Vol. 12 Weekly News, Reviews, Music and Satire Sunday 2010
Welcome to the first half of year 2010. The year's content is split into two parts to allow easier page loading for slower browsers. Each year tends to approach the equivalent of 380 typewritten pages.
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JUNE 27, 2010
GLAD TO SEE YOU
This week's photo comes from Javier's garden where the gladiolas have started erupting with their seasonal exhuberance.
Got the word on the official headcount for last week's Pirate Festival along the Vallejo waterfront. The fest did wrest the title of world's largest assembly of pirates from Brixton, UK and Portland, Oregon, with a count of 2646 pirates, plus a daily attendance of some 19,000 folks come to observe the costumes, the mock seabattles and the music. This earned Northern California a spot in the Guiness Book of World Records.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Measure E appears to be going down, lacking the necessary 2/3rds majority to pass the property tax. Reports indicate that the 2/3rds stat is a bit waffly, as most newspapers are quoting a need for "66.6%". In the latest ROV report, the Measure was failing at 64% (corrected 6/28).
Commute Hell will become ever so much more painful as July 1, bridge tolls are going up to $5 and there will be no free pass for HOV lanes for any type of vehicle. This means carpoolers and motorcycles must fork over $25 for the FasTrak device to get by with the $2.50 fee. According to Caltrans, "Carpool vehicles will be required to have a FasTrak toll tag to receive the toll discount at any Bay Area toll bridge. At the state-owned bridges, carpoolers must use a designated carpool lane to qualify for the toll discount."
Island bridges also may change their drawbridge schedules, with a move to more restricted hours as well as extended hours of notification when boaters want to pass through. At present boaters must inform the Bridge Authority two hours in advance, whereas the new regs stipulate four hours. No word yet on the County's plan to entirely lift the bridges during the dead hours of night-time so as to leave the facilities entirely unstaffed and save costs.
Buena Vista AVenue will be resurfaced from Grand to Willow Streets through July. The work will take place during business hours Monday to Friday.
An Army recruiter was found dead of apparent suicide outside the recruitement center at 2651 Blanding Ave. The man was found in his car with his personal sidearm. Normally suicides are not announced or reported, however the man was a federal employee found on Federal property. The sergeant had not served in either of the Mideast wars and was not known to be suffering from PTSD or any other known stressor.
Prosecution in the trial of Quochuy Tran (19) wound up their testamony against the man who allegedly shot and killed the 15 year-old Ido Bayarsaikhan in Washington Park Halloween night 2007. Defense is arguing that another member of the group of five boys who came on the bus from Oakland with the rifle with the intention of robbing Islanders could have fired the shot that killed the newly immigated Mongolian girl. The other four have already been convicted as juveniles in seperate proceedings. Tran is being tried as an adult because the murder was committed with malice aforethought during commission of a crime. A memorial bench has been installed in the park to commemorate Iko's life.
WHAT'S GOING ON
School's out, the heat is turned on and the Summer Season is in full swing
Friendly neighbor and pillar of integrity, Neil Young will grace the stage at the renovated Fox Theatre for two nights, July 11 & 12th, performing solo and fronted by Australian Bert Jansch.
This summer the Greek has a lineup of can't miss shows, starting with Michael Franti July 16th. SoCal native Jackson Browne comes into town the following weekend, July 24th with guitar wunderkind David Lindley.
August 21st the incredible acoustic powerhouse Rodrigo y Gabriela will show you stuff you never thought possible with nylon string guitars , including using them as heavy metal drums. Their version of Metallica's "Orion" is to die for as their song commemorating a roller coaster in Norway. The quirky and delightful Xavier Rudd comes from the Outback and will charm your socks off with guitar, harmonica and didgeradoo.
Norah Jones brings her Billie Holliday vocal chops August 27th while the sensative guys David Grey and Ray LaMontagne will sooth the start of September.
August 6, the EB Express will hold its Home Grown fest at Jack London waterfront, still free for all ages. John Lee Hooker's daughter, Zakiya will be there to help out a bevy of bands.
Then there is the upcoming weekend which combines First Fridays in the Temescal, the Estuary Art Attack, and the July 4th fireworks, viewable from the Point, Jack London Square, the Marin Headlands, and the Berkeley Marina, with public events taking place in most of these venues.
YOU CAN'T HOLD BACK SPRING
Its been a warm week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Tuesday, Old Gaia leaned her head back a little more while sitting in that cosmic rocking chair the better to feel the sun most directly upon her face. Which is to say, June 21st marked the astrological start of summer and the day when the earth tilts on her axis to cause the sun to hit the northern hemisphere most directly than at any other time.
As if to mark the ocassion, the fogs burnt off and we saw temps rising into the high 80's along the coast. The roses have all exploded a while ago, along with the golden and scarlet poppies and the bird-of-paradise palms are dripping now with nectar. Wonder of wonders, the calla lilies are in bloom again. The bush beans are showing and even some tomatoes have suddenly woken up. Things appear to be moving nicely according to schedule.
The delegation of Norwegian Bachelor Farmers all headed back to Minnesota after the Native Sons of the Golden West held a little banquet for them. The Farmers all arrived here looking for there former pastor, Inquist. It is true that we have a Lutheran Pastor Inkqvist here, but it turned out it was not the same man and the farmers all heard that the new pastor, Pastor Judy, was checking out quite nicely after all, despite all the rumors and the talk. And as it turned out, they all learned to their dismay at the banquet that no one here knew how to make a proper Hot Dish.
