resorting to a number of nuisance lawsuits when the City did not renew its Exclusivity Contract upon expiration.
Its all too bad, as the original plan as drafted in a 300 page document was not so bad -- imperfect, but not so bad. Unfortunately, as time went on that original 300 page document went through revisions that -- for example -- turned promised waterfront park into "TBA 'whitespace'," adjoining clearly designated, new commercial zones, and it became clear that Suncal was not committed to following up on promises made, while it began to look like the City was about to get stuck with a massive multi-million dollar bill to send out and create "infrastructure services" that would turn airport tarmac into residential plots with sewer, electric, gas and road services. Plus fire and police support.
Then somebody mentioned that the entire area was floodplain located at an average elevation of some 26 inches above sea level and -- come again? -- something like "global warming" might be happening. Were all those new buildings supposed to be built on stilts?
Okay, that's the background.
Now for Mayor we have existing Councilpersons Doug Dehaan, Frank Matarrese, and Marie Gilmore. The incumbent Beverly Johnson is running for Councilperson after term limits force her out.
The other two are former councilperson Tony Daysog and -- please don't laugh -- professional clown, Kenny Kahn.
Well, looks like a lot of familiar faces. Even Kahn, who has run for office more times than Michael Phelps has won gold medals. Well, we are gonna have to warn you in advance, we are going to waffle.
Daysog, 44, a planner, said he would favor a plan similar to the one SunCal proposed. He said he envisions a "beautiful, well-planned, mixed-use community" with a mix of housing types, industry, and amenities built by a private developer. And he said he would lead efforts to amend the city's Measure A housing-density restrictions.
Matarrese, by contrast, said he thinks the city should take full control of the point by establishing a nonprofit, city-run corporation to develop it. The 55-year-old business owner, whose second term on the council concludes this year, thinks redevelopment efforts there should focus on job-creating light industry. He said he'd look at lifting Measure A for "worthy" projects. Matarrese is more focussed on the serious problems that the public schools face (a $12 million dollar deficit next year) than developing the Point. He may be right in this, as nobody really has something firm in the works regarding the Point and the schools present a more immediate problem.
Gilmore, a 49-year-old attorney who has sat on the council for six years, said she would have the city drive the process for creating a plan for developing the point that includes commercial projects, recreational opportunities, and a "sensible housing plan" that wouldn't require a Measure A amendment.
DeHaan, a business consultant who has been on the council for six years and currently serves as the city's vice mayor, said he thinks the community should come up with a new plan for Alameda Point. He, like Matarrese is most concerned about the schools.
Of all these, despite the acrimony and infighting in the public arena, we think any one of them adequately represents the Island and we wouldn't mind sitting down to have a beer and a chat with each or all of them. Daysog's idea of a new Suncal-like proposal will not fly with us or with the voters however, and he dropped out of political sight for too long to have a chance on this go around.
DeHaan is a fairly sensible guy, however as John Knox White has indicated in his own Blog recommendations, this is a man who has opposed just about everything up to the point it gets done, after which he tends to accept credit. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, although to tell the truth, some of what happened at Southshore Mall still does not sit well with us, especially the initial ousting of Ross Stores, which fortunately for us did not take it so personal they did not turn around and come right back with an excellent store to anchor the rather moribund location until it gets back on its feet.
Like Knox, we have supported Frank Matarrese in the past, and we note that he was the first to call attention to the budgetary woes way back before the Great Recession took hold. He would not be a bad mayor, per se, just not one with a proven history of leading dynamically. Perhaps the reactionary nature of the City is too much of what Mayor Beverly despairingly noted when she compared making any change in Alameda to pulling teeth from a live bear. And we think he is right on in having the City take control of the Point, which the more intelligent of the runners for Councilperson also have suggested.
Gilmore, having gotten the official nod from the Democratic Party, as well as several other key Players, seems the One Most Likely to Succeed here. She's experienced, open to transparency in Council doings, level-headed and fiscally responsible. The money she has raised is primarily local and issues between her and the Firefighters Union as well as Gallant appear to be non-issues. Regarding the schools, she has been honest and direct with the notion that if we want good schools, we must pay for them; her idea is a fair and equitable parcel tax that avoids the "split roll" contentions of the previous two Proposition attempts to raise money.
Still, we really would be tickled pink to have a "Mayor Frank" for a few years.
Eight folks are running for two seats on the Council that often holds public meetings until the early hours of the next morning. You have not truely experienced Island life until you have sat through at least one of those.
Current Mayor incumbent Beverly Johnson is the most public of the people running. She tried and failed to run against rather steep competition for a County seat -- a logical next step for someone with ambitions, but the wrong year to go up against the powerhouses she faced. She has not made many public statements and there has not been a lot campaign material out of her office, so we would assume she is running on name recognition in a token bid to keep her hat in the ring and in the forefront of the public's eye with yet another bid for County office planned for later. We do not think she has a chance, largely because of that unfortunate late support for SunCal by means of the infamous "robocalls" and some printed material we retained in the files. Then she made the unfortunate -- and undoubtably very true --- admission that after actually reading the Plan as written, she could not support it any longer. She undoubtably feels used by them, but then so do us all.
We do not think her administration was "a disaster", as several good things did happen, as well as several things about which time only will tell, such as Webster Street's renovation, Southshore Mall's facelift, the cinema restoration, the parking garage (if only Park Street now became a pedestrian-only Promenade!). At least after this election, you won't have Mayor Beverly to kick around any more.
Of the rest, the more likely candidates are Health Care District Board trustee Rob Bonta, incumbent Councilwoman Lena Tam, Board of Education Trustee Tracy Jensen, and Planning Board president Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft, followed by open-space activist Jean Sweeney, businessman Adam Gillitt, and former Alameda Journal editor Jeff Mitchell.
Again, differences devolve around approaches to Point development, with the flavor of experience thrown into the mix.
Tam, a 48-year-old water services manager for the East Bay Municipal Utility District, said she wanted a master-planned, transit-oriented development on the Point. Tam earns our nod early for coming out ahead from a nasty, and we do mean NASTY, political scrum caused by directed personal hardball politics attacks from the City Manager. As Knox said in his Blog, "The DA looked at the evidence (three attorneys looked at it over the course of weeks) and found no wrong-doing just wild and completely unsupported allegations. No confidential documents were shared with inappropriate parties, City staff creatively redacted emails to make it look like she had done so."
Transparency at City Hall is also an issue among all the candidates, and here Tam has taken the lead before all the others, for she wants the Sunshine Task Force she championed to continue work on a new ordinance that would make city government more open, which Mitchell who is on the task force has made a key element of his campaign. Jensen and Sweeney also said they'd support an ordinance.
Mitchell, 49, who worked with SunCal after voters rejected its development and business plan for the point at the ballot box, said he thinks the city should hire a developer to create a development similar to the transit-oriented, mixed-use one SunCal proposed albeit "with a serious and effective traffic mitigation plan."
Jensen, 49, a senior services administrator for the City of Oakland, also supports the creation of a nonprofit local development corporation, which she sees building a mixed-use development. She said she'd let the voters decide whether to change Measure A.
Ezzy Ashcraft, 58, said she'd like the city to create a similar mixed-use plan on its own and shop it to developers to build. This actually sounds astoundingly like an idea that should have been adopted from the very beginning as it is the only one of all the proposals that actually makes sense and serves the needs and desires of everybody involved. Ezzy Ashcraft would seek to change Measure A for the Point and Webster Street as part of its ongoing renewal project.
In a similar proposal, Rob Bonta, 39, an attorney for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office, said he's interested in a city-driven plan that includes retail, an entertainment district, light industry and other businesses, open space and other amenities, and less housing than SunCal proposed. Bonta said he'd let the voters decide whether to change Measure A.
Adam Gillitt said he'd work on technology upgrades for the city, which faced criticism after city leaders said they destroy e-mails after thirty days because they don't have the computer storage space to retain them for longer. He has made attacking the Council for lack of transparency and for corruption a major part of his drive for office.
Knocking them down in order, we would have to say Gillitt has no chance simply because of what he seems himself to realize is a major problem -- lack of name recognition. The man is just too new to the Island -- and to politics -- to have a ghost of a chance of winning in a place where anyone who has lived here only two decades is considered a "short timer."
Jensen and Mitchell also have name-recognition problems, while Sweeney seems to have issues with the political process itself. Her public comments do not sound as informed as those of the others, although she does deserve credit for securing the Beltline property for the city. She might be more useful as diligent gadfly to whoever gets seated on the Council. Both Jensen and Mitchell lack the political experience, the savvy, and the bare-knuckles ability to scrap which all the Council members will need in the months and years, although after a few bruises and some more time in the public arena, we would be glad to take another look.
Tam will more than likely recapture her seat, and justly so, for she has proved herself capably and well under fire and she has secured that all-important endorsement from the Democratic Club and from organized labor. We might dislike the fact that she initially supported SunCal, but then we would have to point fingers at ourselves as well. She did come around to understanding that Measure B was a bad idea before the results tallied up overwhelmingly against it. She also is looking realistically at supporting the unfunded civic pension funds now being discussed with -- in part -- municipal bonds. At least its not another tax.
That leaves Bonta and Ezzy-Ashcraft. Knox feels Bonta's work in bringing the LAFCO hospital project out of the red is the major swing in his favor, as well as decades of public service. We don't think that Ezzy-Ashcraft has the funding or the name recognition to win this time around, and for this reason we trend to support Rob Bonta, whose funding we do not care about in terms of sources. In any case, the out-of-town support he has been accused of accepting turns out to be directly from immediate family members and long-term friends who just happen to be momentarily located on the East Coast. Its a non-issue.
In the interests of disclosure, we think internally here the LAFCO situation is headed for eventual trainwreck, largely due to the fact that practical considerations do not support an independent hospital here. We do not have a trauma unit, we do not have a heliport and we do not have real resources to handle total isolation in the event of disaster. Its good that Bonta oversaw the temporary rehab of the hospital, but that is not a major point with us. More importantly he appears capable and intelligent and possessed of common sense as well as genuine public service spirit.
MAYOR -- EVENLY DIVIDED BETWEEN FRANK MATARRESE AND MARIE GILMORE
ISLAND SCHOOL BOARD
In most other years, this race is one that slips under the radar and gets reported on page 8 after all the "serious offices" have been discussed. Not this year. Not this election. Anybody who gets a seat needs to bring in Mohammed Ali's famed combination of being able to float like a butterfly and sting like a 180 cal howitzer.
In the words of the EBE: "Faced with massive state funding reductions and voters' narrow rejection of a parcel tax that district leaders hoped would replace those lost funds, the school board made more than $7.2 million in cuts this year that included increasing class sizes and shuttering schools for an extra week. And they are working on plans that could close more than half the schools Alameda Unified operates by 2013.
District leaders are preparing a fresh parcel tax proposal that they hope will help them stave off additional cuts of up to $13 million over the next two years, . . .
Those in line to make the decisions include incumbent Mike McMahon, retired Alameda Unified administrator Marjorie Sherratt, labor negotiator James Pruitt, parent and businessman Clay Pollard, businessman Rand Wrobel, and parent Sheri Palmer."
All of the candidates said they'd support a new parcel tax to support the schools, with variations upon the previous two challenged measures.
This is another one that seems to call for knocking off candidates from the bottom up, however its clear that McMahon and Sherrat are the obvious choices in terms of experience and shouldn't be selected if you want pretty seriously large changes to happen -- which is likely NOT to happen given the nature of the way the Island works.
Pollard is the first to be striken from our list due to his virulent and largely irrational opposition to the anti-bullying initiatives, opposition which very nearly put the Island up as a national laughingstock by reason of its shrill, lunatic, extreme response which could have cost the taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits.
Pruitt has not said anything that really indicates how to proceed pragmatically other than wring one's hands for all the efficacy of his vague ideas but at least he has come forward more than Palmer or Wrobel, although Wrobel has introduced the novel idea of doing away with public education entirely in favor of charter schools totally replacing all of the Unified District.
Come again? And how is such a major change to be funded and staffed? All the parents and just the parents, of course.
So we are left with people who actually have done their school work, McMahon and Sherrat. They've been around and know the real dollars and cents issues.
OTHER RACES - OTHER CITIES
You have to pity poor Oaktown across the water sometimes; that is one city that never seems to get a break. After Jerry Brown brought a measure of pizazz over there across the water for a short spell, Ron Dellums ruled a long trainwreck of an administration that ultimately oversaw the layoff of all the new police Brown had hired to handle the seemingly intractable violent crime problems there, plus some while the ongoing corruption scandals around the murderous Bey family and their bakery that fronted for one of the West Coast's most insidious mafia syndicates that dealt in every form of vice known to man and ape.
Now the once augustan Dellums is leaving the mayor's office to either Don Perata -- no minor light in terms of corruption himself -- or any of three worthy contenders.
The sad truth is that because Perata is such a loudmouth gangster with FBI entanglements going back years he possesses the largest name recognition of anybody and so is likely to win office only because people who don't think much are likely to draw a line connecting the arrow opposite his name only because they have seen his mugshot on TV.
Councilwomen Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan, and college professor and news analyst Joe Tuman, all running for office, each possess more ability, honesty, integrity, eloquence and fortitude in single toenail clippings than Perata ever has possessed or will possess in all of his body and any one of them would make a far better mayor. Each one of them has garnered significant local political experience as well and each one has a proven track record to the extent the East Bay Express could not come up with a clear endorsement between any of them.
We have heard Kaplan speak and were impressed -- all of us that day -- by her obvious intelligence, conviction, eloquence, and sincere devotion to public service. She tends to top our list for Oaktown to pull it out of its doldrums.
Regarding Perata, against whom it must be admitted the East Bay Express (as well as most of the other reputable newspapers) has long pursued an active animosity, one only need peruse the EBE's article entitled "25 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Vote for Don Perata".
The most convincing item was the one which handled the cynical belief among many that, corrupt or not, he was a man who "got things done" in Sacramento by means of his hardball politics. Turns out the man was never so effective except in his own mind, failing to pass the majority of his proposed legislation in one of the worst Assembly records in history. Its okay if you steal, guy, so long as you disperse a little largesse. Which is something "the Don" has never done.
I DON'T LIVE IN A DREAM - PSA
In addition to unfunded pensions and health care costs for retiring city employees and how to move forward to develop Alameda Point, the city also faces problems of declining revenue that will affect our schools.
To educate voters Alameda League of Women Voters has sponsored programs during the past year for Alameda citizens.
For the November election the league has produced candidate forums with questions designed to enlighten the public on the candidates' stances on these important issues.
The league also has worked to provide the citizens with information about the nine state ballot proposals. Many of these proposals will affect the lives of California residents.
Suffice it that there is a lot for the voters to be concerned about.
Thus it is dismaying to see our local election devolve into character assassinations which are not central to the issues facing our city.
Candidates have many opportunities to tell the voters about their vision, their plans and their platforms on the issues.
When candidates and their supporters indulge in attacking one another, rather than focusing on their candidacy, the voters stay away from the polls.
The league believes in clean campaigning. Instead in this election, we are being distracted from the real issues and the community has become the victim of intentionally divisive tactics.
The league urges the citizens to go to the League of Women Voters of Alameda website and view the Sept. 29 City Council candidates' forum and the Oct. 4 mayoral forum. Listen carefully to the candidates' responses to the questions. Evaluate whether they answered the questions or whether they were off point and vague.
We also ask you to consider the campaign calls that are not intended to educate but rather inflame, confuse or distract us from the real issues.
Let's get back to the business of making informed decisions. We will all be the better for it.
Go to our website at www.alameda.ca.lwvnet.org and click on the "Join Us" button.
For excellent neutral information on the candidates and propositions, go to our award winning election information site at www.smartvoter.org
(The preceding is a verbatim transcription of the LWV letter to the Alameda Journal and of the direct communication to our offices by members of said organization).
It's been a cooling week on the Island, my hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the last gasp of summer heat fall finally has set in with promise of rain that came on Sunday and the chevrons of Canadian geese took wing and away for Buenos Aires.
Neighbors Mike and Agnes report successful rescue of an injured Coopers hawk which got transported in swaddles to the rescue center in Marin close to midnight midweek. In the morning all the cars were beaded with moisture.
The local Radio Minister put a fright into a few people here last week. We have a local radio station that broadcasts the news, Guido's Garden Report and, naturally, the NPR feed, along with a Sunday sermon called "The Voice" from Pastor Rotschue a Lutheran minister who claims to come from St. Paul where he keeps a sort of chapel on Summit Avenue on a hill that looks down over the roof of the Fitzgerald Theatre below.
This past week, the Pastor abruptly said, "Amen" in the middle of a sermon about healing the lepers -- perhaps you know the passage in scripture wherein nine lepers are cured, but one is healed and that one returns to thank The Lord -- he closed up the show and things pretty much went on as usual from there.
As it so happened on this day right after the show, Pedro Almeida met the Pastor walking along Park Street in front of the place where the Bonier Bakery used to be, and he mentioned that he noted the sermon had ended rather abruptly.
The Pastor nodded. Yes and?
Pedro said, "You know I am on the boat a long time -- I am a fisherman by trade. You might not know entirely the trade of fisherman. Perhaps you do. For many long hours I have only the sound of the radio as a friend. For many long hours, through wind and all kinds of weather and times of boredom and times I thought I surely will die, the voice on the radio has been a friend to me as if . . . as if I were sitting on a tractor in an immense field of wheat on the prarie extending for miles to the furthest limits of the horizon. Only your voice there; a friend of Truth. One voice I could trust to always be there in that tremendous ocean. Why did you end so early this day?"
At this confession, the Pastor was taken aback. He did not know what to say. So he spoke the truth. " I wanted to see what would happen."
"You know we know you have been ill recently. The stroke. We all have been terribly concerned. Although I am most unworthy and most undeserving of any, please. Do not do that again. We need to hear the Voice."
With that the two men went their seperate ways. It is not known if the Pastor Rotschue hearkened unto the message from one of his listeners, one of the most unworthy. One of those of the lepers, one of the thieves, one of the whores, one of the fishermen to whom a certain man of Galilee preached long ago.
The Bay Area now passes into that strange time of changes, of flickering lights in jack-o-lanterns, of shimmering luminaria lining the walks and the time when spirits walk again among us, strange apparitions and crossovers to the Other World. We do not take such jokes lightly. For it is such a long long time to be gone. And such a short time to be here.
From far across the way, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the spectral waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the ghost-train headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week
OCTOBER 10, 2010
SEASON OF THE WITCH
This week's headline comes from a front porch of a house on Lincoln Street where folks are getting into the seasonal mood with style.
Soon the streets shall be rife with scary monsters and super creeps.
ALL THE THINGS THEY SAID TO ME
Speaking of which, or speaking of witch, this reminds us that in a couple weeks Californians take once again to the polls for another edition of the well-exercised referendum process.
Here's the breakdown with recommendations, starting with the Propositions and finishing up with the more salient elected officials.
The Golden State has nine Props on the table, in addition to local issues pertaining to city and counties. Of the Nine, four are mutually exclusive items pertaining to just two issues, so if you got your mind made up, you should be spending little time in the booth for these. A new wrinkle for the three NorCal cities of Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro is Ranked Choice voting, wherein local voters get a ramped selection of choices that eliminates subsequent run-off elections. Basically those municipal voters will get to rank their choices 1,2 and 3 instead of winner-take-all.
* Proposition 19 - Initiative Statute: Legalize Marijuana and Allow It to Be Regulated and Taxed.
Allows people 21 years old or older to possess, cultivate, or transport marijuana for personal use. Permits local governments to regulate and tax commercial production and sale of marijuana to people 21 years old or older.
RECOMMENDATION -- QUALIFIED YES.
This landmark, very controversial, and long-awaited change in drug laws decriminalizes possession for State purposes, but has no effect on Federal statutes. Many cities, especially Oakland, have looked to this as a partial solution to budgetary woes, and, indeed, by the numbers everybody stands to win should this both pass and become unchallenged law of the land.
Unfortunately, the initiative -- as one would expect regarding such a contentious issue -- is full of problems, not the least of which is the problem of the Federal government still retaining primacy as to enforcement, leading to the likely scenario of federal DEA raids on otherwise legitimate businesses. In addition, enforcement of mandatory drug-testing for certain occupations will become problematic.
Nevertheless, the draconian and rather heavy-handed approach to a drug that is moderately benign by all scientific reports, and certainly less harmful to users -- although not entirely free of hazards -- than alcohol, cigarettes or caffeine has long needed to change. Thousands of unnecessarily incarcerated persons would go free from prisons and what once was termed a state crime would become labeled, at worst, as mildly irresponsible behavior, and at best simply another habit contributing to the economy.
Most of the criticism directed against use and cultivation of pot focusses on guilt by criminal association. Use and cultivation promote criminal behavior because use and cultivation are crimes. This is rather sideways and specious reasoning and simply does not hold up in rather obvious ways.
The Initiative is a move in the right direction, seems to be reflected in attitudes held by other States, and so we recommend a YES ON PROP 19.
* Proposition 20: Initiative Constitutional Amendment: Redistricting of Congressional Districts.
Removes elected representatives from the process of establishing congressional districts and transfers that authority to the recently-authorized 14-member redistricting commission. Redistricting commission is comprised of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four voters registered with neither party.
