Island Life 2004
Jan. - June
Welcome to the Year 2004. This Page covers the 1st half of Year 2004 so as to easier page loading. To return to the present time, click on the image of the boats above.
To roam about in time or search for a particular date, go to the newly created Archives page.
JANUARY 4, 2004
HELLO, IS ANYBODY OUT THERE?
Got the Putamayo World Music Hour on the radio for this first entry of the new year; theme is, appropriately, Peace on Earth for the New Year. For you newcomers, this space is updated every week, more or less promptly, each Sunday evening. This year marks the sixth full year for this enterprise, which began as a kind of HTML exercise at the end of 1998.
We are a loose consortium of artists and musicians, scattered around the globe; everyone is free to contribute items which are filtered through the Editor and presented with a unified Voice to maintain consistency.
According to the stats, about 8,600 individuals visited the Island Life site and spent more than 800 seconds here. The vast majority of you spent time in the Backpain area and the next majority spent time in the Camping section. Go figure.
Seems about 22 of you visited each day to check things out, with larger numbers checking in on the holidays and weekends, making the numbers really crazy at about 450 visits on the Holidays. Go figure.
A friend recently gave us a copy of Neal Stephenson's newest, and we look forward to tangos among the numismatics. The rest of you can go figure.
I HAVE MY SHIP AND MUSIC IS HER NAME
Mark Hummel brings his annual "Blues Harmonica Blowout" to Yoshis on the 9th through the 10th. Featured artists include Cephas and Wiggins as well as the Blues Survivors. Bobby Hutcherson fills in from the 15th to the 18th. Bimbos 365 hosts Pride and Joy the 9th, then Bud E Luv drags his lounge act in on the 10th. Bill Haley, fills in on the 16th. Remember "Rock around the Clock"? Buck Owens takes over on the 7th of Feb. at this increasingly important venue.
The Fillmore already launched the New Year in style with Les Claypool, but Robert Cray comes in on the 16th to show all the young bucks how it is done. Maceo Parker hauls in the woodwinds on the 24th and our personal favorites, Hot Tuna, take over with Box Set on the 28th for an evening that surely will be remembered for a long time after. Leftover Salmon jams on the 30th and Sevendust promises altrock on the 5th of February.
The Warfield starts things off with Staind on the 15th and old-timers Deep Purple with Thin Lizzy hold forth with smoke on the water on the 11th of February.
Personally, we think Jorma is on a roll, and the Hot Tuna event is the one to watch for with Maceo Parker holding out for those who just cannot get enough sax, unless Bobby Hutcherson happens to blow the roof off the joint.
Don't say we didn't warn ya.
THE YEAR IN REVIEW
On second thought, the entire idea really sucks. We had a spurious invasion of another country on manufactured grounds, whole-sale suspension of civil liberties, death of over 500 American soldiers engaged in dubious enterprise and maiming of another 2,000 to fatten the pockets of those so rich that the very idea of their wealth makes the common man physically ill, death of Johnny Cash, the 25th anniversary of Jonestown, the successful circumvention of justice through the recall of a state governor and his replacement with an idiot of no experience, massive retrenchment of freedom and the world-wide humiliation of a once distinguished nation among Nations.
On the other hand, we had Iggy Pop in a resurgence of Punk, Neil Young still punching with his radical "Greendale", and the opening of the Webster Street Tube.
On the Island, things went as follows:
The Encinal HS sent their mascot, a Navy Jet, in for cosmetic repairs, then began a flap over the propriety of retaining a symbol of the American Military-Industrial Complex on the front lawn.
In February, the City began testing the EBS systems for possible terrorist attack/disaster.
In March the City condemned the Iraq actions and demanded adherence to UN strictures.
In April, the school board cut 1.7 million from the budget and Critical Mass held its first gathering of bicyclists without incident. Officials were surprised that the activists who promote alternative forms of transportation never had any intention of disruption of City activities and always insist on civil appearances. The entire event went off without a hitch or an arrest.
The School board began a series of layoffs, followed by city-wide closures due to the budget crisis. Recall Governor Arnold removed the $$ to the localities promised by the vehicle tax, replacing those funds with monies out of the General Fund for the State, leaving a vacuity of some 1.5 billion His audit of the State expenses revealed 0 waste and the report was quickly buried.
In October, the Golden State, hit hard by beetle infestation and drought, suffered a massive series of wildland fires. The fires consumed nearly a million acres of land and were visible from Space.
On the Island, Colin Washington was slammed on the head with a stolen scooter and sent into hospital in a coma. Violent crime seemed to rise with a murder of a woman by her husband, a former Hells Angel President, and several altercations at bus stops in which victims were pushed down or beaten. Police raids occurred in the West End, collecting a few methamphetamine criminals, but the violence continued in sporadic events, indicating that the nature of the Island and the West End was heading for change, like it or not.
On the upside, the Island realized that with the fiscal crisis in Babylon, now was the time to grab the Bay Area's most valuable asset, the artists. A commission has been established and money set aside to promote and foster arts on the Island and now hundreds of talented people are flocking to the Island. Apparently many have realized that the exorbitant rents and the price gouging in Babylon, have driven many artisans to the East Bay.
Brown cared not for those not possessed of stock accounts and now Newsome winds up holding the empty bag. Hey, dude, you snooze, you lose.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The temps are plummeting and the Weatherbug is snarling with alarms again. Two days without rain and we have seen frost on the rooftops all over. Things dropped to 32 last night and tonight they are saying that the low twenties will visit the Valley and even Oaktown. Snowline is dropping to 2,000 feet, meaning the entire Oakland Hills as well as Mount Tam will show a dust of white by morning.
The cold merely broke a rain spell that hammered the East Bay, flooding the Grand Lake district to a foot and chasing movie-goers out of the Grand Lake Cinema for a redoux of the last Lord of the Rings, Part III, sometime next week. The Island was ankle-deep over the greater part while the rains kept pounding down, punching a livingroom-sized sinkhole in the street to swallow a van.
Took a wander up to the north end and found friends in Marin yet again without power, but warm enough due to a wood-burning stove. When Friday morn hit after the New Year, CHP reported 40 accidents between 8:30am and 8:45. One DOA at the scene.
Now we have the dry, but the temps is going down, down, down, in a most ferocious manner we ain't used to. Only thing to consider to the good in all this is that SoCal missed the heavy rain after the mudslides of the previous week had killed 10 people.
But up here, it is so cold that Dr. Friedrich is snuggling up like a purr-factory every night.
Down in Newark, where mad Eugene Shrubb maintains his Occupation of Newark in search of Weapons of Mass Doo-doo, the bums shiver under their newspaper blankies and curse the day of the Invasion.
We can see we just might have to explain that last one to newcomers, but let be.
We welcome the entry of foreigner, Opus, to our shores. Bloom County is about 900 miles to the right from here. At present, daisies may be somewhat hard to come by in this season of unseasonable cold, but we wish Mr. Opus all the best.
Opus is not normally a member of this assembly, but we feel a fond association for the old fellow all the same. The fact that rumors of his reappearance have surfaced in fact, indicate a certain tenor of the times. A need for penguins perhaps. And their cuddly, marvelous wisdom.
For that is the way on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 11, 2004
ONCE IN A LIFETIME
Hello everybody and welcome to a kinder and gentler New Year. I live on an Island that snuggles in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. We have a Mayor, named Beverly, a City Council, a City Hall that is missing a bell tower, and the most formidable traffic enforcement police in the world.
We have a Tube, some bridges, one antiquated shopping centre and the most engaging cast of characters for a population that you ever would want to meet.
Being located in the middle of the Bay, in the middle of things, as it were, between Oaktown, Babylon, Berzerkeley, and other parts too numerous to mention, not to scorn the infamous Nimitz which is the most dangerous freeway in America and other notable attractions, we are well situated to report on all the goings on about the Bay Area. And there always seems to be something going on, all sorts of parties and concerts and political shenanigans and artists jumping up and down and all sorts of grand schemes blowing to little mouse bits while little dust bunnies are becoming great Godzilla's all the time.
Throw in the odd earthquake and fire and flood from time to time and it all makes for quite an enchanting place with all sorts of marvelous diversions and even some real life too.
GUARANTEED PRIZES IN EVERY BOX
In the coming year, returning readers and new ones will hear about Officer O'Madhaun's efforts to totally eradicate crime on the Island by issuing traffic tickets up the whazoo. Eugene Shrubb, self-elected President of the Bums, has invaded Newark under the now clearly spurious pretext of locating Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo in the form of rabid terrierists -- including the notorious Osama Bin Lassie -- and this continuing Occupation is no end of trouble for everyone concerned.
We have the occasional visit from Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area from the Pleistocene Era who provide edification and instruction upon particular points of local history that may have fallen through the cracks in our more stolid accounts.
All of this and more awaits you in this pristine year, still dimpled with baby fat and chortling to itself over the prospects.
We just cannot wait.
LIKE A CANDLE IN THE WIND
We have been notified that Mambo, the hound made famous during the last Island Thanksgiving BBQ by his noble actions as a poodle decoy, has passed away. Mambo, we have learned possessed the true heart of a great dog who also kept his master companion for well over 12 long years of dedicated service and he is sorely missed.
We are also pleased to discover that Mambo was not a true poodle at all, but a mix, consisting largely of Llasa Apso, which granted him a level of intelligence and sophistication not often found in lesser breeds. Much of his smarts may have derived from the fact that his owner majored in physics while in college.
It is thought that Mambo passed away while in possession of a toy Moebius strip in which someone had punched a hole. The Moebius strip is a curiosity in mathematics for it is an object that appears to exist in our three dimensional space, but its singular property is that it has only one side and one surface to that side.
The fatal question for Mambo was this: If the strip has only one side, where then goes the hole?
Apparently, the paradox of this issue proved too much for the intelligent hound, who had previously worked out the last Fermat equation to everyone's delighted surprise. But as so often happens, some dog swiped the proof right off of the plate to get all the credit.
MY DADDY WAS A BANK ROBBER
In the "this is getting REALLY annoying category", someone held up Washington Mutual on Otis at gunpoint before fleeing in a lime-green 1970 El Camino. After BofA, Island Bank, and Wells, this makes WM the last bank in the row to be robbed in a takeover-style robbery on Otis. A lime-green 1970 El Camino? Oh really, of all the tacky choices to make in a getaway car! Somebody refer this loser to "Queer Eye for a Straight Guy" for some fashion tips.
Still, since no traffic ordinances were violated, the perpetrators got clean away.
PUTTING ON THE DOG
A national animal rights agency is offering a $2,500 reward to the person who helps find the yahoo that cut off the ears of Ava, a young pit bull, and burned the wounds with acid before deciding, well, might as well toss her in the out in the dumpster since the job looked awful. Call 337-8560. No extra money but special points if you kick the asshole in the nuts first.
HUNK A BURNING LOVE
Dido, they say, had a burning passion for that fugitive from burning Troy, Aeneas, but the big boy had plans to build Rome and invent pizza, so he ran off, leaving her to carry a torch. Straight to her funeral pyre. Ever since then, the great masters have been writing symphonies, plays, poems and operas about the pair.
The Crucible, the premier West Coast center for metal arts, is hosting a one-time performance of the Opera by Henry Purcell at its new digs at 1260 7th Street on the 16-17 of January. Roy Rollo of the San Francisco Opera is directing this extravaganza, featuring artists from the SF Opera and the American Bach Soloists as well as a variety of fire dancers and musicians performing to a backdrop of metal pours, glassblowing, welding, and all sorts of astonishing pyrotechnics.
Crucible performances never fail to astound and amaze, and this should be a very special evening, with the remarkable bargain of only $25 for the last performance on the 17th. Island LIfe has been privileged to view the setup prior to lights up and we can say most earnestly, grab your wife, grab your kids, grab your Significant Other and get yourselves over to 7th Street in Oaktown on the 17th (parking is never a problem over there and the site is across the street, literally, from the West Oakland BART) for an amazing evening of music and performance.
Believe me, you will be glad you came.
Opening Night Performance on the 16th is $125, of which $100 is tax deductible. The Crucible is a non-profit organization.
I BELONG, I BELONG TO THAT STEEL DRIVING CREW
After a delightful stroll in the West Marin hills we dropped into a little place with a bar and an adjoining banquet room to hear what might be going down on a casual Sunday evening in the country. Rancho Nicasio is a homey sort of place of the sort that used to dot the landscape all over California and the West in general, with a comfortable, neighborly atmosphere where parents feel quite at ease taking the toddlers and rug rats to crawl and scrawl underneath massive mounted heads of the sorts of things that haven't lived around these parts for well on forty years. Where the food is good and the bar well stocked with the best tequila found north of the border.
Nicasio itself was founded in 1830 as a waypoint for cattle ranchers in the days when antelope still bounded across the grasslands of the Central Valley. It has remained a pleasant little backwater set amid the rolling hills abutting the protected slopes of Mount Tam, and with any luck will stay that way for another one hundred years.
It so happened that we stumbled in on Loren Rowen performing on twelve-string with Barry Sless on lapsteel to a packed house and the pair, joined by locals on congas and bass, with Loren's lovely wife adding backup vocals rocked the house. Did they rock the house? Hell man, they blew the doors off down the road as far as San Rafael and raised the roof another couple of feet with the energy.
The name Rowan ought to be familiar to you, for this is the same Rowen of the Rowen Brothers and the son of Peter Rowan, known in bluegrass circles as being a mainstay of the genre with Bill Monroe and primogeniture of the Free Mexican Airforce band..
In fact, Loren performed a little number dedicated to his father that had half the women in the house in full waterfall tears.
The guy was absolutely phenomenal, blazing out incendiary licks and runs and bends on the twelve-string like it was a 6-string nylon with ease while maintaining a rich, velvety voice on the vocals, while Sless glided and picked the most ethereal sounds from his electric lapsteel. At the end, the entire crowd rose to their feet for a rousing, stomping ovation. Not bad for a bar band on a Sunday evening in the country.
Loren Rowen performs at the famous Sweetwater Cafe on the 11th of February and with any luck, Sless will be with him again. You want music? You want excitement? We suggest you go.
WALKIN' BOSS, I DON'T BELONG TO YOU
Walking down to the road from the falls, we could see the fog come boiling over the coastal range and go marching down into the trees with thick fingers. Soon, night shut down the show, leaving heaving mists to blanket the entire world. Driving back to the Warmer Side, through the wormhole of time to the present day, or evening in this case, the moon and stars busted out for a little waltz over the Berkeley tidal flats, turning like a moebius strip under ripples of water and time. Finally home again and time to feed Dr. Friederich while all the House was asleep. Now we are past the midnight hour and the fog horns are sounding out there for anyone to listen. The evening backup is firing up while the echoes of the midnight through-passing train die away across the Buena Vista flatlands.
Every Sunday evening the midnight train rolls out of the Port and steams through the empty and shuttered and dark shop fronts along the Jack London Waterfront. Where it is going, who knows. Some nights I think I will just go down there and look at the tracks one minute before the hour and see just what sort of train this is that leaves for somewhere at such an hour. But then, it may be that this train is no real train at all, but the train that has echoed down through the centuries of all our imaginings of late-night departures.
Be careful not to trust him, this man with a ticket getting out of here, in an old train station, in an old pair of shoes. Oh I think I'll 'cept your invitation to the Blues.
Had a talk with a genius the other day about space travel and the problems about going fast as the speed of light. Never managed to mention these wormholes of time and space that are supposed to exist, whereby you hop on in there and get over about 140 light years in about 40 minutes. If you went less than that, you just might meet yourself coming in.
"Howdya do?" Fine Thanks. "You are going to forget that dentist appointment." Ah yes, thanks. "No problem. Bye now."
Talk about talking to yourself. This physics can get confusing.
On the Island, we live in that wormhole between the sides of a moebius strip, always firing along a possibility of departure before arrival. Somewhere in between, there's a Mambo, gamboling after a stick you tossed or have yet to toss, and he is saying, "Hey David! C'mon here with me; Let's have some fun!"
But David has cares and a wife and things he needs to take care of right now. Time enough for that. Like for all of us. Time enough for later to venture through that wormhole of time. Who knows what is on the Other Side but maybe Mambo worrying a dogbone.
Sometimes we get that way on the Island. That's just the way it is. Have a great week.
I don't belong to you
I belong to that steel drivin' crew
JANUARY 18, 2004
ONE TREE HILL
Monday is Martin Luther King Day. But this entire week is being devoted to issues the Great Leader lived and died for. The general consensus here is that we do not want the facts and issues of a great man's life to be digested into a 30 second sound bite that is subsequently discarded so as to sell more napkins and automobiles. While the essential horrors and legacies of horror remain with us from each impossible day to the next.
Some of us still remember, in dreams and in waking nightmares the snapping crackle of the burning cross, searing a wound in the front yard that never will heal until all principals are mercifully dead and gone to Judgment. Who here remembers being shoved down below the windowsill level, so the bullets coming through would not find target?
In some places, a simple scripture in the form of a mezuzah on the door lintel would incite the race rage that boiled down below. I certainly experienced that.
But King was not a man about vengeance or violent means. He was a preacher man who found himself in the wrong place at the right time, and he accepted his fate and walked forward with it with honest, integrity and tremendous courage.
King helped begin and lead the long road of purgation of deep guilt and sin and evil that soured this country for over 400 years and which still continues to this day. The glory of this man is that the difficult work continues in spite of many who obstructed the progress of human rights with baseball bats, bullets and fire. Of course no single man can ever shunt overnight 400 years of history that included slavery, but the astonishing effect of the man persists beyond his death. Yes, much needs to be done, but much has been done and Monday we focus on the successes and triumphs of the spirit against the forces of darkness.
Now, in this time, when the forces of Darkness seem All Powerful, its important to remember the good things that have happened and how far we have come.
In memory of Eric Mosby.
All the country is agog at NASA's little tinkertoy with a webcam trundling about land that used to be a shopping mall before global warming hit the Red Planet.
Signs that We are not the First to establish a presence on Mars cropped up in one of the rover's photographs
Rumor from Eugene Shrubb's special think-tank, The Kenmore Institute for the New American Hobo Century -- plans are to make a manned space trip to the moon with the intention of establishing a tax shelter industrial park, complete with factories and off-shore outsourcing. Just imagine a place where there is no minimum wage and the employees have to pay for air. All the global economists are so giddy they had to be fitted with catheters to avoid wetting their collective pants.
The Other Rumor: An Executive Plan to put all the loud-mouth neo-cons into a canister and fire them off to the moon or Mars and just leave them there has turned out to be unfounded, although pleasurable, speculation
Dave Matthews just finished a 12 date tour here in Oaktown at the Arena. By all accounts, the show blasted off and sent ticketholders on a journey way past the Red Planet. The mercurial Trey Anastasio filled in as lead guitar. Anastasio, hailed by some as the best guitarist to hit the planet in 20 years, has fronted for the sorta-Dead-like band Phish but also has worked with many other artists in the biz, managing to adapt his style to just about anything and everybody.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
A new water-taxi service now shuttles people from the Island to the Jack London Waterfront. Bicycles allowed and encouraged. A Commute Hours special will begin running in April. Well, we do live on an Island after all, and every day is another working day. Makes you wonder what kept them from such a plan all this time. Mabel, we can dock the rowboat now. I got another way to get to the downtown salt mines. . . .
SHOCK THE MONKEY
Gung Hay Fat Choi to you too. January 22 marks the Chinese Year of the Monkey and all over the Bay, crackers will be popping, dragons dancing, martial artists jumping up and down, drums pounding and heung heung hoh sic drifting out of all the restaurants. Especially here in the East Bay, where the celebrations are warmer and everyone is invited, there will be tons of stuff to do over the next two weeks.
In all the latest flap about MJ's trial on charges of sexually abusing a minor, there have been odd little events which signify that perhaps the influence of the former Jackson 5 prodigy extends beyond a few snappy steps and solo crotch-grabbing. Australians were outraged at the photo op which appears below.
That is no box lunch he has cradled in his left arm, but his 9 month old son. Most curiously, the largest complaint heard was a comparison between the croc hunter and Michael Jackson, who apparently now is an international symbol of bad parenting.
THE WAR ON TERRIERS CONTINUES
Island-life secured a rare classified photo from the interrogation rooms at the notorious Guantanamera Bay Detention Center in Newark, California. Pictured is Iman Salaam AliAkbar, alleged chief of the Al Qibblesah terrier cell, who was captured during a daring dinnertime raid on Bay Street. Here, AliAkbar is being interrogated with tactics the local chapter of Amnesty International has roundly condemned.
Ali just might be a bloodthirsty terrierist, but then again, he might just be another hapless pup. And no matter what they do, he is not going to handwrite any neat confession of any type in Arabic, English or Swahili any time soon. Even if the Easter Bunny should be deployed. Even if he were guilty as sin, because he does not know now to write. Clearly, the Neo-Cons may have overstepped the bounds of decency and X-mas by employing unsavory methods.
As for the third rumor, the reason no X-mas creche was constructed on the White House lawn this year was because in all of Washington DC, no Wise Men could be found and certainly no Virgins.
THE HARD TIME KILLING FLOOR
We always get a little emo, a little weepy every MLK day. It's hard to just go to work, thinking about all the stuff that has gone down. We have friends whose bones are scattered across the country in sundry graves because of the crap Dr. King was dealing with. And every time we hear that another one of the Old Guard dies, one of those who barred the doors of his Establishment with baseball bats, we have a little party.
But its no way to continue, celebrating somebody's death. Better to think about the good things some people did and what lives on.
Right now, the House of Blues is wailing over the stereo. Michael Brooks is singing about that Other Woman. Rain has yielded to sun in the day and cool temps at night. The tattered City holiday ornaments remain hung from the lamp posts along Lincoln Street, but Pagano's has removed the stuffed Santa from its storefront display, showing only three, apparently angry, old folks staring at the buzzing TV set, which just buzzes and buzzes and buzzes.
Time enough for any of you to experience the Blues. Expect most of you will. Given the way things are going. Only suggest you appeal to Miss Mercy. She always has what you need.
While 2003 may have been the Year of the Blues by Congressional decree, 2004 may fall into the same category by default unless something powerful changes. How did you spend your 300 dollar tax rebate? Not so much? Maybe nothing? Par for the course.
Here on the Island we count our chickens after they are hatched. Anything else seems foolish.
Have a great week.
JANUARY 25, 2004
They came from the great salt flats of Palo Alto. They came from the embattled bungalows of Marin City where cars perch up on blocks for years in the front yard until they stop being cars, only homes for the birds. From the wastelands of Hayward and the freeway overpasses of Babylon where the thousands huddle each night from the freezing rain. From the abandoned warehouses on the Point they crept in the dawn and sunset gone violent with frost. Down from Berzerkeley where compassion softens the rod and even from far flung Sacto, which houses the Incorrigibles they sent their delegations. From all over the Bay Area they came, in dribbles and drabbles from the State streets of Babylon under the green Apple seed and perfect blue buildings on crutches, in wheelchairs, on railway freight cars, on hitches and rides and crutches they came.
Yes, from Texas and Vermont and Virginia and Ohio, and many others, the bums of Northern California sent their delegations to the Island Jetty, where the President of the Bums holds his annual Speech, the most famous State of the Onion Speech before the most high and mighty Congress of the Bums.
There on the Jetty, President Eugene Shrubb held forth while seated upon his throne of porcelain that was set upon a raised dais of old tires. And all about him the Legislature of Bums sat, lolled, reclined and snored.
The President began with a small encomium and a toast to the valiant warriors who were even now engaged in the dangerous task of subjugating Newark. He then went on to declare that the war on Terrierists and their nefarious Poodles was going great guns, notwithstanding a few downed warriors here and there and the failure to catch the notorious Osama Bin Lassie.
Nevertheless, since the capture of Saddam Husky, the Major of Newark's Best Friend, the world had become a safer place.
Afterward, disgruntled commentators remarked that they could not see how the devil capturing the Mayor's dog could have in any way an impact on the sort of Terrierism which had resulted in the attempted hijacking of City Hall a few years ago on the 9th of November, especially since it appears quite clear that there never were weapons of Mass Doo-Doo in Newark California and that Newark certainly has never had the slightest connection to Osama Bin Lassie.
Since questions are not allowed during the
State of the Onion Speech, the President continued his insistence that WMDD
would be found any day in Newark, but that the process of discovery had been
slowed by persistent attacks from the Resistance and the necessity to secure
the liquor supply lines.
Turning his noted silver tongue and great linguistic gifts to other matters of importance, the President addressed the Economy of the Onion. Which is odiferous and therefore indicative of change coming just around the corner -- if only the lousy bums would hold the course, stay on track, abjure radical changes (unless proposed by his StinkTank, the Project for the New American Smoochy) and kindly allow the President and his friends to continue to make money and booze hand over fist.
Regarding badly needed health reform, Shrubb indicated that his remedy of a pint of booze per patient and RX's from Canada had been recently approved by the Senate. He mentioned with a witticism that now prescriptions were cheap due to NAFTA. While the native RX makers might temporarily object, Shrubb noted that since all manufacturing is being outsourced beyond the borders, those objectors would soon follow suite and thereby reap the benefits of increased productivity.
"Imagine trusting your headache to aspirin from Mexico!" Eugene shouted triumphantly. Since everyone present was a bum and without employment in this area, and consequently had nothing personally to lose by sending jobs across the border, the entire congregation stood to applaud with admiration at this stroke of genius.
"And everyone who misses out on the new health plan will simply die and free us all from onerous obligations! More booze for everybody!" he added.
This last comment was not appreciated quite as well as the first.
On quite a roll, and well into his second bottle of Tokay, Shrubb continued on the jobs theme, remarking that the loss of more jobs in one period than has been seen since the Great Depression is actually a boon, for when three people are laid off, a single employee then must do the work formerly done by the three as well as his own. Any idiot can see that productivity per capita then goes through the roof and the sun shines down on all with increased profits.
Shrubb apologized to those who had experienced a bit of trouble at the entry points: the state of heightened security necessitated heightened measures, including strip searches -- especially of suspicious and comely individuals -- appropriation of contraband booze and confiscation of weapons and good boots.