When they got into the hall there by the Marina, Juanita proudly brought out a bubbly, cheesy thing in a big cassarole, which looked reasonable enough, but when the fellows dolloped some of that on their plates they each of them noted that it smelled sort of odd even though they clearly could see hamburger meat in there.
What's this spice? One of them asked. And Juanita looking puzzled, mentioned cumin, chili powder, paprika, cayenne, jalapenos, habaneros and a few other things besides the beans and noodles.
One of the farmers put a forkful of the stuff in his mouth and promptly ran from the room.
"Esta muy caliente," said Juanita, wringing her hand towel and realizing that she may have done something a little wrong. "Is real hot, this dish." What she had done was find a hot dish recipe online and, figuring that the mild ingredients could not possibly be right, had added one thing after another until it made her eyes water.
Well, these fellows had never ingested anything spicier in their lives than pickled herring and they didn't like it. Even though they were enjoined to stay longer, they all got on the plane and flew back the next day, causing a small incident at Oakland International when one of them left a tupperware container of the leftovers in the baggage area. In fact, there was so much of Juanita's cassarole left, for quite a while containers of the leftovers would turn up in the darndest places for months afterward as the Norwegians really wanted nothing to do with that spicey food; it was greatly feared that some sort of payback would occur in the form of a big shipment of lutefisk, arriving just as it got toward cooler weather.
As it got on toward the weekend and all sorts of events took place around the Bay under sunny skies, including the Gay Pride parade in Babylon, the temperatures went up and up and folks everywhere looked for ways to beat the heat. Even Father Duran of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint was seen walking barefoot down on the Strand as legions of equally barefoot urchins scampered about the BBQ pits and the driftwood.
While he was down there he stopped to speak with a couple of his parishoners, the Blathers, who were out "slumming with the hoi polloi" on a beach blanket near the bend of the shore to Crab Cove. Mr. Blather had set up a large umbrella topped by a Union Jack, a mini-plastic picnic table, an ice chest, and a miniature TV so as to watch commentary on the World Cup. He and the Missus sat there in low chairs, sipping G&T's while observing the kite surfers and lamenting England's loss to the Germans.
"Is this yours?" Father Duran commented after a round of pleasantries. He indicated a cardboard container that had appeared there at their feet and which Bounders was nosing with interest.
The Blathers denied ownership and the talk turned to things ecumenical as well as athletic. "A shame about our boys getting knocked out that way," said the Missus.
"Damn those Krauts!" said Mr. Blather. "Ought to have another world war to teach them a lesson. Expect I can talk the boys over at the Bank to liven things up and make it possible. Inject a little more vivacity in the markets at the very least."
Fr. Duran said something about God's will as Bounders popped open the container at their feet and began chowing down on what he had found there. After a moment, Bounders sat back with a sort of look of surprise on his furry face. One eyebrow rose way up and the other eye nearly closed and a sort of steam exhaled from his nostrils.
"Something seems to have gotten into your dog," commented the priest as Bounders lept up and ran down to the ocean, of which salt content he drank a goodly portion, then back up to attack the ice chest, upsetting it and spilling the ice out which Bounders gobbled up like kibble. What happened next proved unfortunate for Mr. Blather's tennis whites for stuff started coming out of Bounders "fore and aft" as it is sometimes said, and Bounders ran amok over the beach blanket, both of the Blathers and the Cribbage picnic being held a few feet away. The Cribbages were known to Bounders for he dearly loved to play with their shi tzu, Frou Frou, who looked up from her canine reflections at that moment for signs of doggy affection.
Bounders threw up on Frou Frou, who responded indignantly, before running back to the Blather encampment where his aft end soiled the Missus dreadfully, and where his fore splattered the TV until it exploded in a shower of sparks.
"This looks like someone's hot dish, " mentioned Father Duran peering at the cardboard container and poking it with a stick. "I think I need to be going. "The monstrance needs re-mounting." With that the holy man fled that scene of destruction. To him was given the calling of salvation of souls, not veterinary medicine.
In the Old Same Place Bar, the mood was about as sanguine as things can be for important issues such as FIFA. The Republic had been knocked out of the running by France's handball a year previously, but there has always been a sort of affinity between the Irish and the Germans, so the results cheered Padraic, especially since the snooty English got their comeuppance. He had put up a big TV with satellite feed from the sports channels, but with the sound turned off. Except when he got excited enough to grab the remote and switch it on for a few moments.
"Will ya look at that! Right into the corner and cute as a hoor doin' tricks in the car in the police yard!" exclaimed Padraic on yet another replay.
"Hey, what's this stuff?" said Eugene, sitting at the bar and poking at a white cardboard container sitting innocently on the bar. "Smells pretty good."
"Some Norwegian farmer was in here earlier," said Suzie. "I think he left it by accident."
"Hmm. Probably leftovers from one of the restaurants. Looks like Juanita's chili mac." He raised a forkful to his lips.
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the summer water of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London waterfront, heading from the port gantries to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the island. Have a great week.
