Vol. 9 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2007
Welcome to the first half of year 2007. The year's content is split into two parts to allow easier page loading for slower browsers. Each year tends to approach the equivalent of 380 typewritten pages.
To go to the present time, click on this hyperlink: NOW!
For past issues, go to the Archives section. Newly created in 2009 by Chad.
JUNE 24, 2007
IF IT WERE NOT FOR BAD LUCK
All the page code has been cleaned up and the hyperlinks restored after last week's snafu. The responsible parties have been identified and suitably punished in the Island-Life Official Oublette of Manacles and Wasps. The screams have been deleted for sake of propriety.
OUR HOUSE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BLOCK
Island-Life bids adieu to Kathleen as she departs the House after 15 years in search of decent apartment maintenance and a change of life. She will remain on the Island however.
Just over the wire we have news that local fave, Ron Thompson will be teaming up with some unusual Big Marquee Names this summer, starting with a rocking gig in Las Vegas with that well known Blues Rocker . . . Bruce Willis!
You heard that right. Ron is hooking up with Mr. Sin City Pulp Fiction himself at the Tachi Palace Hotel for a two night run. Should be interesting, to say the least.
After that, our Ron next hooks up with The Boy From Stockton,
Chris Isaak for a six city tour of the West Coast.
We picked up a copy of Ron's solo CD, "Resonator" which earns a full five porkpie hat stars for its truthfulness to the Old School.
In other news, John Butler played tonight, fronted by Kaki King, a female guitarist who is so good you think "Wow!" even before marketing makes you want to have sex with her (image). See with your ears, people, and then you will know who is really Good.
Hot Tuna blows into town on the 29th with a gig beneath the purple chandeliers at the Fillmore. Hopefully the rising religiosity gets stowed under a hat for this one.
Jonny Lang, most definitely in the profane school of the blues, will rock the house June 30th. You like the Blues? You will like Jonny.
Page McConnell is not a Name in the Big Marquee sense, but he is a spin-off from Phish, for whom he laid down many righteous bass lines, and has some tasty tracks for you and yours to enjoy on July 10th, also at the venerable Fillmore.
At the Warfield, Les Claypool conducts the Fancy Tour on June 29th to your insane edification and irrational delight.
We hear over the wire that Dave Grohl is mopping it up right now. You go guy. No more Virginia Jobs for us!
GOODBY MR. PEEPERS
Well, at least goodbye Mr. Sonneman, principal of Encinal High and an Island administrator of others on the Island for 21 years, added to his stint as a teacher making his resume end with 37 years of smelling chalkdust. To Island-Life, Bill Sonneman seemed the epitome of the Quiet Man, he who calmly and lifelong made the positive big difference to thousands, without fuss and without self-endorsement.
We remember well his baptism of fire when, shortly after he took the helm of the then troubled Encinal High, the school leapt into national news over the installation of a restored A4 Navy Jetfighter on the front lawn when opponents objected over what they percieved as a military symbol.
Reasonable heads prevailed as Sonneman indicated that the athletic teams were all called The Jets, and held the old plane more as a lovable mascot than any expression of violent military truculence.
Encinal had long held the reputation -- among certain snobs -- of being the Island's "blue collar school" on the West End (as opposed to the "better" Alameda High, located symbolically crosstown), but Sonneman turned that image around to make the place a stellar leader in test scores. No one now seriously compares the two schools in any qualitative manner.
In true retiree spirit, the 61 year Mr. Sonneman will first visit Hawaii.
ON THE WATERFRONT
Islanders please be notified that Council meetings are in session to discuss what will become of the formerly industrial area bounded by Sherman, Buena Vista, and Grand, fronting the estuary with some 110 acres of suddenly prime real estate. At present, parts of the old Belt Line railway and the old brick delMonte Cannery occupy most of the site along with a fair amount of weeds. Ship repair facilities and a few other minor warehouses occupy the area, but the 235,000 square-foot cannery is the ruby in the prize sought by a few developers here.
A court fight released the section from some Measure A restrictions, so a live-work facility in keeping with the industrial nature of the place is a possibility endorsed by councilmember Frank Matarrese.
The movement to oust our out-of-line Attorney General is growing. A Major independent group has established a fund to excise this cancer from our Body Politic. Seems Gonzales is just another failure in the long list foisted upon America.
Go to http://www.commoncause.org for more information.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. Various things come to mind. Summertime. The Island. Gonzales. Blues. Lake Woebegon. Dahlias. Development.
What is one to make of this melange?
One goes to the Pampered Pup to scope the news is what one does by day. By night, one attends to the Old Same Place. Eulalia still serves up dogs and buns with relish behind the counter in that diner parked a storefront down from the Old News Stand. The Old News Stand has been there at least since 1945, when even Islanders started paying serious attention to the News. No one knows how long it had stood there as a freestanding shack before that. Maybe some relative of Don Peralta set the thing there way back when the Island boasted no more than four streets connecting the hamlet of Woodstock to Brooklyn across the water, and the East End consisted largely of wind twisted oak trees.
A paper cost a nickel on Sunday back in 1945, and the Islanders all gathered around that shack first thing in the morning to track the progress in what they called the European Theatre and then the Pacific when General Patton was done with the Germans.
Lately the news is not so optimistic and the war is a far cry from that earlier one when it was easy to tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys.
But the first dahlia has bloomed from the burgeoning bush. The last freesias are reluctantly wilting in the shade, and the fava beans hang in long strands, drying on the racks. Hummingbirds have been inspecting the progress of the hydrangeas that had been cut back last fall. All the schools have commenced their final graduates and it is safe to drive past Woodstock Middle School around three pm again without fear of hooligans and little monsters rushing into the roadway. This is not exactly news, but its true all the same.
Harlan is still putting out his signs on Lincoln Street. Last one said, NO GIRLFRIEND HERE, and for once, we believe him.
Harlan, as long time readers will know, is the madman of Lincoln and Lafayette who puts up cryptic signs on the side of his house every day. No one has ever figured out just what Harlan is trying to say, but that's okay. He is an Islander through and through.
Down at the Pampered Pup David Sanchez is trying to gather up a crew to raise a house on Santa Clara. Because of the City Ordinance forbidding new construction with special attention to height limits, Islanders have figured out an ingenious way around the rules. instead of building on a story on top of a house, they will jack up the place above the foundations, claiming "earthquake retrofitting", and add the new story underneath. Neat trick when you can get away with it.
But getting a crew together can be the greatest challenge, for everybody needs work, and no one will deny they possess the skills. Many are the houses which, upon completion lacked a few essentials, such as a stairway to the newly elevated front door. Or toilets which possessed plumbing that went all the way to the City system. This can be disconcerting for anyone living on the new ground level.
The language barrier also can be a problem on the job around here, but David has no issues with that, for he can curse fluently in several dialects of Spanish and Chinese.
A good phrase we learned recently after a bathroom job went awry is "El estante es al reves montado." The shelf is installed upside down.
We have an important addition to the currently debated
and debatable "Immigration Bill" set before Congress. All
new immigrants to this country must pay for and take a class on basic
carpentry to obtain a green card.
In fact, we think ALL Americans should take a class in
carpentry. Give us all something in common at least.
Chicago was a fine place inhabited by genteel folk, but it is great to be back home amidst the linguistic babble of the Bay Area. Brad Pitt didn't need to visit Morocco to get lost in language. And there are plenty of kids right here in Oaktown who would be happy to accidentally shoot his wife, just like in the movie.
The Bay Area is a whirling medley of languages and peoples from all over the world and right here on this Island we have not less than thirty churches, Islamic mosques and Synagogues all cheek by jowel with one another. We even have The Home of Truth down on Grand Street with its own delightful Minister of Faith. If you don't believe, just go over there and see for yourself.
Down at the Old Same Place, Suzie ministers to a different sort of Faithful. Between drinks and dishware, she attends to her anthropology book while the mating rituals of Summer on the Island play out all around her. Eugene is there, and Bear with his Sophie. He is dressed, as usual, in a t-shirt occasionally used as a rag, pants treated the same, mismatched blue and red sneakers and formerly white socks. Various living creatures may be living in his beard. Sophie is neatly dress in a man's white shirt, slacks and loafers. Percy drops by for a quick Manhattan, dressed as usual in beige plus fours, spats, cream trowsers, waistcoat, gold watch fob and dress coat to match the upholstery in his immaculate 1929 Mandeville-Brot coupe with full running boards. His companion, Lydia, wears a red feather boa and strappy shoes. She remains a member of the Berkeley Explicit Players, but people are used to her around here. And for a naked person, she is not bad looking, which is maybe how she and Percy hooked up. She does add much to the upholstery.
Officer O'Madhauen cruises by, noting the cars which have been parked in the neighborhood of the bar for longer than one hour. There will be no accidents due to DUI on his watch if he can help it. No sir.
It is life on the Island in the Bay Area on a quiet night at the end of the weekend. And in the Old Same Place Suzie opens her book. "The Bonobo are characterized by a great joy in life and companionship between one another . . .". And Suzie sighs. Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place sits one bartender still pondering life's persistent questions.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 17, 2007
NO BULLETS MAN
June 12, 2004 - Naked Bike Ride San Francisco. This item is from Chad on the Island.
Photos from the World Naked Bike Ride San Francisco. The clothing optional event, one of several held around the world, was a protest of oil dependency, the war that this dependency leads to, and a celebration of the human body.
The ride started at Justin Herman plaza, went down Market street, rolled past City Hall, then went on to the Castro, and finally ended up in Golden Gate park after riding through the Haight.
MUSIC DO I HEAR?
The summer season heats up with the following items of note appearing in and around Babylon.
At the Greek Theatre, we have the Goo Goo Dolls with Lifehouse on the 22nd, followed by Alison Krauss and her inimitable banjo band on the 30th. The Rodrigo y Gabriela show sold out for the 28th at the Fillmore, understandably so, within a week of the unscheduled announcement.
Skinny Puppy returns from the dead with industrial noise aplenty to welcome Summer on the 21st. The considerably smoother Australian band John Butler Trio follows up for two nights 6/23-6/24 with the phenomenal Kaki King opening, one opener you do not want to miss for all the virtuosity of this amazing artist on the acoustic fretboard. Expect soundboard tapping aplenty.
Hot Tuna slide into town for the 29th -- Jorma has a new CD out, so expect some covers from that one. And Jonny Lang closes out the month with John McLaughlin for a bluesy seque into July.
Les Claypool sails on seas of cheese into the Warfield with his bass-heavy attack on the 29th, for those fans of the wierd and wonderful. On a jazzy note, Ani diFranco, the pint-sized powerhouse, will rock the house on the 14th of July in that same venue.
Just missed due to illness: the Russian River Jazz fest with Buddy Guy and Roy Rogers and E. Bishop. So much Blues, so little time. We sent up a contingent to report, but seems the good times and the tequila have resulted in delayed transmissions back to the news desk.
SWEET HOME CHICAGO
It was only a matter of time before we paid tribute to the City that launched a thousand hips. Took in part of the annual Chicago Blues Festival down in Grant Park this past weekend.
Beginning in May, the Mayor hosts a series of free open air events in the parks that border Lake Michigan, including the Blues Festival, which draws the old timers from all over the place back to the Source. This year, the main event heralded the 92nd birthday celebration of Howling Wolf, with family members and former bandmates all congregating for a shoutfest at the Petrillo Bandshell.
After a dubious period of weather shenanigans, the skies opened up to sunny, pleasant weather, albeit more humid than Californians are used to.
Island-Life staffers got pinned down by Severe Weather in Wisconsin as that state suffered seven tornados, upping its century-held record of one by as many times a twister touched down to make people miserable, which had us rolling into town late Saturday for the Festival.
We did manage to catch Cephas and Wiggins out at the Front Porch Stage, Little Howlin' Wolf, and the festival closeout jam with James Cotton with Hubert Sumlin at the Bandshell, followed by the raunchy roadshow of Bobby Rush, to whom Blues means nothing other than Sex, Sex and more Sex. That guy did more hip gyrations than Elvis Presley on Eveready batteries and his backup dancers could have supplied an entire city with electricity on their booty-shaking energy alone.
Cephas and Wiggins are probably the only surviving artists who still perform the Piedmont Blues style, a form that developed in the Appalachian mountains in response to local limitations. Each performer in the PB style must be prepared to supply the melodic line, comping, and basic rhythm for one never knew if all band members would be available to play. In addition, the mountain districts featured few piano instruments, or players who could use them, so the guitarists developed a style that attempted to duplicate the popular two-handed sound of the roaring-twenties barrelhouse. The result is a complicated thumb-roll combination with finger-picked melody lines that distinguishes itself from the spare Delta arrangements most people are accustomed to hearing. The Carter family picked up on this style most notably and employed it heavily in their country arrangements.
Little Howlin' Wolf stepped on stage in 1947 and has not stopped performing since that time. He, alone, has earned the fairly honorable sobriquet referencing the grand master by marrying into the family and carrying on the tradition. He is a reminder that the Blues is more than just an artform genre, but a warm, human, family and friend oriented community that is all about experience and real life. You can't just make a big noise and make musical pyrotechnics to get into the Blues. You don't choose the Blues, the Blues choose you. Anyone else calling themselves "Little Howlin' Wolf" had better check their credentials at the door.
Jessie Sanders (Little Howlin Wolf) was born and raised in Florence, MS, along Highway 49. He lived in Chicago most of his life, during which time he spent many hours in blues clubs and on the road with the late great Howlin' Wolf. Jessie first took to the stage with Howlin' Wolf in 1950. Wolf took Jessie under his wing and it wasn't uncommon for him to be heard referring to Jessie as his "son". Out of respect and admiration for his long time friend and mentor Jessie began performing as "Lil Howlin Wolf".
He performed on weekends with Blues greats such as Howlin Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Hound Dog Taylor, Albert King, Magic Sam, Freddie King, and Little Junior Parker. They did shows at Silvio's Lounge on Chicago's west side. During a visit home in 1947 while at WDIA in Memphis he met BB King and Bobby Blue Bland while they were there doing a radio spot. A decade later he would share the bill with not only BB King and Bobby Blue Bland but also the likes of Little Milton, Chuck Berry, Bobby Taylor, and Jimmy Reed. He's also shared the stage with (sat in with) legendary greats, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, and Millie Jackson.
The Festival ended after dark at the Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park. A limited number of seats were available, but the vast majority of folks gathered on the grass to listen to the music and watch on the big projection screen set up at the fence.
In the true style of the City, the ensemble gathered for an old time Chicago blues jam featuring James Cotton and Hubert Sumlin on stage with Eddie Shaw, Jody Williams (vocals) and Willie Smith doing amped up versions of Howling Wolf tunes with members of the "Wolf's" family attending at stage left bleacher seats.
James Cotton just seems to increase in size everytime we see him. The man looks immense from any sort of distance, but that may be a function of reputation. Hubert Sumlin, lead guitarist for the original Howling Wolf, just keeps on playing as if he has made some pact with Another Power never to age.
Together the two tore it up for 90 minutes, getting a sizeable throng dancing in the side aisles.
In the spirit of the Festival, the Blue Cross building that sits on the edge of the park lit up selected floors for the show.
GOT THE KEY TO THE HIGHWAY
Chicago turned out to be a fairly pleasant experience, with the people there unfailingly polite to an extent from which we here in the Bay Area could learn a great deal. With ten times the population density and surface area, the folks of Chicagoland consistently demonstrated fine manners, from the lowest streetperson begging for change to the most urbane of officeworker.
Still, after the humidity, we were glad to be breathing dry air again. One would think that with the fogs roiling over the coastal range that this place would be just as moist, but the prevailing winds coming down over the dry hills keep the air down to the 10% level.
Sure enough everybody came down with the summer flu on return, causing us to miss out on the Russian River Blues Festival with Buddy Guy and Roy Rogers. Bummer.
Must have been hot here, as all the spinach in the garden got toasted. Aint no cure for the summertime blues.
But summertime is not the time for despair, not even in Minnesotta. We had some walleye on our visit up there during the tornados. It's fine, very fine indeed, and we acknowlege the healthfull sedative traits of the toothsome pike, but we must remain jingoistically in favor of our own brookies.
The rainbow trout is quite possibly the most beautiful fish in the world as it leaps with a scattering of diamond sundrops after the strike. In California, we hike the banks of the Lost Coast, quaking aspens shaking their hands in the breeze under summer dappled skies, while the trout move slowly in the deep eddies, fins barely moving. So it has been for at least one thousand years. Summer time is the dreamtime of Notime and Alltime. That is why baseball flowers in summer, for in baseball, there is no Time.
Summertime is the season for planting and growing. It's the time of hot sizzles and BBQ grills, pale beer bottles stuffed with lime wedges, and sandals worn to business meetings. In Chicagoland, it was the time of the 17 year locust, fat buzzing bodies cluttering out of nowhere to fill the trees with astonishing hums, like every oak and maple have turned into power transformers. And the time of Lakeside festivals, with everyone coming down to the shores of the great inland sea of Michigan to enjoy the breezes.
Here on the Island, we don't have locusts, but we do have groundsquirrels and summertime is the time of groundsquirrel joy.
The salmon have finished their run, but May initializes the Season of the Trout. Due to the low snowpack, all the streams are down, but that means the trout are clustered together in those eddies, engaged in troutish confab together. Perhaps next winter the snowpack will return. Maybe the Democrats will learn some sense. The bushy dahlias appear to be making things down there in the garden and the cut hydrangeas have all come roaring back.
And maybe, just maybe, the Cubs will make it to the Series this year. Hope springs eternal in summertime.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 3, 2007
THEN CAME THE LAST DAYS OF MAY
Look upon the Sign that speaks unto you and weep, for the time of the Beast is upon us.
Well may you wonder how such things have come to pass. From correspondent, Chad, we have this image of the Editor in Thief on Earth Day, demonstrating his sincere committment to replenishing the earth's resources.
THE GARDENER, PART II
We have this hyperlink forwarded by a considerate Islander, which connects to a blog that features a weekly garden photo from the Island and all sorts of ways to get things growing in harsh sandy soil with poor light, which pretty much describes the Island garden situation fairly well.
Claire managed to reveal to us the name of the mystery plant growing out by the trashcans behind the IslandLife offices. It is called "Four O'clock" by its common name, and Mirabilis Jalapa (Peru Wonder) by the more technically inclined. It grows all over the place here, and some people even plant it, although if it finds its way by accident into your garden you had better learn to love its brilliant flowers, for it is nearly ineradicable.
The flowers on the Island are primarily crimson, but it can take any number of other hues, sometimes with three or four different colors on the same plant.
YOU MUST NOT HEED THE CALL-UP
This news item was reported here in September of 2005, however recent events have caused us to reprint the document associated with the refusal of Sharon Olds to read and speak as an invitee of the White House in the Capitol.
Here is an open letter from the poet Sharon Olds to Laura Bush declining the invitation to read & speak at the Natl Book Critics Circle Award in Washington,DC.
Sharon Olds is one of most widely read & critically acclaimed poets living in America today.
Dear Mrs. Bush,
I am writing to let you know why I am not able to accept your kind invitation to give a presentation at the National Book Festival on Sept 24, or to attend your dinner at the Library of Congress or the breakfast at the White House.
In one way, it's a very appealing invitation. The idea of speaking at a festival attended by 85,000 people is inspiring! The possibility of finding new readers is exciting for a poet in personal terms, & in terms of the desire that poetry serve its constituents--all of us who need the pleasure, & the inner & outer news, it delivers.
And the concept of a community of readers & writers has long been dear to my heart. As a professor of creative writing in the graduate school of a major university, I have had the chance to be a part of some magnificent outreach writing workshops in which our students have become teachers. Over the years, they have taught in a variety of settings: a women's prison, several NYC public high schools, an oncology ward for children.
Our initial program, at a 900-bed state hospital for the severely physically challenged, has been running now for 20 yrs, creating along the way lasting friendships between young MFA candidates & their students--long-term residents at the hospital who, in their humor, courage & wisdom, become our teachers.
When you have witnessed someone nonspeaking & almost nonmoving spell out, with a toe, on a big plastic alphabet chart, letter by letter, his new poem, you have experienced, close up, the passion & essentialness of writing. When you have held up a small cardboard alphabet card for a writer who is completely non-speaking & nonmoving (except for the eyes), & pointed first to the A, then the B, then C, then D, until you get to the 1st letter of the 1st word of the first line of the poem she has been composing in her head all week, & she lifts her eyes when that letter is touched to say yes, you feel with a fresh immediacy the human drive for creation, self-expression, accuracy, honesty & wit--& the importance of writing, which celebrates the value of each person's unique story & song. So the prospect of a festival of books seemed wonderful to me. I thought of the opportunity to talk about how to start up an outreach program. I thought of the chance to sell some books, sign some books & meet some of the citizens of Wash, DC.
I thought that I could try to find a way, even as your guest, with respect, to speak about my deep feeling that we should not have invaded Iraq, & to declare my belief that the wish to invade another culture & another country - with the resultant loss of life & limb for our brave soldiers, & for the noncombatants in their home terrain--did not come out of our democracy but was instead a decision made "at the top" & forced on the people by distorted language, & by un-truths. I hoped to express the fear that we have begun to live in the shadows of tyranny & religious chauvinism--the opposites of the liberty, tolerance & diversity our nation aspires to.
I tried to see my way clear to attend the festival in order to bear witness--as an American who loves her country and its principles & its writing--against this undeclared & devastating war. But I could not face the idea of breaking bread with you. I knew that if I sat down to eat with you, it would feel to me as if I were condoning what I see to be the wild, highhanded actions of the Bush Adm. What kept coming to the fore of my mind was that I would be taking food from the hand of the First Lady who represents the Adm that unleashed this war & that wills its continuation, even to the extent of permitting "extraordinary rendition": flying people to other countries where they will be tortured for us. So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish & shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds & fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives & the flames of the candles, & I could not stomach it.
As a postscript, the following year there was yet another controversy about yet another refusal, this time from winners of the National Design Award, given to exceptional graphic designers in the publishing field. It is not exactly an art form that normally is associated with manning the barricades, but, as Ralph Caplan of the AIGA said " The National Design Award that includes graphic design carries the far roomier rubric, Communications Design. Which is precisely why five of last year's finalists or winners declined one of the accompanying honors: an invitation from Laura Bush to breakfast at the White House."
Here's what they wrote:
Dear Mrs. Bush:
As American designers, we strongly believe our government should support the design profession and applaud the White House sponsorship of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. And as finalists and recipients of the National Design Award in Communication Design we are deeply honored to be selected for this recognition. However, we find ourselves compelled to respectfully decline your invitation to visit the White House on July 10th (2006).
Graphic designers are intimately engaged in the construction of language, both visual and verbal. And while our work often dissects, rearranges, rethinks, questions and plays with language, it is our fundamental belief, and a central tenet of "good" design, that words and images must be used responsibly, especially when the matters articulated are of vital importance to the life of our nation.
We understand that politics often involves high rhetoric and the shading of language for political ends. However it is our belief that the current administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in America. We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged in a prolonged assault on meaning.
While we have diverse political beliefs, we are united in our rejection of these policies. Through the wide-scale distortion of words (from "Healthy Forests" to "Mission Accomplished") and both the manipulation of media (the photo op) and its suppression (the hidden war casualties), the Bush administration has demonstrated disdain for the responsible use of mass media, language and the intelligence of the American people.
While it may be an insignificant gesture, we stand against these distortions and for the restoration of a civil political dialogue.
September 2007 is coming up. Think anybody in the Administration
is finally getting it?
INSPIRATION! MOVING BRIGHTLY
Those jolly ladies, Terpsichore, Calliope, Clio, Erato, Euterpe, Melpomene, Polyhymnia, Thalia, and Urania have been seen capering about the Island and East Bay in general for the annual East Bay Open Studios began its first weekend this Saturday. Pro Arts (proartsgallery.org) lists some 400 artists in its handsome 2007 catalogue. In addition, we note that the newest art venue to the Island, The Rhythmix Cultural Center flung open its doors in the old Clamp Swing factory on Blanding Avenue after a years-long battle against all kinds of odds. When you are done visiting over there, get on over across the water, having paid respects at our Frank Bette Center on Lincoln, to the Jingletown district in the middle of the fruit and vegetable warehouse area of Oaktown bounded by Fruitvale, 29th Avenue, East 7th Street and Glasscock, with attention paid to Ford Street Studios. Some of those artists have established relationships with some of our own folks here.
East Bay Open Studios is always a cheery event with lots of exciting stuff happening and tons of great treasures unearthed to look at, and perhaps take home for your very own.
If you drop in on Jim Kitson's studio on Santa Clara Avenue, you will be able to place your hands on the belly of "Generative Matrix" (pictured above). Feel something move?
Its been a quiet week on the Island. Still no word from the authorities regarding our standing application to become a Sister City to Lake Woebegon. The Dispatch Department has followed all the usual channels of communication: three carrier pigeons, two encryption hamsters, and a marching band that includes Gropius on Hardart and Inflateable. The engineers are all scratching their heads, as somebody usually says something at some point.
The last time the pigeons came back from their mission a bit woozy with shreds of what appears to be rhubarb adhering to their beaks.
Meanwhile, all along the coastal range, the fogs are surging over the crest and down through the trees in some Tolkein fantasy. Babylon, having enjoyed its Spring -- lasting some 36 hours -- is now settled back into its usual briskly chill habitude of fog and shivers which so put off Sam Clemens more than one hundred years ago. But so entrenched is the San Franciscan in his sense of superiority over Los Angeles, he stalks about his business in tee-shirt, bermuda shorts and sandals no matter how frigid the temperature, absolutely denying the weather as it is, for the season is summer and for summer he will dress, will he, nil he.
Max calls up from Burbank to say how they are all basking under sunny skies and everybody is at the pool and, heck, must be all overcoats and galoshes up there in that fog, guy.
No, we are all wearing shorts and sunglasses here. Thanks for calling. And Max? Please stay in L.A. Please.
That North-South rivalry has been going on for some time here and shows no sign of letup.
Sure, we have our summer rituals. The groundsquirrels all come out to scamper along the Strand and between the BBQ's at Crab Cove. We do have baseball and other dangerous sports. The parasails and windsurfers all congregate at the end of 8th Street and jollify the sky with their colorful kites. A few people bring real kites out there and among the simple diamond-backs from Walgreens are the fabulous dragon kites from China, looping and swirling right above. Over at John McClaren the Samoan Islanders set up the posts for their summer cricket tourney and there they go, big pony-tailed guys hurtling across the pitch like locomotives.
Fishing, of course, remains a popular sport, and one often will see anglers angling around the breakwater and bridges, often with apparent success. There to trundle home with their perch or whatever to toss into the seasoned frypan.
These people are idiots. Nobody but a fool would eat anything out of the mercury and cadium-laced bay. The entire reason the Island is an Island is that Oaktown used to dump so much sewage into the Bay it backed up around the occasional peninsula of Bolsa Alameda, so the Army Corps of Engineers cut a channel and turned the occasional peninsula into a permanent island.
No, fishing is what one does in freshwater lakes and streams, just about as far from the Bay and fertilizer-packed Delta as one can get. From the Russian River, there is the salmon run, followed by bass and steelhead with a few channel cat thrown in there. Up in the High Country one goes for rainbows, brookies, and the increasingly elusive Golden. The Golden Trout is so elusive that you can't even find a decent picture of one on the internet. Here is one.
They can only be found above 10,000 feet elevation and cannot compete with any species. Nowadays, few longer than 10 inches can be found at all. Sometimes they are called "pink trout" because their flesh is reddish on the plate next to brookies.
California trout, once teaming the streams so thick the natives here needed only to stand straddled over a weir to spear one among a dozen passing underneath to fetch dinner, now have become decimated to the point that every one of them trout out there has developed a critical eye towards feeding, with cautious approach and studied apprehension. Eugene Gallipagus is known, after prepping his rod, to crawl on his belly up to the riverbank to crouch behind a bush, and from there to cast up stream to allow the fly to drift down past his location and even then, sometimes they get the word somehow among themselves what the boy is up to.
"Hear Eugene is fishing up there again."
And the rest of the day is ruined for fishing.
Northern Californians can be emotional, but not as effusive as Southern Californians. When Southern Californians get emotional, they cry and mess up their clothes. Like Phil Spector, they occasionally shoot their guests at home. When Northern Californians get emotional, they break things or each other in strange places. The public bar fight was invented in Northern California by Jack London, who spent a lot of time here writing about workers rights and so forth. And getting into fights in bars. To the end of his days, he bitterly regretted making money on dog stories, and often would start a fight in a bar on the subject.
He may not have been the best exemplar of leftist thinking, but he sure wrote a good dog story when he had a mind. We can say that now, because he is not around to break anybody's nose.
Back to Eugene. One day he was fishing for trout at Lake Martha, which is the lake where, according to myth, golden trout first diverged from rainbows in evolution. The lake is some 11,500 feet in elevation and has a gravel place there which had been lake bed at one time far in the past people call Wotan's Parking Lot. If you have ever been there, you would know what I mean, for that is just about as flat and barren a spot for yards as you could ever find with Mount Goddard looming over the spot like some castle. Needless to say, the entire place is a four-day hike from nowhere with no showers, dancing girls, or trail for days.
Eugene went out in the morning from the shelter down below to the lake there -- no trees or bushes for miles in all directions, so you got to camp down below -- and he threw in his line. Now as it happened Eugene had a flask of that special brew Padraic had done up a couple of Thanksgivings ago and he was drinking this stuff instead of water. Seems this special homebrew involved the leaves of the rhubarb plant, which may account for its distinctive hallucinatory properties.
Eugene had not meant to take this brew up in his water flask, intending to use it at night for medicinal purposes, but Wanda had filled the sucker up at base camp, thinking she was doing a special service.
So come late morning there was Eugene at high Lake Martha, surrounded by shadeless Wotan's Parkinglot, the sun starting to beat down and not even cover for the damn trout along the lake shore. All the trout can see perfectly well the man is up there -- not a rock to hide behind, and not much is happening.
Eugene gets thirsty, pops the top of his canteen and downs a swig, realizing at once what it was. Oh, well. Damage done. So he keeps on tossing out his line, getting more and more leisurely as he takes a swig and another. Soon he plops down right there on the bank -- there is a place where the Parkinglot is high enough above the lake to make a sort of bank there and Eugene nestles against this embankment with his line sort of idly floating on the surface.
Soon enough it seems he has a strike and, after a brief struggle, an immense golden head appears above the surface of the lake. It's at least three feet wide, the largest fish of any kind Eugene has ever seen. It's a rare King Californian Golden Trout and it speaks to him.
It speaks to him in the language of Trout, which only true trout fishermen can understand. Those who fish for cat or steelhead or salmon know not the language of mountain trout. Just ask them. For they are interested only in size of catch and not the glory.
Do you speak the language of trout?
But Eugene understood, and unto him was imparted the wisdom and the scriptures of the Great Golden Trout. He was to drop his earthly trappings and go among men and spread the Word of Trout. For of field and stream we are born and into the field and stream we shall return. Glory unto the Trout! Glory unto the Brown! Glory unto the Rainbow! Glory unto the Golden who is first among them!
Eugene arose as if awoken from a dream and he cast forth his rod and descended from the mountains not unlike the Israelites of old, and he spoke the Word of Trout and all were amazed, not the least the Unitarians, who had never conceived of such a thing. And the Lutherans spake of walleye and smallmouth and knew him not for they are a prudent folk and not inclined to speak of such things. Of the Catholics, who fish not unless for sole, he was shunned and they abjured his talk for they like not that which causes Fuss and Bother preferring shame and humiliation and the exile of the rhubarb.
Among the Bhuddists he sewed confusion for they are verily Vegan.
Any whose way was the sword and violence were struck dumb with dismay and scattered like chaff in the winds.
If you come to California, wear flowers in your hair -- and carry an Ultralight, for the trout of the Sierra are fine and small and like not immensity. And consider the Word of the Trout, who saith, Be not asshole upon the Earth but do as little evil as possible and practice joy all the days of thy Life. Thus, I say unto the Great Golden Trout. Peace.
Eugene was put on three day hold at Villa Fairmont, about which place we shall speak anon. After Chicago.
And that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 27, 2007
IN A WORLD FULL OF PEOPLE ONLY SOME WANT TO FLY
After a great deal of work cleaning up broken and damaged HTML and much running back and forth with the staff diving into the coffee at all hours of the night into early morning and the Chief Editor tearing out his remaining white hairs, the Big Move is done save for some wrap up.
The Past Reviews project is moving ahead at a great clip and hyperlinks to the best concert and theatre reviews 2000-2007 will be finished in June. Hopefully.
Some multi-media clips, because of their large size remain to be forklifted up during the wee hours, including the tsunami videos.
Recent reports indicate large numbers of people rechecking their hyperlinks to all sorts of places with the myspace.com folks returing to their favorite discussion pages on the Iraq war for years 2005 and year 2003.
We anticipate some 30,000 folks next month doing a flyby, and double that plus some doubled each following month to the end of the year.
Some of the staff headed up to the Russian River to BBQ and chill once the DNS records replicated, so there will be little to report this week as far as news goes.
IS THAT THE POOLBEG FLASHER BEYONT, FAR? FAR?
IPD is warning female joggers in the West End to be alert for a serial groper who has been picking on women who jog wearing headphones, probably because this means the victim may be already distracted. The perp usually rides a bicycle from which he engages the victims in conversation before grabbing them and riding off.
As of this point, no traffic infractions have been committed, according to Officer O'Madhauen, and so the perpetrator remains at large.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC SWEET MUSIC
IslandLIfe will be sending a team to Chicago to cover the annual Blues Fest at Grant Park, so there will be no update 6/9/07, but -- as always -- we will provide IL extras following so that all of you may still obtain your Island-Life weekly requirements. Means we will miss both Johnny Winter and M'Shell N'Degocella at the Independent.
We've got folks in studio right now working on the Xmas Holiday Treat. From the antics of the soundman in the control booth, it should be, at the least, quite distracting.
Also am going to miss Garisson Keillor again! ARRRG! He is coming to the Greek on 6/9 in what is very likely to be a very interesting and unusual show because of the venue's unique qualities. We also will miss awarded and decorated David Elias at McGrath's 6/9. David operates at a rather stratospheric level normally, with grammy-award folks typically sitting in on his sessions, so an opportunity to capture the man in any version in a place like McGrath's is a definite Heads Up! sort of item. Ah, but Peter, the proprietor, definitely has his way with the Music Industry Insiders. O Peter.
Second show for the Goo Goo Dolls with Lifehouse has been added by demand for the 6/19 date.
So much music, so little time. And if you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own.
HUNK A BURNING LOVE
Got a 1st person report from our SoCal correspondent on Catalina Island which suffered disastrous fires we reported on last issue. This is the report from Julee:
"Avalon survived the fires. My family refused to
evacuate, the menfolk stayed
While growing up I hope and prayed high school somehow
be destroyed (I
ON THE ROAD
The last Maze connector shut down by the fuel truck disaster reopened Friday, and an Island-Life driveby revealed full traffic going under and over the freeway overpass sections damaged when a tanker truck burst into flames one Sunday night, causing a major Bay Area freeway connector to collapse from the heat. Scorch marks remain on the lower deck but the upper deck appears solid and brand new despite concerns from some engineers the hasty fixit job was not substantial to handle the extreme flow of traffic over this section of freeway, among one of the busiest in the nation.