End gerrymandering -- who could argue with that? Common Cause (interests of disclosure, some staffers here are members) has come out strong in favor of this one with film screenings and other material. And did not the voters already approve a redistricting commission last election? Well, if they did that already, and the will of the voters has already been expressed, then why is this fellow popping up on the table?
The devil is in the details and all about control. This Prop has a mirror relative in Proposition 27, which calls to eliminate the already voter-approved 14 member commission in favor of -- guess what! -- having the legislature draw up the district lines. Yeah, sure.
Before your head breaks, just think about what the more rational non-partisan
voices have said:
Clearly, GOP folks don't like Prop 27, because the legislature is presently 80% Dem, which means they get locked out entirely.
Dems -- and most independents -- dislike Prop 20 because it artificially grants the minority GOP in a largely Demo Blue State a lion's share of new power and freezes out new parties entirely.
We already have a Commission in the works -- let it do its thing first.
Proposition 21 - Initiative Statute: vehicle license surcharge
Establishes $18 Annual Vehicle License Surcharge to Help Fund State Parks and Wildlife Programs and Grants Free Admission to All State Parks to Surcharged Vehicles.
RECOMMENDATION -- YES
Nobody likes new taxes and critics have chorused that this one brings back the "car tax" eliminated by Der Governator Arnold. Well, yes. So what.
California is unusually well gifted with excellent public spaces that are major revenue generators for the Golden State by way of visitors coming to enjoy the extraordinary green spaces here. For any business, putting some investment into cost centers is a smart idea, and we uphold the idea on a purely fiscal basis, not to mention the law also allows Natives to enter the parks gratis, having already paid the entrance fees by way of this surcharge.
Proposition 22 - Initiative Constitutional Amendment. Prohibits the State from Taking Funds Used for Transportation or Local Government Projects and Services.
Prohibits the State from shifting, taking, borrowing, or restricting the use of tax revenues dedicated by law to fund local government services, community redevelopment projects, or transportation projects and services. Prohibits the State from delaying the distribution of tax revenues for these purposes even when the Governor deems it necessary due to a severe state fiscal hardship.
RECOMMENDATION - NO
This one is from those screaming Jarvis anti-government anti-tax anything folks who want to reduce everything to a state of Anarchy, or so it seems. We can cut to the chase right away by saying that it makes no sense to inhibit any fiscal activity right now in the midst of a crisis of major proportions. And why is a fiscal item relating to transportation being put forth as a Constitutional Amendment anyway? The silliness never ends.
Proposition 23 - Initiative Statute: Suspends Air Pollution Control Laws Requiring Major Polluters to Report and Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions That Cause Global Warming Until Unemployment Drops Below Specified Level for Full Year.
Suspends State laws requiring reduced greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming, until California's unemployment rate drops to 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters. Requires State to abandon implementation of comprehensive greenhouse-gas-reduction program that includes increased renewable energy and cleaner fuel requirements, and mandatory emission reporting and fee requirements for major polluters such as power plants and oil refineries, until suspension is lifted.
RECOMMENDATION - NO, OF COURSE NOT. NO, NO, NO.
This one is so full of boondoggle and greed and nonsense and bad numbers and bad faith we hardly know where to begin to criticize this thing that should be titled "The Chevron Initiative".
Unemployment below 5.5% for 4 quarters? The Golden State has NEVER seen rates that low and is unlikely to do so for the next half century, not even should the value of tree bark rise above the value of gold. Just abandon pollution monitoring and all enforcement in perpetuity; yeah, sure. Now just who would that benefit the most? Not us, not the Nation, not the world at large.
Proposition 24 - Initiative Statute: Repeals Recent Legislation That Would Allow Businesses to Carry Back Losses, Share Tax Credits, and Use a Sales-Based Income Calculation to Lower Taxable Income.
Repeals recent legislation that would allow businesses to shift operating losses to prior tax years and that would extend the period permitted to shift operating losses to future tax years. Repeals recent legislation that would allow corporations to share tax credits with affiliated corporations. Repeals recent legislation that would allow multistate businesses to use a sales-based income calculation, rather than a combination property-, payroll- and sales-based income calculation.
RECOMMENDATION - YES, with reasons.
This one needed a little research. The Editor, who owns a business, explained that "carry back losses" enables a business to minimize its tax burden during profitable years, and this sometimes helps small businesses -- a little bit. It does, however, help big businesses that employ creative accounting quite a bit by reducing big tax bills for several years to virtually nothing by artificially creating losses by means of large acquisitions in a single year.
By large acquisition think HP buying Compaq, or Worldcom buying AT&T. Yes, THAT large.
The reason the laws regarding CBL were passed was to fight the Golden State's budget hemorrage by eliminating certan tax loopholes, so we really do not think that its a good idea to provide handouts while we remain billions in the hole. Pull back the handouts.
Proposition 25 - Initiative Constitutional Amendment: Changes Legislative Vote Requirement to Pass a Budget from Two-Thirds to a Simple Majority. Retains Two-Thirds Vote Requirement for Taxes.
Changes the legislative vote requirement necessary to pass the state budget from two-thirds to a simple majority. Provides that if the Legislature fails to pass a budget bill by June 15, all members of the Legislature will permanently forfeit any reimbursement for salary and expenses for every day until the day the Legislature passes a budget bill.
RECOMMENDATION - YES, YES, YES, YES!
By all means and by every measure, this one should be a no brainer that resolves a problem that has plagued the Golden State each year for decades and which is largely responsible for our present fiscal problems, or at least for the difficulty of resolving them adequately.
The 2nd part of the bill, forfeiture of salary to lawmakers, has been proposed before, but that is largely symbolic, for you know they will get that cash back somehow some other way. The real meat is the change of the budgetary process from creaky, dysfunctional, world laughingstock to something that gets done efficiently.
The world's fourth largest economy should no longer be held up each year, year after year, by a minority handful of screaming radicals, splinter elements, and fringe-element malcontents.
Proposition 26 - Initiative Constitutional Amendment: Increases Legislative Vote Requirement to Two-Thirds for State Levies and Charges. Imposes Additional Requirement for Voters to Approve Local Levies and Charges with Limited Exceptions.
Increases legislative vote requirement to two-thirds for state levies and charges, with limited exceptions, and for certain taxes currently subject to majority vote. Changes Constitution to require voters to approve, either by two-thirds or majority, local levies and charges with limited exceptions.
RECOMMENDATION -- OH, FOR PETE'S SAKE, NO, NO, NO
Flies in the face of the rational Prop 25 and is proposed and endorsed by the usual Jarvis folks who never seem persuaded by history, common sense or simple economic realties.
Proposition 27 - Initiative Constitutional Amendment and Statute: Eliminates State Commission on Redistricting. Consolidates Authority for Redistricting with Elected Representatives.
Eliminates 14-member redistricting commission selected from applicant pool picked by government auditors. Consolidates authority for establishing state Assembly, Senate, and Board of Equalization district boundaries with elected state representatives responsible for drawing congressional districts.
RECOMMENDATION - NO, for the same reasons cited above for Proposition 20.
Do these people think we are all idiots?
CANDIDATES IN 2010
Der Governator leaves office this year, termed out by limits. Up for this unenviable position during this rather unenviable time, is quite a field of hopefuls, however we realistically see only two main contenders.
* Meg Whitman (R)
RECOMMENDATION -- JERRY BROWN
Whitman has shown herself to be a moderately successful businesswoman, and would likely bring some acumen to the plate in that area, possesses solid GOP credentials, however, in virtually every other area, she has come up short in comparison with the proven Jerry Brown. We enjoyed a fling with a moderate Republican, and found him gradually shifting more and more Blue State as time went on, albeit unwillingly.
The GOP had its shot, implemented a large number of austerity measures out of the GOP playbook, tried -- and failed -- to curry favor with what was once a GOP administration in DC and has come up sadly wanting. To put it bluntly, the Golden State is in bad shape and GOP efforts are largely to blame. Its not a resolution to lay off 50,000 state employees or implement additional draconian service cuts.
Brown is not exactly a beauty contestent here, but he has done the job successfully before, did resolve some of Oakland's problems before Dellums took over in a mangled tenure, and likely will run things efficiently and well according to the way the State is best fitted to be run.
* Gavin Newsom (D)
Well, if we pick a Dem for governor, it hardly makes sense to have his right-hand man remain GOP. Newsom has his wrinkles -- far more than Brown -- but he steadfastly refuses to go away and we are hoping his youthful indisgressions will fade to a more mature political future. Besides, the runner up, Jim Castillo, is unlikely to win.
RECOMMENDATION -- GAVIN NEWSOM
* Kamala Harris (D)
Since we remain anti-death penalty here, we side with Harris, however she represents our views on a large number of other issues. Also, we think that she is more likely to moderate her positions in the presence of evidence, whereas we find Cooley tends to respond reflexively with automaton inflexibility according to the Conservative Playbook, rather than reason the issues. Also, in listening to his Q&A at a recent public appearance, he steadfastly adhered to the idea of double-dipping his income by means of his retirement pension and the state salary. This decision does not bode well for ethical conduct.
Harris, like all the others, has her issues, but she is clearly better than the shrill alternative.
RECOMMEND -- KAMALA HARRIS
Skipping past other offices, such as the odious Insurance Commissioner -- a job which has never has been held well by anybody of any political stripe -- and Secretary of State -- currently the perfectly adequate Debra Bowen -- we plotz in front of Senator and House Rep.
* Barbara Boxer (D) - Incumbent
* Carly Fiorina (R)
Her challenger, well, has run a failed presidential campaign that resulted in a total upset, and mismanaged a major corporation (Hewlett-Packard) where she screwed up labor relations big time, mishandled a major merger, and ultimately got herself fired.
A legacy of business failure may work in the GOP world, but we do not want that impacting the Golden State. Not right now, please.
RECOMMEND -- BARBARA BOXER
The Island resides in the 13th Congressional District and the 16th State Assembly District.
CONGRESS, 13TH DISTRICT
At 78, Stark's an outspoken atheist (the only one in Congress), a staunch foe of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a progressive on all the major issues, and a firey speaker who is not afraid to jab where it hurts. He is cantankerous, abrasive, and very capable. Voters here love him to pieces because he really listens to them and acts responsively.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 16
Swanson deserves re-election largely because he basically, if sometimes
indolently, represents the appropriate views of his constituency. We wish
he had taken a more forward approach to the Oscar Grant affair, which
he allowed to simply pass as another event in town, but he does tend to
vote progressive reliably, and this does reflect the district population.
Besides, he looks good in the Mayor's parade every July 4th.
NEW TIMES NEW TIMES NEW TIMES
The Silly Council voted to "jumpstart" the so-called "Boatworks project" quite suddenly, gifting property owner Francis Collins $4.4 million through tax increment funds, reduced permit fees and other savings. Collins had sued the City three times and was defiantly proceeding with a fourth lawsuit to get his project done before the Council considered that renovating the blighted area to the west of Park street along the estuary to be a good thing for economic development right about now. Especially just before General Elections.
In another sign of the times, recent school board meetings have floated draconian ideas such as eliminating all middle schools on the Island and merging the communitys two high schools into one. This would result in closure of the national award-winning Encinal High. The District is looking at a $17 million shortfall in its annual budget of about $55 million.
Suncal, seeing -- or perhaps ignoring -- the writing on the wall, has issued a 2nd lawsuit against the City. alleging Island officials are withholding public records that the developer has requested as part of its lawsuit against the city over the Point.
The complaint says Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and City Clerk Laura Weisiger "are engaging in a pattern of conduct that can only be described as a cover-up and spoliation of evidence."
The complaint, which was filed Sept. 23, accuses the officials of stonewalling SunCal's requests for e-mails that Gallant and others exchanged before the City Council's decision in July to drop the company as the master developer of the former Naval Air Station.
To view lawsuit documents, go to http://seealamedapoint.com/lawsuit.
Remember that red rash folks got a couple years ago after swimming in the ocean off Crown Beach? The parasite that caused the skin irritation is back. A parasitic worm is responsible for a Northern California outbreak of "swimmer's itch", the West Coast's second known siege of the rash.
The San Francisco Chronicle says the worm, which stows away on an invasive snail recently discovered in San Francisco Bay, was first reported at Alameda's Robert W. Crown Memorial State Beach in the mid-1950s.
The worm is normally a parasite that lives in the flesh of fish, however it will attack and invest people before dying after failing to fully inhabit its human host.
There was a second outbreak of the itchy, red rash at the same beach in 2005.
Center for Research on Aquatic Bioinvasions director Andrew Cohen says 90 elementary schoolchildren contracted swimmer's itch that year and 71 additional cases have been reported to Alameda County public health authorities since then.
A couple malefactors, seeking to evade police during a chase picked the absolutely wrong thing to do in trying to escape by driving the wrong way through the Webster Street Tube early Tuesday morning. The resulting headon crash sent drivers to the Highland Emergency room with critical injuries and infuriated police as well as commuters who faced a blocked Tube for several hours during Rush Hour.
Reports are coming in that the season's flu season has started early, with early sufferers getting knocked flat by the infection. Vaccine is more widely distributed this year than last, and folks from age six to sixty are all urged to go get stuck with needles at sites as varied as CVS and Walgreens. So go do it.
Ross has opened the doors to its new store across from the more pricey Krohls at Southshore Mall, and a visit there showed throngs showing up to riffle through racks of reasonably priced jeans and overcoats.
WHATEVER GETS YOU THROUGH THE NIGHT
It's been a moderate week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The marigolds have started to appear in suspiciously large numbers. This weekend glorious sun emerged again to put the Fall and its observances to the side for a bit longer. Javier has been scurrying about the garden to gather the last pole beans before turning over the soil and the winter's sleep. The Native Sons of the Golden West are going about their membership drive for Parlor #68&1/2 which always culminates with the annual Halloween Ball and, of course, everyone is all abuzz about the General Elections.
The Native Sons opened up the Marina clubhouse to host debates between the two principal candidates for office here, Papoon and Babar. Papoon, the somewhat liberal somewhat moderately left of center candidate is once again running under the slogan, "Not Insane!", while Babar, the definitively and firmly Conservative is running under the "gray flannel and starch" banner. The debates began, as per the new 21st Century custom with supporters from both sides throwing food items at one another and with members of the independent and non-allied parties protesting the extravagant waste and lack of decorum.
After Javier and Jose had swept up the scattered pepperoni and vegetable pieces, the debate got underway with Papoon calling for stronger social services, health care reform, surgical sterilization of insurance company executives and renewed support for education, accompanied by sound balanced budget responsibility and free beer on Fridays.
Catcalls and rude names arose from the Conservative bench where someone indicated that of social services the Island possessed none, and why not continue to send indigents over to Oaktown or the County.
Babar rose ponderously for his segment to call for sound balanced budget responsibility, support for education, business tax breaks, reinstitution of the Monarchy, and financial rewards for all the executives in his tennis club. Health care reform was out of the question while the Island remained at war with Newark.
Catcalls and rude names arose from the Liberal side of the room, where someone commented that the war in Newark had basically petered out when people learned that no one in Newark cared about their city or being occupied by a foreign army.
The debate sort of went back and forth before dissipating over the discussion as to whether Newark remained occupied or not by anybody except linoleum tile stores, martinizing cleaners, and autobody shops, despite the fact that one veteran stood up to announce that the liquor stores in Newark set the gold standard.
Like much of contemporary American politics, the entire affair decayed by evening into an atavistic shambles of screaming over inanities and symbolic issues about which no one seriously cared. Officer O'Madhauen and Officer Popinjay had to come in and break up several fistfights while the candidates were spirited away in limos.
So after night fell Javier and Jose had to return to clean up the clubhouse once again and dig bullet holes out of the walls.
They put on the radio and while Pete Townsend sang the acoustic version of "Won't Get Fooled Again", the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the contentious waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the freight headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
OCTOBER 3, 2010
THERE'LL NEVER BE ANOTHER MAN LIKE HIM
This week's headline photo was taken near 11,400 feet in elevation below Piute Pass and is of a man we ran into during the annual Mountain Sabbatical. His name is Russ Anderson, age 79, and was President of the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team in 1961, one of the first two organized volunteer S&R teams in the world (the other was the Altadena group in SoCal).
In 1951, haphazard groups of people searched four days for Walter Wyrick, who was lost in the High Sierra. After he was found, barely alive, the impetus to organize search efforts caused the Lalone brothers to create the first ever volunteer organization which today uses about 30 well-trained volunteers who are ready to respond 24 hours per day, seven days per week.
Mr. Anderson also served as a volunteer Sheriff's Deputy and in other honorable service capacities while taking the time to raise a family, including three kidsin Pasadena. Not content with that, he invented the most widely employed rescue gurney in the United States, which he builds by hand in his metal workshop.
We salute Mr. Anderson, still climbing mountains at 79 despite back and knee surgeries and still doing his part to save lives. A true and honorable native Californian.
SHE'LL MAKE HER WAY
While we were busy fixing all the broken java code and stuff, Leslie Feingold let us know that October is national Disability Awareness Month by sponsoring a city-wide Accessible Exercise Program.
Numerous research studies have shown how beneficial physical activity is for people with chronic health issues and other physically-debilitating conditions. There are approximately 12,000 people living with physical and/or cognitive disabilities in Alameda (2000 Census).
Several local gyms and exercise centers are offering accessible exercise classes free to the public during October. Accessible means that an exercise class is modified in a way to make it more inclusive -- for example, yoga can be done while seated if standing or balance is an issue.
Classes include aquatics, stretch, chair dancing, yoga, Pilates, dance, and tai ch.
Special highlights include an interactive workshop on October 7th with dancers from AXIS Dance Company. AXIS is one of the worlds most acclaimed and innovative ensembles of performers with and without disabilities. On October 22nd College of Alameda instructor and dancer, Danny Nguyen, is leading a Body Conditioning Exercise Class. Nguyen also leads the Nguyen Dance Company, a multicultural performance troupe featuring dancers, musicians, and visual artists.
The Commission on Disability Issues, a group of twelve citizens,
strives to educate and recommend policies to make Alameda an accessible
community for those with disabilities who live, work and play in our community.
An accessible community is the key to both healthy assistance through
the process of living well and for the opportunity for those with disabilities
to achieve success and quality of life.
For more information contact Leslie Krongold, Chair of Commission
on Disability Issues
Warren Hellman is by any report a remarkable man. A dedicated bluegrass enthusiast, a fairly mean banjo picker by report, and an accomplished downtown industrialist who has made millions of dollars, he decided a few years ago to gift the City with an annual festival of music that has grown over the past decade into the premier outdoor event for roots music known around the world.
From a little affair that took place in one of City College's classrooms to a massive bonanza occupying six stages in Golden Gate Park over three days, the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Music has become the de facto Fall music and cultural event of Northern California, rivaling New Orleans' Jazz and the Monterey Jazz Festivals in prestige and attaining world class status.
This year the once humble classroom event drew an estimated one quarter of a million people from around the globe to Speedway Meadows. All expenses, including sanitation, security, park fees, organization, stages, and entertainer expenses are fully paid for by Warren Hellman's ongoing non-profit organization he has set up to perpetuate the festival after his death.
Island-Life sent over staff to check out Sunday's lineup at the smaller stages. Sad but true, the festival's wild success meant that no longer can one snag meaningful seats at the main Banjo Stage, nor can one approach the Rooster stage even through the trees to get a glimpse of performers. In fact, just moving at all through the press in the Park had become a chore.
As a result, we briefly listened to the Indigo Girls charm the throng in front of the Rooster Stage before checking out the Star and Gold Tower stages, entirely surrendering the pleasures of pure bluegrass at the packed Banjo stage where Earl Scruggs preceded Doc Watson and the Del McCoury Band.
THE INDIGO GIRLS
Amy Ray and Emily Saliers have been described here as the V-Twin Harley-Davidson twins of the acoustic world. They have been, and remain, dynamic, energetic, engaging and fully enthralling performers endowed with intelligent lyrics and gracefully powerful harmonies. It was clear that the crowd consisted in large part of their enormous following, and when they closed with "Closer to Fine", a ballad about the difficulty of getting to where one wants to be, the throng sang out the words, reprising their popular Slim's concert of a few years back.
Their odd name and their peculiar lack of hucksterism may have held them back, but we first took note of this band some years ago when Mike Powers still ran his Sunday Night Jam before moving to LA. It was clear then that the band members possessed talent, and it was clear Sunday that this band has "legs". At the moment, they present a sort of Pink Floyd crossed with Phish and Captain Beefheart. Their primarily instrumental focus might lend them the title of "jam band", however, we noted their set pieces were far more disciplined and more limited than Trey Anastasio's famous noodling. No one single song does them justice as they crunch through any number of styles, sometimes within a song, liberally changing time signatures and key mid-race. We expect to hear a lot more from these impossibly young fellows.
Out of Austin and re-invited back for a festival reprise, the sardonic and heavy southern rockabilly sound of McMurtry is always a pleasure to be heard. McMurtry provides a world-weary and wise voice to the otherwise Bud-slinging shotgun-totin' sound of Southern Rock.