JUNE 20, 2010
DEAD SKUNK IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD
This week's headline photo comes on the heels of the recent Congressional hearings on the mis-named Capitol Hill (Washington DC was built on a swamp and there are no hills in that city) where BP executives were justifiably excoriated by representatives and where the entire world was treated to the most ridiculous and misplaced apology in history when a GOP Senator actually commiserated with BP's having to pay for the awful mess they created. Well, its members of that party who have a curious bent on moral responsibility, for it was one of them who apologised to Dick "Buckshot" Cheney for taking some lead after Cheney blasted his cohort in error during an illegal turkey shoot.
Staying focussed on the current outrage, we note that the emergency plans BP kept for years in the event of a worst case scenario oil spill (some 4.5 million gallons, tops), BP would leap into action with measures designed to save all the walruses in the Gulf.
Come again? Walruses in the Gulf? Those wiley Mexicans have been concealing this matter for years, apparently. Just as no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one will ever suspect narcotrafficante walruses. Or walruses of any kind this far south of the Arctic Circle.
So, direct from the Island-Life photoshop we have our poster all ready in support of BP.
PSA - FRUITVALE BRIDGE CLOSURE
There was a lot of confusion over the dates and times of the bridge closure as the signage was -- and still is -- singularly atrocious. The approaches to the bridge close at 8 AM, but the bridge itself will close 10 AM to 4 PM to allow the rush hour traffic to pass before workers begin replacing the worm-eaten support piles. This work is likely to go on through August during the regular work week. Folks can call 670-5712 at any time to get recorded information on the closures.
WHATS GOING ON
We have the lineup for the San Jose Jazz fest from reader Tom York. The annual event will kick off 8/13 with George Clinton, the reigning crown prince of Funk, followed by 1000 other artists. Do you know the way to San Jose?
Gallery owner Danielle Fox lets us know SLATE art & design gallery, located in the Temescal district of Oakland, will open its summer group show, Lines Lanes and Planes, with a reception on the evening of Friday July 2nd from 69pm. The exhibition will feature work by six Bay Area artists working in five different media: Anne Subercaseaux, Mel Davis, and Justine Beajuin Lo (painting), Patricia Thomas (drawing), Christopher Nickel (photography) and Toru Sugita (printmaking and 3-D installation).
The show is a meditation on lines and planes, how they relate to one another formally, and how they constitute the built environment in which we live. The lanes in the shows title refers to paths of movement through the modern urban landscape, perhaps best articulated by Anne Subercaseaux's paintings, which capture the patterns of light and shadow that flicker through one's perception as one moves through the city or drives across the Bay Bridge.
Toru Sugita's rope installation will create its own zig-zag frenzy in the gallery before escaping out to the street.
The reception will take place on the First Friday in July, a night when over twenty Oakland Art Murmur galleries will be open.
WHAT WENT ON
This weekend saw a tremendous burst of creative activity all around the Bay, from the Laurel District Solstice Festival, to graduation parties, our own Sandcastle event down at Crab Cove, and several pirate festivals, including one at the Yacht Club.
A nasty stomach flu nearly put the kibosh on this weekend for at least one of us, but we gathered our swords and our booty bags and scampered on over to cash-strapped Vallejo to help the country's largest Pirate Festival aim for the brass ring of Largest assembly of Pirates ever in the world and an entry into the Guiness Book of World Records.
The magic number to beat, as set in Brixton (UK) and then Portland, Oregon, was 1,700 pirates.
Well, okay its not like the Bubble-blowing contest, attempts for which entry went on all over the country and which has numbers somewhere in the 30,000's, as there are only four pirate festivals to speak of in the USA.
Nevertheless, there is something dashing, tremendously appealing, truely fantasy, and entirely Hollywood about Pirates in the imagination. We are not talking about REAL pirates, who tend to be either uncouth Maylaysian cutthroats or scared teenagers waving AK-47's off the coast of Somalia (read down further for an actual Pirate-with-a-heart story). No, we are talking about bearded, bandoliered, armed with cutlasses and saying "Arrrg!" every third sentence sorts of pirates. At the worst, we have Captain Hook. At the best -- or maybe the worst as well -- we have Johnny Depp with hair extensions that surely would cause arrest in Oakland for illegal tressing.
As it turns out, there are rules for dressing and acting like a pirate. Especially if you want to get into a prestigious book like the Guiness Book of World Records.
A pirate costume consists most typically of three basic components: - a shirt (preferably white or beige linen, and billowy) - full-length trousers (preferably black and baggy) - a belt - a vest. It is then accessorised with some of the following: - a sword of some kind - a headscarf or bandana - a hook - an eyepatch - a parrot. Flintlock pistols and dirks help. Tankards for your ale can be fastened about the body. The following rules concern the wearing of pirate costumes:
1. Each person may own only one pirate costume.
To make it into the Book, Festival spokesperson Shannon Damnavits said each pirate has to wear a red wristband, stand in one place for 10 minutes and be photographed. Guinness then certifies the count.
Its not necessary to dress like a pirate or any sort of Elizabethan character
to attend, however the spirit of the festival is so jolly infectious,
we dare you not to want to come as a saucy wench or even a simple Jack
Tar next time.
And even for movie pirates, there is quite the gamut. We have your standard issue Captain Teach of course.
And there will always be an Official of the Realm as representative of Law and Order -- and sanctioned piracy.
Then we have pirates of the Caribbean and the Far Tortuga.
There were a few Asiatic pirates here and there.