Since the Big Move we noticed Yahoo boost us to the top of its rankings. Not a surprise, since we are and have been the Premier site for Bay Area Culture and Life, reporting the news and items of interest regarding music, dance, theatre, food and the arts for some ten years. Long before Blogging, in fact.
So we imagine some of you are newcomers here to this space. Hopefully, you do wind up here after checking out the stuff on backpain -- which badly needs a reorg and update out of the files, and all the old stuff on past years, which is constantly undergoing reorg.
This particular page is updated each week on Sunday night, or Monday morning -- depending on the ration of booze available -- and we always welcome corrections and updates from anyone out there.
We do not charge, foist no advertising, and ask only that readers continue to support local music and art in any small or major way they can. We try to cover things that do not get Mainstream Press and hope our meager words help some struggling artist out there make an honest buck. Buy the albums and go to the concerts.
The interstitial tissue sometimes contains some satirical content among the factoids. Be prepared to meet Osama Bin Lassie, Shriek of the Terrierists. Notice the snarl of evil and the turbaned aspect of malevolence.
And know that we dutifully cover the long Occupation of Newark by President Eugene Shrubb and his Army of Bums. Which has been frustrated by the Insurgent Grammas armed with Weapons of Improvised Cast Iron Device, in the form of frypans.
There is, of course, a cast of characters assembled over some ten years of 52 issues per year, such as Officer O'Madhauen, dutiful traffic law enforcer, schoolteacher Ms. Morales, Eugene Gallipagus (a wannabe hunter of poodles), and the bevy of Island regulars whom you surely will come to know. The Island, that golden jewel, is set within the many-storied San Francisco Bay, and has its application for Sister City to Lake Woebegone in the works, which only time and bureaucracy may satisfactorily resolve.
And that is the precis to the main thesis.
DAMN RIGHT I GOT THE BLUES
It's been a quiet week on the Island. Spotty morning fog has come in to hold the temps down until past ten when the sun cuts through and makes the rows of lettuce glad. Lifers straggling in from the Russian River report similar behaviour up there and they have not yet completed the annual fish dam for the salmon run, so the water there is all still two to three feet deep. The dam is half up on the dry side, and the roadbed is in place, so we expect they will get around to that later completion in June.
It's approaching the Dead Hour on a long Memorial Day weekend. Evocative, that. Suzie sits pondering over her textbook in the Old Same Place, pages lit by the barlights. Eugene nuzzles his drink. Bear is watchin Netflix with buddies in his cave of sorts while Sophia makes popcorn. Officer O'Madhauen is parked down by the old cannery at Paru and Buena Vista, watching for violations of the Yellow Light. Mayor Beverly is playing Yahtzee with grandkids in her granddaughter's livingroom, Her Honor, shoeless, on the floor in her stocking feet. Two recently removed hedgehogs nuffle and muzzle about their new den on the grounds of the College. Soon it will be time to gaze at the moon from their new abode.
Had a confab with a couple of Rangers - enlist voluntary '62 and '65. Many reminiscences and many memories of comrades fallen in the foreign wars. LRP is a kind of duty experienced by few in any age and honored are those who rest. But a soldier's lot is to obey and to do, not to question why. And our age has been especially poignant with questions why. For, given that the soldier is not allowed to question, those of us who can, should do so and loudly and often, for too often the soldier's life is expended like some renewable supply of ammunition. When that happens, we notice, Empire falls inevitably into decline.
We don't question the designs of Empire here. What is the point? Countries conquer and subdue simply because they can and empires arise because it is possible.
Empires collapse because people who can collapse them do so. There is no real morality in any of it.
Knew a buddy who went on these camping trips with Boy Scouts trying to work out things inside himself all the while these Baden Powell clones imagined that this camping thing was just like tenting with buddies in Viet Nam or some such bullshit and very likely to heal wounds those assholes could never imagine.
Sorry to get pointed.
Well, nice to know somebody cared, but pitching a tent on the side of Old Nag is not like seeing your buddy get his spleen blown out in some tropical rice paddy. It's not like lying on a mat in the dark wondering just when your number will come up next. It is simply not nearly enough.
So this Memorial Day, give a thought to the soldier who had no choice really. Other than be there or somewhere else on that day when the flashbang went off, when the .50 cal round zipped by.
That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 20, 2007
CHA CHA CHA CHANGES
Well, it had to happen and we should have seen it coming. Island-Life now really IS the premier website for Bay Area Culture and Arts. As of last month. When we experienced 27,000+ visitors. Seems a few folks on Myspace.com have started a lively discussion about the Iraq war with reference to our 2003 photos and this has led to an extraordinary number of hits numbering some 38,000 per day -- and some special attention from .mil and .gov addresses.
O U guys. Sneaking around with wires in your collars.
Sooooo, since Earthlink is rather miserly about bandwidth we decided to go to a more liberal host that understands the requirements of a professional website. At less the cost.
Do you think some fool dings Microsoft.com for "excess bandwidth"? I think not. Some Hosts understand that a site printed in Chinese just might get a good deal of Asia visiting in any logical fashion. Earthlink does not understand or care that there happen to be any fraction of a billion people on the internet at any one time and these kinds of numbers are real.
During this change End of Month, the usual Island-Life content will be unavailable for 72 hours during the DNS replication.
Sooooo, coming month end, we will switch to that more liberal host with some 1000 times increased bandwidth, allowing any number of folks to come and look at past years of Island-life without hassle so that they can continue to have intense discussions that we encourage, for our main goal here is to promote free speech and common discourse. Free Speech enhances life, stirs the blood, promotes freedom and democracy everywhere, expands ideas and critical thought, and revivifies the Body Politic. Besides, its good for you.
MUSIC DO I HEAR?
Coinciding with the Host move, Island-life staffers will be going to Chicago to report on the annual Chicago Blues Festival at Grant Park. This will be during the first and second weeks of June. We also will be visiting a view places north of Chicago at the Wisconsin Dells.
The early Summer Season is shaping up. MaryAnne Faithful returns to the Fillmore on the 26th. Glad to see the gal is still hoofing with style and grace. OAR comes to the Warfield on the 16th of June. They do a sort of Jamaican-inflected rock that is purely their own and have a number of very well crafted lyrics.
With a great deal of pleasure we note that Rodgrigo and Gabriela return to Babylon for an unscheduled tour-addition to the Fillmore on 6/28 where they are sure to sell out and then procede to blow the goddamn roof off of the place on nylon string guitars no less. Tix went on sale this morning. Maybe a few left as their entire formally scheduled US tour is entirely sold out already.
LIVE 105 holds its BFD at the Shoreline on 6/9, unfortunately while the music reviewer is out of town. Anyone want to volunteer for a piece on Bloc Party, Social D, Queens of the Stone Age, Sum 41 and others?
Smashing Pumpkins come to the Fillmore for a dominating 8 show run 7/22 to 8/1. That's right, eight shows at the Fillmore under the purple chandeliers.
At the Independent, Johnny Winter will slide in with little fanfare on 6/6, again while we are out of town. Bummer, as we have longed long to see the pale bluesman. The not-so-pale M'Schell Ndegeocello thumps that bass 6/9 in the same venue. Also an artist on the Must See list.
Some tix still available for the Indigo Girls at the Greek. Sorry, lesbians pay same price as everyone else. the I.D. are democratic that way.
DING DONG THE WITCH IS DEAD
Virginia, a basically benighted State with more than its share of assholes infesting the woodwork there for no fault of its own, recently enjoyed the extirpation of one of its really obnoxious denizens.
Another Evil S---t-head expired this week, adding to the pile of excrement in Hell. Jerry Falwell popped his nut, and hopefully fully awake as St. Nick came to haul his rotten soul down to that Other Place.
A miserly handful believe that Falwell unified various factions of the Extreme Fundamentalists and did much good thereby.
Victoria Kidd of Winchester, Virginia, believes the exact opposite: "The damage he has done to the Christian faith is immeasurable," she wrote to CNN.com
Most would prefer to think that he has no legacy at all.
"He should be erased from every history book and media story," wrote Brian Pippinger of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Jerry Falwell was the evangelical minister who founded the Moral Majority, the radical Christian right political movement, in 1980. He died Tuesday at age 73, and it's clear from the differing assessments of his legacy that he was a controversial figure.
Matt Foreman, head of the National Lesbian and Gay Task Force, calls Falwell "a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry. His lasting legacy will be the polarization of the American electorate and the rise of Christian evangelicals as a nasty political force in American politics."
Susan Friend Harding, a professor of anthropology at the University of California Santa Cruz, studied Falwell and his movement beginning in the 1980s, culminating in a book published in 2000, "The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics."
"I see him as a major figure in American political and religious history," says Harding, who considers him the principal leader who forced fundamentalists back into the pop culture of society. "Jerry Falwell led fundamentalism out of political and cultural desuetude in the 1980s. He did so most famously as the leader of the vindictive Moral Majority in 1980s, but also through his national radio and TV ministry, Liberty University and countless sermons, campaigns, rallies, speeches, publications, broadcasts and debates over his 50-year career as a preacher. Under his leadership, fundamentalists transformed themselves from a marginal, anti-worldly separatist people into a visible and dangerously vocal force and reintroduced harsh and intolerant religious speech into American public life.
"Fundamentalists had been a separatist movement," Harding says, "which was stigmatized even by other Protestants" for three-quarters of a century, ever since their "self-imposed exile" after the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which was ostensibly about the teaching of evolution in the schools, but in effect put fundamentalist intolerance on trial.
"True fundamentalists didn't have friendships, even with other fundamentalists who associated with non-fundamentalists," Harding says. "Falwell said this was wrong; we're going to stop having religious tests. He included you if you supported his agenda -- an agenda that involved attacking other groups."
To many critics, this paradox is what makes his legacy so lamentable. "He made it comfortable for churches to get actively involved in politics," says the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. "His strategy will be continued by his would-be successors -- a focus on hot-button issues like gay marriage (rather than significant moral issues like child poverty and health care), and an eagerness to make outrageous statements to the media, in order to build a religious-political empire."
Many now remember him most for outrageous statements he made after leaving the Moral Majority -- in 1999, his house organ the National Liberty Journal warned parents that the Tinky Winky cartoon character was secretly gay and morally dangerous; in 2001, he blamed the September 11 terrorist attack on "pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America."
Mark Morford, SF Gate Columnist, after a brief intro, summarized the demigogue's life and work with a simple list of quotes. Allowing the reader to decide for him or herself just what the man represented.
"But in the case of the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, the grandfather of the fundamentalist religious right and the foremost champion of the creation of a brutally homophobic, mysogynistic Christian theocracy in America, perhaps it's better to let the man's most insidiously famous quotes speak for themselves, and let time and karma be the judge of whether Falwell left the world a better place than when he found it. (All citations are available at wikiquote.org and elsewhere.)
"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."
"The abortionists have got to bear some burden for [the attacks of Sept. 11] because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way -- all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"
"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."
"Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions."
"I listen to feminists and all these radical gals -- most of them are failures. They've blown it. Some of them have been married, but they married some Casper Milquetoast who asked permission to go to the bathroom. These women just need a man in the house. That's all they need. Most of the feminists need a man to tell them what time of day it is and to lead them home. And they blew it and they're mad at all men. Feminists hate men. They're sexist. They hate men -- that's their problem."
"When you have a godly husband, a godly wife, children who respect their parents and who are loved by their parents, who provide for those children their physical and spiritual and material needs, lovingly, you have the ideal unit."
"The ACLU is to Christians what the American Nazi party is to Jews."
"I am such a strong admirer and supporter of George W. Bush that if he suggested eliminating the income tax or doubling it, I would vote yes on first blush."
"I believe that global warming is a myth. And so, therefore, I have no conscience problems at all and I'm going to buy a Suburban next time."
"It is God's planet -- and he's taking care of it. And I don't believe that anything we do will raise or lower the temperature one point."
"I truly cannot imagine men with men, women with women, doing what they were not physically created to do, without abnormal stress and misbehavior."
"It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening."
"There's been a concerted effort to steal Christmas."
"I hope I live to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we won't have any public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them. What a happy day that will be!"
"The First Amendment is not without limits."
"Someone must not be afraid to say, 'moral perversion is wrong.' If we do not act now, homosexuals will 'own' America! If you and I do not speak up now, this homosexual steamroller will literally crush all decent men, women, and children who get in its way ... and our nation will pay a terrible price!"
"If he's going to be the counterfeit of Christ, [the Antichrist] has to be Jewish. The only thing we know is he must be male and Jewish."
"The argument that making contraceptives available to young people would prevent teen pregnancies is ridiculous. That's like offering a cookbook as a cure to people who are trying to lose weight."
"The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."
"You'll be riding along in an automobile. You'll be the driver perhaps. You're a Christian. There'll be several people in the automobile with you, maybe someone who is not a Christian. When the trumpet sounds you and the other born-again believers in that automobile will be instantly caught away -- you will disappear, leaving behind only your clothes and physical things that cannot inherit eternal life. That unsaved person or persons in the automobile will suddenly be startled to find the car suddenly somewhere crashes. ... Other cars on the highway driven by believers will suddenly be out of control and stark pandemonium will occur on ... every highway in the world where Christians are caught away from the drivers wheel." (from Falwell's pamphlet "Nuclear War and the Second Coming of Christ")
"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."
"You know when I see somebody burning the flag, I'm a Baptist preacher I'm not a Mennonite, I feel it's my obligation to whip him. In the name of the Lord, of course. I feel it's my obligation to whip him, and if I can't do it then I look up some of my athletes to help me. But, as long as at 72 I can handle most of the jobs I do it myself, and I don't think it's un-spiritual. When I, when I, when I hear somebody talking about our military and ridiculing and saying terrible things about our President, I'm thinking you know just a little bit of that and I believe the Lord would forgive me if I popped him."
"The Bible is the inerrant ... word of the living God. It is absolutely infallible, without error in all matters pertaining to faith and practice, as well as in areas such as geography, science, history, etcetera."
"The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the National Organization of Witches."
"God doesn't listen to Jews."
"Tinky Winky is gay."
THEY PAVED PARADISE AND PUT UP A SHOPPING MALL
A much anticipated showdown between ardent supporters of a density-limiting ballot measure and those open to changing it ended Tuesday night with a whimper, not a bang, according to the official word, but we see the result as a definitive rebuttal to attempts to Manhattanize this Island.
After hours of public debate, the City Council unanimously struck down an appeal of a decision by the Planning Board to create a three-person committee to plan a public forum on the benefits and drawbacks of Measure A.
The 1973 ballot measure banned anything other than single-family homes and duplexes in Alameda's residential development.
The council took its vote only after insisting that members of the group that challenged the Planning Board's decision be included in organizing the forum. The council also insisted that committee meetings be held in public.
Members of both the Planning Board and the seven-member group of residents who challenged it said they were satisfied with the outcome. "I'm fine with it," said Anne Cook, who sits on the Planning Board. "We need to involve all sides."
Barbara Kerr, a former council member who was part of the group that filed the appeal said, "We don't mind discussion of Measure A. We never have. That wasn't the issue."
Measure A is sometimes called the "third rail" of Island politics, with many crediting it for saving the Island from overpopulation and crowdedness.
Others would like to see the measure amended for Alameda Point, on the former Naval Air Station, where developers are planning on building new residential and commercial communities in the next 10 or so years.
The council's vote Tuesday - which, essentially, amounts to allowing people to talk about talking about Measure A - is just a micro-step in the debate about whether any changes will ultimately be made.
Officials stressed that, as a charter amendment, Measure A can only be altered by a vote of the people - not the Planning Board and not they City Council.
"People can talk about it," said Council member Marie Gilmore. "People can talk about it until they're blue in the face, but it's still the law . . .".
The Island is NOT Manhattan and needs to stay that way.
I'LL BE ALL RIGHT SOME DAY
The opening of fishing season has none of the resonance here as in some places. Salmon and steelhead begin their run early and trout may not be taken until later. There are rules about these weighty matters. The dams on the Russian River remain down this time of year but the steelhead have finished their business, so there is little point going out there. The main show here is trout and always has been. Among trout in California, you may encounter brook trout or golden trout. The increasingly rare and hard to find brown trout is not to be trifled with.
We don't have walleyes here, but a few have proposed importing a few against significant objections.
The golden trout are thought to originate from Lake Martha, main source of the Joaquin River. Lake Martha is way up there around 12,000 feet and surrounded by a gravel basin they call Wotan's Parking Lot. We have stood there and it is quite a desolate place. The fish are found throughout the High Country but seldom on the plate in restaurants and never in groceries, for they are rare creatures with a bright yellow belly and a red streak along the body. They are colorful on the string but fade rapidly after gutting.
Brookies are multi-hued, like rainbows in their diversified colors, and will leap a great distance when hooked in a stream. They argue strenuously about coming to shore and often will shake loose right there on the bank only to flop back into the water, pausing momentarily as if to say, "this is what you could have had, were you only more worthy". Then they dart off with another "the one I almost had" story.
They, too, appear to be an argument for the existence of god while alive in all vibrant color, but fade quickly after death as most of us do.
In the High Country, where we at Island Life do the fishing, we do not encounter the bass, of any size of mouth. Bass do not inhabit regions above 11,000 feet, for that elevation is considered bass-verboten.
Jim and Mike went out to Bear Lake, fishing while Agnus and Susan remained on shore, hiking and talking about rebuilding carburetors - girl stuff, you know. Eugene went with them, the boys in the boat, and he caught a nice two pounder right away. Pretty soon he caught another, but neither Jim nor Mike got so much as a nibble. Pretty soon Eugene had caught his limit but he kept right on fishing and every time he caught another, he threw it back.
Meanwhile Jim and Mike sat there in the boat with Eugene catching one fish after another. Might as well have been tossing a string to the cat in the livingroom.
A gentle breeze blew across the lake. Spring had come to California some weeks ago, and after the initial hot spell, the weather had settled into morning fog along the coast and a moody archapelago of clouds further inland.
Eventually the boys headed back to shore where they cleaned Eugene's fish and had them for dinner. Susan wanted to know why there were so few, but they had rice to go along with it. At the end of the trip Jim and Mike had caught a crappie a piece, but Eugene's luck remained with him and so he drove back in his pickup with an ice chest full of trout.
While they were driving back in the van, Jim felt something crawling up his leg inside his trousers, so he pulled over. Sue asked him what was the matter and Jim cursed.
Of course Sue wanted to know where it was. Jim pulled the van over onto an old unpaved logging road. He got out and unfastened his belt. The wood tick was on the inside of his left thigh, rather high up.
Well, said Sue. Let me see about it.
So Jim dropped his pants there while Sue got some vaseline and tweezers while images of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever ran through his mind. This had not been a good fishing trip.
As Jim looked down the sun glanced off of Sue's hair and he noticed the flecks of gray -- they had been together some eighteen years. He noticed that she had kept herself well for those years -- must be the dance lessons. Then, of course the inevitable happened and Sue commented, do wood ticks and vaseline always have this effect on you?
Golden poppies nodded, smiling, in the warm breeze beside the logging road in the dappled sunlight. It was Spring after all.
Eugene got back home and smoked some of the trout, and fried up the rest. Mike and Agnus got back in good time and went out to the Island Grill for dinner.
Jim and Sue did not get back until very late, and besides flecks of grey, there were leaves and twigs in her hair.
The wood tick died.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 13, 2007
WORLD'S ON FIRE
Firefighters struggled early Friday to protect Catalina's main city, Avalon, from a wildfire that forced hundreds of residents to flee on ferries as ash fell from the sky like snow.
One home and a few small businesses in the canyons outside the city burned, but the weather helped firefighters keep most properties safe, Fire Chief Steven Hoefs said. Some 1,200 homes were under voluntary or mandatory evacuation orders.
"The risk has been reduced significantly," Hoefs said. "Most of the structures have been protected."
The blaze broke out Thursday afternoon on the island more than 20 miles off the coast, caused by construction workers using an acetylene torch to cut cables.
The orange inferno loomed behind the quaint crescent harbor, landmark 1929 Catalina Casino and homes, restaurants and tiny hotels clinging to slopes above the waterfront.
As flames threatened the city limits of Avalon, hundreds of people lined up at the harbor Thursday night to board ferries to the mainland. Many covered their faces with towels and bandannas as ashes fell.
The scene was in stark contrast to the idyllic image of the island cultivated in its 1930s and '40s heyday as a playground for movie stars, and in The Four Preps' 1950s hit song, "26 Miles."
Avalon has a population of 3,200 that swells to more than 10,000 on weekends and in summer, according to the Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau.
At least 160 firefighters, aided by four water-dropping helicopters and three retardant-dropping air tankers, battled flames through most of Thursday and into the night.
Dozens of fire engines from as far away as Fresno arrived through the night aboard giant military hovercraft from the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton. The high-speed hovercraft can carry 60 tons over land or water and are often used by the military on humanitarian missions.
Overnight, Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters ferried in firefighters, 32 at a time. Hand crews were positioned at the city's edge to protect homes.
In Avalon, authorities used a bullhorn to urge people to evacuate and head to the beach. Visitors were directed to the historic art deco Casino until it lost power, while residents were sent to another harbor site.
The Catalina Express ferry service added several night departures of 400-passenger vessels from Avalon. Hundreds of residents and visitors boarded the ferries to reach the mainland at Long Beach.
Despite being well offshore, Catalina has been left parched by the lack of rainfall that has made the rest of Southern California particularly susceptible to wildfires like the one in Griffith Park. Only 2 inches of rain have fallen on Catalina since January.
A long, narrow island, Catalina covers 76 square miles and is served by helicopters and ferry boats from Los Angeles, Long Beach and other mainland harbors.
We are all glued to the news and hoping for the best for our corespondent on the island there and our dear Editor has just about torn out the remains of the white hair that flies about his head like an aureole. Julee, wherever you are, phone home, phone home . . .!
HYMN TO HER
Sunday is Mother's Day, and if you haven't figured out by now you are an orphan and an ingrate. On this day scads of women who would rather sleep another hour get their rest interrupted by beaming boys and girls bearing trays of burnt toast, dry waffles, and overdone eggs for the Breakfast in Bed thing.
But mothers have a special place in pop culture. No less than George Carlin invoked the "No Mothers" rule regarding insults and jabs on the street. Jimmy Cagney portrayed a hard-boiled mobster with a soft spot for mom, abraded roughly as the word got passed all along the Cell Block.
Even rocker Chrissie Hynde penned a tender anthemic ballad to her ma titled, "Hymn to Her."
Got a friend, who happens to be a Mensa-level certified genius who's mother recently passed away, and she was, although not a Mensa genius a most extraordinary woman worthy of deep respect. She took Life, seized it, and shook it all about to shake the most out of it and be the best example possible. See, boys and girls, THIS is the way you need to be.
Mothers. Everybody has one, comfortable or not. Whether living or not, well, here's to Mom. Maybe she didn't do everything promised by the TV illusion of June Cleaver, but she did put you together as best she could, and all the rest afterward is happenstance and luck.
In the savage night that eternally inhabits the alleys of the City, in those places where the drug dealers have shot out all the streetlights, where the idea of Hope is a cynical joke, there are moms who spit out birth and then proceed through their own lives like a swallowed piece of barbed wire or a razor blade, causing as much blood and damage along the way as possible to themselves and everyone around them.
The troubles of the world are not their fault for women are biology's optimists. Despite all the shock and horror all around, they present life and then go their own way. For every life is another chance to make the fucked-up world perhaps a smidgen better.
Had a talk with a lady the other day at a Biker's Rally up North, leather-clad Dudes all around. Beards and potbellies and lives, well, not as well lived as one could wish.
This lady rode an '06 Dyna. Owned properties here in California and other states, and was distressed over some moral decisions regarding handling property in Texas. You might say, she, who had started with nothing, had done rather well.
Turned out she was Croatian, and had come out of a kind of Hell the worst of us can barely imagine. Some say, metaphorically, they had nothing at start, but few can claim, as this woman, they started with less than zero. "Visiting home" for this woman involves passing long lines of bombed out homes.
Well, you see, someone's mother might not be fully appreciative, but seems this lady had done all right and her mother done proud.
So those of you who may have endured a raw deal right from the start, and especially those of you who started out well enough, think of your mom with a bit of forgiveness and gratitude. She did the best she could, whoever she was, and she had her own life to live as well, after all.
Along these same lines we at Island-Life thought it would be a real nice token to drop a line in on a mom who outta be rather famous right now. Yes, we phoned Mrs. Hilton. Now, we understand there are problem children and there are Children who are Serious Problems. Mrs. Hilton happens to have a daughter who is facing some serious jail time for misbehavior and we thought we ought to offer some consolation, as it seems not a single tabloid, amid all the hoopla about Brittany's panties and other misadventures, has taken the logical investigative path toward asking what Paris Hilton's mother thinks of all of this.
Mrs. Hilton, as one would expect, was distraught.
After all, there was the Internet video of her girl and then the bad things said about her in the papers and then this episode, one among many, about her drinking and driving -- a behavior she certainly never learned at home by any means.
We offered commiserations. Clearly, a decent upbringing had been pulled awry by bad companionship and dire influences. Paris, really, was still that chubby gal in an Easter bonnet who did caca unexpectedly in the lap of the Archbishop. O how they all had laughed at that, even His Excellence!
So, Mrs. Paris, here's to you and moms everywhere who feel, well, perhaps this Sunday will not feature a Breakfast in Bed or even the possibility. If your baby is in jail, at least she is still your Baby.
MACARTHUR MAZE UPDATE
First, the positive news: The westbound Interstate 80 to southbound Interstate 880 south connector, reopened to traffic early Monday (May 7th) morning. Meanwhile, replacement of the connector between eastbound Interstate 80 and eastbound Interstate 580, which was destroyed by the blaze, is scheduled for completion by June 27.
EASTBOUND I-80 CONNECTOR TO EASTBOUND I-580 Remains Closed - Scheduled to Reopen by June 27 (Affecting travel between San Francisco/the Bay Bridge and Pleasanton on I-580 & Walnut Creek on Hwy 24).
This concerns traffic coming East from SF to 580 or Walnut Creek.
Motorists are advised to use one of the following two Caltrans' approved detour routes from 80E (the Bay Bridge) to 580E and Hwy 24:
Detour Route Option 1, West Grand Ave.
1. From 80E (the Bay Bridge), take I-880S
*Note: To help reduce congestion on city streets, emergency towing service is available on West Grand Avenue between 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:00-8:00 p.m., Monday-Friday. Click www.511.org for detailed up-to-date information regarding towing services and maps for alternative routes.
The unofficial word is that traffic heading Real South on 80 still hit a massive backup from Albany to the Maze divider proper, where people hit the road changes, then take off at pretty near 80 MPH once clear. The overhead ramp still hangs imposingly over the interchange with no connection, but the lower one that scooted along past the Army base is now open again.
ARS LONGA, VITA BREVIS
Ambled up to Marin's Open Studios, with our own region coming up, just for comparo purposes.
One difference stood out right away: wine and melon balls are served at all the galleries in Marin, where the East Bay serves up apple juice and cheezit crackers at best.
The well-matriculated slopes of Marin host a more sophisticated colony than most. The hallways of the old shipyard warehouse echoed with a plethora of languages and the art there is subject to more experienced scrutiny than in any other Small-town in the USA. The workspaces are enviable with light and clean walls and high ceilings. Open studios takes place over two weekends this Spring as well as the highly intensive period of December.
Naturally a more discriminating populace which has traveled well throughout the Louvre and other European sites will demand a higher level of attention to technique. This is not the locale for the paper mache amateur and the casual dauber, as the entire world will file through during Open Studios here.
Among the more notable artists we remark on Aiko Morioka, who provided the cover art for the well-appointed catalog, and Dana Draper, who does interesting things with copper cuts, employing acids and patinas to achieve a remarkable subtle effect. His wife, Ingrid, who owns a neighboring studio, assists with the creations, while continuing a viable industry with textured papers.
Draper's work cannot be photographed well, as the burnished copper will throw back blinding light from any flashbulb. As hung, the pieces express an uncanny dimensionality and unusual soft subtlety.
Morioka has done expressive abstract work for the County of Sonoma (pictured above)as well as detailed representative work in bronze.
Among these hard sculptors, resides Ms. Joanne Fox with her multidimensional works laid in layered Lucite so reminiscent of memory. Her most interesting work consists of "sampled" images laid into layers of Lucite so that each image allows those underneath to appear like palimpsests. Evocative, but damnably difficult to photograph.
She comes from a bookbinding background and so she has also a body of work which employs paper as medium, including several one-off whimsical books, such as "A Photo History of the Human Body" -- we had to drag sister Beatrice away from the sexual organ fold-out. O Bea.
But there were also cleverly designed boxes that unfolded
ingeniously and a colorful interactive set in which visitors could write
either Regrets or Fantasies and we observed several patrons grinning
as they stuffed the Fantasy box.
We regret we could not stay longer as a fine time was had by all.
DARK CHORDS ON A BIG GUITAR
It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown placed within the many-storied San Francisco Bay waters. Census reports some 770 new folks among us with more to come but nobody is talking about that at the Old Same Place or the Pampered Pup or Pat's Cafe. We are some 74,000 strong and the Census Bureau is beside themselves with counting since the ouster of some 640 folks when the Harbor Bay Complex took place. Causes all sorts of complications for Census folks these mass evictions it does.
Idiots pursue the doomed cinema multiplex, blocking traffic along Central and San Antonio Avenues. Nevertheless the tulips have bloomed their brief glory. Furthermore, trout-fishing season is now open. Yes! The end of April and the beginning of May is regarded as the start of trout season and they are all agog over the possibilities at the Pampered Pup downtown. Steelhead have ceased their runs and the Russian River will not close the dam gates until June.
Speaking of which, two dog bites have been reported this past week which doubles the number of like events on the Island.
After that spate of hot weather, things have settled into a rather pleasant Spring. Hear that the lilacs are all in bloom again all around our Sister City, Lake Woebegon. Good. Good. The ice is gone from the lake and those pesky flies haven't come out yet. In a few weeks Island-Life will be heading over in that direction to cover the Chicago Blues Festival and poke around Wisconsin's waterways. The whole point is to give the Island-Life Psychologische Abteilung a well-deserved break from handling madness.
Meanwhile Spring has sprung and sister Beatrice has run off to find something better than a paper fold-out to handle and the hummingbirds have returned to sample the jasmine. Commencements are taking place all over the place around here, and fresh-faced boys and girls are clambering into and out of sedans, wearing their robes and mortarboards, and at night they do the same, most definitely NOT wearing robes or mortarboards there in the back seat. O Spring.
It's really killin'. They're so willin'
Sympathies for Garrison; sounds like his Prom was much like ours. Show up, hang out, leave before ten with nobody noticing. Prom night is a big deal for some of the kids. The boys all in rental tuxes and the girls in fabulous floor-length gowns, all walking into the Grand Ballroom of the Regency -- if you were from Lowell -- or the well decorated basketball court -- if you were from MacAteer.
Just kidding about the basketball court guys.
Speaking of which, our local baskeball equivalent to the Cubbies seems to be quite on a role and all the fans have put away their big "We are # 13!" signs to go raving about the Warriors who seem to have actually learned how to play the game well. Will wonders never cease.
We were never very good at those games involving balls. Calculating the tragectories just took too long and by the time we had it, the man had dunked his shot and stolen for home three times over. Yes, we were Kings of the Bobble. As for batting, well the one time we actually connected the wood with the ball properly on a solid throw -- the pitcher got lazy that time -- the ball shot out right past the mound with a crack still echoing, dug a divot out there past second base and rolled past the outfielder like a scampering bunny rabbit as we tore out there rounding second, rounding third with Jimmy Patton standing there dumbfounded, knowing the little red-headed girl was watching up there, coming down to home. Here comes the ball there from outfield to baseman and there we go sliding into the plate most satisfactorily well in advance of the solid thwack of the ball into the catcher's mitt and there we stood as the catcher casually touched his glove to our right arm, as we thought in appreciation of such a fine play with everybody screaming there in the stands, everybody except the little red-headed girl who had covered her face with her hands -- why is she doing that? -- until the Ump tossed his thumb over his shoulder and shouted,
Seems we had neglected to touch First first, doing a beeline in great excitement right from the plate to Second. Its a lot faster to get back that way, but not especially legal.
In baseball, there is no Time. And that day, Time stretched out inexorably as we sat under the bleachers until everyone had gone home and then we threw our Babe Ruth sigature glove in the trash, never to play ball again. Or look the little red-headed girl in the eyes.
The Island-Life offices are located next to the Mastic Senior Center, which occupies the site where the school behind there used to have a baseball dugout. Where the field used to be is mostly a parking lot now. And that is just fine by us.
One time a client gave us box seats to a Giants game. Suppose those things are pretty fancy up there with the Press Corps and filet mignon served up instead of hotdogs, champagne instead of beer, and the game watched on closed circuit TV. In baseball there is no Time. The game goes as many innings as it needs to and every game is like the one just before or the one played half a century ago, ghost infielders keeping company with shadowy pitchers of the Past, firing fast ones down the line to batters long gone but still there somehow.
Years pass and we do other things, some heroic, most not. Never got to be a great Author, wise and respected, hosting a weekly radio show. Yet we did other things. But the cries still echo across the Field of Dreams.
Gave the tickets to a room-mate. Go Warriors.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 06, 2007
MACAUTHUR MAZE UPDATE
We have had the dubious opportunity to traverse the broken section of the Maze several times. While travel times are not as bad as predicted, the place is still a route to avoid for the duration. Coming up from 80W to 580W you pass within 30 feet of the destroyed overpass, and the sight is so awe-inspiring that traffic slows to a crawl even though only fifty yards beyond the lanes break loose to a free and clear 80 MPH possibility.
Not that any of us would do that, of course.
Talked with a Novato-based CHP who lives in Atherton, and he said that cutting way out to 680 and then down was easier and faster than taking the direct route.
Traffic is now backed up constantly from the Maze to the Ashby Exit, and so we say, take BART my man.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The Bay Area abruptly abandoned Spring as a wild sirocco brought hot winds into the area, pumping temps and cloudless skies into the 90's with an unaccustomed heat wave after a week of cold rain. Sunday the whole island reeked with BBQ fumes and folks rushed for aloe as the sun crisped long sheltered flesh.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
Summer schedule is shaping up. Live 105's BFD has posted the prelim lineup at the Shoreline with Bloc Party and Social Distortion headlining with Queens of the Stone Age and Interpol filling the main tent bill. The Lovemakers and Sum 41 own the side stage and all that is June 9th.
More on a soulful note, Lauryn Hill testifies at the Paramount on June 27th. This vibrant gospel/soul/blues rocker is one not to be missed.
The weird Grand Ballroom, where we caught Rodrigo y Gabriela, has a stellar schedule lined up, starting with 5/18 and Wavy Gravy's 71st birthday bash -- also a fundraiser for Seyva -- and headlined by Mickey Hart wtih friends.