This was Elvis' third time around for the festival, and this was the first time we actually got to see the man's face, largely because a group of people, irritated at the nonsensical fence barrier, took a razor to cut down the view obstruction. Perhaps because of his association with Toussaint, the former Brit New Wave punk has learnt himself some soul and fully immersed in American roots music. Flanked by solid Country and bluegrass musicians, the very talented Costello hammed it up while doing numbers from 1921's Josephine to a surprising version of the Dead's "Friend of the Devil."
The now white-haired Newman put in a solo set at the piano of some tender love ballads, along with some of his more pointedly social-commentary things, like "Short People" and "You can keep your hat on". He sprinkled his set with charmingly witty and pointed asides while introducing new material, including one about the familiar Parent's Night at the local elementary school, which he conflated -- because he did not want to devote a song solely to "something so trivial", with the failure of Marxism. Most of his songs played up to his newfound sense, it seems, of being a family man.
Annoying jerks insisted on conversing with their inane lapdog patter over the softer bits, pushing us away from the set early.
Attending a Patti Smith concert is a little like attending a faith-healing ceremony in the big tent at a Revival meeting. You had better be ready to be saved, or best not go at all, for the energy shall indeed run high and mighty. This sensation became strong during her singing of "Ghost Dance", when it seemed she was beginning to ask in a way that became more imperative as the set progressed, that all of us need to "shake out the bones", start healing, look at what we are supposed to be all about and unify together in forgiveness and healing to repair the terrible damage done to the Country in recent times.
Smith called on San Francisco to recapture and live up to the truth of its name and all of its promise, invoking at one point the Prayer of Saint Francis, which she read from a sheet of paper before singing the song "Wing."
Time and again she reminded the listeners to live life couragously, to be the fulfillment of the promise of themselves with a singing voice that has not lost an iota of its power over thirty-five years. At times it felt as if the woman had enough reserve vocal power to outblast Lenny Kay's amp set at ten on the dial.
In between political exhortations she and her long time bandmate Lenny Kaye crunched out numbers that remain as vital today as they did thirty years ago, from an energetic "Pissing in a River" to a full-bore rocking and practically orgiastic "Beneath the Southern Cross" that really brought out the powerfully dramatic potential in that song layered over with its long drone in D.
In closing she urged people to remember ". . . no matter how f---ed up things get, its never too late to come together and change things. We can do it!." She launched into "People have the Power" and ended with the anthemic "G.L.O.R.I.A." complete with all of its prelude and antilude, bringing even the tire and bored to their feet, pumping fists in the air. Few are the performers who can seriously toss in a prayer from St. Francis and then sing, "Jesus died for somebody's sins -- but not mine!" while still getting several thousand folks to sing "Gloria! Gloria!"
After Patti, whom we admit we love to pieces, nobody could possibly match
that and so we left the Park for Emmylou Harris to close out, in what
is becoming a HSBF tradition.
INTO THE CALLOW MIST
Its been a cooling week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the abrupt heat wave that spelled the last gasp of summer, the weather took a good look around and seeing the First Day of Fall had come and gone, decided to bring on the cooler temps of the evening.
The Editor and staff have been busy about the Offices with repairs necessitated by the unfortunate plumbing failure in the floor above, which caused no end of distress to the aquaria. There is also the Calendar to update and various site repairs caused, apparently, by spaghetti getting into the Java maker. The old coffeemaker got tossed out, so we are back to making brew the old fashioned way -- kettle and manual drip filters.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar all the regulars are in a wax about the landlord greed which killed the 137 year-old Bonier Bakery on Park Street. Park Street itself is beginning to look a little ghostly with vacancies now on all the major corners. Dozens of businesses now boarded up due to the Great Recession and Realtor intransigence in the face of economic realities.
Nevertheless, October has arrived and with it the Season of the Witch, for nothing exemplifies NorCal quite so much as the nearly monthlong costume party and celebration of freedom decorated with naughty pumpkins and the colors of orange and black. Suzie has been pinning up the cardboard spiders while Dawn has begun layering on the cotton cobwebs. Beside the jar of pickles another jar of bloody eyeballs has appeared and no one can saw which is more horrible. Those pickles have been there since at least the Irish civil war and no one has ever been seen to reach in their to find out if they are still any good.
Wan Wei of the Golden Dragon tried to interest Padraic in a jar of Chinese Thousand Year Old Eggs, which is a sort of grade-school science project cased in mud that people from Hong Kong seem to actually enjoy eating. Most of us have gone through this exercise of soaking eggs in vinegar until they can be squeezed through the narrow neck of a bottle, where the rubbery thing sits until Mom throws it out in the trash, but the Chinese possess similar culinary habits to the Norwegians, as do many of us in other forms. On the African savannas people will eat live scorpions, so go figure.
One evening a small cardboard box appeared on the bartop with a Mexican sugar skull sitting on top; it was one of Juanita's cheesy hot dish leftovers from the Norwegian banquet a few months ago, not apparently any the worse for having sat out, unrefridgerated for many weeks. Everyone speculated about what had happened to Pastor Inquist and just how Pastor Judy was doing up there where they actually put small houses out on the lake ice in winter. Then, Thursday afternoon a UPS truck pulled up to the Old Same Place Bar and Rudy got out the handcart to deliver ten wooden cases to the door.
Padraic scratched his head but signed for the prepaid delivery. Rudy sprayed some kind of aerosol deodorant into the back of the truck before scampering back up to his throne in the brown van before driving off.
When Padraic opened the top case he found long dried fillets in there smelling vaguely of soap and seawrack. It was nearly one hundred pounds of lutefisk. Sent as a gift from the Bear Lake facility in northern Minnesota. A single bottle of aquavit had come with.
What the devil are we to do with all of this? Padraic asked.
Bury it, said Dawn. That's how it is made in the first place.
So that's what they did. They gave a couple cases to Mrs. Almeida, who planned to make her special Portuguese dish for the Holidays, and some went to Marlene and Andre's household where they did in fact bury it after Bonkers and Wickiwup both tried to do just that after sniffing the contents and then upchucking on the beach from the odor, which got to be rather strong.
The rest went out back and into a ground vault for safekeeping.
Suzie returned to her anthropology book and a dish of rhubarb pie made that day by Dawn. "The Bonobo, from whom we in Western Civilization can learn much, enjoy delighting one another spontaneously and without reservation by providing small services and gifts in the middle of the forest . . .".
The long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the fishy waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the mystery-train headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
It's been a cooling week on the Island, my hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After the last gasp of summer heat fall finally has set in with promise of rain that came on Sunday and the chevrons of Canadian geese took wing and away for Buenos Aires.
Neighbors Mike and Agnes report successful rescue of an injured Coopers hawk which got transported in swaddles to the rescue center in Marin close to midnight midweek. In the morning all the cars were beaded with moisture.
The local Radio Minister put a fright into a few people here last week. We have a local radio station that broadcasts the news, Guido's Garden Report and, naturally, the NPR feed, along with a Sunday sermon called "The Voice" from Pastor Rotschue a Lutheran minister who claims to come from St. Paul where he keeps a sort of chapel on Summit Avenue on a hill that looks down over the roof of the Fitzgerald Theatre below.
This past week, the Pastor abruptly said, "Amen" in the middle of a sermon about healing the lepers -- perhaps you know the passage in scripture wherein nine lepers are cured, but one is healed and that one returns to thank The Lord -- he closed up the show and things pretty much went on as usual from there.
As it so happened on this day right after the show, Pedro Almeida met the Pastor walking along Park Street in front of the place where the Bonier Bakery used to be, and he mentioned that he noted the sermon had ended rather abruptly.
The Pastor nodded. Yes and?
Pedro said, "You know I am on the boat a long time -- I am a fisherman by trade. You might not know entirely the trade of fisherman. Perhaps you do. For many long hours I have only the sound of the radio as a friend. For many long hours, through wind and all kinds of weather and times of boredom and times I thought I surely will die, the voice on the radio has been a friend to me as if . . . as if I were sitting on a tractor in an immense field of wheat on the prarie extending for miles to the furthest limits of the horizon. Only your voice there; a friend of Truth. One voice I could trust to always be there in that tremendous ocean. Why did you end so early this day?"
At this confession, the Pastor was taken aback. He did not know what to say. So he spoke the truth. " I wanted to see what would happen."
"You know we know you have been ill recently. The stroke. We all have been terribly concerned. Although I am most unworthy and most undeserving of any, please. Do not do that again. We need to hear the Voice."
With that the two men went their seperate ways. It is not known if the Pastor Rotschue hearkened unto the message from one of his listeners, one of the most unworthy. One of those of the lepers, one of the thieves, one of the whores, one of the fishermen to whom a certain man of Galilee preached long ago.
The Bay Area now passes into that strange time of changes, of flickering lights in jack-o-lanterns, of shimmering luminaria lining the walks and the time when spirits walk again among us, strange apparitions and crossovers to the Other World. We do not take such jokes lightly. For it is such a long long time to be gone. And such a short time to be here.
(more later today)
From far across the way, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the spectral waves of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts and warehouses of the Jack London Waterfront as the ghost-train headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week
AUGUST 29, 2010
WHEN THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER PRICKS MY FINGER
Among the many disappointments this year was the lack of sunflowers, all slain by cold and invertebrate scavengers. Nevertheless, we cannot allow the Summer to pass without at least this headline image from Chad's repository.
The latest news over the transome, as reported by the inalameda blog at SFgate.com had several of our staff in stitches rolling on the floor at the hilarious potential of a perfectly well-intentioned and earnest endeavor. We trust you all know about the Importance of Being Earnest around here.
A couple of enterprising local lads have collected some Serious Money to cobble together a pilot for a standard cop procedural TV series, or at least a movie called "A-Town" set in, believe it or not, a fictional California suburb island city located not far from San Francisco. The fictional name of this town is , , , "Almaden."
O! OMAH GAWD! O! This is too rich!
But it gets better. According to the producer's website for the project, which we pursued as most of us thought this was some kind of gag, "On his first day riding solo, rookie Almaden Police Officer Derek Cooper copes with depression, micromanagement, and corrupt city politics. His shift is somewhat brightened by Stephanie Davis, a struggling single mother. As two opportunist criminals launch a violent takeover of Almaden's small methamphetamine trade, Derek learns that when fighting monsters, it is difficult not to become a monster oneself. As the sun sets on Almaden, we find that nothing in the peaceful suburb, including Derek himself, is quite what it seems."
Omahgawd, omahgawd, ohmahgawd! Corrupt city politics? Perish the thought! According to Denby, the series will feature Officer O'Madhauen fingering wanton jaywalkers, then move on to the next installment with a crackdown on those irreverent speeders, then its on to scofflaw parking (wrong zone, parking over 72 hours, straddling the lines, meter infractions, etc.).
This must be why Officer O'Madhauen has not only gotten another haircut, but also mowed his lawn shorter and flatter than the top of Dirty Harry's imagination.
We simply cannot make up stuff like this, no matter how wild we try to pretend. You can read more at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/inalameda/detail?entry_id=70984#ixzz0xxAAlPuO
The trailer, complete with Island backdrops, is here
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Its stories like the one above that remind you just why you love living here. Not so pleasant is the reminder that charm comes at a fearful cost, especially with our history of fires in the Bay Area (sympathies to the Russians during their travail). Victorian houses were made to burn, or so it seems, as the habit of overconstruction, tangled beamwork, plaster and lathe walls, internal wind-tunnels, and wire+post electrics all conspire to doom those painted ladies to inevitable flames.
Firefighters responded to a two alarm after being sent to the wrong address initially, finally knocking down the blaze in the 1600 block of Clinton after an hour's effort. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Another pleasurable aspect of living in a small town are the brough-hahas that occasionally erupt over what Big City folks would term "peanuts." We got an urgent missive from mayoral candidate Adam Gillitt midweek that complained about a couple "respected" bloggers. Basically, Gillitt issued some critical commentary to an SFgate post by blogger John Knox White, who had written about the failure of the Transportation Commission (a rather inflated title for a committee that exists mainly to discuss the timing of pedestrian walking signals at traffic lights).
A couple commenters issued the usual flames and Lauren Do, who runs a couple blogs in addition to the one that attaches to SFgate independent of the discussion, noted that Gillitt seemed not to understand what Knox was trying to do.
Instead of responding to the flamers, who clearly were getting personal, Gillitt chose to attack Do and Knox and then send a complaint, cc'ed to several bloggers, to the SFgate forum moderator, alleging a number of things that turned out to be not true.
Here is an excerpt from what was sent us: "My comment on the post (link above) was meant as an encouragement to get my fellow citizens to get involved in their local government, but Ms Do chose to use it as an opportunity to attack me and my campaign on a personal level.
I understand Ms Do has her own private blog where such biased attacks might be considered more apropos, but I do not think such conduct is befitting an organization with such a respected and storied history as the Chronicle, nor is it fair to the political process when it is my understanding that the Chronicle nor the SFGate has a policy of endorsing candidates in Municipal elections."
Now, we must say we generally like Do, and Knox, for both of them grant a sort of respectable aroma to this Wild West period of blogging, and their contributions to the SFgate tend to be well-informed and well-articulated and absent of inflammatory rhetoric. Do did not use her official position with SFgate in any way to handle this. In fact, her most current entry there had to do with the flap over the alleged misuse of gasoline pumps by the fire chief.
We also like Gillitt, as he seems to be very aware of the back-end problems that are hindering this city from moving right, left or forward.
When we checked back on the story, virtually all commentary had been removed -- by whom, we do not know. All the flames were gone, for the most part, as well as all of Do's comments and Knox's rebuttals. At the end of the day, it was a tempest in a teapot.
As for Lauren Do's SFgate story on the Fire Chief, that refers to the latest whoop-de-do going on at Silly Hall. David Kapler apparently had been accused of improper use of city vehicles while employed as Chief of the Tahoe-Douglas Fire Protection District. He was also accused by representatives of a casino of soliciting contributions in exchange for support on a casino construction project and of a variance another builder sought that would allow it to avoid installing sprinklers in a planned parking garage, news reports issued at the time said. Kapler also came under fire for soliciting contributions that included ski passes, a mountain bike, and vacations for a program aimed at curbing department absenteeism, the same news reports said (information of allegations from SFgate).
Kapler resigned as a result of those allegations, although subsequent investigation cleared him of all wrong-doing.
On the Island, Kapler had a verbal from the City Manager -- oh dear, it does get complicated -- that use of the pumps was permitted and included in his contract for his modified personal vehical, which serves as an emergency response vehical from time to time. The Interim Manager has confirmed this was the case, which seems to let the Chief off the hook this time.
Our Editor began rending the remaining hairs on his sparse head after reading the tortured syntax and bollocksed associational verbiage on The Island blog. "I simply cannot plagiarize any of this in good conscience; it's too badly written!"
Ya gotta love this Island. We're special.
A bunch of things happened this weekend, but since none of us has any money, none of us went. Jack London Square held a foodie fest about Fast Food that featured music and stuff, but food you cannot afford to buy only causes distress when placed on display. Sunday, they closed the Av' up in Berzerkeley for a stroll there among the tchotchke booths and the usual open air faire kind of thing. Rocky the mechanical bull apparently made a return to this end-of-summer event.
Nearly 2,000 athletes took part Sunday in the Escape from Alcatraz triathalon, including Islander Barry McKeown -- who has been paralyzed from the waist down since 1994. You go, brother.
Its Local Music Month at KFOG, and folks can snag a CD for a bargain $5 by going to KFOG.com. All proceeds benefit local schools, so the bargain is well worth the price for those of you who still have bank accounts.
It's been a cooling week of overhead fog on the Island our hometown set here in California on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Javier has started plowing down the hapless stunted stalks of what never bloomed this disappointing summer in the garden out back of the House. The first red potatoes have already swum up from the loose sand that calls itself soil on the Island. Late garlic clumps are being pulled only now from the loam before they decide, well, if not this year might as well try again the next.
Its now the eleventh summer of reporting in Island-Life on things happening around the Bay and if this is the first time you read this sentence, we congratulate you for spending your time wisely out living the events on which we report instead of hulking in front of that darn computer screen. Life is short and its a long, long time to be gone.
As for us, our wheels bump against the desktop if we forget the chocks, and for that reason the dance floor is not a region where our limited abilities can perform well. Ah well, there are some born without noses who cannot smell the broken rosemary; everybody has their limits. We do not have the choices you have; life is what you are doing so that we can report it and live vicariously through it. Along with a number of others. So by all means, Carpe Diem. If you must imagine us as we look, imagine a bearded Cutter John sitting in his chair on a Bloom County hilltop gazing out over the fields of dandylions and mist. If you cannot dance, then smell and look. But always do.
The Staff has been preparing for the Annual Mountain Sabbatical with a different attitude this year. No one knows what is going to happen. No one knows if this is the last trip to the High Country or if this is just another period of trouble leading to yet another year of the same. Nights the Editor sits among scales and bags of carefully measured foodstuffs and bear cans while running about the usual tasks. Maps up on the wall display the treeless and trackless alpine slopes and mountain tarns of the High Country. James McMurtry plays over the PA.
howl all night long
The Editor notes that McMurtry will be appearing at this October's HSBF in Golden Gate Park. Something for which to look forward.
The Editor comes from a stern people. They were retrograde Catholics who had joined the offshoots of sects which had always regretted the modernization of Vatican II way back thenm, which meant that they were medievalists. They would have been heartened by current events and trends in the Church in which a sort of regression to a past time seems to be going on. But such people tend to knaw inwardly until the heart stops far earlier than expected and the Editor had long since fled that clan for the warmer and more congenial Unitarian air of California. There he had fought on the front lines at the clinic barricades against the Lifers and the Mad-eyed Theologians. This had resulted in a number of excommunications and any number of threats added to the ominous warning, "You best not come back here!" Punctuated with a nice burning cross on the lawn and a shotgun blast through the windows. And so for the Editor, there was no going back to the Sunny South. Nope. Here he had taken root.
Over at the House on Otis, the place is filled with melons. Probably some kind of harvest came in along with extraordinary deals on eggs, which seem to suddenly available at less than a penny a piece nowadays. Perhaps the salmonella had something to do with that. But the melons are a mystery, a sudden exhuberance of fruit that appeared quite suddenly and with abundance. Nearly every cushion and chair sports a melon which arrived from the Food Bank, via friendly strangers and from any number of well-wishers who know how desperate the straits are at the House until the place began to resemble a Buckaroo Banzai spaceship. Somebody had fashioned together a sort of tableaux made of a mannikin and clothes found on the beach and placed in the figure's arms a large ovoid honeydew with an infant's chapeau. The title, scrawled in magic marker on cardboard read, "Madonna et Melon".
Meanwhile, surrounded by melons, Xavier longs for a good old-fashioned hamburger. He, Xavier, Martini, Denby, Jose, Rolf, Marsha and Tipitina took one down to the beach and played touch football with it while Bonkers and Wickiwup ran back and forth providing interference and Tipitina's McFrugle's player blasted songs from her OK GO CD until Marlene yelled at them to bring back the food she was planning to make into melon soup.
those kids from dancing but why would you want to
Mr. Howitzer, walking past the Post Office, was accosted by a real woman with child, both dirty and dressed in rags. The woman held up a small sign and called out to the real estate magnate, "Sir! Sir!", but Mr. Howitzer snarled "Go back home!"
The woman, taken aback by this tone, muttered, "Soy Californio!"
At that moment Eisenhower, Mr. Howitzer's dog, broke loose to chase after a rolling grapefruit which had escaped the shopping cart from Waifsay across the lot. A truck coming out of the PO, making the usual illegal left turn there bumped the dog abruptly before the driver slammed on his brakes.
Eisenhower sort of flew back a few feet and staggered a big with a bemused
expression -- the dog was a chunky Weimariner similar to Mr. Howitzer's
previous dog which had gone missing a couple Thanksgivings ago.
The blow did not kill the dog, but after that day Eisenhower's coat began to develop a yellowish tinge. His behavior changed as well. In the dog park, he lost his aggressive territoriality, and started sharing his toys with other dogs and protecting the smaller ones from bullies. He started taking chewsticks out to the racoons and leaving kibble for the neighbor's cat. Furthermore, all around the house, everywhere there was a portrait of one of the Bushes or of the Great Confabulator who had brought Conservatism in from the American wilderness a distinct odor of pet pee emanated. He started perking up and listening with interest on Sundays when music swelled from the Lutheran church across the way.
One day, right on the piano, right in front of Nancy's signed photograph, a steaming heap was found.
Yes, it was as Mr. Howitzer had feared. The absolute worst: Eisenhower had turned into a Yellow Dog Democrat.
O the anguish.
This is a time of year that is all preparation for leavetaking. The changes are subtle and the summer continues to sway like a woman dancing with her eyes closed in a hot sweaty bar filled with saxophone and memories. But the students are all packing up to go off and do what they never have done before -- leave home and enter a brave new world of learning things your mother didn't tell you anything about. Back to School sales are blathering their annual blather on the radio, in the newspaper, in the letterbox. And even here in California, here on the Island, wild birds form chevrons, practicing their leavetaking for Buenos Aires. Something about the light as it cuts through the window panes in the late afternoon looks a little different and something about sudden gusts of wind outside sound a little more insistent. Something is about to happen and a wind is due to come down from the North. All the butterflies have vanished; you saw the last one about a week ago.