And Arabic pirates of Morroco.
There were Lace Cavaliers as well as smoking pirates.
And let us not forget those orginals who set the tone in the early days, the Viking Rovers.
It is entirely possible to spend several hours or the entire day at the Vallejo festival, as the entertainment is non-stop, and not all of it on stage as visitors try to outdo one another with acts of depravity and high-spirited hijinks. Here a fellow enjoys his bottle smack in the middle of the path, perhaps to better enjoy the fine company and pleasant repartee.
"How sir is there no woman with you?"
"Nay, I have me bottle, sir!"
"T'wood be better to have both bottle and wench, would it not?"
"Indeed sir, that would be heaven!"
Here and there folks found spots to practice their own form of piratical nautyness. Here a group of depraved wenches engages in a spitting contest involving watermelon. This was a good one to watch from a goodly distance
Here a fellow takes his pet crab for a land walk.
The Wenches may be sexy and pretty, but the wise pirate picks his First Mate with care for there be dangerous femmes.
Also that's her dad standing there to the left.
Here the French appear with distinction.
And here a pair of pirates sport appropriate parrots of matched blue and green.
Tucked quite out of the way we spied this astonishing sight, a Great Horned Owl provided for the delight of all and splendid photo opportunities.
All forms of piracy were represented here, including the bane of Steve Ballmer, computer piracy.
Pirates, both Great and Small, including pirates in training.
Besides the music on stages, there was a cannon battle between shore and an armed sloop passing along the waterfront there. Also there were sword-fighting displays as well as various other martial weapons. And of course if one happened to arrive unarmed, there were vendors who supply the Renaissance Faire in Marin eager to fill your needs for rapiers, cutlasses, daggers, morning star flails, flintlock pistols, and boarding axes (all of course shined up nicely but with edges dulled). We noted very little of the dangerously cheap "rattail construction" in the weapons, with most possessed of full tang hilts.
This being the land that is home to the Renaissance Fair as well as the Society for Creative Anachronisms, verisimilitude is the order of the day --no plastic geegaws here, for if a man wants a baldric or a jerkin, he can be assured the work is about the best in the world.
If those are a little too real for Johnny and Janey pre-teens, there is the wooden sword booth with baldrics of appropriate size.
Also, there was the education ship with crowsnest for the little ones to learn all about nautical things, if they were so minded, or pound aimlessly on appropriate projects of blacksmithing and carpentry if not. Parents really loved this one.
Here the main stage finishes up a rousing rendition of "What Shall We Do with a Drunken Sailor" during the 10 minute Guinness count. The orange thing in the background is a Kraken overwhelming a ship in the far corner of the lot.
At the end of the day we learned that we had registered some 2,300 pirates, easily beating the record, however it remained for the Guinness folks to certify the results later on. Bureaucrats, make 'em walk the plank! Arrrrg!
I WANNA THANK YOU
Pirates were in the news in another way, as we learned this story about the Somalian pirate cook who saved the lives of an entire hostage ship's crew only to disappear afterwards in a case of bizarre red tape and mis-placed rules.
The tale began Feb. 2, when the pirates hijacked the MV Rim, a Libyan-owned, North Korean-flagged cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The crew radioed international navies, but help arrived 15 minutes after the pirates seized the ship. International naval forces patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean off Somalia generally don't intervene militarily after pirates take a ship because of the danger to the crew.
During the first two months, the pirates gave food and water to the crew of one Romanian and nine Syrians. But when talks about the $300,000 ransom went nowhere, the pirates grew impatient. The crew got little food or water, Virgil Teofil Cretu, the 36-year-old Romanian crew member, said in an interview in Costanta, Romania.
Cretu, who as the coxswain had steered the ship, and the Syrian sailors drank rainwater and cooked rice in seawater. Their diet was augmented by whatever Ahmed could sneak to them.
Various pirate groups bought and sold the ship and crew, Cretu said. One of the rotating pirate guards was a gun-wielding 13-year-old. Ahmed bought a SIM card to use in a cell phone the crew had hidden from the pirates, so the hostages could speak with relatives.
But the negotiations were not going well. No one from any of the host countries would agree to pay a ransom.
On June 2, Ahmed told the crew that the pirates had decided to kill them and harvest their organs to get some money out of the seajacking. Ahmed secretly passed the crew three Kalashnikovs. That's when "all hell broke loose," according to Cretu.
"There were six pirates guarding us. We started shooting. I shot like mad. The pirates were taken by surprise. They opened fire, shot each other also by mistake," said Cretu, who was wounded in the back during the firefight. "This lasted for about 45 minutes. All in all, we annihilated them pretty quickly. Some we threw overboard, to the sharks."
Its hard to imagine the situation. Untrained teenager pirates carrying AK-47 machine guns engaged in a dubious battle on the high seas against what turned out to be a crew led by a highly trained man with military experience.
"It was like being in a commando fight. In fact, my Syrian colleagues on board nicknamed me Rambo afterward," said Cretu. He credited his compulsory military service with getting him through the fight.
One last pirate who had hid in a cabin jumped overboard himself when the ship started sailing. All six pirates were killed or went overboard.
The crew started their engines and steamed away, pursued by more pirates in another hijacked vessel. The MV Rim's old engines stalled, but an EU Naval Force helicopter swooped down just before the pirates closed in, hovering between the two ships and buying precious minutes.