Indigo Girls are returning as part of the KFOG series and this time they will own the Fillmore. The official word is "Foghead Favorites Indigo Girls return to the Bay Area for a KFOG show with Brandi Carlile at The Fillmore on Monday, June 11". Tix now on sale.
On the main theatre stage we have the following items of interest:
David Mamet's "The Water Engine": An American
David Mamet's play is the Depression-era story of Charles Lang, a laborer who invents an engine that uses water for fuel. First, Lang struggles to prove his machine exists. But when the truth comes out, those threatened by a machine that doesn't run on oil or gas intend grave danger for both Lang and his invention.
Steven Culp (Desperate Housewives, The West Wing) stars in the west-coast premiere of Olivier Award-winning "Blackbird", a controversial drama reminiscent of Nabokov's "Lolita". It's the story of a man confronted by the young woman with whom he had an illicit affair more than a dozen years earlier, when she was underage. The characters clash as they try to come to terms with the past.
Composer-Singer and Arts Pioneer Meredith Monk
Leonard Nimoy's Hit Play "Vincent"
Friday, May. 11-20 @ 8:00pm
"Vincent" is based on letters written by artist Vincent Van Gogh to his brother Theo. Leonard Nimoy ("Star Trek") spent years researching and writing this tour de force one-man show that would eventually star Nimoy himself. Actor Jim Jarrett has been touring with the show all over the world for the past decade.
Learn more: http://www.academyart.edu/vincent
Lastly, we could not forget Rev. Gary Davis' pupil for the following engagement:
Once upon a time there lived an hedgehog beside the field that bordered the Old Beltline facility where the maintenance buildings used to be. The Beltline had basically ceased regular operation some twenty years ago and now weeds occupied the yards and the siding and even the gutters of the sheds. A tree grew from the roof of the flat-topped one and the yards themselves were strewn with the casual ironmongery of this and that item laying just where it had been last thrown to rust away into unrecognizeability. The security fence was in poor shape and in need of mending, grasses choked the old siding, and unkempt fields within the boundaries of the fence, itself in significant disrepair such that earthworms and bugs slithered and clittered under the stones.
The only train that came through was a weekly donkey engine that ran between the Cannery at the far end of the Island where this place lay, and the warehouses by the water. Each time, the train tooted, came to a stop at the old gate, and huffed as the engineer climbed out to release the padlock and so allow the little yellow engine to cross the road, where it stopped again so that the engineer could walk back across and refasten the padlock. Save for this brief interlude, the train did not stop there any longer.
One time the engineer noticed the eyes of the hedgehog peering from under a lumber pile there and he threw the remains of his lunch out onto the concrete of the old yard before going. There was a bit of carrot and a celery stalk among this and that was good.
On the whole it was a perfect heaven of a spot for an hedgehog.
There, in a burrow snug and lined with dry grass, the hedgehog kept his bachelor apartments, safe from the rain, the clumsy human footstep and the errant poodle. And he lived there many a day plus a few years, happily munching that which scampered within reach or the occasional peanut from trash thrown over the fence. The occasional vagabond squirrel passed through, and one time a family of rabbits, who settled down the tracks away from the sheds, but that was all for company this hedgehog had, and he preferred it that way. Plenty of room and no one to tell him what to do.
Contrary to popular belief, hedgehogs are neither pigs nor porcupines, being far less aggressive than either. This particular hedgehog was retiring, modest, not inclined to violence, a great lover of personal freedom, and was especially appreciative of his privacy.
After the Cannery closed down, the men there all found work somewhere else, if work could be found, and the passage of the donkey train became more infrequent, otherwise life continued pretty much as always.
But this country in which he lived was changing about
him all this time. One day another hedgehog came through the fence and
For another thing, well, this hedgehog spoke as follows, "Alors! Comme ca va?"
You are French, the observant hedgehog remarked flatly and the other assented. How did you get here?
The girl hedgehog cocked her head, appeared to think about it, then responded, "Par Avion." A bloody scratch on her ear indicated some travel contretemps.
I mean, said the increasingly irritated long term tenant of the yard, To this yard.
"Le Metro," she said cheerfully. "Et l'omnibus."
Why? asked the male, despairingly.
Why are you here? Demanded the fellow.
"Vous et une Philosophe?"
Arrrrrrrrrgh! In disgust he huffed off to his burrow where he angrily tidied the straw, which needed no such attention, peeking out every now and then to see if she had gone, only to note her busy about the place, gathering up materials to make a burrow of his own. Seemed that he would have a new neighbor, and this displeased him a great deal.
Well it is difficult to go about one's hedgehog business entirely avoiding one's hedgehog neighbors, ignoring and disdaining them completely, but as with people, so with hedgehogs and he managed to work out his routine so as to minimize objectionable contact. One thing he missed greatly had been his habit of sitting in the open space of the yard, one time each month, and there to gaze with studied delight upon the face of the beautiful full moon as she blessed the yard with light, silvering the grasses and glinting off of the fence and such machine parts not made dull with rust.
As he sat there one night, gazing for untold hours at the great wheel of the stars and the moon's traverse, he heard a voice near him, "Elle est tres beaux. I have never seen her so beautiful."
Well, it seemed IT was beginning to learn how to speak properly in the regional dialect. Still, he went off to his burrow and did not come out to look at the moon again next month. As it turned out, he would not get a second chance, for the Way of the World is hard and for little creatures like hedgehogs, change comes hard indeed.
It had been some time since the little yellow donkey train had passed, and the decision had been made by Higher Ups to do away with the train tracks entirely as they were not needed and land was a valuable thing. Men came to open the gate and tear up the railbed, loading all the ties and rails into trucks, and so they took them away and that was that. Next, the men came back and started knocking down the old sheds and carting away the ironmongery. In consternation, the hedgehogs huddled in their burrows as jackhammers began pounding up the remains of the yard asphalt.
That night the two of them crept out to survey the devastation. The sheds were gone, the machinery and lumber was gone, the yard was all broken up. But at least the grasses and low scrub remained, and the field, and perhaps the humans would be content with that for the fence remained as well.
For the next few days, they were not bothered in their reconditioned home, but down the tracks -- or where the tracks had been, a fume of smoke arose, and the sight of more humans and much activity. Going further from his burrow than he ever had gone before the hedgehog scurried along the still mounded embankment stripped of rails to see the men were laying down a blacktop walking trail and burning the grass as they did so. The family of rabbits came tearing along, madly in terror, and passed him without speaking, leaping over an hedge and disappearing from view.
He scurried on back to the safety of his own brushy area to find his neighbor peering through some brush near the gate. She was still and tense.
He crept up beside her and looked out to see the intersection of the little road the donkey train had crossed and a big, wide, dangerous, open expanse of asphalt, beyond which rolled green fields and a copse of trees. He was looking at the grounds of the Community College across the way of the divided road that entered this area from a tunnel, but he did not know that. He knew only that all but one of the rabbit family had made it across this vast desert to the other side where they all stood looking at the poor fellow who lay there, as it happened, in the third lane going out to the tunnel. His legs had been crushed by one of the automobile machines and he lay there, unable to move, yet still alive, calling out, "Eee! Eee!"
They could do nothing but watch. Eventually, the rabbit lay his head down, sobbed and was still and one only hopes he was already past awareness when the next machine ran him down and put him into that other world where humans and rabbits and dogs and hedgehogs all go after death.
That night was somber and sleepless. Each of the hedgehogs had the image of that rabbit pinned down on the highway, like a soldier sent to some stupid foreign war for no real purpose, and left to die by some uncaring Central Authority. It is always the little people who suffer when the Big Ones decide to stomp around in great big boots.
The next day began with the scent of burn. The two hedgehogs came out and all the world was aflame. Fire came down on them, merciless and hot. They ran to the edge of the divide. Others have names for this thing: Die Todestrecke, The Road of Death, Alameda de los Muertes. All around the world the condition is the same and has continued down through generations. People fleeing the fire and confronted with that last border across which only a few come alive. It has become the icon of our age, made solid by decisions made far away and removed by the uncaring and the diffident.
A smell of chemicals hit them both and the fume of smoke increased. They could not hide in their burrows any longer; there, they surely would be burned alive or suffocated. There, they would die.
There remained only the wide stretch of the border road that separated them from safety.
"J'peur! J'peur! Mon ami! Compadre. Tiene miedo. I am afraid!", she said.
He saw the machines ran in groups, periodically. Between each group, there was a little time. Perhaps enough.
The smoke curled about them. He froze, unable to move, a small animal doing the only thing it knows how to do when afraid. It was she, she who broke this animal spell, by crying out as the flames approached, "Maintenent! Maintenent! Now! Now!"
They bolted across the two lanes of the road to the divider with its greenery and cedar chips, and paused panting as the death machines passed on either side. The body of the rabbit remained there in front of them. He had been mashed down into a mass of fur and reddish muck. He had been pounded into pure meat, by an uncaring universe. By act of war or simply inattention. For a long time they stared at the rabbit and the cars, until he recollected himself. Timing. We have only a partial chance on this side. They come through in a group, but there are stragglers. If there are no stragglers, then we can make it.
"Je te crois." She said. "I believe you."
At the given moment he gave the word and they rushed across. The first lane a long stretch and the last a longer stretch with its shoulder as the headlights of a straggler truck pushing the Limit for the last few meters of allowed 45mph came up over the tunnel rise.
With a whoosh the truck passed and the two gasped for breath in the reeds of the Community College. For a while they lay there beside one another, breathing, before getting up.
They ambled down the sward and found a nice brushy place near the main building and there the two live today in one burrow, with no more reason to fear. Two hedgehogs marching down the road of life together, without fear.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 29, 2007
I'M DRIVIN' IN MY CAR. I TURN ON THE RADIO. I HOLD YOU CLOSE. FIRE!
A tanker truck exploded early Sunday morning on the connector ramp from westbound Interstate-80 to Interstate-580 eastward near the heart of the Bay Bridge Maze, about one half mile from the toll plaza, causing the upper deck of the ramp to collapse onto the lower deck and eerily evoking reminders of the Cypress Freeway collapse during the '89 earthquake.
As of 5:15 a.m., the California Highway Patrol had reopened northbound I-880 to eastbound I-80. Still closed throughout the morning were westbound I-80 to eastbound I-580, southbound I-880 and westbound I-580 to I-80 east and west.
The oil tanker had exploded after hitting a concrete support pylon and triggered a fire at 3:42 a.m. on the section of freeway known as the MacArthur Maze. The Oakland Fire Dept. said the blaze had been extinguished by about 5:50 a.m.
Damage to the freeway was extensive and estimated to be in the millions of dollars, Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Mike Miller said. The CHP said it could be days if not months before traffic resumed as usual on the damaged stretch of road.
The driver of the tanker hailed down a cab that happened to be nearby on the elevated structure and so was taken to a hospital with 2nd degree burns. He is expected to live.
The NBC chopper showed at least two sections of the maze had collapsed, spanning 150 to 200 yards.
Nearly 75,000 vehicles use the portion of the road every day. But because the accident occurred where three highways converge, authorities said it could cause commuting problems for hundreds of thousands of people who use the most busy interchange in the nation. State transportation officials said 280,000 commuters take the bridge into San Francisco each morning.
Incidental reports from Island-Lifers in the field indicate that travel times on this calm Sunday spiked to well over 60 minutes from Berkeley into the City. The retrofit construction underway on the San Francisco side will almost certainly complicate traffic.
A preliminary investigation indicated the driver may have been speeding on the curving road.
Witnesses reported flames rising up to 200 feet into the air. Heat exceeded 2,750 degrees and caused the steel beams holding up the interchange from eastbound I-80 to eastbound Interstate 580 above to buckle and bolts holding the structure together to melt, leading to the collapse, California Department of Transportation director Will Kempton said.
Here is the official word with maps provided by Caltrans regarding tomorrow and the months ahead as for getting into the City.
"AVOID THE AREA"
Last updated 4/29/07
Take alternate routes, ride transit, carpool, or telecommute
Due to a tanker truck accident, the westbound I-80 connector to southbound I-880 is DESTROYED. Motorists are advised to use the following Caltrans approved detour route: 80W to 580E to 980W to 880S, as shown by the green arrows on the map below.
The eastbound I-80 to eastbound I-580 connector ramp is also DESTROYED. Motorists are advised to use any of the following Caltrans approved detour routes from 80E (the Bay Bridge) to 580E.
Island-Life notes that Monday is likely to be even more miserable than usual.
WISH YOU WERE HERE
On a somewhat incendiary note we segue to the scorching performance Thursday night at the Sold Out show at the Regency Grand of Rodrigo Y Gabriela. The Island-Life Social Coordinator managed to score Tix months in advance for this astonishing duo who have managed to entirely sell out every single North American gig, with maybe an exception for the Coachella Festival at which they are performing tonight. If you were fortunate to have squeezed into the packed hall Thursday, you really were in for a treat, as these two kids from Mexico have managed to cross the diamond with the pearl musically, inventing an entirely original, fully matured style entirely their own, much as Joe Satriani, Leo Kottke, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis and a select few and have done.
First off, let us say that some untutored reviewers have pinned the flamenco label on their style, which is about as foolish a judgment as it is unlearned. Flamenco is a style indigenous to Spain, consists of 12-part highly defined, very disciplined structures for each of its established song patterns, and has two major divisions into either accompaniment for song or accompaniment for dance, each with its own highly defined structures as well. The highest exponent of the form comes from a small area of Spain called Andalucia Comparing the Mexican duo to the Gypsy Kings or Paco di Lucia may sound like flattery, but such comparisons are not informed.
Flamenco employs a periodic finger roll called "rasquado" and a sound-board tap called "golpe".
Gabriela does employ the rasquado, but where a Solearas, Bulerias, or Sevillana uses the ringer-roll to stylistically punch out the end or the beginning of a sequence, to dramatic effect, Gabriela employs the rasquado as part of the continuous sound of rhythm while including taps, slaps and furious knuckle pounding to add percussion to her rhythm, employing all parts of the hand, not just the thumb. Nowhere do the pair do anything like a farruca.
That said, the two have captured native Mexican cancion progressions and combined them with -- pause breath -- heavy metal shredding. Yes, the two even did covers of Metallica's Sandman and Orion (included on their new CD, Tamacun), as well as tasty versions of "Wish You Were Here", by Pink Floyd, and "Stairway to Heaven". Their take on the old Led Zep chestnut was infused with Latin feel and a few nice jazzy chord changes with a B13 thrown in here and there, which revivified the one terribly overplayed song.
With all the head-banging -- on nylon string classical
guitars no less -- and the metalhead "horns" hand guestures,
you would think this stuff would trend to the lowest common denominator,
but no, just as the screaming , shirt-throwing, pogo-jumping crowd got
really raucous, Rodrigo climbed down to the edge of the stage to toss
in a fifteen minute version of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five,"
that was nearly unrecognizeable by the changes in texture.
In a sort of fairytale way, the two sold all of their electronic equipment to go visit Europe on a thin promise of a place to stay in Ireland. Like many Irish promises, that one evaporated almost instantaneously upon debarking in Dublin, so they set out to make money by busking on the streets. To their surprise, they succeeded. The Irish, above all else, appreciate a raw deal and sincerity, so the appreciated pair performed in cafes until wintertime when, not used to European weather, or informed as to geography, they decided to go to Stockholm, ostensibly to find warmer weather.
Along the way, the two developed a propulsive style that borrows from all over the world to make really exciting stuff. There are few, if any, who can simultaneously play percussion as well as rhythm as Gabriela can do, with not a single hand motion wasted producing some kind of sound at every chance, often at 185 bpm. On the accompanying DVD, she and Rodrigo break down for aspiring guitarist how Tamacun is done, and reveals that finger-roll she does is at least three seperate motions with three seperate sounds produced at lightning speed. And when she hit that fingerboard, she didn't just lightly tap, she pounded that sucker so that the vibration went through the floor into the chest and rattled the back windows. The shouting, screaming, stomping crowd in the Regency Grand brought the two back for two encores, and at the end, you could see the sweat plastering the hair to the sides of her head, while Rodrigo had to wrap himself with a towel a couple times during performance to keep the archtops dry.
The Blogs are full of adoration for the pair, with at least one containing the entry, "Gabriela, marry me!"
The CD is titled Tamacun, after a character in Mexico who "herds" crocodiles who have found the only unpoisoned pool along a river rendered toxic by industrial pollution. This is a reflection of the pair's committment to environmental causes, which anyone can note on their website, www.rodgab.com.
Seeing the pair live is Tamacun amped plus ten, as watching what the two and actually seeing them do the impossible is worth the price of standing in line plus some.
The number of youtube.com videos of various performances continues to increase. Last count the number was about 29. Their visit with David Letterman can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5VFWA2YKdo.
Their American tour has resumed with additions after an unfortunate incident reflective of the Culture of Incompetance in Washington, as Rodrigo was detained and denied visa entry for over a month by Homeland Insecurity because he happened to have the same name as a noted terrorist.
As requests to perform continue to come in from all over the world, it would be well to try to catch them whenever they appear in your town. Last Blog entries indicate that Mexico would like to see its native children home again, there to be recieved no doubt with triumphant accolades.
There is more stuff about them on the CD/DVD release, so just buy the damn thing -- it was only $8 from Amazon.com at last check. Do yourself a favor and buy new music and attend a live performance. Music revivifies the blood, stimulates the imagination, improves local economies, fights back the Darkness and, besides, its good for you.
I'LL SAVE YOU NELL!
Our local contact in Berzerkeley, the euphoniously named Ms. Bullwinkel, forwards a press release for the July 4th Extravaganza at the Berkeley Marina, calling for vendors.
"Vendor applications are now being accepted for the City of Berkeley's July 4th Celebration at the Berkeley Marina.
The event will take place on Wednesday, July 4, 2007, noon-9:30 PM on the South side of the marina at the foot of University Avenue in Berkeley. This alcohol-free event includes a stage of live music, free sailboat and dragon boat rides, massages, face painters, inflatables, a giant slide, Adventure Playground, and a fireworks display off the end of the Berkeley pier at 9:35 PM. Free admission and plenty of parking until 7PM.
Applications for vending booth space for arts and crafts, food, commercial, or organizations (free to non-profits) may be obtained by emailing LBullwinkl@aol.com. Sponsored by the City of Berkeley. Produced by Another Bullwinkel Show 510/548-5335".
Island-Life notes the annual affair is always trouble-free and a delight for all participants. And note that the marina has the benefit of being in sightline for both the East Bay as well as the City Fireworks displays. So you artisans out there, get your tchotchkes in order and make ready for a fun time beside the water on July 4th.
MIGHT BE SUPERSTITIOUS, BUT SOMETHING'S GOING ON DOWN THERE
Well, its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. Uncertain cloudy weather yielded to suddenly bright, hot sunshine on Saturday and Sunday, causing all kinds of traffic conniption fits. Every time the weather changes people start driving their automobiles like Death Machines.
Understand New Orleans will celebrate Jazz Fest down there next week, and we are envious of all those folks hustling down for some serious music on the Delta for this year the Fest will kick off with renewed vigor after the Katrina disaster. Snafus and Contratemps shunted the Island-Life participation this year, which included surgery and an unscrupulous used car dealer, but rest assured, this situation will not last, for Island-Life will rise again! We will be reporting first hand from the Windy City for the Chicago Blues Festival in June, so stay tuned.
Up in Lake Woebegone, our Sister City, we hear the lake is clearing of ice and that is a good thing. Requires different fishing gear for those situations. Hope everyone is prepared. As for here, we have our fishing license, obtained with great ceremony from Big 5 Sporting Goods. The innocent gal behind the counter did not believe that a license to take trout from streams was required in California, until her boss reminded her thats what a license was for to start with.
As soon as we got that license the word went out along all streams and lakes among the trout there that we were on the loose again, so there was no hurry for other things, such as flies and such. They know we are coming and they sure act like they knew all along when we finally get there.
California trout are the savviest trout in the world by reputation, and many are the angler who hide behind bushes and rocks, lofting their hapless bait upstream to allow a natural-looking drift to tease those fellers into chomping down on a metal hook, or more likely not, only to return home with naught but sandwich wrappers and sunburn to offer. We have personally observed trout rise up, examine the fly, then turn away in disdain.
O the ignominy.
The trout in California are smart and unlike anything you may find in, say, Virginia or Georgia. In those places Field and Stream loves to document with four color photographs guys standing out there right in the middle of the stream not giving a good god damn if the fish see them or not. You aint gonna get away with that in California. No sirree.
In California, you get a stream wader, you get a pair of trout talking to one another, like,
Fred, there's some big galoot standing there trying to
hook folks in the mouth.
Besides the fishing season, Summer is announced in Northern California by abalone divers dying and by windsurfers. Abalone is a queer sort of snail that looks horrifying in life and tastes like burnt rubber when dead and properly prepared. It tastes like chewy burnt rubber when not properly prepared. One harvests abalone by donning a suit to protect one's sensative flesh from the abrasion of rock and waves and intense sunburn and using a crowbar to wrest a creature from its natural home underwater into a cookpot.
Abalone harvesters fondly refer to the process as delightfully akin to repairing a VW transaxle while partially submerged underwater. Their eyes typically glaze over ecstatically when talking about this venture, which is known to produce sinusitus and death. Or worse.
This is a typically Californian occupation, and is one of those things of which we who live here find typically embarrassing and among the list of acts and features that other states describe as proof of natural Californian nuttiness, to our extreme outrage and displeasure.
We would like to put an end to things like this, and we try by instituting all sorts of regulations, like no abalone under seven inches may be retained, no matter how difficult the obtaining, and no air tanks or scuba gear allowed. No shotguns may be employed in taking abalone. Only snorkels distributed here my friend, which means that the abalone hunter must not only reach under dangerous places blindly with bare hands, but must hold his or her breath while doing so.
Only the officially approved abalone crowbar may be employed to yank these critters loose and only five per day on a special abalone endorsement stamp may be taken north of Monterey, with payment of the proper fee. No wonder the preparation of abalone involves pounding the animal with a nine pound hammer until tough gristle remains. Heck, you would be furious at the end of all that as well, whether it involved taking abalone or mushrooms.
Since no scuba tanks are allowed while harvesting this indigestible creature, diving for abalone involves a multistage process. Find abalone, attach balloon, breath, return and pound the hell out of the thing until it yields. Breath again. Go back for more. Repeat for the next eight hours.
Had a friend who dived on down there looking for that abalone -- it got to be an obsession, since the abalone kinda figured out the game and all scooted down below, leaving precious few up above -- he dived down there so deep the salt water got up his nose and they had to drill him out with a kind of jackhammer and that part was no fun at all, jackhammers in the nose and all of that.
We don't understand why any sensible man would dive down into water where the fish all pee and do worse things to themselves and each other, but to each his own. Plenty of coprophiliacs out there, we guess.
They don't have abalone in Minnesotta and we figure that has something to do with natural Lutheran common sense. Always been envious of all that. They could always find a way to get them seeded in Lake Itasca -- those smart boys have their ways -- but there's no yashur yonit when it comes to abalone. Too strange a prize.
Well Jan, here's a snail I pulled up out of the lake.
Looks a big one, this snail.
Better throw it back, Betty. It looks funny.
I guess so.
If you know someone who harvests abalone, perhaps that person needs more ketchup in their diet. Ketchup has naturally mellowing ingredients that redirect people from such extreme behaviors like diving down too deep in fish pee and searching for sea delicacies in unnatural and dangerous places. These are the good times for Barb and me.
These are the good times.
Brought to you by the Ketchup Advisory Board. Not affiliated with NPR or any radio station that we know of. Even though we may like them an aweful lot. With ketchup.
Strange de Jim is out there right now, pounding with a ball peen hammer on a piece of old copper plate to be used in one of his monolithic sculptures. He pauses to hearken unto the train. Even as Suzie looks up from her book in the Old Same Place Bar. Somewhere, in the depths of the Stygian Night. a poodle unleases a blood curdling howl. And Officer O'Madhauen peers over his styrofoam coffee cup at the quarter moon hanging over the old weed-infested cannery. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 22, 2007
PSA - WARNING ON FRUITVALE AREA
Our Woman-on-the-Street reported on a disturbing situation along the Hispanic section of International Boulevard in the Fruitvale district of Oaktown. Word is out a street war is in full swing over there with non-gang homies cruising the blocks with loaded rifles clearly visible. The staff at Sausal Creek Critical Care facility, long used to the occasional gunshot in an area largely ruled by drug lords have escalated their incident response patterns as nightly fullisades of pistol, rifle and machine gun fire send everyone diving to the floor.
There have been many murders recently and it appears that Nuevo Emigrantes are battling with the Viejos in the crowded area that is increasingly pressed by upscale developments in surrounding neighborhoods. The recent arrivals seem to have ticked off a number of the long entrenched folks with their Old Country manners and habits. The national attention to the "immigrant problem" also is stressing out already stressed out people.
"Hey man, you just don't do that a crap shoot!" Tempers flare, omerta is called upon and pretty soon shots get fired. Now the situation has exploded into uncontrollable fighting.
Island-Life recommends extreme caution when passing through this area until this thing blows over.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
The Island wound up in the news recently when the Contra Costa Times reported that over two dozen islanders have told police that they are victims of an identity theft ring that tampered with a personal identification number, or PIN, keypad at the Albertsons store on Marina Village Parkway and then used cloned credit cards to steal their money.
It appears the same ring also hit an Albertsons in San Lorenzo, replacing a PIN pad there with a nearly identical one designed to steal the account information of customers, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
So far, at least $10,000 has been stolen from the Islander victims.
Most of the withdrawals seem to have made from automatic teller machines in southern California.
One Albertson's employee told Island-Life that at least one woman had lost over $1,000.
The overall number of reported victims from the two supermarkets has topped 100 people who together lost about $70,000, according to sheriff's detectives.
The investigation into the identity theft ring began on the East Coast, then moved to Southern California, where several merchants were targeted, before shifting to the Bay Area, Swetnam said.
The federal Secret Service has been tracking the ring, and all the information gathered from local investigations eventually will be turned over to the agency, McNiff said.
Local police investigations suggest the PIN pad at the Albertsons in San Lorenzo was compromised between Jan. 26 and Feb. 4, with reports of fraudulent account activity beginning to be reported the first week of April.
It appears the same ring also hit an Albertsons in San Lorenzo, replacing a PIN pad there with a nearly identical one designed to steal the account information of customers, according to the Alameda County Sheriff's Office.
So far, at least $10,000 has been stolen from the Islander victims.
Most of the withdrawals seem to have made from automatic teller machines in southern California.
One Albertson's employee told Island-Life that at least one woman had lost over $1,000.
The overall number of reported victims from the two supermarkets has topped 100 people who together lost about $70,000, according to sheriff's detectives.
The investigation into the identity theft ring began on the East Coast, then moved to Southern California, where several merchants were targeted, before shifting to the Bay Area, Swetnam said.
The federal Secret Service has been tracking the ring, and all the information gathered from local investigations eventually will be turned over to the agency, McNiff said.
Local police investigations suggest the PIN pad at the Albertsons in San Lorenzo was compromised between Jan. 26 and Feb. 4, with reports of fraudulent account activity beginning to be reported the first week of April.
Another example of abuse by East Coasters on Californians.
The Oaktown owner of Coliseum Pizza and Taqueria in East Oakland, not far from the Fruitvale area, shot and killed a wannabe armed robber and wounded one of his accomplices Thursday. The Owner, Catarino Piedra, 41, was minding the register when Allen Joseph Hicks III, 22, entered the shop with two other men, drew a pistol and pointed the weapon at Piedra, who keeps a gun under the counter because of numerous robberies of his delivery drivers.
Piedra used the gun because his wife and three children were present at the time and it was not clear what the final intentions of the robbers might be.
Officials agreed that the situation could have gone any way, and so Piedra will not be charged with any crime.
Hicks was on probation for a marijuana conviction, and was facing battery charges at the time of the attempted robbery, police and court records show.
The battery charges stemmed from his assault upon a former girlfriend who had asked him to stay away. He entered her apartment and smashed her head against an interior wall so hard her skull put a whole in the wall board. The marijuana conviction stemmed from being caught with 15 bags of pot he claimed were for "personal use" and not for sale.
Despite being a total jerk, an asshole and a dangerously cruel shit, friends left flowers and liquor gifts for the man at a street memorial. He was a rapper and personable when not pounding heads into walls and pointing guns at children. Good riddance.
A survey around the world revealed numerous concerns about things Amercian -- or at least caused by America -- and not much of it was good. Lets start with some specific headlines, and then summaries for the shebang.
First, the International Edition of the Herald Tribune included the following headlines
The deaths of eight soldiers this month has led to an opposition motion in Parliament that calls for a fixed withdrawal debate and rising debate over whether other NATO countries are doing their fair share.
* U.S. rethinks foreign food aid
* For Bush, what price for loyalty to aides?
* Congestion fee proposed by New York mayor
* U.S. law would have denied Virginia Tech killer a gun
* Campaign style: Barack Obama, in low-key mode, gains admirers.
In England, now quite busy with trying to rescue the dollar from its current value plunge -- making odd partners with the PRC in so doing -- we have The Telegraph reporting as follows:
* Cho's police history
The Guardian - London's Mayor sets example for
NY on congestion
* The killer of room 2121
* 32 lost lives
* Philip French: Virginia Tech's vigilant professor of English is a true leader.
* The challenge of preventing violence is not just an American problem
* John Monahan and Jeffrey Swanson: This American tragedy surely holds lessons for the UK as it considers the revision of its Mental Health Bill.
Canada papers seemed concerned, naturally, with its participation in the Coalition of the Willing in the Middle East and loud are the calls for pullout from Afganistan.
Moving on to foreign language papers, Spain weighed in most sympathetically of all regarding Blacksburg but sided with a nearly unanimous opinion on the continuing fiasco of the US in Iraq.
El Mundo reported CONTROVERSY BY THIS “CONSTRUCTION”
* The insurgency easily moves to kidnap prince Enrique
On Blacksburg - things getting back to normal
Always frontpage news in Espana, habits of US celebrities. This week Jack NIcholson celebrates 70 and Bob Dylan still singing.
El Pais also mentioned that wall : "Maliki orders to halt the construction of the wall raised by the U.S.A. in a district of Bagdad
* The goodbye of Cho
* More images of the assassin of Virginia hours before committing the murders.
* Shots fired in NASA
Le Monde, understandably concerned with an history-making national election that now pits an attractive leftist woman candidate against a very unattractive rightist man for the runoff, devoted some thoughts to things abroad.
* The Construction of a wall in Bagdad Signifies "a
Complete Failure of the American Plan", according to Al Qaida
Its other article referred flatly to the known medical history of Cho Seung-hui and included a cross-link to a Washington Post article that printed the Virginia committment of Cho to a 5150 equivalent 3-day hold.
As a seque, the unattractive rightist in France held a current majority of over 10%, due largely to his one-two punch, promising more jobs for French by kicking out all the foreigners. Realistically, his plans will be difficult to execute in a land still governed significantly by the rule of law.
The weekly Der Spiegel did not have current items, but the Frankfurter Allgemein had extensive reportage, commentary and reader response to the massacre at Blacksburg with the main headline "Fight over the 'Right of the People to Bear Arms'." Much of the discussion concerned unlikelyhood of any stronger gun-control legislation passing through Congress and the observation that "Erfurt does not reside in Virginia", as in, Germany has different concerns, so get over it.
Okay now, the Summary. Seems the general tenor of folks abroad is that every new bit of information that comes out of the MIddle East reinforces the conviction that Iraq is a lost cause for the USA, surge or no. The incident about the wall -- first of about seven planned by the Army to physically seperate Shiites from Sunni's -- is seen as just another example of stuff people have done in other places and already proven unworkable to all except the seeminly obtuse Americans. The French commented pointedly that just such a wall surrounded the Green Zone when a bomber succeeded in blowing up Parlement inside just last week.
The release of the Cuban terrorist to Miami was shoved to back pages as more Bushian nonsense.
Just about all of Central Europe's nations feature rigorous gun control, so the events in Blacksburg are seen as a feature of typically American traits, whether it be gun ownership or lax agency documentation of Cho's illness. Germany, where no one can proceed anywhere without at least four official stamps from five bureaucrats, noted the effects of multi-culti meltingpot ethnic brews, according to some, yet others in Germany called such commentary utter foolishness.
For the record, our inhouse psych technician indicated that the thoroughly Americanized Cho was entirely American in his traits, his language, his quirks and even in details of his mental illness. That he was Green Card had less to do with his actions than his presence in the US from an early age. The boy was as typically American -- and just as sick -- as Timothy McVeigh.
So there you have it: news of the world. We read newspapers in five languages so you don't have to. Another benefit of reading IslandLife.
GIVE ME SOME OF YOUR DIRTY LOVE
This year KFOG's annual Listener Appreciation Party vanishes the way of many Bay Area benefits, becoming a Pay for Ticket event like all the others, still out on pier 39 and still featuring great bands as well as overpriced and unhealthy food, but at least the fireworks are still free. Occurs in May. Tix are 10 bucks. See Kfog.com. Its the KaBoom! Kenny Wayne Shepard reprises his past role on the docks, joined by Ozomatli and others.
In other musical arenas, Derek Trucks will testify the Blues in a serious way with Susan Tedeschi at the Fillmore on June 16. Meanwhile, we must live with the following. Iggy Pop just finished a gig there last night with the original Stooges lineup. The talented Damien Rice will grace the Oaktown Paramount April 28th. While the Old 97's take the Fillmore May 3rd, they just might have some competition crosstown from Elvis Costello at the Warfield on the same night. Miss both and Victor Wooten will jazz your Friday evening at the Fillmore the 4th of May.
Yet that night is devoted to the return of Houston Jones to their homebase here at McGrath's Pub.
Next week we will have reports on the US visit of Rodrigo y Gabriela in Babylon.
WILL THERE BE ANY STARS IN MY CROWN?
It's been a quiet week on the Island out here in the San Francisco Bay. Save for the jackhammers and all the traffic diversions at the Cineplex, where madness rules the pavement. The pastor at the First Church of the Nazarene cross the street glares at the chainlink fencing and the lack of parking for his flock and his glare has much significance, for the First Church of the Nazarene was the first church built on this Island of many many churches. A little plaque states that the church was built in 1850 and then subsequently moved to its present spot. Which now must suffer view of the cineplex under construction.
Spring has postponed the advent of Summer here with cold rainstorms sure to cause misery in Michagan and parts East. Sorry about that; we didn't make the weather. We simply report the news.
Gas prices have settled into the $3.50's range after their flirtation with the stratosphere. Paid $3.99 up the 101 corridor a few weeks ago. We are very likely to see such numbers again by summer.
Because of the uncertain weather, we remain uncertain how Earth Day went, a bigger event this year all over the place thanks to Al Gore and his movie. "Hello, I am Al Gore. I used to be the Next President." Does anybody recall that Bushie refusing to attend Kyoto while declaiming this global warming thing was all an inconvenient hoax? Now's a good time to unload that beachfront/ riverside property.
Down at the Pampered Pup on Park Street (unintentional alliteration) Jose has been serving up french fries again, now that the French have been proven entirely correct in the matter of Iraq and seem to be no more smug than usual about it. If any of you recall, a certain congressman renamed the trans-fat delicacy in a moment of outraged hubris when the French refused to go along with the thoroughly ridiculous and cruel invasion. The French, who call potatoes "earth apples" and fries, "apple fritters", could have cared less at the time.