Somerset sits on a stool in the Old Same Place Bar, drinking his last drink there on the Island. He is leaving and taking his family with him to go back to Terra Haute, even though it does not look like things are going to be any better there than here. A lot of families are leaving, going to stay with relatives, with friends, with any old situation. Folks are even returning to the ruins of New Orleans, for ruins in one place are just as good as ruins in another and might as well be in some place you know as miserable in some place you don't.
Need to get rid of any things, Padraic asks, hoping for some kind of windfall.
Somerset shakes his head. The trouble has lasted so long all the things that were are broken, torn up and useless. All has been badly mended and its off to the junkyard for the cracked dishes, the shattered and torn furniture, the broken electrics long out of date and everything else. He had come to the Bay Area on the tails of an insurance job offer and had done well for a long while. Then the Great Recession had hit and despite every effort, despite superhuman struggle and long nights and scrimping and saving and arguments about spending twelve dollars for a movie luxury or a case of beer their best had not been good enough. The house had been foreclosed and the car repossessed and they were down to the last dollar from the last garage sale. In the morning, they would toss a few things into the used wagon they had got from a neighbor and join the reverse wave of Okies washing backwards toward a sullen and inhospitable shore of dust. Where at least the rents were more reasonable.
All across the Island one sees these piles of shelves, boxes of books and clothing, dishes, lone sofas standing like Edith Piaf singing quiet songs of abandonment. Eventually, these piles erode as if by stop-action photography to nothing, for there always remain a few still fighting on who can use that pan with half of its teflon scratched away or those picture frames and the inevitable baby stroller.
Then again, there are those who drop a dishwasher or a microwave on the curb and angrily slice the power cord, as if to say, "I am going but the fighter still remains. You vultures shall not profit by my dismay and by leaving I shall leave you poorer than before. Pay yourselves for disposal, you scum." And so the world is indeed poorer for the loss of not only a useful thing but also good will. When those people recall their stay in California it shall be of a sullen and inhospitable people who welcomed them not and their anger shall abide.
At the other end of the bar sits Ng, who came in walking with stiff legs. Years ago, fleeing with his family the NVA advance, captured and pushed against a wall, a young captain of the North, barely a teenager, had shot him in both knees before blowing off the head of his sister beside him. The young NVA captain stood there looking at him, holding the pistol with an expression that declared to the world that this was his first atrocity, the first of probably what would be many more, and he dared Ng with his eyes the way teenagers do all the time around the world before leaving them there. The body of his sister fell down in front of him, twitched and was still while his parents wept. Eventually they made their way to a refugee camp in Thailand, but it had taken several more days. Because of that experience he walked with a limp as he went about his work as a mechanic at Blanding Automotive Works. Beside him sat Roman, a former Croatian who had tried to return to his native village Kortzyn near Split on the seacoast, only to find that not only the house, but the street, the neighborhood and most of the town had been obliterated by raids and subsequent bombs and most of his neighbors lay in shallow graves a few miles away and the name of the town would soon be erased from all the maps. He also worked in the garage on Blanding Avenue.
For these two there was no going back. Roman had always dreamed of owning a fruit orchard beside the ocean, and here on the Island the backyard sported a plum tree he had rescued from blight, to the eternal gratitude of his landlord, as well as some sunlight soil, where he planted grapes and other produce. And so he was able to make his own homegrown slivovitz in the old way and had become content, for his friend Ng owned a boat and the two often went out fishing together. Nothing he could do could ever bring back his neighbors or his family or his house. Not the girl with corn-silk braids next door, nor his murdered grandmother with her eyes, nor the water silo or the vanished well could ever be restored to the way they had been. What he had for now was enough.
Up on the bar telly, the news was showing a clip of Martin Luther King's famous "I have a dream" speech, the anniversary of which had passed this weekend. The camera cut away from the clip excerpt to show the florid face of a demigogue who had chosen the anniversary and the location to hold a rally of fascist brownshirts in Washington D.C. Several people threw celery stalks from their bloody marys at the screen so Padraic changed the channel to HBO and movie which showed a man digging a hole with a hunchback in a graveyard. The man cursed the work (What a filthy job!) until the hunchback, played by the bug-eyed comic actor Marty Feldman said, "Could be worse."
"How!" shouted the other actor.
"Could be raining . . . ".
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the laughing waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 22, 2010
IF YA SHOW ME A SIGN, I'LL BE WILLIN'
This week's headline photo is a simple shot of a storefront in the Southshore Shopping Mall which underwent a facelift and name change shortly before the bottom dropped out a while ago. Its also a shameless plug for businesses to set up shop here. Right now the Island has prime locations available in a mall that clearly by this shot taken on a weekend (please examine the large crowds reflected in the windows) which is chock full of potential. It outta, as we counted a 50% vacancy rate there. But then, its all about location, location, location.
For those of you seeking to supply the needs of folks wanting to build up the image of "Fine Living by the Bay" the number is right there in the storefront window. Opportunity knocks. Strike a deal. We got an Island you gonna love.
Only you can change this from being the Sign of the Times.
WHAT'S GOING ON
Word is out that the big outdoor festivals are turning over less revenue from reduced ticket sales this year due to the Great Recession. Some folks in the finance biz are starting to talk about ways to avoid worse scenarios and the "Big D" is being bandied about as both consumers and companies (plus Government) retract spending and tighten the purse strings.
Conservatives of a certain ilk should be delighted by the present circumstances, as all government is being stripped back to basically no services except military, and excess spending by everybody has been cut to basically bare bone. This means nobody spends anything and nothing happens, which appears to be Conservative Nirvana.
On the upside, the HSBF, which is entirely free and paid for by a bluesgrass-loving benefactor has established its initial lineup, which includes, besides the usual suspects, Larry McMurtry, he of the Heartless Bastards and antiwar fame and our beloved, our much esteemed, our long treasured Patti Smith.
Not for us bobby-sox girls with names like Muffi, and Valerie, who dotted their i's with little hearts and romped around to the Beach Boys or Abba. We had no poster of Farah Faucett on the wall in our dorm. We plastered posters of a gal photographed by Mapplethorpe with hairy underarms and a beater t-shirt on our walls and blasted those debutantes out of the lanes with howling feedback and "Rock and Roll Babylon" and "25th Floor".
Yep, our adorable Patti Smith will grace us with curses and style in the Golden Gate Park this October.
It's been a cool and foggy week up to the weekend on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. This weekend marked the first time Summer really made its presence felt as the El Nino fog burnt off for many adventures along the Coast.
Saturday started off inauspicious, but by afternoon the Strand was packed with dogs and kids and volleyball and BBQ from the jetty all the way up and around the Cove. By Sunday, the bright color dabs of parasails and windsurfers dotted the intense blue sky over the high tide water as temps racheted up into the nineties, bringing a real sense of summer at last.
Cowboy Wiz dropped in for his sixty-seventh birthday, saying that Phoenix had topped 110 degrees again. So the old barfly tugged on his alligator boots, his turquoise-studded belt and set his Stetson at an angle to troll the waters of the locals around here. We told him to do his best to stay out of fights, as few in the Bay Area still enjoy the old-fashioned knuckleduster quite the way he learned in knockdown saloons and fandango joints across the West, complete with smashing crockery, splintering chairs, bleeding stitches and broken bones.
Ah, them were the days.
So, after a mildly regretful evening of Jaegermeister shots he finished off his birthday in true Western style by going up to seal Craggy Doyle's cabin roof under the blazing sun, fix the jammed garbaged disposal, cook up a BBQ feast for a gang of outlaws passing through and generally needle Craggy Doyle -- who was somewhat hard of hearing -- by whispering every time he talked to him.
"Hey Doyle, yer shoe's untied."
"Doyle, yer fly's unzipped."
"Doyle, the sink is about to overflow and your underwear is showin'."
"SPEAK LOUDER! I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"
"I SAID YOUR EX-WIFE IS ON THE PHONE SAYIN' YOU GOT LESS DOWN BELOW THAN UP TOP!"
"Oh okay, that's all right then. . .".
Then the two would start punching one another in a way that Doyle always lost because Wiz would kick loose Doyle's wooden leg untilt the man fell over. Real cowboys know it's always good to have long-term friends who know your strengths and your weaknesses.
To work off the steam all the outlaws went out for a bike ride with Susan leading the way. The sun glanced off off the points on her collar and wrist spikes most charmingly and at the end of the day a fine time was had by all.
The heat kept off the fog well into the evening as the nearly full moon began its leisurely walk across the sky. Lionel returned from his movie date with Jacqueline and got berated -- again -- by Luther, who never could understand the man's fascination with the oh-fay hairdresser when so many fine Sisters were available.
"Why don't you go out with that Yvonne over at the Creek?" Luther said, but Lionel's opinion that Yvonne was a nurse at the Clinic and too smart a gal.
"Truth be told," Luther said. "Just about every woman out there is smarter than you, Lionel."
It also may be added that it was generally agreed that no one could decide for which party on either side this was most distressing.
Meanwhile Tommy and Toby were having margaritas on board their sloop, the Lavendar Surprise, with Lynette and Shelly. They all commented on the fine weather as the moon continued its promenade above. Lynette said the weather made her hands feel better. All the bones had been smashed up during the attack long ago outside the Pink Triangle Bar in Boston. She had nearly died in the snowbank where she had fallen under the baseball bats, and there were still health problems. All of them had experienced, either directly or indirectly through friends something similar before coming to California and the Island. She looked at Shelly, whose grey eyes reminded her of the nickname for the Wise Goddess, Glaucous Athena. She would never have met her had she never left Boston.
There was Trouble every day, but for now, there was the slap of the water against the ship's hull after a fine day of sailing on the laughing waves and the pitcher of margaritas and old friends and lovers. From across the way, the strains of an acoustic guitar drifted from a party. For the moment, life was good.
Across the way, Denby was playing music with Andre -- the entire Household had gone down to the water for relief from the heat and Occasional Quentin had brought a jug of wine with him which he passed around. Somebody sort of found a cache of beer cooling in the water which had been sort of left behind by a boating party. Sort of. The beer got definitively handed around as well.
"Trouble in mind
Rolf clinked bottles with Marsha; they understood one another. Perhaps no job or prospects, but definitely no Vopos, no Stacheldraht, no husband knuckle sandwiches and definitely no Jersey despair. Marsha fingered the sand dollar that she had kept of the two found hours after arriving at the beach so long ago.
Bonkers sniffed at a box he found sitting on a bench there and whined. Somebody had left what looked like a simple cheese hotdish embedded with what looked to be jalapenos there. It didn't look that old and perhaps it was still edible. There was even a plastic spoon in there . . . .
At that moment, walking by on separate walks, Father Danyluk of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint and Pastor Nyquist both heard the music and paused to admire the peripatetic moon, each according to their likes and their liturgies. Bless us O lord for this moment and the simple joys. The moon continued its walk, unheeding. Pallas Athena going to meet her brother in the morning.
The West is big and wide and full of a million stories and a friend says you can go crazy if you listen to 'em all. The Editor turned from the window and looking out at all the bonfires flickering far away on the beach, Lights of Earth, another friend had said, meaning not the fires but the people there, each one a bright star. Thinking of friends, those who had passed on and those who abide, he returned to his desk and the pool of light cast by the lamp.
From far across way the long wail of the train ululated across the moon-walked waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the starlit gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London Waterfront headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 15, 2010
PUT ME ON THAT WIND HE RIDES
This week's photo is from Island reader and amateur photog Mike, who took this image of a Cooper's Hawk dining on a mouse just outside his window.
Tastey mouses. Yum!
MOTHER MARY WON'T YOU WHISPER
Something from the Past certainly is done and it done fingered Patrick McCabe, formerly resident on Walnut Street but now cell occupant at Santa Rita Jail, where he awaits extradition to Ireland on charges of sexual abuse in Ireland while serving as a Catholic priest. McCabe is alleged to have molested children from the early 1970's onward until allegations of immoral conduct led the local diocese to move him to the United States in 1981 where he continued working as a priest in Sacramento and the North counties until his departure from the priesthood in 1988. That same year he moved to the Island.
Interpol located him here a few years ago, and in 2007 the ex-priest admitted to wrongdoing while serving in Dublin. He also had scant good words for his former employer, claiming that the Church treated him for a head cold when his condition was more like pneumonia. He also stated to Island detective, Aaron Hardy and police Sgt. Kevin McNiff that he knew he did have a problem with his attraction to young boys. The 2009 Murphy Report, which blasted church authorities for covering up sex crimes with little or no regard for the wellbeing of the children, did not list McCabe because he was never brought to trial.
The man is now quite elderly and in poor health. As there are no local allegations against him, he has been entirely truthful to Island police on all counts, and the Irish charges are based on secondary testimony, it is possible McCabe may be able to fight off extradition, although its clear that he will live with his disease and terrible self-knowledge until his last unshriven breath.
(some details from an article by Angela Woodall in the 08/13/10 Alameda Journal.)
THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE ONE I LOVE
Flames lit up the night and sirens wailed as the Old Encinal Terminals pier behind the former Del Monte warehouse caught fire. The pier goes back quite a number of years and was the site of the first high-speed container crane to be installed on the West Coast. The fire destroyed about 100 feet of the 700 foot long pier. The warehouse was being used by a business for refurbishing shipping containers and is the subject of a redevelopment project by owner Peter Wang. The Great Recession has stalled that project for the time being. Police are investigating the fire's cause at the untenanted pier.
THOSE PERNICIOUS THREE DOTS
Ron Dellums is not seeking re-election to Oaktown Mayor -- to everyone's relief. Even the East Bay Express has stated that his tenure was "disappointing" . . . The Island is seeing the new PG&E SmartMeters installed at a rapid pace despite allegations of dangerous amounts of electromagnetic radiation . . . The deadline for filing to be on the November ballot has passed, leaving us with Frank Matarrese, Tony Daysog, Doug deHaan, and Marie Gilmore to battle with Kenneth "Kenny the Clown" Kahn for the Mayoral Hot Seat . . . Current Mayor Beverly Johnson is one of eight aiming at one of the two Council seats, including Lena Tam, Marilyn Ashcraft, Tracy Jenson, Rob Bonita, Jeff Mitchell and Jean Sweeney. With Mitchell (Editor) and Sweeney (activist) joining Kahn as non-professional politicians, should get interesting. . . Proposition 19 is likely to garner national and international attention as it seeks to legalize medical pot dispensaries for the purposes of raising tax revenues. Pro Prop 19 folks have raised five times the cash collected by its opponents, so they are now contributing this money to selected office seekers locally and statewide. Just say Now . . .
ALL ON AN ISLAND
Its been cooler than usual and overcast late into the day all week here on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
With the times being so hard, food tends to arrive in the larder in very curious forms, and usually is entirely unlike what you usually have. Jose and Xavier got a big bucket of Black Lentils from the food bank and looked to the internet for ways to make something of this bonanza. Neither one of them knew that the efforts to make a meal for the Household would result in one of those "Only in the Bay Area" stories.
Xavier downloaded a black lentil recipe without checking all the ingredients, the recipe or the process, which is pretty much what all good cooks will do, but not our boys, and so they were well on the way to making savory lentils when they each came across an item of which no one had ever heard.
"Add one full tablespoon of garam masala. This will give the dish its distinctive savor and aroma."
They each looked at one another. "Maybe we can just add celery or Worcestershire sauce instead," offered Xavier.
"No no, if it is so distinctive it must be something special and we have to have it. We have already begun everything else. We just need to know if it's a spice or like a vegetable or a kind of meat," Jose said.
So the two did what any enterprising American-Wabos would do in such circumstances: they went onto the Internet at the Free Island Library. They each knew that it was a free library because the sign said so. "Are their libraries in Alta California which are not free," Xavier asked. There ensued a lively discussion as to whether the library was free because nobody paid for the right to read books or whether the name referenced the political condition of the Island until Jose told Xavier to shut up and stop asking stupid questions while he hunted for garam masala on the library's free access computer. As no one at the House had enough money for computers, let alone monthly internet service, the library remained their conduit for news and international affairs, so free worked well enough for them.
"It says here on the bottom that garam masala is the most commonly used spice from Tunisia across North Africa, the Middle East and on to all of India," Jose said. "It also says that it is universally available but that many households make their own so as to have the freshest condiment in the house."
"So that's it!" Xavier said. "Off to Plucky's Grocery." And with that the young man dashed off with the five dollars the two of them had managed to scrounge by lifting all the cushions in the house, checking the gutter, the underside of dryers at the laundromat, begging and just going through their own pockets.
A little concerned that five dollars might not be enough for some kind of exotic spice, Jose stayed on the computer. "To make garam masala, assemble the following spices: one 1/4 tsp saffron . . . "
Saffron! That was the first ingredient?! Jose did not know much about India anything but he did know that saffron from India was hideously expensive and so up he jumped to intercept Xavier with the precious five dollars without checking any further. Hell, with that kind of gourmet expectation they could just mix the lentils with day-old and Worcestershire as usual and grill up veggie burgers.
He ran into Xavier who was triumphantly waving a sheet of paper in front of him inside the Waifsay Grocery. "Guess who I ran into!"
"You have the recipe", Jose said. "You look at what's innit yet?"
"No. He said it was easy. Nobody knew what it was in Plucky's and not in Traitor Schmoes either. And no one here in the Waifsay. They say all say go to speciality shop. But I got this recipe right from the main source! Somebody from India!"
"Give me that!" Jose said.
HOW TO MAKE GARAM MASALA
Jose looked at Xavier dubiously, saying, "Somehow I do not think this recipe is all genuine. Who gave this to you?"
"Amir," said Xavier.
"Amir?! Amir Booshwadi of the Blue Ganges restaurant? I have known Amir for over fifteen years and never known the man to speak two serious words in consecutive order! First time I met him he said quite seriously that he felt very Northwest Indian that day and could not speak to me."
"I do not get it," said Xavier.
"He meant he was feeling 'velly Sihk'," said Jose.
"I still do not get it," Xavier said.
"Here we are in the middle of the most cosmopolitan area in the most cosmo State of the American Republic and nobody here knows about 'the most commonly used spice from Morocco across North Africa, the Middle East and on to all of India'!" Jose stamped his foot. "All gabachos esta stupido!"
A voice broke into their discussion there in the spice section of the Waifsay. "Excuse me, do either of you gentlemen know the difference between Saigon Cinnamon and regular cinnamon?" A short Asian woman, perhaps Chinese-American, perhaps not, stood there holding two bottles of a reddish powder.
Jose looked at her. "The Saigon Cinnamon undoubtably costs at least a dollar more," he said.
The woman looked at the two bottles in her hands. "Why yes, that is exactly true! Did you say you were looking for garam masala? There it is -- under the Cinnamon."
And there it was. Bottles of it that looked as if they had resided there for one thousand years. Layers of dust covered each one. And each one cost exactly $1.50. No one knew it was there, no one had inventoried the stock since god knows when and no one had changed the price since they had been placed there sometime in the 1950's. Or perhaps earlier than that. Javier grabbed a bottle and after paying for their purchase, they ran all the way back to the house just as the Mary Poppins Summer School was letting out after a day trip to the dye factory in Oaktown.
Those of you who have never employed garam masala should know that "1 tbls garam masala" is an aweful lot of masala, and probably a misprint. More likely the original recipe called for "1 tsp", for when the boys dumped a tablespoon of the pungent spice mixture into the lentils the aroma filled the house and all the other houses in the neighborhood with a peculiar scent that evoked djinns, whirling belly dancers, geniis, busy bazaars thronged by people wearing djellabas and headscarves. Guys coming home to the usual tuna hot dish or chicken enchilada sniffed the air and wondered what was up in the kitchen as they came through the door for four blocks in all directions. For a time, ancient Persia glided along the hallways and alleys of that district in silk slippers with curled toes, resurrecting a time of magic carpets and turbans as little girls ran down the street unfurling long translucent colored scarves while the two cooks reeled with waving arms to bang into the stacked pots and the refridgerator.
But a little smoke in the air cannot hold back folks used to noshing on raw habaneros. The two of them who had just been cursing with language that would have turned a sailor pale only a moment ago soon bustled about the little kitchen, getting in one another's way and singing merrily little songs, like "Siempre Siempre Abualita" a song by Tish Hinojosa, who is a darling of the Lilith Faire, a place where gentlemen such as these were hardly welcome. Certainly not in their Appolonian aspect. However, Jose in wearing the apron with sunflowers printed on it represented some other aspect at the moment.
That night the denizens of Marlene and Andre's household on Otis all gathered around the pot and all admired the extraordinary odor, an odor that was a product of NorCal, and the Bay Area in particular, for it had all resolved itself satisfactorily after an Asian-American woman had asked two Wabs about the fine distinctions between two Vietnamese spices in a thoroughly Gabacho grocery store.
And as they all sat back or reclined after their fabulous repast that included Food Bank lentils, rice, and ninty-nine cent jugs of Burgundy wine, for the meal had begun after the sun had set, allowing for a breaking of fast in the middle of Ramadan.
And so, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the holy waters of the estuary as the little locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 8, 2010
THEY TORE DOWN PARADISE AND PUT UP A PARKING LOT
This week's photo-op got phoned in by a reader who ordered Old Schmidt to haul his keister down to Webster Street where they are busy renovating the old Tillie's building. This is what the workmen uncovered there.