"So what is the surrender of a few liberties over the increased security of our Onion?" Shrubb said.
"Consider the Onion, small and odiferous that it is, but entirely ours, a perfect metaphor kept in my side pocket like the world surrounded by the infinite vastness of Space, space which we are presently on the verge of colonizing with strip malls, fast foot joints and body shops. At times, when life seems hard, when the pawn shop just will not take another accordion and the credit is all gone down at the Local on the corner, when your main squeeze has run off with the keys to the car you been sleeping in for the past six months, consider this: in this age of marvels, our best minds have found that there is enough water and ice on Mars to make ten million highballs! Don't worry: be happy!"
Standing now, Shrubb rocked up on top of his throne set on the quivering pile of tires as he waved his bottle about in the manner of the great orators of old, calling in mind Socrates, Julius Caesar, Albert Speer. "I say hold the course and get behind the mule! Lets invade somebody else again for we really showed them we can wreck a State and mess up a dictator's hair really bad. They'll have more respect for us bums now we are on a roll. I propose nothing less than a total Revolution in Society that will make everything go Our Way! We do what we please, account to nobody and we even got the judges now on our side. But society ain't finished being changed. not everybody has been hooked on Jesus . . .".
Here his wild gesticulation led to the kipping over of the throne sending Eugene plummeting down from the mount in a hail of tires and toilet parts.
The Assembly rose to applaud and everybody got really drunk. Thus ended the State of the Onion Speech of the year 2004.
DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY
The economy looks like a horror picture made
by Ridley Scott, with millions out of work and dreadful silences all up and
down the 101 Corridor from the Golden Gate to Santa Rosa, but here on the Island
at least the local fence is doing well. Robberies are up 50%. Officer O'Madhaun
attributes the rise to the larger employment of juveniles who are too young
to get a drivers license.
"Without a traffic infraction to pin 'em, the little cads scamper off scot free," stated the Officer.
The seasonal decline in summer is attributed to the fact that so many juvies managed to steal an automobile successfully, resulting in a higher arrest rate for speeding, shuffling the stop sign and weaving across lanes on a Tuesday.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Some of you who are patrons of the Chestnut-Encinal Market may already know that the place has been sold as the owner, Mike, has decided to retire. The result is that most of the people there will be leaving and this is a sad thing for all of us who have gotten to know them.
The market has been a delightful place to run into friends and neighbors while shopping for stuff in the best meat market on the Island.
BEFORE YOU ACCUSE ME
The George "Old" MacDonald Hall of Justice is a remarkable place to spend one's time, edifying and entertaining at once, and an hour spent there is often better than a movie by Stephen Spielberg. Wednesday, a criminal trial began which has captured the hearts and minds of soft-shoe dance fans everywhere, for on Wednesday, the Case of the People against Michael Johansson began, presided by Commissioner Rasch. The charge: Molestation of Turtles.
Johansson is the youngest member of the hysterically famous barbershop quartet plus two in soft shoe, The Kinsey Six. Most recently, Johansson won an award for his music video, "Spiller," in which the entertainer pours a pitcher of beer slowly over the head of his ex-lover.
We have transcripts of the trial on tape and in typed form and would like to share a few gems with you.
Apparently, everyone except the long suffering Commissioner arrived 20 minutes late due to Officer O'Madhaun pulling people over at the entrance to the courthouse parking lot for failure to stop before a turn.
After a fair amount of courtly business, we can hear Commissioner Rasch scolding each of the parties in turn over coming late to trial. Eventually, he turns his attention to the Accused.
"Sir do you understand the importance of this trial which just might send you to the slammer for the rest of your natural life and the nature of the charges against you . . . . Hell, I am not sure I understand myself. Where is the arresting Officer?"
O'Madhaun stepped up at this point.
Commissioner: "Oh Christ. you again. Is there perhaps some form of traffic violation involved here perhaps?" Here, the Commissioner indicated his familiarity with the Officer.
Officer O'Madhaun: "Transportin' reptiles without no license and parkin' in the blue zone!" O'Madhaun shouted triumphantly. "Plus jaywalkin with a box of turtles! Besides the main charge."
Commissioner: "But we have no ordinance specifically referring to reptiles on this island, and certainly not of turtles that I know of."
Officer O'Madhaun: "Ah, this molestin' is hurtin' the animals. Sure cruelty it is, yer Honor."
Commissioner: [sighs] "All right then, cruelty to animals it is. In the form of, er, turtle molestation." Turns to address the prisoner. "Says here you are African American, Mr. Johansson. And five foot eight in height. You appear to be six three, very blond and Swedish."
Johansson: "Had an operation, your honor."
At this point, yet another lengthy bit of court business ensued in which the identity of the prisoner was firmly established. This involved viewing several music videos, presented both by the prosecution and by the defense as well as a mini concert performed by the defendant with the bailiff keeping time by tapping his truncheon on the banister.
Commissioner Rasch was heard, several times, attempting to regain order in the court. Rasch finally came to brass tacks after several exasperating episodes in which visitors, apparent fans of Michael J., threw themselves over the desk used by the Defense.
Commissioner: [somewhat exasperated] "We'll find out later just how it is possible for a man to molest a turtle, but why in god's name is the man in chains?"
Officer O'Madhaun: "Flight risk, yer Honor."
Commissioner: "You think the man is going to run away for jaywalking with turtles!?" [Here the Commissioner put his head in his hands, then raised up after mastering himself.] "Bail is set at fifty dollars. Bailiff, unlock the man. Do it now."
Officer O'Madhaun: "Ah, let me issue an objection here, if I . . .".
Commissioner: [holding up his hands] Now stop. Stop. [pause] Just. Stop. Bail is hereby set. And before we have any more objections, Court is recessed until tomorrow. [Bangs his gavel and exits shaking his head]
As the shackles were removed from the Defendant in the Court, per instructions, Officer O'Madhaun was heard to remark, "I'll be watchin' your driving, me bucko!"
Stay tuned for further developments in this trial of the century.
DARK NIGHT IS FALLING
It has been a most rambunctious week with all the goings on around here and elsewhere. Even the Democrats have started to look interesting. Here on the Island several large issues became resolved all at once. The long dormant Bridgeside Shopping Center -- kept dormant by grocery market chains which had blocked development there for fear of competition -- finally was sold to a developer that will raze the entire complex to build a new shopping center that will include a high-end grocery store as well as retail and office space.
The Island Fire Department was awarded 286 thousand dollars in federal funds under a FEMA grant project. Money will be used to enhance and repair the various fire stations and replace safety equipment that is badly in need of replacement
Demolition of the Linoaks residence hotel, long an eyesore on the edge of Park Street, began with a festive champagne party during which guests were allowed to tag the walls with spray paint and tack a whack or two with sledgehammers. For the minor cost of the $125 entrance donation. The building will be replaced by a new library.
Where Longs now owns an open parking lot, a 504 space parking garage is slated for construction. Also moving forward to approval are plans for a movie theatre downtown between Oak and Park on Santa Clara. The Island has been without movies for some eight to ten years, since the South Shore complex boarded up and was torn down. There once was a drive-in near the entrance to the Tube, but a housing development now occupies the land.
Well, our plans may not be Big Plans, but they mean something to us all the same.
Midweek was driving over the San Rafael bridge into the change of season fog and got to thinking about the place in which we live here. The big old bike just rumbled along as first the shore, then the ocean, then the bridge itself glided into that other world where forms have no beginning or end. The immense cables and high suspension towers reached up some twenty feet or so, then vanished like something in a science fiction movie or a pencil drawing that experiments with perspective. A pearl grey, luminescent emptiness filled the world beyond the bridge barriers and the road itself dissolved some quarter mile ahead, as if some science fiction monster had eaten Mt. Tam and all of Sausalito.
This was a place of pure interiors. In that fog, there was nothing and no one to remind you that anything exists at all.
Here, you might expect some profound and very deep philosophical thought, like that guy talking in the movie The Matrix. But no, we'll just say that it was just really really neat, one of those moments you live for. Which is as much any of us can expect, I guess.
Here's another: the fog lays heavy tonight over the Oaktown Hills and foghorns calling far off in the straits drift in through the open windows. The clock just ticked over to 00:00 and here comes the sound of the midnight train echoing across the Buena Vista flats from the Jack London Waterfront. The lines come out from the Port and cross over through the streets of the tourist area, so the engineer lets out a blast when passing through. This cannot be independently confirmed, but the sound does seem to last longer, sound more emphatic and maybe a little bit mournful at midnight.
On the Island we have our moments and then some. Because that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 1, 2004
THE POUPER SOUL
By now its all over except for the champagne and the orgies executed by the lurid fantasies of ad executives and the wet dreams of CBS VP's too far gone in fear and trembling anxieties to let anyone have so much as a sip of malt cider on this night of nights. Yes, the rabid wolves of finance will be rogering whores and drinking themselves into torrid excess in some atavistic deluge of filth and joy, while the CBS people will pass through this night as any other, in a golden haze of self-righteous purity, for they have cast aside the venal desires of truthout.org, shielding their sensitive viewers from sights of working children and questions of national deficit.
Oh joy to the CBS executives who feel that lingerie models playing football and viagra ads are far more wholesome and palatable to the Nation.
Here is a public statement regarding the halftime show from the NFL regarding the halftime show
Statement by NFL Executive Vice
President Joe Browne regarding the Super Bowl halftime show:
"We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced Halftime
show. They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the
show. It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."
Oh yeah, the Patriots beat some team from one of the Carolinas, but the Raider's weren't there so who gives a damn anyway?
Officer O'Madhauen managed to capture a diligent, and rather stupid, burglar who robbed five sites from the 26th to the 29th by waiting outside a forced window until the perpetrator emerged with hot goods in hand on Park Street.
The suspect forced doors and windows for five nights in the same area and always took the same types of items.
In another series, a robber has been holding up shops at gunpoint on Lincoln within a one block range with amazing efficacy. The robber always orders the clerks to turn about so as not to see in which direction the perp walks away. In succeeding nights, the Dominos Pizza, the Market Spot, and El Caballo have been hit and Island-life is immensely distraught, for we obtain buffalo wings from the Dominos and carne asada wraps from El Caballo and we feel this crime wave must stop immediately or we shall die from malnourishment.
Unfortunately, since no traffic laws were affected, the perpetrator got clean away.
COHABITING SQUIRRELS CAUSE NEO-CON FLAP
Appears that in the dead of winter a pair of ground squirrels were found cohabiting, or hibernating, together in Crab Cove down by the strand . Problem is that the pair were both males and this has caused a major flap downtown in the Catlick Church, so called because it is cheek by jowl next to the SPCA. A neo-con minister by the name of Father Dingus Brimstone has taken this as a cause celebre fulcrum on which to lever a variety of attacks against Island iniquity. Seems Father Dingus feels that cohabitating squirrels threatens the sanctity and morality of his own flock, although, to the best of anyone's knowledge, neither squirrels nor cohabitors have the slightest thing to do with Father Dingus or his flock. Certainly not by admission from any party involved.
Father Dingus has taken to shouting on street corners that cohabiting squirrels of the same sex demeans the Institution of Holy Marriage, insults the Tax Code, and tweaks the Christian Gravy Train. "Hell, if they get to marry, same as us, we''ll lose the benefits of taxing the little buggers to death! Which is our God given right!" Father Dingus has been heard to say, with great indignation.
Some may say, a bit cynically, that marriage law is a matter of financial convenience to the State and really has nothing to do with Religion of any stripe or even any morality to speak of.
By all means, state the Squirrel supporters, let the Churches restrict whatever they want within their purview. After all, did not the Great Man state quite explicitly, "Render unto Caesar those things that are Caesar's and render unto God those things that belong to God."
When queried directly, the respective ground squirrels had this to say, somewhat sleepily, "Go away please. We are just trying to sleep."
RECOVERY? WHAT RECOVERY?
Latest headlines from the Island Fun and the Island Gerbil tell the tale about the supposed "recovery" of the economy which crashed, apparently, on month two of King George's reign. "City Leaders Review Grim Budget" and "Services, staff face threat of city budget cuts" appear to stand out. Appears that there is a present disaster in the making in the form of funding cutbacks to the cities and counties as a consequence of Arnold's austerity program. Turns out that his independent audit found no waste of any kind in civic government - largely as a consequence of severe cutbacks from previous budget slashes -- and that Arnold was left holding the bag of a major problem without an easy release. Seems this audit has been swept under the table as this year's budget fully duplicates that of his predecessor, who was recalled from office.
Arnold, I do not think you will be back.
WATER WARS REDUX
Long time readers of this space will remember the various issues involving Oog and Aag (the redoubtable pair that founded the Bay Area 20,000 years ago) which revolved around the importance of water to the Golden State over the course of history. Let it be known that the water wars continue and here the Island plays a small part.
The island city council voted this last week to withdraw from the litigation over water diversion from the Trinity River. The Island has a small part in this case, but the vote means a great deal to environmentalists and American Indians of the Hoopa and Yurok tribes who have been fighting to return the river to somewhat its natural state for a number of years. Allowing the river course to return to something near its natural flow will assist the restoration of decimated salmon runs.
The river runs directly through the Hoopa and Yurok reservations located up north, and the restoration of the fisheries would be an enormous boon to the tribes concerned.
Since 1963, a quarter of the river's water has been diverted to power a hydroelectric dam and supply irrigation projects in the Valley. The Island has gotten only 3500 megawatts from the supply and it was felt by the City Council that it was better to go green than pursue the lawsuits against the tribe-environmentalist coalition as a matter of civic conscience. Now, where else on earth do we have a civic government this concerned with ethics and doing the right thing? Kudos to Mayor Beverly and the Council.
"Forget it Jake, it's Chinatown."
Special prize to anyone who recognizes that line, where it's from, and why it fits in a column about California water rights.
IF YOU WANT TO GET TO HEAVEN, AVOID THAT BLOOD-STAINED BANNER
A miracle of circumstances put us down in Babylon's venerable Fillmore midweek for Hot Tuna and Box Set.
We will skip the complications, but let it suffice that the evening was well spent.
We had heard of Box Set for some time, although some obnoxious reason had always intervened when a show came up, and we had enjoyed one particular recording about the troubles of living for music for about 12 years, so it was a particular pleasure that we took in listening to this homegrown band of Jeff Pehrson and Jim Brunberg.
Box Set put in a fabulously energetic show even before Jack Casady appeared, his head surrounded by a corolla of white hair. The duo is remarkable for their ability to harmonize vocals in a way that has not been seen on stage since CSNY. And Jeff manages to sing quite well while punching in some remarkably complex fingerstyle fretwork. This is a band to watch for the future and Island-Life recommends full devotion and attention.
Casady, hair gone snow white and figure still the rail-thin physique of thirty years ago, has finally put out a "solo" album, but this bassist is no ordinary bassist. Over 15 friends contributed to making this opus, including Warren Haynes and Jorma Kaukonen and Paul Barrere. Casady is unusual among bassists in that he can easily comp the melody as well as solo on a four-string better than many jazz artists can manage on a 5-string instrument. He can also do this fluidly, without the usual staccato delivery of many "funkmeisters" out there.
His addition to Box Set, with an f-hole semi-hollow bodied Gibson, added a nice funky feel to the mix, as well as an informal sound.
When Jorma came on stage, around nine-thirty, the atmosphere changed to something a bit more raucous, albeit more Gospel. Its no secret that Jorma and Jack have both gone "born again". Some of this "Xian" flavor may have chased off a few would-be fans. Its unfortunate that the 12-step programs that the two have been through have led to this "religiousity," but listeners have to recall that Jorma's origins began at the feet of Reverend Gary Davis and the roots of the Blues reside in Gospel music.
One of the best songs from the set was, surprisingly, "Weight of Sin", which turned religious sentiment into the familiar ache of your good old-fashioned road song containing a very tasty acoustic jam. Also memorable was the lovely ballad "By Your Side", which Jack composed for his wife who sat just out of the range of the footlights on stage.
Jorma performed a mind-bending version of "Good Shepard" that spanned a good 13 minutes by the stage clock, and Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin scorched the fretboard with solos, pulling amazing performances from Jack and Jorma, who appeared to be really enjoying themselves after 40 years of performing together. They went through several numbers from Jorma's recent Blue Country Heart CD, including "Big River Blues" and "Prohibition Blues". After a number of floor shouts, Jorm obligated with his "Genesis" and "Embryonic Journey", complimented with interesting additions by Barry Mitterhof. He also put in quite a tasty version of "Nine Pound Hammer," and a sinuous "Dream Snake". All of it was informed by a nice sense of musicianship absent from the efforts of several more immanent bands.
As Jorma mentioned at the beginning, "I was thinking backstage, you know, its been 37 years since we first performed at the Fillmore. That's a scary thought."
At exactly 11:59 pm, the duo of Jack and Jorma walked offstage after their encore, leaving a heaving and energetic crowd. As one visitor mentioned to me, "That was not Hot Tuna, that was Very Hot Tuna!"
Not bad for middle of the week music in Babylon.
THE EAGLE FLIES ON SUNDAY
It's gone to the witching hour here at Island Life and from all signs, a nasty nor'wester is setting itself up to drench the area. The wind is rattling the casements and all the raccoons and possums of the Island are huddled in their dens, chirring to themselves and their furry children. Even Officer O'Madhauen is hunkered down in a coffee shop while the first drops plash down beyond the steamy windows.
Michael Johansson of the Johansson Six is dreaming in his bed of a fantastic gig at Playland on the Beach, surrounded by cartoon characters and wearing one black glove. Osama Bin Lassie snores in a high mountain cave. Saddam Husky snores in a jail cell, a prisoner of Eugene Shrubb. The Congress of Bums tosses and turns in cots and ricks and fly-by-nights and Shelters all over the Bay Area. The Bearded Fat Man snores quietly in his wheelchair at the entrance to the mens restroom in the parking garage at Jack London Square.
From the Great Salt Flats of Palo Alto to the foggy warrens of Babylon's inner city streets to the dripping slopes of Mount Tam and across the rain-pocked bay to the chemical dreams of Richmond and the homelands of Berkeley's Christie Road and so down to the jewel of Oakland, Lake Merritt -- which dreams itself of being free once again to join its mother, the Sea -- and so over again to the Island with its marina masts all glistening and clinkering under the storm clouds, all dreamers and dreamed this night of nights.
For tomorrow is another working day.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 9, 2004
THE GIPPER'S BIRD DAY
He reached 93 the other day, living in posh
wealth in the state which he punished repeatedly for dumping him as governor
and voting solidly against him for President. His reign brought on an
age of avarice, brutality and public venality of shocking magnitude that persists
into today. While the stock market bubbled, millions lost their jobs and
many struggled in low-paid, substandard half-time employment. Long were
the free soup lines during his reign and even his successor claimed that all
his ideas about trickle-down theory were "Voodoo economics".
Many suffered during his time and many friends died cold and lonely deaths due
to inanition that could have been prevented.
He was a hate-filled man who had a Pollyanna view of the way things work. The jar of jelly beans on his desk was a typical sop against the liberals, which he enjoyed taunting in all manner of ways. Jelly beans, as every Nammie knows, were the napalm cylinders dropped on helpless villages and forests during the Vietnam war and his tweak here was to consciously trivialize the weapons of death so as to infuriate the humanists whom he hated.
Yet, those close to him invariably found Ronald Reagan to be an affable, likeable fellow who exuded a sense of warmth. One of his best friends was the recently deceased Edward Teller, who persuaded Reagan into adopting the now discredited "Star Wars Defense System" -- a system that Teller himself discredited before his death with the simple statement, "Oh yes, it never would have worked. We never had the technology."
Reagan demonstrated all the classic hallmarks of a psychopathic personality with no conscience to such an extent that the APA once used him as a textbook clinical example of the condition. Like all psychopaths, he was eminently likeable and personable and thus able to lure all sorts of people into his orbit. And like all psychopaths, such as John Wayne Gacy who butchered dozens of boys in his basement while spending his days as a Rotarian and an amateur clown for children's parties, he pursued horrific and violently insane policies while executing vicious vendettas against anyone opposed to him.
Some cynics claim that he used his actor's training to deceive people and present the calculated front of "Mr. Goodman", but the truth is that Ronald Reagan was a lousy actor with almost no natural ability whatsoever. He could not remember his script lines and towards the end of his Presidency, could barely remember how to hold a fork in his right hand, let alone execute the lines of a speech, due to the ravages of that terrible disease, Alzheimer's.
The truth was, Reagan actually believed, at the moment he said it, in the goodness of his actions. Much as any good Hitler Jugend would have considered himself to be one of God's own disciples. And then, because there was no connection between the thought and the act, there could be no shadow of remorse on a conscience which did not, and never had, existed.
And in this respect, he was an all too willing tool for those interests that controlled the American Government at the time.
Now the man is 93, and his spends his days gaggling in a terry-cloth robe before a television set that plays an endless round of Hanna-Barbara cartoons. It's a horrible disease, this Alzheimers, for it turns the brain into a useless mushpile of cottage cheese, excruciatingly slowly over the years, removing the complex thought processes, then short term memory, then long term memory in a constant erosion of the mind. And in a damaged mind such as Reagan's, it is all the more terrible.
At his party, 101 schoolgirls in skimpy outfits paraded like harlots before him while he drooled into his sidestand cup and they sang "God Bless America" in high tinny voices while the hired musicians did what they could to fix up the noise.
John MacNamara, who has been skulking about in the Reports lately, was present to give him a large vase filled with his beloved jelly beans, which he began sorting into color groups on his food tray, along with the battery of drugs designed to keep him safely quiet. For the Designers of the Neo-Con Revolution wish that, now that they have chosen Reagan to be the Symbol of American Triumphalist Republicanism, the referenced symbol kindly keep the fuck quiet until safe in the grave so they can build monuments in revisionist histories about the way RR destroyed the Evil Empire and exploded the Dark Star.
Which plan a very real gabbling idiot chasing
after nurses in short skirts might cause some difficulty. Hence, MacNamara's
real purpose at the Birthday was to ensure that His Holiness keeps himself properly
doped up on opiates straight from the labs of George Tenet. And says not
a damn word to the Press.
Meanwhile the death watches continue ticking in the wall and everybody can hear them. One thing is certain: Ronald Reagan will spend a long season in hell. Probably in company with that other crook, Richard Nixon.
All the Bushes were conspicuously absent.
THE RETURN OF MY SUCKY VALENTINE
It's coming around to that time of year again. You know, the time of year when we all commemorate the murder of 12 mobsters in a barn outside of Chicago. What else all this dripping crimson and red hearts does symbolize?
Every year an host of restaurants and venues try to capitalize on this memorial, but by twisting it into to some celebration of happy couples bonded fortunately into the image of some 14'th century troubadour's concept of ideal perfection.
Most of us know this is as far from reality as it gets. We all got suckered and nobody is happy these days except for the real assholes.
For those of you who have been through the emotional ringer, who have been "done stomped upon mah heart", who have been left cold and sobbing in the rain while the ideal he/she of your dreams has scampered off in a red convertible Mercedes with someone who makes, and always will make 20k more than you, we proudly reintroduce the traditional Return of My Sucky Valentine. The details of this event will be communicated to you in next week's column, but we encourage you to seek out the Valencia Street area and the possible attendance of Ms. Lydia Lunch next weekend.
To the losers go the spoils.
AND ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
You had better stock up on Dreyers, for soon, there will be no more. The last local factory for ice cream has laid off its workforce and consolidated its assets. Dreyers, formerly of Oaktown, late of Fremont, has laid off its manufacturing staff and shuttered the doors of its 100,000 square foot warehouse. Administrative offices remain, but the facility will be sold to the highest bidder.
There is ice on the roof next door each morning, but suddenly the skies are clear and there are signs that we are about to segue into that most warlike of seasons. Buds are bursting out of all the barren tree limbs while bees are dive bombing the poppies exploding from the ground. Suddenly, squadrons of finches are practicing maneuvers and swallows start to strafe the eaves. Here comes Tommy Tucker being chased by a big-leg girl in a short skirt and before you know it, he's down for the count. Got him. Right in the heart.
And now we are wondering when Bear will emerge from his den of machine parts and oily chamois cloths, for we dearly would like to have a beer with Bear. Bear, long-time readers will recall, was last seen in this column last Spring, wearing an uncharacteristically clean sweatshirt, hair combed, beard free of lint, and in the company of the touseled, formerly neat-as-a-pin Mary. What could this couple have been up to during the cold and dark of Winter? We wonder.
REMEMBER ME FOR A WHILE
The windows are all beaded with cold condensation and the street is empty of wanderers on this night while winter keeps a couple relentless fingers of cold wrapped around the air. The midnight train passed through some time ago, its long wail trailing off into the darkness beyond the Port. The last strains of Warren Zevon's last song drift off into the air and its time to shut down all the little glowing dials for the night.
Out on the avenues and wrinkled warren of narrow streets, a little wind tugs at the campaign posters promoting this or that Proposition for the Primary Election yet a month away. By the time we get to vote, the Democrat who will duke it out with Bushie shall have already been decided, but we have a 15 billion dollar rescue-the-state bond issue to decide in March. And if it does not pass, Governor Arnold and the legislature will need to cut that much from an already savaged budget where the Governor's own personal audit found absolutely 0 waste.
Goodness, must be a window open somewhere which made everything a bit colder.
Dr. Friederich lies curled up on the cushy chair under the glow of the reading lamp. Food twice a day, clean litterbox, warm place to sleep: life is good. For the moment.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 15, 2004
EARTHLINGS, TAKE ME TO YOUR SNEAKERS
Those jolly eggheads over at NASA are all a-twitter over their Martian videos. Seems that scientists have discovered that Brigitte Bardot really IS an otherworldly creature. And the reason those space probes keep failing is that the girl petulantly kicks them over while taking her walks along the Martian canals. All those machines. Ruins the ambience.