Jose, who speaks another language entirely, felt duty bound to follow his Leader -- we do have a couple Republicans left on the Island -- but nowadays has put his signed photo of Bushie under the counter and put a small camp grill over that of Ronald Reagan to shunt aside the occasional flung tomato. Its rough being a true Conservative in the most Liberal district in the country, as Babar can testify. Babar has been sitting on the dark edge of the Old Same Place, nursing his Old Fashioned with sad eyes. It does seem likely the GOP will tap him again for the next election, but he has been pretty quiet about it all and whenever Papoon comes bounding in wearing his red, white and blue vest with donkey pins, chipper as a ground squirrel, he bends his head down.
Lately the national elections in France, his motherland, have his devoted attention. He is rooting, naturalment, for Sarkozy, the arch-Conservative. France, beautiful France, is about to go through what are euphamistically termed "interesting Times," after Chirac's 12 years of essential do-little regime which presided over a sort of gentle and steady decline of most things Gallic. Change is in the wind, and that part of France which is not so beautiful may have a large say in the matter, for a larger percentage of France consists of good ole boys not too much different from your basic gunrack, plaid-shirt, pickup truck, dixie flag, redneck of Macon County and who feel the rabidly xenophobic Le Pen does not go far enough. .
Meanwhile at home there has been some discussion around the tables at Juanita's Taqueria about why Eugene Shrubb has not been impeached for his disastrous and misleading invasion of Newark. Some may recall that five years ago Shrubb led an invasion of Newark in search of Weapons of Mass Doodoo in the form of terriorist poodles. At the time, nobody, not even people living in Newark cared much about it, for Newark has long practiced such laissez faire attitude, it barely ran a government that recognized itself. There was a long search to arrest the Mayor for crimes against Humanity and Aesthetics, but only after some months was it discovered that Newark never had bothered to create such a position for itself.
The upshot of all that hubbub, was that no terriorists were found -- initially -- and a large number of liquor stores were ransacked by Shrubb's Army of Bums from Sacremento. The trouble started when terriorists started moving to Newark for the purposed of wacking any number of bums found sleeping in doorways. The notorious Al Quibble rose up out of nothing and mayhem ensued. Now President Shrubb is quite disconsolate, with most of his friends in jail or absconded. John Ashpit run off to a brothel in Nevada. Tom Postpone indicted. Scooter Libbylabel arrested. Now Matt Gonzo is under fire for not paying attention to any of his staff and firing folks for purely political reasons.
Al Quibble is officially delighted with all of the events plus some. Their official mouthpiece, Muhammed Al-Setter has been barking most joyously and waggin his tail over the savings. In Newark, the bums keep coming, and Al Quibble doesnt even have to pay for plane tickets.
The Animal Control Officer has been looking for this Al-Setter for some time, and when he catches that doggie, there will be no more little Al-Setters running around and breeding uncontrollably, rest assured.
Here comes the midnight train passing through Jack London Waterfront. Time to wrap things up. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 15, 2007
LIKE THE WEATHER
Saturday brought a drenching before that storm went on to make things lively in Minnesotta and Parts East. Despite this late storm, the southlands here still experienced such a dearth of precipitation (2.75" against the average of 14") this season that all counties throughout the Golden State are buckling down to harsh realities in a place that hosts a bare three rivers along its 800 mile length. Santa Cruz has already instituted water rationing, not waiting for any note of despair from authorities, while most of the Bay Area Council of Governments are planning "voluntary water cutback" requests to all inhabitants. Word has it the Sierra snowpack is way down from what should be.
With the increase in population over previous years, these conditions spell hard times for the State.
You read it here on Island-Life: we now have incipient drought conditions in the year 2007.
The Arts Coordinator here at Island Life slipped us into the Berkeley Rep for Tanya Barfield's Blue Door, directed by Delroy Lindo and featuring Teagle F. Bougere with David Fonteno. Mr. Fonteno, like Mr. Bougere, was culled from the Berkeley Rep pool of actors who have done time in NBC's Law and Order. The director possesses quite a long and distinguished list of stage, television and film appearances with a shelf of accolades and awards.
The play concerns the spectral visitations over a single evening to a man whose wife has divorced him for his failure to attend the Million Man March in Washington DC. The African-American man, named Lewis, ruminates over his marriage, his career as a mathematics professor, and is visited by the generations of his past, beginning and ending with his brother -- who has died from a disillusioned and cynical drug overdose -- encompassing several hundred years of ancestors, including a great grandfather who was castrated and burned alive while chained to a fence for daring to appear at a polling place during a critical election in the American South.
This is Heavy Stuff and not for the faint of heart who would endure the 90 minute performance with no intermission. Barfield does not let anyone depart the room with any false pieties comforted, and for this the young playwright deserves accolades. Like many novice writers, she has her characters declaim to the corners of the stage in long Shakespearean monologues, but unlike novices, she does prepare the way for such delivery, by setting up Lewis' insomnia and typically academic trait of lecture delivery. To solidify this presentation, she has the ghost of his brother bust down the "fourth wall" of the stage by persisting with his question, "Who is your audience here?" At which point, Rex (Teagle Bougere) steps into the bleachers and raises his arms, declaiming, "Who is your audience? Here they are!" Meaning that Lewis must address not only the demons in his head but Franz Fanon's demons of the White World as well.
Its a pretty daring move for a budding playwright but it works well, handling any number of additional issues economically and far better than anything Spike Lee has done recently in this dimension, and that is quite a compliment. This play continues a Berkeley Rep general concern thematically with identity and so follows in line with intellectual issues bound with emotional ties. It is a play about heritage and social inheritance with aspects that apply across the color spectrum. That said, the play written by Barfield has problems that stem from novice writing that simply cannot be ignored. Yes, the production earned a justifiable standing ovation on the merits of its attempts and the strength of the actors involved. Nevertheless, a review of the production history indicates a history of structural problems partially resolved over time. Early productions earned erratic reviews that complained about the declamatory speechifying, the lack of interpersonal relation between the actors, direction problems, and overly spartan stage sets, most of which issues appear to have been addressed and resolved by the time of the Berkeley Rep production. Oakland native Delroy Lindo, an highly acclaimed actor with many stage, screen and TV credits, has successfully welded this project together, providing enough "face" time to deflect previous criticism.
That Barfield had managed to dramatize critical aspects of the Black American Experience is to be commended. That she managed to bridge Black identity concerns into terms of Universals is to be applauded. That the manner of presentation is limited by novice techniques is a problem resolved by time. The issues presented by the play are timely and important, but the realization is less than actual. When Lewis decides to paint his front door blue, the result is less than satisfying against all of history and his need for resolution. It winds up being a theatrical moment with not nearly enough resonance., leaving the audience not entirely convinced that the man has fully accepted his past.
Still, the play does manage to defeat the public media presentation of all Black men as drug-pushing, pimpin' ghetto thugs dripping with bling and 'tude. The reality is that a large part of African-American culture is straight-forward Middle-class possessed of standard Middle-class values, and David Fontano manages to rise well above criticism levied against previous productions in fleshing out the character of Lewis with desperate humanity. He and Mr. Bougere earned well their standing ovations at the close of the evening.
We would say that the Berkeley Rep's production of The Blue Door is courageous for its presentation of engaged stagecraft in a world that seems increasingly disengaged. This sort of attention to theatre is what brings us back again to the Rep.
OUT OUT BRIEF CANDLE
Kurt Vonnegut was one of those authors who so permeated our high school and early college years that he had long since passed into the realm of mythos. The author of such black humor masterpieces as "Slaughterhouse-Five" and "Cat's Cradle," died Wednesday. He was 84, but for many years puzzled over his longevity despite his ineradicable smoking habits.
The author of at least 19 novels, many of them best-sellers, as well as dozens of short stories, essays and plays, Vonnegut relished the role of a social critic. He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.
A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his own points of view. He also filled his novels with satirical commentary and even drawings that were only loosely connected to the plot. A simple asterisk adorns the pages of one novel with the terse description at one point, "That's an asshole." In "Slaughterhouse-Five," he drew a headstone with the epitaph: "Everything was beautiful, and nothing hurt."
Despite his sense of humor and commercial success, Vonnegut battled depression throughout his life, and in 1984, he attempted suicide with pills and alcohol, joking later about how he botched the job.
His mother had succeeded in killing herself just before he left for Germany during World War II, where he was quickly taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He was being held in Dresden when Allied bombs created a firestorm that killed an estimated 135,000 people in the city. He spent the next 23 years struggling to write about the ordeal, which he survived by huddling with other POWs inside an underground meat locker labeled slaughterhouse-five.
Many of his novels were best-sellers. Some also were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. Vonnegut took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union. The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president. "Slaughterhouse-Five,"which came out during the Vietnam war solidified his reputation as an anti-war social critic.
His characters tended to be miserable anti-heroes with little control over their fate. Pilgrim was an ungainly, lonely goof. The hero of "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater" was a sniveling, obese volunteer fireman. His alter-ego, Kilgore Trout, was a failed hack writer of pulp fiction.
He retired from novel writing in his later years but continued to publish short articles. He had a best-seller in 2005 with "A Man Without a Country," a collection of his nonfiction, including jabs at the Bush administration ("upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography") and the uncertain future of the planet.
He did manage to quell his suicidal tendencies, stating, "My father, like Hemingway, was a gun nut and was very unhappy late in life. But he was proud of not committing suicide. And I'll do the same, so as not to set a bad example for my children."
THUNDERING DRUMS AND CROSSROADS
It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. After the excitement of Passover and all the wine and mortar-like haroset, everybody has settled down. Pastor Nyquist held an egg hunt on the same day as Father Morales down the block and there was some kind of altercation when some Lutheran kids wandered over into the Catholic demesne -- or vice versa -- to find eggs of distinctly different secularity, causing all sorts of uproar among the parents, but Sister Mary Angeles got it all sorted out with Pastor Nyquist and so everybody went to their respective places for the requisite Easter banquet.
The rains tucked everyone away into their snugs and old Filipe muttered under his grocery awnings at the lack of foot traffic on Saturday.
We have a new addition to the sidebar, with Floyd's talk at the Herbst Theatre on the Stealth Turn now available for download as an MP3.
In the still of the night here the long ululation of the midnight train comes wavering across the estuary from Jack London Waterfront. In the pullout beside the weedy fence that borders the old cannery, Officer O'Madhauen sits nursing his styrofoam coffee cup. Beneath blankets, the great bulk of Bear snores with the little head of Sophia upon his arm. Ms. Morales puts away her student's homework for the night and shuts out the light before padding across in her patched robe to slip into bed, accompanied by the shadows. Mr. Ramirez, already asleep, has a half-smile on his lips as he dreams, perhaps, of Ms. Morales. Eugene Gallipagus reposes face down into the goosedown, dreaming of a perfectly successful poodlehunt.
President Shrubb has another sleepless night, accompanied by his Barbara. "Ah told them if'n they don't like it, they can just use the power of the purse. Heck, I never thought they would actually use it! Ahm the Decider here!"
"Now Georgie . . .".
In the largely silent studios of KQED, a technician named Toni is trying to fix an antiquated tape machine for the Morning Show. The state of funding is deplorable and this is what she has to work with. Fine shows like City Arts and Lectures do not come cheap after all. If only more people would sponsor . . .
Down at the Old Same Place, Susie polishes a glass before returning to her textbook. It's a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still trying to find the answers to life's persistent questions.
One answer is go to www.kqed.org and become a member.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 8, 2007
BORN TO BE WILD
One of our most distinguished Oaktown institutions celebrated its 50th birthday amid trepidation among the Tac-Squad and tremulous anticipation among the Citizenry for fear of the awful bloodshed and terrific howling of the atavistic beast of the Apocalypse unleashed with the Whore of Babylon sure to rend the peaceful night into ghastly tatters of purple newsprint.
Yes, the Oaktown Hells Angels, led so capably by Sonny Barger once upon a time, lit the candles on its Middle-age cake to celebrate its half century.
The birthday party went off with such external quietus that local KRON-TV had to go interview the pastor of the neighboring Zion Tabernacle Baptist Church, in the 3900 block of San Juan Street., who said, "Since I've been here, they've been very kind neighbors." He said neither the party nor the chapter house had caused his flock the slightest bit of trouble.
Nevertheless, the OPD, taking no chances, flew a chopper over the clubhouse several times after a load of fireworks was confiscated. Nothing more rowdy than about a dozen guys sipping diet cokes and beer standing outside the door while nibbling chocolate cake could be seen although Foothill Boulevard was lined deep with bikes between 40th and Rosedale avenues.
One reporter was told to go home and do some research as the official word on all subjects was, "No Comment."
Our insider reporter listed a number of activities taking place inside over the course of the three-day bash, beginning with a concert, that sounded a lot spicier than chocolate cake, but the informant concluded with a reminder that any number of human body parts can be removed with enough wacks from a ball peen hammer and perhaps silence would be well on this regard.
Well, perhaps the boys have just gotten some bad press and all boys wanna do is have fun. Nevermind the "funny-smelling cigarettes". That's organic, zero-nicotine tabbacky if you must know.
And if anybody is going to write about it, that person shall be named Sonny Barger, now into his second book on the Angels and with a film script in the works.
MR HANKY IN APRIL?
A form of that distasteful South Park figure, Mr. Hanky, has, um . . . dropped in on us early through a major international company's shenanigans.
Google is not a company with executives known to remain stick-in-the-muds no matter how sharp their financial acumen. A sole survivor of the dot-com boom, Google has not only succeeded where others have failed, it has triumphed exuberantly and with shouting glee while retaining its dot-com insouciance. As a function of this, the company's highest executives plot an elaborate April Fool's joke each year.
And why not? They are making money hand over fist.
Senior executives at Google Inc. launched their annual April Fools' Day prank last Sunday, posting a link on the company's home page to a site offering consumers free high-speed wireless Internet through their home toilet systems. Code-named "Dark Porcelain," Google said its "Toilet Internet Service Provider" (TiSP) works with Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows Vista operating system.
The gag included a mock press release quoting Google cofounder and president Larry Page, a step-by-step online installation manual, and a scatological selection of Frequently Asked Questions. On some Google sites, the company's official logo - a multicolored "Google" that changes according to the season and on holidays - substituted a commode for the second "g."
"There's actually a thriving little underground community that's been studying this exact solution for a long time," Page said in the statement. "And today our Toilet ISP team is pleased to be leading the way through the sewers, up out of your toilet and - splat - right onto your PC."
Marissa Mayer, a Google vice president, called TiSP a "breakthrough product, particularly for those users who, like Larry himself, do much of their best thinking in the bathroom."
Apparently April is not the only month in which high-jinks like this take place. Insiders report about someone injecting green dye into the the cafeteria milk and a certain vice president of engineering coming blithely into work one day to find his office filled with sand.
In the FAQ section, home users are enjoined to employ wireless distribution, as certain messy problems can occur if anyone in the household should, um, clog up the pipeline with excessive downloading.
WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?
Family and friends gathered at two separate commemorations in memory of Lynn Lindberg, born August 27, 1941. Died March 28, 2007.
The gathering for intimate friends and family took place at Pescadero's Hall of the Native Sons of the Golden West, built approximately around 1890. There friends and acquaintances gathered to commemorate a life well lived and well loved.
Lynn adored flowers and would burst into sunshine if gifted with a single bloom. As a result, the hall was strewn with extraordinary vases of orchids and sprays of color. The affair was catered by the good people who supply Teatro Zinzani, as Lynn was well known as a sincere patron of the arts.
In the old black and white home movies projected on to a sheet hung over the Native Son's charter, we watch history unfold from clean cut haircuts and puffed blouses of the 1950's into the maelstrom of the succeeding generation, of which Lynn was its best exemplar. Generous, kind, sociable, honest, sincere, unifying, experimental, silly, and human to a fault, Lynn Lindberg was the apex of an entire generation. She was the pure spirit never compromised of a time.
"Toi, tu auras des etoiles comme personne n'en a . . . . Quand tu regarderas le ciel, la nuit, puisque j'habiterai dans l'une d'elles, puisque je riarai dans l'une d'elles, alors ce sera pour toi comme si riaient toute les etoiles. Tu aras, toi, des etoiles qui savent rire!"
"You -- and you alone -- will have the stars as no one else has them . . . . When you look at the sky, because I am living in one of them, it will be as if all of them are laughing when you look at the stars. You and you alone will know the stars that laugh!"
It's been a quiet week on the Island. The skies have been heavy with high fog all week, leading to spatterings of drizzle on Saturday. Got Mike Powers on the Sunday Night Jam chunking away those deep grooves. Stay Human.
Down at the Old Same Place Susie serves up another round. When the weather is grumpy, business is good. Miguel comes in grumbling about the wet and blisters on his hands. Bear sits down at the end of the bar in an unaccustomed mood of taciturn silence, deep in his beer. In the corner table a party is talking about the trout season, which has yet to open for month or so. All the high lakes are still locked in by deep snow drifts and everybody knows the trout don't rise under cloudy skies. Not around here.
The Pesach shabbos is just about all over and somewhere under some bush a solitary blue or lavender Easter egg still resides, doleful under the dripping branches. Or up in the crotch of the old chestnut tree where some overzealous teenager stuck it well out of reach of six year-old fingers.
No, you are not going up in that tree!
But there's an Easter egg up there! I can see it!
I absolutely forbid you to climb that tree! Get Uncle Johann to fetch it down for you, if you must.
Oh, Uncle is drunk again. . . .
Slap! Shame on you! Talking about Uncle that way!
And so that plastic blue Easter egg containing a whole quarter remains up there through spring, which conceals its disappointments in burgeoning foliage, while little Toby Tucker bears this frustration long after until it eats at him and he becomes a mass murderer, starting with small animals, working up to small children, women and other human beings until he is hunted down one dark night in a cave by a posse bearing torches and shotguns.
O the infamy. And all because of that little blue Easter egg, which remains in the crotch of that tree until swallowed by a bolus of swelling wood, crushed and surrounded and enveloped until the tree dies many years later and is cut up for firewood. The woodsman cutting the tree lets his chainsaw slip on this suddenly hard bolus and cuts off his own leg by accident, and so is born away legless and in agony. A small child raking through the ashes finds that quarter and bears it proudly to its mother, exclaiming, "Look ma! I earned this quarter by working!"
This child grows up to become a President of the United States. A Decider and not a Divider. A Mission Accomplished sort of guy. Long before the end of his terrifically awful Presidency, fraught with disaster, everyone in the country has come to thoroughly detest him.
His brother comes to Washington DC after losing the Governorship race in his own borrowed State and he finds this quarter in the White Room. He walks out to the 14th Street Bridge and angrily throws the coin into the Potomac River. But his brother's presidency is now over and everything is slowly getting better.
The coin is ingested by a catfish which dies soon after of apoplexy. The body of the fish washes slowly out to sea. Until the fish carcass sinks to the bottom of Chesapeake Bay while the once lucky President boy walks along the docks muttering to himself. Precious, my precious.
Meanwhile Susie serves up another round, lit by the subterranean lights of the Old Same Place Bar. Eugene is trying to explain to Miguel how you can turn an egg into rubber by soaking it in vinegar for several weeks and Miguel will have none of that.
That' aint no damn rubber. It may be something else, but not no damn rubber.
Hell, you can squeeze it right into a bottle. You can squeeze it and tease it so that makes it rubber!
It don't smell like rubber. I seen them eggs.
Sure it smells like rubber. You just remember wrong.
It stinks. Is no rubber.
Its rubber man. Nothing else acts like that.
You got a rubber on you man? You take it out and smell it.
I aint gonna do that! That's a perfect waste of a decent rubber!
Here, I got one. You smell that. Here.
You cant smell nothing here on account of the prophylactic powder!
What's that you saying?
Look -- it says right there: Prophylactic. That's the magic powder they put in there to help them rubbers along and do their work.
I don't know nothing about no powder. You a crazy gringo. . . .
Susie sighs and returns to her textbook on the manners
and customs of the bonobo of Madagascar. One of these days, she would
earn her degree. To shunt the bar chatter into the background she puts
on one of her own compilation CDs and soon the sounds of Mavis Staples
ease through the bar.
The Bonobo possess curious and intricate social customs upon attaining puberty . . . .
Beatrice chose that moment to drop by. Beatrice had extricated herself from an odious husband and a difficult child and, like some sprung butterfly had been looping about the social scene to alight here and there with veins pulsing through brand new wings. Almost as if she were awaiting yet another transformation, some new chrysalis period followed by explosions.
Seems that Ruth finally has got herself something worth hanging on to. A difficult assignment after getting Steve hitched to Sandy. Now Steve had been quite a challenge, but Sandy was a gal who could make the noise of passing wind with her armpit -- with uncommon zest -- and so somehow the match had been sealed, allowing everyone to breath a great sigh of relief, for they all had been concerned about Steve and his guns firing off at odd hours of the day and night. Then there was Bear, who had managed to find a mate of his own species much to the astonishment of everyone, and Doyle seemed to have finally found his way out of the Dark Wood of Error after many years. He had taken up gardening, using old whiskey bottles as miniature glass starters for plants.
It seemed that this Spring. a number of couples had arisen out of the muck and many were setting out on brand new journeys as individuals as well. After a long dark time, glimmers could be seen among their kind indicating some kind of resurrection of spirit. Strange de Jim was planning on kayaking expeditions in the sloughs with Chris. Kayaking! At his age! And why not? Give up smoking and a man can do anything. Some kind of resurgence was going on here, and perhaps this was worth paying some attention to.
In other places people keep to bed and wait for the end to come in the last rattling breath, even if it takes years. In California, people climb mountains, go kayaking, fly to Hawaii, jump out of airplanes.
Beatrice left the bar for her samba lessons and Susie returned to her book. Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar, sits one Bartender still pondering life's persistent questions . . . .
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 1, 2007
WE'RE ALL WAITING ON A TRAIN
A couple weeks ago a dismal message came over the transom regarding a friend, now on holiday, and once again we stood on that windy platform waiting on a train with a friend. While out attending the Obama rally, a wind swept up and the power went out. As of that hour, Lynn Lindberg passed over to the Other Side in Hawaii while on vacation with her husband after a multi-year battle against cancer. She took her ticket to the conductor, who accepted this one-way passage as certified, and so, our beloved Lynn was gone, leaving us standing there.
She was a vibrant spark among those who knew her. She lived life to the fullest in every minute, even before Death Sentence was pronounced by dour Medicine, and afterward insisted with determined will that every moment be lived with memorable thoroughness. She made friends among the wild creatures of the earth, and made common cause with eagles, hawks, leopards and such like with ease during her time and she was a durable model to emulate at all times in her strength and her joy.
You would do well to emulate in any part this magnificent woman who embodied all that we hold dear on this fragile earth. It is reported that while on a Last Holiday in Hawaii, organ failure set in subsequent to diagnosis of cancer and so the light went out. The boundless ocean was within sight of her window during her last hours.
A couple memorials are planned, with the big public one scheduled for Thursday. Her loving husband, Chris Lindberg, has reserved Cresta Blanca North portion of the ballroom at the Robert Livermore Community Center for April 5th. It is the north half or so of the ballroom. There is a stage and projection system for memorable photos of Lynn, and arrangments for about 80 seats + 48 with 6 round tables around the periphery of the room have been made. There'll be two 8 foot tables for food, a bar and another 8 foot table for non alcoholic beverages.
We have the room from 2:00 until 7:00PM. The actual memorial and reception will be from 3:00 until 6:00 giving us an hour for set up and another for cleanup. About 110 - 120 people are expected.
A celebration for close friends and family in memory of her remarkable accomplishments is planned for Saturday the 7th over in Pescadero. Contact Marybeth Whittemore for details.
Lynn Lindberg is survived by her loving husband, Chris, and her son, David.
I SMELL SEX AND CANDY - NOT!
It was billed to be 'A Nite of Lust, Libation and Laughter' that its producers say would have brought the kind of merriment to Alameda that's been happening for years in San Francisco with the Exotic Erotic Ball.
But that was before Island city officials got wind of 'Spring Shwing: An April Fool's Celebration,' and what its producers called its 'sexy hunks and hotties in a spicy seductive setting.'
The city denied a license for the March 31 event, prompting the producers on Monday to threaten a lawsuit.
The Island 'certainly does have the reputation for being stodgy, if that's the right word,' said producer Howard Mauskopf, who questioned whether the denial stemmed from the kind of show that was being planned.
In truth, this is not the first time that moderately ambitious plans to take advantage of the Ex-Navy base open areas got quashed by folks feeling a bit queasy about anything racier than an Old Fashioned Teadance. Last year a fairly tame "rave" was dumped, costing promoters upwards of nearly a million dollars because the sensitive Council discovered that large numbers of non-white persons would be attending. The resulting flack produced a furor in Oaktown.
'At this point I can't really say whether the city was deceitful,' Mauskopf said. 'But we are certainly looking at whether the city was dishonest, and we are considering action.'
Mauskopf and his partner Perry Mann said Spring Shwing would have mirrored their Exotic Erotic Ball, which is held every Halloween at San Francisco's Cow Palace.
The Island event, however, would be on a smaller scale, they said.
'Much like the ball, Spring Shwing is all about flesh, fantasy, and fun on the surface -- but it's also about freedom of expression, love, and respect,' the men said on their Web site. 'Let's face it -- it's freedom, love and respect that allows an event like Spring Shwing to take place.'
Deputy city manager Lisa Goldman said Monday that the denial of the license had nothing to do with the event's sexual nature, but her boss, City Manger Debra Kurita, mentioned the libidinous orientation of the program first among her objections.
'The event you have proposed would involve adult entertainment, last until 3 a.m., include serving alcohol and be open to the general public through ticket sales over the Internet,' Kurita wrote March 9 to Area 51 Productions, which had filed the application.
Kurita declined to return phone calls seeking comment on the issue Monday.
Area 51 regularly hosts car shows and other events at Alameda Point.
Mauskopf and Mann said they only began promoting Spring Shwing -- including through local newspaper advertisements -- after Area 51 owner John Walker told them that securing a city license was 'a mere formality.'
Walker, however, maintains he actually told the men that the city would likely deny the application.
He also said they began promoting the event too early.
'I have never seen insurance,' Walker said. 'I have never seen a contract or anything to show the legitimacy of the show. I have never met the head of security -- there's been nothing.'
City Hall officials claim they first heard about Spring Shwing through the advertisements.
'They were already selling tickets to an event that had never obtained a permit,' Ms. Goldman said.
Goldman said city officials feared the event -- which was set to take place in a former aircraft hangar at Alameda Point -- would draw thousands of people and stretch police resources. The hangar can accommodate as many as 3,600 people.
'It was the uncontrolled nature, not the content,' she said about the decision to deny the license.
Mauskopf said the promotion happened only after Area 51 Productions had accepted a $10,000 deposit and after numerous meetings about the show.
Although the upcoming show has been canceled, another one still may take place in Alameda.
Mauskopf said he may next contact the USS Hornet Museum as a venue. Tamer events have been held on the flight deck of the old retired aircraft carrier, and the Museum could certainly use the money.
UNDER THE WATER CARRY THE WATER THERE IS WATER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE OCEAN
The water content in the Sierra snowpack has dropped precipitously -- reaching the lowest level since the drought year of 1990 -- but there is enough water in reservoirs to ensure a normal summer for residents of the Bay Area, water officials said Wednesday.
A monthly snowpack measurement taken Wednesday at Echo Summit near South Lake Tahoe by the state Department of Water Resources showed a snow depth of 48.4 inches, but water content measured less than 50 percent of normal. On average, water content in the Sierra snowpack from southern to northern California averaged 46 percent of normal, said department hydrologist Frank Gehrke.
'Instead of seeing an increase of five or six inches in March, we lost eight or nine inches,' he said 'That's a pretty bleak month.'
Blame the California High, Gehrke said. That is, the ridge of high pressure off the California coast that mostly kept storms out of the Sierra during March.
The condition of the Sierra snowpack is approaching that of the extreme drought years of 1976-77 and 1987-1992, Gehrke said. 'One dry year is no big deal. But stringing them together, that can be bad,' he said.
In Oakland, East Bay Municipal Utilities District spokesman Charles Hardy said the reservoir situation remains good. The district supplies water to 1.3 million people in Alameda and Contra Costa counties.
'We had more water last year than we could store. That's the good news,' he said. 'Right now, we need seven inches of rain before the dry season begins to go into next year with reservoirs full, and our guys say we'll probably get that.'
If the rain does not come, plans are in the works to possibly ask customers for moderate conservation methods, perhaps a 15 percent cutback in normal water use, Hardy said. That would mean steps such as cutting back on landscape watering and watering at night instead of in the day.
Contra Costa Water District is also in good shape. Spokesperson Patty Friesen said the district's Los Vaqueros reservoir was at 96 percent of capacity.
Things look good this year, she said. The district supplies water to 550,000 customers in central and East Contra Costa.
Meanwhile, Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which supplies water to 2.4 million customers in San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara and southern Alameda counties, said water content in the snowpack in its Hetch Hetchy watershed area in the Sierra is 51 percent of normal.
The reservoir is at almost 70 percent of normal.
Our insiders up really high report warmer than normal temps have eroded the gains supplied by the recent storms. We have, in fact, less snowpack than before the storms.
With accumulation of 73 inches (about six feet) we are well shy of the necessary 9-15 feet seen in past years.
FERGEDDIT, JAKE: ITS CHINATOWN
Privitization is threatening central valley water
Got some hot stuff over the transome last week about water utility rights being sold to international corporations out in the Valley around Stockton, and people are pretty hopping mad about it. The Concerned Citizens Coalition is putting together a legal fund to prevent putting the Valley's precious water resources in the hands of OMI/Thames.
This is, after all, the place where actual full-fledged wars with dynomite and guns played out several times during the last century.
In every case where privatization of water has taken place across the country, from Georgia, to Indianapolis to right here in California, water charges got jacked 75%, and more, even as service declined to the point that entire municipalities had to be put on "boil alert" as the water in the pipes became non-potable from the tap.
This all began in 1999 when then Mayor Gary Podesto announce plans to privitize the water resources, provoking a storm of outrage and subsequent lawsuits. Each time the public wins a court case, the Internationals come back for another round, as potentially billions of dollars can be involved in expanded surcharges to agribusiness and individuals.
For more information, you can contact
CONCERNED CITIZENS COALITION
HEAVY CLOUD: NO RAIN
A quick wintry blast brought fierce winds and cold temperatures to normally mild Southern California, but did little to quench the parched region and already several reports of early season fires are coming in.
Tuesday's storm startled residents, who watched as clear morning skies quickly darkened and gusting winds ripped roofs off several buildings, capsized boats and downed power lines and trees.
"I've never seen weather like this," said Larry Prantner, manager of Cavi at the Big Oaks Lodge restaurant in the Santa Clarita community of Saugus. "It's March and I'm wearing a coat and starting a fire at the fireplace."
While the weather system sprinkled snow and hail across mountain and high desert communities, it wasn't nearly enough to make a dent in the huge shortfall of rain so far this year.
"In most places, we got zero or trace amounts of rain," Bonnie Bartling, a National Weather Service specialist, told the Los Angeles Times. "Even in the mountains, we didn't get a whole lot of rain. This was mostly a wind system."
Los Angeles is facing its driest year on record. Only 2.47 inches of rain have fallen in downtown Los Angeles since July 1. In a normal year, more than 13 inches of rain would have fallen by now.
On Tuesday, winds tore off the roof of Orange County Fire Authority's aviation building in Fullerton and harbor patrol officers made numerous rescues involving capsized craft in Newport Bay and offshore.
A large section of roof laminate and asphalt tile landed on four cars and caused minor damages, but no injuries, said Orange County fire Capt. Stephen J. Miller. He said fire crews also responded to numerous reports of downed trees and power lines.
Winds gusting up to 40 mph caused a small powerboat and three outriggers to capsize, said Orange County sheriff's Sgt. David Ginther. He said members of the Newport Beach Harbor Patrol rescued a man whose 11-foot boat capsized about a mile off Laguna Beach.
Four electrical transmission towers blew down and a fifth was damaged in the eastern Los Angeles County City of Commerce, and a dozen power poles came down, too, said Southern California Edison spokesman Gil Alexander.
About 165,000 Southern California Edison customers had outages during the day, but only about 11,700 remained blacked out late Tuesday, the utility said. Another 20,000 Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customers throughout the city also lost power, said spokeswoman Kim Hughes.
Well its been a quiet week on the Island. The sweetpeas are swirling all around in a vortex made by an old wire tomato frame by the weather-beaten fence. Each day begins with heavy high fog, which breaks up into uncertain skies. The freesias are all out and the tulips, and it does appear an insurrection of gladiolas is raising any number of spears out of the earth like ancient Greeks sown by dragon's teeth. Hummingbirds have been conducting surveilance sorties into the flowering jasmine.
The changing weather does make people start to act a bit more distracted than usual. The first thing to go are safe driving habits. You can track the course of certain individuals from a distance as they cross the Island, by the sound of screeching tires on one block, howled curses from another intersection, screams from another -- they must be passing Sherman Street now -- and the occasional whump! of a fenderbender. Ah, they made it as far as Buena Vista.
We have a tasty little audio segment from City Arts and Lectures coming up, for Floyd of the Bay Area Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Challenged and Traffic Enfeebled delivered a speech at Herbst Theatre a few weeks ago and we have a piece of that for you coming up.
Some newcomers here can't get over this way we have among us for starting up any old conversation with just about anybody standing near. We feel this phenomenon requires an apologia for those from colder, more reserved places. You can see the way New Yorkers recoil in horror when this happens and all the fellow wanted was to shatter a bit of that urban anomie into dust for a while.
We don't talk about personal things -- that is reserved for early morning poetry. Take, for example, Ms. Morales, walking out near Washington Park where the one-hundred foot palm trees stand along the row there, being quietly magnificent and harboring nests of white egrets of some rare species or other. This was the same Ms. Morales of the many lost student essays about Emily Dickenson. It's approaching the end of the Semester at Longfellow MIddle School and she is having to tread carefully all around Walt Whitman whom you simply cannot ignore any more than you can just tuck Blake into your coat pocket. While passing the Park and pondering these things, Will, the slightly hapless handyman, drove by in his powder-blue pickup truck with its many years of partially effective engine repairs and faulty exhaust arrangements that no decent mechanic in his right mind would dignify with the august title of "a system".
This truck caused the egrets all to launch upward from the palm crowns with a clatter, a great convoy of white angels, and it was at that moment the sun shafted down between selected clouds such that Ms. Morales found herself standing in a golden hall of light, great pillars rising far above her head into Michelangelo vaults of cloud. And it was a vision granted to Ms. Morales, and her alone right then, to be standing beneath flights of angels inside a great cathedral so that she stood there in shock and awe.
This is not the sort of vision that we talk about to each other at the bus stop. No. There are some who will scurry back to their journals and write it all down into a never-to-be-read notebook before forgetting about it, but California is a broad land of many peoples of all kinds and Ms. Morales did not do that.