Latterly we have returned to peeking in on the other blogs running here, especially that of Lauren Do, who has managed to finagle a relationship with SFgate. Lauren's Blog has been called by some entities a "reputable Blog", which makes all of us wonder about the quality of our society. Is Lauren Do hanging out in Tiffany's, dressed in pearls and white gloves now? And the rest of us, are we sort of shady types sporting 3-day stubbles, dissolute tramps flying the flag of dirty slips and torn lingerie below the hemline? Yes, we are the sort of reporters about whom your mother warned. Likely to dangle any sort of participle in front of an innocent babe, corrupting the City's youth with purple adjectives and limpid prose and so on.
Beware Lauren: from Reputable there than be only one place to which to descend. O the ignominy!
In any case, we note in Lauren's latest her curious attempt to obtain emails that are supposedly available for public scrutiny under any number of "sunshine laws", only to be told the City does not retain the emails due to "lack of server space", that the emails are not subject to (Federal) Government Code Section 6254(a) and furthermore all emails are considered "drafts", and so discardable.
Ms. Do's response was pretty much the same as our IT tech's response in-house here. "Nonsense and poppycock on each and every issue!" shouted Denby. "I have run email systems for government and private industry as a consultant for the past 20 years and helped to enforce Sarbanes-Oxley requirements for open disclosure. In goverment ALL communications must be retained for YEARS and there are long-proven ways to do so! I know Groupwise (the system claimed to be in use by the City) and I KNOW it can be done!"
Ms. Do did not rest on the Official Response, as it was clearly ridiculous even to a non-techie, and so got the Californians Aware, a watchdog group with the mission to ensure open government, involved. Their rep stated, according to Lauren's Blog, "this routine deletion of emails could be construed as a violation of California Government Code section 34090 and could potentially be stopped by a court order. Specifically, the government code section does not allow the destruction of records less than two years old."
People should also know (see following item) that there is an issue involving a Councilperson who is accused of misusing her office to provide information to parties involved in negotiation with the City -- by way of E-mail.
She may be "Respectable", but we applaud Lauren Do's effort, which is precisely the thing that locally-oriented blogs should do. Excellent work. You go, girl!
The article was last found at this hyperlink:
Her main blog is still BLOGGING BAYPORT at Wordpress.com.
Moving right along we come to the issue that has been ruffling feathers for quite a while and which looks now to be descending, pretty much as we expected, into a Gordian's knot of legal imbroglio.
As the entire country should know by now, the Island has had a plot of land open up due to the departure of the Navy -- the largest within any metropolitan area in the country that remains undeveloped in fact. After a great deal of non-success for any number of reasons, one developer was left standing from a gaggle of orginally interested parties. This developer is SunCal which signed an exclusivity agreement with the City to handle every square inch of what was expected to be handed over by the Navy as part of the Peace Dividend made possible by the collapse of the Soviet Union.
All across the Country, as military bases closed, local communities made ready to handle the expected windfall of land -- or the disaster of lost revenue in places where losing a base meant no gain for anybody. If communities presented comprehensive plans within a stipulated time period, the base lands were handed over for the token price of $1.
Here on the Island, one developer after another backed out of promises while negotiations for toxic waste cleanup continued. SunCal presented a comprehensive plan -- we actually have read it -- that put forth in over 300 pages a combined business and housing development with allocations for some 3,000 - 4,000 dwelling units including low-income housing, parks, trails, bus stops, a new ferry terminal, etc.
In the meantime, as the decade passed, people moved into the vacated buildings there -- its not like the place has remained totally vacant. TWA kept an airplane hangar there, the old Officer's Club became a place for Islanders to hold wedding receptions and other functions, and businesses set up shop in the big aircraft hangars. Some of the sailor housing is still being used for low income residents. Stats about income from this activity range from 8 to $18 million dollars per year, meaning the City is not exactly losing revenue during this entire time.
Unfortunately whoever handles SunCal's public affairs seems to have all the finesse of a chimpanzee. First, they blow their image on the Island as beneficial partners by agressively pushing for high-volume housing and exemptions from existing City height limits. Then they get the Mayor to conduct these "Robocalls" in which a recorded message from Mayor Beverly promises all sorts of stuff that turned out to be vaporware. Thirdly, they toss away months of committee negotiations in a blatant effort to score a greedy coup on everything by forcing the City to pay $300,000 for a special election that would have given SunCal total rights to the land to do with as they pleased with virtually no serious obligation to the City and entirely put the kibosh on any negotiation whatsoever. The process of gathering signatures for this election involved deception, shikanery, and outright foolishness from the getgo. Everything about it was distasteful
The Special Election tanked the initiative and served only to stir up a hornets nest against SunCal, which should have seen its entire efforts here as doomed, if only for the sheer incompetence of its marketing arm. This is a company which has had an history of failure in several California projects, a recent history of bad-faith decisions with regard to the City and a set of relationships with disreputable financial entities which we are sure Lauren Do would put off with protestations meant to preserve personal honor and integrity along the lines of "Sirs, I do not associate with riff raff and scaliwags! I am shocked. Simply shocked by your forward attentions".
When it came time to renew the Exclusivity Contract, Mayor Beverly, who we believe must also feel somewhat abused by vulgar association after the Robocall incident, along with the majority of the City Council who had turned against SunCal's increasingly dubious schemes one after another, all voted to terminate their association with this less than savory suitor. In fact, of the original 300 page document, very little had remained going forward. Parks had vanished, plans for infrastructure building, such as roads and sewers had evaporated, the promised ferry landing looked to be entirely unfunded by anything, and an awful lot of unexplained white space had materialized on the planning maps.
"Oh that strip along the water! Well, that's going to be either a bank of high rise condos or a set of offices. Did we promise a park there? Can't recall that part . . ." was SunCal's response when folks challenged newly appearing issues.
As it devolved, the Great Recession caused some changes inside City Hall while all this was going on. We lost the City Manager and took on Anne Marie Gallant, a feisty take-no-prisoners and get-it-done sort of gal with a lot of experience digging folks out of budgetary holes and conducting internecine political campaigns. Lena Tam, on the City Council dug in her heels regarding SunCal and earned herself a formidible opponent in one who was used to the nastiest of small town politics. As a result, Tam is now facing a raft of charges that allege she sent info to SunCal and to other agencies during sensitive negotiations when she should not have done so. As Tam put it, "This seems well timed for the elections."
There is an excellent article in the NY Times written by a local here on that imbroglio. Whether Tam was ever involved in any impropriety regarding SunCal we think her involvement had no real impact on the final result. Nevertheless, SunCal has now levied a law suit against the City, claiming that Gallant acted with malicious intent to halt its honest efforts to make a buck.
The developer accused Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant of sabotaging its efforts to develop the base, saying she wanted the city to develop the site instead. The company says the city breached its contract with SunCal, which it said violates the U.S. Constitution.
SunCal contends that city staff members are seeking to destroy a development that will significantly enhance the environment and add value to the community, all so they can perpetuate their positions and ensure their job longevity.
The suit seeks to have the court reinstate the developer's exclusive agreement to negotiate a development deal for Alameda Point, nix the council's July 20 vote that effectively fired the developer, and stop the city from moving forward on any other plans for the site.
SunCal's suit asserts that negotiations were proceeding well until Gallant was hired as interim city manager in April 2009. After that, SunCal said the city put up roadblocks intended to frustrate its development efforts.
No, to tell the truth, even if Gallant had been working behind the scenes like some Tolkein character to thwart SunCal, Suncal's own behavior had scuttled what probably started out as a fairly reasonable project to develop. The idea that "negotiations were proceeding well" is some fantasy with no basis in fact. According to our best recollections, SunCal's representatives worked at crosspurposes to its own efforts at every step along the way, save for the maligned and disregarded planning committee meetings, so as to savage the very effort all this was supposed to have accomplished.
It does not matter how good the project was and no silly nuisance suit can rescue the situation now. SunCal drilled a hole in the perfectly good hull of a perfectly good design and sunk it themselves out of flagrantly obscene greed.
It remains now for the other suits and investigations to wind their laborious way through the courts to conclude as meaninglessly as they had begun, regardless of outcome. In the best case scenario on behalf of SunCal, their silly suit will not earn them the billions of dollars they hoped to earn previously, but only the undying enmity of the local populace and a nod from a judge who says, "Looks like y'all got screwed." The best they could hope for would be a renewal of the exclusivity contract, but such a contract would be a vainglorious and Pyrric victory, for who in their right minds would agree to work with them now at this point? And the City has no money to pay for a settlement, so they are not going to get that either.
In the end, the City will need to work with the Navy to handle the land, keep the existing low income housing so as to skip over the State requirement that every municipality have something like it, keep the existing businesses so as to preserve ongoing revenue, court a few new ones, and gradually allow flinty-eyed folks convert empty hangars into dollar signs over the long reach of time and also allow the VA to come in to build the badly needed veteran's facility along the southern area there, which will help stabilize the region as well as give some of our wounded soldiers a place to convelesce; no better place than the Island for such a project. SunCal, unfortunately, is likely to live a long time in the Golden State and in the neighboring West, continuing to prey upon gullible municipalities with promises of the next Bonanza coming just around the corner, twirling its moustaches as it courts Reputable ladies at the soiree with paste diamonds and sly insinuations.
That's our view and we stick to it.
Don't You Ever Get Elected
The announcement came over the wire this week about Tony Daysog toss his hat into the ring for position as chief brickbat magnet and whipping boy known as Mayor. This makes Daysog a contender against Frank Matarrese and Marie Gilmore, all currently serving on the City Council. Daysog had announced his intentions as early as February, but had delayed the paperwork until last week.
PLAYING WITH PINK NOISE
It's been an overcast week on the Island our hometown in California set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The days begin heavy with low fog and end with sunny afternoons almost as if it were summertime. One of us drove down last Friday to Silicon Valley to find work and was dismayed to find themselves piloting along the dreaded Nimitz Freeway during rush hour.
Not to worry. On the busiest day of the week rush hour was as empty as a pawnbroker's conscience. No one was going to work on Friday because there was no work to be had. Reports came in over the wire of impossible unemployment rates and stocks tanked on the reports. Problem is that even with the extension to benefits, grudgingly granted by a stubborn Congress, the stated rate of 12% unemployment is in reality double that, or about 22%, because of the large number of folks -- such as yours truely -- who are unemployed and uncounted. Looking at some counties like Butte and Amador, we are talking about real unemployment rates well over 75%. People are not selling matches and pencils in the streets -- although there are tables selling things like wallets and ties in Babylon -- only because the cost of some things has rendered such attempts at small change pathetic. Normally, during a Depression, the prices decline to reflect real purchasing power. In this case, from rents to steaks, the people with jobs are paying for the loss leaders to keep the prices higher than real. Empty rooms? The landlords jack the rent of those remaining to cover the cost of the empties and maintain their lifestyles.
Jaqueline of the Salon sat and regarded the latest issue of Entertainment Today with disgust. The main actress in the Harry Potter films had gone and gotten a pixie do, shaving off all of her luxurious locks and Jaqueline was outraged. "This is bad for business! Whatever shall I do with such short hair! Such insouciance! What has gotten into the Ofay!"
Jackie saw this event as the forerunner of a trend that would cut into the profits of the already struggling Salon. Girls and women were not coming in for dos and fixes quite as frequently as used to happen. Regulars were showing up less regular, and Jackie was aghast at what aesthetic deviances were allowed to happen as consequence.
Less frosting, less tipping, less curl and less income is what it all looked to be.
Jackie remembered well the day Yolanda came in and asked that it all be shorn off. Right to the skull. All of it. Now Yolanda was an attractive woman and fortunately possessed of a well-formed head as well as facial features that would have shamed Nefertiti. Now this in the entertainment industry about to bodyslam the haircare world right from the teens on up!
As Lionel passed by the shop he looked into the window to see the proprietor stalking back and forth with her hands in her own luxurious curls -- a woman's crowning glory -- however Jackie was screaming. Not a good time to go in and ask for a date to the Jack London outdoor movies. Instead, Lionel did what Bogart would have done -- lit a cigarette and walked on. Here's lookin' at ya, kid.
A very different mood prevailed onboard the Lavendar Surprise, where Tommy, Toby, Shelly and Lynnette were having a party. Not only had BP finally capped the oilwell disaster in the Gulf, but the State Supreme Court had just overturned that hate-filled Prop 8 and they all were ecstatic. Cautious, but ecstatic.
"Remember what happened the last time we tried to get married," reminded Shelly. Indeed all could remember that terrible Thanksgiving when everyone had tried to get married all at once on the same street with the Chapel of the Santified Elvis becoming a major battleground during the annual Poodleshoot. All the would-be ministers and couples-to-be had scattered amid flashbang grenades and flying bullets in a wretched descent into atavistic savagery and flaming pews. Bear had saved them in the Grotto by flailing a motorcycle chain in a primieval invocation of his ancient Viking aspect while the Wiccans had called up the spirit of HST to scatter the combatants in a deluge of Purple Windowpane. Andre and Marlene had fled with Reverend Freethought in smoking trousseau, which still hung up where the weeping girl had nailed it to the wall that terrible evening in savage disappointment. Then came the Special Elections and the Proposition 8, sponsored and promoted by out-of-staters from Texas and Nebraska had put the kibosh on everyone's dreams.
This time, though, even Der Governator had spoken out in favor of marriage equality, while all around the world, in Cuba, in Mexico, in South America, the winds of understanding and freedom were toppling the rickety towers of intolerance (while providing unlimited opportunities for alliterative structures and rhetorical flourish!).
Heartened by these things the little crew partied on into the night while remaining docked at the Marina (due to new and more stringent rules for opening the drawbridges for masted ships like theirs). There remained the appeals launched by the Texans and the rather unpromising Federal Supreme Court to decide things further on. And November 25th, with its annual Poodleshoot lurked months away into the shadowy future where anything could happen. For now, Tommy rustled up another pitcher of margaritas.
And of course, as always at this time of night, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the hope-filled waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered windows of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
AUGUST 1, 2010
LULLABYE FOR THE SUMMER
This week's headline photo comes from neighbor Rachel, who works the lunchtime crowd at the Fat Lady in Oaktown and teaches dance lessons in the City. The image is of one particular front yard on Santa Clara Avenue that has been exploding with color in early Spring each year.
O why endure a boring lawn of European grass when you can astonish all with extraordinariness! Another Island original . . . .
All the literary world is abuzz over legendary author's latest public utterance. The Interview with a Vampire author, who wrote a book about her spirituality titled "Called Out of Darkness: A Spiritual Confession" in 2008, said Wednesday that she refuses to be anti-gay, anti-feminist," anti-science and anti-Democrat. With that blog posting the famed San Franciscan turned New Orleans resident (Garden District) has jumped ship from the Church.
Rice wrote, For those who care, and I understand if you don't: Today I quit being a Christian ... It's simply impossible for me to belong to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
Rice then added another post explaining her decision on Thursday:
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me," Rice wrote. "But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been or might become.
Some of us on Staff here knew Ms. Rice when she was an instructor at San Francisco State University and also her husband, poet and painter Stan Rice, who served as Dean of the Creative Writing Department before his early passing away due to cancer.
Whatever her decisions may be, we all send our fondest wishes.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Dropped in to say hello to owner Mr. Domenici on the occasion of Pagano's Grand Opening at Southshore Mall (aka Town Centre). While a bouffant clown tied up balloons for the kiddies and folks lined up for one bit hot dogs, Islanders wandered the aisles of the store which has been physically open for about six weeks and doing fairly decent business in the troubled shopping mall.
With 500 hot dogs given out Saturday, and another 400 on Sunday, this larger version of the venerable hardware store, which will keep its old location on Lincoln Street, provided indications it is likely to provide a needed shot in the arm for the local economy.
Andy Pagano established his hardware business in an old shoe on the corner of St. Charles and Lincoln Street in 1958. He has long since passed away, but his family retains property in that block and the name is retained for the privately held, independent store for sentimental reasons.
Also in the news, Ross Stores, which was kicked out of its location at the Mall when owners gambled --- and lost badly -- on attracting more upscale clients there, has said "no hard feelings" and is building a brand new store there. This is also very good news. Practical, reasonable stores are more of what we want here.
Speaking of shoe stores, we popped into Larry's Shoe Repair on Webster, where a shoe repair service has been in continuous operation at that location since the mid 1920's. Larry is the third owner there, inheriting the business from his former employer, Pat, in the late 1950's.
Larry, however, has been going through some extremely tough times, despite his fierce attachment to professional integrity. Over the years he has resoled any number of shoes as well as successfully repaired a canvas bag which had been mauled by a bear.
You heard that right -- while the man was on a camping trip, a tawny 500 pounder with a hump looked calmly at Denby from about ten feet away and calmly ripped the bag from its line to paw through maps and notepapers a few years ago. Such a literate bear.
Larry fixed the bag and it -- the bag -- has been hauling junk for another five years on.
When we made to lay down the deposit for a resole job, Larry said he had to cancel all the card relationships during his stay in the hospital. His diabetes had resulted in ulceration of his legs to such an extent they had to amputate both feet. Now, people. this is a particularly savage irony for a man who makes his living servicing other people's footwear to lose his own pins and our collective hearts go out to the man.
If you have canvas work, leather or shoe repair of any kind drop the job off on Webster. And say "Hi" to Larry.
HEAVEN ON EARTH
Its been a breezy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The summer is marching right along with the usual suspects perpetrating the usual sorts of garlanded mischief. Glads continue to erupt, pole beans are hanging down and the tomatoes are swelling in those places where sun does shine while all the corn is being harvested by the squirrels.
It was a desultory day on Park Street when the discussion in Juanita's restaurant centered on what the differences were between California and the rest of the Country. Eugene shoved Juanita's effort at Spicy Spaghetti Bake aside and ordered a wet burrito and a margarita. First, of course, they had to limit what "rest of the Country meant," for as Eugene said, you can forget places like New York which everyone admitted was too damn wacky.
"New York is provincial," said Paul, meaning Manhattan. "But they do like theatre."
Boston was full of Irish Catholics and Brahmins, which prompted little Pepito to go fetch his dictionary, and for the rest of the evening he marvelled at mental images of sari-clad bald men switching the gaunt hides of cows as they plodded along the dusty streets while intoning the universal sound of Om, all under the shadows of an immense Catholic cathedral.
It was generally agreed that, unlike people from New York or Boston, people from Chicago tended to be very polite, but then no one there at the table could recall anyone from San Francisco as being particularly polite either.
That question led by natural degrees to the problem of determining just who they knew was San Franciscan and, ergo, who was a genuine Californian. This was a problem as no one there could recall anyone living who was a San Franciscan native, although Eugene did recall the Wildenradt family who used to own the McMurray Pacific Hardware Store. He could not recall if any of them had been particularly polite, but he did recall it had been a very good hardware store. The guys in there could fix any number of exterior door locks for you. It had been across the street from the 7th Street Jail and while they fixed your door locks, you could watch the hookers being let out and have your other hardware dealt with while you waited.
Juanita set down a pitcher of margaritas and someone foolishly asked her opinion on the matter.
Juanita paused a moment, and then said vehemently, "E'stupido!" Then she walked away. This soured the mood and the conversation and so the group finished their drinks quickly before heading from there to The Old Same Place Bar.
Now, it should be mentioned a few things as to why Juanita had responded in this way. In her house on Taylor a framed steerskin of a map hung up between guitars her husband, Glenn, had played in high school while working his way as a musician to pay the bills.
Everyone knew about this hide which was an old desueno that expressly stated that Juanita and all her heirs were lawful owners of most of El Sobrante, Pinole, Richmond, El Cerrito and Albany according to all the dictates and stipulations of the Treaty of Hidalgo and subsequent agreements between the United States and Mexico as well as Alta California.
Clearly Pepito was not to be Mayor, Alcalde or owner of anything like Pinole or Richmond in the foreseeable future and so this desueno was worth no more that the rotting hide on which it had been inked, so all this discussion about who was genuine Californio and who was entitled and who was not had long since curdled her Mother's milk on the subject. Even though everyone knew about the hide, Juanita was not likely to get any benefit therefrom, so perforce was made to work a restaurant on Park Street on the Island, which had the distinction of being one of the few pieces of land for which the lawful owners had been paid.
But that is another long story.
Meanwhile the argument continued in the Old Same Place Bar, as irrelevant as such bar discussions tend to be. Naturally, things got muddy, as one would expect the deeper one dives into the little brown jug, for the Water of Life does not always run clear. It was the opinion of Jaqueline that California, or more importantly the Idea of the Golden State, was vital to preserving the vitality and health of the rest of the country, most notably Minnesota. For without California there to absorb the malcontents, misfits, purple-haired punks and rioters produced in such abundance by places like Bear Lake and Minneapolis, those people would remain there and cause all sorts of mischief. Innovation would become the order of the day on Main Street and there would be Trouble, yes, Trouble with a Capital T, right there in River City. Pretty soon Unitarians would be running amok over the Lutherans, and they would be serving bean sprouts and tofu-stuffed walleye -- total chaos would ensue in the Heartland. That's no Sha-boopie, sir.