LOVE IS IN NEED OF LOVE TODAY
And judging by the long lines of happy couples eager to get hitched over in Babylon's City Hall, somebody is well on the way to getting what they need. With a new mayor at the helm now, the doors were opened for single-sex marriages and hundreds flocked over to tie the knot on Valentines Day. Well, it may just be symbolic, pending some kind of legislative decision at the state level, but all the brides and grooms and whatevers looked just splendid dressed to the nines and gushing. You have to admit, even if the whole thing is largely a contractual arrangement with financial issues addressed to the State, a wedding is a fine and beautiful thing after all. And if the churches want to restrict things, they can just go ahead and do so on the basis of any morality that they wish to apply to their own.
Just don't apply YOUR morality to me and try to legislate your brand of ugliness. If you please.
Another season, another reason
For makin' whoopee
A lot of shoes, a lot of rice
The groom is nervous, she answers twice
It's really killin' that she's so willin' to make whoopee
Picture a little love nest
Down where the roses cling
Picture the same sweet love nest
And think what a year can bring
She's washin dishes and baby clothes
She's so ambitious he even sews
But don't forget folks,
That's what you get folks, for makin' whoopee
THE RETURN OF THAT REDOUBTABLE PAIR IN WARTIME
We last left Oog and Aag knocking about the Water Wars of the 20's, but in the process had done an unseemly bound over the theatre seats with our dickie a-flap and our cravat askew, totally ignoring the proper etiquette of Lady Time, for which we should be soundly rapped upon the knuckles and denied the Pleasures of the Dance an entire year for the crime of bypassing the actual circumstances of California's induction into the Union.
Let us make amends here, by hearkening back to the days of the Bear Flag Revolution and certain events we were surprised had been bypassed entirely in the school curriculum that supposedly covered State History. Well, the schools here are not what they were, due to budget cutbacks, but we shall see what we can do in recounting the one and only serious battle fought by forces belonging to the Republic of California against the U.S. Army.
Then, as now, NorCal and SoCal were so contrary of opinion that NorCal, with Aag among them, enthusiastically banded together militarily to join the United States, while SoCal, featuring descendents of our proud forefather Oog, gathered together an army so as to see what may come of it. How this all came about is as follows.
By 1845, California hosted a population of about 25,000 souls, of which 15,000 were the surviving Indians from the original 250,000 inhabitants. Some 10,000 Californios, or descendents of the Spanish/Mexican conquerors filled out the bulk of the rest, leaving about 1200 white-boys of various stripes, including Russians, Germans, British and what the Californios called "Bostons." It was the Bostons, or Americans, who formed the bulk of the foreigners at the time.
Mexico had wrested independence from Spain in 1822, taking Alta California with it, to its immense disinterest. For the next twenty years, other than the occasional tribute ship and a new governor or two, Mexico cared little for its northern part, other than to terminate the brutal Missions and grant sundry deeds of immense land tracts. Life for the Californios pretty much went along unchanged and unhurried for the next 25 years, with only the occasional insurrection or half-hearted claim to Independence. These early attempts at revolution usually ended bloodlessly with both parties meeting to discuss what would have happened had things come to blows, and then things would go sensibly back to normal for a while. In fact, this habit of practicing common sense appears indigenous to the land of California.
Give or take the occasional outburst of insanity.
WELCOME TO PARADISE
Any hoot, while Californios lived and worked peaceably as they had come to live over the past 150 years, in a sort of edenic isolation, various external and internal events and processes were leading inexorably toward a mountainous shift in their way of life. For one thing, the economy was built at the time entirely upon the production of hide leather. This meant vast acreages of land got put to pasture for immense herds of cattle to graze the native grasses down to the roots, much as the landowners had learned how to do in Mexico further south, and in the hills of Andalusia.
But the grasses of California are not perennials as those of Mexico and Andalusia. They must seed themselves each year or die out. The cattle would crop the seed-heads off, leaving a patch of barren land. So when the ranchers noticed that a patch of land grew sterile, they simply shifted the entire herd over about ten miles and started afresh. What the heck, there was plenty of land. Right? After fifty years of shifting the herds, the cattle were feeding well over fifty miles from the original farm -- hence the cattle drive developed so as to bring them all back to slaughter. Well, after 150 years of intense grazing by millions of head of cattle the Californios were heading, without realizing it, into an immense financial and ecological disaster. But in 1845 nobody knew that. They would by 1853, though.
This is something the dewy-eyed sentimentalists tend to forget. It was a wonderful time of rancheros and fandangos and local freedom and such. And it was progressively destroying the Earth.
AND YET ANOTHER THING
The Governor of Alta California up to February of 1845, Juan Bautista Alvarado, had not been appointed by Mexico. He had set himself up as ruler in 1835 so as to put a halt to several year's worth of insurrections and basic confusion following the breakup of the Missions and the natural death of his predecessor. Things went on well enough until Mexico finally got around to sending a new governor in 1842. The new governor, grumpy and disliking the job, raised a ragtag army to face off against Alvarado and a couple other revolutionaries -- Mexico failed to provide him with one -- and the usual sort of California resolution ensued when all four of them met at Cahuenga Pass where they had a discussion as to who would win should a bloody and unnecessary battle really be fought.
Proclamations and cannons were fired into the air, two mules died of confusion and not a drop of human blood was spilled.
The new governor was sent packing back to Mexico, Alvarado was made Chief Delegate to the Mexican Congress and two men divided governorship of California into North and South, with Jose Castro, the official military commandante, taking Monterey as his seat in the north, and Pio Pico assuming governorship of the south where he had been capably running things anyway for about 20 years. The two governors squabbled over who got to own the treasury and both issued land grants like mad in an effort to raise revenue. California had become a defacto pair of Republics, but without officially declaring independence from Mexico.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE ALAMO?
Meanwhile these pernicious settlers kept crossing the mountains to fill up Oregon and more up north even as wagon-loads trundled foolish across the desert and even more sailed around the Cape into San Francisco Bay.
So these Bostons, or whatever you call them, come traipsing over the mountains and elect to settle in the non-pasturable land. Muy bueno, go ahead and let them. They, at least, will help to kill more Indians, never an occupation far from the settlers in the State. That's how Sutter, a Swiss, came to get an immense land grant up in the forested foothills of the Sacramento delta, which were useless to the ranchers for any imaginable purpose.
Another event occurred in 1845: the Republic of Texas whipped the pants of the Mexican army and then set out industriously joining the United States of America, then ruled by one highly efficient and pragmatic administrator named Polk. With this wild-haired maniac named Madison waving his Manifest Destiny in hand around Washington, Polk saw clear enough what was going to happen. He allowed a couple adventurers to go "exploring" to the west with military guard and vague instructions of "charting the west coast", then sent a secretary to Mexico with well-intentioned offers to buy California at a good price.
Unfortunately, California proved to be the most reasonable party among a gaggle of hotheads in the bloody events that transpired. The secretary was sent packing back to Washington, and Mariano Paredes marched north to take back all of Texas, including something called The Alamo -- with results reported elsewhere -- and Zachary Taylor marched south to whup Paredes even as one of these adventurers, by the name of Charles Fremont, crossed the mountains with a little "protective" militia into California, much to the irritation of then Governor Alvarado, but to the great pleasure of Aag, who offered his services as guide and consultant-for-a-fee.
Knowing war with Mexico was immanent, but being so far from the center that he could not possibly have known what was going on, Fremont, together with a formidable force of Delaware warriors and US Marines wandered up and down the northern reaches of California, fighting and killing Indians while getting himself into scrapes and generally making a nuisance of himself until eventually ordered to leave by the Governor, who had gotten heartily sick of people wandering into his backyard for any purpose and without permission.
Shortly after war between the US and Mexico was declared in May, a group of ragged, and rather drunk, revolutionaries self-called Los Osos, instituted a vague sort of uprising. Vague at first, until Fremont joined them. But only as a "military advisor." Fremont was a civilian contractor to the military and had as his orders the command to "chart and explore the West." But this, he told no one. The escapades of Los Osos and Fremont in this time must await a later telling, for this chapter is all about the one and only battle fought for California and the general stupidity of war in general, no matter who is right.
Our attention turns to the south, where Commodore Sloat, who had fallen in love with California -- as men are wont to do now and then -- was busy capturing all the seacoast towns without a shot. Eventually, proceeding methodically and logically as any trained military man, he arrived at Monterey where Fremont joined him, expecting to pursue the remnant of the Mexican force in Alta California then heading post haste south. Sloat, moving ponderously and surely toward retirement, made a number of rational decisions and then handed over command to an officer by the name of Robert Stockton, who commenced to issue inflammatory proclamations, announced the annexation of California to the US, and accused the former Mexican governor of "rapine and murder." This governor, by now one General Castro joined up with his former political opponent Pio Pico in Los Angeles. There they, too, issued inflammatory proclamations, pronouncements of fidelity to Mexico and exhortations to fight. About 100 Angelenos reluctantly signed up, seeing the obvious in store.
Stockton headed south with an armada and, posting outside Los Angeles sent a reasonable request for surrender to Pio Pico, who responded in classical Californio terms with a counter-offer of "discussion contingent upon cessation of hostilities."
Stockton, a typical Marine flat-top, responded with the message that Pico was a "department of Mexico" and that "I will war against you until it is over. That is my duty."
Pico, outraged at this flagrant dismissal of the usual course of reasonable action, speechified and exhorted and finally fled south with Castro to urge the indifferent Mexican government to defend its "department." It never did.
THE END OF MAJOR OPERATIONS HAS OCCURRED
The Mexican war was over, in California at least. And Stockton set about making himself Commander in Chief and Governor of California with many more proclamations. Things would have ended there, but for the usual Situation Normal sorts of events.
To begin with, Stockton appointed a total idiot to govern Los Angeles while he headed further north and Fremont trailed back to the Sacramento delta. This idiot was named Archibald Gillespie. Stockton's next error was to commission Kit Carson to send word to Washington that the conquest of California was fait accompli. Before all targets had been secured. It was sort of like saying, "End of major operations has occurred," in a different and more modern set of circumstances.
THE WESTERN CAMPAIGN
Up to this point none of the principals in the California campaign had the slightest authority for doing what they did. Fremont was a civilian, charged with exploration. Sloat was a naval Commodore and Stockton was a Commodore charged with securing the coast and only the coast, not the entire state. The only fellow with clear and unequivocal orders to conduct a campaign to secure California was struggling over the mountains and deserts of the Great West during all of this stuff going on. That man was Stephen Watts Kearny, appointed as Brigadier General, and leading 1556 wagons, 459 horses, 4,000 mules and 15,000 head of cattle to fuel six troops of Dragoons, 1 infantry battalion, two companies of light artillery and a volunteer force of another 650 men to total some 1,500 soldiers, in comparison to Stockton's 350 sailors. His task was clear enough: conquer the entire West, from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean.
In essence, Kearny did conquer all of what is now New Mexico. And it was in Santa Fe that he ran into Kit Carson, with his dispatches for Washington.
Kearny sent back the vast majority of his force and ordered Carson to lead him to California where he assumed he was to assume the command over the entire territory.
One month underway, with the majority of his armed force heading home, Kearny got word that California was in a state of insurrection.
ALL SHE WANTS TO DO IS DANCE, DANCE DANCE
Stockton was an average military mind, meaning that he was very good at beating the pulp out of sea-going enemies and really, really bad at interpersonal relations. He also was possessed of several grandiose dreams, which the calm pacification of California had irritated. He went up and down the rivers, firing his guns and issuing proclamations and left behind in Los Angeles a perfect martinet, Archibald Gillespie, to run things, while he, Stockton, would sail down to Mexico City in a grand pincer movement so as to greet Zachary Taylor in august style. Gillespie publicly regarded Mexicans with contempt, instituted harsh military rule, enforced rigorous curfews, outlawed liquor and, absolutely the last straw, forbade the heart and soul of Californio culture, the fandango.
In short, the man acted like a complete, gung-ho idiot, and it was our old friend Oog, together with a man named Varela, who gathered together a number of rebels to try and lift this obnoxious curse -- garrisoned by only 46 men. Varela was joined at La Mesa by one Captain Jose Flores -- a career soldier -- and one Captain Andres Pico, brother of Pio Pico and one with a grudge to bear. They had put up with one outrage after another and patiently sat out all sorts of rules and regulations, but as for a prohibition against having a party! Might as well tell a modern Southern Californian to forgo the suntan and swimming pools.
Pico put the garrison under siege after many declarations of independence, and Gillespie fled with his men to a barren hilltop and was forced to surrender to one of the commanders. He and his men were put on a ship to remove them from California with the exhortation never to return. A lone messenger arrived in San Francisco to inform Stockton that Los Angeles was lost. Stockton sent his own messengers to fetch back Fremont with his trusty Delaware warriors and 350 armed men, and then set sail south where his fleet encountered the same ship carrying Gillespie. Who was freed and charged with the task of kindly please retaking his command post. So it was that Gillespie participated in an abortive attempt to reinforce a garrison that no longer existed. In a minor skirmish, the "reinforcements" were beaten back with 15 casualties. Four men died.
In San Diego, a letter from Brigadier General Kearny awaited Stockton. It said, to the effect, "I am here. How are things in California?" Kearny had with him a bare 100 dragoons of his original force, plus a couple howitzers.
Incidentally, the month was December and December is known in California as being rather wet. In fact, it thundered and stormed as if all hell had broken loose practically every day through November, no doubt breaking all sorts of records had anyone bothered to keep them back then.
Gillespie, who had participated in the abortive attempt to recover the Los Angeles garrison, and who should have been court martialed a dozen times for his nonsense, rode out with the magnificent force of 35 men to reinforce Kearny. He met with Kearny near the village of San Pascual, where Pio Pico also happened to be spending the night with his own force of mounted lancers. Pico, who detested Gillespie, was there solely to make sure the Marine did not cause further harm with his small force to any of his relatives. He did not know about Kearny and he did not know that Gillespie had had the forethought to bring along a four-pounder fieldpiece.
In the usual muddled fashion, a couple officers proposed and executed a "surveillance raid", which consisted of wandering into the village and querying several inhabitants. This informed Pico that the enemy was at hand. This also informed Kearny that the enemy was at hand as well and knew that he was there.
Kearny, perhaps the only sensible man -- other than Pico -- involved in the whole lamentable enterprise responded with a fury at this bungling that can only be suggested. The element of surprise had been entirely removed.
The men were ordered to break camp and make advance, even as the rain stopped, on December 6. So, in the early dawn 100 very cold, wet, tired dragoons who had just crossed 1,000 miles of nasty territory advanced on the handful of useless mud huts known as San Pascual. Their rifles were, owing to the damp, entirely useless.
In the village itself, Pico waited with his small army of men armed with lances and single-shot muskets.
True to all the foolishness that had preceded this engagement, the battle began in error, when an officer misheard a command by Kearny and unleashed a full-on charge, followed by a more cautious Kit Carson, who nevertheless had his mount shot out from under him. Johnston was the man's name and he was killed in the first and only volley from the Californios, who then wheeled about and uncouched their lances.
Well, one could go on about tactics and maneuvers, but at San Pascual there was none. It all degenerated within seconds into an atavistic snarling and horrible carnage in and among the mud huts. The Californios were expert horsemen, but armed with seven-foot long lances that became useless in close combat. The Americans were largely on foot, but extremely well trained in the use of the cavalry saber and the two sides took to hacking and jabbing at one another with primitive ferocity with everyone using their useless rifles as clubs. Gillespie arrived in the midst of things and got himself gashed by a lance and literally impaled to the ground. He managed to free himself, fight off six attackers and got himself to the fieldpiece. Kearny, at 52 hardly expecting to find himself ever in such a situation, was surrounded and fought off attackers flailing his saber like mad. Gillespie fainted from loss of blood but his second, Edward Beale stoked up the two four-pounders with grapeshot and let fly right at the Californios.
Pico, realizing that the situation had changed quite radically, retreated and the entire useless, unnecessary Battle of San Pasqual was over in about 30 minutes. 23 Americans had been killed. No reliable record is left of the Californio casualties, as Pico never ever gave an accurate account of the numbers involved, while also claiming to have killed Gillespie -- who, incredibly, lived on long after that episode.
As for San Pascual, all the huts have long since been torn down and nothing exists there now but for a meadow.
Well, one could go on about the various maneuvers after this event, but the outcome was as inevitable as Pico must have realized. Fremont was heading south with 350 well-armed -- and very well experienced mountain men, plus artillery and his army corps "protectors" as well as several of the notably effective Delaware. At the same time, a furious Commodore Stockton was heading down with a regrouped force of 216 marines and he left no doubt that he would leave not a man left alive on the battlefield for all these events he imagined to be a personal insult. Well over 2,000 soldiers of the "Mormon Battalion" were shipping in to Yerba Buena, warships were arriving day by day, and hundreds, if not thousands were expected to come over the mountains as soon as the snow melted. As it happened, they did.
WAR, WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR
Pico, with no treasury to pay his volunteers was losing men by the day. The other Californio, Captain Flores, conducted another battle in early January at San Gabriel, and again 6 miles away, but this time he faced disciplined, well-ordered and well-rested soldiers, who defeated his cavalry charges by keeping a solid infantry square. Few were killed on either side in spite of much tactical bungling by both parties and an enormous expense of gunpowder.
It was a case of Californios untutored in war firing cannons that rolled shot harmlessly into the earth against Stockton himself, who had no knowledge as to how to fight on land, thus attempting such tactical curiosities as dragging fieldpieces over quicksand. Flores responded in kind by launching foolish cavalry charges in the old manner of the light brigade straight into the cannons of the Americans, which committed much unfortunate murders upon the horses by being aimed far too low. The ghost of Tacitus was seen walking upon the bulwarks at one point, tearing his hear in frustration.
Gillespie was present once again, and once again he managed to get himself wounded. Sort of. An expended musket ball wacked him upside the head and knocked the man unconscious. The cause of all this trouble lived another twenty-five years to the age of sixty.
In January Andres Pico, Flores, Castro and Pio Pico finally got together with Oog at Los Verdugos. The general consensus was that everything had pretty much reached a state of equilibrium. Flores turned over his command to Andres Pico and rode south over the border to Sonora. Andres Pico sought out Fremont, as the most most reasonable and least aggravated party to which to surrender. The terms were made at Cahuenga Pass. Thus ended the war for California.
This saved Pico's hide and made for a more orderly transition than what would have transpired otherwise, but Kearny and Stockton, currently duking it out between them as to who was the defacto interim-governor of California both responded with fury. Not at Pico, whom they could no longer reach, by terms of international law, but at Fremont, the meddling civilian. Who was made a fully-instated General in the US military solely for the purpose of trying him in a military courts martial. Before this happened, poor Fremont came across the survivors of an unfortunate expedition that terminated, as it were, at something called the Donner Pass.
But that is another story.
(I am indebted to the book Bear Flag Rising, by Dale Walker, for the detail on the battles at San Pasqual and San Gregorio).
A MASTERPIECE EVERY NIGHT
The Significant Other allowed Island Life to accompany her to the Emerald Garden Saturday night and it was a most enjoyable affair. Perhaps we had a trop de vin, for we found when we left that we had left our hat behind. And paid it no mind. But some days are like that. The Emerald Garden sits on the corner of Park and Santa Clara, and provides Vietnamese cooking at reasonable prices in a congenial atmosphere. The food is savory and tastefully arranged, but the real draw has to be the live jazz that performs on weekends. The "house band" is the Eagle Quartet. Actually a sax, a trumpet, a drummer and a keyboardist with occasional sit-in. They played an accomplished and surprisingly energetic series of Miles Davis, Brubeck and Coltrane tunes without descending to academic stuffiness or pseudo-Dolphy honking.
We had the "chef special", which consisted of the DIY style of thinly sliced beef and prawns, wrapped in rice-paper with lettuce, basil, cucumber and carrot. Everything was fresh, with the possible exception of the bottled "hoisin", but was filling and enjoyable. This process, similar to Mongolian BBQ, involves dipping raw meat or fish into boiling water and building the wrap yourself -- a sometimes ludicrous but always messy experience for newbies. Its a meal you have when you want to play with your food.
The result is rather basic, and not at all what you could not do yourself at home with a fondue pot or a wok and sterno, but for the music, we have to say, the Emerald Garden takes the prize.
LET IT RAIN, LET IT POUR, LET IT RAIN A WHOLE LOT MORE
The rain falls softly, falls softly on Rahoon. Or at least, it falls on the pavement outside my window here on the Island. Spent a long time tonight on the visit with Oog and Aag and did not get to say half of what needs to be said. But then, back then, the figures striding across the stage were bigger than all of us, and their shadows cast long shadows across the land for many miles and many years. And to describe their gestures, one must scamper beneath the hems of the gods, as it were.
Now a days there are no gods such as those. One can only imagine Pico waiting in the early dawn, astride a silent, champing horse, swathed in a colorful serape draped over a leather cuirass and surrounded by his brothers with dripping lances, an entire way of life about to depart the world forever. Kearny, seriously wounded and flailing in fury against the monumental stupidity of virtually everyone about him and fighting for his life and the lives of his men.
Those were the days when giants strode the earth. What do we have now, but picayune men who would be King and a King that is an incompetent boob at his best. Or perhaps it always was nothing but slogging through mud and imbecility costing lives and precious time.
Well, from the point of view of Oog and Aag, the original progenitors of the Bay Area, it hardly matters at all for the result is the same. What different does it make that Mother O'Leary's cow and not Hera kicked over the lantern that set Chicago or London ablaze?
Goodness it is late enough to be called early almost, for the last train howled out from the Port long ago, leaving only this endless susurration of rain on the pavement and rooftops outside.
For the past few nights, we and the neighbors have watched the local raccoon family scampering their way along the cars, making their little bear-like sounds. There are four of them and they move carefully along like a SWAT team to their destination somewhere at the end of the block. The smallest one looks out into the glare of the flashlight with a little curiosity. What's that? Oh, nothing tasty. Never mind then. Off he goes after the others. We rather hope that this wet night they are all cuddled together somewhere in a den of straw under a neighbor's foundations.
In Babylon, and elsewhere throughout the Bay Area, the tattered streamers and shattered champagne glasses left by wedding fandangos have been swept into piles and all the happy couples lay snug in their beds.
For that's the way we are on the Island. We wish the best for all people of all kinds, married and unmarried, single and divorced, gay or straight, gods and godless, white or not on this Island. Because that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 22, 2004
GOING TO THE CHAPEL, GONNA GET MARRIED
Hizzoner Mayor Gavin seems to have stirred up quite a hornet's nest over there in Babylon by simply recognizing the truth of the matter regarding marriage. City Attorney Dennis Herrera has been delegated with the task of devoting the not inconsiderable resources of the City and County of San Francisco to filing suit against the State of California over the ban on same-sex marriage. The City has won round one and round two in the battle against the Ultra-Right neo-cons by the decisions of the Supreme Court not to halt the ongoing weddings, now numbering some 3,500, at City Hall.
Meanwhile Governator Arnold has been running around like mad begging for support for his highly unpopular 15 billion dollar bond bailout and even his own party is starting to look askance at him, with many opposing him outright, including Tom McClintock -- the State's premier conservative -- who personally wrote the arguments against the Governator's cherished initiatives.
If California is in any way a bellwether state, things do not look good for the Neo-cons, who have started jumping ship like rats off of the Titanic. First, former Generals, then former Administration Officials and, as of the latest issue of that radical left wing rag, The Nation, even former members of the Project for the New American Century, which produced Wolfowitz and Pearl, have written articles stating quite flatly that the policies have failed miserably and the policy-makers dwell in La-la land without a clue.
And to top it off, the City of San Francisco just might win, for they are appealing on points of law while the foolish opposition keeps thumping its Bibles in contravention of common sense as well as law. Over at the Offices of County Counsel several rather bright and committed attorney's are sharpening their nails for this one, for this time the issue will go all the way to the top and beyond. Bear in mind the most conservative of justices is strict Constructionist and some of us know what that means.
JUST ANOTHER LINE TO OCCUPY MY TIME
The Island library is once again on hold for the old Linoaks Hotel that was to be torn down has turned out to be packed to the rafters with asbestos insulation, requiring a rebid on demolition costs. This has not deterred the IPD and IFD from conducting exercises on premises. You know, trial runs of fire fighting, terrorist cell breakups and wanton stoplight running arrests.
They have been having so much fun down there that Mayor Beverly suited up and rushed in with the boys for a lively episode of Put Out the Fire.
COME ON TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS
Our very own irrepressible Natasha Miller has knocked together a grand gala Mardi Gras fete to benefit the schools here. Featured performer will be the internationally known Grammy winner Frederica von Stade. "The Masquerade Gala is going to be colorful, fresh, energetic, unusual, and bit whimsical and just plain fun." said organizer Miller. The two part event will be held February 28 at Kofman Auditorium on the Island. Miller has become something of a local celebrity, what with her famous Berkeley "livingroom sessions" that have brought female musicians together from all over the country and all over the world as well as her First Saturdays concerts which are now held at Rosenblum Cellars since they have outgrown their original space at the Adelphian Rooms. General seating to the auditorium will be $25 and for a special Cajun Zydeco Ball at the Eagles Hall, the price will be $75 and all proceeds are to benefit the schools on the Island by contributing to physical plant repairs.
WHERE HISTORY WAS MADE
Its cobbles and flagstones have been battered by the storms of history, and each day improv drummers, street vendors, and every radical cause under the sun occupy a soapbox to bellow into the microphone of public free speech. In fact, the Free Speech movement started right there on the paving stones of Sproul Plaza in Berzerkeley. The old square is needing a makeover badly however, for the divots and potholes have become a serious hazard, especially at night. Sproul is slated for a facelift and will be closed for three months.
DON'T MESS WITH OAKTOWN GIRLS
Last week an episode happened not far from the County Courthouse, one of those episodes that leaves your heart pounding and your knuckles turning white on the steering wheel.