After the crew was taken off the MV Rim, the EU Naval Force let the ship drift in the Gulf of Aden. Cretu said the ship was to have been scrapped after delivering in India a load of kaolin, a soft white clay used in making porcelain and many other products.
Now the crew has gone home, but Ahmed is nowhere to be found. His last known location was the Dutch warship Johan de Witt.
"In my mind, cook Ahmed was an angel sent by God," said Cretu. "Without his intervention, without his courage, we would have been dead."
The EU Naval Force won't say if he was set ashore in Somalia where he faced execution by pirates or clan members of the brigands who died or sent away alone in a small boat to navigate the high seas at the beginning of monsoon season. EU Naval Force officials said they had investigated repatriation and migration options for Ahmed but would not give details.
"I owe my life to my Somali friend and I want to take him into my home if possible so he and his family can change their lives," said Cretu.
The MV Rim was Cretu's first job as a ship's crew member. On Thursday,
he boarded a ship on the Danube River in Romania to start his second high-seas
Its been a gusty week on the Island, our hometown, set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. High winds set in to push away the momentary heatwave we had and so on to bring on the fogs for this year's Father's Day.
Pastor Inkqvist noted the influx of new parishoners at the Lutheran church this past Sunday, which turned out to be the result of Lake Wobegon's new minister. Several tall, gaunt-looking men trooped in all at once with big workboots and overalls -- it was a contingent of the famous Norwegian bachelor farms who had a mind to travel south when they heard about the waitress at the Sidetrack Tap filling in this last Sunday. The Editor heard about them and hustled on down there to the Emmanuel Church but by the time he got there the farmers had all returned to their fields in Minnesotta as the new crops were coming up right about now. So the Editor, who had longed for basic networking connections, ever in mind to establish Sister City status lucked out. So he sat in the pews, complaining about his miserable childhood in a Catholic boy's home while the Pastor swept the floor.
"I never knew my father," said the Editor. "When I found where he lived, he was dead already of a bad heart."
"Ja, sure," said Inkqvist.
The Editor commented that he regretted not going to look for his father sooner. He had done many things, travelled the world and seen amazing sights and committed more than a few crimes, but that was the one regret he kept inside him.
Pastor Inkqvist walked over to the man and rested his hand on the Editor's shoulder. "Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace."
The girls in Marlene and Andre's Household all took out their fathers to various locations as per tradition, however they did not go to Momma's Cafe this year for brunch as the Great Recession continues to rage across the land and everybody was out of work. Most of the guys had already lost their fathers, and as for Andre, he had crossed the country on the rails to get away from his abusive father, with Marlene having a similar story. Martini's father had died of heartbreak shortly after the 580 interstate claimed the family house and land, held since 1868.
Marsha and her dad took a long walk up in the park there off Grizzley Peak Boulevard and sat and looked out over the Bay while going through a bag of pistachios while Sarah and her dad got a bottle of Jim Beam and sat on a bench beside the Strand near Crab Cove and drank it together until Claude got all weepy and tired until he lay down on the bench with his head in her lap while she watched the seagulls and the windsurfers.
"Just because I regret your mother, doesn't mean I regret you," her father said.
Suan and her father strolled through the recently refurbished Oakland Museum and had lunch in the Black Oak Cafe where the new owner, Robert Dorsey, has done up things quite nicely after selling the Blackberry Bistro up the Hill. "I have seen hard times," said the elder Mr. Washington to Suan. "These times shall pass. And then we will have hard times again. It all goes 'round. Make sure you keep something under the floorboards, my girl." And more fatherly advice.
"Haven't you found a boy, yet?" he asked.
Suan sighed. "O there's boys plenty." He did not know she worked nights as a stripper in the Crazy Horse.
"Well playing the field is fine," he said. "Just don't be giddy. Don't want to be known as a giddy girl. Otherwise only rakes and gad-abouts will want you."
Tommy and Toby took their dads out for a cruise aboard their ketch, the Lavendar Surprise where things got a little prickly. They made sure not to kiss or hug one another the entire time. The men all fished for whatever off Angel Island and Tommy's dad caught a four foot leopard shark -- a keeper. Removing the hook took some doing, however, while Toby's dad beat the prehistoric fish about the head with a bat, more or less ineffectively. Toby had to pith the beast in the brains with an awl, which managed to calm the fish down some and make his dad quite proud.
"Way to go Toby! Killin' makes a man out of ya!"
Toby sighed. He never would measure up. No matter what he did. He knew that.
The Almeida family resolved their Father's Day in the usual Island fashion -- they headed out to the Cove for a BBQ and the Sand Castle contest. Pedro slaughtered some of the chickens from the coop and Mrs. Almeida plucked them before they all claimed a spot in the trees with a park grill and a picnic table. Pedro watched his brood scamper around a three-foot high castle with a moat. He had never planned on being a father, but the years pass and things happen. Gilberto, Filiberto, Alicia, Ana, Yolanda, Yvonne, and little Santiago worked industriously on their public works project with a real working drawbridge made of sawgrass, driftwood, kelp and shells while Tugboat, the black lab barked merrily back and forth between the reeds and the water, trying to catch a seabird with which to play. Filibert found a sandcrab and placed it into the moat while Tugboat communicated vociferously. Yolanda pushed Yvonne who fell and nearly destroyed the drawbridge which drew cries of acrimony. Things happen.