Truth be told, California needs the Heartland desperately, for here on the edge of the continent, backs to the sea, we long for the faux memories of simple beginnings, the Big Sky and the modesty enforced by the boundless prairie with its uncompromising weather. Somewhere in the Great Midwest a woman wearing a gingham apron closes an oven door on a hot dish cassarole and unbends to brush a strand of corn-floss hair from her eyes. Out the window she can see the bare cross glittering from the steeple of the church perched above the horizon miles away. Everybody wants pristine orgins, best kept pristine by being held at arm's length.
If people were really perfectly happy living in the present, deracinated and as empty as characters in a William Gibbons novel, there would be no Sons of Knute, no DAR, no Native Sons of the Golden West.
While this discussion was going on, they were all sitting, crouching, perching to dinner at Marlene and Andre's, where Marlene had cobbled together another Bread Soup feast from scraps left from the Food Bank distribution and spring harvest from the ironmongery garden out back, and just about everybody was there.
Piedro, from East LA, Jesus, from Managua, Tipitina (Metarie, LA), Marsha (Newark, NJ), Sarah (Goleta), Xavier (San Francisco), Markus the dog (Fremont), Pedro (Martinez, CA), Occasional Quentin (Oakland), Rolf (Leipzig, DDR) Suan (Walnut Creek), Alexis (Falls Church, VA), Crackers (Pinole, CA), Mancini (Trestle Glen, CA), Sarah (Oaktown), Pahrump (Pyramid Lake, NV), Bonkers (also Newark, NJ), Wickiwup and Johnny Cash (both native Islanders), and Snuffles Johnson, the bum (can't remember), and Februs the hamster liberated from Genentech Labs in Burlingame.
Andre was from Vallejo and Marlene was from Weed, in the shadow of Mount Shasta. And they were all there for a supper in the depths of the Great Depression. Nearly everyone had lost their job or had hours cut back, but Februs -- who had been slated for vivisection as part of his employment at Genentec -- remained sanguine. Given the wretched places from which they had all come there was no going back for any of them any more than for Februs. Even for the ones who hailed from towns closer at hand; that would have meant simply shifting misery a few miles to the left or the right, and, according to all reports, there were so many just as miserable people living in those places already. Hey ho. So it goes. Everybody in the room had already seen plenty of hard times before just like these. Only difference was that a whole new crop of folks was experiencing what Occasional Quentin had started living through long, long, long ago.
So they all sat around while the fog rolled in and ate their bread soup in a dinner that couldn't be beat and lay around while Marlene picked his guitar. For it has been said and we'll say it again, no matter where you go, there you are.
In the Island-Life offices the Editor stood at the window, looking out while Denby finished up the weekly Issue, standing like some Captain at the Poop looking out over the mutinous waves with his remaining white hair flying all about his head in an aureole, although only the peaks of dark rooftops unrolled in a frothing swell of lamplights, a choppy sea of houses all the way to the tsunami of the hills shrouded now by fog. He had gotten the news recently that a man he knew named Robert, the man who owned the New Orleans-style restaurant Angelina's in Marin, had died of an heart attack earlier in the week. Seeing the man was troubled, thinking about his people suffering in these Hard Times, Denby put on the stereo a CD he had made and they listened to Jorma Kaukonen's "A Life Well Lived." As he left, the speakers started playing "Heaven on Earth," and the Editor unclenched his fists. Music has a way of doing that. It doesn't do much, but sometimes it unclenches the fist. Sometimes that is all for which one can hope.
As the notes died away, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the Estuary and the choppy sea of rooftops as the locomotive wended its way from the lighthouse gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered windows and doors of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 25, 2010
IF THE LADIES WAS BLACKBIRDS, IF THE LADIES WAS THRUSHES
After a two year dormancy, a pot in the corner of the Old Fence suddenly sprouted a five-foot stalk that erupted into this sudden burst of Pink Ladies which have remained persistent over the past two weeks.
GOODNIGHT AND GOODLUCK
He was the last working member of Edward R. Murrow's CBS newsteam and he passed away after a brief illness this past week. Daniel Schorr, prickly and demanding, set the gold standard for broadcasters, a standard few now meet. His cantankerousness and savage attention to professional integrity and the truth of things had him bouncing from CBS to other networks until he finally ended up on a long tenure with PBS, but only after earning a top 20 spot on the famous Nixon Enemies List, a list he himself outed more than forty years ago.
His first paid assignment occured when a woman jumped off the roof of his Bronx apartment building and he phoned in the story to the local news service. The five year old Schorr was paid $5 for his efforts.
Schorr became friends with composer Frank Zappa after the latter contacted him, asking for help with a voter-registration drive. Schorr made an appearance with Zappa on February 10, 1988, where he sang "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime". Schorr delivered the eulogy on NPR after Zappa's death on December 4, 1993; he professed not to understand Zappa's lengthy discourses on music theory, but he found a kindred spirita serious man with a commitment to free speech.
They don't make them like Dan Schorr any more, and more's the pity.
ON AN ISLAND
Autobody held its doggie fundraiser this weekend in its gallery off Park Street, but may have run into competition for the concurrently running 26th Park Street Art and Wine Faire. The street was entirely blocked off between Encinal and Buena Vista, with only a few streets allowed to cut through for emergency vehicles and homebody traffic.
We wanted to sample the Cavit Pinot Grigio, but none was to be had, so we settled for a capable and sturdy Ironstone Chardonnay. Fat Tire and Lagunitas provided the beery end of the potables while Zebop! supplied Santana tunes. Cascada and Drew Harrison were the only non-tribute bands supplying Latin Jazz, while Savannah Blue offered bluegrass.
There was popcorn galore, hotdogs and the usual Park Street suspects, including Silvertree where one of our crew purchased a shocking pink ersatz Panama hat. Checked out the Australian hatter who sells hand-made headwear of all-natural materials featuring rabbit felt, including the hard-to-get Akuba hats, which cannot be purchased (in Australia) by anyone not carrying that country's passport. For a C note plus change you can look just like Indiana Jones.
Kids bounced and danced and got facepainted and scads of folks shopped the pricey tchotchkes. Gallons of wine were swished and the sun shone down merrily. At the end of the day, a fine time was had by all.
Its anyone's guess why humble Oaktown is superceding Babylon across the Bay as the premier jumpstart for top-marquee acts, but we suspect we are seeing the consequences of Greed and Art-Flight from the one-time center of the Boho Universe. The latest scut has none other than Bob Dylan launching his latest tour from the renovated Fox, entirely shunning both the venerable Fillmore as well as the Warfield. Truth is large numbers of artists have been fleeing to the Warmer Side of the Bay for several years as usurious rents and rather obnoxious hoighty-toighty attitudes over there have driven those on the Edge to and over the edge.
Some say one should feel "privileged" to live here and so much so that one will serve more amenably as minions of the self-appointed Elite.
For the time being, the bustling dives and savory BBQ joints of the East Bay be the place where a man can learn to train his horn and tune his reed without hassle.
Speaking of Oakland going uptown, the increasingly trendy Uptown is hosting the Calexico band Los Lonely Boys this month.
For cost-effective music, Southshore Mall is continuing its summer concert schedule, with Natasha Miller just finishing up there this weekend. Zydeco Flames takes over August 5th for the Thursday evening slot, while the Mo Rockin Project provides world beats on Saturday night. Both bands are worth checking out and usually present fairly incendiary performances.
This Tuesday marks the expiration date for the exclusive agreement between the troubled SunCal and the City for development of the Point. In classic SunCal fashion, instead of working with the Council, has threatened crushing lawsuits against the City should there be any hitches in the process of extending this agreement. In addition, SunCal's attorney, Louis Miller, has written a letter blasting Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant for her investigation of political opponent and Councilmember Lena Tam. The two officials have long stood on opposite sides of the fence regarding SunCal, which has resulting in classic small-town in-fighting and political shikanery the extent of which was questioned in the July 16th edition of the Island Journal, which suggested that the behavior of all parties involved as well as those on the periphery has been less than honorably.
Unsavory politicians? Never heard of such a thing. And no wonder Mayor Beverly looked to be such a sourpuss at her last July 4th Mayor's Parade. By this point Bev would be well to think "A pox on all your houses; I am leaving to play golf!"
Reflective of what is being experienced Statewide as well as in other municipalities, the City reported a 4.1% decline in sales tax revenues for 2009. Also in the news was the unsurprising report that property tax revenues are down statewide due to the high number of foreclosures and the rather unwise decision by many districts to conduct property reassessments. Um, didn't anyone upstairs figure out that prices are down right about now?
A quick look at recent housing sales revealed fairly high prices reported, due largely to the momentarily successful tactic of reserving property from the market by real estate firms, thereby creating an artificially low availability index. In fact quite a large number of houses are being kept back while in a state of "renovation" on nearly every housing block. Also, a number of speculators are gambling on the development projects at the Point, Ballena Isle, and the Boatworks area. In addition, the idea that the Island is a desireable location has not gone away, although it would be good to remember that for the longest time this Island was NOT desireable as a place to live and the current majority population reflects this reality.
All indications, nationwide and including the Golden State, indicate harsh conditions continuing for another year at least no matter who wins the mid-term elections. The beancounters indicate that the Corporations are sitting on well over a trillion and a half dollars in cash reserves instead of investing. The reasons for that depend on which side of the liberal divide one stands, but one thing is clear -- taxes up or down will have little effect on these reserves or on the Great Recession, which continues unabated with national unemployment pegged at 9.5% but with various Golden State counties (Amador, Butte) reporting whopping numbers of well over 40%.
What does this mean for the Island? Well we have a mini-bubble that just might last another year and some folks are betting the bank that in that time, things will rise up again to make that bubble just a reflection of status quo. It might work. Then again, it might not.
Its been a coolish week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay, with days struggling out of bed in a fog that burns off sometime around noon to gift us with blue sky afternoons.
After the Affair of the Spicy Hot Dish, Juanita has not given up on producing a perfect combination of Midwestern and Latin cuisine. This notwithstanding folks are still finding boxes of her gifts to the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers in strange places all over town. Mr. Howitzer's dog, Eisenhower, found one secreted under the commemorative alarm bell in front of the Park Street firehouse.
Her latest effort involved a sort of spaghetti bake/tamale pie combo for whom she employed Lionel of the Pampered Pup (because he came from Elgin, Illinois) and Jacqueline of the Salon (because she hailed from Bear Lake, MN). Lionel took a tray of the stuff to the Pampered Pup where he and Jose picked at it dubiously.
"Wuz dis here sauce?" said Lionel.
"Worchestershire?" offered Jose.
"That's what I said,"Lionel commented.
Meanwhile Maeve took some of the bake over to her Taiko drumming class. After an hour of pounding drums, working up a sweat and getting screamed at by Sensei Ito in the gymnasium of the Community College, all the women and girls who had joined for the express purpose of toning those abs and developing that killer butt always worked up a ferociously difficult to govern appetite for anything heavy and loaded with carb.
Taiko is a Japanese artform that, typically for Japanese, has developed into a rarified and rigorously physical regimen. It involves flailing away furiously with heavy sticks on immense drums until the muscles scream silently in agony. But melodically and with delicacy. It is supposed to be full of Zen and stuff like that, according to Maeve. And be a damn fine workout in addition. Accomplished female taiko drummers are supposed to look like ballerinas but be able to tear phonebooks in half.
"Pound on the drum like you kill your most detested enemy!" Ito yelled at Maeve.
"What about my husband?" Maeve said, meaning in her mind that such a job is reserved for her mate, but Ito, hailing from a different culture understood her differently and was thoroughly shocked.
"Do not ever kill your husband! Kill someone else!" Ito shouted.
"What if I don't feel like that today?" Maeve said, ever the reasonable woman and fully in touch with her innermost feelings after the Feminine Mythology Class of the day previously. She was a great one for taking advantage of the Adult Ed program at the Community College.
"Then kill your husband another day!" shouted Ito. "Think of that!"
Maeve rattled a bit with her sticks while Ito practically jumped up and down beside her. His job was to guide and inspire the students to do their best beyond their physical limits and Maeve was a problem. He soon found himself abandoning the core principle of muga mushin, which is that of serenity amid chaos while he shouted any amount of nonsense at Maeve to get her to dig deep. Somehow he glommed onto the right formula, or at least a formula that worked for today.
"Babies! Children! Pregnancy! More babies!" Ito shouted.
Maeve, whose youngest was less than a year old, suddenly began furiously pounding the immense drum. Gradually she moved into the Flow of the Drum and the class was saved.
Ito, a standard Japanese man with all the length and breadth in his soul of an average salaryman would never learn how he had just made what would later become the East Bay's most distinguished Taiko drummer. Such is the nature of genius. Such is the nature of true accomplishment. Best to disavow all attachments. That is the true way of Zen.
As for the tray of spagetti bake, that largely went home with Ito who used it with variable success as crab bait, for it did not resemble anything like food for human beings. The crabs went for the hamburger content and were stunned by the other ingredients, so the effort was not all lost.
A tray of the stuff wound up in the Old Same Place Bar where various customers picked at it with plastic picnic forks. Late in the evening a stranger came in wearing a greenish coat and he sat down and ordered a pint of plain. It was clear that although he spoke the language he was not from any place around here. He heard all about the Norwegian Bachelor Farmers and all about the famous Hot Dish and all about the Spaghetti Bake and all about the economic troubles going on and the trouble about the school tax and the trouble about the Point development and then, after thinking a good long think he had this to say:
"I've been around the world and seen many sights and I have noticed this:
When things go wrong and will not come right,
When money's tight and hard to get
When health is bad and your heart feels strange,
When food is scarce and your larder bare
In time of trouble and lousey strife,
The man sipped his brew and added, "You will notice you are not the Midwest and never shall be for they have no ocean nor mountains to speak of. And you will note that you are not of New York for New York is a small-minded provincial place suitable enough for itself. And you will note that you are not of the Western frontier entirely also, for cowboys have never been entirely welcome in these parts and the cattledrives have long since moved on. You are yourselves and god be with you for I shall go now."
With that, the man wiped his lips, left sufficient tender on the bar for his bill and soon walked out the door leaving all amazed.
When Padraic ran out to see where he had gone or notice the manner of
his car, the endless street extended empty in both directions under the
buzzing streetlamps as far as one could see. The fog had returned with
nightfall to shroud the city streets.
Thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 18, 2010
JUST A SIMPLE COUNTRY DRESS
This week's photo is of a bloom probably most of you have never seen, even though it is perched demurely, face down, on the top of one of the most common crops found all around the world.
This, gentle people, is an humble potato flower knipsed in Javier's huerto, almost unnoticed amid the blooming amaryllis and purple hardenbergia. Javier has Yukon golds, reds, and sweet potatoes all thriving back there by the Old Fence. Sometimes in the lowest places strange beauty thrives modestly and without announcement.
KEEP ON TRUCKIN'
This week's video ought to cheer up some of you as Harvey Pekar -- who died at the age of 70 this past week -- tears it up during a 1987 appearance with David Letterman. Although Letterman appears to give Harvey a difficult time, the famous author who well in advance of the curve turned the humble comic book into serious literature appeared repeatedly on Letterman's show.
WHAT'S GOING ON
Our own heat wave appears likely to abate from the triple digits experienced just beyond the coastal areas, however we cannot promise much to the savagely overheated East. Which should be good for some of the outdoor festivals and concerts taking place through the end of the month. That irascible poet with the quirky vocal delivery, Robert Zimmerman will be kicking off his summer tour right here at the renovated Fox. Yep, Bob Dylan will be gracing our own version of Desolation Row.
Oakland's Art & Soul, which moved from a freebie in front of City Hall to a relatively economically-priced event at $10 and which usually features at least one Top Draw is announced for the weekend of August 21-22. Previous main stage performers included Gomez, Joan Osborne and Ziggy Marley.
The Crucible held its "fire cabaret" this weekend with a rather low-key marketing program that featured, well, pretty much no marketing at all, save for last-minute quarter ads in the weeklies. Local jazz chanteuse Kim Nalley apparently performed her sultry best among eight tons of flaming steel.
In-house favorite, Michael Franti should know he knows he is not alone for a warm crowd showed up Friday at the Greek to hear him and opener Brett Dennon ease the troubles of the world.
Over on the colder side of the Bay we note that Jonathan Richman, last seen falling backwards off a pier at the end of There's Something About Mary, will appear at Cafe du Nord on the 21st.
That eternally hard-working bluesman, Ron Thompson, will appear solo July 22 at Yoshi's. If you have never snagged this versatile artist perform solo then we urge you by all means to do so, as the man who has performed with virtually every major artist, living and now deceased, for the past forty years is really something amazing to watch as he rips through the entire history of the Blues without a hitch.
Outside Lands takes over the Golden Gate park the second week of October with the odd mix of just about everything for everybody, including some acts whose aesthetic clearly clashes with one another. Southern Cal punk survivors Social Distortion return with Gogol Bordello and The Strokes, while Grateful Dead survivors Bobby Weir and Phil Lesh will try to keep it mellow even as new kids on the block, My Morning Jacket show up along with Cat Power and Al Green. Whew!
Less well known acts to try to snag include Amos Lee, the punk-grass Devil Makes Three out of Santa Cruz, the astonishing Sierra Leone Refugee All Stars whose members all consist of reformed former "child soldiers", and Vieux Farka Toure also out of Africa.
At GAMH, Ivan Neville will funk you up during a benefit for Gulf Coast Relief (Forthebayou.org) on Friday, July 23.
Last day of July we note in the small print that none other than Kinky Friedman will be bringing his own brand of quirk to the GAMH as he does country songs about the Holocaust and a man kept in a circus cage.
Finally we got our own Island Pet-a-Palooza on Saturday at Autobody Fine Art. Jack London is holding some events throughout the summer that are designed for those of us with wallet-challenged situations, including free outdoor moving showings, dance instruction events and yet more Dog Days.
WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
Mid-week we got a press release announcing Island newbie Adam Glitt is tossing his hat into the ring for one of the two open slots for City Council. Mr. Gillitt, 40, has been living in Alameda since 2002, and states on his website:
"I am an Alameda resident and business owner who is fed up with the corruption and lack of citizens voice in Alameda City Government. I have no connections to any political figures or groups or corporations, but I have plenty of common sense ideas about how to make this City the best place in the Bay Area to live. I am stepping up to serve the common goal of my neighbors in this community: Making Alameda the best City it can possibly be."
Mr. Gillitt is running for one two open City Council seats. One Councilmember (Frank Matarese) has reached his term limit and is running for Mayor, and another Councilmember (Lena Tam) is up for re-election, despite being under investigation for the unauthorized release of confidential city documents (reported in last week's issue)
At this point there are now three declared candidates for the two open seats: Mr. Gillitt, Councilwoman Tam, and her former campaign manager, Rob Bonta.
More information about Adam Gillitt, including his biography and campaign platform can be found at his campaign website at http://www.AdamforAlameda.com
We have been contacted by local Representative Pete Stark (13th District) about a new online service called Healthcare.gov. In his own words,
"This is a one-stop site that will answer your questions about health care reform, and give you access to a range of new and existing insurance options.
Healthcare.gov works for health coverage the same way that Orbitz and Travelocity work for buying airline tickets. After answering a few questions about your location and insurance situation, you will be provided with a menu of insurance products in your area, and the benefits they provide. It will give you information about the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan available in California. The site spells out your rights as a consumer, and gives important information about new consumer protections enacted in health reform. The site protects your personal information, and will not require your name, address, or income.
Finally, Healthcare.gov also explains the new health reform law in plain language. There is a timeline of when each provision of the Affordable Care Act will be enacted, and what each provision means."
Anything that tries to clarify healthcare issues and dispel fearmongering is a good idea by our book.
As pretty much most of the Country knows by now, our troubled neighbor across the estuary, Oaktown, recently announced the draconian measure of laying off 80 uniformed police when union talks collapsed over the issue of job guarantees. Bay Area police typically earn about $100,000 in base salary per year as beginners, so 80 officers is quite a chunk of change meant to help offset what is estimated to be a $32.5 million dollar shortfall.
The recent discussion to legalize pot dispensaries, with an estimate revenue capture of -- surprise! -- $32.5 million dollars is described by the City Council as mere "coincidence."
The City has plans on the table to lay off yet another 112 officers should proposed ballot measures fail at the polls in November. The town, which has one of the nation's highest crime rates still is not the most dangerous, as New Orleans and Washington D.C. typically trade the dubious honor as "Murder Capital of the US.", with D.C. currently the record holder. Oakland lags far behind with between 90 and 120 killings per year, with 2009 ending in 117 violent deaths, down from 2008's 124, however it is often ranked third to the others in "dangerousness".
In direct response to the layoff announcement, the Oakland chapter of the red beret Guardian Angels will be hitting the streets starting today. The group called a news conference at 2 p.m. at the Fruitvale BART station. That is where they say their latest effort to keep the streets safe will begin.
This is the first time in two years since the Guardian Angels and their red berets have volunteered to help keep the peace in Oakland. The last time it was at the request of Mayor Ron Dellums.
The group stated, "Now is the time for all Oakland residents to get involved and help Oakland with safety measures. Keep Oakland the beautiful city that it is. Let's keep crime off our streets."