Three 13 year old girls walking to school fought off a couple would-be abductors in Oaktown on January 28th in the 1900 block of 7th Street, hard by the main Post Office. Two men drove up to the girls at 7 a.m. in a blue Ford Explorer SUV. One man got out, grabbed one of the girls and began dragging her to the car. Things could have ended tragically in an Amber Alert, but as the girl fought back her two friends came to her aid to fight the assailant. One of the girls jumped on the man's back and began pounding on his head as he persisted in trying to take his captive into the car. The second man got out of the car to help his accomplice, but got beaten back. He and the first man got back into the SUV and left, leaving the girls shaken, and scared but safe.
Anyone who has any information on these scumbags can call Detective Van Sloten at 510-238-7910.
THE UNBEARABLE LIGHTNESS OF FILMING
You did not blink or dream when you saw Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche at Piedmont High School during the annual "ski recess". Fox Searchlight films is making a movie called "Bee Season" and is using the school for backdrop shots for spelling bees. The film concerns a father who avoids trouble in his marriage by throwing himself into his daughter's concerns.
DARKNESS FALLS AND NOBODY GETS HURT
Had a long chat with Michael, the artist of Santa Clara. Who was just then painting up Edition Number 380 of his outdoor exhibition. We posted some pix of one of his exhibits round about the Holiday Season. He's the guy who arranged a life-sized skeleton on a crucifix surrounded by newspaper clippings about President Bushy and Iraq and topped by what appeared to be a German military helmet of WWII vintage. Seems that the fellow has been picketed and protested and all sorts of things, but it also turns out that he has become over the ten years he has been doing these installations something of an international celebrity, with stories and photos on him appearing in Australia and Great Britain. A number of rose bouquets left by visitors to the last installation still remained at the base of the eight-foot high canvas he has erected in his front yard.
It also turns out he is a very nice fellow with an affable personality and opinions that just might surprise you.
Ah, but that is what is grand about this Island. You stop your onrush of momentum long enough to talk to people and you become pleasantly surprised and entranced by the stories behind it all. And late at night, like right now, the long wail of the freight trains passing through Jack London Waterfront come echoing across the water.
For those long-time readers of Island-life, we are about to add a section devoted to Oog and Aag and their adventures across 20,000 years of history. Stay tuned for developments.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 29, 2004
JUMP AROUND JUMP AROUND GET DOWN
Its that time of decade again. This night the month lasts an extra day plus some more for a leap to account for the silly 354 day year some guy with a funny hat came up with a while ago. A "Universal Uprising" was scheduled at 6 p.m. to take place at the Berkeley BART station. Individuals were exhorted to wear tennis shoes and bring appropriate signs for the "jump off." See www.angrynerds.com for information on this uplifting event.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The Bay Area enjoyed a day's respite from a massive storm that pineappled through the area with an inch of rain and winds at 65mph in Marin. We shut down the entire computer lab midweek and let the winds howl against the casements while thunder and lightning forked all around us. Thankfully, we are not members of PiGgiE, and so we lost not a second of power, but the UPS squealed all night long. If you know what that means and can identify, then you are a true Geek.
The Significant Other called over around midnight in terror at the immanent danger of lightening strikes and we had to reassure her about all sorts of grounding and conductivity issues. Then we find that lightning did in fact touch down a block from her building to destroy the wiring of the Public Library and several other buildings. Fortunately all uninhabited at the time. Up in Marin, friends reported the streets of San Anselmo become rivers with unprecedented torrents coursing down the narrow streets there.
On the Island, a few streets went under, but we are used to that.
DON'T BE A GHOST, BULWORTH
Super Tuesday rolls around this week for the Golden State. It's Dean against Edwards for the privilege of knocking the Bushy, who has been industriously robbing the National Trust for about 3.8 years with his pirate friends. The main issues before the State concern the approval of the 15 billion bond bailout pushed by the Governator and the Balance Budget amendment, which would apply an enforced "tax a dollar, spend a dollar" imposition upon the annual budget and set harsh penalties for dragging out the discussion in legislature. Also on the bill, are numerous bond measures for covering expenses in virtually all the counties and municipalities, who all are facing severe deprivation as a consequence of federal intransigence as well as the "tax revolt" proposition 13 which passed some years ago.
No matter what happens this election, it does appear the story is the same everywhere: everyone is out of money, budget cuts on already savaged programs have become a fact of life and not much seems to be getting better for anybody anywhere. Every city from Fresno to New Orleans is screaming for lack of funds for basic services, such as fire control and police. Over in the County, they are saying, "These new managers came in all talking the same, with this language about 'thinking outside the box', but now everything is broken and services are terrible!" And from another department, we heard, "This county used to be known as the place that knew how to get things done. Now, that is a different story and everything is terrible."
The first quote was direct from an official in the Chief Auditor's Office of the largest County in the United States. The second, from a senior official in the County Council Office, and from a known Conservative. Bush, you better be afraid. Very afraid.
IT SHOULDN'T BOTHER YOU
The power of Love cannot be stopped. You know the stuff: An itinerant preacher, born of humble circumstances in a stable, began talking about that emotion about 2,000 years ago. He never married and hung around with a bunch of guys his entire life, and many of them of ill-repute, but he had some wise things to say and a great many came to listen and agree with him. Eventually, he got nailed by the local authorities for speaking out about Love and, much later, people wrote a series of books about his life and then, after that, they made a number of blockbuster movies. This love stuff turned out to be pretty revolutionary, but somewhere along the way, more than a few folks started warming themselves by the Devil's fire and forgot about what it all really meant, preferring the trappings to the substance and their own personal versions of the Man's attitude towards things rather than the Truth.
In Massachusetts a bunch of judges sat down and said anybody has a right to get married if they want and there ought to be no hindrance on this love thing, neither its joys nor its great obligations and duties. Now in Babylon, they have at last count, some 3,500 couples with twice as many witnesses plus a fair number of double the number of well-wishers in attendance, making this some 15,000 people all voting with hearts and minds in favor of Love even as a fair number of those still warming themselves by the Devil's fire want to restrict, condemn, and abjure the presence of Love for whatever reason who knows, although we might suspect it has more to do with casting a personal interpretation upon the Word in an arrogant and Prideful way that speaks more about the Self than the Spirit and they sit warming by the Devil's fire.
May we be so humble here as to remind all of you out there that any one who seeks to Lead first put his own house in order. Let anyone who would tell another what to do, first order his own mind and his own heart and see there that everything is good before seeking to Lead. For there are many of those who profess holiness and saintliness but within they are but like tombs that have been painted white and they sit warming by the Devil's fire. For be reminded in the face of those who seek restrictions that the greatest gift made to mankind was the Freedom of Choice and there are those who seek to take that freedom and other freedoms away and by so doing they commit the greatest sin of Pride in claiming to know the mind of God and in so doing they sit warming themselves by the Devil's fire.
May we also remind you that the issues before us concern two realms as signified by the face of coin, so used once by the man we mentioned earlier who first spoke of Love. For in the matter of matrimony we have rules and issues of contract law, of property, of obligation and of duty and especially of care to the child. All these things are the realm of Caesar. In the matter of Love and the Spirit, we have matters that concern God as well as various Churches and it is by no means certain that any one Church has any more authority in matters of God than any other. Just ask any one of them and you will obtain as many answers as there are churches. Therefore we quote unto you, "Render under Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God those things that belong to God."
For I say to you, let any man here and let any woman here who desires in holy matrimony to be bound with the person of their own choice sing Hallelujah!. Let any man and any woman who speaks for the Power of Love sing Hallelujah! Let those who profess love of God and of Union sing Hallelujah!. But let anyone here who has not found a partner with whom to bind and who despises the Free Will of God steal away from this Union of brothers and sisters. And in the darkness warm themselves by the Devil's fire for all Eternity. And say, Amen.
TIE ME UP TIE ME DOWN
It is always pretty clear when the change of seasons is upon us, for the shop windows of Pagano's hardware undergo a sea-change. It is hard to see here what is occupying the mind of Mr. Domenici, but it does seem commerce is mixed here a bit with politics. And Jonathan Swift.
It might be accentuating the obvious, but let us note that Pagano's is no ordinary hardware store.
MEET ME ON THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON
Because of the torrential downpours, we have been lax in checking out the latest work by Harlan, the Madman of Lincoln Street. Let it be noted that we have driven by in the most atrocious weather to see that he has been keeping up with his notorious energy withal. Here is is latest statement to the world.
We are still not sure what it all means, even after several years of this. But Harlan appears to be as jolly as ever and he greeted us with a wave as he drove in on his single speed bicycle, loaded with groceries. It seems pretty clear the message about "No Girlgolem here," but we have to wonder what Y'shua has to do with Elvis Presley. Or why he would want to trash The King.
Frankly, we feel Carl Perkins was a better guitar player.
STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
Last week, we mentioned that we had stopped to chat with Michael of Central Avenue, who has been painting outdoor artworks for some 12 years, earning for himself a minor international reputation. Here is a shot of Exhibit 380.
People have sent clippings from Australian and English newspapers who have reported on his outdoor artworks.
Michael has been picketed by irate churches and neo-cons, but the vast majority kind of enjoy his temporary artworks, and he often finds bouquets of flowers laid at the foot of his impromptu "altars" to art. Although there may be some that feel such installations are contrary to what they would like to see in the neighborhood, we would rather hope that he continues doing what he does for another 1000 years.
TAKE ME TO THE MARDI GRAS
By now, both the Mardi Gras and the Academy Awards have finished exacting their respective tolls and all the jolly festive revelers have gone home with beads and awards galore. Understand that this year New Orleans had to endure a hurricane during its most festive time. Well, New Orleans is no stranger to adversity and no mere hurricane can dampen a fine time or silence the Second Line one note, we are assured. Iko! Iko! Hey now! Hey now! Iko all day now!
We have always felt an affinity with New Orleans and wish the Sister City all the best and to keep its head above water as best it may.
But as for here, snow accumulations of 5-9 inches are forecast this next couple of days in the Lassen area and more buckets for the soggy Bay Area Monday and Tuesday.
This means bad news for Boston and points East in another week or so.
Meanwhile the Sunday Night Jam continues through the 11:00 o'clock hour on the radio. The Significant Other was not electrocuted and managed to provide a nice tasty meal of ahi tuna with mango salsa the following evening. All due praise to Trader Joes. And to the Significant Other, in whom all things are possible. It approaches the Witching Hour and the Night Trains are howling through the dark and silent rails of Jack London. The skies are clouding up with ominous warnings and the sea birds are once again heading inland to inform us that all hell is about to break loose.
But earlier in the week, we headed over the Richmond Bridge on an emergency call, the V-twin thrumming underneath as it has for half a century for many others, and there we passed into the tulle fog, draping all with purification and white glory. The stanchions and towers of the bridge vanished over head in white tulle, and the road ahead evaporated into a Rod Serling dream. Not until the Marin-Sonoma border did we pass into sunlight, even as the pools near the racetrack pumped out more fog for the millions, like a dream from the Lord of the Rings movie.
We finished what we had to do in Sonoma and returned home. To our little Shire of Hobbits and landowners. Where a pint is as finely enjoyed as any other place. Among friends and acquaintances. For that is the way on the Island. And we wish you to have a grand week.
MARCH 7, 2004
FIRST SATURDAYS COMES TO AN END
In a spontaneous mood, Island-Life headed over to Pete Escovedo's old hangout, Spotlight on the Square to catch the Island's First Saturdays Concert, a series organized by local phenom Natasha Miller which has showcased a variety of musical talent for the last three years on the first Saturday of each month. We had heard that Jeremy Miller, her own brother, would be debuting as front man after supporting his sister on backup lead guitar for many, many years.
Unfortunately, after we entered the high-ceilinged former aerobics studio turned nightclub, we found that we had by chance stumbled on the farewell event of this long running series, for Natasha was dropping the schedule to conduct her own musical business. She is cutting a CD with a major label and will host her CD release party at none other than the West Coast's premier jazz club, Yoshi's. Which means she joins company with the Heavy Hitters of the jazz world. People like Mcoy Tyner, Bobby Hutcherson, Al Jarreau, Bobby Sharp, Peggy Lee and Nora Jones.
Not too shabby for an Island girl.
Babylon's Sandfly led off, some 15 minutes late due to a snafu at the local taqueria, then promptly ran into serious sound problems with miserable balances and virtually no vocals. We had to change our seats to the back so as to try to get a better mix, but it only tempered the horns. The mastermind of this multiculti ska-reggae dance band is Samir Moussa, who realized that this just was not going to work after Natasha fiddled with the speakers and the sound system during two songs. He then changed the set list and sang two rather nice ballads while doing his best to fight the P.A. system that was trying to kill his act. Have to say, he managed to overcome a number of obstacles and we would recommend checking out Sandfly in their homebase at Ganesh in the City, or checking out www.sandfly.com. We saw them under the worst of conditions and they still did quite well.
Jeremy Miller labors under the onus of being the brother of a rising star and a quasi-famous sister. Who probably wrote the program notes and the promo copy in the newspaper, which stated "Jeremy's sound is reminiscent of Sting and Dave Matthews . . .". Well, we have to say, this is one example of why you should never let family write your ad copy, for the initial impression we got from the write up was that this was some kind of "be nice to bro even though his music is derivative as all hell" kind of thing.
In fact the only thing Jeremy Miller shares with Dave Matthews is the occasional use of the hybrid picking style. Matthews, who performed for years entirely alone on acoustic, employs a driving, percussive sound consisting of strong power chords and fairly simple solo runs with hella strumming, designed to fill in the spaces when no band is there to back up the player. Jeremy Miller used single note patterns by pick and fingers exclusively in a style more reminiscent of jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, a significant cut above the rest in ability and challenge. At times, his dense flourishes of single-string runs approached the complexity of Zappa's "Pink Napkins" or the "Black Page" and to compare him to artists trying to accomplish significantly less is to do him an injustice. With his consistent return to B13 and subdominant variations, he placed himself firmly within the world of jazz, and well out of "groove oriented pop/rock", as the playbill would have put him.
He learned his chops from masters out of the Wyndam Hill label and Miles Davis camps and has a CD coming out on minor label Poignant Records. We would be extremely surprised if Atlantic or somewhat more substantial does not snap him up quickly. And we figure it will take about 5 years or so before we see him playing before crowds like the Russian River Jazz Fest. Dan Foltz, a music teacher in Babylon, filled in on drums and Jeremy's brother, Justin, nailed it all down with his five-string bass.
Again, here the demons of the sound system tried their best to destroy this fine artists' debut, which might have been overcome with a more vigorous vocal attack -- to some extent. But the Fates held the threads of the Series this Last First Saturday on the Island.
We happened to hear old time Islanders in the back saying, "I been waiting six years for the boy to come out solo. Glad he did it finally. Man he is good." And so we must conclude Jeremy Miller is one to watch.
Here is a selection of upcoming events of interest:
ELVIS COSTELLO & STEVE NIEVE – March 11
JOAN BAEZ – Fillmore – March 12 & 13
LUCY KAPLANSKY – March 14 – Café du Nord
KELLER WILLIAMS – March 19 – Warfield
JACKSON BROWNE solo acoustic – SJ Center for Performing Arts March 20
JACKSON BROWNE – “ “ Davies Symphony Hall SF March 23rd
GARY JULES – March 25 – Great American Music Hall
DAMIEN RICE – March 27th – Warfield
EASTMOUNTAINSOUTH – March 27 – Great American Music Hall
DAVID WILCOX – March 28 – Great American Music Hall
DIDO – May 22-23 – Berkeley Community Theater
NICKEL CREEK & MINDY SMITH – April 10 – Warfield
Joan Baez, with her new CD Songs from a Big Guitar just out should be the most interesting of upcoming shows. She also will be appearing for a CD signing party at Borders in Unions Square at 2pm on Friday. Jackson Browne is exhibiting something of a revival after his surprise literary award for the John Steinbeck prize last year. Damien Rice is the latest hot thing out of Ireland and that does nothing of enough justice to describe his volcanic performances.
Other stuff is happening all over as we roar into Spring. This last weekend we missed half a dozen Class A acts that appeared all over, including Melissa Etheridge at the Paramount, Norton Buffalo at Biscuits and Blues, Arlo Guthrie, Phil Roy at the Starry Plough and many others we could not get over to see.
Hey, the modern day composer refuses to die. Support live music, for its essential to life on this planet, it creates useful thought patterns, and its good for you, too.
A thousand miles away, something stirs from the dark, deserted Scottish loch. And the Police are searching now for a shape that has no face just yet. Over the last few weeks, motorists along the heavily used Interstate 580, between San Leandro and Dublin, have had to endure, besides road rage and stupid drivers gunfire blasting out their windshields. The net is closing, my man, and They have your Number. Soon they will knock on your door.
The State is off the hook for the moment as
voters approved the 15 billion bailout bond and the Island approved another
17 million dollar bond for saving the schools as well as a 50% jack in bridge
tolls, but cuts are continuing in the face of the atrocious economy and severe
state deficit which is causing concern on Wall Street.
AC Transit is cutting services for the third time in two years and is further thinning its fleet by selling buses to Washington DC in a sort of white elephant sale to reduce its financial problems. No irony was ever intended. The system really is strapped and DC just happened to need a ton of buses.
Locally average gas prices at the pump are hitting $2.16 per gallon of regular in Oaktown, still a couple pennies below the state average.
Filling the Harley at 92 octane around here sets me back a cool $2.92 per gallon.
How you like your 12MPG Hummer now duuuuuuude!
LIKE THE WEATHER
With a final rattle of the casements we are into the new season it seems after a major blow-by. Morning fog creeps over the Headlands and blue skies dominate after the ferocious storms that blasted the Island these past few days. Hey, its only a little global warming. And the Prez says it doesn't exist.
UPSTAIRS, INTO THE FIRE
The Island mourns Richard Stoker, firefighter and EMT since 1982 and a member of the IFD since 1986. The funeral took place, Friday at 1:pm. An island resident for 45 years, he served in the marine corps as a gunnery sergeant and is remembered as a loving father of 3 as well as an incredibly brave officer who never hesitated to put himself in harms way for the sake of others. But on Feb 25, he accidentally shot himself while cleaning a personal firearm. He was just 54.
INFURIATED TRAFFIC NEEDS CALMING
All the latest talk on the Island is about "traffic calming measures." We are not sure what that means, exactly, but the idea of an enraged SUV bounding across the street at you like a furious hippo does give one pause. Nevertheless, plans are afoot to install radar devices that read out the approximate speed of passing cars on a big display, and to convert most two-way stops on the Island to four-way. Officer O'Madhaun is just giddy with anticipation of doubling his ticket quota via the latter measure. We had to calm him down with a nice cup of chamomile tea.
The City Council is deciding these things even as we speak and several town meetings are scheduled to discuss these and other matters. Pete Stark, local representative, is holding meetings in the next few weeks to discuss all kinds of issues. Be there or be square, we say.
Here we have over the wire that the last election featured a miserable 38% turnout. The shift forward in time for the Primaries from June to March had no effect on voter participation. A number of other issues developed around the new electronic voting machines now widely employed for this election. Seems poll workers were not trained and numerous glitches developed such that voters who wanted to vote could not. We will have a personal meeting with the technical assistance head of the County Registry in the next few weeks and will report on the issues involved.
DON'T YOU MESS WITH THAT TOOT-TOOT
Ran into Chief County Counsel for Alameda,
Richard Winnie, the other day in the august halls of the courthouse and asked
the hurried man how his day was going. "Horrible!" he said.
Now when one of the most powerful men in the County of Alameda tells you this about his day, you just have to put your hands in your pockets and slide off quietly.
Turns out the cause of his misery that day hit the papers on Thursday's front page. Right next to a picture of convicted felon, Martha Stewart, blazed the headline JUDGE CHARGED WITH SOLICITING ILLICIT SEX
Superior Court Judge Jack Gifford, 76, was nabbed in a sting operation and it is the duty of the office of Richard Winnie to send a notification letter for a court appearance -- in the same court where Gifford has served since 1981.
Gifford allegedly approached an undercover officer in his cadillac on San Pablo near Broadhurst, a well known "strolling" area in West Oaktown, and negotiated a price of $40 for sexual favors. We used to return along that alley some evenings when we worked in what used to be the Emeryville warehouse district and it was a matter of deciding whether to speed through the red lights to avoid trouble or slow down to avoid hitting throngs of streetwalkers of every size, shape and description.
Gifford, widower since 1999 from his wife of 51 years, was among 21 other men arrested that night in one of the regular well-practiced sting operations done by the OPD. All events have been recorded on video and audio tape.
The Judge must now report himself in writing to the Commission on Judicial Performance. If convicted of a felony or crime of "moral turpitude", he will be suspended without pay and, pending finalization of verdict, removed from the bench.
The judge served honorably and well for more than 20 years and was well known and admired by many local police officers in presiding over several thousand criminal cases ranging from murder to vice charges.
For a man such as this to be indicted for cruising a $40 hooker alley, when any fool can pick up a weekly newspaper to dial for a safe and clean escort indicates that something in this story is missing and we wish all the best for Judge Jack.
THE WELCOME HOME OPUS COMMITTEE WISHES TO CONVENE
Island-life has observed the progress of our dear, devoted Penguin, Opus, as he has traveled from the North Pole en route to his Bloom County abode. It has been a nerve-wracking journey, through irritable customs officials, Space Nun Invaders, and nauseating investigations of all kinds, involving terrible revelations, sudden death, incredible transformations, and nervous jumping up and down, and we suffer with Opus as he learns that one after another of his old companions have passed into the Great Vast. Whatever.
We are sure that Bloom County, wherever it may be, still contains a rapper or two, a war veteran or two, a politician or two, and more than a few scatterings of Weed Children of all kinds and so Opus should have no trouble finding his hilltop of daisies, which shall remain forevermore the epitome of .... something. I forget what. But its necessary all the same. For without Bloom County we are a lost nation, bereft and without succor, not unlike Moses in the desert.
Any rate, we gotta say, go baby go! Get back to that fabled hilltop of daisies where all of us would dearly love to plotz!
Now it's well past the midnight hour. We spent the day with friends strolling the Limantour Beach along Point Reyes and came back from gorgeous sunsets filled complete with full moon stares hung in the azure heavens to dine at Two Birds, a delightful hideaway off of the main Sir Francis Drake main drag which serves the best ciopiccino in the world. This humble shingle-walled shack near Nicasio Blvd. on San Geronomo, the old main highway, hosts some of the finest seafood cuisine in all of Marin county, and that is saying something. For this is a well-matriculated county with many of Means and Substance who have experienced much of the world.
Nevertheless, the time comes to wend our weary way to home. Here back to our Island with its humble delights. And the sound of the through-passing train to points unknown.
For that is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 14, 2004
LIKE THE WEATHER
Winter doesn't officially yield to spring
until March 20, but California baked in summer-like heat Monday as temperatures
soared to highs that broke century-old records from Redding to San Diego even
as most of the East remained buried under mountains of snow. In upstate
Vermont, one correspondent wrote to say that a snowstorm there had buried a
full-sized 18-wheeler under drifts that the Mayor stated would not melt until
June. On Main Street.
Downtown Los Angeles, with mountains to the east still capped in snow from a storm last week, topped out at 93 degrees, 24 above normal. That broke the 1996 record of 89 for March 8, as reported by the National Weather Service.
A 112-year-old mark fell in downtown San Francisco when the temperature hit 82, besting the record of 78 set in 1892. Sacramento tied its 1953 record for the date with a high of 80.
These were among dozens of locations up and down the state reporting highs at record levels. San Diego missed tying its record by one degree but at 84 was 18 degrees above normal, and up on the slopes around Lake Tahoe disappointed skiers had to come down by afternoon as temps in the mid 50's softened the deep powder to muck.
SAINT WHO DROVE OUT THE WHAT FROM WHERE?
Harp -- now that's harsh. Island-life has never been to Ireland, but we hear that the Islanders over there across the Pond are somewhat mystified about all this hoopla each year over a saint not many of them recognize and a commemoration day none of them do. Still America is marvelous for adopting the cultural celebrations of others and simply making them up whenever we choose. All of the Bay Area is having a party this weekend and parades and the Bay Area needs only the barest excuse for a party. And who can fault any excuse for a parade, answer me that?
We are just kicking back with a bit of the Water of Life in our cruiskeen luin and recalling fond dirty old Baile Ath Cliath, known to some as the Ford of the Hurdles, and passing benedictions on one and all, whether they wear the Green or the Orange as they stroll down the boreen.
Still, we shall not regret hurling them Doc Martens one fine winter's day far out into the ocean under the sign of Orion. For what is past is good and gone and we never step in the same stream twice and good for all that. One day is fine for listening to teary renditions of "The Poison Glen" and "End of the World" and lots of hysterical shouting in one's face, but then its back to the modern world and life that goes on in the here and now. And we have never been to Ireland.
But tell me, how do they still keep the gate over Westmoreland Street in the North?
CHIP 'N DALE FRUSTRATED BY THE COURTS
According to some hysterical Conservatives, had various municipal governments continued to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, the entire world would have collapsed in flames with rioting in the streets, car fires, wanton murder and all sorts of nervous jumping up and down. O such civil disorder to contemplate over Love! The truth is that no such unrest ever was a risk and people declaiming such concerns turned out to be a pack of silly fools.
It may become an issue over Municipal versus State jurisdiction, but any hoot, here on the Island, our local celebrities, a pair of ground squirrels named Chip and Dale have become, well Celebrities, over the issue of cohabitation. Now, the law has gotten so complex here, with marriages and domestic partnerships and escrow and single parent obligation contracts and a wide variety of trust fund estates established entirely to accommodate a minority that insists on the word "marriage" as a civil entity of unique distinction and one that follows exclusively their own rules.
For those of you just entering this discussion, Chip and Dale were rudely awoken out of hibernation by the local Sex Police for cohabiting as one gender during the hibernation months.
Now the Courts have put a temporary halt to what the far Right considers dangerous Unrest and a Serious Shunting of their own Plans to convert everybody to hard pews and wasted Sundays, including all of America's Buddhists, Tibetans, Zen monks, Hindus, Animists, Muslims of course, atheists, Wiccans, Pagans, Hells Angels, undomesticated Irish, trailer park inhabitants, Lesbians, Homosexuals, Transgenders, Section 8, and whatever does not fit their pinched view of white-short tennis court reality.