As night fell on this sunny Father's Day, Mrs. Sanchez, nee Morales, enjoyed a long phone conversation via Skype with her family in the Phillipines.
Over at the Native Sons of the Golden West clubhouse, Jose, Javier, Martini, and Pahrump finished up cleaning after the annual Father's Day banquet, and sat out front watching the fog roll in while sharing a joint from their failed hydroponics project. They had tried to create an indoor hothouse so as to make some extra cash, but nobody knew anything about fertilizer or growing things that way under grow lights, and so the little pot plants grew no more than a few inches before whithering away to sticks. Martini was too paranoid to leave the lights on long enough for one thing.
With everyone out and about, Marlene and Andre found the house entirely to themselves, a rare occurance for an household of about twelve to fifteen people. So they made the best of it and made love in the creaky old bed for several hours until it was useless anymore. After the fireworks were over, Marlene watched through the window; the sky was a tattered blanket with holes punched in it. The ocean, a carpet of diamonds unfolding to the horizon as far as one could see.
The two of them were quiet for a long time until he mentioned that he thought he could get a gig in Marin at the Renaissance Faire and she said, "I think I'd like to be a pirate."
"Pirate-ness is next to Godly-ness," Andre said. "And if that's the case, prepare to be boarded, ye saucy wench!"
As the curtains demurely close on that delicate scene, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the bounding main of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered windows and doorways of the Jack London Waterfront, heading from the mizzenmasts and gantries of the Port to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 13, 2010
OLAY! OLAY, OLAY OLAY! OLAY! OLAY!
This week says it all about what happened during the World Cup match in South Africa between the US and Great Britain, which ended in a 1:1 tie over this goal, a goal everyone says was a total bobbling error on the part of the UK goalie.
In the beginning of the Decade we ran a contest that would name this particular era for its particular character. Each Age of history has always gotten some colorful descriptor which roughly identifies a time and its nature. For example we have the Jazz Age, the Guilded Age, The Greatest Generation, and more recently the Age of Aquarius, the We Generation (followed by The Me Generation), so as 2000 rolled around with the ominously defective behavior of the outgoing president who was to be followed by a none-too bright successor along with an entire Administration packed to the gills with incompetant dunderheads, the Jackass movies, Beavis and Butthead, "Doh!" cartoons, South Park, the rise of the Darwin Awards, and scads of examples which caused many in more educated parts of the world to throw their hands up in despair, we finally came across the one best descriptor for the times in which we live.
Its now 2010, which ought to show some signs of improvement, and indeed we did elect our first Black President, which is more than just a token of some improvement. Nevertheless, as all good Yeatsians know, the falcon turns in a widening gyre and as that rough beast slouches off to Bethlehem to birth a new age, the old age dies hard and with great violence.
Herewith we provide the video of the week direct from the "Mock, the Dummy" series. Here Mock and his friends do an historical rundown of just where one particular contemporary political movement got its start and how it has acted down through the ages to this present day.
DON'T YOU EVER GET ELECTED
Readers get the benefit of our political junkies here, some of whom served at the polls as elections officials on June 8.
Here are the County and Statewide results from the County ROV and the Secretary of State, Debra Bowen's Office. Bowen is up for re-election but ran uncontested in this Primary.
JUNE 8 ELECTION
Ninth Congressional District:REP
13th Congressional District:DEM
13th Congressional District:REP
STATE GOVERNOR: REP
LIEUTENTANT GOVERNOR: DEM
LIEUTENTANT GOVERNOR: DEM
LIEUTENTANT GOVERNOR: REP
Attorney General: DEM
Attorney General: REP
Sixteenth Assembly District: DEM
Sixteenth Assembly District:REP
PROPOSITIONS: COUNTY RESULTS
PROPOSITIONS: STATEWIDE RESULTS
Proposition 14, which would create a so-called open primary system in California, cruised toward an early victory. Also winning big was Proposition 13, a measure to provide property tax relief for seismic retrofits which had no serious opposition.
Receiving far less money and attention than Prop 14 (a darling of Der Governator) was Proposition 15, which would have increased lobbyists' annual registration fees to underwrite a pilot program for publicly funded elections.
PROP 15 EXPLAINED
Proposition 16, the controversial ballot initiative bankrolled by PG&E to the tune of $46 million against the $90,000 spent by opponents, eventually got dumped after leading much of Election Night. Proposition 16 called for two-thirds majority support from voters before local governments could form or expand municipal utilities. PG&E said the goal was to give taxpayers a voice if their governments spend public dollars to get into the often volatile power business. But critics said the company was trying to sabotage communities eager for renewable energy such as wind and solar. The Island is one such community which has opted for control over its own power and as a result folks here have enjoyed far more stable supply than in surrounding areas.
Proposition 17, which deals with car insurance rates, trailed by about a 4 percent margin, while Proposition 15, on public election financing, fell hard. Proposition 17 also had a deep-pocketed corporate sponsor, Mercury Insurance, which spent nearly $15 million to back the measure. It was billed as a boon for drivers, granting them a discount for continuous coverage. But the measure also allowed insurers to charge higher fees for drivers usually low-income who had gaps in coverage or who switched insurers to find better deals.