Ms. Morales went home and thought deeply about it and the next time she ran into Mr. Rodriquez, whom she had been coming to know quite slowly, say, a bit more intimately, or about as intimately as a devout Filipina lady of certain age and experience can do with a gentleman of great reserve and honor, she mentioned some of this and they began talking about just what kind of species of egret she had seen and it was Mr. Rodriguez, it seems, who suggested they spend the afternoon at the library looking it up and you could see them there, two heads bent over books on Natural History.
These conversations at bus stops, in bars, standing in line, at the checkout, and in public urinals are meant, language specialists tell us, to be much like the old handshake. People shook each others hand in California quite vigorously, and it was supposed to shake loose any old dirk or a derringer which might be up there. For California, as mentioned, is a broad land of many peoples of all kinds and one does want to confirm that the person standing there at least speaks your language and has perhaps the same mindset as you. And with all the craziness going on, sometimes a fellow just needs to check the state of Reality at the moment.
Looks like that old odor cake is almost dissolved down there.
Me too. I hate it when they just put them in.
Don't say. Makes it splash all over so a fellow's got to be careful about his trousers.
Me, I try to find a good urinal and if I can't, just aim at the wall there. And keep it moving.
Good thing to know. Seeya . . .
See, this is how important information gets transmitted in our society.
Every once in a while a person goes off their rocker, as happened under the impulse of Spring to Ms. Wheatabix of the honorable property management firm of Hansome and Frood, 80 years in the City. Seems the lady went off her nut when a business tenant on the 16th floor of the Diablo Towers in Walnut Creek asked about the possibility of a client coming in with a "Care Dog" -- you know one of those pooches who barks up a storm every time the owner is just about to suffer a stroke.
Well, Ms. Wheatabix flew at the man and began to strangle him in the foyer among numbers of startled witnesses while screaming, "You so much as bring a dog or any mammal into this building you will be evicted immediately! You are cash buckets only and you are all mine! Mine! Mine! Mine!"
It was with difficultly that Wheatabix was seperated and as they brought her handcuffed to Villa Fairmont, she insisted on apologies all around, especially from the tenant, whom she claimed had attacked her.
In the ensuing lawsuit, for the tenant was an attorney whose office resided on the top floor of Diablo Towers, it was divulged that Wheatabix had behaved similarly to other clients of HF, who had begun to note the departure of business associates with contracts going back some seventy years.
Ms. Wheatabix was let go by an appalled President Falvey, who has significantly more honor that the majority of the parties involved, especially the arrogant henchmen hired by Wheatabix to threaten and harrass tenants at all levels.
So with things like this going on, by all means we try to set up some kind of rapport with one another at every opportunity. For we are Californians, descended of races that sought freedom from strictures, and sometimes simply freedom. We came from all walks of life and from all lands and we do want to have some reassurance that the fellow standing next to you working on the Union Pacific Railroad, be he Chinese or Irish, shares some of the basic ideas and perhaps a bit of personal history.
Eugene Radovic was sitting in the new bus shelter outside the Mastic Center when Will Bunsen came out and sat down beside him. When's the next one? Just missed it. Be a while.
So they sat there, not thinking about much with the buckeyes all beginning to bud out and the cherry blossoms going like mad because it was Spring until Eugene said, Seems winter is suddenly over now.
Will agreed with that observation. D'you believe in any of that global warming?
Hard to say, comes and goes, the weather. Pause. The snowpack is down in the Sierra, I hear. My friend Ernie runs a lodge up in Tahoe and he says the season this year began late and ended early.
He owns a lodge up there, he does?
No no, he's a Manager.
And so the two fellows get to talking about the weather, and one of them mentions he has seen the other around someplace but just can't remember and so the two of them go over significant events in the past trying to figure out where they might have seen one another. Big peace protest in the City. Which one? Oh the one about Nicaragua and the Contras -- that was a few years ago. Maybe at the Sky Honda way back? Everybody was there and reading "Fear and Loathing" as it came out in the Rolling Stone by installments. Could be.
Remember when this place (Mastic) was a ball field beside a school? Oh yeah, and Dimaggio knocked one right over the roofs in that direction on a visit. No that wasn't Dimaggio but the other guy. Oh yeah, I know who you mean.
And they go silent for a while, remembering family picnics in the
old Dodge Rambler -- the one with the strap up by the passenger window
to hold onto for security -- down the 101 where acres of orange groves
and avocados spread far and wide where Silicon Valley steams and steams
with people. When Coyote Point hosted real coyotes and not that big
black Darth Vader building of impenetrable glass.
Some of us remember family picnics in the old Dodge Rambler -- the one with the strap up by the passenger window to hold onto for security -- down the 101 Highway where acres of orange groves and avocados spread far and wide where Silicon Valley steams and steams with people. When Coyote Point hosted real coyotes and not that big black Darth Vader building of impenetrable glass.
As long as each one of us lives on, these memories live on as well, and we seek out one another this way, with small talk and conversation standing in the checkout line.
Finally, despite all the horrors some of us have experienced, there is our incurable optimism. Some have seen their families murdered with machetes before their eyes. Some seen their companions all die crossing the Sonora Desert. Having lost everything in the Great Dustbowl, they drove across the barren plains in jalopies piled high with whatever they could save, looking to make a new start and finding instead disappointment and trouble. For all the reality of punk squat wretchedness and cynicism of reality, people keep on coming. Nevertheless they come here and here is the Golden State, Gum Lung, the land of hope and opportunity. Perhaps vainglorious, there remains the hope all will be well. Things will get better somehow.
Barbara bounds down the stairs, her blond pony-tail flying as she rushes out to another "swim". By swim, she means jumping into the choppy waters of the Bay, stroking out to Alcatraz for a circuit of several miles and then returning under her own steam with folks in rowboats firing shotguns at sharkfins coming to investigate. Just your basic California swimmer's workout. She's got muscles that could crush a bear and with her sunny disposition and wide-open eyes could be a model for the "Fresh Look" of whatever product you could mention. When she says, "Hi there!" in passing, the entire corridor lights up with golden streams. "Seeya!" and she is gone, leaving something a little brighter behind. Which is probably more than any of us can reasonably expect to contribute to society.
Right then the bus pulls up, the conversation ends and they all board, heading for destinations unknown
That, sir, is the reason we talk the way we do to one another. And that is just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 25, 2007
ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS
The good folks over at the Frank Bette Art Center on the Island here
appear to be developing some ambition after a few years of lassez
faire attitude in a big way. Each month they feature a new idea to
galvanize local artists and this month they are kick-starting a plein
air competition -- to be held in July -- in which locals are to go
out and snag that special Island image on canvas. After a few years
of collecting all kinds of neat stuff, the center will publish its
second Artist Member Catalog, which will be a beautifully crafted,
sophisticated record of the art, artists, programs, and generous sponsors
that exhibit at FBCA. Inclusion of artwork and contact information
in the catalog is a benefit of membership.
The Center also is an active community site for all sorts of different media/genre events, including an expanding Reading series. Featured readers are followed by an open mic for those of you daring to bare your souls. The 2nd Saturdays Prose & Poetry Reading happens every 2nd Saturday of the Month with the next one slotted for April 14th, 7-9PM. Featured Readers in April:
BOADIBA is a Haitian poet and translator whose work has appeared in Beatitude, Konch, Quilt, Tribes and other publications as well as Open Gate: An Anthology of Haitian Creole Poetry. She will be reading with BOB WILLIAMS.
And for the more prosaic among us there is "Storytelling Swap"
which has happened every 2nd Monday of the month, 7:30-9:30 pm, but
which will shift
For information on our Island culture, here is the contact data:
Frank Bette Center for the Arts
Monday marked the dismal anniversary of the longest war fought by the USA since WWII. With 3200+ dead and many thousands more returning each day without arms, legs, faces, eyes and other significant body parts, the country is becoming increasingly restive with what is being widely understood as an unnecessary conflict which needs to shake our participation ASAP.
Monday some 1100 vigils took place after a busy weekend of protest all across the nation. In frigid sub-zero temps people gathered in snowy Maine.
A cursory survey across the country revealed local stories in many thousands of local newspapers beyond the official "1100" vigils organized by Moveon.org, a news agency created after the 2000 election fiasco indicated problems with official news outlets reportage. Moveon.org has since become significantly partisan in the wake of sharp attacks from FOX Network and the Murdoch empire of news affiliates as well as governmental suppression. Their protest in Washington DC resulted in 200 arrests -- it is now illegal to stand for any length of time in front of the White House.
(We confess the news that it is against the law now to stand in front of the White House comes as a bit of a shocker, even in these parlous times.)
The general tenor is definitely one of swelling antiwar sentiment, from the isolated villages of Vermont, ice-locked cities in upstate New York, and normally conservative Florida panhandle towns, to the the heartland towns of Iowa and Illinois, even to the smallest lumberjack villages in Washington State. Here are folks in Woodland.
Unitedforpeace.org has had some decent listings in the past, but appears to be suffering from problems with website updates. Codepink.org has been astoundingly consistent with updates on news, events and actions.
Oddly enough, the most bland and even-handed reportage on the protests was an article in Al Jazeera, which neither condemned nor praised anyone, but simply stated facts and dates.
Le Monde and Der Frankfurter Allgemeine remained unobservant. France has problems of internal concern and Germany is dealing with the parole release of one of the vicious Baader-Meinhof gang after her spending some 24 years in stir without much trouble. Also, their Prime Minister is still recoiling from the public molestation by the US head of State. In Texas they would have stuck a needle in her arm (the Baader-Meinhof gal) and shocked her with electricity until the smoke rose from her fried scalp, but Germany is a civilized country now-a-days.
We have staff reading newspapers in six languages so that you don't have to. Another benefit of Island-Life.
The week-end was hung-over with dank clouds and threatening skies, but the big blast is forcast for Monday. Hear that Minnesotta is having a sort of thaw with puddles and warnings along the frozen Lake. In the Heartland come reports of sporadic rushes of warmth, freeing up the iced-in freeways. Some bugs starting to fly about, ready to annoy in numbers when the front has become amenable.
In Northern California, we need to differentiate our climate zones whenever this thing about changing the seasons happens. South of Monterey, they simply roll back the tarpuline and start the pool cleaner to commemorate Spring. Or turn off the jacuzzi warmer. Our reporter in Long Beach indicates that Winter is basically "done." In Northern California, where more rational people reside, we shift to shorts and sandals ASAP.
March, nevertheless, remains what it is everywhere: mercurial and demonstratively persnickety. Our imports from Texas and Socal are walking around muttering, while wearing parkas -- anything in the range of 60 degrees is wretched weather for these folks, who probably will welcome Global Warming with open arms. Meanwhile we note heavy skies and the seagulls floating in great numbers above the Albertson's parkinglot, and you know what that means. Some lashings of rain and more misery for Nebraska in a few days.
Up in the Sierra, we can expect a late season load of powder to extend the ski season a few more weeks into May for those hardy souls venturing above 8,000 feet. The lower chalets are already boarding up after a fairly miserable season for the summer.
There is nothing special about March. Its a toss-away month. The Holiday Season is long over and no long weekends break the monotony of making more dollars to exist a bit longer and feed the Monster. All the interesting bands have gone underground to work on CDs or tours. Even the ads for decent concerts promise great things, but not until May. Elvis Costello is promising to smack the Warfield audience on the 3rd of that month. Everyone else is acting cagey, sneaking around the corners like they are waiting for the right Moment to release the Word on time.
There are so many vile personages involved with music as a business these days it all makes us want to vomit. So many noxious people are connected to bands we feel we need to enter armed with knives into the next interview. At times, it does seem that Bono is practically the only celebrity out there who knows how to behave. Jack White wrecks his car, Madonna hangs herself from a cross while in Italy, Mel Gibson reveals himself to be racist drunken sot, and what the devil happened to Brttany's hair? Even Mick Jagger is appalled. In the latest report over the wire, we note that John Popper (of Blues Traveler) was recently arrested for a speeding ticket (111 MPH) and the CHP found four rifles, six handguns, a TASER, and several incendiary devices in his car trunk. In his official statement, Mr. Popper stated that all this heavy artillery was collected to prepare for "natural disaster". Wussup with that, dude?
For chrissake, just play the goddamned harmonica, dude. That is really
all you have to do. Just play the damn harmonica.
TALK OF THE TOWN
Its been a quiet week on the Island. Silly Hall, having done just about as much damage as it could do for now, has settled back while the jackhammers and construction equipment make a mess of Oak Street while building the Cineplex Monstrosity. All the folks from Socal are walking around wearing parkas and muttering to themselves about the cold -- its all of 64 degrees right now.
March is certainly an unsettled month all over. People have been cracking through ice along lakes all over the place. Latest report is of a fellow who took a dip in the St. Lawrence and very nearly went over Niagra Falls. A kid up north in the Sierra was standing on a block of ice which broke loose, taking him out into the stream where he stood, entirely petrified with fear until rescuers got him back to shore again. Up in Lake Woebegon, we hear that the town drunk fell through the ice and was rescued without obvious damage to his system, although the shock seems to have turned him against alcohol, which is a very serious thing to happen to a man's self-assessment.
Yes, we don't trust this crazy weather. You start out with the usual morning fogs hanging high over the Bay bridges, until that stuff burns off, leaving this suggestion of hope as sunshine spears down, but then the wind kicks up and starts tossing the boat and in the next minute its spitting down and there you are, coming about with your jib all rattling and your mainsail luffing and the tiller is cold as ice in your hands. My goodness the shore seems far away now and whose idea was it to sail to the lighthouse anyway? Somebody had a copy of Virginia Woolf was it? And then you had a few nips of brandy in your coffee and wouldn't it be grand to watch the sun rise over the headlands. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But when the boom comes around it knocks Eugene even more senseless than he usually is, and there's Mike howling for you to slow down while he is trying to keep the flaccid boy from sliding off the deck into the seafood salad of sharks now gathering expectanty about you. The rain becomes hail and everything is coated now with ice and the little boat tosses this way and that and its all you can do to keep her lined up with the prow pointed into the waves like you were taught and along comes one of those immense freighters from the port, lumbering with majesty some two football fields in length and towering some six stories above you in a picturesqe fashion as it comes bearing down.
The thing is so huge that there is no way for it to turn aside for the sake of a sailboat. Turn aside? Heck, the draught of this thing is so deep, the pilot cannot deviate from the channel in the slightest. The San Francisco Bay, immensely broad as it is, does not exceed eighteen feet in continuous depth for most of it, and even the deep portions are scattered with shoals.
By luck and good fortune the freighter goes by with an hair's breadth to spare, sailors on the deck high above, gawking down at the sight. Everyone sighs. Until the wake of the freighter smacks the little boat and there you are, surfing on towards Angel Island with its own sattelite of navagation hazards. One of these you hit and the three of you are pitched into the water. That down jacket becomes a sodden weight, which you discard, as well as your shoes and your pants, which enables you to dogpaddle ignominiously to land. Where Mike starts to cry in the sand.
As you and your shivering companions -- equally pantless -- watch your prized sailboat settle a bit offshore from the sandy beach there, the boat's one gay pinnace flag limply swaying from the mast, you remember you were supposed to pickup little Shelly from the dentist office in downtown Oaktown, and bring her to school that morning. And so she is standing out there, a little lost girl on the corner of 14th and Broadway waiting -- in the rain -- for her ride which will never appear. And you remember Martha's temperament and her sincere threat to end the marriage should you forget one more time anything so much trivial as to take out the garbage.
So there you are, no shoes, socks or pants, shivering within sight of your broken sailboat, a blubbering Mike sobbing to himself and a swoozy Eugene staggering about trying to focus when a group of girls -- all wearing yellow raincoats -- on a middle-school field trip come down the rocks. When they see you they start screaming, and none of your explainations seem to make things any better. The girls are soon followed by rangers who arrest all of you for public lunacy and indecent exposure.
Gee, wouldn't this be a good time for a slice of rhubarb pie? Yes, nothing takes away the pain of shame and humiliation in times like these like a slice of Grandma's Original Beebop Rubarb Pie. . . .
Mama's little baby loves rhubarb rhubarb
That's the way it is on the Island, where we swear to keep our Ideas Original and Fresh, just like Grandma's pie. We always tell the truth and we have never stolen an idea from anybody.
Have a great week.
MARCH 18, 2007
Barack Obama swung by Oaktown on a glorious Saturday to speak before a throng of well over the anticipated 10,000 folks in front of City Hall. Organizers set up a perimeter arrangement whereby folks on the Moveon/Workingassets list got a ticket for entry into the Frank Ogawa Plaza, while campaign volunteers got entry into a closer area, and contributors into a seperate area. This itself was a function of the extreme popularity of the Senator from Illinois around here as well as the critical need for organizers to be able to accurately count interest in what is considered by many to be a long shot for the presidency. No one with realistic funding potential will chip in to a campaign until that campaign shows proof of "legs", and that is almost certainly the reason for Saturday's stratified ticket arrangement.
Lines for all three entry points stretched around the block for access to the Square. This man had acquired Rock Star Status.
With the aid of our Secret Informant, we gained entry into the coveted "volunteer section" as members of the press. While a live band kept the increasing crowd there entertained, we surveyed the salt 'n pepper crowd around us. Ron Dellums, gray-haired statesman, leapt over the barrier risers to introduce the Star. It was clear that our Mayor clearly enjoyed this moment of history.
Obama began desultorily with some anecdotes, before launching into a truely galvanizing speech that captured the heart or mind or both of any of those there looking for change from the Same Old Thing. He did refer to his lack of experience in Washington, but with reference to that as a benefit in this time when experience in Washington has only meant better practice at public Rip-Off. End to Iraq nonsense immediately. Public health insurance. Realistic educational objectives. Hell yeah, we will stand behind!
It does appear that the season is getting on and we are rushing headlong into that most dangerous season. All along the front, the freesias have been erupting with tiny explosions of aromatic warfare while the crocuses have dotted the landscape with early warning reports. The temperature warms, the skirts go higher, the hair flies free, and all nature cuts loose like Charlie launching another Tet offensive. In chevrons, the Birds start coming in low to strafe the meadows, while the bees dive-bomb the buttercup-sprinkled fields now erupting with blue-bells, asters, hyacinths, gladiola spikes and godknowswhatnot geysering up from the seed-pocked earth. Roses bursting randomly, leaving blood-trails on the retinas. The ground squirrels renew their secretive underground activities with the moles and gophers, who even now consternate Mike with their tunnels and mines, and suddenly Councilperson Wilma can be seen chasing Councilperson Ray down on the beach with one heel broken and all hell to pay back in the Chambers. Mayor Beverly saunters into City Hall whistling a high tune. The SF Bay Curmudgeon Chief editor gives up his "read my paper, dammit" campaign to take cover beneath the flowered quilts with his second lieutenant, who turns out to be a spy for the SF Bleakly.
They are all out there, armed and deadly with full lips and camo-rouge, heady scents and fey looks, with just a skip in their march and loaded with all the weapons a silk scarf and short skirt can conceal.
Here comes Eugene, one day a free man walking down the sunny sidewalk when he passes the place where the decent barfly dive, The Lincoln's Address, used to be. Only now its a fancy schmantzy place called The Forbidden Tiki Palace and Cat is out there hiding her looks beneath dark bangs. A brief exchange, hot flashes and tracers in the night and another IED (Improvised Erotic Design) goes off.
He's down for the count, right through the heart. We shall not see his wan, tortured face for many moons. Yes, Spring is the Most Dangerous Season indeed.
Our Dear Editor in Chief spent nearly two years in the Republic of Eiranne, and swears up and down he never once heard a single Irishman speak the words "begorrah" or "brogue". A long time public teetotaler, he also swears that, although he spent the preponderance of his time in pubs, he never got drunk, and saw few Irish in their cups as well. Seems that, at the time, nobody could afford cash for liquor and the majority of Irish spent their days in pubs because in practically every village in Ireland, the pub was the only place which enjoyed central heating during the bitterly cold winters. A stack of fireplace peat cost five punt, and your thrifty Irish would be damned if they were going to pay that amount of money just to keep warm in the house. So off to the Local they would go.
About the Irish, our Editor has much to say. We have found that getting him to dip into his Editorial Cellar, well stocked with Reading Port, Galley Proof Gin, Bluepencil Beer, Model Release Amontillado, and Travel Anecdote Whiskey -- all with obvious strict usage assignments -- results in a more amneniable atmosphere around the Pressroom, general good will, and scads of lovely stuff about which to write. It may be found that more than a little bit of Irish resides in our Editor, but we leave that to you, Dear Reader, to decide.
About the Irish, this, our Editor, had to say, with perhaps even more tortured syntax than this sentence implies, after a double ration of the appropriately assigned tonic: The Irish are pugnacious only when drunk and that is seldom. This is why we have not seen an Irish heavyweight champion for many years. Fighters nowadays are encouraged to live clean, sober, decent lives and run up the steps of Philadelphia's City Hall with the energetic exertion of the athlete devoted to purity and abstention from intoxicants of any kind.
In this regard, boxing and baseball have diverged tremendously and with typically damaging consequences on both sides to the Irish.
No longer allowed to tie a decent on on before the bought, the Irishman is soundly defeated in the ring without the requisite ichor that must flow through his veins. Deprived of victory here, he gets thoroughly soused before trotting out to the diamond, where profanity, drugs and corruption are encouraged, and so, in the middle of the game, becomes entranced with the roundness of the ball in play, studying its every contour and stitch so as to compose a decent ode or two on the subject, even as the impish opponent steals first, then second, then third and so gallops on to home before the second stanza is completed.
For, let it be known, Ireland is the Island of Poets and Scholars. If you are going to be poor, you might as well be a poet. And our Editor asserts that every last Irish man and every last Irish woman is, indeed, a poet. With maybe a few exceptions for those living on inherited estates in and about Wicklow, which is known to breed wickedness.
[This latter conviction may have something to do with an incident in which a tinker made off with the Editor's gold watch in that vicinity.]
Yes, they are all poets -- even the nuns. That the Island referenced also is host to a legion of scholars, we allow to pass, largely upon the strength of the Book of Kells, which was supposed to have rescued the intellectual rigor of Europe from the Dark Ages. As it turned out, rescuing the intellectual rigor of Europe was not such a big thing after all, and the Persian army overran the entire peninsula of Greece in a seperate incident and the French still inflict dishes upon us with overly rich sauces. So much for European history over the last several millenia.
Now what was that about the nuns, perchance. Ah, that was all about when we was there and the nun was naked.
Did you say, "naked"?
Naked, yes. As the day she was born. But a bit older than that. A fine nun she was. And a far away look came into his eye.
Could you repeat that?
Never mind now, lets get on about the scholars.
Could we get back to that nun a bit later?
Nevertheless, the Irish have many scholars among them and among us, for it must be known that, although barely eight million souls eke out a harsh existence in the Republic, some thirty-four million Irish wander the earth in a grand diaspora. That last number is not made up, according to our Fact Checker.
The Irish Language, in both its English and Gaelic forms, is full of contradictions. Which we refuse to acknowledge and so pass on to the next subject. There are two kinds of Irish and two only: The Light Irish, the Dark Irish, and the Firbolg. The Light Irish stem from the Vikings who did not enjoy lutefisk. So they came to Ireland looking for something better to eat. The Dark Irish stem from the Spanish Armada, which came to Ireland in disarray and without valid passports, and they have caused typically Spanish confusion ever since. The Firbolg have always been there, and are often confused with leprechauns, which do not exist, so they are consequently difficult to see. So much for the different kinds of Irish.
Now we come to St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick is unknown among the Island Irish, except as a rather obscure figure. There are no snakes, or very few of them, on the Island of Ireland, notably an island surrounded by miles of open sea water. There are no snakes on the Farallones either, nor are there snakes in the Hebrides and you will hunt high and low for any snakes on any of the far flung Islands of Langerhans, which we hope St.Patrick has not ever visited if only for the sake of his own health. The point is, the Irish do not celebrate St. Paddy's day and they certainly don't go hunting for mythical shamrocks and they don't affect stupid-sounding accents except on the off season to tweak the ever-so-proper British.
St. Patrick's Day is not Irish -- it is a purely American phenomenon, which has spread beyond its borders to encompass all those benighted souls who would wish to be, despite geneology and genetics, somehow Irish. What is it then, to be Irish? Well, that is not Light nor Dark, but perhaps a bit Firbolg. On this day, we celebrate conviviality, life and generosity of spirit, great sentiment and honest laughter, which are typically Irish traits all must agree. So is a tendency to want to drop roof slates upon one's neighbors, but those traits we leave out as possibly elvish of origin.
Irish elves, incidently -- mean, nasty and irritable of disposition -- share none of the hard-earned noble traits of Tolkein's elves and so we leave it at that.
And so, this St. Paddy's day, drink your green beer in memory of the gorgeous hills of Wicklow and County Meath, and all of Leinster as it prepares under its present coverlet of snow to burgeon once again under Spring showers into that rolling carpet of old. Memories as deep as a deep green carpet and naked nuns among them. There are stories in our Editor that have yet to be excavated between the Fir and the Mna.
Never been to Ireland, but understand it is a queer place, a queer place indeed.
MEMORIES, TURN YOUR FACE INTO MOONLIGHT
It's been a quiet week on the Island. They continue to build that ridiculous theatre down there and the power outage remains unexplained. The Island will soon follow behind the example of the Irish Dublin Unified in having condoms available at schools for randy adolescents. Ocassionally common sense does prevail it seems. Despite some predominantly heavy skies, the signs of impending spring cannot be denied despite the recent ice storms that have caused all sorts of ruckus in the middle of the country. Some of the signs are quite literal, as in Willie the Scamp putting up his TAXES DONE REAL CHEAP!" notice. Willie, still on probation for fencing stolen property, may be just the man to whom to hand over all your net worth. Yes, Willie would like to know all about what you own in your garage.
Well, perhaps some ideas are best left to speculation and chance.
From the sounds of backfiring and sailor's language ejecting from a garage on LIncoln, it appears Bear is getting his vintage Harley-Davidson in order for the Redwood Run. Good, good. And from a garage across the way, the sounds of yet more backfiring and cursing indicate that Percy Worthington-Boughspatt is making his 1939 beige two-toned Mandeville-Brot Coupe ready for the annual Spring Car Show. Good, good. Meanwhile, down at the Old Same Place Susie polishes a glass until it shines like a jewel as she watches with a detached eye the courtship rituals. MInd if I buy you a drink? Yes, I mind; buzz off, buddy. Well, well.
Meanwhile here comes the midnight train, passing through the Jack
London Waterfront across the estuary. Strange de Jim has often wondered
why, on foggy nights, the sound of that train comes through especially
loud and clear. Must be the special properties of fog, its density,
its acoustic transmission qualities. The footsteps of a man wearing
a trenchcoat and fedora, walking away in the darkness. The rare sussuration
of car tires. The clink of glasses coming out the doorway of the Old
Same Place where one bartender sits pondering life's persistent questions.
And the sound of the midnight train as it winds its way, hooting from
afar, through the empty shadows of the Jack London Waterfront. The
memory of a dear friend, now gone, turning to laugh a laugh clear
as bells, a personal home movie without sound at all. But the train
now departing, fading away.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 11, 2007
HEAVY CLOUDS NO RAIN
After a week of intimidating skies, the weekend burst upon us with sunshine. positively propelling sandaled folks out in droves upon the streets. Sunday continued the warming trend, and with the baro holding steady at 30 Hg or so, looks like we are settling into determinedly pleasant weather, although May has been known to douse more than a few picnics around her.
Speaking of which, the recent storm deposits have slackened the pressure on the LA basin, which enters its second year of drought, having enjoyed all of 4 inches plus small change of rain last year and barely two this one as we ease slowly and surely out of the rainy time.
We would advise friends in Minnesotta to stop parking your car out on the frozen lake to watch the sunrise/sunset over the penguin races. A sudden breakthrough just might cool your ardor.
WAR! WHAT'S IT GOOD FOR?! WAR!
An Iraq war memorial in Lafayette reached an emotional milestone last Sunday, when a group of volunteers added 290 new crosses to the site so there were enough symbols to represent each of the 3,170 American soldiers killed in Iraq since the start of the war. (The count by the Associated Press reached 3,173 late Sunday.)
About 50 people hammered nails, painted the crosses and planted them under a clear blue sky. Some chatted while others worked quietly with white paint and boards within sight of the main freeway (Interstate 680)
A group opposed to the war has expanded its stark display overlooking the Lafayette BART Station over the past several weeks -- gathering in cold weather and at times staging candlelight vigils. Several members said blanketing this green hillside with a sea of crosses, Stars of David and Muslim Crescents has reinvigorated their sense of civic activism.
The names of fallen California soldiers have been etched into several of the religious symbols. Organizers also plan to update the total on an accompanying sign that explains the display is in memory of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.
One organizer, Jeff Heaton, said he briefly felt a sense of accomplishment but was sobered by the realization of what the number stands for.
"It's been a lot of work, but then I think about the soldiers that sacrificed their lives and I realize that the work I've done and the work others have done is nothing compared to that," said Heaton, 53, a contractor and Lafayette resident.
Squinting as he looked up at the hillside memorial Sunday, Heaton said the group would continue as long as the U.S. death toll in Iraq rises. "We'll keep adding crosses each week as more soldiers die," Heaton said.
The display has inflamed passions on both sides of the war debate. The sign was vandalized twice -- once by a woman who stopped her car, climbed the hillside and tore it down, and later by someone who threw paint on it. Critics say it denigrates the memory of brave soldiers killed in a time of war, while supporters see it as an homage to those troops and a message to the Bush administration to end the conflict.
Nancy Cuesta, 54, of Walnut Creek, who volunteered Sunday, said she hadn't been much of a political activist.
"Here I am, just a housewife from Walnut Creek, and I could really feel in my bones that this was a terrible mistake," she said. Cuesta wants to make people question their assumptions about the war and plans to take part in a March 17 peace march in Walnut Creek.
She said many of her friends supported the war and believed Saddam Hussein was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that brought down New York's World Trade Center.
Indeed, many residents of Lafayette, a bedroom community traditionally less liberal than Berkeley, Oakland or San Francisco, have criticized the display. Several spoke out at a City Council meeting in November over whether the size of the sign violated local zoning.
Baika Pratt, 46, of Martinez said she has been planting crosses on the hillside since December, after she saw the display and was stunned by its visual power.
"I realized at that moment how much disillusionment and grief I had around war in Iraq," Pratt said. "Going out there has really helped me feel a lot better ... that I can do something."
Clair Calhoon, 77, a veteran of the Korean War and a builder of the display, said he disagrees that the memorial disrespects the troops in Iraq.
"I don't believe that's true," said Calhoon, of Walnut Creek. "My criticism of the war is a criticism of the president and his cronies, not of the men and women serving."
Bay Area residents have an opportunity to show their feelings, at the very least, next Sunday when a peace march is planed for San Francisco. On March 18th, there will be a march in San Francisco, starting at 12pm at Justin Herman Plaza, with a march to Civic Center. 2007 is the 40th anniversary of the historic 1967 anti-war march to the Pentagon during the Vietnam War. March 17 will be the 4th anniversary of the start of the invasion of Iraq. Four years, thousands dead and nothing done.
Please note, ye of stronger measures that include arrest and broken glass, Monday the 19th is scheduled as the day of civil disobedience, with actions taking place at UN Plaza, The Federal Reserve Building and the usual hotspot intersections on Market.
YOU THINK I AM CRAZY . . . WELL I THINK YOU ARE CRAZY
An ex-con and former mental patient who won a landmark state Supreme Court decision in 2004 that allowed hundreds of mental patients to stop taking forced medication appeared in an County courtroom Friday on charges that he killed his roommate in September.
Kanuri Qawi, 46, was charged with murder in the fatal stabbing of his roommate, John Laird Milton Sr., 59, whose body was found Sept. 13 in their home on Moonlight Terrace at Dignity Commons, a housing facility for veterans at Alameda Point, the site of the former Naval Air Station.
Qawi was sentenced to prison in 1991 for assault and battery for an unprovoked attack on a couple in Oakland, a case that eventually led the state Supreme Court to rule in January 2004 that mentally ill former prisoners who are held in state hospitals after completing their sentences have the right to refuse psychiatric medication unless they are incompetent or dangerous.
At the time of his 1991 arrest, police reported Qawi as making numerous delusional statements. Paroled in 1993, he was soon re-arrested for violations of parole, including stalking a woman whom he claimed as his wife although the two had never even formally met.
Qawi's parole ended in 1997, but he remained hospitalized at Napa State Hospital in a series of one-year commitments authorized by a state law for prisoners who have been convicted of violent crimes related to mental disorders and are judged to be still dangerous.
The court said Qawi had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and had been medicated against his will between 1995 and 2004.
In a declaration quoted by the court, the Napa State Hospital medical director said that "without his antipsychotic medication, (Qawi) would pose a markedly increased risk to the safety and security of staff and patients."
The court also said psychiatric evaluators at the hospital had found that Qawi "consistently maintains that he suffers no mental illness and requires no medication or other forms of treatment."
In the 6-1 ruling, Justice Carlos Moreno said any competent adult, including a prison inmate, has the right to refuse medical treatment.
The Island case attracted local interest because Qawi apparently continued to live in the apartment as the body of his former room-mate began to decay. Police arrived when Qawi made numerous 911 calls, pleading for help from "attempted abduction." When police arrived, they found the man clearly delusional. And seemingly unaware of the bad odor coming from the room next to his.
Since Napa does not release patient records under any conditions, the time and nature of his release from holding there remains unknown. Because of this treatment of patient records, the incidence of recidivism back to violent behavior remains also unknown and no money exists to fund former programs that once tracked progress of released inmates. The present situation is a direct legacy of Ronald Reagan's wholesale release of violent inmates during the final hours of his governorship, combined with the slashing of those tracking programs, actions which many take as revenge for California's unanimous rejection of a second term to the largely failed former Governor.
COME DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS BLUES
On Sunday, March 11th, the Alameda music community gathered to aid one of their own in need. Well-known Blues and Boogie piano player David Krull is battling a genetic blood disease that attacks the liver and kidneys. Rooster's Roadhouse (1700 Clement Street at Grand,Alameda, 510.337.9190) hosted a benefit concert with all proceeds going to Krull to help defay his mounting medical expenses. As of this writing, the party is still rocking over at the roadhouse.
David's career began in Kansas City and St. Louis before touring the world with Jimmy Rogers. He has played with many of the greats in the blues world, including Johnnie Johnson, Henry Townsend, Hubert Sumlin, Bonnie Raitt and Elvin Bishop. He moved to the Island ten years ago and has played with a number of local acts. Last year, he released his first solo CD, Can't Let Go.
You can purchase Dave Krulls's music at his website: http://www.davidkrullblues.com/
His manager, Bob Rhodes, has this message for you blues folks out there.
. . . We are getting his website, davidkrullblues.com set up with a Paypal account for online ordering. Or, you can send a check for $18 to Bob Rhodes, 1111 Peach Street, Alameda,CA 94501. Please feel free to contact me with inquiries - firstname.lastname@example.org.