Now I put it to you, quite realistically, do you really want the local Hells Angels and a gaggle of potentially gay ground squirrels in the pews next to you? I can just imagine our friend, Bear, sitting there in his tattered denim vest, beard down to his navel, arms lathered with tattoos, and head adorned with do-rag, hearkening unto the lord with all the starched crinolines arranged behind with angelic voices.
I think not. You have your Church and you have your social club and if it changes by unusual additions, I just know somebody is going to scream.
Now we have Chip and Dale, two fine ground squirrels who have family ties on the Island extending back some 150 years and more. And here we have the rude invasion of their home and their privacy. And we have Dale exclaiming quite emphatically, and with no equivocation, his intent to invaders of his home who rifled through the winter's stores: "Leggo of my nuts, you assholes!"
Let it be recorded, this is Chip and Dale's official response to the current brouhaha.
Chip 'n Dale were last seen scampering up a date palm well ahead of Maurice, the cat, in an age-old ritual of Spring.
Drove down to Bob Dron's after building furniture on a Sunday, but arrived too late to meet our old riding buddy, Sonny Barger, who is best known to having founded the Hells Angels biker club some forty years ago. The 65 year-old had come into town for a book signing with Tobie Gene Levengston who founded the most elite motorcycle club for African- Americans. Barger has just published his first novel, Dead in 5 Seconds, and Levengston has written a kind of history book about the beginnings of the East Bay Dragons as a car club in the mid 1950's. Barger now lives in Phoenix but has known Bob Dron for about thirty years. Only a couple Red and White supporters remained, but we happened to observe the departure of the East Bay Dragons, who gathered in knots of six or more at the exit onto Hegenberger, clamping their brake handles in and revving the rear wheels to max rpm, costing at least a couple dollars of tire rubber per bike and clouds of smoke in the process. A number of Desperados, an outlaw group which has fought bloody battles against the Hells Angels in the past, also were seen leaving as a black police helicopter hovered overhead.
Here is a shot of a lost poser on a blue Harley watching the Dragons about to head off to your local church.
NIGHT IN MY EYES, NIGHT INSIDE ME
It's approaching the witching hour here on the Island and the howl of the trains comes echoing across the Buena Vista Flats. Jim Kitson says the sound comes clearer because of water in the air at winter time after dark. We say, the sound comes clearer because the edge of dreams approaches the reality of being at the edge of day. And Night is the time of soft revelation.
Maybe we are both right. For we are all living on the Edge these days it seems, and when there is no water to be found, it must have all evaporated into thin air. And perhaps it is time for opposing views to engage in dialogue instead of vitriol coupled with sheer denial of contrary opinions.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 21, 2004
THE URBAN ANTI-SUV PROLIFERATION BRIGADE GAINS A MARTYR
Little Billy Cottrell, a 23-year-old graduate physics student from Pasadena, may have earned himself this year's overachiever award on behalf of the environment, on the one hand, but on the other he may have gone just a tad too far according to the Superior Court of Los Angeles, which denied him bail this week.
You see, Billy was indicted for allegedly firebombing 125 SUVs, most of which had sat waiting to be sold in car dealerships. He did, however, allegedly torch four privately owned vehicles.
Now, Billy, nice boys need to remember Smoky the Bear's stern injunction not to play with fire.
He faces arraignment on the 29th and if convicted, faces a prison sentence of 35 years to life.
Perhaps he should have used a pickaxe instead.
PASSIONATELY VIOLENT CHRISTIANS
It was a clear case of crimes of passion in Statesboro, Georgia, when a husband and wife were both arrested and charged with battery after each called the police on the other. The two had just seen Mel Gibson's movie "The Passion of Christ" and had fallen into a theological argument over whether god the father in the Christian deistic trinity is symbolic or human. From angry words, the argument descended to pushing and shoving and worse. By the time the police arrived, the woman had suffered injuries to her arm and face and the man had been stabbed with scissors.
"Really, it was kind of a pitiful thing, to go to a movie like that and fight about it. I think they missed the point," said Gene McDaniel, chief sheriff's deputy.
PEACEFUL PROTESTS ON A VIOLENT ANNIVERSARY
Friday, Saturday and Sunday, millions of people all over the globe took to the streets in loosely organized demonstrations against the US war in Iraq. In Babylon, 50,000 people showed up for a march from Dolores Park to the Civic Center. Demonstrations occurred across the United States and in Japan, Australia, South Korea (which is having some internal troubles due to the recent recall of the President there), England, France, Germany and Spain -- where the vast majority's disapproval of Spain's participation in the war has led to the sudden ouster of the Conservatives from power in recent elections.
March 20th marks the date when, one year ago, the US launched an intensive bombardment of Iraq, followed by subsequent invasion with the stated intent of locating and destroying weapons of mass destruction identified by Rumsfeld and Bush as being of immanent danger to the US. Among these weapons, Iraq was alleged to possess nuclear warheads, long-range cruise missiles and millions of tons of chemical agents with means to deploy them. After one year, well over 10,000 Iraqis have been killed, the government and civic infrastructure destroyed, 566 Americans killed and some 3,000 severely wounded. The country remains in a state of war with enemy actions taking place at the rate of some 30 attacks per day and no weapons of mass destruction have been found, nor has any evidence that they ever existed been exhumed.
CRACKDOWN ON RECKLESS BOATING?
Officer O'Madhauen is practicing his collar-grip on skies of late, for Marina residents and local boat owners have pressured the IPD to stomp on speeding boats in the estuary. Those of you out there who have taken to tacking in a tactless manner will need to pony up, for the fines for boating recklessness hover around the $650 range.
Better learn to use your turn signals.
In other traffic-related news, vehicle theft has declined substantially as have accidents against pedestrians. Officer O'Madhauen credits the new hair stylists at ProCuts for having trimmed his moustaches to appear more fierce, which has led to increased citizen attention to the speed limit.
The Stealth Turn Maneuver, however, has been particularly troublesome of late. Contrary to the opinion of many, operating the turn signals does not decrease battery life or increase the load on the alternator.
And in the last item, the City continues to waver on installing bus shelters that will be paid for by the installer. Well, you may think getting several $4,000 items for free is really something, but the City Council has been deadlocked on the issue, with proponents really wanting something for free and the opponents wanting all advertising strings attached. Of course, an ad company that installs bus shelters would want their own ads placed on or inside the structures -- that, after all, is the whole point -- but some Council members don't see it that way. They want free bus shelters with no ads at all.
Meanwhile, people waiting for the bus on Webster will need to continued to huddle under the gas station awning when it rains. There's nothing like encouraging public transportation.
THUNDER AND LIGHTNING OH YEAH
The record-popping heat here has settled down from its global warming to the more conventional summertime fog chills at night and bright blue skies in the day. One roaming correspondent reported soggy spring temps on the ski slopes in Colorado. Some of you may remember the ferocious storm that preceded the heat wave however. Lightning was as close as you thought, for it touched down here twice, frying the library's electrical circuits. Here is a photo of a library office a week ago.
The touchdown happened after hours and so the employee was not in the room at the time.
STUPID WHITE PEOPLE AND SUMUC
We last left Oog and Aag in the time of the Goldrush. For today, we will need to hearken back to the early days and the coming of the Spanish.
Sumuc, a descendent of Oog, lived over by what is now Cow Hollow, where he ran a nice little concession running a tulle-boat ferry from the peninsula to the islands in the bay, Marin and over to Oaktown. He kept his people fed and happy and everybody got along real well with no hassles living there by the water, eating holistic foods, fishing and smoking a little boo now and then to keep the edge off. They were pretty much the first California Surfer Dudes and they practiced ecology by not eating too much, not killing too much and not messing up the land with poisons. Their manner of cooking acorns and pinenuts was ingenious, for they would simply set the hills on fire now and then, and after the conflagration had died out, they went and picked up roasted nuts. This was the beginning of “roasted nuts on an open fire”.
Because they periodically cleared the hills by fire, the vegetation never grew to such an extent that the place became a real fire hazard and so everybody remained happy. The trees were happy for those nuts freed from cones and not gathered up became seedlings and thus made more trees, the squirrels were happy, for they could flee the relatively slow-moving fire to return to nice toasty warm homes and plenty of open seed matter for themselves, and the people were happy for having microwaved seed mush without having to pay the exorbitant rates of the PG&E. So it all worked rather well.
Well, one day around about 1769, a buncha dudes from down south showed up in a boat and settled in on the worthless wind-swept sand dunes on the peninsula. It wasn't the first time jokers like these had shown up, but this was the first time any of them had bothered to settle down. The Norsemen had come and the English had come and the Russians had come and they all laid claim to the whole damn country -- they were all a bunch of idiots -- but more of these Spanish types came and these ones stayed. and that was just fine by Sumuc and his tribe for the land was worthless and there was plenty around for everybody to eat anyway. So Sumuc got together with these Spanish and they all had a party to smoke the pipe of peace, which was Sumuc's way of doing things, inviting the neighbors in too, and then Sumuc went about his business.
The newcomers had a hard time of it settling in: they just could not fathom the nature of fair trade, for it was the point of view of the tribe that for hard-earned foodstuffs – of which they had barely enough for themselves -- the white people should provide items of equal or greater value, and there ensued a contretemps when, in exchange for good guinea fowl, the natives tried to take blankets– while some men still slept upon them. Barred from that enterprise, Sumuc simply climbed up a ship’s mast to as to cut loose the big white blanket hanging there and that really caused the Spanish no end of concern. There was all sorts of nervous jumping up and down and cussing and swearing and guinea feathers flying and all sorts of confusion and the local commander, named Gaspar Portola, was terribly put out and there wasn’t going to be any smoking of any peace pipe that day or that week at all.
Finally Sumac's tribe agreed to share a little sustenance in exchange for some earring baubles. Now as it happened neither Sumuc nor any of his people had any use for these baubles, which they considered to be pure junk, inedible and useless for anything, but seeing as these white folk were so poor they had nothing to offer, Sumuc just told his boys to take the junk and pretend it was really something.
Unfortunately, this confirmed the white man’s opinion that the native Americans were slow, dull-witted and simple-minded, while the Indians preserved the exact same opinion about the Whites.
Equally as unfortunate, or perhaps more so, the whites possessed gunpowder, which tipped the scales in their favor as far as any subsequent disputes.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
It's well past the witching hour, now and the midnight train has long since left for Georgia. It's all quiet out there as the peaceful armies of fog unfurl their ghostly banners above the black treeline across the water where the towers of Oaktown glitter with a million eyes. It's a sleepy Sunday evening making ready in dreams for the next work week, for those who have work in this "recovering economy" time. How long has this economy been recovering we wonder? Some three and one half years. Oh well, nothing you or I can do about it.
Earlier, passed one of those huge rented "bounce houses" for kids while jogging. These are big inflatable structures, kept swelled by gas generators that pump air continuously into the walls of the "house" and kids love to jump around inside. Happen to know the guy who owns the business that rents those things. Nice guy by the name of Michael Ford. Also happen to know that he is the only rental supplier in the East Bay who is properly insured. Michael has two kids of his own and is a long time resident of the Island. Born and raised here. And I happen to know he really cares about his kids and about yours. Hence, he is properly insured. Something to think about. Remember when Michael first contemplated the idea and encouraged him to go forward. Nice to see the man may succeed in the simple business of making kids and people happy for a while. That's not such a bad ambition.
It's a small Island. Sort of a "one-horse town" idea without self-consciousness about it. Our ambitions may not be large in the sense of conquering the world. But we have our qualities and sense of value. And we really like to have fun. In things like "bounce houses". For if it isn't fun, why bother doing it?
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 28, 2004
WHEN YOU GOT A GOOD FRIEND
In a dark time many have compared to a new cultural Ice Age, full of despair and loss and disappointment, its nice to hear of a good story working out. Long time readers here know that we belong as paying subscribers to the Langalist, an international weekly e-zine newsletter composed by Fred Langa, which boasts some one half of a million subs. Normally, Fred's weekly is full of technical advice to compu-geeks and people who enjoy humorous comparisons between engineers and mathematicians, but Fred has also a social conscience derived from the "old school" computing, when people who had talent employed those talents in some small way to benefiting society-at-large.
The only real remnant of that spirit is found, now and then, in the open source movement that uses the LINUX penguin as it battleflag. We can remember kids volunteering hours of their time to build math filters that charted the walking progress of people with neurological disorders, speech systems that enabled the blind to command doors and cabinets to open and machines to perform various computing tasks. Nowadays the kids just want to make that first stash so as to buy the newest and biggest SUV. And the times, they certainly have changed.
But Fred is Old School, as mentioned above and he has a little program he runs on the side and here are his own words about it:
Those of us with computers and Internet access
are vastly better off than most of the world's population.
Because of this, I decided that a portion of the LangaList Plus! subscription fees would be donated to registered/legitimate charities helping the underprivileged around the world. The contribution does not increase the cost of a Plus! subscription in any way; the donation is taken "off the top" of any profits. (This is described in the pages at http://www.langa.com/plus.htm )
As the year goes on, and as more readers sign
up for Plus! subscriptions, I hope we'll be able to sponsor more children and
assist other charities around the world.
If you're already a LangaList Plus! subscriber, thank you! You can feel good about giving back a little to those less fortunate, and opening a door to the future for a child in otherwise-desperate circumstances.
If you're not yet a Plus! subscriber check it out: With a Plus! subscription, you can not only help yourself make the most of your hardware, software and time online--- but you also can help those less fortunate (like Eder) make the most of their very lives. Thanks for your help!
Or, Give A Gift Subscription:
The latest report concerns one of the benefactees, each of whom he tracks through the years as they do something with their lives.
"Remember Eder, from Guatemala? He was
the 10th child we added to the group sponsored on an ongoing basis by LangaList
Eder comes from an indigenous family that speaks only the Spanish language and wears westernized clothes. Eder has two brothers. Both parents are literate. His father works as a merchant, and his mother does the house chores. The family's monthly income is below US$100.00. Their salary is not enough to provide their basic needs. They live in their own three-room dwelling, built of adobe walls, tile roof, and cement floor. They have running water, a rustic latrine, and electricity. Meals are cooked on a rustic stove. Eder's health is good, and his nutritional statue is normal.
Eder is now doing fine, and is in the 5th grade--- although he sounded nervous about it., writing: "Thanks to God, I passed my school grade..."
You can see a new crayon drawing by Eder, a note from him, and an English translation of his note, here:
Fred is one of those human beings truly worthy of the name.
HUNK OF BURNING LOVE
The budget crunch came to near to a hot place this past week when 30 people called in on a fire on St. Charles Street, about a block from the Island Life offices and overloaded the 911 service. All but two encountered long wait times with holds of up to six minutes on the fire which started in a garaged automobile. The problem, according to Chief of Police Bunny Matthews, was exacerbated by three operators being out on maternity leave. 911 operators are highly trained and employ some fairly sophisticated computer equipment in their work, so a simple shoehorn of a temporary employee is difficult to accomplish. Still, the root of the problem was caused by budget problems that we all should be familiar with by now.
In other news on the Island, after discovery of asbestos within the walls of the old Linoaks Motel, demo has been postponed, leaving quite an eyesore of graffiti and whatnot from police and fire department exercises. Volunteers came and painted over the mess to keep the bulk a bit more presentable. It is now a ripped up bulk surrounded by chainlink fence, but at least the ripped up bulk is now well painted.
Also reported: a homeowner on Bay Farm, a neighboring island, fired his pistol into the ground so as to scare off a would-be burglar who jimmied the man's front door. Police arrested not the would-be thief, but the homeowner, as it is illegal to discharge firearms within city limits. Nice to know we are well protected.
WOODEN SHIPS ON THE WATER
The latest scuttlebutt has it that Eugene Shrubb is running into a bit of trouble over his invasion of Newark. Seems there never were WMD's in Newark and the whole thing was a farce concocted by Jasmine Rice and Colin McPowerful to engage the massive power of the Bums for personal gain and ideological satisfaction. In the distant past, when the "Domino Theory" caused a fair amount of damage and loss of life to no particular useful end, people simply disregarded facts and such, and simply did what they wanted, only sacrificing the President as a cost of doing business. Richard Nixon, after all, was only a scummy little dickhead without any important family to speak of, and so was easily dispensed with, as opposed to those who really run things.
As evidence, we see these same people running the country about as badly as always.
But Eugene Shrubb, President of the Army of the Bums in the Bay Area has invaded Newark with disastrous consequences. Daily attacks upon his coalition of bums and advisors have caused some extreme retrenchment, and it turns out many of the coalition never wanted to be there in the first place. Now we are hearing that Butte County wants to withdraw its forces until the United Nations takes over. And recent elections in Inyo County indicate a shift in popular opinion from, "we disagree but what can we do" to " fuck you assholes, you all are a bunch of liars."
This appears to send a message to Sacramento. Where the Governator is busy trying to circumvent the Constitution as so much bother.
For those of you late into this business, let us recap: March of last year Eugene Shrubb led an army of bums gathered from the onramps and half-way houses of the Bay area and invaded Newark on charges that Newark presented a clear and immanent danger to the Bay Area in its possession of Weapons of Mass Doo Doo., in the form of evil poodles.
Some felt these charges to be ridiculous. Others felt that the recent attacks upon the USA required sudden response and action that was, if stupid, at least better than nothing.
We had a friend whose bicycle was stolen and in response the man took his shotgun and blew out the streetlights and destroyed the corner mailbox, which gave him much satisfaction, but which failed to return the stolen article or punish the actual thief.
It seems current policy is directed along similar lines. Stay tuned for developments.
LOOK AT THAT TRAIN, IT GOES BOTH WAYS
It's nighttime in the switching yard. It's our special time, when echoes come across the Buena Vista flatlands in the still of the evening. Spent the weekend in the Marin woodlands in a cottage up on a hill. Stared at the woodfire in the old stove at night and tried to master a riff by Chris Smither once again. It could have been a nice romantic evening with wine and candlelight, but it was not and we listened to a lot of Nick Drake. The Significant Other had other things to attend to. Sometimes life is like that.
Took a long walk with our sister in the Marin hinterlands. Sis has a way of casting things in perspective, She and her dog Sheba, who is getting on in years. Sis spends her time out at Spirit Rock which is a kind of Center for the Would Be Holy Zen practitioners in Marin. So she must have some insight into the way things are done. She also has raised a teenager amid fire and destruction and that should account for something. She says, what do you find good in this world, in this time of the Ice Age? Let me hear something new.
My sister's name means "she who brings beauty, " and I have always felt privileged by that. For all the Beauty she has brought into my life. Just as my Significant Other's name means "fertile plain", which is a place of life-giving sustenance.
These things are important and the essence of who we are.
The temperature has risen and the day was full of brilliant azure skies glimmered by skeins of cloud. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 4, 2004
Something weird happened on my digital alarm clock today at quarter to five. The display showed the calendar date and the time, as usual, and this is what it said: 04-04-04, 4:44:44. For about a second. I knew you'd be impressed.
FEAR AND LOATHING IN MARIN
Island-life took to the campaign trail on a gorgeous Saturday, when we toddled up to Marin to join the RuthGroup for a little action. We all gathered at the Mt. Tam exit off of the main 101 corridor and broke out the signage for a little Burma Shave style display along the deceleration lane that takes all the tourists over to Muir Woods, Mt. Tam and the popular Point Reyes Seashore.
About five people per phrase took up spots extending along the deceleration lane and down to the first traffic light.
As you will note, none of these people are wild-eyed fanatics or stoned hippies wearing filthy rainbow hats.
In their own words: "The Ruth Group is
a Marin County education/action group. We have regular meetings and events concerning
the US presence in Iraq, and other issues of similar concern.
The Ruth Group provides regular News&Links, a Blog and a Forum with one purpose: to give you facts, opinions, and information about the patterns of behavior in the world that are threatening the peace and security of us all. We intend for this to help you go out amongst others and engage in discussion and argument, to challenge, persuade and change --wherever you can-- such behavior and support for it."
We met with Ruth, the sorta founder, and we found her to be an engaging, intelligent lady who appears to be far younger than the reported "over 65" from other members. She is not a strident radical or a strong-willed control freak, having yielded all control of all decisions to the consensus of the group long ago. After listening to several discussions, this does appear to be so.
Lulu Torbet, member and fully employed professional writer, described the formation of the group in the days following the Iraq invasion as a discussion group in Ruth's living room to provide an outlet for people who felt concerned about the uninformed path the country was taking along a road of ignorance and suppression of information. The members include families with children and boast quite a wide range of social and economic representatives. All actions are taken only with 100% consensus. They now meet regularly every month for an action and another time in the month for a meeting. It all began with a number of coffee-table discussions.
They have a website at www.ruthgroup.org.
The group marched out to the road shortly before 11 am and only left their posts around 1 pm when the wind finally wore out the sign-holders who had no highway structures to brace against. The action was surprisingly interactive with people passing by, both on the bicycle path and on the road, with a few catcalls, but largely a supportive response. A few spandex-clad bicyclists shouted things like, "Put that sign down!" and the always ready "Commies!"
Several cars pulled over during the action to discuss this or that point of law and/or politics, and sometimes to offer support, but we were not privy to those discussions. We held a couple signs at various times and at one point a young feller asked me who Karl Rove was (one of the signs said "LOATHE KARL ROVE?")
The limitations of this kind of thing became evident when the light changed and the driver had to continue after fewer than 10 seconds of soundbite opportunity to explain just what Rove does.
"He's a neo-con!" I shouted.
That seemed to suffice, for the fellow shouted back, "Okay, I loathe him then!"
Karl Rove runs a consultancy agency which has served virtually every questionable President since he recommended to Richard Nixon that he hire people to break into Democrat offices and steal stuff. He has assisted George Bush as an advisor and is seen by many as the man closest to the Bush-boy's heart. He was the one who tried to smear Pvt. Jessica Lynch by sending topless pictures of her to Hustler magnate, Larry Flynt, when Lynch decried the propaganda distortions of her capture and her release as nonsense and lies spewed by an irresponsible White House. He probably also was responsible for the computer break-ins at the Senate and for the outing of a CIA operative who was working undercover last year, done as revenge for her husband's criticism of the White House.
What is interesting here is that there are people in the United States who have no idea who is close to the most powerful man in the country. Hence, things like the RUTHGROUP.ORG.
As a side note, Flynt refused to publish the pictures of Lynch as a matter of honor and taste, curious in that a porno magnate demonstrates here higher ethics than the people who currently run the country.
Island-Life has become interested in the wide variety of "grassroots" organizations which are springing up all over the place, and which are heavily employing technology to pass information back and forth. Some are calling this the "Deaning of America" after the unexpectedly strong appearance presented by former Presidential candidate Howard Dean, which many attribute to his savvy use of the internet. We will be reporting on some of these groups as things lead up to the General Election.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Michael Franti (Spearhead) just might be onto something when he wrote that lyric. And for those deserving many, this spring offers a plethora of festivals for those looking to fix their jones.
May 27-31 Strawberry music festival - Camp
Big Hitters: keb' mo', Big Bad Voodoo Daddy
May 29 - 30 Santa Cruz blues festival
Big Hitters: Johnny Lang and Buddy Guy
June 26-27 Russian River blues festival
Big Hitters: Johnny Lang, Etta James, Koko Taylor and Robben Ford
You know these things are most definitely not "just show up at the door" affairs. Some people reserve hotel rooms for the Russian River a year in advance and book the "gold seats" at one C note per day well in advance. The "gold seating" has gotten to be a disturbing trend among the outdoor festival circuit in the last couple years, with vast crescents of turf carved out for these exclusive and highly expensive spots -- which require you to bring your own chair.
What with no beverages or food allowed in of any kind, this has amounted to an enormous gouge out of concert-goers pockets who may see spending $100 for a seat, $200 for a hotel, and another $40 in food and beverage costs, not including parking costs (not included) and incidentals. A typical festival weekend can cost a couple well over $1,000 if they are not very careful. Consequently, children are seldom seen at these affairs.
Nevertheless, the long-term festivals remain insanely popular, as people who have been attending one particular festival for 20-some years continue the family tradition even as new folk cram into the same old space. And if you enjoy seeing brand names perform, these things are a kind of bargain in that any hour of any day is packed with top-notch talent.
Island-life is reserved for the Monterey Blues Festival (in Blues We Trust) and we are looking seriously at the Santa Cruz event. In fact, the Significant Other pointed out to us that Johnny Lang is performing in no other venue: the guy is so hot in demand that he has spat upon the "chitlin circuit" and is now performing big ticket shows only for the duration.
The only consolation is that at 19, the boy has a long road ahead and many more years of opportunities to catch his act -- certainly more years than we have allotted for ourselves. Damn, think I am going to trudge on over and figure out that Cm progression for "Lonely Avenue" on Bessie and just wail against the walls for a while.
THE ONION FIELD GETS STINKY
A UN report that evaluated police actions
and powers across the globe, lumped the US for the first time in a report of
this scope from the Geneva UN Commission on Human Rights with the likes of such
repressive regimes as Indonesia, Burundi, Gambia, China and others that routinely
kill, torture and harass activists.
Oaktown's own Thin Blue Line, together with the New York Police Department, helped put a black mark on American justice. The UN report, compiled by Pakistani lawyer, Hina Jilani, mentioned the April 7th incident when OPD fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and wooden dowels into a crowd at the APL terminal at the Port of Oakland. Over fifty people were critically injured, including innocent dockworkers who happened to be standing by, watching the protest. Subsequent lawsuits against the city may cost well into the millions in damage payments. Word is Oaktown's PD chief is hopping mad and is instituting some major changes, including the entire removal of "nonlethal weapons of force", which include those nasty wooden dowels.
In New York, police rode down protesters with horses and charged into the crowd with batons, tear gas, and pepper spray in February of last year.