Two of five Alameda County Board of Supervisor seats were up for grabs Tuesday a rarity for a board that sees little turnover.
Nadia Lockyer took District 2 and Wilma Chan handily captured District 3.
In the hotly contested District 2 race, Lockyer, executive director of the county's Family Justice Center, led three other challengers former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling and Union City Mayor Mark Green.
All three were seeking to replace longtime Supervisor Gail Steele, who chose not to seek re-election after 18 years in office.
Lockyer, who is married to State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, vastly outspent her challengers raising more than $500,000 more than any opponent. The race had become a bitter battle, with Lockyer's camp questioning Figueroa's back taxes as well as Figueroa's true residency.
District 2 includes Hayward, Newark, Union City, and parts of Fremont and Sunol.
In District 3, former Supervisor and state Assemblywoman Wilma Chan easily defeated Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson, financial planner Harold Lowe and retired businessman Lou Filipovich . All were vying for the seat of Alice Lai-Bitker, who also chose not to run for re-election.
District 3 includes San Leandro, The Island, San Lorenzo, Ashland, Hillcrest Knolls, and the Fruitvale, San Antonio and Chinatown communities of Oakland.
In both races, the winner needed to receive a majority of the vote to avoid a runoff in November with the second-place finisher.
This will be the first time in a decade that the board will see two seats change hands in the same year. In 2000, Supervisor Nate Miley was elected, while Lai-Bitker was appointed to replace then-Supervisor Chan, who was pursuing the Assembly seat she eventually won.
Since then, the board's five faces have remained the same.
Johnson was unable to overcome the significant name recognition of the highly experienced and very public Chan, who also lives here on the Island.
LIKE THE WEATHER
The cool overcast weather yielded with brisk winds to a couple blistering hot days around here, rendered more uncomfortable by the abrupt change. Saturday saw temps soaring into the 90's even over in Babylon, while triple digits seared the Valley. We can look forward to a gradual cooling trend, and even Sunday was a bit of a relief for most folks, although the Strand was packed from the eelgrass area all the way up and around the bend of Crab Cove as families thronged down to the high tide water for sun and sea.
It may rise to about 80 for Monday, but the pogonip rolling in will lower the temps with high fog and nights dropping to the mid fifties by Tuesday. Temps will continue to drop on this front moving in to Friday at least.
This was the final weekend for the ProArts Open Studios, which had a low turnout on the Island due to late planning and late brochure deliveries. Nevertheless we scouted around to look at a few studios and chat.
Wanda Fudge, former fashion accessory supplier to the stars in Beverly Hills, keeps herself active with custom handbags, fabric projects, such as these bird pincushions, and delightfully personable fabric dolls.
Susan Laing is a master of feltwork, and she makes decorative shawls, jewelry, pillows and other items all from raw wool purchased directly from farms. Ms. Laing cards the wool herself and employs natural dyes, some of which she manufactures herself using techniques that are thousands of years old.
Patty St. John makes sculptures and paintings of totemic rock piles, some of which develop anthropomorphic qualities.
Pat Payne again opened her metal-working studio to display her fanciful birds of prey and other creatures fashioned of welded and carefully patina-ed metals.
In other East Bay events, Jack London Square held its first "Dog Days of Summer" with live music (performed by the Brazilian Jazz quartet Girltalk) and various doggie activities, including a talent show.
Folks in the art studios along the estuary combined ProArts Open Studios with the 2nd Friday Art Attack event.
HARK NOW HEAR THE SAILOR'S CRY
Its a bit far for oily stuff to wash up here from the Gulf, but signs have appeared along Crown Beach warning of tarballs washing up, reminding us that these oil spills are never resolved overnight. The Bay has seen a couple spills within 18 months or so, the conseqences of which will be observed for years to come, as this sign says.
ANOTHER TURNING POINT, A FORK STUCK IN THE ROAD
Its been a warm and windy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
The last of the graduations has taken place and all the kids are turned loose to wreak mayhem, practicing their skateboard antics and graffiti tagging skills at will. Islander Jeff returned from a successful fishing expedtion in the Bay, nabbing one decent-sized flounder and one four-foot leopard shark. They kept the flounder but let the shark go back to get bigger and bite tourists on the ankles. Jeff says that its okay to eat fish out of the Bay so long as you are "past childrearing age."
We are not sure about the exact terminology here, for perhaps it may mean really "past child procreation age", either as livebearer or inseminator.
In either case, the prognosis does not sound good. Too many years of tarballs and such out there.
With the recent heat wave, folks have been pursuing old patterns to handle the temps. From seaside BBQ to tailgate parties in the many old courtyards out behind the building fronts, where young folks could park a pickup, drop the tailgate and distribute beers from the keg or ice chest. For a while, time warped back another forty years as slicked back studs leaned against rusty fenders while the beatbox pushed out rhythms and barefoot gals popped cool ones against the heat without any conscious attempt at Tradition. This is the way it is; this is the way it has always been. School's out, there is no work to be had for a while, might as well kick back. Dude, fetch me another tallboy from the chest there . . . .
Hey, nice ink. Where did you get that done?
Sacred Tattoo over in Oaktown.
Yo. They be bad.