IslandLife cruised on down to stow the Official Vehical around the corner from the gleaming Harleys parked out front of Roosters and checked out the Alameda Island Allstars, something of a legend in their own right, as they launched into a short version of "Whipping Post" before ironing out the sound bugs for a Sonny Landreth tune. The place is a cheeseburger/trans-fat heaped plate of Philly Cheesesteak and Anchor Steam on tap kind of joint where the gals wearing sequin-spangled black spagetti-strap tops and jeans be juking among the burly guys wearing mutton-chops and serious looks. The air inside is hot as an oven, because you know, "you can't play the blues in an air conditioned room." If you feel hot, drink more beer. In short, just our kind of place and worth a re-visit. "Goin' out west, goin' out west, goin' out west where they 'ppreciate me."
IF THE JOINT IS ROCKING, DON'T BOTHER KNOCKIN'
Here are some hot shows coming up, so mark your calendars. This week, Patty Griffin strolls into the Warfield to satisfy the fans of this literate and blusey lady. Lately the Larkspur Cafe has been making noise with some kind of booking fervor that has been sending waves this way. On the 17th, we note Teja Gerken, Seve Baughman, Pete Madsen are coming together for a "fingerstyle picking summit". Sounds tasty.
The glorious Palace of Fine Arts holds a charity fundraiser headlined by Taj Mahal, Mickey Hart, David Hidalgo, and Vusi Mahlasela (South Africa). Mr. Hidalgo is a lead guitarist for Los Lobos, which should make for a really fascinating evening.
Oozing into the GAMH for two shows around the 13th of April, the Cowboy Junkies will play to all those of you who have been hiding that oh so useful English Major under the seat covers.
Finally, April 26th provides a Must See when those delightful Mexican kids, Rodrigo and Gabriela show up to astound the audience with what seems to be purely impossible. There are very few people who can play percussion and guitar simultaneously at Heavy Metal speed. Can you say "exciting"? I knew you could.
We know some of you are so misfortunate as not to have heard our boys, Houston Jones, but you will have a chance on March 18th, when they appear live on KPIG's "Please Stand By" with Sleepy John Sandidge. KPIG is 1510 on the AM dial in Babylon, but this program is heard from San Luis Obispo up to the Russian River on various other channels.
As always, this space encourages music. Music sooths the soul, bolsters the social contract, enhances family values, establishes peace and harmony throughout the known and unknown universe, revivifies the Economy, and besides, it is good for you. Therefore we say, support local music wherever you are.
YOU BETTER COME ON IN MY KITCHEN
It might not rain but you can bet your booties that you will be forking over a rain of change for higher gas prices, as we watch first Hawaii, then California, then Nevada and Montana see the pump price ratchet up above $3 per gallon. Excuses from Big Oil this time are "refinery repairs and maintenance" and expectation of springtime shortages just now coming into place after the drawdown on reserves authorized by the President after the Katrina disaster. Because people have not moderated consumption in the slightest, with scads of SUV's still packing the roads and other wasteful behaviors continuing, demand remains high, stoking the price increases. In fact, some here are simply working overtime to earn more to pay for more gasoline, without cutting back usage.
Now who do we have in our Government who has some particular relationship to Big Oil such that they could conceivably do something useful (for once) and get these prices wrassled down like a tractable Texas steer? Can't think of anyone who can be effective here. So we guess we will just have to pay up. And pay and pay and pay and pay.
Saturday night we galloped on down the boreen to the local, McGrath's, where Houston Jones held forth in fine form to an SRO crowd, playing all the favorites and a few new ones from their upcoming new CD now in Studio. Multi-intrumentalist Chojo Jacques was there and announced the sad parting of Brad Delp, founding member of the supergroup Boston and personal friend to Chojo for many years. Delp was just 55 years young. He and bandmates were engineering students at MIT who spent their off hours playing Beatles covers under the name Beatle Juice before they all decided to drop out and launch a band that instantly took the work by storm, and lasted for a number of years on the strength of just two stellar albums.
SUN GONE DOWN
It's been a quiet week on the Island. The Sherman Street flasher has been at it again, engaging in Suspicious Circumstances, perhaps featuring a wardrobe malfunction. A site manager clearing out an abandoned storage unit found an unexpended artillery shell. That's for those of you who never throw anything away. Never know when you might need a live howitzer round; could come in useful some day. A fellow was arrested for driving his bicycle DUI. Officer O'Madhauen on the job again. This is, after all, a town where people can get tossed in the Tank for walking DUI. A fellow was arrested for defrauding an innkeeper on the 1300 block of Park Avenue. And possessing white powders and paraphernalia of seriously illegal status. Can you say, "Harbor Motel"? I knew you could.
Typical March madness. Always happens when the weather improves and people come out of doors unthinkingly, and forget to stow away that crack pipe or methamphetamine works.
Its the flowers that do it. They have some kind of magical power. Just re-examine the story about Hester in the sidebar and ponder the mysterious powers that be. Pollen is known to have potent effects; it can bring some people to tears. In fact, it just that to thousands each year about this time. Tears, wheezing, sneezing, coughing, all sorts of mean, nasty ugly sorts of things. You dont believe this you just watch. Don't underestimate the power of flowers.
Trent has been hiding among the stacks of the new Island Free Library, trying to avoid the critical eye of Ruth Johnson, Reference Librarian. Ruth is no ordinary Librarian -- we think you could have guessed -- for she possesses the vision of a hawk behind those bifocals, and has the uncanny hearing capacity of a Spotted Owl at nighttime in the woods, which can hear the furtive scratchings of a woodmouse in the woods from two miles away. In addition, she is a master of Librarian Martial Arts and can bring down a Late Borrower with a single karate chop. Not that she resorts to such crude tactics in the day to day, for she also possesses the savvy wiles of a fierce jungle cat. Such is Ruth Johnson, Reference Librarian for the brand new Island library on Oak Street.
No wonder Trent often hides among the Unitarian Psychoanalysis Section, a place Ms. Johnson, a devout Lutheran, seldom frequents, by reason of its several texts that contain explicit, shall we say, amoral and potentially erotic analyses.
Mr. Howitzer comes into the building. That, in itself is a surprise. Mr. Howitzer has no use for the Island Free Library, or libraries in general. Indeed, anything that has the name "free" attached is anathema to Mr. Howitzer. Mr. Howitzer has designs upon the old Carnegie building that used to house the Island Free Library. Some, spit, snarl, disgust, artists want to turn the place into a studio for dance and music and, shockingly, operettas of the most trivial kind imaginable. When property values are so valued! Toscanini! Tosca Ninny if you ask me! Simply a smaller version of that scamp Tosca! All of them shiftless Italians, no doubt. What good are musicals except entertainments. Waste of time. (Here he pounds his cane upon the brand new flagstones of the Island Free Library in front of the Main Desk) I have no time for that; I am busy being the captain of industry. Managing serious things. Serious things like property! Tangibles! Things you can rap your stick on! (Here he raps his cane again for emphasis upon the abused flagstones). Unlike certain ungrateful secretaries who cause eruptions of mean disorder, I am the very pillar of Society and stand upon Solid Principles! (Rap! Rap!) I demand you turn over the keys to the Carnegie or face utility shutoff! (Here he misfortunately rapped upon the grate near the Main Desk)
What happened next was not expected.
Because of Mr. Howitzer blocking funding during the final days of construction, that particular grate was not made as sturdily as designed. That grate happened to be the main access to the steam line mains. And with a solid RAP his cane finally busted right through and punctured that main which was doing all it could to contain pressure of some 300 PSI. Not large by engineering standards, but sufficient enough to blow a jet right up Mr. Howitzer's pantleg and rocket his cane through the glass atrium ceiling a couple stories above.
Mr. Howitzer, howling like a scalded boar, fell across the main desk, knocking the barcode reader to the floor, to the dismay of Librarian Assistant Maria Contoza who shrieked. Understandably so, as a jet of steam now geysered a full two stories in front of her, drenching the winding middle stairs and the upper floors: history, geography, archeology, and, due to quirks of the dewy decimal system, tapestry and basket weaving with a bit of science thrown in for good measure.
The cane, meanwhile, descended with great velocity to punch a second hole through the atrium roof, showering those still dry and reading about the bonobo tribes of Tanzania with broken glass.
Ruth Johnson siezed Mr. Howitzer by his collar and, rapping his head smartly upon the tabletop, broke his nose, while exclaiming "What is wrong with you?" This did not resolve the steam problem. Nor did it help Maria to stop shrieking.
Trent, seeing these events, thought he knew exactly what to do. The thing to do was to shut off the steam supply. Of course. Immediately behind him was a pipe running up the wall with a big red wheel upon it. Clearly this was a main water valve. Leaping to the act, he manfully turned the valve, fully intending to save the library, or at least the second floor.
Ah Trent, this was indeed a main water valve, but not for the steam mains. No, this valve on the second floor was the valve for the fire sprinkler system. Trent, turning this wheel, managed with his youthful vigor to break it right off. Yes, he did. Which was good, in that jets of water did not spurt out all over the library to ruin every last single book garnered painfully over the course of nearly one hundred years. Nope. When it broke, the same thing happened, more or less, which had happened down below, albeit with cold water. A great jet shot out and propelled Trent's body over the railing of the second floor and, cartwheeling through space, much to the wonder of those down below who gaped open mouthed at this apparition of a flying man in the library at this time, sent him smashing into the Master's Dissertation stacks across the way.
The errant cane, meanwhile, came down hard into the poetry section, sending up a geyser of Emily Dickenson, Edward Dorn, and a little known Irish poet by the name of Paul Durcan. Some of these pages floated up through the holes in the roof and drifted out over the estuary not far away, where an Iranian submarine passing beneath the surface took notice of these cryptic messages and, with a robotic arm retrieved them before passing out through the channel into the Bay and then out through the Golden Gate to the Pacific Ocean entirely unnoticed, there having been insufficient funds allocated to Homeland Security to monitor such traffic. The fight was being taken to them after all, at great expense, so that they would not bother us at home and the Coast Guard units that ordinarily patrol the coast had been sent to the Bay of Basra.
Officer O'Madhauen, seeing great billows of steam emitting from the library across the street from the station, manfully called the Fire Department, then, as no traffic ordinances appeared to be involved, continued about his day. The Fire Department arrived and shut down the water systems, tersely and effectively. Using a cherry picker, they extricated Trent from the Dissertation Stacks and Mr. Howitzer was delivered to the Island Hospital in fine style, waving his retrieved cane in the air above him. An army of volunteer Library Assistants generaled by Ruth, and supplied with Robert Hellenga's Sixteen Pleasures, repaired all the damage within twenty-four hours.
To this day, the Iranians are still trying to relate Amherst to the Apaches with some connection to the Troubles without success.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 4, 2007
TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, BERKELEY REP
With the astoundingly successful Pillowman held over an additional three weeks, we were all shunted to the Roda Theatre space next door to the Thrust Stage. The Roda is a straightforward proscenium stage with a deep blocking-space that goes all the way to the back wall of the building, and banked boards which allow for free movement of large ensembles.
Island-Life staff attended Friday evening the world premier of Adele Edling Shank's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel, "To The Lighthouse." The novel does not adhere to conventional standards of plot or narrative, but glides easily via stream of consciousness techniques from character to character with the occasional stitch of dialog and narrative event to loosely trace the lives of the Ramsey family with its eight children and friends of the family over the course of ten years spanning World War I.
To the Lighthouse (published in 1927) encompasses two days placed ten years apart. The "plot" centers around the Ramsey family's anticipation of and reflection upon a visit to a lighthouse and connected familial tensions. One of the primary themes of the novel is the struggle in the creative process that beset painter Lily Briscoe while she struggles to paint in the midst of the family drama. "Women cannot paint nor write," a Mr. Tansley asserts.
Virginia Woolf is generally regarded as one of the most significant English language lyrical prose stylists of the Twentieth Century. Her nine novels and dozens of short stories and essays pushed the interior monologue presented in the final pages of James Joyce's Ulysses, to its most cultivated level, changing the way virtually every form of English writing is presented and perceived, from the most common dime store paperback, to drama, to serious literature, magazine articles, and even the commercials presented on TV and radio.
It is difficult to imagine that the way a character's interior thoughts, from fully realized thinking and memories to unconscious thoughts and feelings are presented mixed with overtly objective narration simply did not exist in any form prior to Virginia Woolf and the Modernist school of which she was a part. The idea of presenting the unconscious in distorted forms exteriorly did exist in expressionist drama, but Virginia Woolf was the first to present interior states naturally and without hammer-headed symbolism. When symbols exist in her work, they are subjective symbols of significance to the character presented, and not of the author's attempt at "meaning."
The lighthouse represents different things to each of the characters, including young and older James Ramsey, who saw the structure as distant, silver, shimmering and dreamlike, but upon approaching as a young man sailing up to the dock sees a harsh "black and white concrete tower", and so attempts to discard his earlier impression until he realizes that the lighthouse is both the image of the past as well as the concrete object in the present.
The result, in Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, is lyrical evocation, rather than objective narration. Thematically, she has recurring concerns, but never insistent demonstrations or arguments. The presentation of "social realities" and the divergence between social expectations and personal acts is a consistent issue with her, especially in what she saw as onerous expectations and dependence upon women to constantly "rise to the occasion" so as to bolster any old situation, from Society and Civilization to the decorum of the dinner table and the fallibilities of men in general. Indeed she is regarded as a proto-feminist and, after a post-WWII decline in popularity, experienced a resurgence of interest during the feminist upwelling of the seventies.
Another concern with Virginia Woolf, and very much the linchpin of To the Lighthouse, is the necessity and importance of the artist to find and present the truth of things from the inside out, whether via painting or via writing. Her belief was that strict representation missed the essence of things, and so was inherently false.
That said, dramatizing a work like To the Lighthouse, which has no overt protagonist, no linear plot, no narrative, no crisis, and no Aristotelian unity of Time, although there is unity of place, presents significant challenges to the playwright.
Virginia Woolf is not foreign territory for playwright Adele Shank, author of Rocks in Her Pocket, a play that features the ghosts of Diane Arbus, Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf collaborating to prevent the suicide of a young artist but it is by far her most daring effort. Does the play work? Hard to say, as of the four audience members we interviewed, not one of them could make up their minds and none of them claimed to understand what it all "meant." Then again, for a such an introspective, reflective work, a few hours of pondering may make a difference.
Among our Staff, we all agreed that the more oblique second half of the play, which abandoned language in favor of working the stage space more, using scrim projections and lighting effects, and expanding the use of Paul Dresher's excellent mood music all worked better and -- oddly enough -- truer to the original intent of evocation -- than simply fleshing out the novel's language with dramaturgy. To the extent that the playwright used theatrical devices, the play did work, becoming one with the musical score and ending with a nice resolution of flowing movement as Mr. Ramsey (played with a nice balance of comedy and pathos by Edmond Genest) stands up in the boat at the base of the lighthouse just as Lily (a superb Rebecca Watson) steps back from her finally completed painting (having been ten years in the making) and states triumphantly, "It is finished."
The first act does have a rather nice presentation of a dinner at which characters voice inner thoughts before uttering banal or provocative statements by turns as Mrs. Ramsey comments upon each of the guests and family members, with a wish near the end of dinner, after disagreements and disagreeables have been resolved into harmony, how she wants to capture that moment of harmony in the face of its immediate dissolution in the face of advancing Time, with the women gathering together to exit stage right. As the men rise up and turn to walk off stage left, she says, "Too late. It's over and the moment is in the Past."
Mrs. Ramsey is the matriarch at the center, sitting on the sofa that belonged to her grandmother, preserving what she can in the present, and trying to establish beautiful order in the form of a fruit centerpiece -- which is destroyed when the loutish Mr. Tansey removes a pear to carve up with a knife -- and she passes away during the War. It remains for Lily Brascoe, the painter artist, to preserve that which was in a painting that preserves balance and harmony.
The play does not hit the audience over the head with Meaning or tremendously deep symbols. The boar's skull that is mounted on stage evokes inevitable mortality, but that is all it is, and nothing more. The effects of gestures, words, looks, are subtle and effective cumulatively, like waves coming in one after another to make the tide, a trope often employed by Ms. Woolf in her books.
Passing from the Pillowman's graphic depiction of torture and child abuse to the intricate subtleties of Lighthouse may be a far reach for some. Some have taken VW to task for her subject matter. But if Virginia Woolf is to be faulted for focussing overmuch upon effete well-to-do folks who have the financial resources to be introspective and can afford "summer houses", then one tosses out Jane Austen, all the Brontes, George Sand, and George Eliot, all of whom worked within the limitations enforced on them by society at large, and -- like Virginia Woolf -- did good work with what they had.
Ultimately, if the play is about anything, it is about the triumph of preservation through artistic process over inevitable decay. And that is not trivial at all. In any case it is really nice to see a group of people go out on a limb together and essay something different from the Same Old Thing. Lord save us all from yet another tiresome Oklahoma and Andrew Lloyd Webber shrieker.
In her diaries, edited and published posthumously by her husband (absolutely required reading for anyone who pretends to write), she wrote in her final entry four days before her death, "No: I intend no introspection. I mark Henry James' sentence: observe perpetually. Observe the oncome of age. Observe greed. Observe my own despondency. By that means it becomes serviceable. Or so I hope. I insist upon spending this time to the best advantage. I will go down with my colours flying. . . . And now with some pleasure I find that it is seven; and must cook dinner. Haddock and sausage meat. I think it is true that one gains a certain hold on sausage and haddock by writing them down."
The play is scheduled to run to the 28th. Box office is 510-647-2949, and one can always drop on by at the web address of www.berkeleyrep.org.
Coming to the foreburner will be an organized list with hyperlinks to copies of all the reviews published in Island-Life over the past eight years, so that you may relive that special concert moment or that remarkable theatre performance. And as a helping hand, add to whosomever's clipfile. We really do support the arts and artists here.
COLD RAIN AND SNOW
People were pretty concerned before the recent spate of storms about the lack of snowpack in the high Sierra, which is what produces 90% of the water for people and agriculture in California. The most recent snow report from the Avalanchecenter.org is listed below.Today's Central Sierra Weather Observations March 4, 2007:
A series of local storm fronts will probably add a negligible amount to this level of about eight to nine feet, confirmed at Bear Valley Ski Resort, sufficient to avoid a drought this year, but still far short of a more healthy fifteen feet or so.
On the upside, Montana, Nebraska and the Midwest can start digging out with fair assurance that the worst of it is over for this year.
JACQUELINE'S GONE TO PABLO
Seems wan artists and Virginia Woolf-types are not the only ones who take Art quite seriously. A fellow down the street from the Island-Life offices here was grilled by the Secret Service about a display in his front yard featuring a cardboard cutout of President Bush with a knife through the paper "head".
Michael McDonald said he was grilled for about 90 minutes by two agents who asked about his personal history and his political views. They also asked him to allow access to his medical records, he said.
The cutout also shows painted blood running over the president's eyes and down the bridge of his nose.
McDonald said the federal agents asked if he interpreted his work as a threat against the country's chief executive. He said he didn't.
"They said, 'You've got a knife sitting in the head of the president of the United States,'" McDonald told The Oakland Tribune. "I said, 'No, I got a knife in a piece of cardboard.'"
McDonald, 55, said he has been placing art in his front yard for 13 years. He rotates the pieces monthly. We have featured photos of some of his elaborate installations, which often showcase his significant painterly skills, and his spot has developed international renown, being featured in several articles in major newspapers in Germany and Great Britain. Several of his neighbors have objected, however, to some of the virulently antiwar and anti-Administration content.
His house is filled with examples of his painting which also decorates his VW van (which has a working TV set embedded in the rear) and his garage door.
McDonald typically will revise his work upon protest, grudgingly,
but still with a mind to differing opinions. In response to the SS
visit, he painted over the likeness of Bush, leaving the featureless
cutout. This remained for a few days, but apparently the reminder
still was too much for some people, and he has since removed the installation
except for the black mounting easel and a short note, which is reproduced
We are all wondering here if perhaps now that the SS is taking a serious interest in Art that they be properly guided with, say, a few courses in Post-Modernist theory, a bit of Neoclassicism (to satisfy the Conservatives), and a touch of Impressionism so as to round out their curriculum of jiu jitsu and waterboarding. Just a suggestion.
MADMAN ACROSS THE WATER
Our roving photog managed to catch Harlan posting a sign addition to the side of his house, a rare occurance. He interviewed Harlan for a good hour, starting with the natural question, "What does this mean?"
Harlan's response: "Well, its either 'Fail' or it is 'Safe'." He then went on to discuss global warming and inquired if the photographer knew if there were more glaciers in Antartica than at the North Pole, which left our photographer scratching his head for the next two hours trying to make sense of it all.
Here are the latest postings on Lincoln and Lafayette. We still don't know what it means, but to Harlan, the reference to Bosnia somehow involves the Chinese embassy in Dubrovnik. Go figure.
Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. The full moon arose in a cloud-wracked sky the other night and was promptly eclipsed. Nothing good ever lasts, says Susie, bartender at the Old Same Place. Everybody here is getting ready for Spring's eruption. Spring always causes some kind of trouble for which you must prepare. Strange de Jim has purchased a hodful of bricks, which promptly broke the suspension on his old van. The bricks are for building a wall against the ravages of Spring, which is notorious around here for causing all sorts of commotion, as mentioned before. Seems Spring began early by busting Jim's suspension, and he was down in the Hot Dog cafe complaining all about it. About torsion bars and preloading and god knows what all.
But after a season of cold and rain, the sun came out Saturday and Sunday saw sporadic clouds over the warming lands. Californians don't like this fluctuation of weather; we prefer solid certaincies and established patterns and a decent spell of warm sunshine with none of your nervous jumping up and down if you please.
The freesias are all going great guns down there by the garden wall and Mr. Ramsey has been poking around the foundations of his house, muttering curses against the gophers. He's afraid the whole house will fall into a great big sinkhole and he'll have to live down there among the gophers and eat tubers for dinner, or something like that. Recently a big swatch of houses in Babylon near downtown did just that and the people living there did not like it one bit. Living in California is really tough, and consequently the gophers here have evolved into hombres you just do not want to tangle with in a dark alley. They have gangs and they have ways of getting people like you to join, willfully or not.
Sometimes you can see them head down the street in packs, all riding choppers. Gopher gangs.
Just you imagine walking across your livingroom floor only to find yourself suddenly looking up where the roof used to be, surrounded by folks with really big incisors and voices like Gomer Pyle. Not a pretty sight at all with grandmother's sofa all gnawed to tatters. All the kids are going to be laughed at in school and your dentist bills will exceed the GNP of Tanzania. And your job? Well, you can just forget that promotion to Marketing. You will be a Go-For from now on. Jim, be a good little rodent and fetch me that Fedex envelope . . . .
Wouldn't this be a good time for a slice of rhubarb pie? Yes, nothing takes away the pain of shame and humiliation like a slice of Be-Bop rhubarb pie . . . .
Oh heck, that's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 25, 2007
CAM YE O'ER FRAE FRANCE
This week's headline photo comes courtesy of reader and fellow Islander, Chad Chadwick. History has not been kind to King George III, and largely for good reason. He had been offending quite a lot of other folks -- besides the American colonists -- for some time before the clear symptoms of psychotic dementia caused even the Tories to reject their own wayward and incompetant monarch.
"Cam Ye O'er Frae France" was a bawdy ballad of the times, probably of Irish origin, lampooning the English head of state with insinuations of questionable parentage and images of "here comes Georgie, a ridin' on a goosie!" William Pitt, a fairly capable administrator, managed to put a lot of spin on George's actions at home, resulting in a period of popularity -- in England -- for the increasingly erratic monarch, but when Pitt died, the king was locked up -- by that point he was talking to trees as if they were foreign dignitaries -- and eventually the man died blind and thoroughly insane at age 81, being the longest lived monarch of Britain, gifted with a Whig parliament which despised him utterly.
Note, if you will, "the wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command", the look of haughty disdain in both visages. The singular absence of cogent cerebral occupation, that vacuous emptiness. "Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Picked up RT's "Resonator" from CD Baby, which is an online distribution outfit that is becoming a big alternative to the massive rip-off schemes of the big outlets like Record Wherehouse and Borders. At the big retail chains, of your hard earned $20 paid at the register, only about $1.50 typically winds up in the hands of the artists who actually made the sound. All the rest gets eaten up by the outlet, the producers, and the sort of industry leech savaged by U2, Pearl Jam, and Steely Dan.
This is an excellent addition to the "old school" blues resurgence happening all over. Ron Thompson is a dynamic, energetic and extremely fluid multi-instrumentalist more known for his work with Chicago-style electric blues, but here he demonstrates his deep knowledge and feel for the roots of the country blues form by sticking to a piano and his National Steel Resonator guitar. The effect is spare and stark, allowing the essence of his tasty blues guitar to really come out. His cover of Robert Johnson's "Traveling Riverside Blues" adheres to the spirit of the original without the usual sonic mud that clutters so many contemporary interpretations, and his originals are all so evocative of Son House-style acoustic blues they are scary. If you like guys like Alvin Youngblood Hart, you will like this rocking CD. The CD closes with a really nice slice of his prodigiously broad guitar talent in "Prayer for the 21st Century."
As we tend to experience quite a lot of music, especially blues, at Island-Life.net, we seldom award anyone a "5" stars, but Ron comes pretty darn close. If we have a nit to pick, that would be on vocals, which never have been an RT strong suite, whether in performance or in studio. True to form, Ron's vocals do not cut through the way Hart, Keb' Mo', or Tommy Castro can, but all of these songs have no more than 15 words a piece in them, tops, and we imagine Ron basically just tosses in the vocals as an afterthought, much like a man singing to himself while sitting in a hard chair, half-empty bottle of Old Crow beside, under a bare electric light-bulb shining down in a dingy room with peeling wallpaper, a broken heater in the corner, and a window that looks out upon the brick walls of a tenement alley, while those resonator cones do all the main work in that steel National guitar, picking up that constant tick-tick of the thumb keeping time while the rest of the fingers tell the story of hard luck and bad love gone wrong a long way from home.
That's the sort of blues we like.
Midweek the gulls came swooping in over the new Snob Hill Grocery at the Landing, and they were followed by roiling clouds that cut loose with hail and all what not around midnight on Wednesday. The skies remained heavy until Sunday when they cut loose again. All of which means that Montana gets schlocked again by Monday with more heavy weather, followed by Nebraska and on to the pounded upstate New York. As for Minnesotta, dear friends hang tight in there. Still a few more weeks of ice fishing for you, at least. Oofta, Betty-ja! Oofta!
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC
We are really jazzed here at Island-life.net about those kids, Rodrigo & Gabriela, who seem to be about to take the world by storm under their own terms. Taking a gander at schedules we see them inching west here by about May, with nothing definite lined up for California. If you haven't heard of them, or caught the buzz, the doughty pair seems to have crossed the diamond with the pearl in their genre-bending music that thrashes nylon-string guitars like full-metal shredder devotees of Axel Rose. Gabriela is a self-taught musician who learned by playing an acoustic guitar along with Led Zeppelin records, and Rodrigo came from a fullly electric metal-band background. They sold their electric equipment to pay for plane flights from hometown Mexico City to Europe, where they paid the bills by busking on the streets. We first heard about them during the Sunday Night Jams by Mike Powers on late night KFOG a year or so ago, but apparently the acoustic duo has been packing soccer stadiums in Europe for some time. Gabriela does this impossible thing in which she plays percussion simultaneously to playing rhythm at something like 168bpm. Such a performance is a violation of most natural laws of physics, but the girl just does it, doing the work of three performers with just herself and one instrument.
Coming up on the radar, we have Robert Randolph and his Family Band about to slide into the Warfield with just about the tastiest lap steel you ever heard on 3/9. But before that, we have our hippy, trippy chick Rickie Lee Jones gracing the place with its winding concrete ascents on 3/3.
Just out: bursts the suddenly rejuvenated Willie Nelson, old bandit and outlaw, endearing and irascible as ever. He will be holding forth in this very blue state under the purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore from 4/15-4/19 with his famous patched and beat-up Martin concert guitar. Willie has caused some waves recently by his shift from unabashed apologist for the Administration to one of its sharpest critics. The Dixie Chicks are one thing, and we are glad of their triumph over adversity, but Mr. Nelson is red-blooded America Heartland and when he says Mr. Bush is a dangerous fool, you people had better pay attention.
Michael Franti and Spearhead apparently had a smash-up successful date on President's Day here. The boys have been downstairs, toking up prior to serious travel on the road. The schedule shows them creeping East from this point forward, with a major date in Austin, TX in March. Best of luck, guys.
In a similar vein, the Ragga Muffins festival took place at BGC yesterday. No word yet on what went down.
Word is that the reunification of The Police for a series here in Oaktown will be the big highlight of the upcoming season. Apparently, Tix are already Sold Out.
Continuing this theme of hubris and weather, long-time associate and sister ex-officio, Beatrice, sends this image after the recent storms from San Anselmo in Marin. All we can say is, Ouch!
Beatrice says, "Aren't you glad this isn't your truck?"
Don't people buy these things with the understanding that they will destroy anything they happen to hit on the freeway, rather than the reverse? Seems someone did not take into account all possiblities.
ITS THE SUNDAY NIGHT JAM
It's been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown. The Snob Hill Foods opened up at the blighted Bridgeside Shopping Center, which is finally showing signs of life within sight of the Kaiser talus piles across the estuary after local politics and silly in-fighting let a grocery move back into the abandoned grocery location there. There is a movement afoot to turn the Island into a Preserve for the Affluent and Latte-conscious class, hence the push for Snob Hill, Trader Joes and other venues where people not only know how to pronouce the word "arugula", but also know when to pair such a leaf with Belgian endive. Heard they had a jazz quartet playing there in the middle of the fruit and vegetable section. That means they are helping to feed musicians, so okay, you guys can stay.
Where there is music, there is vitality and vitamins and all the FDA requirements for healthy living. The presence of music means life goes on with some reason or other and generally the economy benefits as well as beneficial aspects to the social contract. Besides, music is good for you, so support local music wherever you can.
Down at the Old Same Place things have been pretty quiet. Susie has had to fill the hours behind the bar reading up on her old anthropology textbooks between the sporadic order for a martini on the rocks or the Old Fashioned straight up, muddled. There she leans up behind the soda dispenser with the pale bar lights shining on her text describing the habits and culture of the Bonobo of Madagascar, their curious customs, their uninhibited behaviour.
Bear has been absent since the 14th, as usual, and so his hibernation period remains unbroken. Percy does not bring his immaculate coupe ever out under so much as a wisp of cloud for fear of damaging the leather upholstery by means of excess humidity, so he is also scarce this evening. Babar has been preparing for the raucous tumult of the hustings, for he has once again announced his candidacy for the highest office of the land. The Incumbant, President Eugene Shrubb, has long been known as a teetotaler, although recent signs of private slippage in that area have manifested themselves, often with embarrassing results.
Fog horns hoot out on the Bay while Suzie absently polishes a glass before returning to her book. The Bonobos appear to have no problems pursuing diplomatic relations with neighboring tribes . . . .
The door opens and a guy walks in, his long London Fog knockoff sparkeled with raindrops and he takes a seat at the bar, orders a beer. The only other customers in the bar are a girl in her twenties nursing her second "he-stood-me up-I-left-him-good-riddance" Manhattan and a sour Eugene Gallipagus well into his fourth sour of the evening at the far end of the bar in the shadows.
"I hate poodles." Eugene says to nobody in particular, then, perhaps to explain, says, "I hate all small yappy dogs."
The girl gets up and moves further away from him at the bar.
Suzie goes over to the sound system and turns it on. One of Jimmy's compilation CD's is in the changer, and when Jimmy, a frustrated radio disk jockey, makes a compilation CD he does so by a theme that seems remarkable only to the labyrinthine workings of Jimmy's brain. This one is all about rain songs. The first one is by Johnny Cash, and it never mentions rain, not even once.
Just around the corner there's heartache
So if you've just lost your sweetheart
"I have a dog. He's a good dog." The girl says straight in front of her.
"Umph," rousing out of his funk, "What kind?"
"Setter. He's intelligent and can do tricks and stuff."
"I used to have a dog. Long time ago. . . ".
There the conversation trailed off. So Suzie, doing whatever a bartender can do under such circumstances comes over, puts her hands on the bar and looks from one to the other.
"Can I get you two anything?"
"Water," says the girl. "Just a glass of plain tap water please."
Suzie shrugs, puts down a glass of water and takes away the empty manhattan glass.
"Just don't buy me a drink." says the girl. "That's so trite and stupid. I am so sick of being stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid."
"All right." says the guy.
The conversation languishes again. The song ends and Stevie Ray Vaugh starts in with a real cheery number.
The sky is crying!
After a while, the guy starts talking. "I knew a gal once. Secretary for a law firm in the City. There are plenty of smart girls in the City but she was not one of them. Had not any more brains than a bat. One day she filled up the xerox machine with rubbing alcohol instead of toner and just stood there giggling at what she had done. And she did a lot of things like that Anyway, she owns this red Miata sportscar and every Friday night she would go out with the same friends she has had for years, as carefree and happy for all the world. That mistake with the toner didn't bother her and nothing people said ever made a lick of difference in her attitude and I am in there getting torn up by my boss for a wrong punctuation mark on a deposition. A deposition! Those things are all verbal! But that guy was making my life miserable in that place.
Then I'd see this perfect idiot go flouncing in and out and I thought to myself, you know, how come she's happy and I am not? I have a right to be happy, I decided, just as much right as her."
There was a pause after that speech, then the girl said, "What did you do?"
The guy stood up and laid down a two dollar tip before speaking as he buttoned up his overcoat. "I walked out. Never went back and my life has been better ever since. And when there's bad luck, I forget that day, but I thank you for reminding me. Thank you, whoever you are. And I don't think you are stupid at all." And with that, the guy went out.
The girl finished her glass of water and turned the glass in her hands, apparently catching the barlight in its facets. She then gathered up her things and there, right there at the door, Suzie could see how the girl pulled back her shoulders, straightened up and held her chin high like a woman warrior setting out into the storm as Jorma Kaukonen came on right then with "Big River Blues."
Oh Let it rain, let it pour
Suzie called a cab for Eugene, well onto his fifth sour and a private rumination against yappy dogs before returning to her textbook. The culture of the Bonobo is repleate with inexplicable and random acts of generosity and kindness . . . .
Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but deep in the Old Same Place Bar sits one woman still trying to resolve life's persistent questions.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 18, 2007
IN THE GREEN FUSE THAT DRIVES THE FLOWER
Understand we have another storm offshore coming in on Tuesday, but this storm had been first forecast for Friday, then Sunday and now this impish storm wants yet more time to make some poor farmer's life in Nebraska miserable with even more snow. Usually, the seagulls come in over the Whole Foods Grocery when something is brewing, and we have seen nothing of that.
The freesias are all popping out, and we've got a few early tulips, indicating that some succor is coming for you up in snowbound Minnesotta and locked-in New York. Patience, dear friends. A bit of March winds and rain will set things right again soon enough, and what follows is really worth waiting for.
The Golden State is blessed, even after all the depredations and destruction, with an abundance that should make the most dour of you out there stand with closed eyes among all the incredible wealth blooming all about you. In the struggle for survival some here experience each day, stop for one moment to breath the air, for that is still free for the moment, lest this incessant push for vengeance turn you into a hedgehog of poor distinction.