NOW KISS AND MAKE UP
The two 800 pound gorillas of the microcomputer
world, Sun and Microsoft, finally ended their long spat of howling and chest
pounding in the corporate jungle Friday as Sun accepted a settlement offer from
Microsoft. This provided scant joy for the 3,300 Sun workers who will add their
names to the over half million jobs lost in Silicon Valley since the Bushy was
appointed to the Office of the President, but maybe there may be some work coming
in on joint projects.
In other national news that affects us locally, the House passed a $275 billion transportation spending bill. Of this amount, $261 million is earmarked for 72 Bay Area projects. This package is well short of the $375 billion the DOT says the country needs and short of the $318 billion already approved by the Senate, and the Bushy is rattling his veto saber over the costs.
One of the more curious line items features $2 million to go towards building an aerial gondola to run from the Island to the West Oaktown BART station. In a place where $2 million will get you a couple acres of waterfront, but with no house on it, we wonder about how the money is to be spent. 'Specially since one of our BART trains costs about $4 million and we would assume that a train which hangs by a cable in the air will cost at least as much.
No one around here is particularly happy about the bill, even Governator Arnold, who pressed his friends in Congress to heed the "donor state" status" which is supposed to return to California 90 cents on the dollar contributed. They heeded him not in yet another setback for the novice politician.
Instead, it appears that barrels of pork are being shipped to Texas.
Also quite interesting were the public comments from Florida GOP Rep. Clay Shaw who stated, "we and California are taking a wuppin' from this bill and it's not fair."
A 38-year-old man, from Carmichael, who had
been threatening to jump from the westbound deck of the Bay Bridge for nearly
13 hours was taken into custody by the California Highway Patrol SWAT Team late
The man perched on the edge of the Bay Bridge, threatening suicide, snarled traffic throughout the Bay Area. Negotiators tried to reason with the messed-up guy for hours, causing massive backups from way out north in Fairfield down to Fremont, some forty miles south of Oaktown and the bridge Maze. At one point, all three westbound lanes were closed by CHP, forcing the A's to head south over the San Mateo bridge to get to their exhibition game with the Giants. We, personally enjoyed a portion of this entertainment as we came south along 880 from the San Rafael Bridge. Fortunately, we were astride our trusty Hogg, which was running low on gas at the time, and split lanes for some four miles.
The man climbed over the rail after parking his car at 10:30am. He then climbed down to a ledge, where authorities could not grab him. Armed with a razor blade, he cut himself and wrote messages in blood on the steel structure. As of 11pm, he was still there.
The incident was resolved at 11:25 p.m. when the man appeared to fatigue, and SWAT officers repelled down the side of the bridge, with the aid of the Oakland Fire Department, and began to wrestle with the individual who had moved away from the ledge into an alcove, according to CHP Sgt. Wayne Ziese.
The man from Carmichael was treated at Highland Hospital and then charged with resisting arrest and obstructing traffic in the worst way.
THIS ONE GOES OUT TO THE ONE I LOVE
They are playing that song again and some of you know what it means: the 5-County Disaster Drill is up for renewal and nobody knows the next locus to suffer the consequences or when it happens. Keep your bags packed, dudes. The recent high winds and suddenly dry air have fanned several fires here. Firefighters fought a brush blaze along I580 near the Fruitvale exit, closing the exit for more than an hour and blazes pulled firetrucks in Marin mid-day Saturday. In the Valley, a dump has caught fire near Vacaville and is blazing right now out of control. Meanwhile, the Colorado, Arizona southwest region is limping into the sixth year of drought and wildfires are sprouting like evil weeds all over the place, due to cutbacks in forestry service programs, which could have weeded out the underbrush. Many of the fires are originating in habited areas now, which are exempt from the clearcut logging rules proposed by Bushy and Company. Which are supposed to protect you and me from fire burning us down. At least on the face of it.
After discovering asbestos in the old Linoaks
Motel, the demo job got postponed pending resubmittal of contract bid. The bid
has been approved and the 'dozers are right at work knocking down the old residence
hotel. The City first purchased the location in 1990, but preservationists wanted
the old masonry building to be rehabbed for the job instead. Years of bickering
preceded the 1997 Council approval of the Linoaks plot as site for the new library
to replace the earthquake-damaged and shuttered structure built by Carnegie
Foundation when its namesake was alive. There followed more years of bickering
with the state legislature in an effort to obtain funding.
The new building is scheduled to open in 2006.
RED RAIN ON THE BEACH
Have you ever been to a town named Chernobyl? I haven't but one of our correspondents knows someone who has. And goes regularly and takes pictures of one of the most horrifying places on earth. The visitor is a pretty lady by the name of Elena and her father is a nuclear physicist in Russia, who can get the special admittance documents to enter the "dead zone" that includes 96 empty towns, including Prypyat, Chernobyl and the capped nuclear reactor site.
The exclusion area, somewhat the size of the state of Connecticut, is devoid of human life. The army evacuated every last soul who did not die in the hours after the disaster and shot to death anyone found trying to remove any objects of any kind, perfectly preserving a slice of Soviet-era Russia in a vast outdoor museum.
Hundreds of people who climbed up on the roofs of nearby highrises to look at the strange glowing cloud above the cracked reactor died within a day. Only herds of mutated wild boar, wolves, deer and some roaches now live in the evacuated buildings, once home to 48,000 people.
Elena is able to enter the area because she drives a Ninja motorcycle, which can keep to the center of the asphalt roads that still lace the area without kicking up the poisonous dust. Asphalt does not retain radioactivity, although the shoulders and lands to either side possess an eerie reddish glow at night and stepping even a few meters from the roadbed, in some areas, will kill a person within days.
The simple photos taken in Pripyat of vacated buildings, empty avenues, rows of abandoned trucks and children's shoes, with her informed commentary are extremely powerful. I urge everyone to take this trip with Elena to Chernobyl's sister "ghost town" whether they like motorcycles or not. Each page holds about 4 photos, so even modem-encumbered people can travel. Here is the URL: http://www.angelfire.com/extreme4/kiddofspeed/
The USSR and subsequent governments admit to only 31 dead, with another 300 in the subsequent days while the reactor burned. All of the helicopter pilots who dumped the material to cap the reactor died within a day of their flights and their machines sit abandoned in a field surrounded by barbed wire. All of the firemen who responded to the first alert died within minutes of arriving on the site. Their firefighting equipment is still there. The contaminated areas, peppered with radiation counters, overlap the new countries of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. At the time of the accident, April 26, 1986, 7 million people lived in the area. About 350,000 have been evicted and 5.5 million continue to inhabit the Exclusion Zones outside the 30km restricted "dead zone". They cannot afford to leave and there is no longer a government which has resources to put at their disposal. About 3,500 people chose to remain in the "low restriction" areas extending out to about 85km from the epicenter, but no one knows how many are still alive. 10,000 people, mostly scientists, continue to inhabit Chernobyl itself. Cancer rates in the zones are many, many times higher than the worst hotspots in the world and children die at an appalling frequency of leukemia and a wide battery of cancers.
Belarus is planning construction of a new atomic power reactor in the Chernobyl area with the reasoning that the place is already contaminated for the next 10,000 years.
Data reported here comes from the Ukranian and Belarus official travel agencies as well as the CDC and Chernobyl.com.
NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM
This week we have that joyous time when the synagogues deliver hametz to charities, daffodils get plunked into vases, much wine is drunk, songs are sung, and the youngest pesters the elders with questions while looking for a hidden cracker. What is different about this night of nights? Here I turn from my Primo Levi, closing the books. Open the door wide and let all come in and eat. We'll sit leaning on our elbows and talk about far-off events full of wonder.
reverses its course,
Today flowing back into yesterday,
Like a river enclosed at its mouth.
Each of us has been a slave in Egypt,
Soaked straw and clay with sweat,
And crossed the sea dry-footed.
You too, stranger.
This year in fear and shame,
Next year in virtue and justice.
It's wandering into the midnight hour in this post Daylight Saving Time. Listening now to Putamayo on KFOG. Hearing a strangely melodic duet between Celt Alain Stivell and Africa's Yassou N'dour. Somehow it really works, even though not a word is of any language you can imagine. If sound waves could be sand waves. It feels as if long after this horrible time of Bush and his like with its murders and its South American putsches causing no end of agony in Chili and Argentina and Cuba and Haiti and whatever Noriega is controlling nowadays that some other spirit will gently resume the tides of life in a more healthy manner. But this time will occur only after the passing of that grand experiment known as America.
It was a noble experiment, begun with the purest of motives and executed by men the like we have not seen for many a year. The novel idea was to produce a new country based on concepts of freedom as natural right, and organized along principles termed Democratic in that all citizens had say in the conduct of government, similar to the ideals of ancient Greece. Although the formation of its states represented a new order, its constitution was based, therefore, upon ideals that were at least 3,000 years old.
The essential thrust was to avoid the problems created by single ruler tyrants and limited access oligarchies. Such systems had proved to be extremely unstable, especially during times of leadership change.
So the idea came up, oddly enough in England that freemen had the right and obligation to restrict the actions of the King on behalf of the Commonwealth Freemen, in England, meant Barons and titled citizens. In America they went one step further and decided that all men were by nature free and therefore the King had no hold at all upon the People. All kings, all barons, all entitlements lost their value with one decree made by the people most affected.
It was not a bad idea, except that the Barons, such as the family Bush, retained their sense of entitlement and uses of power. And their age-old entitlements afflict us still as royal privileges.
On the Island, we try hard enough to keep body and soul together. We don't have the resources to engage in grand issues. We are trying in this hard time just to capture enough money to fund one single new school and keep the existing ones running. Now we have this Governor who is an actor body-builder, but no good politician and we have a President who hates us, apparently, and we have our sons traveling far off to some foreign war nobody knows anything about to the extent that his mother has to travel 8,000 miles just to see what the devil is going on.
We will report on what is happening with our local Mother who flew to Iraq to check up on her son in the following weeks as well as other issues.
For all that, this is the way it is on the Island. No matter how many miles away you go, mom is going to check up on you. Have a great week.
APRIL 11, 2004
JUST SAY GO!
If you thought Austin Powers, International Man of Mystery, had something, well, scientists have discovered that you and Mr. Powers were right all along.
Contrary to some research, frequent sexual activity does
not increase the risk of developing prostate cancer and might even reduce the
danger, a study of nearly 30,000 men found.
Some previous studies have suggested that men who have frequent ejaculations -- whether through sex or masturbation -- might be more prone to prostate cancer. One theory is that lots of sex exposes men to various germs and viruses that somehow lead to prostate cancer.
The latest study should be "reassuring to those men who may be more active than others," said Dr. Durado Brooks, prostate cancer director for the American Cancer Society.
The study involved 29,342 health professionals ages 46 to 81 who were asked about their ejaculations in their 20s, 40s and during the previous year, 1991. During about eight years of follow-up, 1,449 men developed prostate cancer.
On average, the men overall had four to seven ejaculations a month. No increased risk of prostate cancer was seen in men who reported more frequent ejaculations, and there appeared to be a decreased risk in men with the highest reported levels.
The two highest activity levels -- 13 to 20 ejaculations a month, and at least 21 a month -- were linked with decreased cancer risks of 14 percent and 33 percent respectively.
One theory is that frequent ejaculations help flush out cancer-causing chemicals or reduce the development of calcifications that have been linked with prostate cancer.
But relatively few men in the study reported heavy sexual activity, so more research is needed to establish whether there is, in fact, a link, said Dr. Michael Leitzmann, a researcher at the National Cancer Institute who led the study.
TIT FOR TAT
The latest flap on the Island concerns the favorite subject of infants and 40+ married males -- sometimes conflated into the same category. A couple with child was preparing to dine at Der Speisekammer when the little one got a bit fussy. So mom unbuttons there in the restaurant and commences pretty much what mothers have been doing for quite a number of million years -- even before the days of Jimmy Durante -- when up jumps another patron there, shouting, "Oh, My god! You can't do that!" Well, somewhat stunned into complacency, the couple put up and continued with dinner. The other patron claimed that she thought the woman was going to change diapers there in the restaurant main room. Well, the infant continues to fuss, so the woman props up a menu and sets up a blanket so as to sneak a drop to the tyke, when the same patron jumps up again, pointing at mom and shouting, "I don't believe that, I'm going to be sick!"
Although many people do not realize it, breastfeeding in public is perfectly legal and the management of Der Speisekammer supported the family in this incident.
The recent trend toward silly prudishness, and the flap over Janet Jackson's accidental exposure on national television, is resulting in some rather bizarre behavior along the lines of John Ashcroft's insistence on cloaking certain statues in the Department of Justice. We have a report from Georgia that a roadside statuary seller, who offers birdbaths and garden gnomes, has been compelled to dress many of his wares in home-made togas and shifts. With the result that people are constantly coming up to the statues and peering up or down the fabric so as to discover what the fellow is hiding.
Also in a continuing debate are the bus shelters which everybody needs and everybody want, but for which nobody wants to pay without getting something in return. Mayor Beverly came down solidly on the No Ads on Shelters camp at a recent town meeting. The City Transportation Technical Team will meet April 14 at 6pm to narrow down the list of sites from 44 to 25. It will cost about $130,000 to buy the shelters and another annual $12,000 to clean and maintain them, for you know that with or without ads, the latest tag team from West End High is going to start spray-painting the suckers within hours of the first install.
LET THERE BE MUSIC
Got a smashup line-up coming into the area this month, kicking off a kickass season. Edie Brickell does the Fillmore on the 13th, followed by new phenom Jonatha Brooke on the 15th. For you bluegrass folks, Yonder Mountain String Band takes over the next two nights following. Over at the venerable Warfield, "punk-grass" kids Nickelcreek took over on April 10 for some of their original takes on new style bluegrass. Most decidedly plugged in and punked out, Offspring handle the 15th for those who may find Jonatha Brooke too mellow. Warren Haynes returns with his Gov't Mule on the 16th, and newbie Seal takes over on the 19th. Former sideman rapper for the House of Pain, Everlast, is sure to surprise and amaze with his constantly evolving performance skills on the 24th. Everlast is most known to middle of the dial folks for chipping in stellar performances with Carlos Santana. There are many other performances happening this month, including a rumored David Bowie concert in a small venue here. Teeny-bop swoon-babe, Avril Lavigne, performed an impromptu freebie down in Southpark Mall in Fleamont not far from here. In a magnanimous gesture, the gamin chanteuse awarded her half-empty water bottle to an adoring fan who shrieked with pleasure, before dodging offstage to the sounds of yet more shrieking from a crowd of teens.
If you have to make money doing something, you might as well make music.
GET YOUR KICKS ON ROUTE 66
The old Route 66 is not what it used to be. In fact, it does not exist anymore, except in disconnected backwaters here and there, but Island Life goes On the Road for the next couple of weeks with the intention of getting more eddikated. Yep, we'll be sitting in one of those linoleum-topped desks, scrawling important stuff into the wood, stuff like "Techer gots a wedgie!" and "Tommy is a poopy-butt!".
Of course high class material like this can only be associated with Microsoft.
Turn the spit on that pig and kick the drum and let me down. Put my clarinet beneath your bed 'til I get back in town.
It's a bright sunny day here and all the stores are closed this Sunday. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
When you play that tarantella all the hounds will start to roar
The boys all go to hell and then the Cubans hit the floor
They drive along the pipeline, they tango 'til they're sore
They take apart their nightmares and they leave them by the door
Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
And send me off to bed for evermore
Make sure they play my theme song, I guess daisies will have to do
Just get me to New Orleans and paint shadows on the pews
Turn the spit on that pig and kick the drum and let me down
Put my clarinet beneath your bed 'til I get back in town
Let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
So send me off to bed for evermore
Just make sure she's all in calico and the color of a doll
Wave the flag on Cadillac day, and a skillet on the wall
Cut me a switch or hold your breath 'til the sun goes down
Write my name on the hood, send me off to another town, and just
And just let me fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
Tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
Will you send me off to bed for evermore
Fall out of the window with confetti in my hair
Deal out Jacks or Better on a blanket by the stairs
I'll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past
Send me off to bed for evermore, send me off to bed for evermore
by Tom Waits, on Raindogs
APRIL 25, 2004
BACK TO OAKLAND
Came rolling back into town Saturday after a two week MCSE bootcamp down in San Jose. San Jose is very fine and all, with an impressive hockey team, loads of surviving dot-coms, and many freeway overpasses but it just cannot compare to home. Good home BBQ at Flints and Everett and Jones, a jewel of a lake, down-home blues in every bar, and the splendid backdrop of Babylon's skyline for jogging scenery just cannot be beat. Went to drop off a stack of technical books as library donations to be faced with a sheet loaded with complicated directions to the old annex around the corner. Place hasn't been open for some fifteen years, but there was a note there, assuring everybody that "someone" comes and takes the books into the dusty, dark and shuttered annex, hedged by concrete-cracking weeds and yellow police barriers, at least once a day. And you thought the rumors of the infamous Library Troll who lives on Elmer's paste and leather bookmarkers was just a fig of the imagination. Damn, it's good to be back.
HERE COMES THE SUN, LITTLE DARLIN'
After days of cold rain and dark computer rooms, the sun busted through the broken window-shade and brought out the crowds for all sorts of frolic and fun in public places. As anyone who is not a Developer knows, Saturday was the day we remember our Dear Mother Earth. The Island was not remiss in putting on its own little fait-do-do in celebration of International Earthday, with all sorts of music and food and joyous jumping up and down inside inflatable "bounce-houses".
Long-time visitors to this space will recognize the 8th Street palms which proved to be Eugene Gallipigus' undoing that fateful Thanksgiving Day in the Year 2001.
Up in Berzerkeley, we had the annual Skater's Day at People's Park, wherein a local sports emporium sets up several death-defying ramps and rails for the local kids to go hog wild on. And there was all sorts of breaking and popping and sliding and aerial somersaults of the most extraordinary kind while folks wandered up and down the T'graph to munch on organic pizza while gawking a the onyx hash pipes, silver jewelry and hemp t-shirts sold by the sidewalk vendors who help keep a lid on things. There was even a performance by the Xplicit players who strummed guitars and sang -- quite badly -- with no shirts on. And they was all ladies, but nobody cared.
Scored a copy of the latest hot disks from Amoeba Records: old Slowhand's Me and Mr. Johnson and the compilation from Fat Wrecks called Rock Against Bush. EC is as inimitable as always, with a deft, sure hand on the fretboard. Disagree only with the tempo of "Traveling Riverside Blues" and his take on "Me and the Devil", which needs be, well, more demonic.
The Fat Wrecks CD, including a DVD compilation of ads from Truthout.org plus several news documentaries on this government's malfeasances, features some thrash-core and straight-ahead punk rock from a variety of luminaries, including The Offspring and Social Distortion. It is, needless to say, hardly easy listening. But these guys and gals are all quite angry. And at six bucks a pop, you really cannot go wrong. When was the last time you paid six dollars for a CD or an LP? Joe Bob says, "Check it out."
RETURN OF THE CRYPTONOMICON AUTHOR
Also while up in Berzerkely was pleased to discover that Neil Stephenson has released Volume Two of the Baroque Trilogy. Stephenson is a kind of computer geek's novelist in that the man has made a life-long hobby of that arcane science of cryptography and this fascination has played itself out in his immensely complicated novels. His latest Magnum Opus focuses upon events that took place during the Baroque era of the late 1600's and features a broad panoply of colorful fictional characters and real persons scampering and scheming among the Crusades, the Restoration, Newtonian science, the Siege of Vienna, Puritan settlement of the Americas, slave-trading, the development of the modern commodities markets and gallstone operations performed without anesthetic. The first Volume clocked in at some 910 pages and still managed to yank the reader along faster and wilder than a rollercoaster at Six Flags.
MUSIC DO I HEAR?
Our personal faves, local theatre company The Shotgun Players, have gone Uptown with a scheduled engagement at the prestigious and beautiful Julia Morgan Center, where the company is putting on an ambitious production of Moliere's The Miser. The innovative company is known for presenting extremely difficult and seldom-seen pieces, such as Troilus and Cressida, Mother Courage, and works by Sartre, Dario Fo, and others. The latest reviews have been uniformly good, with high praise for professional staging and dramaturgy. The Julia Morgan is an internationally known play-space and represents a considerable step up from the basement of La Val's pizza parlor, where we first met them, and the outdoor amphitheatres of the public parks. Now, as always, admission is entirely free.
That's right, the performance held in the exquisite Julia Morgan is held without charge. Instead of having Ticketmaster host sales, the Company players pass the hat at the end of the evening as they have done for every performance we have seen them do over the past ten years.
Now that is an innovation we really like.
Sorely missed, on account of our sojourn in computer school, were Everlast at the Fillmore on the 24th and Charlie Musselwhite at the Great America Music Hall this weekend. The band known as X is winding up their set at GAMH right now even as we type. David Bowie came to honor the Paramount with a show and the Significant Other was rebuffed by the $85 cover for this rare appearance.
Sailing on seas of cheese, Primus comes thundering into the Greek for what shall be surely a bass-heavy and bizarre evening on the last day of May. Same weekend, Yo La Tengo slathers the Fillmore. Moving up in time, we have Bill Frisell handling Yoshis with some slick jazz guitar on the 27th of April, followed by Craig Chaquico on the 29th through the 2nd of May slot. We fondly remember Craig as the hot Latino bent on rescuing the Jefferson Starship from irrelevance way back in the early 80's.
Also of note, those cute-as-the-dickens Simpson sisters return with the Waifs to perform at the new venue The Grand on 1300 Van Ness in Babylon on the 23rd of May.
Not so cute are the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club holding forth there on the 29th of April.
>And in yet a totally different and much more mellow vein, George Winston tickles the ivories on a solo benefit on behalf of Marriage Equality in California at the prestigious Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on the 19th of May.
There is plenty of music out there this season, and we are slated for the Santa Cruz Blues Festival as well as Monterey this year, so lissen up y'all. If you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own.
IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
Now that the old '77 Volvo, Veronica the Hippo, sits quietly on her corner spot once again, and Dr. Friederich snoozes on the bed comforter as usual with his catnip toy clutched in his paws, and all the travel receipts have been tossed into the the shoebox, life has returned to something like normal after an absence. Came home bearing our shield rather than the obverse and that is a good thing. Not everyone is so lucky. The Significant Other made us a nice dinner of salmon and mashed potatoes accompanied with a good bottle of wine from Italy and life is good.
Thinking now of the people we met there from all over the United States and what a range of we encompassed in our little group. Fellow named Bob hailed from North Carolina but spends most his time now in Barrow, Alaska, chasing and being chased by polar bears in 40 below temperatures. You think setting up a 802.11b wireless LAN is difficult, you try doing the same when the temperature is 40 degrees below zero and a damn bear is trying to eat you. And Derek, who reformed his life before the 3-strikes laws to become a decent father to his child and honorable husband to his wife and now here he is becoming a certified computer professional. And John of San Jose, Hola, amigo. And Eric, the transplant from far-off Virginia to arid Arizona who stood dumbfounded and amazed when a CHIPs officer greeted him real friendly like. And Instructor Dan has returned to North Carolina to handle various domestic issues -- let us only say, wayward male Teen. Mutt and Jeff, the two Developers have returned to Nevada while the Auditor has hied himself off to distant Hawaii, a set of islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Now these lives are scattered across the vastness of a country which does not even know the beginning of its own boundaries, which extend from the middle of the Pacific Ocean to the northern Pribilofs.
And here we are on our little island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, with our own concerns and quibbles about all sorts of things like what to do about the public library and how to handle fixing up the tunnel to Oaktown. You might say, "Let the Big People figure out things, we have enough problems of our own. And yet the most average delta rice farmer has a say in what he does such that it affects the most common dirt farmer in the middle of Cappadoccia.
Such are our thoughts on this hot night with the windows all open and the fans going like mad and the sound, that familiar sound, of the midnight through-passing train from the Port of Oakland as it trundles through the now populated sections of Jack London before heading off to parts unknown. We have heard it each night for years as it echoes across the estuary, over the abandoned cannery, over the Buena Vista flatlands and the roofs of this little island. We have wondered where this train goes each night and what the engineer must think, blowing that horn as he drives this train through the empty streets of the warehouse district of Oaktown, which each year changes a little and then a little more.
That's the way it is on the Island. We don't have any great answers to the great questions of this time. If we did, that would mean that we were greater than ourselves and that is certainly not true. But we wish you to have a great week.
Until next time.
MAY 2, 2004
I SHALL FIND SANCTUARY
It's a hot night this Sunday evening, one of those nights with all the windows open everywhere and fans going and the sounds of the House of Blues broadcasting Charlie Musselwhite crooning a slow harp blues across the sultry air. The past days have hit the West with a heat wave, initiating spring conditions in the High Sierra, in spite of 15 feet of snow at Tuolumne Meadows and everybody has been hitting the beaches and the BBQ grills like trout hitting flies on the first day of fishing season at Bass Lake.
Spent the weekend helping neighbor Jim build a little fence. Actually, spent most of the time standing around, looking important and drinking beer, while Jim shoveled cement.
Oh, but getting that sunburn was darn hard work.
But right now the swelling moon rises out back over the rooftops next to the Old Man Sequoia, who has been there just about one hundred years -- a year for every foot of height. The Old Man has been battered by storms and withered by disease, but tonight he stands dark and tall as he has for a century and more. Accompanied by his Lady, the Moon.
Man, that new CD from Charlie is really something. Joe Bob says, "Check it Out."
EVER SINCE I WAS A YOUNG BOY
On the spur of the moment, galloped on over to the Local, McGrath's Pub for a brew and some notes. Man, we walked into a packed house there on the Island and friends welcomed us over to sit beside them to catch the new wave, named HoustonJones. We came in during a typically extended gospel tune, wedged into the tight space and paid Peter, the proprietor the $5 door fee. Hell, for 5 bucks in Peter's place we had previously caught the National Fiddle Champion and the National Fingerpicking Champion, so the bet was not a long one for good music.
Let it be said that the septet headed by Glenn Houston on lead guitar and Travis Jones on a Gibson 180 playing rhythm got the entire room dancing, including the undanceable Yours Truly and truly blew the roof off of the place. My friends and I agreed that we had not heard such musicianship and energy since paying $40 a head for headliner tix at the Fillmore. These guys are good.