In quite a contrary spirit Police Chief Anthony Batts responded in a manner that hinted at how the town got in such a fix. According to NBCbayarea.com and Allgov.com,
"Unhappy with the city councils budget cuts, the policy chief of Oakland, California, has threatened to stop sending officers in response to certain crimes. With 80 police officers laid off after the city and the local union were unable to reach an agreement, council members decided to cut the police positions to help close a $32.5 million budget gap. Police Chief Anthony Batts responded by releasing a list of 44 crimes that his department would not respond to, including grand theft, burglary, car wrecks, identity theft and vandalism. Victims of such crimes will be expected to file reports online."
Its been a hot week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. This weekend all the families went down to the Strand to toast themselves, play volleyball and watch the wind and parasail surfers scudding over the calm water that covers the shallow shelf off Crown Memorial Beach for a good two hundred yards or so.
With the Great Recession still raging across the land, most folks have cut back on things they used to do, but going to the beach is pretty easy on the budget as, for now, the sun and sand and fresh air remain free to all. Parking has gotten easier in some neighborhoods, as every block now hosts at least a couple empty, formerly occupied houses, while finding a space has gotten even more difficult as some landlords seek to maintain their lifestyles by jacking rents to the point that occupancy densities have increased due to folks moving in to common households similar to that of Marlene and Andre's.
Some towns have tried to set occupancy limits, but typically the landlords just burst into loud guffaws at any such attempts to halter their incomes.
Meanwhile a lot of homeowners here have opted for the shoulder-shrug approach, by reserving their property from the market while they engage in phenomenal renovation and anti-boring beetle projects. Earthquake retrofitting is always a good one. For these folks would rather not sell or rent to anyone rather than take a lower price for anything at all. Then there is the genius idea of raising the existing rents so that the trapped renters pay for the empties -- work less and make more! Some would say this is particularly shortsighted, but then again, those people do not possess in all likelihood the "spirit of '49".
The "spirit of '49" was, of course, defined by a period of unprecented avarice and ecological destruction coupled with a minor bit of genocide. However, the prices for land certainly did go up. At least there was that.
But for now there is quite a glut of empty houses and rental units sitting on every block on the Island, and by all report, this situation is duplicated elsewhere. In Detroit they have been subjecting entire city blocks to wholesale building demolition by dynamite.
In the Old Same Place Bar, the summer trade continued brisk, for nothing consoles quite so much as a bump and a shot. Andre contracted with Padraic to play music in the corner with his band "No Future in Real Estate". Padraic was forced to find new ways to bring folks into the bar after the fern bar down the street, calling itself "The Rusty Cock" opened up and began siphoning a certain percentage of his clientele along with a theme bar calling itself the Vagrant's Tassel. Padraic was in a state lately because of two unrelated events: the annual Orangemen's parades had recently concluded in Belfast with the usual array of rioting, violence, roof slate upon the nobbin and similar eccentricities, while in the normally staid as Woebegon North Germany had recently closed down thirty-seven kilometers of the most heavily used freeway in the world so as to host a party on the largest table ever built in Europe or elsewhere.
The last time Nordrhein-Westfalen had experienced such a tumult was the end of the 30 years war that ended in the Treaty of 1648 which provided the substance and direction of our current USA and British court systems. Then again, there was a brief hoodoo from 1939 to 1945 in which much of the region was bombed, deservedly so, to smithereens. Yes, that too was over the top.
It was easy to understand Padraic's concern about the marches in Belfast, which had been provoking IRA and Catholics (often the same animal) for centuries in celebrating the victory of William of Orange over a gaggle of Catholic mercenaries at the Boyne, but the closing of the German A40 was a bit of a puzzle. Padraic felt that the closing of 60 Km of a major artery to bicycles, theatre, and ice cream meant that the end of Western Civilization was at hand.
Old Schmidt, who hailed from the Muensterland, remained stoically philosophical, holding the 60 km long party to be small consolation for losing the World Cup to Spain. His own people had been involved with the plot to assassinate Hitler, so his family had boosted out of there a skip ahead of the Gestapo who had then executed about 2,000 Northern Germans in a serious hissy fit. So closing the Autobahn for a party was a fine thing by his lights, as it was just one jovial way to contravene the old expression "Order must BE."
Certainly as the Landesbanken collapsed, the Greeks went into financial tailspin, Spain's housing boom plopped into a vast sinkhole of debt, and the one-time economical miracle of Ireland slid back into its accustomed living by the tick any sort of joviality was welcome in these hard times.
All across the world people hunkered down by their cookfires and found little ways to make the best of the Situation. In the snug, Suzie popped open her anthro book to read about the Bonobo subculture. "The Bonobo form one of the world's friendliest communities in which each individual seeks to perform small favors for others in the group. Their enthusiasm for one another demonstrates itself when a single Bonobo, coming across another of his race deep in the jungle, will greet him or her with unrestrained enthusiasm . . .".
From far across the way the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the gentle waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the Port past the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 11, 2010
THE CALLA LILIES! THE CALLA LILIES ARE IN BLOOM AGAIN!
This week's photo is of what appeared in Javier's garden among the fava beans after harvesting began. The plant was placed by Rachel some two years ago, appeared to completely die away and disappear, then this happened.
DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY (follow-up report)
Thursday saw the Bay Area react and overreact to the Mehserle verdict announcement as throngs of commuters filed out of the various cities in an effort to get home before any street disturbances occured, while numerous Oaktown businesses prepared by boarding up windows. In fact, citizens of Oaktown remained largely peaceful, albeit angry and disappointed by the rather limp-wristed judgement of Involuntary Manslaughter, which provoked the Federal Justice Department to initiate plans to pursue additional prosecution.
Nevertheless, many did realize that the verdict is the first time in California history that a policeman has been convicted of committing a crime for anything in the course of his or her duties, which does make it a sort of milestone.
Towards the end of the various peaceful vigils a gang of professional thugs from out of town started up the "rioting" in which store windows were smashed downtown, fires set, and generally caused a nuisance. About eighty people were detained and arrested. Of these, only about twenty were native Oaklanders; the rest, about 2/3rds, were the usual black-clad black bandanna folks from across the water that always cause trouble at every demonstration. These guys are hard-line pseudo-socialists who seek only to provoke disturbance and violence in the fond hope that anarchy will ensue and that it will be good. Their methods and their philosophy make as much sense as Glenn Beck, supposedly on the Other Side.
Police remained on high alert through the weekend, but visits to downtown and the Fruitvale district showed people pretty much going about business as usual. We all have our own troubles and we know well that change comes by incremental baby-steps, seldom through revolution.
Mehserle will be sentenced by Judge Perry on August 6. He spent weekend in the Los Angeles Men's Central Jail, where he was taken after he was handcuffed and escorted from the courtroom. Because of the gun-crime sentencing enhancement, he faces anywhere from five to 14 years in prison, though he can also petition to be let off with just probation time.
However, the defense will likely contest the seeming internal contradiction in the verdict. The jury somehow believed both that Mehserle was reckless rather than deliberate in his actions and that he acted intentionally when he used his firearm.
WHAT'S GOING ON
Pity music lovers in Arizona right now, as scads of top-drawer acts cancel bookings there due to the rather obnoxious SB1070 Immigration Law. What is not so obvious -- unless it has affected you personally -- is that bookings are being cancelled right and left all across the country this summer. Reason? If you have a job, perhaps you just have not noticed the Great Recession is brutalizing the Music Industry as musicians, seeking to recoup losses from CD's not being bought, overbooks gigs that only resulted in a glut of events with everybody all performing all at once everywhere, only to discover that people were not buying CD's because they have no money. So concerts are failing to draw numbers, resulting in a mass series of cancellations.
An insider exec reported, on conditions of anonymity, "This is going to go down as quite a bad year for the Industry."
Well, it has been an industry in which the makers of the product, i.e., musicians, typically earn less than one dollar off of each $20 CD. The pay for concerts has been commesurate with this scale, with promoters, venues, agents, managers, vendors, insurers, and just about everybody except musicians making pots of money.
Councilperson Lena Tam, who just recently appeared in the July 4th Mayor's Parade seems to have gotten herself into hot water by leaking confidential city information to SUNCAL during negotiations between that entity and the City over redevelopment of the Point. She also is alleged by a contract attorney brought in by the interim City Manager to have leaked information to the Firefighter's Union, among a list of other improprieties, however the SunCal issue is the most odorous here, and the DA's office is now reviewing the charges with a possible removal from public office due to misconduct in order.
Tam has supported SunCal in its efforts while the Mayor and other members of the Council now oppose SunCal's involvement with the Point.
Tam has responded with denials of any wrongdoing and charges the attorney report contains inaccuracies and sheer speculation with no basis in truth.
It also should be stated on Tam's behalf that she and the interim City Manager have often clashed politically in the past, and she has said the timing of the report during the campaign season for the November 8th is "interesting."
In other news some cad, varmint, and otherwise ugly-as-a-snake lowlife robbed the PO Box of the Island Food Bank, certainly a victim that most certainly does not deserve hassle. The Bank feeds about 1,350 low-income Islanders per month and is staffed substantially by volunteers. The theft occured in June between the 11th and the 14th. There are no signs the box was forced and the Postal Inspector does not rule out a possible inside job. At issue are checks from an estimated 8,000 donors. If the Food Bank actually did receive a check, they always send a thank you note, so potential donors who did not get a note, should consider their check was stolen.
In a cursory check, we learned that nearly two hundred people showed up from single and multi-person households to collect food this past Saturday.
Because of draconian rules imposed during the Bush Administration still in effect, most low-income persons are not eligible for either food-stamps or General Assistance.
LOVELY RITA METER MAID
Lennon is dead, the Great Recession is hammering all of us mercilessly, and Rita is a lying, sour bitch of the worst order. Latest word down the pike on local government turning the screws involves a revision of the Parking Citation System in Oaktown. Which means it is going to get hella meaner, as if being accountable for non-functioning meters, citations for parking more than 16 inches from the curb, and earning bogus tickets was not enough for you. Problem for Oakland is that the zealous, many say overzealous parking tax collectors, have deluged the system with so many issues that the Citation Help Center, certainly an Orwellian titled ministry if there ever was one, has achieved near total gridlock and long delays in - gasp! -- processing the payments. In other words, the Citation folks are making so much money hand over fist they just cannot run fast enough to the bank to deposit the stuff. The reorg (where have we heard THAT term before?) will feature easier online and telephone payment systems.
Of course, so long as certain districts remain entirely except from any enforcement whatsoever, such as the Hills and the Middle Kingdom of Crispy Duck and Double Parking, the pressure can only mount everywhere else.
Then again, the murder rate is up and Oakland is laying off thirty officers of the sort who kept armageddon from happening last Thursday evening. Oakland: a model city.
AINT NO CURE FOR THE SUMMERTIME BLUES
Its been a chilly but sometime sunny week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Pedro Almeida made extra sure to tune in that radio show hosted by the Man in the Red Shoes this weekend and he was sitting there in his armchair Saturday night next to the radio with a bag of chips and a six of Fat Tire ale as if he were attending to the FIFA World Cup (which he did the following morning. Viva Espana!).
For those of you who fail somehow to follow these momentous things, NPR's Prairie Home Companion featured a nautical-themed show, with skits and songs all about boats and the sea and fishing. As a professional fisherman, Pedro felt it incumbent upon him to support this effort and he even sent out the missus to locate, bring home and bake a batch of Powdermilk Biscuits (Heavens, they are tasty and expeditious!) but Mrs. Almeida had to return from Trader Joes to report that this was California, not Minesotta, and there were no bisquits of that brand to be had around here. They would have to drive to Minneapolis to get something like that and Mrs. Almeida was damned if she would leave the chickens in their coop in the summer with the racoons about so long just for something she could make perfectly well herself.
So Pedro sat there with his Fat Tire in hand, jumping up every once in a when someone sang a sea chanty. "Yeah!" And all the younger ones sat around staring at him with wide open eyes.
Padraic piped the show over the loudspeakers in the Old Same Place Bar and Eugene sat there, entranced as the lovely woman on the radio sang about the "launische Forelle," which had him all agog, for as Eugene had surrendered any reasonable possibility of relations with females long ago in favor of a passion for trout, figuring trout were far easier to understand and get along with once you got to know them well and about as comfortable in terms of long-term companionship as any woman who had ever mistaken him for a likely mate. A fairly prototypical American, he knew not a lick of German, nor much of any other language, however he did know the song was all about trout fishing.
"What means 'launische", Eugene asked of Old Schmidt who sat there with his schnapps and Fat Tire and pipe.
Padraic, as an Old School pubkeeper, had never enforced what he saw as a criminal edict against smoking in the bar. So Old Schmidt pulled the pipe from between his whiskers and said, "Moody. The trout are moody."
"Ohhhh," said Eugene. "That they are."
Fishing is one of the few sports which has saved many a marriage. In many respects, trout fishing is much like the US Navy. The husband goes away for a long time, the wife has the place to herself for any number of hen parties, there are no mud tracks on the carpet and no tromping in the azaleas. The woman can finish her novel, organize the Board effectively, govern the local assembly, invent a brand new brain scanning technique that revolutionizes medical science, raise money for Nigerian peanut farmers, build several houses, improve the lightbulb and get the kids to school. In short, she is free to be herself without interference. Meanwhile the man goes out on the high seas in a boat with rough companions, curses freely, drinks too much, throws up on himself, eats a tremendous amount of fish, sinks the boat perhaps, and engages in salacious repartee with unorthodox companions, which is pretty much Navy life and fishing all wrapped up into one. Both members of this happy marriage get exactly what they want and there is little trouble until the man comes home and hangs about very much a third wheel on the relationship until the Goddess of Discord tosses in that damn golden apple.
Pretty soon there are squabbles about the most inconsequential things. Why on earth did you rip out the hydrangea? Well I'd been meaning to do that for a long time; it was getting too big. For a long time? Since when? Ever since Midway. Or the Easter Islands. Or the walleye at Bear Lake. Oh for Pete's sake, you know nothing of garden feng shui. Ah . . . Feng Shui . . . know nothing, nothing about it. No idea what you are talking about . . . .
Here he is half afraid she has learned something about something about a certain bordello in Shanghi or St. Cloud. Where something may or may not have happened. So that is when he looks for the next opportunity to go to sea or go fishing again. Same difference. It really is all the same to the country at large, in fact, for we send the mightiest Navy out in ships these days only to invade and destroy landlocked desert countries packed to the gills with sand and no trout to speak of. That is their loss and no wonder for all the trouble they have with keeping women in burqas. All for lack of trout and streams in which to put them.
Meanwhile she is calling all of her friends asking them what can she do to save her marriage. Whatever am I to do about the Admiral? she said, wringing her hands. He is all underfoot these days.
Perhaps you can start a war with somebody. Australia or Madagascar. Someplace with lots of water.
Well the United States has never fought a war against Australia and never had a reason to do so, but then it never had a reason to fight a war against anybody since WWII for any rational reason, so that is no impediment. Fortunately the orders come up and the Admiral must leave for a six month tour of duty shadowing the coast of some strange Arabic country on the peninsula of Onan with a fleet of gondolas and needleboats. And the other husband is called up to distribute the ashes of an old friend in the high Sierra near his favorite fishing hole. So off they go and all the marriages saved. Life is grand once again.
Yes, fishing is part of core values in America. And although the great steelhead runs of the past are no more in the Golden State, we still have our passion for trout.
This fishing business that happens every year (we have an allowed Season that begins each year sometime in May as determined by Fish and Game and which ends in the Fall) goes not unnoticed by Pastor Inkquist and Father Duran of the Lutheran Immanuel and Our Lady of Incessant Complaint respectively. For let it be recorded that many of the Apostles were fishermen and Jesus Christ was pretty handy with a rod and line as well. Then, of course, there are those loaves and fishes multiplying all over the place and pioneering the original Great Society Free School Lunch program as well as Unemployment Benefits.
Father Duran was composing his 15th sermon on the Loaves and Fishes when he got a notice from Corporate HQ that the Dominicans and the Jesuits and the Thracian Order were holding a combined Consortium Synod in the neighborhood, Petaluma to be precise and they might be dropping by for a visit. How many? O about five hundred monks or so.
Well, this large an assembly of any clergy was novel to the Island, and indeed to the Bay Area, which was regarded by Corporate in Rome as a sort of wayard stepchild with an embarrassing wandering eye that ought to be kept in the attic until the "problem" resolved itself. They were holding the Consortium here only because Boston had latterly earned bad marks for nasty behavior recently. Father Duran was at a loss how to handle a sudden influx, an inundation of monks from all over the world all at once, for the Island is not a place built to handle that sort of thing for any cause, any group. Like anyone in the Bay Area who has been confronted with similar problems, he consulted a travel agency and obtained an excursion program from a travel agency that carried quite excellent credentials, for Sister Mona had used them for her trip to Palestine.
The agency turned out to be the Filipino sole proprietor of a market on Lincoln Street and the excursion boat turned out to be two barges normally used for hauling garbage out to sea.
The 500 monks did arrive -- on a fleet of sixty buses that drew up, one after another in the traffic cutout to the Basilica of St. Joe's and to the annex at the Church. The monks, all dressed in brown robes and waist ropes and sandals, with a few modernists wearing Nike athletic shoes, were hustled onto the barges, two of them moored at the ferry landing, and soon they were off.
The one barge circumnavigated Alcatraz island successfully, but the other, needing to hold off while 250 monks strolled through the old prison cells where Robert Stroud and Al Capone had been held, got somehow disengaged from its tug during the tide change and 250 monks soon found themselves gliding under the Golden Gate out to sea with the tugs and the Coast Guard clipper chasing after them. The barge, after causing several hours of anxiety, ran up against the Farallones and there many of the passengers disembarked for the tossing of the barge made them quite seasick, even though that place is barren, windswept and desolate. But for Catholic monks, it was all right.
Catholics are similar to Lutherans in that they are comforted by really bad events like earthquakes and bad weather; it means that whatever god there is must have something special in mind just for you.
"O praise god," they say. "A tornado just hit the house."
So there on a rocky outpost a gathering of some two hundred fifty monks of various persuasions sat down between the piles of guano there and debated various issues of the world while waiting for the Coast Guard to come rescue them, which the Coast Guard was trying to do while making the most of this excellent media opportunity. 250 individuals was a fair chunk of change to rescue all at once so they had to call back a clipper ship that had started to head up to Alaska to check on the effects of the last oil spill up there and interdict a cutter sent out to head off drug smugglers all the while the TV stations had a field day and KCBS and KQED teamed up to send out a camera team to take pictures and all the monks gathered together to do "the wave" for the newsteam while FOX sourly blamed the socialist liberals for causing everything.
So the monks spent the night there, wrapped in their robes and cowls, but they were monks and, unlike priests, were used to privation. Father Duran had dropped down among them from helicopter and spent a cold night with some assistance there on the rocks and they all had a time there talking about making jam. flagellation, books by Dan Brown, and all kinds of cool and groovy monkey things, and they all had a Latin chant sing-along around cans of sterno dropped by the Coast Guard helicopter.
At the end of the night all the monks were lifted out onto the cutters and shipped back safely to Babylon where they were distributed by order and denomination to various parishes for "rehabilitation", although all the monks thought it great amusement. "It wasn't that bad", they said. "We had all the oysters we could eat."
Out at the Farallones, the Consortium had resolved the Thracian Beard issue and the Marolingian heresy, as well as the number of knots in a monk's belt, so it was not all for nothing this meeting. They didn't have any paper or ink out there, so Friar Jovel from Germany wrote notes on the bald head of Friar Sucious from Mexico with a bird quill and octopus ink.
Over at Marlene and Andre's Household, where the sharp tooth of hunger has bitten deep in the depths of the Great Recession since the Food Bank got robbed all the gang that was out of work got up a soccer game down on the Strand with the Abodanza family, there being more than enough from both households to field full eleven man teams. Even the lovely Suan got into the game on Sunday after Spain beat the Netherlands 0-1 earlier that day to win the FIFA World Cup in a heartbreaker for the Dutch. Tips had been down lately at the strip club where she worked, for during the Great Recession, even sex was selling poorly. But they all had a fine time running back and forth and kicking that volleyball around like it was the real thing and all the windsurfers out there taking advantage of the high tide and the breezes.
Around the bend of the Crown Memorial Beach, the "pock-pock" of rackets hitting the ball echoed from the tennis courts while gangs of urchins swung bats and ran vigorously around the baseball diamond as parents hovered over the BBQ grates among the trees. Summer was in full swing here in the Bay Area and the sun dropped down through striated cloud, a streaming dahlia of fire, until the wall of fog advanced through the Golden Gate and crawled over the distant hills south of Babylon.
Night on the Island in summertime. And the Editor, sitting at his desk, his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole, the single desklamp pooling in the darkness. The hum of machines doing machine things. Computer fans whirring. Long bray of a foghorn coming from out near the now deserted Farallones. And then, close to midnight, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the calm water of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered windows and doors of the Jack London Waterfront as it left the Port heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JULY 8, 2010 SPECIAL ISSUE - MEHSERLE VERDICT RESPONSE
From time to time, we issue a special out-of-sequence issue when particular public events require and as a obligation to cover your Island-Life requirements due to skipped issues, as when the staff goes on the annual Mountain Sabbatical.