The third-floor folks have all opened their windows above the garden to drink in the heady perfumes of flowering jasmine, freesia, aromatic sweet-pea and freshly turned earth.
For those of you with allergies, well, sorry about that. You could always stick your heads into the trash bin.
Okay -- that was not so funny.
But consider the visuals of tulips glowing with inner light as minor recompense.
Dear Reader, if you have been in search of Truth, for lifelong or even for an extended spell of the past six years, be it known that the Home of Truth resides here on this very Island, and has done so for more than one hundred years in the same spot.
A while ago, not long after our description of the failed Island Faith-Based Initiative which sought to bring sobriety and moral values to the various drinking establishments via games of backgammon, dominoes and tiddly-wink, we received a communique over the transom about an event to be held at the Home of Truth on Grand Avenue.
With two correspondents visiting Paraguay, another immersed in crushing Real Life Work Load, yet another hospitalized, we had few resources to devote to this event and so had to let it pass.
But it so happened that, during the recent opening of the weather here, we bicycled on by the HOT after a visit to our invalided Staffer, and chatted with Rev. Carol Hanson. The community was established in that location one year before the 1906 earthquake and fire. Its origins stem from the New Thought Xian movement that was begun by a pair of suffragettes in 1891. Basically, New Thought arose out of the need to allow for a re-introduction of feminine quality into the overly rigid and limiting churches of the time, in which women were relegated to submissive and ignominious roles from the top down.
About that time, a very many metaphysical diversions from the various Xian sects occured, including the more famous Hermetic Movement popularized by Yeats, as well as sundry schools of thought that looked to Eastern Mysticism for resolutions to issues excluded by the rigidified churches. Not all schools were benign, for about 1907 the radical fundamentalist Baptist movement, which acquired adherents during the miserable depressions of the 1870's, gained significant impetus due to the 1906 earthquake and fires.
One could have endless discussions about the history of the Home of Truth, but in reality, the HOT is what it is today, and for about 30 souls or so each Sunday, the HOT is a place of non-authoritarian, non-dogmatic spiritual healing. In fact, this Saturday, the halls of the HOT were host to a bevy of healers that spanned the gamut of metaphysical healing.
If this sounds a bit "New Age", well, it is to a large extent, albeit more established than the fly-by-night exploitation artists wearing borrowed tie-die. Most of this stuff has been around for quite a long time and generally tends to be founded in hard-headed common sense and real-world experience. Reverend Carol Hanson lists working as an "electronic assembler at minimum wage" as one of her early qualifications.
We really like that inclusion in her bio.
According to their website, "The Home of Truth has a very spacious view of what feeds the soul. Although grounded in the teachings of Jesus, a metaphysical interpretation is used and we believe there is Truth at the core of all Religions and Spiritual Traditions. In the past, we have invited speakers from many religious traditions to share their Truth. This is a place where souls are welcome, no matter what creeds they may hold. We believe that true scriptures were divinely inspired by God, and were recorded by man in a time and a place where there was a great need."
Another interesting factoid we garnered from Rev. Hanson, was that out of the 73,000 souls inhabiting this island, we enjoy not less than 42 seperate and distinct religious communities. Um, that's a lot of church for so few people, but when you add up the double counts of Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Moslem, Jewish, Buddhist, and Whatnot, it all adds up. People on the Island really like going to a church, for some reason. As for this one, we found it has a reputation that extends well beyond the weekly attendees. Time after time we heard the same refrain, "Oh yes, the Home of Truth: we have been meaning to check that one out for some time."
Our Island-Life Spiritual Advisor -- no stranger to pain and healing and who tends to favor folks like Thich Nat Hanh, says "Worth checking out".
Services occur each Sunday at the very amenable hour of 10:15am. Halls are available for rent for all sorts of occasions and a seperate cottage on the grounds is available for music or any regularly scheduled series.
Contact information: Home of Truth Spiritual Center • (510) 522-3366 • 1300 Grand Street, Alameda, California 94501
MONEY MONEY MONEY
The irrational policies of the Pseudo-Conservatives are bearing fruit right and left these days, especially here on the Island. After the IUSD announced the closure of a school in favor of consolidation due to restricted funds and a subsequent outpour of public rage, the County and the District have announced definite pullback of services due to lack of funds.
Hey, starve Government, you will get service cut back. Apparently desired by certain conservatives. With the loss of a critical developer at the Point, the City is hard pressed to turn that tract of land into something useful. With the loss of the premier tax revenue supplier Ron Goode Toyota, the City is pressed yet again with revenue restrictions. In addition, the new owner of that space, by inside report, seems to have a Snidely Whiplash approach to management, requiring employees -- rehired after Goode's fireing -- to be at the gristmill from seven am to past midnight, with no increase in pay.
Oh ho! Is there not a law against such obnoxiousness?
Also over the transom, we have report of new discussions to institute new business taxes, so as to cover all of the income lost due to the overly draconian Prop 13 limits on property taxes.
To this point no one has come up with a coherent and cogent budget plan to cover expenses resonabley without dunning the populace unnecessarily. Cutting the goverment funding until there is no government is simply senseless, especially given some of the basic infrastructure needs as rebuilding the levee system and bolstering the badly decayed highways.
Our Editor has issued a public announcement towhit that he, for one, has no interest in the body of the unfortunate Nicole Smith, especially now that she is most definitively dead.
Nicole Smith, former Playboy model and golddigger, who married well to a wealthy octogenarian who died conveniently early, passed away after a series of life trials, including the suicide of her son, substance abuse, and morbid obesity defeated by rigorous regimen at Trim Spa.
TRAIN WRECK IN GM
Checked into McGrath's to see how our boys Houston Jones were faring. At the early hour of 8, we found the place packed to SRO. Travis was comfortable and self-assured as usual in that space, while preserving that endearing sense of stage self-deprecation which makes us love him all the more. That evening was a run-through of largely instrumental items to appear on their next CD, now in the can and expected end of March.
All of the new stuff is quite good, most notably a number called "Big Red", which has that progressive build-up of all instruments to cumulative crescendo reminiscent of "Train Wreck in Gmajor", which the ensemble closed out the evening as encore, including an impish "Garrymore" in the middle.
One of the audience members commented that the group appears to be moving into the realm of jazz and away from the pure John Fogerty styled "Americana". Chojo Jacques appeared with his unique mandolin and violin skills and he appeared ready and able to insert himself as an ensemble player rather than a superstar, although his credits could certainly put his name up in lights. Henry Salvia provided some magnificent comping on the keyboards for several songs with a Henry Butler/ Marcia Ball feel, and -- all band members are multi-instrumentalists -- took up the electric squeeze box for a tasty cajun romp. Travis stepped back with his Gibson to play largely rhythm, bringing his well-tuned vocal pipes up for the old standards later in the evening. As usual at McGrath's, which the band regards as a kind of home base, the final two sets featured requests from the audience.
By midnight, when the band retired, the whole place rose up in standing ovation bring the boys back for a couple more.
If you have not heard Houston Jones live, you have not yet lived.
Its been a quiet week on the Island. Hope all of you got valentines from people you actually like, and those of us who were left standing and holding, passed this time productively. Down at the Old Same Place, Bear was seen with Sophia, and Bear had been neatened up with a clean shirt, matching socks as well as shoes, immaculate trousers, and even his beard was well combed without the usual birds-nest of lint and twigs.
Saw that vamp, Valerie, dashing into a doorway with her long black hair flying out behind and a cluster of roses. Seems this time turns even post-punk goth chicks into adorables.
Harlan, the Madman of Lincoln Street has presented his two cents via his typically oblique postings on the side of his house.
This is the first time we have noted a typo from the usually meticulous Harlan. And as usual, the references remain obscure.
Of the date, we can find nothing of significance other than a report by John Adams on the Committee of Correspondence to the Boston Town Meeting on that date. This report begins as follows:
Well, seems the language is rather familiar. The full report can be read online at the Georgia Tech website. The URL is http://ahp.gatech.edu/rights_colonists_1772.html. There is a reference in the preface by Benjamin Franklin to sacks of unsold tea just rotting away because of onerous levies.
Perhaps those involved with "extraordinary rendition" and revokation of habeas corpus should read this thing. Sure seems clear to me what the Founding Fathers had in mind.
Here on the Island, we consider liberty to be as natural as the glowing freesias, applying naturally to Native Americans, Arabs and even Citizens.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 11, 2007
SEE WHAT LOVE HAS DONE
Well, it's February again, and some of you should know, had better know in fact, that this week the Hallmark and the Schrafft's Candy Chocolate companies will conduct their own best efforts to repair the economy left in tatters by six years of Presidential mismanagement.
Oh yes, FTD will do their utmost to balance the military budget with flowers, which is not a bad idea, come to think of it.
The Official info sites claim the non-holiday is a commemoration of a St. Valentine who was supposedly martyred for performing marriages in defiance of a particularly despicable Roman Emperor who wanted scads of single men to swell the ranks of his armies. While in prison, this Valentine is supposed to have had some kind of affair of the hear with a blind girl who, as daughter of the warden, was allowed to roam the place at will and bring for some inexplicable reason food to condemned prisoners. Before his death, he is supposed to have written a note signed, "From your Valentine."
This is, of course ridiculous. No official records exist for this person, or for his death, or for his imprisonment, and his deeds exist largely in the folklore of a handful of theologians in one particular Church. The Romans of the third Century, ruled by Claudius, did not feed their prisoners and certainly did not waste resources on keeping about a fellow condemned to death for any length of time for any reason. When condemned, the hapless fellow was typically frogmarched forthwith directly to whatever delight the executioner had in mind for him. In addition, what kind of idiot would write a note and leave it for a blind girl and where is this piece of unreadable writing now extant?
Furthermore, other than a handful of nerdy historians, such as our Chief Editor, not a soul in America or any other nation for that matter, knows the details of this supposed "tradtion", neither the century of Valentine's martyrdom, nor the basics of just what he was supposed to have been famous for.
We do know that on the ancient Athens calendar, the period between mid-January and mid-February was the month of Gamelion, dedicated to the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera.
Always eager to borrow from the Greeks, Rome worked up the celebration of Lupercalia, a festival of eroticism that honored Juno Februata, the goddess of "feverish" (febris) love. Annually, on the ides of February, love notes or "billets" would be drawn to partner men and women for feasting and sexual game playing. For the period of one year, the woman whose name had been drawn, would become the sexual plaything of her temporary "owner". Obviously, from the milder times of Rome's early ascendancy, things had developed by the time of Claudius from a spiritual fertility acknowledgment into something rather debauched.
Early Christians, clearly a dour bunch, frowned on these lascivious goings-on. In an attempt to curb the erotic festivities, the Christian clergy encouraged celebrants to substitute the names of saints. Then, for the next twelve months, participants were to emulate the ideals represented by the particular saint they'd chosen. Not too surprisingly, this prudish version of Lupercalia proved unpopular, and died a quick death.
The Church, however, is not an Institution that backs down easily on matters in which it has decided to usurp that nasty old paganism. It selected February 14th, roughly the time of Lupercalia, as the Feast of Valentine, whom they made into a saint -- albeit with scant proof of his existance, but who was to quibble about that?
Funnily enough, the basic middle school game of drawing lots for the name of your secret "valentine" pulls from that very old Roman tradition, once based upon honoring Juno Februata.
Go ahead, eat the chocolate.
ZAP THE MONKEY
The Island racks up another first among its modest accomplishments this past week. Steve Lowery, M.D., a pulmonary physician on the Island convinced the O'Connell Volvo dealer on Webster Street to start selling a new electric car from ZAP.
Lowery was one of the hundreds of Californians who leased electric cars from major automakers over the past several years, but were forced to return them after the lease was over. The cars were destroyed or shipped overseas, despite many customers expressing an interest in buying the vehicles, and many more developing an almost fanatical devotion to the cars yanked, as they felt it, from their appreciative hands. For years Lowery waited for a replacement, when along came the new XEBRA (pronounced 'zebra') electric car and truck from Bay Area electric vehicle pioneer ZAP (http://www.zapworld.com).
A new electric car dealership for the ZAP XEBRA (pronounced 'zebra') opened Saturday, February 10, 2007 at 10 AM. The XEBRA also comes in a truck.
ZAP calls the XEBRA a 'city-car,' an all-electric design for city-speed driving up to 40 MPH. The XEBRA comes in a 4-door sedan or pickup truck with a convertible dump/flat bed. It plugs into a 110volt outlet for a full charge in up to six hours and a 50 percent charge in 1.5 hours. Range varies up to 40 miles per charge, depending on charging, speed, driving conditions and other factors. Fueling is estimated to cost 1-3 cents per mile while maintenance costs one-third that of gas due to the reduction of moving parts, less wear and replacements. ZAP says the XEBRA was designed to appeal to environmentalists and is even available with zebra-stripes.
For purchasing, dealer and investor information, call 707-525-8658 (in Santa Rosa) or visit http://www.zapworld.com.
We have to admit the little car is cute as the dickens, as well as environmentally friendly.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
The oddly named Umphrey's McGee swings into the Fillmore on the 16th and 17th. Also under the purple chandeliers, Third Eye Blind will hold forth on its 10th Anniversary Celebration March 13. Tix just went on sale. While the venerable Fillmore dabbles in punk, the Warfield puckishly turns about to present Michael Franti with Spearhead February 16th-17th, followed by the insanely talented Patty Griffin on March 10. The quirky Keller Williams will front for Spearhead on the first night. Oh yes, Robert Randolph still needs more love, and you can give it to him March 9.
The Pride of Baltimore, John Waters, appeared at Amoeba Records in Berzerkely for a CD signing. Seems the director of Pink Flamingos, Pecker, Hairspray and other notables, has come out with a CD of love songs. We knew that he owns the famous Ruby Slippers worn by Judy Garland, but we did not know he could sing.
Branford Marsalis shows up to spice up Yoshis with a little bit of New Orleans brass from Monday through Thursday.
SAND DOLLAR FOR YOUR THOUGHTS?
Its been another quiet week here on the Island, our hometown. With all of the news of bad weather slamming the rest of the country, the worst we had to experience here was a gully-washer of a storm that set in last weekend and let up only on the following Saturday evening. Which means you folks back East get to enjoy more snow in about three days.
We had been suffering from a lack of snowpack up in the Sierra, with precip about 43% of what is useful, provoking concerns about drought. You see our drinking and industrial water all comes from that snow when it melts, and if there is no snow, we get no water to drink, to water the crops, and to keep Angelenos happy enough they stop nattering about that stupid peripheral canal, which would be an ecological disaster.
No word yet on the results of these most recent storms. Looked like mixed sleet and snow was falling on Truckee and Tahoe at the start of it earlier this week, as reported by our embedded weather weasels.
Our I-L staffer is out of the hospital now, and doing well enough to exhaust herself and overdo it all to the point of another percocet. No more attached wires or tubes at least. And all the tulips are poking up through the cedar chips.
A purple freesia got rather too much excited, erupted with noisy fumes and promptly expired in the cold rain. But hope still buds eternal.
For our friends living in places where the habit is to drive one's car out on the frozen lake to watch the sunset, where your spit rattles like dried peas when it hits, we offer encouragement and succor. If you look closely, you will see the small dimples where the green fuse that drives the flower is fighting up against the sure to surrender winter weight. You too will experience the upthrust of freesias while snow still islands the cold earth.
We know, for we have seen these things. The mysteries of lake trout in the deep freeze from one year to the next. Scientists know about the survival of the Minnesotta frog as it survives entombed by ice, its glycerin-laced blood pulsing ever so slowly, almost all processes proceding with the interminable pace of the glaciers, but no one knows about the trout, how they survive through such times when the very flow of the earth seizes up in crystalline sculptures, when waterfalls become stalagtite formations and when creeks block up solid down to the mud.
Once we ran across the solid crust left on the snow by a subsequent rain and all the world sparkled with ice diamonds, hard as the real thing. Then, one year, try as one might, we simply could not stay on top of the snow crust any more, but floundered ignominously, like a clumsy bear, scattering the once pristine surface into jumbles.
Years later, the snow and rain freezing on trees and bridges and bushes illuminated Crim Dell with frozen filligrees in a Tolkein Elvenland. It was enough to see this without touching from a certain distance. Time passes, much as it always does, and one travels far after the destruction of a city, sees the cities of man as well as many nations whose manners and customs he learned, suffered much and tries to save himself and one's companions -- but do what he might, he could not save them -- and finds himself washed up upon an Island set within the emerald sea.
This is not, however, a lotus-land of ease and contentment. Life in California, dear stranger, is harsh. This is a place where a simple one bedroom cottage with badly needed repairs will set you back a cool $850,000. The Franchise Tax Board is unforgiving and unrelenting: they were responsible for driving out people like BB King to Nevada. The people in Babylon are sour of disposition and irritable and in Oaktown, the homicidal bullet and the Mac-10 hold sway. In the neighborhood where our Significant Other works, the drug dealers have shot out all the street lights so as to conduct business in suitable darkness.
My dear friend, in lieu of weather, we have people, and of people, we have the worst. So be not so concerned about this exodus of persons for warmer climes. You always have the option of skipping out to Sault St. Marie or down to Amarillo or even out to Modesto. We do not. Our only option for the desperate is to head further down the coast, closer to the broil that is the 35 millions of Los Angeles. Further West, we have only the iron waves of the badly monikered Pacific.
We had a lady from Minnesotta among us. A straight-backed Nordic sort of lady with ropes of golden hair. Valerie was her name. She lasted some two years, working hideous jobs as waitron, office clerk, messenger, etc. Then she went back to her home in the woods of whatever town in Minnesotta and married the pharmacist, and that's the last we heard of her.
One of ours, our very own, got married and hied on off to Michigan -- of all places -- and got happily pregnant, which had been all her ambition her entire life. More power to her, Jennifer.
Soon enough they will return, your loved ones. Each to each, a bit abashed maybe, but if you just let them back with their curiously changed ways, well, all will be well. Of course things will be a bit different. You might see an item featuring tofu on the menu down at the Chatterbox Cafe, and you might have to handle a roadhouse addition or two. Perhaps a tattoo artist, who really things he/she is an artist in town. It will not be so bad, and you will learn to live with a little change. If you want your children back. There is that, you know. The Elks Club has been turned into a disco, but your children are back home. Really, what is more important?
You had better be ready to let them back and no more of this nonsense of spying through the windows and backtalk at the Chatterbox Cafe. Otherwise all deals are off. And like Eurydice, they fade back inexorably into that other world. And the exodus continues.
Of course there are hidden advantages to living in the place that others hold up as the sanctuary for the lost. Here is one last story about that for you and may you use it well, dear friend. Many years ago, we lived hard by Belchertown, MA. As its name suggests, it was a hard, rude place with industry chimneys vomiting smoke into the heavens and a hospital for the criminally insane down the road.
At that time we worked in a Chinese restaurant combo bar as a bartender, assisting sailors and lost business men to assuage whatever personal troubles they may have with a martini or Old Fashioned or simple scotch on the rocks.
There was a lady there we shall call here "Shelly". She lived with a man named "Louis" and their relationship was all the talk because she was physically beautiful and he was a beautiful man.
We purchased a motorcycle and all the preparations were made after a very harsh winter that banked snow up against the windows to leave. The time came for our departure for California, and the restaurant was all abuzz for such adventures seldom visited Belchertown. We had been dropped down there in their midst, speaking any number of languages and now we were off again on a great adventure, crossing the country on a motorcycle with a Harmony Hut guitar strapped on the back.
In any case, a day or so before departure Shelly comes up to us with the most remarkable tale and request. An aquiline nose and cheekbones as sharp as any model's.
"You see, its not the way it looks with me and Louis. He beats me every night. He beats me so bad, but here in Belchertown there is no place to go. My people want me to "stay by my man", even though I know he will kill me."
Well now, this was really something. I wanted to get the police, but she was smarter than that.
"The police here see me already "living in sin" and they don't give a crap about nobody of color any how. But I want you, if you get there to California, there on the beach, collect something. Get one of them sand dollars and send it to me. So I know you got there safe. So I know . . . a beach is there with sand dollars. Just waiting to be picked up and sent here. Will you do that for me?"
After many adventures we did arrive on that beach and did remember our promise and did send a box back to Belchertown to an address scribbled on a cocktail napkin. The box was not returned and so we assumed it arrived. Perhaps bolstering a myth of some kind, but perhaps allowing for some kindness to reenter the world and fill one person's life with hope. I was remembered. As bad as things are now, I was remembered.
Kindness is really the most important human emotion. If you can remember to be kind this February 14th, then do so by all means. That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 4, 2007
IN THE GREEN FUSE DRIVES THE FLOWER
Some of you have written in regarding the more personal aspects of this space. These emails and letters have touched the usually stoney heart of the Editor in a surprising way. We had heretofore no knowledge that the Editor was possessed of a heart of any kind previously discovered. In any case, here are some suggestions that the seasons are about to change. These are objective representations which are presented entirely in the spirit of scientific veracity.
It is possible other parts of the country might be getting impatient, however we urge beloved locals such as Minnesotta and Massechusetts to just hold on for these signs are tidings of good things coming their way. Excepting the storm now building for this coming Wednesday and destined to hit about Tuesday of the following week.
Any third-party verification as to the potential existence of a heart in the corpus of the Chief Editor remains temporarily in abeyance.
WAITING ON A TRAIN
Island-life sadly bids adieu to a notable colleague and cultural icon. Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted Texan reporter who skewered the political establishment and was the first to refer to President Bush as "Shrub," died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.
In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.
"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the January 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!"' (Read the column)
Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."
Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power. She maintained that aiming it at the powerless would be cruel.
"The trouble with blaming powerless people is that although it's not nearly as scary as blaming the powerful, it does miss the point," she wrote in a 1997 column. "Poor people do not shut down factories ... Poor people didn't decide to use 'contract employees' because they cost less and don't get any benefits."
She wrote for the NY Times, starting in 1976, working her way up from local politics to covering a six-state broad region until her salty language and tendency to go barefoot in her office had the increasingly conservative Times oust her in 1981. She went from there back to her native Texas to work for varous news organs until 2001 when she went national as a syndicated columnist.
She leaves behind a great legacy of unabashed liberal reporting and a solid reputation of hard-headed attention to the facts of the case, regardless of government pressure. Molly Ivins was role model for all to emulate.
COLD RAIN, ICE AND SNOW
Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Friday, which, according to German folklore, means folks can expect an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter.
Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 15 times and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.
More than 15,000 revelers milled about in a misty snow waiting for the prediction, as fireworks exploded overhead and the "Pennsylvania Polka" and other music blared in the background.
Each February 2, thousands of people descend on Punxsutawney, a town of 6,100 people about 65 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, to celebrate what had essentially been a German superstition.
Basically, a couple of trained handlers yank the groundhog from his burrow at the base of a tree stump on the occasion.
Longtime handler Bill Deeley was replaced Friday by Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle members John Griffiths and Ben Hughes.
The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal cast a shadow February 2 -- the Christian holiday of Candlemas -- winter would last another six weeks. If no shadow was seen, legend said spring would come early.
Pux and his handlers remain solidly East Coasters, and so any statements and pronouncements must be regarded therefore with some suspicion.
BABY BABY MAKE HIM STAY UP ALL NIGHT
CANCUN, Mexico (AP) -- He is called "Super Tonio," and at a whopping birth weight of 14.5 pounds, the little fellow is causing a sensation in the Mexican resort of Cancun.
Cancun residents have crowded the nursery ward's window to see Antonio Vasconcelos, who was born early Monday by Caesarean section. The baby drinks 5 ounces of milk every three hours and measures 22 inches in length. In appearance, reporters said he resembles something like a pile of pudding with a jolly pumpkin set on top.
"We haven't found any abnormality in the child; there are some signs of high blood sugar, and a slight blood infection, but that is being controlled so that the child can get on with his normal life in a few more days," Narciso Perez Bravo, the hospital's director, said Wednesday.
In Brazil, a baby born in January 2005 in the city of Salvador weighed 16 pounds, 11 ounces at birth. According to Guinness World Records, the heaviest baby born to a healthy mother was a boy weighing 22 pounds, 8 ounces, born in Aversa, Italy, in September 1955.
Antonio's mother, Teresa Alejandra Cruz, 23, and father, Luis Vasconcelos, 38, said they were proud of the boy, and noted that Cruz had given birth to a baby girl seven years ago who weighed 11.46 pounds.
NOT SO ITSY BITSY POLKA DOT BIKINI
SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) -- In a lycra revolution, a cover-all swimming costume is bringing Muslim women on to Australian beaches as lifeguards, unzipping tensions which divided parts of Sydney little over a year ago.
The two-piece "burkini", popular in the Middle East, is proving key to a reshaping surf lifesaving Down Under -- once a bastion of white Australian culture and still a heartland of the country's sun-bronzed, heroic self-myth.
The shift follows race riots between ethnic Lebanese Australians and white Australian youths at Cronulla Beach in Sydney's south in the lead-up to Christmas in 2005.
Cars, shops and churches were damaged in the violence, which followed an attack on a pair of beach lifeguards.
The full-length lycra suit with hijab head-covering is not too figure hugging to embarrass, but is tight enough to allow its wearer to swim freely. It will soon be manufactured in the iconic red and yellow of Australia's surf life saving movement.
The burkini is making its appearance during the 100th anniversary of surf life saving in Australia, which began on Sydney's famous Bondi Beach and has grown to count 115,000 volunteers in more than 300 clubs.
Women were only allowed membership in 1980 and some clubs patrol inland lakes, including Lake Jindabyne near the snow-capped southern Australian Alps.
NOT SO MUCH COLD RAIN, NOT SO MUCH ICE, AND VERY LITTLE SNOW
A dry January in the northern Sierra Nevada contributed to a statewide snowpack that is only about 43% of average, water officials announced Friday.
That is the lowest snowpack measurement for this time of year since 1991.
The measurement was taken during the first major snow survey of the year, which comes in February about halfway through the water year.
Though the winter has been unusually dry -- this was the sixth-driest January since 1920 -- the news is tempered by the relative fullness of reservoirs after a string of wet years and the remaining few months of the snow season. In fact, the forecast calls for possible storms beginning the middle of next week, said Maury Roos, California's chief hydrologist.
'The last time it was so dry was water year 1991, which was during the six-year drought,' Roos said.
Bay Area water officials are keeping an eye on the situation and said so far water supplies should be sufficient. The stakes could be much higher next year, however.
Although global warming has diminished California's snowpack, there is no reason to think the latest measurements have anything to do with a warming climate. Rather, it is a lack of precipitation.
Climate experts say California will see a higher percentage of precipitation falling as rain rather than snow as the climate warms, but they are divided as to whether a warmer climate will mean more or less total precipitation.
Around September we will be doing some hiking during the annual Sabbatical around those measurement areas and we will provide a full report at that time.
VIVA LA FOTOGRAFIA!
Just over the transom from contributor Chad Chadwick comes this link to evocative photographic work, with shots from New Orleans among them.
Chris Jordan is a photographer who uses scale to illuminate the scope of our cultural imperatives.
Check out Running the Numbers: http://www.chrisjordan.com/.
I HEAR THAT TRAIN A COMIN'; COMIN' ROUND THE BEND
It's been a quiet week on the Island. The Cineplex monstrosity procedes forward with barricades and blockages and lawsuits continuing. The Southshore Mall continues with its own nonsensical set of changes invvolving bigger and better as the Walgreens moves from a reasonable space to a far smaller one with fewer resources in the name of progress. And at least as of this individual, fewer buyers.
Severe illness has struck this House, resulting in delayed publication and truncated issues for several of the past months. We have gotten familiar with foley catheters and morphine drips and the wierd echoes in ICU wards which are redolent of European train stations, all these people arriving and departing at odd hours of the night.
"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"
Imagine. A crowd of people all waiting upon a platform. Something is behind the curtain.
"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"
A bureacratic voice anounces from the PA. But no one understands what is being said. When one's perception is given the borders of pain, the Conductor is a severe German and the border patrol is more than usual cruel. Today's medicine had forgotten even Checkov's flickering humanity beside the bed of the invalid.
In echoing halls, comes the eternal command to prepare for final departure.
"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"
In our case, the patient was ejected, that is a better term than "discharged", without further complications beyond the removal of morphine drip about 48 hours too early.
Others, however remained there waiting upon a train. A train with only Endstation as its Terminus. Endstation is the last point of exit any of us can expect.
"Einsteigen, Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"
The Attendant bends at the waist to examine the ticket. Most unusual to examine a ticket upon entry, where one is expected to be carded after seating. But for this train, that is the way
"Dieser Karte erlaubt kein Zuruckfaerht. Bitte wissen Sie bescheid."
This ticket is a One-Way passage. Be so notified. This train does not return.
And that is the way it is. One starts out and has no guarantee of return. And so those waiting patiently upon the train platform begin to board even as the overhead PA system issues its eternal message.
"Einsteigen! Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim abfaert!"
Those passengers found themselves deposited upon the fire-lit
sandy beach already described here. They pass through a little gate
to the fires below and behind them, the world grows dim, forgetful.
Dieser Karte ist nicht fuer diese Reise gueltig. Zuruckkehren und steigen Sie bitte auf.
This ticket is not valid for this trip. Please turn back.
Outside, night has fallen and the air blows cold but with a hint of approaching spring in the fogs roiling in from the Bay. And there it is: the distant wail of the through-passing train as it ploughs its way through the darkness of sleeping Jack London Waterfront. And a gentle rain falls, falls softtly through the universe, falls upon the uneasy waves of the estuary, falls upon the quiet Island Strand, falls upon the long stretch of Lincoln Avenue, falls upon the silent guns of the gated and closed Navy Base, falls upon the Bay Bridge with its modest string of pearls lights and uppn Treasure Island, falls upon the Ferry Building that withstood the Great Fire of 1906, falls upon the somber bulk of the notorious 101 California pillar rising forty stories above the street, falls upon the upsweep of California Street itself, rain falling and falling down upon the Twin Mansions Hotel, falling upon the feet of Parnassus where students prod among the donated bodies even at this late hour at UCSF, seeking knowledge always more knowledge, falling upon the Panhandle and its sleeping tramps and hookers and junkies huddled in doorways, falling upon the glass Hall of Flowers in Golden Gate Park, glowing like a jewel from the interior lights, falling upon storied Speedway Meadows, falling upon the little windmills and the Beach House, falling upon the beach itself and so out to the poorly named Pacific Ocean with its mountanous waves, silently falling upon all of the living and the dead.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 28, 2007
DUMB AND DUMBER
Business Week Online recently issued its annual "101 Dumbest Moments in American Business" for 2006. Walmart scored not only the top slot for its disastrous marketing attempt to portray itself as a "green" environmentally friendly and cuddly old giant as well as five more awards, all for slipups right up there on the level with the Darwin Awards for imbecility. Number Two, however really caught our eyes, for Northwest Airlines proved it was really trying when, after laying off thousands of ground workers in July, each jobless person was issued a "101 Ways to Save Money." The advice includes dumpster diving ("Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash"), making your own baby food, shredding old newspapers for use as cat litter, and taking walks in the woods as a low-cost dating alternative.
And don't forget: you only need one kidney.
As everyone knows the Presidential Bum, Eugene Shrubb, delivered his annual State of the Onion Speech earlier this week.
Each year, Bums from all over Northern California ride the rails and hitch rides for weeks in advance so as to be on time and in place for the august occasion. The speech is held before the Congress of Bums and is much discussed by the media for weeks afterward.
President Shrubb stood, as usual, upon the dias of old tires built up at the base of the Island seawall, with an old commode for his throne and a bottle of cheap tokay for his refreshment. He opened the speech according to tradition, by holding forth the Onion of the State.
"Ladies and gentlemen of the Congress and Senate, most honorific bums in the world, if not the Nation. The State of our Onion, most prized democratic symbol of our Democracy Today, is small and odiferous. I think we all can agree, that is to be expected. But . . . there are some here among us who feel that the State of the Onion is decayed. I want y'all to forget about that Katrina disaster. It warn't no disaster but a contretemps of order and supply and demand. As you know, Katrina is real mean and has a reputation indistinguishable."
The President was alluding to the notorious "Katrina Affair" in which Katrina -- a rather substantial woman dressed in an immense floral print mumu -- high, as some say, on extasy and PCP --busted up the New Orleans Hotel on Park Avenue and set the place on fire after a particularly rowdy "rave" party at the hotel where Vice President Shikanery had been living. A number of the President's Men were reported to have been involved in the fracas.
Instead of fixing up the damages and helping out the poor folks thrown into the street by this event, the President held another rave party, which some felt to be in bad taste. To say the least.
"Ahm the decider, and I decide we gonna let the free market take care of the New Orleans," President Shrubb said. "If'n you get a disaster on your punkin heads then that means God hates you and you probably voted Democrat. So there."
As expected, the President -- contrary to all good common sense and prudence -- announced a troop increase for the invasion of Newark, now some three years old. The troops, who are most definitely not bums at all, reacted to this news with some dismay. "Why should I continue to take orders from some god-damned bum who didn't even serve out his time." One irate warrior was heard to say.
We don't make these things up; we simply report the news.
Newark California was invaded a few years ago by the Presidential Army so as to seek out and eradicate Weapons of Mass Doo-Doo (WMDs) in the form of terrorist poodle packs. Although no terrorist poodles have been found in Newark, other than the usual individual insult to good taste and breeding, the invasion became enmired in a Vietnam-era style conflation of political footballism and grandstanding. Adding to this protracted engagement was the habitual indifference of the Newarkians to their environment. Possessed of no City Hall or City Council to speak off, with no civic pride at all, and no public monuments or sense of community, it took the citizens of Newark a full two years to realize that they had been invaded and a provisional government set up over them.
Owning an extensive coastline fronting one of the most gorgeous bays in the world, Newark has long failed to realize its own assets. Most inhabitants live in buildings with artificial windows and aluminum siding, seldom go outside except to drive to work in some other city and couldn't be bothered with development beyond the string of formica tile and auto body shops that line the main drag. Both Burger King and Walmart have refused to build there, out of principle.
The only person resembling a Mayor, the City Manager, was found and hanged in the parking lot of a dealer in venetian blinds, but even this public hanging failed to get much attention in Newark. Yet Shrubb will not withdraw simply out of a sense of personal pride rare among bums.
Nevertheless, this invasion costs booze and money, for bums require booze and troops require money. So this is understandably becoming rather unpopular.
Some are saying that Shrubb's "sticking to the course" is not the evidence of a man determined to doggedly carry out what he thinks is best, but the imbecile stubbornly insisting on having his own way against the realities of the world much like a six year old insists his way is better just because he wants it so.
The rest of the speech was all about explaining that the deficit does not really exist because the free market economy and tax cuts and bum incentives were doing their job. Please ignore the unemployment. And the sales indicators. All Chinese subsidiaries are doing really well! Hooray for the Chinese! Bother that business about shooting down sattelites. They are not part of the Axis of Evil because Harley-Davidson and Walmart have expanding interests there.
Is this not grand?! A Chinese Harley! What could be better than that?! Together with all the toasters, nose-hair trimmers, gas grills and knock-off digital cameras which also do not work.
As usual, the speech ended sometime after the third bottle of Tokay as the President toppled backward over his throne in a great cascade of old tires and sodden bums.