Playing what used to be known as "roots rock" and is now becoming known as a new evolved genre of "Americana" which recaptures the infectious energy of the early days of rock n' roll without pandering to tired tropes, the band branded its own distinctive signature upon a scattering of covers, such as "Hollywood" and "Born on the Bayou", while tossing in a fair sampling of tasty original ballads and rockers. Many bar-bands have striven for that original moment in the tired, heard-that-already atmosphere of pick-up joints and boozy watering holes. Few have arisen with distinction out of garage rock cover band to do what HoustonJones have done, and that is plant their own stamp upon the music in a way that is original, fresh and exciting.
What gives the band such a remarkable push, has to be the combo of Travis' total unassuming, "hell I am just here havin' fun" attitude bound with Glenn Houston's incendiary guitar attack with pick in Standard and open D tunings, wherein he seems to enter a kind of trance-like state of unbeing as he shreds thousands of notes in seconds, putting the most ferocious of heavy metal and bluegrass players to shame with his virtuosity.
In sound, they resemble nothing ever before heard, with traces of a more disciplined Jerry Garcia coupled with a punkish version of Hot Tuna and Box Set combined with elements of John Hiatt, Tom Petty and The Boss without pretense.
It's interesting to note that these guys are not spring chickens by any means, as evidenced by salt-n-pepper beards and a general economy of stage motion created by years of experience. In one semi-humorous moment, the drummer, Peter Tucker, left the stage to rush to the bathroom just before the encore.
Well, they did order three tequilas, two beers, a scotch and a whiskey on the rocks during the last set, to be fair.
In any case, they had the crowd dancing in the aisle and Peter beaming from ear to ear. Their website is www.houstonjones.com and they next appear in San Jose at the Expresso Garden on May 8. Following that, they will be staying local for appearances at Hayward's Bistro, Mountain View's Dan St. Roasting, and returning to McGrath's on the 22nd of May before heading up to the venerable and very excellent Rancho Nicasio in Marin. Be ready for a packed house at Nicasio, where local luminaries of world-wide renown are known for "sit-ins."
THE ISLAND IS REVOLTING !
Well, we don't mean that we are any more disgusting than our neighbors, but a certain atmosphere of "I'm Mad as Hell and won't Take it Anymore," spirit seems to pervade of late. In this case we refer to the IBEW Local 1245 joining ACEA members in a potential strike. Now the acronyms and letters could be decyphered for you, but it really would not matter, for it seems that virtually every community is facing the same sets of issues and the issues always seem to revolve around the same thing.
So say Conservatives. And so they have always said. Every time there is a labor-management dispute.
But lately, the issues seem to focus upon the very narrow issue of health insurance. Almost 98% of the recent labor disputes which have resulted in strike situations in this area have devolved upon health insurance -- its total denial, or a severe retraction of benefits.
Of course, on one hand, no law says that any employer has to offer any health insurance at all, but then again, who in their right mind would ever work for an idiot who did not provide basic health insurance for its workers? The idea would be insane, given the realities of present day health care.
In fact, because of the conservative hold upon worker's comp and health benefits, once a worker becomes invalided, they are basically removed from the workforce entirely because of the vast bureaucracy involved and the earnest efforts of everyone involved to avoid paying for what they are supposed to cover.
As a result, we, you and me, pay for the lost of this person's wages in the form of disability, in the form of workers comp, in the form of higher prices for the items this person used to facilitate manufacture and distribution of, in the form of their lost productivity, and in the form of higher insurance premiums against the claims, which -- although not paid -- are indebted against our own accounts as potential liabilities.
For that is just the way insurance goes my friend. You pay for what could happen, not for what does.
Next time you pay your insurance bill, you reflect upon this estimation: over ten years I will pay $10,000 and, if I or anyone in my family is injured, we will obtain only $5,000 in coverage for $12,000 worth of medical bills, losing thereby not just the $7,000 the insurance company did not pay, but also the additional $5,000 I have already paid into the pockets of worthless bureaucrats. I will have lost in this sweet deal transaction, well over $12,000. Plus loss of employment. That's not including pints of blood and pain, which, as we know, is not quantifiable by an actuarial.
Chew on it, dude.
IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT
Cooler breezes are wafting through the windows now that the moon has completed its arc and midnight approaches. all is quiet on the Island and the Old Man stands silently with the stars. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 9, 2004
HYMN FOR HER
Few know this but the original Mother's Day was actually instituted by women who had lost their sons in battle as an antiwar protest in 1865. Mindful of these origins, twenty-four women gathered Saturday in Oaktown over by the Rockridge Safeway for a silent vigil while dressed entirely in black with black veils. This was no local protest, however, for the Women in Black are part of an international group established in 1988 by Jewish and Palestinian woman trying to bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Information on this group can be obtained at www.bayareawomeninblack.org.
As for the rest of you, we hope you don't stick mom with cleaning up the mess in the kitchen after the breakfast-in-bed thing is over.
Oh yes: the lyrics to "Hymn to Her", written by Chrissie Hynde for her mother, follow at the end of this week's entry.
NOTICE TO BOATERS
Due to concerns about potential terrorist attacks, neighboring Coast Guard Island is to be completely surrounded by a ten-foot high barrier loaded with underwater sensors to detect approaching swimmers, divers, and/or unmanned vehicles. The barrier will be lighted at intervals of fifty feet.
Needless to say, this has the entire marina up in arms, for such a structure will encroach upon the navigation channel there and certainly create a less than ideal climate of fear.
The island berths and services several high endurance cutters and alternative proposals have the CG moving these from the confines of the estuary to the Port of Oakland.
NOTICE TO DRIVERS
As mentioned here before, the Island tunnel was the first underwater tunnel built in the world and is now undergoing earthquake retrofitting. The work has been unaccountably delayed and prolonged over several years and we are looking at a new spate of late night closures during the week. Be alerted.
In other news, the upshot of the last bond elections appears to give a green light to the over-water monorail line to run from the Point to MacArthur BART. We may never live to see it built, but it certainly will be one futuristic thing to see by whoever does. And will certainly be necessary if they go ahead and put 3,000 new homes on the site of the old Naval Station. You think YOUR commute is bad. Well, you just try hopping off of an island with just two bridges during rush hour.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
This summer is loaded with tasty promise, note half of which has been announced as of yet. On the books here is what we have:
Primus at the Greek, 5/30
Warren Haynes, solo, at the Fillmore, June 25.
The Waifs - 5/23 at The Grand on 1300 Van Ness after the KFOG Kaboom on the 22nd where they will perform for free under the fireworks at the pier. Train will also be there. The Waifs, consisting of the Simpson sisters and Joshua Cunningham from Australia have blown the doors off of every venue they have done since erupting in America which just cannot get enough of the cute-as-the-dickens Aussies who can blow f---g hell out of a mouth harp while tearing up the fretboard like demons on fire. They are proof White People can have Soul.
The Waybacks with guest, Bob Weir - Great American Music Hall on 5/8.
Sarah Harmer - 5/15 at The Independent in Babylon. Sarah Harmer has a smoky voice with significant song-writing skills.
Johnny Winter - 5/23 - also at this new venue, The Independent.
Jack Johnson arrives with protégé Donovon Frankenreiter at the Greek, 8/27. Jack is the surfer dude from Hawaii whose music provides such a welcome air of common sense amidst chaos that you want to give the boy a medal just for being reasonable when so many are screaming red-faced with veins popping. You go, Jack.
Santana at the Warfield 6/23 and 6/24. Tix went on sale at 10 this morning and probably are sold out by now. Carlos Santana is one of those dripping with talent musicians who has worn well with time, refusing to congeal in the Past while reinventing himself in countless ways by performing with a very wide variety of stylists from across the board of musical genres. If you don't like Santana, there must be something wrong with you.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT
East Bay open studios gets the house a'rockin' starting 5/28 through 6/13 in an unprecedented celebration of Pro Arts' 30-Year existence that extends for 30 miles from Point Richmond down to Fleamont, and including some 500 artist studios. Yow. The juggernaut of successive events has already begun with a lavish $125 opener last week at the newly opened digs at 550 2nd Street in the Jack London area. Not many artists were there, for the obvious reasons, but the glitterati of the newly burgeoning East Bay showed out in force with Christian Dior and Louis Rente well represented.
Rumor has it Charlotte Maillard may make a showing something in the next few weeks.
Babylon, eat your heart out.
A more modest get-together is slated for the artists involved in the next week or so. Check www.proartsgallery.org for info.
INTERVIEW WITH THE CANDIDATE
It's time to gather your RWB straw boaters, you animal insignia, your bunting, your brass horns, your earplugs, your parade togs, and your buckets with pooper-scoopers, for that quadriennial muckfest known as the Presidential Elections is upon us. We sat down for an interview with the perennial Candidate -- Papoon -- whose campaign slogan has not changed in over 40 years of unsuccessful jabs at the brass ring:
PAPOON FOR PRESIDENT: NOT INSANE !
We caught up with Papoon in his digs resting between junkets on his busy schedule. We asked him what distinguished his platform above the other heavy hitters in the field, which include a popular incumbent who has styled himself as the "Wartime President." Bearing in mind Papoon has tried for forty years to become President without success.
"Well," said Mr. Papoon. "First, as you know from my slogan, I am not insane. Secondly, I am very honest."
When queried on substantiation of the latter part, we were directed to Mrs. Papoon, the Candidate's mother. We declined to pursue this and presented several other questions about his intentions vis a vis the economy, the disastrous occupation of Newark by an army of Bums led by Eugene Shrubb, the problem of wayward terriers -- especially the still-at-large Osama Bin Lassie -- the extreme polarization of the Legislature into opposing masses of quivering, shouting, gesticulating and ineffective jellyfish, and the unfortunate Jackson family.
Papoon had this to say at first, which left us quite puzzled and entirely unable to follow what followed for some time afterwards.
"My friend, we live in an age in which cartoons are replacing movie actors upon the silver screen, movie actors are becoming politicians looking for votes, and now politicians are becoming each day more and more like cartoons in search of the punchline to wrap it all up."
Eugenia, the staff photog, brought us back to our senses with a sharp "hsst!" and a jab to the ribs.
Ah yes, that is all well and good, but seeing as this is the 15th time you have run for office do you not observe one particular obstacle to your election," we interjected into a probably meaningful announcement about interest rates.
Papoon, furrowed his brow as if the prospect of losing this election had not occurred to him. He admitted he could not think of a reason.
"Mr. Papoon, lets be frank here. And direct. You are a ground squirrel, are you not?"
Papoon had to agree he was, still puzzled at this line of inquiry.
"Mr. Papoon, you are not of the human species. Is this not an obstacle to being elected President of the United States of America? Isn't there a qualification that you lack?"
Papoon responded quite indignantly that the qualifications state that the Candidate must be over thirty years of age and born in the United States. Furthermore he was not and never had been a member of the Communist Party and, might he add, California had for its Governor a naturalized Alien born in Austria. So there.
Papoon whisked his tail vigorously and cracked open a nut for emphasis before adding, persons of both major parties will have to admit that there have been individuals appointed and elected to be President who have been far more improbable as well as inappropriate than himself.
On this we had to agree and the interview was terminated.
AND ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST
Sunday's paper has already become the fishwrap of tomorrow and the midnight train has made its passage through the Oaktown alleys to parts unknown. Now the high-pitched whirr of the weekly backup tape kicks in and here we are staring at the screen in our dark little cube on yet another Sunday night, saying "Goodbye" to another Mother's Day.
Here we are in the dark little cube, lit by the ghosts of computer screens and the LED's of our computer room while all the staff have gone to bed, leaving only me to put the last issue to bed for the week. It's a scene repeated with minor variations across the world in countless newsrooms great and small and we are among the smallest and the least. Still with tendrils snaking out through the Internet to parts Unknown. Hello Hildegard in Germany. Hello Sweden. Hello Princeton, New Jersey. Hello Belorus. Hello you "where is raed" blogger truly embedded in Iraq but without political connection.
Thank you for writing in. Wherever you are. For here in the halo of the lamp, any voice that comes in from outside is welcome amid the blather of misinformation of stupid Newsweek/Time/Clearchannel/Springer Presse monolith of "approved news".
Here we are on the Island, on the edge of the once United States of America. And we are listening. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
HYMN TO HER - by Chrissie Hynde
LET ME INSIDE YOU
INTO YOUR ROOM
I'VE HEARD IT'S LINED
WITH THE THINGS YOU DON'T SHOW
LAY ME BESIDE YOU
DOWN ON THE FLOOR
I'VE BEEN YOUR LOVER
FROM THE WOMB TO THE TOMB
I DRESS AS YOUR DAUGHTER
WHEN THE MOON BECOMES ROUND
YOU BE MY MOTHER
WHEN EVERYTHING'S GONE
AND SHE WILL ALWAYS CARRY ON
SOMETHING IS LOST
BUT SOMETHING IS FOUND
THEY WILL KEEP ON SPEAKING HER NAME
SOME THINGS CHANGE
SOME STAY THE SAME
KEEP BECKONING TO ME
FROM BEHIND THAT CLOSED DOOR
THE MAID AND THE MOTHER
AND THE CRONE THAT'S GROWN OLD
I HEAR YOUR VOICE
COMING OUT OF THAT HOLE
I LISTEN TO YOU
AND I WANT SOME MORE
I LISTEN TO YOU
AND I WANT SOME MORE
AND SHE WILL ALWAYS CARRY ON
SOMETHING IS LOST
BUT SOMETHING IS FOUND
THEY WILL KEEP ON SPEAKING HER NAME
SOME THINGS CHANGE
SOME STAY THE SAME
MAY 16, 2004
This weekend, thousands gathered under moderate skies in the Oakland hills to savor some Greek cooking and culture. The event is held annually at the Greek Orthodox Church. There was all sorts of cavorting in blue and white costumes and languages galore and tons of grape-leaf wrapped things and olives and everybody had a good old time.
SPRING FLING ON PARK
45,000 people reportedly came to the low key fait-do-do on Park Street. The annual affair is hosted by the Park Street Business Association. We cruised on by and noted the usual suspects in kiosks, but only a single music stage intermittently occupied.
Now, of this sort of thing, we sternly disapprove. If the PSBA does not hoist its musical rear-end in gear we shall have to go on the warpath.
Otherwise, there were bounce-houses and jumping up and down and all sorts of neat things to nosh, including a notable Tri-tip sandwich special.
WHERE'S THE KABOOM? THERE'S SUPPOSED TO BE AN EARTHSHATTERING KABOOM!
Harbormasters here on the Island are warning boaters to step lively and be careful next weekend for the annual KFOG Kaboom! fireworks and music extravaganza.
Local radio station, KFOG (light contemporary rock) sponsors the area's largest fireworks display synchronized to playback from the station's 5,000 megawatt towers after a series of live free concerts held down on the newly refurbished Embarcadero area around Pier 29.
Many locals here set out in their boats to watch the show from the unobstructed waters of the Bay, joining literally thousands of others, some of whom are less experienced at nighttime boating than others. The savvy boater picks a spot and drops anchor, but there are many who simply allow themselves to drift, causing collisions. In addition, once the show is over, a mad rush develops on land, sea and air as the hoard scampers back to wherever.
This year, slide virtuouso Robert Randolph joins the Aussie Waifs and local-boys-done-good, Train, for the free concerts, beginning at four pm.
Don't even dream about driving your car down there and finding parking, man. Previous years have seen crowds in the hundred-thousands.
REQUIEM FOR A HEAVYWEIGHT
Pepper Gonzalez, world famous pro wrestler from the days before it became scripted comedy, died at age 77 on Thursday. Known in his day as The Man with the Iron Stomach, he often would demo his prowess by having someone jump from a 20-foot ladder and land feet-first on his abdomen. In another stunt he had a VW drive over his stomach for TV. Proud of his natural physique, he downed steroid use as a "cheap shortcut" claiming he never picked up an enhancement needle.
Born Joseph Gomez in Los Angeles, he walked away from the career as a plumber his father wanted for him to become a body builder champion and a star on the wrestling circuit, establishing himself as a lowkey and honorable sportsman in an age which appears to have passed us by in its exaltation of lesser lights with large egos, big mouths and trash values.
He was never granted the WWW championship, although he won seemingly virtually everything else where allowed to compete, but, as promoters and wrestling historians generally agree, racism and divisional politics kept the big prize from his reach. He never became bitter, however, and continued throughout his life to be a role model of good sportsmanship and clean speech.
SAY BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?
Sheriff Plummer is stomping mad about the current financial problems in his rubric and he is threatening to pull 200 sheriff technicians, as well as all guards at the County court houses over failure to pay overtime and backpay. Virtually every Department in the County is hurting, as the draconian cutbacks of previous years stack on top of the present budget crisis that now envelopes the entire Golden State, and which is due largely to the energy crisis perpetrated by the now defunct Enron and other gouging energy companies.
Most of which appear to be housed in Texas. Imagine that.
The Governator Arnold has presented a modified budget to the legislature, sans any tax increases of any kind, and depending heavily upon borrowing. Also proposed by Der Gubernador is a proposal to swap a moderately hefty logging fee for relaxation of logging rules for the Industry, which has been champing at the bits for a chance to wipeout the Californian watershed from Alturas to Boron. Much of the Sierra would resemble Boron if Bushy and his gang gets its way, as will the rest of California within two years, for the trees are what holds the snow that provides the water for 38 million people.
Destroying what they cannot conquer appears to be a familiar methodology for these neocons.
Never seen Boron, California? Well, the third movie of The Lord of the Rings should give you some idea. It's very much like the ground at the base of Mount Doom. But hotter.
The island, too is looking at hard times here with the IPD looking at dissolving the K9 unit entirely and Chief Matthews is claiming he never in 45 years of police work has seen things as bad as they are.
The School District, especially hard hit, is about to yank the interim library if the City does not cough up the $25,000 in rent money for the current space now appropriated from the big High School on Central.
SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Apparently citizens in the Nation's Capitol are also feeling the pinch during these harsh times. Here we have a pic of some native trying to score something to eat in Washington D.C.
Because of the tropical downpours frequently suffered there, the D.C. metro area has underground storm drains which can be easily ten by fifteen feet in diameter and remain continuously part-filled with water.
The City Economic Development Commission is holding a series of three workshops to discuss the Webster Street Strategic Plan, the first to be held Tuesday, May 25th at 7:00-9:00pm College of Alameda in Community Room L-237.
This is of special interest, for this alley is facing drastic changes as the old naval base property shifts over to housing and business use. Slated is a 30,000 family development in this area and plans have been finalized. It is real and it is a go. This area is the last area in the country to enjoy the dregs of the once enormous Peace dividend offered under the Clinton administration and nullified in large part by the subsequent Administration.
THE CANDIDATE COMMENTS ON RECENT NEWS
As some of you know, Island-Life enjoyed an exclusive interview with the Presidential Candidate for the Rodentia Party, Papoon, whose motto is an encouraging NOT INSANE!
Clearly, recent events focused upon prison abuses in Iraq have become now an election issue. We Americans like to think that we need to be tough on bad guys, but things like hooding naked men for months at a time, forcing them to perform sexual acts with one another, and simply beating injured people bound helplessly to bedframes with iron rods exceeds human decency, as well as a general sense of fair play and what used to be considered as essential American values.
Papoon has no trouble with events as reported, summarizing succinctly as follows: "Once you claim yourself to be the right hand of God, you put yourself on the same plane as the terrorist and make yourself equal for he justifies all by the same. This only serves to promote my demand that Americans elect a rodent above the likes of Bushy."
Detractors have unkindly compared Bushy's face to that of a simian relative. Is it possible that this species is well off by several chromosomes? We wonder what would be more appropriate as a simile for the behavior of Bushy, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and the stained-pants liar Mr. Colin Powell, who once was held up as an example of honorable and straightforward behavior. Would it be a nutria? Too passive. A rabbit? Too frivolous and funny. Something a bit weaselish, but with no compunctions against devouring the dead or savaging the barely alive. We leave comparisons to the few who pay attention to these things. George Bush and Company: Rodents of the Year.
Just don't put them in with ground squirrels, or face the wrath of Papoon, who considers these Washingtons, as he calls them, sub-squirrel in their behavior. Actually, it was Papoon who reminded us of the Graph of Intelligence, revealing a hint of who may become his running mate. So, we repeat the Graph of Intelligence, which indicates why dolphins are a superior species.
WAITING ON A TRAIN
Listening to the HOB broadcast coast to coast with Elwood Blues interviewing Sonny Landreth. Sonny is blowing through "Down in Louisiana". Well, I been down there and New Orleans is very fine with all sorts of Cajun spices and the zydeco and mudbugs and the occasional alligator. Still, its not quite like the Island. Oh our cuisine may not be quite as exotic, or fancy, but we make do. Yes we do. With Indian, and Thai and Vietnamese, and Chinese of all sorts of derivations, and German and so on.
We make do. With Flint's BBQ and Everett and Jones and Skates by the Bay and Jack's Bistro. We do what we can. For that is all we can do.
Took a long ride on the bicycle around the islands here in the afternoon to survey the defenses, the BBQ pits thronged with families and the strands lined with windsurfer emplacements. Made sure all was secure. No signs of poodle behaviour anywhere. Came back and had some tea. Finished off Neal Stephenson's latest book about the Baroque era.
Now, in the warm pool cast by the reading light, surrounded by the chittering darkness. Out there there, goulies, ghosties, bloody neocons and the banshee. The wind is kicking up and tugging the Old Man out back into a swaying dance. The Old Man, a 100 foot coastal sequoia, has weathered rougher storms so he'll be all right. So with the wind hustling down the beach, knocking the waves into whitecaps under the sliver moon, we bid you all good night. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FIND THE COST OF OCCUPATION, BURIED IN THE GROUND
(with apologies to Neal Young)
MAY 23, 2004
THE EARTHSHATTERING KABOOM
As promised the annual KFOG Kaboom went off down by the piers after delightful performances by The Waifs, Robert Randolph, and Train. An estimated 30,000 came into the City this year, not including the thousands more who watched the fireworks from private and chartered boats on the Bay.
We missed this one this year in favor of a gathering of old friends in San Rafael around the Ye Olde BBQ, but in driving back along the tidal flats just before the Maze, we enjoyed the beginning of the extraordinary display, with triplets of explosions.
OTHER LOCAL EVENTS
The Malcolm X Festival took place this weekend in Oaktown. This festival began as a venue to showcase the contributions of all peoples of color to American culture and life. The event has traditionally been largely jazz-based and entirely free of the troubles that have plagued events such as Festival by the Lake.
Knots of picketers were seen all over the Bay Area as employees of SBC, the primary telecom supplier for the Western United States, walked off the job and went on strike for better health coverage benefits. Health benefits are becoming increasingly a major labor issue which companies have been ignoring to their eventual distress for some time.
The State university systems both hiked student fees as much as 25%, provoking an immediate and quite angry backlash. The expected savings of some 200 millions is essentially a drop in the bucket in the face of a 200 billion dollar deficit and many are questioning the wisdom of savaging what was once the world's best system of higher education for the sake of pennies.
On the upside, the State has regained its credit rating, and many claim that Governator Arnold is the one to thank for that. It is highly unlikely, however that Arnold had more than a tangential influence this year, for he has not been able to execute most of his declared reforms and the current budget -- about to expire -- was drafted essentially by his predecessor. The current budget is now in discussion in Sacramento and all are now paying close attention to see how things will come out in the debates.
Boalt Hall, one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, is seething with unrest over the refusal of Professor Woo to back down from his legal arguments made while working as a federal employee. It was Woo who laid the essential doctrines for suspension of habeas corpus and other strictures that used to guarantee human rights to persons accused of crimes, which doctrines have led to such regrettable and horrific consequences in prisons run by the military. Now faculty and students are calling for Woo to retract his opinions or resign, but Woo is not budging in the slightest.
INTERVIEW WITH THE GOP ALT-CANDIDATE
Much is being said about virtually every case and side which is NOT on behalf of George Bush, while Bushy and Co. have responded with typical laconic parsimony, leaving most of only to guess just what might -- or might not -- be going on inside Georgie's head.
Some, including George himself, would claim that there is nothing to discuss, but we feel that is a bit abrupt and inadvertently self-deprecating. Hence, we at Island-life went in search of a Genuine Conservative who was willing to discuss anything at all in a manner that is above red-faced shrieking. Which seems to be the general mode of political discourse these days on both sides of the fence.
In fact, we were extremely lucky to find not only a Genuine Conservative, but an alternative candidate to the GOP ticket in the familiar form of one Babar the Elephant. Few represent the solid, unwavering and distinctly Conservative values quite as well as Babar, whom we interviewed as he was putting on, in a characteristically conservative move, his second pair of pants.
At first we were a bit put out by the prospect that Babar might NOT run for President. A member of Congress, whose name must remain incognito, exhorted the King to consider seriously the offer being tendered by certain members of the RNC and to consider the numerous advantages he had over the incumbent. Babar represented in faith and mind an insistence upon a balanced budget, moderate spending within means, downsizing of government, repudiation of foreign adventures and solid business acumen, none of which values or goals are expressed or pursued by the incumbent administration.
Furthermore, the symbol of the GOP provided clear evidence that Babar was clearly born for the job, and this right by birth sort of thing is looked upon with great favor by all true Conservatives, who have lamented the worldwide dissolution of aristocracies everywhere as signs of cultural rot. The fact that Babar was a King no less, virtually cinched his success from the Blue Haired Ladies of Boston Society to the White Gloved Madam's Association of Frisco.
"Mais, les gens, et un Elephant, etrangeres, ne peux pas devenier un President des Etats Unis!", objected Babar.
The Representative hastened to assure His Excellency that such obstacles were easily overcome, and that such notables as James Bond had been granted distinction as Citizens without a great deal of bother.
There remain certain other difficulties to iron out, but the whole thing was pushed forward in typical Conservative style, by ignoring the majority and pursuing the most reasonable course to accomplish what had already been decided upon by those who know how to get things done properly.