DEATH DON'T HAVE NO MERCY IN THIS TOWN
From the open windows of the Island-Life offices the few remaining staff can hear the chut-chut-chut of helicopters circling the Fruitvale BART station where Oscar Grant was murdered New Year's Eve. On last report, the vigil being kept there sounded like it was calm, sad, sorrowful and disappointed, but not violent, despite concerns that once the verdict got handed down, there would be riots similar to the two week period between Grant's murder and the arrest of his killer, BART guard Johannes Mehserle.
The mixed race. mixed gender jury, which however included no Black Americans, convicted Mehersele of Involuntary Manslaughter in an LA courtroom a few hours ago.
New Year's Eve, BART police, which receive seperate training from regular municipal police, responded to reports of fighting on BART cars shortly after one AM and cherry-picked several people from cars for detention, including Oscar Grant, although it turned out later none of the men were guilty of the fighting. The reasons for selecting these particular individuals by the BART police remains unclear. Officer Anthony Pirone claims the men "resisted him", so he placed them under arrest, however it still is vague what the men were resisting prior to arrest.
What happened next shall live forever on the Internet in the form of camera-phone videos shot by at least five persons. The total footage covers about nine minutes and shows a row of Black American men lined up and sitting against a wall of the Fruitvale BART station (about a mile and a half from the Island-Life offices). All of the men have their arms raised in the air. BART police are milling around, in a seemingly aimless pattern. A few civilian individuals stand on the wide platform at a distance, shouting, while there is a lot of shouting from the stopped train.
Oscar Grant is seen to partially stand and make "back off" motions, apparently to friends standing on the platform. Subsequent interviews with people who knew Grant revealed that Grant had become something of a peacemaker in recent years, and probably had been trying to calm down the shouting people so as to avoid ratcheting up the situation. This proved to have the exact opposite effect on the police, however.
An officer, probably Pirone, grabs Grant and throws him down with what seems to be a judo technique, while several other officers assist to restrain the man who is lying facedown immediately. Pirone kneels on Grant's neck, presses his face into the concrete platform and secures Grant's right arm. All of the videos display this clearly. Mehserle is not clearly visible in the frames as an active participant until a few moments before the incident, although later he claimed that one reason he reached for his TASER was that Grant yanked his right arm away and stuck his hand into his pocket. Grant does appear to have one arm pinned between his body and the plateform.
The shouting from the train increases in volume and numbers of people as people realize what is happening. A few officers continue to walk around the scene facing away from the incident. Mehserle appears within the frames of the various cameras bending over Grant to his left. Grant is lying as he fell, with his feet pointing to the wall and his head toward the train at an angle and his arms behind his back. Mehserle hovers a couple seconds over Grant, without seeming to do anything meaningful with his hands before standing halfway up and reaching directly into his hip holster where he pulls out his service revolver.
The gun fires a single shot with less than a second to play and Pirone, who very nearly lost his kneecap (the bullet had to have passed only inches from his leg) jumps back and clearly shouts "Why did you do that?" in surprise. The other police also act surprised and Mehserle looks at Pirone, then at Grant, then at Pirone again, seemingly lost for words before bending down to handcuff the lifeless hands of the man he has just shot.
The autopsy revealed that the .40 caliber bullet went entirely through Grant, hit the reinforced concrete BART platform and richocheted back through his heart.
In the next two weeks, while BART dawdled during its investigation, intense rioting ripped through Oakland's downtown and Fruitvale district. No one could explain why Johannes Mehserle had not been arrested and charged with a crime of any sort. The ensuing political and social scandal destroyed the career of then BART Chief Gary Gee who has retired. Mehserle resigned during the investigation, so he avoided talking entirely with the investigating team.
Pirone and his partner the night of the shooting, Marysol Domenici, were fired earlier this year by BART - Pirone for his actions on the train platform and Domenici for the way she reported the incident to investigators.
Eventually, Mehserle was arrested, charged with murder, and the trial shifted to LA, due to local tempers and saturated press coverage. For the first time in California history a policeman was being charged with murder in the act of duty. Prosecutors rarely file charges against police for shootings. A Chronicle review of police use-of-force cases around the country found just six cases in the past 15 years - not including the BART shooting - in which murder charges had been filed.
Taking the stand near the end of the trial, Mehserle testified that he had decided to use his Taser on Grant because he saw Grant put his right hand in his pants pocket and believed the Hayward man might be reaching for a gun.
Mehserle said he had accidentally pulled out his pistol and fired a single shot before realizing he had grabbed the wrong weapon.
In talking informally with several local police, they informed us that the service-issue weapons typically do not possess the "safety" switch required on civilian guns, and that accidential firings, including self-inflicted wounds, are fairly common. Most of the officers honestly believed, at least in statements, that Mehserle really did intend to TASER Grant, despite the obvious circumstances of Grant being entirely controlled. The subtext implied is that some officers believe Mehserle wanted to "punish" Grant, either for resisting, or for a previous incident that had happened between them and not connected with what happened on the platform that night.
[CORRECTION: Trial documents reveal that not only did Mehserle's gun possess a safety switch, but he unholstered his TASER and activated and deactivated the switch on that weapon more than twice that evening.]
The jury took a few days to reach the mildest verdict of Involuntary Manslaughter. During deliberations, one juror was replaced due to vacation absence, and a mysterious and largely unintelligible question was directed to the judge which asked, "Is provocation from other than the main parties admissable?" Neither judge nor advocates on either side could understand what was being asked so the judge ruled the question to be disregarded.
Sentencing will take place August 6. The possibilities are jail waived in favor of parole, 3-5 years for manslaughter and up to 14 years for manslaughter with a gun during a felony. Because of the unusual circumstances of the trial's circumstances -- an on-duty police officer committing a crime due to negligence -- it is impossible to tell in advance how the judge will rule.
NO WAY TO DELAY THAT TROUBLE COMING EVERY DAY
Appeals for calm have come out from the Mayor Ron Dellums and the more rational elements of Oakland society. The East Bay Express placed as its front page headline "BE COOL: MEHERSELE LOST HIS COOL; LETS NOT MAKE HIS MISTAKE". Neverthelessess, nervous commuters thronged the exit ramps and downtown shopkeepers boarded up windows in expectation that angry foolishness will prevail.
The perception here among many is that the police really hammer down members of minority groups in Oaktown, where the population is about one third Black. The truth is that the police, at least in Northern California, often hold an attitude of total invincibility, limitless power, and almost third world dictatorship ruthlessness in terms of expectations regarding total control and citizen subservience that is quite at odds with anything to do with an healthy Democracy, let alone what the Founding Fathers intended.
It seems often that the police abrogate unto themselves the powers and rights to seize any and all property of any individual, expect complete and entire obedience to any command no matter how slight, whatever the circumstances, whatever the situation, whether in uniform and on duty or not, regardless of public or personal safety and quite outside the boundaries of common sense and with no obligation to explain, defend or make public anything at all in contravention of dictates direct from the State Supreme Court. When it comes down to investigations, lying, obfuscation and misdirection become the rule so as to protect one another and the citizenry can just go hang. Then there are the countless vengances, retributions and and arbitrary judgements and punishments meted out by officers given license to kill.
We believe that the police need to generally realize that punishing Mehserle, firmly and fairly, is the best path to assuring their own jobs will become safer and better for themselves and the citizenry at large. One can simply not allow a rogue cop mixing among you, endangering the lives and health of not only the citizens but every man and woman carrying a badge and a gun on the street. And its not the job of the beat cop to summarily judge, condemn and mete out punishment, nor to investigate a situation so as to execute justice -- we have detectives, judges and juries for that.
As for response to the verdict, some people, if they haven't realized the System is F***ed up and unfair before this, well they need to just chill, sit back, and watch the adults respond calmly and with dignity. No this is not going to jump-start any bogus Revolution and no, Mehserle and his ilk will cry no more than crocodile tears over you breaking the windows of some Korean's market. The problem with riots is that the victims are never the ones who really need to feel the pain and it just screws up the landscape of our own neighborhood, the place where we all work and live together. Its never the strong warrior or the bold Enemy who gets pulled out of his truck and beaten half to death; its always some hapless schlub just trying to get from point A to point B because his dumb and cruel as rocks bossman ordered the slave to go there despite the obvious.
So we tend to agree with the EB Express, something we do not often do. Don't act as stupid as a Mehserle.
A beautiful weekend is shaping up, weatherwise for the Bay Area. We got Jack London holding their free movies there, and the Paramount showing the original King Kong at period prices (well close to it, anyway). When was the last time any of you saw a movie in a movie house like the Paramount for $5? Hey, its Recession prices, man! There's the refurbished Oakland Museum with its cafe run by the new chef there, and all kinds of groovy things happening on the warmer side of the Bay. Do everybody a favor and get out there and have some fun for a change! Show the world that Oaktown is the City that Now Knows How.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a peacemaking week.
JULY 4, 2010
SUMMERTIME, WHEN THE LIVING IS EASY
Nothing says "summer is here" more than sunflowers in the Bay Area. This week's pic comes from Jim and Sue's Place on Santa Clara Avenue. The flower stalk here is over seven feet high.
Longtime readers will know that our multi-culti staff is always searching the foreign shores for alternative news sources for tidbits and real information as well as points of view that come from distinctly non-official loci. Lately some of us have been looking hard at, surprise!, Al Jazeera, which recently has started up with a hard hitting English-language version of their world broadcast.
We were quite surprised to discover AJ, far from being a mouthpiece for Al Qaida agitprop, is a distinguished news organization which has garnered grudging accolades from all around the globe. The entity, based in the tiny emirate of Qatar, has remained independent, uncensored and entirely without bias -- except for an understandable tilt towards things like the Gaza Strip and Israel.
But because the rest of the content is so refreshingly independent it is fairly easy to bypass the obvious biases and go to the meat of the matter.
Here, we include a link to an interview with one of America's foremost intellectual thinkers of our day, Cornell West. The interviewer makes no intrusive comments, allows West to speak at length, and provides a glimpse into the mind of one our best minds so that listeners can make up their own minds about what has been said. There is an interesting moment when West calls Fox comedian Glenn Beck a "brother". A deluded brother, but a brother in Christ nonetheless.
Watch this interview for a rare glimpse into the life and ideas about which the USA can be justifiably proud to call one of our own.
INSPIRATION, MOVING BRIGHTLY THROUGH THE TREES
Jose skipped up to the increasingly trendy Temescal district so as to catch a portion of First Fridays at SLATE gallery. There he heard a rumor that Marianne Stark, she of the Stark Guide to the Arts, has moved to the East Bay. If true, this would be a major development as the fourth generation San Franciscan has been a major booster for all things arty in Babylon for a while and the Stark guide can be justifiably be regarded as the place to go online for news and reviews for the entire Bay Area.
In any case, we caught the opening of the Lines Lanes and Planes exhibit, hosted by Danielle Fox featuring work by Anne Subercaseaux, Patricia Thomas, Mel Davis, Justine Lo, Toru Sugita, and Chris Nickel. A jazz trio performed just outside the door, adding to the ambience on the warm, clear evening. The window area of the gallery was dominated by a playful installation by Toru Sugita who used rope to toy with lines and space from the floor to the ceiling.
The 4th was celebrated in a variety of ways all around the Bay this weekend, but the impoverished state of municipal and private coffers definitely made itself felt in just about every area. In a quick check of fireworks displays, we located only six shows, out of the onetime nearly one hundred municipal and private shows that allowed anyone with a view of anything to enjoy fireworks. Once again, Oaktown responded to financial pressures, even as the crime-plagued city looks at cutting police, by cancelling its night display, while its daytime fest lasted barely 11 to 4 in Jack London Square.
In better times one could stand on the Strand and watch fireworks go up all along the peninsula and down the Bay to Hayward, but none of those cities held fireworks this year.
Sadly, our own 35th Mayor's Parade also showed strong signs of the bad economy, for it may be said that although spirited, this year's 135 entrants substantially lacked zing, imagination and sparkle. In fact it was the blandest parade ever held here, with a strong flavor of local business money trying hard to promote itself by means of the rather large "parade sponsor" signs. Dozens of entries consisted of nothing more than a bunting-draped big car bedecked with advertising. Gone were the colorful Falun Gong, most of the kung fu studios, Mcgrath's Pub, our poet laureate, and most of the talented vaqueros with their dancing horses. No more antique automobile club or rumbling Harleys. Has the bad economy also slain whimsy?
On the upside, there remained -- thank heaven for them! -- a small squad of pennyfarthings, stiltwalkers, one surviving Elvis on a bicycle, and the return of the much beloved Little Tramp. The tiki bar on Lincoln reprised their "Meshuggah Beach Party" and at least one strolling food item - an eight-foot high ice cream cone. So here are some pics, starting with a surprisingly sour-looking Mayor with her despondant retinue on a stagecoach.
C'mon Beverly, you got a bigger and fancier coach this year. Nevermind losing the election in June.
Most of City Council made their appearance, with Doug DeHaan,
however remaining concealed inside a closed car, probably because of the
organizer's rebuff of his original electioneering float design. The one
original was Frank Mataresse, who alone appeared among all of them within
a modest budget and going "green".
Our parade, being one of the largest small town parades in America, also attracts dignitaries from larger entities. Alice Lai-Bitker is not only an Islander, but also President of the County Board of Supervisors.
The machine that was to have changed the world, and which was killed by local ordinances banning them from sidewalks across the US, the Segway, will likely make its appearance in parades for years to come.
Is it just us, or does it seem like the Bay Area has lately gone to the dogs?
You are in a parade! Smile for Pete's sake!
A little whimsey is better; that is an original way to wear a bowtie, at least.
No parade complete without the King of Rock and Roll.
And a brace of pennyfarthings.
The man's got crabs.
Your first parade is always serious business.
Viva los vaqueros!
Proof we don't make this stuff up: the old as dirt and largely unknown Native Sons of the Golden West.
A walking food item.
The Little Tramp! Back again for more.
Old guys rule!
From a different walk of life entire, these ladies appear to be out to have a good time.
Now THATS a real hi-five!
The USS Potomac was Franklin Delano Roosevelts presidential yacht from 1936 until his death in 1945. It is moored at Jack London Waterfront.
No Western parade complete without at least one cowboy.
But this one seems to also be suffering from the state of the economy.
Part of the NRA contingent. The real revolvers were shooting blanks.
The cameras got gremlins after this. And that was the 35th Mayor's Parade.
SANDY, THE FIREWORKS ARE HAILIN' OVER LITTLE EDEN TONIGHT
It's been a warm week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Old Judge Wrangle hired his nephew, Julio, to cut back all the brambles behind the Old Fence and the boy went at it at first with an electric weed-wacker, which turned out, not surprisingly, to be insufficient to decimate a forest there about six feet high. Soon enough the fellow was at it with a plug-in circular saw which did a lot of damage and caused immense piles of woody, weedy, blackberries and cottonwood to pile up all around him. He was at that twenty-foot section most of the day getting sweaty and red-faced in the process. A good idea might have been to torch the entire spread, igniting the fence itself, or lay down weedkiller -- to the detriment of the neighbor's tomatoes and beans -- but he is a good Californian boy and would not think of such things.
This being a weekend upon which the 4th of July squarely falls, has resulted in a delightful bollocks of schedules. Because it falls on Sunday, Friday is circumspect and for the same reason now, Monday is also an holiday. Because so many are out of work and there is no business to be had, few complain about taking both of the days off, while some have simply stated, "let us keep the Sabbath" and let no one off in fond hopes a dollar may be earned on both days.
Marlene and Andre grilled tubesteaks on the makeshift BBQ made of Mr.
Howitzer's missing Bentley grill and other carparts so as to preserve
the tradition of July 4th BBQ with Rolf, Snuffles, and Bonkers the dog.
Suan hung out before heading over to the Crazy Horse for the "Sensual
Fireworks" show in which she would end up wearing a couple burning
sparklers -- and not much else. The economy is tough and a job's a job.
On the Island, there was much ado about preparation for the annual Mayor's Parade for some businesses. But at the last minute many entities found that there was no money left after paying the entrance fee to actually build anything.
Parlor # 46&1/2 of the Native Sons of the Golden West got into a nasty brough-ha-ha with Parlor # 47 over the issue of including certain Ohlone and Lenni Lenapi elements within their charter, for it was felt by some that these elements did not preserve the Spirit of 49 with adequate enthusiasm. In the end, Parlor #46&1/2 withdrew their entry from the parade in a hissy fit of indignation.
The Old Same Place Bar had quite a time of putting together its Gaelic-themed float, which consisted of a flatbed hauling a scene from Cuchulain's madness against the waves, with Padraic presenting as Finn Cuchulain, and Dawn and Suzie cavorting as sea nymphs amid the "foam". A generator powered pumps which sent streams of water into the air over the girls and Eugene Gallipagus drove the truck.
They were positioned in the parade right after Mr. Howitzer's float, "Ode to Enterprise", really a pop for his real estate firm, which consisted of sturdy "builders" hired off the corner of Fruitvale and East 14th to look like they were laying adobe bricks while the wealthy magnate (himself) threw handfuls of gold foil-wrapped chocolate "coins" to the adoring urchins on the street. Javier was up there wielding a trowel with his friend Xavier as if they knew what they were doing. They kept a bottle of tequila stashed in the corner of the waist-high fake wall and took nips whenever Mr. Howitzer's back was turned.
Mr. Howitzer wanted to make sure everything went smooth, so he arranged for another float to precede him; this one titled "Spirit of '49", and which was staffed by all the indigent folks who lived in the rented house down by the beach. He had them got up in disreputable, dirty, torn trousers, boots, slouch hats and gave them all shovels and pie-tins, so as to mime the efforts of panning for gold on a pile of debris. Bonkers and Wickiwup sat up there wearing kerchiefs and slouch hats as well, acting pretty much as dogs will do while Jose, Mancini, Marsha, Occasional Quentin, and Tipitina tossed dirt and pebbles back and forth, while Pahrump sat there as the emblematic Native American, bare chested and all painted up. Every once in a while one of them would make a "find" and then they all got up and did a merry square dance whooping and hollaring. Their water canteens contained several gallons of box wine from Longs so even though they all detested Mr. Howitzer, they started feeling pretty loose and besides, they all needed the money.
Wootee Kanootee, the famous moose tamer, followed along with his charges, Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Vixen and Hockey Puck. Even though he was Canadian, he presented such an interesting appearance in his beaver pelt cap, bright red shirt, suspenders, halo of fruit flies, and eternally muddy boots, that the parade folks let him in. What the heck; he looked like a '49er.
Sympatho Mimetoslovic and the Amazing Anatolia Enigma followed performing various magic tricks, including the not always successful effort to make each other disappear. Then followed Father Duran, clad in a Dominican friar's habit, on the float for the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, with Sister Maria Speculum dressed as a neophyte/madonna with child, the child being a Tickle Me Elmo doll on loan. Piles of sandbags lay about, intending to represent mission adobe bricks while a barefoot mariachi band dressed in white neophyte "shirts" performed lively tunes, such as "La Intrepido Narcotrafficante" and "La Cucaracha", which had nothing to do with the missions, but which everyone enjoyed immensely.
Things went swimmingly until the NRA folks, all dressed as vaqueros with broad-brimmed sombreros and riding horses, all let loose with their revolvers as they approached the judge's stand, intending to cause an impressive commotion and lots of black powder smoke. This they did, spooking Kanootee's moose who stampeded up the line, at first toward the NRA and then back again as they shootists let loose another volley. This had the effect of finally making the two magicians fly into the crowd, frockcoattails flying in a blizzard of cards.
Hockey Puck lept over -- or attempted to leap over the Old Same Place Bar float but managed only half-way before turning about in a circle to destroy destroying the sea and the Irish castle and the Blarney stones while Padraic flailed at the animal with his blackthorn stick. Something in the water pump broke and a powerful jet smashed across the way to wreck the adobe "wall" belonging to the "Ode to Enterprise before turning most of the "Spirit of 49" into a gloopy pile of mud. The skyline of the City of Enterprise drooped, sagged and finally collapsed pretty much like the housing market did a while back.
Mr. Howitzer's dog, Eisenhower, got loose to start chasing Prancer and Vixen who began mixing it up among the Lutheran choir and marching band while Donner crashed into and overturned several flatbed trucks, sending bunting and musical instruments flying in all directions. Amid the Day of the Locusts wreckage and confusion, wailing and lamentation, a red Elmo doll kept waving his arms in the middle of the street and saying, "Ha ha ha! Do it again! Do it again!"
The stampede was only halted by the one figure whom everyone respected without exception, and there he stood, dismounted from his bicycle with his arm dramatically poised to halt -- the Elvis impersonator in glittering white suit and shades.
Little Imbecilla Cupcake picked up one of the gold coins tossed by Mr. Howitzer and said, "Yuck! This candy is melted!" before throwing back at the furious magnate.
At the end of the day a fine time was had by all at the 35th Annual Mayor's 4th of July Parade.
The 4th is all about brats, parades, patriotism and, of course, fireworks. That night, a skeleton crew put together the weekly Island-Life issue, as the Editor had let most of the staff go to enjoy the evening with their respective families. So while folks roamed down by the Point and Crab cove, hoping to glimpse a few fire flowers from across the water, the Editor sat at his desk, the few remaining white hairs flying in an aureole about his head. The times are hard, hard indeed, but the weekly issue must go through.
And right on schedule the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the sparkeling waters of the estuary under the smokey fire-blossoms of the sky as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered windows and doors of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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