Proving the worth of our Island teens once again, an intrepid pair robbed the Bank of the Island on Island Drive for the second time in six months last week. And because no traffic infractions occured, the perpetrators got clean away in their Lexus. The pair has been linked to yet another holdup at the Mechanics Bank in Richmond. The gunmen fired a single shot on leaving, but otherwise were well behaved as our youth are trained to be. The suspects are described as one Black male between 17-19 years old with a thin build about 6 feet in height. His collegue is an Asian about the same age and build but shorter at 5 foot eight.
We think it really nice to know that our boys can put aside racial differences to cooperate in business enterprise.
It's been a quiet week on the Island, with the exception of a big house fire on Clinton Avenue a block or so from the Hospital. Helicopters hovered over the billowing smoke as the fire totalled the structure, but our doughty heros kept the blaze from spreading. Things have warmed up in other ways, just as the rest of the country hops into a serious Winter, balmy breezes brought in a few mild showers and warmer temps, really lighting up that green fuse that drives the flower. The Island-Life staff is running somewhat reduced since a staffer found it necessary to assay the condition of American medicine with respect to surgery and Intensive Care. That morphine drip really puts the kibosh on one's paperwork and the Chief Editor has been tearing out the remaining grey hairs that fringe his pate over the typos.
"Fact checking! I want facts checked!" he shouted this morning, waving a sheaf of reports like flags and those aforementioned grey hairs standing out above his wire-rims like Albert Einstein's mane. "We are here to preserve the honorable legacy of Edward R. Murrow!" Then he went striding up between the computers to enter his office with a slam.
Far be it for us to point out that TV is not the Internet.
If we had any ambition we would be more like Terry Gross (Fresh Air) on NPR, whom we imagine to be this lovely soul just professionally doing her job each day, interviewing everybody from David Sidaris to Paul Wolfowitz with equanimity. And unfailingly a strong impression of interest no matter what the subject. "You don't say! Tell me, didn't you think doing a movie about Betty Paige would involve, um . . . prurient themes?"
We may not be CBS or even NPR, but we do try.
Ever since the recent elections that swept the board of the GOP, neither Bushy nor Cheney have had that stupid smirk pasted on their respective visages, so perhaps the Media is finally started to work a little bit for their kibbles. And Gore Vidal was chuckling recently over the newfound integrity and perceptual acuity of the former shameless apologist for the White House, Wolf Blitzer of CNN.
Hopefully in the next week or so we will be back on track with the usual jolly assortment of stuff for you, including references to some of the better stories from the past to be lodged in the new sidebar.
Here comes that ululating howl of the through-passing train from the Port across the water. Every Sunday at midnight that train departs, although few have seen it winding its way through fog and mist on the tracks that cut across Jack London Waterfront. Perhaps it is a ghost train with a firey head for a beacon to light the way in the Other World. Perhaps it is a fast commuter simply returning empty to the place from which it will depart at six the next morning, packed with sleepy salarymen clutching each to each a copy of the New York Times, never to be read but carried as part of a uniform, useless and somehow necessary, like a tie. Perhaps it is the last laden freight taking off the remainders of the containers delivered by foreign ships that, arriving from all over the world to the third largest civilian port on the globe, know not the day nor the hour in this strange land.
Nevertheless, it is important on a rainy night like this for someone to hear the lonesome howl of that train and to remark upon its regularity. "Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But up high on the 10th floor of the ACME building sits one man pondering life's persistent questions . . ." Oh heck, thats the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 21, 2007
DOCTOR, MY EYES HAVE SEEN THE WORLD
As promised -- because everybody likes reading about themselves -- we offer up here the stats about you, dear Reader, for the past year. 124,974 of you showed up, with about 3,000 of you popping in each day. Hit count is down from 2005's count of about three million due to increased anti-spam and bot activity from host Earthlink. Stats come from Earthlink who collects the data automatically in great detail, including browser type, referral pages, and length of visit. A few of you seem to like to spend well over 30 minutes in here. This number of visits doubles 2005's high of 65,000 readers.
Site Report for: www.island-life.net
Our Social Coordinator hustled up some opening night tix for the savage black comedy by the Irish writer, Martin McDonagh, best known for his Leenane Trilogy (The Beauty Queen of Leenane, A Skull in Connemara, and "The Lonesome West"). The quirky author wrote all seven of his highly acclaimed plays in 1994, and other than the screenplay for last year's academy award winner "The Six Shooter", has not written or published another word, although the word is that he is working on a full-length movie titled "In Bruges."
One time Wally Shawn warned us face-to-face in person NOT to see his own play debuting at New York's National because, "It's not a light evening of entertainment at the 'theatre'; its not a nice play at all." (Refering to "Aunt Dan and Lemon")
One could say the same about the far more graphically violent "Pillowman" as well, although there all similarities end.
Imagine if Kafka, Quentin Tarantino, Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov managed to cobble together a script.
A man is brought into a spartan room with a backdrop reminiscent of those old European buildings built in the 1700's by aristocracy but long since converted to drap bureaucratic use. He has been arrested and two policemen in an admitted "totalitarian state" set about to interrogate the man -- with no indication as to the details, nature, or cause of his arrest. The policemen taunt the man, trying to get him to guess the cause of his arrest, with the threat of physical violence ratcheting up from the level of silliness to direct action.
"Perhaps it has something to do with my stories?" The captive (played convincingly well by Erik Lochtefeld) asks.
"What makes you think it has to do with your stories?" Queries policeman Tupolski (Played by a superbly beaurocratic, yet intimidating, Tony Amendola).
"Because you brought them in a box with you. There they are on your desk."
"Have you been reading what's on my desk?!" Tupolski says threateningly as he rises up to stand over the seated man.
The immanent threat of violence continues to rise until, in a rage, the bear-like Ariel (played with just a hint of a Northern Irish accent by Andy Murray) throws Katchurian to the ground, straddles him and solidly lands punch after full swing punch into Katchurian's head with thuggish determination.
It is shocking and it is most certainly not a play for the squeamish as this beating scene is by far the mildest of the violence described and presented. Characters are murdered via suffocation, nailed to crosses in mock crucifictions, flogged, buried alive in see-through coffins, connected to electroshock devices, tortured half-seen through scrims with electric drills, and -- in the most graphic sequence -- shot in the back of the head to die in pools of blood. All done with a jabbing sense of humor.
And thats just the visuals. There are the offstage torture sessions with vivid sound effects that allow the imagination to conjure what it will. Far more is presented in the form of those stories by the writer Katchurian.
Well, it is our duty to inform the public. And inform them that the first act is 90 minutes long before the intermission sends the entire audience to the lavatory lines.
So much for the bad stuff. If this were Tarantino, who likes to shock with grisly images -- it seems -- just because he finds it amusing and all at the level of comic books, the play would not have earned the many awards it has. Jeff Goldblum and Billy Crudup snagged standing ovations for the Broadway premier last year, earned two Tony Awards, and caused many of the critics to applaud the appearance of intelligent, meaningful drama "finally!" to Broadway.
All right now, here is the stuff: A writer is arrested within an unnamed totalitarian state somewhere in the world because children are being murdered in the town where he lives and these murders duplicate details described in his substantially unpublished body of work; out of over 400 stories, only one has been published. In addition to the writer, his brother Michael has also been arrested. His brother, (played superbly by Matthew Maher) over the course of seven years, was subjected to such severe physical abuse by his parents during a ghastly social engineering "experiment" that he has become brain-damaged and autistic.
Over the next few hours, during several interrogations, torture and its justification, writing, child abuse, and the influence of childhood trauma upon adult foibles come into play. McDonagh's world on the stage is nasty, brutish and not nearly short enough for many.
As Tupolski says to Katchurian as the clock ticks down to "K's" assured execution, "You want to know what my 'World View' is? My World View is that life is shit. That's it: life is shit. . . "Actually maybe you cannot call that a World View, but a Point of View. . . Never mind. Fuck you. I don't care what you think. In twenty minutes you will be executed."
The "Pillowman" is one of Katchurian's short stories in which a character made entirely of pillows has the job of going back in time so as to persuade little children to commit suicide, thereby preventing in each case a life filled with horror and misery that will only end with suicide anyway as an adult. When the Pillowman fails one time to convince a child to change its destiny, and then is cursed by the adult who regrets not having killed herself as a child, the Pillowman goes back in time to convince his own child-self to commit suicide via immolation. As the adult Pillowman fades away -- never having grown up -- he hears the screams of the thousands in agony the adult Pillowman had "saved."
As a sidebar note, pillows are what Katchurian uses to suffocate his vicious parents during his rescue of his brother, which Katchurian turns into a short story, altering some of the "facts" and effectively blending the stage "reality" with a fog of uncertainty for the audience and for the characters themselves. During the second Act, in desperation, Tupolsky grills Katcherian about time and dates so as to come up with at least one verifiable fact: Katchurian's age at the time of his parent's death. Having come up with this useless bit of information, Tupolsky writes it down, comforted for a short while.
Critics can banter back and forth all about what the play is "about." Most seem to miss the point of contemporary theater's point of evocation over meaning. It was interesting talking to fellow audience members about how much the brutal first act reminded them of certain actual situations. The most common evocation was of Abu Graib, but for the Editor, it reminded him of The Troubles, Long Kesh and its infamous H Block and the "hard men" it made, of the IRA's midnight captures and shattered knees as well as the horrific interrogations by the Armagh paramilitaries. For others it evoked the Grande Guigonol of Cescesceu's horrific regime in Romania. It seems the 20th and 21st Centuries have produced this reservoir of assumptions, tropes, themes, and unfortunate knowledge about the world from which now we borrow our sadly pained shorthand for The Times.
Arthur Koestler's jailed bureaucrat dying with his cracked head upon the concrete of a Soviet prison was the Old World and that is long history now. Forget that; John Wayne has been dead for centuries. WE live in the brave new world of lunging attack dogs and naked men piled into pyramids in the middle of a prison set in the boundaries of some conquered territory where nobody seems to know the language, not even the inhabitants any more. And you cannot blame the Nazis or the Communists for this one.
In the United States of America public discussion recent focussed upon the uses and necessity of torture. In what country has this discussion ever happened before?
When the brutal Arial states emotionally, "When I take them into that room, put the electroshock on them and beat the bloody fuck out of them I feel good about myself. Once in a while one of them turns out to be innocent and we let them go, but you had better believe not a single one of them will so much as lift a finger against a child in his lifetime for he knows he'll be brought back here and I'll do the same thing to them all over again!"
Would you justify torturing a child molester? Ariel takes Katcherian and forces him to kneel in front of an electro-shock machine and as he attaches the electrodes, Tupolski comes into the room to remark, "Why are you torturing him? We have his confession already."
It is revealed that Ariel has experienced child abuse himself. Hence, his irrational anger at what he thinks is the source of child pain.
In a strange way, it is the "bullish" and crude Ariel who apprears to rise a bit higher in understanding over all the others as the play comes to an end, for he performs the sole act of charity and compassion, whereas the seemingly more cultured Tupolski commits the ultimate barbaric act in executing a man clearly innocent of all crimes charged and, in the process, violates even his own word of honor by shooting before the count of ten completes.
Other than a brief comic moment involving a "green pig", the play is devoid of beautiful images or higher thoughts, with the possible exception of Tupolski's story about the "Chinaman and the retarded Chinese boy", which is the only story told involving human beings that ends happily. But of course, the story is about Tupolski himself, and he would have it end that way, with the focus upon himself rather than the life saved. Each policeman does present the idea of their work somehow saving individual lives, but Ariel tortures the innocent as well as the guilty and Tupolski executes a man clearly proven to be innocent of the crimes charged simply because the execution has been scheduled in advance.
As the New York critics have indicated, the play is largely about the artistic process and the sources from which it derives, as well as what happens when the work goes out into the work to have some effect. What is really wonderful about Irish work is the way in which what seems to be familiar and about to lead up to the conventional so often shifts aside to the unexpected. Ireland, if it seems overstating the obvious, is a place which has never experienced the upside of Empire, so the expectations and understandings are vastly different from plays written by American or English authors.
But it would be reductive to say that the play is "about" writing and its sources, or the artist's responsiblity for what effects the work produces. Of course Katcherian, working by day in a slaughterhouse as a cleanup man and writing stories by candlelight at night is not the author of the horrific child murders; someone else has read his work and used it as a blueprint for child maiming and murder. It is more interesting to look at how any creative work arises out of some kind of muck and results in independently valued artwork.
Nor is the play about the relative value of writing, any writing, over any other elevated value. Such discussions are really stupid and reminiscent of nonsensical valuations thrust upon us at UCSF where some idiot would say something along the lines of "Is not the work of a doctor preserving life worth more than anything you do?!" The issue is entire specious for of what value is preserving life if that life has no value granted? Doctors seem to know this better than their wannabe defenders. And there are plenty of other arguments as well. And the discussion is, ultimately, really boring.
The show ends February 25th.
Tony Amendola (Lupeski) and Les Waters (Director) will be appearing to discuss the play at the Rep 1/29/07 and it should be interesting to hear what the two have to say.
LIKE THE WEATHER
This week certainly put the kibosh on our Great Decider's pretensions as regards the weather and global warming effects. As the Northeast finally got its long awaited snows, frigid temps slammed the California coast with unheard-of snows closing roads in SoCal. A recent headline announced "Blizzard closes I-5 north of Los Angeles". The grapevine is certainly a difficult mountain pass from the Valley into the basin, but its not the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, our own unusually frigid weather yielded finally to warm sunshine this weekend, bringing out all the sun worshippers. A rumbling phalanx of big Harley Davidsons emerged from battery tender garages to celebrate the coming change of the seasons. Meanwhile buds are poking through and it certainly seems that something is happening down there.
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
If you have never visited the Island before now you would be astonished by the sight of signs painted on butcher block paper pasted to the side of a house on the corner of LIncoln and Lafayette. For at least ten years now, possibly longer, Harlan has been sneaking out at dusk, when the failing light makes movement hard to see, to deftly swap out each message on the wall with yet another one just as inscrutable as the previous. The signs are usually about four by three feet long at the largest, and the messages usually appear to have been drawn with broad-tipped marker in bold block letters. Here is the latest:
He does at least one new sign every day, each one about
as understandable as what you see above.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The midnight train is passing through and Jake is winding up the House of Blues Hour. Every Sunday night that eerie wail comes wavering across the water. Gives one pause it does. But the issue must go out before Monday afternoon, come what may. Recently a visitor to Babylon across the water there -- no, not Oaktown or Berzerkely, but The City -- was surprised to see such magnificent structures down there surrounding the Opera House. The stately former Main Library, now host to the Asian Art Museum, the dome of City Hall. The War Memorial Opera House itself. This visitor from Minnesotta was comforted by these emblems of solidity.
We don't really have anything like that on the Island. We have a downtown district that is barely four blocks long and scarcely a single block wide. A family of raccoons lives at each end of the Island and sometimes deer come scampering across the bridge. We do have Mayor Beverly and the Silly Council which have grandiose dreams of an enormous multiplex cinema and a six story parking garage, which they somehow imagine will be filled by scads of folks dropping in via hovercraft or sailboat -- they certainly are not going to politely march in single file across that narrow bridge down there to jostle for a space just to view Mel Gibson's latest gory B&D fantasy. Our former main library, a genuine Carnegie article, is a single room edifice that has been unused for well over fifteen years.
If our visitor had come across that marvelous bridge of memories, which they are in the process of replacing, to drop in here, we would have taken him down past the art deco neon signs past the renovated newspaper kiosk that has been dishing up dishy gossip and war news ever since Douglas MacArthur vowed to return and we would treat the man to an ice cream cone in winter, for compared to Minnesotta, the weather here is pretty amenable.
That's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 12, 2007
Hope you all like the revised format for this year. IslandLIfe was getting pretty big as it approaches nearly a decade of online presence. We actually went live a few years before anyone coined the phrase "Blog", starting life as a humble Ezine. From a staff of one we now have various contributors from all over the world sending material, including the lovely Russian gal who sent us pix and links to her site on Prypyat/Chernoble, the German gal who reported on the Rolling Stones concert in France last year, and a bevy of lords and ladies in the Bay Area sending in pix and reports on activities here.
We soon will be providing multimedia clips to the sidebar as occasion arises. And if any of you out there wants to submit a piece, just send it on to our Chief Editor at Editor@Island-life.net. That sidebar is where the hyperlink will go for text or media files.
WHAT IT IS
Just what the devil is Island-life.net anyway, you ask. Okay, we will tell you. Island-life.net is a news and satire space eminating from the Island set within the silvered aqua Bay of San Francisco. That Bay happens to be home to several islands -- besides infamous Alcatraz -- and we are a jolly seafaring folk who love music and good food and sensible behavior. Not all of these are available all the time, so we also love making do.
This space features a "column" that updates each week for 52 issues a year, with Special Editions to fill out the time when offices close.
We have a regular cast of folks who appear, much like a weekly radio program. The intrepid Officer O'Madhauen, vigorous in defence of the Island traffic laws makes an appearance now and then. Percy Worthington-Boughsplatt, dressed in immaculate wide lapels, matching waistcoat and plus-fours to compliment his splendidly preserved beige 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe with full running boards, chrome shifter and gorgeous leather upholstery, shows up as the weather improves with this consort, Sandy from the Berkeley Explicit Players. On the further side of the social spectrum, Bear is known to rouse himself from winter hibernation about the same time, dressed in oil-stained t-shirt, tattered Levi's, mis-matched sneakers and a beard which carries reminders of his last four meals. His form of transportation is a 1953 Harley-Davidson, usually kept parked in his bedroom.
Recently we were introduced to Ms. Morales, the Filapina schoolteacher at Wadsworth Middleschool for the last thirty years and a certain distinguished Mr. Ramirez, he of the silver temples and poetry.
Padraic and Dawn show up each year to host the Annual Island Poodleshoot and BBQ. Eugene Gallipagus also appears from time to time, fully outfitted from Cabelas.
Father Guimon, he of the Basilica of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, has begun a surprising friendship with Pastor Nyquist, he of the Lutheran church at the far end of the block. And it was all over a broken umbrella.
Eugene Shrubb, President Appointed to the Bay Area Congress of Bums shows up with his consort, Condominium Rice A Roni, John Ashpitt, Dick Buckshot Chevy, Rummy Feld and other known politicos during the Annual State of the Onion speech.
Around Elections time, Papoon shows up to lead the Faintly LIberal Party in the hustings against Babar, who espouses the Determinedly Conservative Party.
More or less "real people" appear of course, including the Island Dogwalkers Association. And of course we would be seriously remiss in omitting Her Honor, the distinguished Mayor Beverly. As well as Patrick, who owns and operates McGraths Pub.
Sometimes references are made to a tubby penguin named "Opus".
Well, all right; let us say, "pleasantly zoftig", instead of the obviously inaccurate "tubby". Opus does not really live here on the Island, but we like him anyway.
LIKE THE WEATHER
Thursday evening an idiosyncratic cold front blew down from the Arctic plunging Bay Area temps already lower than usual to truely frigid conditions. Pleasanton called in with a low of 21 degrees while Babylon reported a chilly drop to 34. The Island enjoyed a drop to 38, making those suffering from the particularly nasty form of the flu going around to huddle near space heaters. That flu, with lung congestion and diarrhea has knocked flat a quarter of the Bay area and was largely responsible for our absence from the Opera House when Garrison Keillor came to town recently. Understand that the man behaved quite the gentleman and Maria Muldaur helped keep spirits lively with her versions of old love songs written by her former comrade in arms, Bob Dylan.
We confess a fondness for the Prarie Home Companion and Garrison's avuncular personality, with a secret wish that one day we could pronounce with sonorous tones, "It's a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets. But high up on the tenth floor of the ACME Building sits a man pondering life's persistent questions. . .".
Yes, we certainly wish we could have aged with grace and wisdom while acquiring a bit of talent to charm and delight with a bit of music and really interesting things to say, instead of merely aging while acquiring only confused dyspepsia and rude comments. We really should have learned how to play the piano.
DOWN HOME BLUES
Same illness reported nixed our attendance to the annual Mark Hummel Blues Blowout at Yoshis. This three-day event tends to sell out within hours for very good reasons. Mark tends to assemble stellar performers who all try to outdo the next act before the entire assembly gathers together on stage for a rousing jam. This year, Billy Boyd Arnold headlined with Kim Wilson, Ron and Honey Piazza and Rick Estrin.
Our reporter for this event, Strange de Jim, put his votes in favor of Ron Piazza and Co., as Ron really cranked up the energy a notch or two.
Also had word that the largely un-heralded re-match of Roy Rogers with Norton Buffalo at the Freight and Salvage tore the roof off, as one would expect. Roy is probably the best slide guitarist west of the Mississippi, if not the entire country, while Norton earned serious blues chops in none other than San Quentin before going on to become a serious role model for all blues harpists everywhere.
PRIDE IN THE NAME OF LOVE
Memphis is a large city flush to the border with Arkansas on the Mississippi River. Crossing the river on I55, one travels on a big scary bridge high above the islanded Big Muddy before passing fifty-foot high neon signs of what are supposed to be representations of "naughty ladies" placed there beside the freeway to provide a hearty welcome to travellers and a provocation to the Arkansas bluehaired preachers. It's a gritty city with the usual mixture of problems and benefits peculiar to the South, with a fair portion of its economy devoted to the music industry. The greater Memphis Metropolitan area stands today at about 1.2 million souls, while the city itself hosts some 650,000 folks, about 61.1% Black and 33.6% White.
The Lorraine Motel, address 450 Mulberry Street, is about four blocks from the river between the arms of I55 and I40. The district is on the south end of downtown Memphis. The property was rescued from foreclosure after a long decline after April of 1968 through the efforts of several prominent Memphis citizens who were joined eventually by the City and by the State to found the National Civil Rights Museum.
Dr. Martin Luther King, present in Memphis to support an embattled sanitation worker's strike, was murdered via long-range rifle on the landing of the motel on April 4, 1968.
1968 seems like such a long time ago, a year recorded in history books for many things. Today we have no Statesmen worthy of the name who possess one tenth of the stature of those who seem like giants to us looking back at their immense deeds. But in talking with those who knew him, and of him, people say that Rev. Martin Luther King, was an humble Man of the Cloth who was an unwilling participant in heroic events. They say that he was a man of flesh and blood who knew fear and self-doubt and who possessed a constant sense of self-questioning, but who did not hesitate to take on responsibility and decision when those heavy weights came under his stewardship.
He definitely knew they were going to kill him, for in his last speech -- a speech he had made many times before -- he said, "I am not afraid of death, for I have been to the mountain top . . . and mine eyes have seen the Glory . . .". He also definitely did not want to die the way he did any more or less than any other man. What is incredible about him is that he went ahead anyway, for his cause was just and noble and necessary.
On Monday we thank Dr. King, not for his death, but for his life and his accomplishments in the face of terrible adversity. We will never know all the things he could have accomplished had he lived longer, but we do know that it was important and necessary for things to start changing more quickly, instead of allowing the "gradual change" espoused by figures like Jesse Helms, which would have allowed intolerable lynchings, racist Jim Crow laws and other dehumanizing and inhuman conditions to persist for another four hundred years.
Monday, the Nation celebrates the life of a truly great man, whose principles, morality, integrity and steadfastness elevate him well above any of those today who possess little in quality beyond hectoring demagoguery.
NO WAR NO MORE
Our usually sedate populace got stirred up midweek on the occasion of the Bushy making his case to send 20,000 more boys and girls off to die or get appendages blown off for the sake of his failed policies in Iraq. The word went out and spontaneous gatherings happened all over the place, not just here in the Bay Area.
At 6:30 pm Dave Halprin announced to the crowd of about 150 citizens that all fifty states were having protest demos against yet more foolishness in that benighted country. All the news polls were showing well over 60% of the American people against any more escalation of troop levels, but the Decider is particularly bullheaded the more wrong he gets.
From City Hall a sort of impromtue procession marched down the length of Park Street with most passing automobiles honking support.
The President Appointee's allocation of yet another 20,000 troops is the fourth increase in troop levels in this increment. The previous increments didn't work either.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Its been a quiet week on the Island. This unnatural cold (1948 was the last time it dropped around to temps like these around here) has all the Islanders huddling inside. After the social orgy of the Holidays, when everyone is thrust upon Undesireables such as one's own family to an uncomfortable degree of closeness not usually permitted. Sitting as usual in his usual spot, Man Mountain hulked in his layers of rags inside the entrance to the parking garage beneath B Daltons. Man Mountain has sat their every day and every night for some fifteen years, his great bulk concealed beneath unknown swaddles of blankets, sweaters, towels and oilrags and he has become something of a fixture recognized by everybody but acknowledged by no one. If you dare to look into his eyes you just may fall into something bottomless and so most people hurry by without greeting him. At least something like warmth steals from the lower depths of the garage and the restroom is right there, although no one has ever seen him use it.
Out by the BART HQ in Oaktown, less fortunate souls huddled as well as they could on cold benches in that little park there even as the thermometer slid lower and lower. Officer Oliver Popinjay drove as usual into the cobblestone circle, but instead of rousting the roustabouts as usual, he got out of his cruiser there and, gently rapping his thigh with his truncheon, walked over to a bench which hosted a suddenly scared pair of eyes beneath a foul hoodie.
"You gwine 'rest me again?" asked the eyes.
"No." said the officer. "Last time you peed in the back of the cruiser and made it stink. Now Rudy, you need to be gettin' yerself indoors out o' this cold." He spoke in the mellifluous tones of the 1st generation Irish-American.
"Downtown all full up. And Johnson's 'round the corner be closed for intake now."
"O I think we can get you into Johnson's tonight."
"Leave me alone, Oliver," came the pathetic whine. "I aint bothered nobody. Never bothered nobody ever."
"I can't let ya lie here and die, Rudy." Officer Popinjay said. "It's terrible cold. And the City cannot afford to dispose of your body."
"Leave me alone," repeated Rudy. "What is it that makes a man want to be a cop anyway? Always telling people to go here and go there. Making rules and stuff."
"I don't make the rules, Rudy. I have known you some ten years now and you know that. But I think you need to get out of the cold tonight. It's fearsome cold."
Rudy cursed the cold and a number of other things besides,
including a digression upon the traitorous Raiders and their worthless
"Nation". The lonesome wail of the freight train coming out
of the Port a few hundred yards away came echoing across the lawn which
began to glitter with frost under the streetlights even at this early
That is true. Friday nights the wardens would make popcorn and if any left over, would walk it down to the cells of whoever happened to be a fortunate guest that evening on Seventh Street.
"By that I take it you have nothing in your belly -- other than booze -- to keep you warm tonight. And its Sunday, so you are a long way off from Friday. Come on now. Get on over to Johnson's."
Rudy continued to protest. Dellums was Mayor now. Oakland had a real Brother for a Mayor finally. Things were going to be different. Officer Oliver Popinjay had better watch out. Him and all them Riders. The frost began to build up on Rudy's blanket of newspapers and thin coat. He was breaking no law, just resting his eyes on the bench there. Waiting for the bus. To arrive at 6 a.m. To get breakfast at St. Anthony's in the City. But he stirred himself and felt the cold really get into his bones then. And so the two of them, the young cop and the homeless man named Rudy shuffled across the crisp sward to the opposite side and the warm spill of light from the doorway of the shelter, not one hundred yards from where dark-swaddled men slept on benches.
"Give this man a place somewhere. Anyplace, so long as it is warmer than out there, "Officer Popinjay said to Intake, who was refusing no one that night. And then he turned away to walk back to his cruiser.
He's right, the Officer thought to himself. The Raiders are full of shit for leaving town. All for a dollar more.
Sitting in his own warm cruiser on the Island at Buena Vista and Sherman, Officer O'Madhauen was thinking much of the same. The Giants are becoming Dwarves, abandoning the City for the suburb like cute rats from a ship. Me paddy would go down and thrash the Owner with his shillelagh if he were alive today. What are we now, a Nation of Dwarves?!
Meanwhile a few blocks over, the decayed apartment complex on St. Charles Street wrapped its blankets about itself behind Pagano's Ace Hardware and in the soundbooth of the IslandLife studios, the weary technician put down his headphones as the last minutes of Sunday ticked over to the next day. From across the frosty estuary and the rustling weeds of the still undeveloped Beltline railroad property came the lonely wail of the midnight through-passing train as it wormed its fiery head through the tangle of Jack London Waterfront. A week ago several loud bangs alerted us all to the fact that we all dwell by sufferance on the edge of earthquake's domain.
But for now all are asleep in their beds or stirring by dim light and space heater glow. Each clutches to each in this time of deep winter. But down in the gardens, green shoots of willbe tulips are already firing up energetically from the sandy loam.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 7, 2007
WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS
A Happy New Year to all the dedicated readers out there. We'll be posting the annual stats in the next week or so but it looks like it was another gangbusters year topping 2005's record of 65,000 visitors. Looks like there was about 3,000 of you folks dropping in on various days of the week fairly regularly.
Due to illness among the staff we didn't do our usual retrospective of the year on the Island. There's a nasty chest flu going around, a localized outbreak of gastroenteritis over in Oaktown, and at least one other fever that has the Health folks concerned.
At least the spinach is okay by now.
We will be putting the Poodleshoot Media file up for archive in the Short Story section together with a comprehesive review of all Thanksgiving Poodleshoots of the past. The Olga story will also be posted as a PDF.
EVERYBODY DESERVES MUSIC
Mark Hummel finishes up his annual Blues Harmonica Blowout at Yoshi's tonight and we have reporters over there tonight to bring back the word. Local fave, Ledisi will surely levitate again in that venue 17th-21st.
Augustana, the talked-over opener for the Counting Crows at the Shoreline this summer proved their mettle and will headline under the purple chandeliers of the venerable Fillmore on the 10th. So there, people.
Over at Cafe du Nord we see the usual list of suspects, but on the 20th, Rhett Miller will surely show all the wannabe songwriters how to get the job done. At the Independent, we single out Carbon Leaf appearing on the 30th, followed by the gritty North Mississippi Allstars on the 2nd of February. The quirky Stockholm Syndrome completes a solid musical sequence on the weekend of the 9th and they shall be "Bouncing Very Well".
Especially worth reserving your evening for will be Michael Franti with Spearhead, appearing at the Warfield on the 16th and 17th of February with Keller Williams warming up the joint. Those shows are likely to be the Hot Hot Tix until Spring softens up the venues as a casual glance at the tours shows most of the interesting folks going abroad until then with one or two exceptions.
DON'T BE A GHOST, BULWORTH
Our perennial hustings hopefuls were spied drinking together down at the Old Same Place, located at the Brown Shoe Square. This is not a frequent occurance, as Papoon remains the Island Liberal Candidate, whereas Babar shall never ever change his affiliation from the Conservative Party, but such moments of bipartisan conviviality have been known to occur in the past. Just not for about seven years or so.
Papoon, frisky and bushy tailed as only a representative from the Ground Squirrel District can be, nursed a three-color pousse cafe while Babar curled his trunk about -- of course -- a dry martini. After the recent elections, Papoon was in fine form and already sounding the vox popli regarding yet another presidential bid. Papoon has run religiously every four years for the past thirty or so on the "Not Insane!" platform, never garnering more than .01% of the vote but remaining upbeat all the while, believing sincerely that the American electorate will one day realize that the vast majority of the legislature remains devoid of wits or cogent thought processes to the extent of being fully certifiable under any other circumstances other than elected office.
It has been observed by many that one would have to be crazy to want to be elected and thus subject to incessant abuse.
Babar, French, aristocratic, Conservative to a fault, monied and patrician, has the view that the recent elections are a disturbing result of allowing far too many people to vote. His plan to limit voting to a set quota has not met with great results, but he remains unfazed, convinced that the deviousness of Karl Rove and folk like him will surely skew the results on another date in the future.
"We stole Florida via superior methodology and intelligent design. We took Ohio using carefully prepared machinery. Nobody has ever had a better system for stealing votes. This all proves the native rights of our Party to rule and our certain victory in the future. " Babar mantained. Nevertheless, the recent elections did put a dampener upon his spirits. It really was looking like even an imbecile could see that this Middle East thing was a complete disaster. On top of New Orleans. And the economy.
When in US history has ever before the subject of abandoning an entire American city to the Enemy ever been discussed as a reasonable possibility? Papoon inquired.
The atmosphere in the Old Same Place is dim, with walnut and oak furnishing the bar and the railings. Jimmy, the bartender, passes his cloth religiously along the banquet. Passing cars briefly illuminate the frosted diamond panes of the windows. One is free to pass out in the "snuggery' so as to avoid the hazardous roads. In the parkinglot someone had parked his Volvo with the bold bumpersticker requesting, "Impeach the Bastard Already!" In the Old Same Place, getting back to business as usual was taking its time.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
It's been a quiet week on the Island, with many folks having departed the shopping frenzy and glitz of the Holidays for safer locales, such as Mexico and Ben Lomond. Even to such far flung places as Long Beach did Islanders fling themselves with severe anti-commercial spirit. The place emptied out so much that Pastor Nyquist got together with Father Guimon of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Complaint on New Year's Day. On Xmas day seems barely five people showed up at the Basilica, with the same results for the Lutheran ministry. Seems a fair number of Lutherans had taken off for Hawaii this year to attend -- as they stated -- an international synod. The Catholics had all departed for Florida, and Fr. Guimon suspected that the weather was responsible for the absence of his flock as well as that of his friend Pastor Nyquist. Be it noted that unusual temps dropping to the frigid thirties hammered the Bay Area with unwonted freezings, such that some native San Franciscans were forced to shed their sandals and shorts in favor of long unused boots and trousers as the Holiday Season thrust itself upon us all.
Let it be remembered that the two opposing frames of thought had come together this past year due to a failed umbrella and the common habit of taking a walk about the block prior to sermon composition. Sharing a single umbrella, the two had come to syncronize their walks, first clockwise, then anti-clockwise about this block that housed both houses of worship.
So it was that the priest and the pastor found themselves perched on stools in the chilly rectory of the Basilica with glasses of claret on New Year's Eve. Each had a book beside to keep company and with which to bolster various arguments that only priests and pastors may find of significance. Father Guimon, something of a self-styled liberal, had a copy of Aquinas beside. Pastor Nyquist, a copy of St. Augustine.
Barbara came in late to stoke the fire in the hearth there and bid the two of them a good year and so the two of them left their books on the big oak table with its unlit candelabra to sit in the comfy chairs before a cheery roaring fire.
There they were minutes to midnight with a stillness all through the house except for the crackling of the fire and the sputter of the television set in the corner.
"We are quite different, you know, "said Father Guimon. He had already a bit much of the claret and was now on to the port.
"No doubt about that," said Pastor Nyquist who had brought with him a flask of brandy with which to share. "No common ground at all. Not with that German there as Pope."
The clock ticked over to the midnight hour and outside those who remained on the Island fired explosives and various armaments into the air while the television jubilated with scads of confetti and noise of its own. Father Guimon's arm wavered in its path to clink glasses with Pastor Nyquist. "Happy New Year in any case."
And that is how Barbara found them, asleep in their chairs before the embers of the fire that was 2006 the following morning.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great year.