Campaign literature presents the following information, which is provided entirely as a service to Island-life readers in compliance with the fair-reporting act.
"King Babar is a charming and charismatic elephant. He brought his love of the city back to the great forest and built the beautiful, happy kingdom of Celesteville. Though he is a dedicated ruler and world traveler, Babar is happiest when picnicking at the lakefront with his family or joining in the antics of his lively children."
BABAR FOR PRESIDENT !
Paid for by the Babar for American President Campaign.
SECRET AGENT MAN
The notorious Osama Bin Lassie remains at large, despite the best efforts of Eugene Shrubb to haul the bad doggie to justice. Informed citizens will recall that it was Osama who first launched the infamous hijacking of Island City Hall in an attempt to crash it into Jack London Square. Only the redoubtable efforts of Officer Popinjay and the essentially immovable nature of City Hall, preserved all of us from a terrible disaster.
Many have stated that Eugene Shrubb's subsequent invasion of Newark, California had nothing to do with combating terriers, but more to do with imperialistic ambitions and the desires to keep his troop of bums well fueled.
As a public service we reprint here an image of Osama bin Lassie as he was last seen, and urge every well-intentioned citizen to keep a sharp eye out and turn him in, for he is a most vicious doggie and in need of spaying.
TO THE TEN
In the final pages of Neal Stephenson's Confusion, Vrej Esphahnian, an Armenian who has been deluded into betraying his closest friends, stands before King Louis XIV, the Sun King, and shakes the hand in apology of the man he has wronged, announcing the deepest oath he can muster, the names of shared companions. "To Moseh, Dappa, van Hoek, Gabriel, Nyazi, Yevgeny, Jeronimo and Mr. Foot!".
These, plus himself, the addition of an indomitable Irishman named Padraic, and L'Emmerdeur, the King of the Vagabonds, form a most unruly and entertaining Cabal to swing the reader through a vastly entertaining second addition to the "Baroque Trilogy", begun with the improbably vast 900 page Quicksilver.
The Baroque period, which extended roughly from 1650 to about 1710, is associated in the popular mind with ornate, heavily ornamented architecture, fixtures and paintings, as well as highly structured and busy, orchestrations of music devoted largely to singing the praises of this or that sort of royal personage.
To anyone who begins to loop the events of history together, as Stephenson has done, the period reveals the essential developments that created the Modern World. For during this time, Sir Isaac Newton invents Calculus, formulates the laws of gravity, and helps establish the Bank Of England. All of London burns down and a man named Hooker redesigns the entire City. John Locke formulates his ideas on Reason and The Glorious Revolution follows the Restoration, establishing the primacy of legislatures over Kings Rule, terminating the Divine Right of Kings forever. The Enlightenment brings an end to the murderous Inquisition and colonies are setup throughout the place to be known later as America.
In succession, the powers which had sought to dominate the entire world were frustrated by the new order. The Ottoman Empire lost Vienna, and began the inexorable rollback that was to last another 200 years. France was frustrated by the Netherlands and by England. Spain was chastised at sea and then suffered wars of succession to the throne. Something called Prussia arose out of all the confusion. All of these circumstances were accompanied by multinational associations, which had become a new thing in the arrangement of power.
Amid all this grand activity, The Ten, mentioned by Vrej above, conspire together to free themselves from slavery under the Ottomans and achieve, well, different ends for each involved. Over the course of ten years, we watch as Moseh, the Jew, Dappa, the African, van Hoek, the sea captain who once thumbed his nose at Blackbeard, Gabriel Goto, the Jansenist Japanese missionary who fights off twelve swordsmen, Nyazi the Egyptian, Yevgeny the Russian, Jeronomo, the Spaniard who re-animates the soul of a feared and long dead pirate, and Mr. Foot who returns the loan of a pair of ostrich feathers with a decade of service, all of these develop vivid characters as they suffer together through the most incredible adventures that extend from their captivity in Algiers around the globe under the helm of van Hoek, who understands longitude, but not latitude, until the survivors bump up against the rocks of the mythical Qwelgm, first described in the Cryptonomicon, and where Vrej, the Armenian, visits a final and terrible vengeance in the court of the Sun King against the most detestable of villains devised in literature.
And this is just one half of the novel, the other part of which deals with the further adventures of Eliza as she loses and gains a fortune, cohabits with obnoxious enemies and serves as a double spy to England and to France while maintaining close friendships with the likes of Leibnitz and the Elector of Saxony. King William fights off the French, then fights them off again in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne and we get to enjoy the much grown progeny of Jack Shaftoe giving what for to any number of dastardly villains they encounter.
Well, if you have not read Stephenson, much of this will seem a bit removed. We suggest that you get busy and start reading for a world of delight awaits you. The first book is a bit slow in the beginning, as the reader is subject to any number of historically accurate but obscure references and quibbles, even as such notables as a young, wet-behind-the-ears Ben Franklin and William Teach gallop across the stage. As Neal gets into relating events from the point of view of Jack, who does not know how to read, let alone figure an algorithm, and Eliza, who has enough to do just staying alive the writing really comes awake. All of London comes a blaze, pirates rampage across the Atlantic, armies surge across Europe and the usual themes of impalement and amputation continue at a great pace. There is the marvelous chapter in which a character manages to save her life and the life of the child in progress -- in the middle of childbirth -- by ingeniously setting the castle on fire.
The Second Book starts with a bang, literally, as the entire shore battery of Algiers fires a salute in honor of the Sultan, and does not let up for quite a long while after the Cabal convinces the . The chapters hop between the worlds as experienced by Jack and The Ten -- also known as The Cabal -- and the world of Eliza with its court intrigues and machinations. As the Cabal makes its way laboriously around the world, getting captured, tortured, enslaved, and scourged between vigorously successful battles against formidable enemies, losing and gaining fortunes many times the size of kingdoms over the course of over ten years, Eliza also loses and gains several fortunes by manipulating the antics of the French and English and Dutch courts to her advantage, becoming enslaved herself once again, before being set unexpectedly free only to be captured again.
By the time the surviving members of the Cabal run a shoal on the islands of Qwelgm, many toothless from scurvy, many one-legged and one-armed from many, many fights, the reader has come to love and honor these brethren to the same extent than any sane man comes to hate that detestable institution of slavery as much as Eliza and the ironical van Hoek -- who swears he will cut off his left hand before being made a slave once again. And makes good on the promise.
In The Confusion, we have the triumph of King William III, the foundation of the modern day monetary system with its network of national banks, the formulation and controversy of mathematical calculus, the termination of the Divine Right of Kings in favor of legislative assembly, the establishment of world-wide slave trade as well as its opposition, and the sure destruction of the Inquisition in the form of the Enlightenment.
In short, the two novels of the trilogy thus far are a tour de force, an exquisite triumph by Stephenson. Joe Bob says, "Check it out."
GOING TO TAKE IT WITH ME WHEN I GO
The Significant Other reminded me the other day that its been ten years that we have been assailing one another's sensibilities. Of course, she put it in somewhat different terms, but the end result is the same. It's been ten years of arguing over bills and where to take the kids and whether to do New Orleans again or the Russian River. At the end of the day its all a wash and you are the sum of the time that has past.
People keep asking me of late, "How long have you lived on the Island?" and we get distracted for we cannot remember.
Went up to Marin for a gathering of old friends around a BBQ. While the 8-year old splashed in the pool, we all caught up on the latest personal events, studiously avoiding the conflagrations of the world outside. Klaus, who is a physicist in New Mexico, brought out this bright green bottle of stuff made in the cellar of a neighbor who hails from Spain: absinthe. In truth made from wormwood and about as vile-tasting a liquorish thing you could hardly imagine, no matter how pretty the color. Albeit, curious, curious indeed. Maybe try some more of it. They say Edgar Poe got addicted to the stuff. Well, the old Virginian was bat-crazy to start with.
Klaus went on to concoct several concoctions which had begun chemical life sometime about 1967 in the heydays of the hippie kingdom while a gal who supplies Teatro Zinzanni with victuals regaled us with tales of Joan Baez serving dinner. Tales of driving the car backwards the entire eight miles to home for fear of trying to get the beast turned around while in such a state of inebriation. Each of us had a tale to tell about recent difficulties and past experiences. Chatted with O'Doyle, who enjoys visiting the Burning Man festival every year and who is to embark on a business tour of Poland in about a week. As a prospective buyer of construction materials, O'Doyle expects to be treated quite well indeed and we are positively greener than absinthe.
O'Doyle claims to lead a sober existence of early to bed and early to rise and with no excitation whatsoever. But if you get him talking, you'll hear about the Romanian bear hunt, the Japanese orgy of the mountains and a dalliance with a certain waitress in Rome that lasted nine months. Oh, but he leads such an uneventful life.
Friend Jim has a picture of him and O'Doyle standing beside one of those redwoods that Ronnie Raygun couldn't see for the forest, just about to set out on a vigorous cross-country hike with four bottles of wine and fishing poles. Back then, you could got out and expect to catch at least one or two decent sized trout on a fair day in the Sierra. And if you caught nothing, at least you had the four bottles of wine.
As the evening wound up, someone put on a tape that began with Tom Waits singing "Going to Take it With Me," from his Mule Variations. Now Tom is a dear soul and we are glad he is doing well after many troubles. Some of you may not know that interspersed among the shouting and howling wierdness, he always has a couple extraordinarily tender ballads and this was one of them. And Tom sang his song of affection for his wife while a couple of dear friends we have known for nearly 22 years slow danced in the livingroom.
Later, we trundled back over the Richmond Bridge and down along the stretch from Albany to Oakland along the water and the KFOG fireworks went off and the long loop of the years bound itself over in a series of palimpsests of previous years, one Kaboom layering upon another with fireworks and music. Got back and couldn't see a thing of the Finale, for the neighbor's oak seems to have gotten large overnight, entirely blocking the view. Went in to fetch the email and took in a pic of Dierdre in New Jersey getting ready for the Prom. There the girl was in a white gown on the lawn, on the border of adolescence and elegance. Seem to recall her last making tiny fists and being terrified by Old Snoozer the cat, who weighed at the time not much less than her.
Old Snoozer has been a decade in the grave now, and its time to start shutting down the lights near the witching hour at the end of the week once again. Keep hearing that song by Tom Waits running through my head, the way these tunes tend to do.
Dr. Friederich snarfles and stretches beside the hot water heater which rattles and hums. Otherwise the entire Island is silent tonight under a coverlet of dreams and a marbled sky of clouds and stars. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
Phone's off the hook
No one knows where we are
It's a long time since I drank champagne
The ocean is blue
As blue as your eyes
I'm gonna take it with me
When I go.
Old long since gone
Now way back when
We lived in Coney Island.
Ain't no good thing
I'm gonna take it with me
When I go.
Far far away
A train whistle blows
Wherever you're goin
Wherever you've been
Waving good bye at the end
Of the day
You're up and you're over
And you're far away . . .
Always for you, and
It felt just like the old days
We fell asleep on Beaula's porch
I'm gonna take it with me
When I go.
All broken down by
The side of the road
I was never more alive or
I've worn the faces off
All the cards
I'm gonna take it with me
When I go.
Children are playing
At the end of the day
Strangers are singing
On our lawn
It's got to be more
Than flesh and bone
All that you're loved
Is all you own.
In a land there's a town
And in that town there's
And in that house
There's a woman
And in that woman
There's a heart I love
I'm gonna take it
With me when I go
I'm gonna take it
With me when I go
Take It With Me, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan, 1999 Jalma Music (ASCAP)
MAY 30, 2004
Across the Nation it was a poignant day for many as this month marks the 60th anniversary of the D-Day Normandy invasion of WWII as well as the commemoration of the losses of that war in a monument built upon the Mall at Washington DC. The War to End all wars failed to do so was evidenced by the veterans of US military escapades in Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Honduras, Somalia, and now Iraq where the body count is certain to exceed 2,000 before the same time next year.
SANTA CRUZ BLUES FESTIVAL
There comes a moment during the performance of any good musician when, given the right energy and atmosphere, the musician advances beyond the technical chops and paint-by-numbers of rehearsal to some other level which cannot be explained, barely described, and beyond the ability of anyone to teach, but which is truly an exaltation of sound. The performer seems to enter the music in a mystical way. This weekend saw the 12th Annual Santa Cruz Blues Festival held in Aptos Village Park, a normally lightly attended fund raiser for the local library. Spectators this time around witnessed this exaltation no less than eight times there in the burning glade.
John Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen started things off in the unenviable starting position on Saturday, but after a cool beginning, the New Orleans resident, formerly of England, made that piano stride ride into the disappearing clouds overhead. With Matt Carter on drums, Big B on lead guitar and Cornell Williams on Bass and backing vocals, Cleary just kept cranking up the excitement with nice covers of Body and Soul, Damn Fool's Game, Cha Cha all Night Long and the Crescent City classic, Tipitina.
Cleary performs in the style of Professor Longhair and Dr. John, and we could even hear a kind of Dr. John pronunciation in the way he sings the lyrics.
Angela Strehli, proved that some good things do come out of Texas. Besides Lyle Lovett and beef. With Ron Thompson of the Resistors and Mike Schermer supplying mouth harp and guitar she and Tracy Nelson balanced the day with blues centered on female vocals. They closed with a nice version of Blue Highway.
Son of Luther Allison, who played with Freddie King, Howlin' Wolf, Sun Ra, and Willie Dixon, Bernard Allison has had some awfully large footprints to follow, but has made a name for himself by branching away from the Chicago blues of his dad, even to the extent of moving from the Windy City to Milwaukee.
Allison proved to be the day's Big Surprise with a flashy display of guitar techniques and savage string attacks that lost nothing of melody similar to what Jimmy Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn would have done had either one of them lived longer. Allison finished up with a blazing version of "Frosty" with a cakewalk through the crowd (aided by the new wireless amp technology), prompting many to declare this -- somewhat prematurely -- as Best of the Fest.
Ron Sutter kept the pace on drums and Jason Wilberly served well on Bass. Steve Wahawkis filled out on keyboards.
Here Allison is giving people the experience of their lives while giving Security a workout.
Daughter of Johnny Clyde Copeland, is another of the New Generation, who is not slacking at all during her careening tilt at a Grammy nomination, four W.C. Handy awards and five Living Blues awards, armed with a multi-octave voice of amazing power. On this day she played the role of the sassy, brassy, Lady of the Blues to the hilt and the crowd ate it up. Here is Shemekia, being very good while singing about being very bad. Arthur Nielsen assisted on guitar.
Most teenagers only dream of becoming a Star. Johnny Lang, in 1997 released Lie to Me at age 17 and went straight to the #1 Billboard chart and stayed there for a solid year. Born in North Dakota, he began performing with a saxophone at age ten, and went on the road with a band at age 14 -- with his parent's permission.
Unlike so many others on stage, Lang forgoes the porkpie hat and fancy suits for the attire you see here. The man behind me thought Lang was just a roadie testing the mike at first.
Lang began his set with a pair of screeching and energetic hard rock numbers that somewhat put off the purists, but which we enjoyed as a welcome release from the same old thing syndrome. Later he segued into selections from the popular CD releases, notably "Wander this World", "Lie to Me" and "Still Raining." With a voice that sounds at first -- a bit deceptively -- like an old chain-smoker who gargles every morning with whiskey and razor blades -- Lang was able to stretch his range considerably more than one would expect. The crowd loved him and he won over the vocal critics and hissers mid-way through -- which is not an easy thing to do -- to the point that everyone shouted for an encore, which Lang graciously provided.
Lang uses F-hole Fender flattop semi-hollow body guitars in a variety of open tunings to compliment his melodic, hook-driven ballads that call on deep blues sensibility while marking the territory uniquely his own.
After Lang's set, we took the free shuttle bus to the parking lots at Cabrillo College, well toasted after spending eight hours under the sun.
Something must have happened overnight, for where there had been sad scalpers trying to unload tix outside the gates on Saturday, on Sunday knots of people stood begging for extra tickets to the sold out show. Word had gotten out, that this year the Festival was a ringer.
On Sunday, the Holmes brothers, from Christchurch, VA opened up with some stomping roots blues. We missed that one, unfortunately, as the aloe was still drying on the previous day's burn and the remaining clouds evaporated as the weatherman hourly revised the forecast upwards.
Tommy Castro took the next slot on a day that would prove to be a juggernaut of accelerating energy.
Tommy Castro, whose band has been titled "Hardest Working Band in SF" for some eight years running by local weekly magazine SF curmudgeon in its annual Best Of series never disappoints.. It's said that "when Tommy Castro tears into a set and comes up for breath a few songs later, his familiar crowd connector, "Is everybody having a good time?" seems unnecessary. A San Francisco native, he has been out of town for some two years as he and his band perform with BB King. He is always a total enjoyment to watch with his sassy, playful take on things and a marvelous sense of humor that is well in keeping with the blues tradition.
Michael Burks is one of those classic figures, somehow larger than life while still in his lifetime, who is destined to have stories told about him, for the stories have begun already. The story goes that his father promised the boy a dollar for every song he learned. Using the family supply of old 45's, Michael quickly learned hundreds of songs and nearly broke the bank. Realizing that his son was a prodigy, his father had a 300 seat juke joint built in Arkansas to showcase his son's talent.
This sort of enterprise is not a small enterprise for a man who made his money working steel in Milwaukee. Burks got picked up by Johnny Taylor and has since struck out on his own, hitting virtually every major blues festival across the country, and earning accolades with the deep resonance of his voice and blasting guitar licks similar to the old Eric Clapton.
With a new CD under his belt, titled I Smell Smoke, and aided by Wayne Shays on Hammond Organ and John Bailey on Bass, Burks amped the energy in the glade another notch with his custom made flying-V Gibson.
Michael Burks is unique among guitarists who can play well and fast in that he has a superlative command over dynamics and can make the instrument whisper and melt as well as scream.
Possibly in memory of his father's contribution, Michael Burks said at one point, "I'm gonna take you all right now to a juke joint. You all know what that is? We gonna be juking!"
With Coco Montoya, a seven year veteran of the Festival, the action ramped up yet another notch, if that could be at all possible. Nobody believed it could happen but Montoya, aided by Bennie Lee on keyboards melted the cinders of what Micheal Burke had left.
A student of Albert Collins, who acted as tutor and father-figure to the rising Montoya, the man is no stranger to paying the dues of the Road. Montoya performed for five years in the Iceman's band and their relationship continued to the last hours of Collin's life,. During a hiatus in LA, John Mayer handpicked Montoya for his new Bluesbreakers project, with whom he performed for the next ten years. Serving as adjunct to such luminaries put off Coco's solo recording debut until 1995, when his Got a Mind to Travel garnered him the prestigious WC Handy award for Best New Blues Musician.
In an interview with Guitar World, Montoya mentioned that, as Albert Collins lay on his deathbed they had a conversation about the hard times Collins had seen, including the pain of racism's viciousness. Montoya reports that Collins had no bitterness at all and said as his last words on earth, "There's no room for hatred in me, my boy; I have only love in my heart."
In a wailing, searing, howling, uplifting 14 minute extended version of "I Have Only Love", Montoya gave tribute to Collins and there was not a god damned dry eye in the house. This was blues as it is meant to be: soulful, transcending, emotional and as powerful as an express locomotive pulling away. It was the kind of thing you want to hold up to all the cynics who claim that the living blues is old hat and out the way and the kind of performance you sit though a thousand dunta-duntas in boring 12-bar same-o style to experience for it went way beyond the forms to that other place of high art, and transforms everything you will ever hear ever afterwards by the memory of what music can do. This was the thing for which I had been dragging the Significant Other, who is the Primal Punker Incarnate, to hear at these events. This was IT.
And when the last echoes of Coco's guitar had died away in the sudden roar of thousands of people calling out, screaming, clapping, stamping, jumping up and down, and all kinds of things, after an incredible performance that would have capped any show done by any major artist in the business, bar none, Coco says, almost apologetically, "I gotta do this thing which I do at the end of every performance. If there is still time."
He then gets Tommy Castro on stage and begins a little "head-cuttin'" competition right there.
They played so hard, so furiously, so energetically, that Tommy had to change out his guitar after busting a string. Then Coco busted a string and had to swap out his guitar as well and keyboardist Yee filled in the gaps so well, both Coco and Tommy stood back to let the man go at it for a spell.
Then they finally get Michael Burk to join them on stage and the entire crowd rushed past Security right up to the edge of the five-foot high stage.
Finally, all the excitement pulled one of the Holmes Brothers on stage with a tambourine.
We got pressed up against the stage next to the lighting stanchion about six feet from the lead mike; watching these old friends go at it, hammer and tongs, performing pure improvisation and cussing good natured (off mike) at one another was absolutely delightful. It was one of those rare times when the performers are all jamming together, having a ball and getting into that unique space where the watcher can see the musicians being transported to some other place.
It was a Second Finale of a scope that could, again, have closed the doors. We all could just as well have gone home at that point, feeling satisfied.
Except the headliner was next.
Buddy Guy, a veteran of fifty years of performing on stage, winner of four Grammies for four consecutive albums, uncounted Handy awards, colleague and co-player with Muddy Waters, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Junior Wells and many others, only achieved superstar status despite having played with the entire pantheon of superstars, in 1991, when he began his Grammy roll on the Silvertone label.
He appeared on stage, backed by the famous Double Trouble, the same band that backed Stevie Ray Vaughn.
Now, Guy's approach to live performance is wildly divergent from his studio work and anyone who expects the man to play the same stuff -- or even act the same way -- as his studio work will be disappointed. In fact, we were convinced the man was hopped, stoned and wasted until told by people who knew him that Buddy Guy ALWAYS acts this way.
In his hour-long set he played only two songs to completion, did a number of parodies of Eric Clapton, Ray Charles and some others ("I just want you to know, I can do that too", he said), ambled and toyed with an acoustic guitar, using it as a drum and rubbing the strings with various parts of his body, including, apparently, his zipper, started Double Trouble on a crunching edition of "Cold Shot" before walking off the stage without singing a note of the song, and generally behaved like Courtney Love on a bad day.
On the flip side, he one-upped Bernard Allison's cakewalk with an erratic stride of his own through the crowd while playing an extended version of Muddy Waters' "Everybody Knows I am Here" that tore the house down, and played most of "Damn Right I got the Blues" in a way that really made the song come alive.
In short, the Guy performance was a quixotic mixture of sheer genius and genial buffoonery that was either divinely inspired or self-indulgent. Certainly at 67 the fellow has all his synapses firing well enough; everything he did appeared to be deliberately done and well-scripted at that. At one point, during a scathing guitar solo -- yes, he did do some music -- he hit a sustained note and held out his hand while the sound continued from the amps. A roadie came out with a cup and handed it to him as he stood there motionless. Moving only the cup hand he appeared to drink from it, slowly, then handed back the cup. This was repeated while the sustain continued. It certainly was entertaining, but as for memorable experiences? As for the Blues? Well, thank god for Coco Montoya.
As mentioned, Double Trouble began Cold Shot, then Guy walked off stage and did not return for an encore.
No photography was permitted during this portion of the concerts by request of the artists, which included Double Trouble. All other pictures that appear here were taken by yours truly. As always, images here are meant as endorsements of the artists described and presented. Some people attempted to take pictures despite the express wishes of the artists, but that ain't our style, man. We respect the desires of the people we came a long way to see and hear to maintain control over specific aspects of the process.
AND WHILE WE'RE ON THE SUBJECT
On this glorious weekend other events took place around the Bay. Babylon held its annual Carnival along Brazilian lines and there was all sorts of frolic by the beaches. Rumor has it the House held a BBQ.
In Iraq, the number of American soldiers killed passed the 800 mark even as ceremonies to honor war dead continued in Washington DC.
THEY CALL IT STORMY MONDAY
The weekend is sloughing off its last hours as people settle into their easy chairs for a few more hours before hitting the salt mines again. Hear that the new disaster movie about the next ice age is as gloriously spectacular as it is somewhat inaccurate about science. Truth is we will all be dead by the time hell freezes over from the sort of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes we are experiencing right now. "Always look on the brighter side of life," says Brian. If you need a break from disaster, go see Monty Python's Life of Brian. MP has always been a sure panacea for everything that ails you.
We may be cynical at times on this Island, but we certainly are not stuck-in-the-mud gloomy doomy sorts. Aint our style. We prefer a good glass of booze, a good round of down home blues, and ground squirrels scampering in the sun. Heard while we were in Santa Cruz that the local City Council there voted to spare a 105 year old cypress standing behind a house within city limits. The property owner is afraid that this perfectly healthy tree might fall on his house. But Santa Cruz is such a town that to cut down a tree you must ask the City for permission. And they can and will just say, "no!" Makes me really like the place.
The punchline is that the property owner does not live in that house; he lives here on the Island. Which also has its own set of preservation laws. Well, have another round of blues on us. And always look on the brighter side of life.
That's just the way it is. Have a great week.
Some things in life are bad, They can really make you mad, Other things just make you swear and curse. When you're chewing on life's gristle Don't grumble, give a whistle. And this'll help things turn out for the best. And.... Always look on the bright side of life, (whistle) Always look on the bright side of life, (whistle) If life seems jolly rotten, There's something you've forgotten, And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing. When you're feeling in the dumps, Don't be silly chumps. Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing. And... Always look on the bright side of life. (whistle) Come on... Always look on the bright side of life... For life is quite absurd, And death's the final word, You must always face the curtain with a bow. Forget about your sin, Give the audience a grin, Enjoy it - it's your last chance anyhow. So always look on the bright side of death, Just before you draw your terminal breath, Life's a piece of shit, When you look at it, Life's a laugh and death's a joke, it's true. You'll see it's all a show, Keep 'em laughing as you go. Just remember that the last laugh is on you. And always look on the bright side of life, Always look on the right side of life, Come on guys, cheer up. Always look on the bright side of life. Worse things happen at sea, you know. Always look on the bright side of life. I mean - what have you got to lose? You know, you come from nothing, you're going back to nothing. What have you lost? Nothing! (fade...)
Words & music by Eric Idle and Terry Gilliam
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