The sacred rituals unfold at the beginning of the heart of summer, just as a dewy rose unfolds before everything changes. People start making plans for the Delta, for Bear Lake. For the Trinity Alps. And the well manicured Harleys of the poseurs and the Elite and the True Brotherhood, and those of the Red and White colors, begin to emerge like incredible insects of Life from impossibly perfect cocoons of garages and storages all over, extending their tenebrous limbs and shuttling their still-drying wings in the bright sun to cluster with the ratbikes and one percent bretheren until suddenly the streets are thronged with the beauty of metal in motion and the art of what is possible in all its miraculous flamboyance.
This is the still beating heart of America, the original America that disdained uniforms and authoritarian leadership, all the go here and do this and do that and following the numbers. This is the America at its absolute best, right before the loaded gun of summer explodes.
Because it had come to being summer quite all of a sudden, Islanders typical response tended naturally to BBQ. After a bracing early morning walk with his dog, Eisenhower, Mr. Howitzer invited the Cribbages and the Pescatores over to enjoy smoked shanks prepared by his man, Dodd, out back. Sitting under the broad umbrella, sipping iced glasses of G&T and fortified lemonade (also prepared by Dodd), the gang reminisced about the good old Reagan years and the flowering of the Conservative Party. As well as the GOP. Them, too.
Meanwhile over at Marlene and Andre's, nobody could afford a smoker, propane for a grill, and certainly not shanks to place thereon, for the Great Recession continued to ravage the land and the people. Instead, Andre and Pahrump dug a hole out among the ironmongery pile and fashioned a sort of grate out of old automobile parts, including the shiny grill from a 1954 Bentley that Mr. Howitzer must have forgotten had ever been there.
They all pooled their spare change together and so got enough to enable Javier and Martini to bicycle out to the 99 Cents store for packages of hot dogs and buns, while Marlene was able to harvest fava bean pods, red onions, and early potatoes from the Recession Garden.
There were even tomatoes from plants which had flourished under the grow lights from the abortive attempt to create an indoor pot garden.
Javier and Martini returned and so for fire they used the remains of an old wooden PacBell wire spindle which had lost structural integrity. A sort of cottage industry that converted those things to tables when the telco moved to composite materials existed for a while, and in many a backyard those wheels still sit in tall grass, bright purple paint flaking away into the weeds.
So at the end of the day, the household there managed to gather sufficient resources for a BBQ of its own as the sun lowered itself into the western ocean behind the hummock of the Marin Headlands and the bristle-skyline of distant Babylon across the Bay. A use was finally found for a long unopened bottle of Hot E&J sauce, got from the old place in the Fruitvale over in Oaktown, so the feast turned out to be pretty decent.
Andred and Denby, who dropped by, brought out their acoustic guitars and together played outlaw love songs and old blues numbers together and Pahrump hung up a hook light when it got too dark to see.
Nobody there had any good memories of any previous time, as it had always been pretty much starting out wretched and getting worse for each of them during the respective courses of their lives, with perhaps a little less trouble from time to time, just to imply that somehow, someway, the sun is gonna shine in that backdoor some day.
Trouble in mind
Meanwhile Dodd had set out the bug zappers and the halogens for the differently appointed gathering on Grand Street, when Mr. Cribbage mentioned Mr. Howitzer's old Bentley as the men talked about golf and cars in one group, while the women talked about ikebana and feng shui over by the coi pond.
"Whatever happened to that old thing? You used to drive around to all the properties in it -- quite the Rotarian." Mr. Cribbage said.
"Oh began making problems, falling apart. To much trouble to keep going. The Mercedes turned out to be far more reliable. Solid German engineering. Kept the chome grill for the longest time as a memento of Mother. . . I say, Dodd!"
"Take one of those links for yourself. Go ahead and put it on the grill. And just pack up the rest in the freezer."
"Yes, sir. Thank you sir."
Dodd had not eaten or drunk anything during the entire afternoon and evening. And there were far too many links left over anyway. Such was the magnaminity of Mr. Howitzer.
"Where did I leave that grill . . . ?" Mr. Howitzer pondered aloud.
At that moment Mrs. Pescatore tripped while gesticulating wildly during her description of the famous Hanging Valley she and her husband had seen during their trip to China, and so fell into the pond. Pretty much everyone's thoughts shifted to this new situation and Dodd had to abandon the grilled link that was to have been his supper.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Padraic had set up a big barrel grill to make tri-tip for sandwiches, and every once in a while he brought in a heaping steel tray which Dawn liberally doused with, you guessed it, bottles of Everett and Jones BBQ sauce. Medium hot.
Padraic looked askance at the bottle of Hot and mentioned to Dawn, "Ya can't be killin' the customers so they never come back, me lass. The regulars are all we got to keep going now. Hot as a cute hoor on flaming rocks in hell is that stuff. Burns worse than Murphy's poteen."
"Now tighten up yer talk-tapes," admonished Dawn. "Some of us are ladies here not usta such language from the gutter."
"Amaideach bean!" Padriac said, before going out. Dawn threw a pot at the back of his head, which fortunately missed.
"Those two are always going at each other. It's amazing they have stayed married so long," Eugene said to the laughing Suzie at the bar.
Old Schmidt had this to say, "Wer sich neckt, der liebt sich. So ist das." He puffed on his pipe for emphasis.
"Come again," said Eugene.
"Old saying." Schmidt said. "You see two people arguing and throwing things -- means they really care for one anodder." Puff, puff. "Not alvays, but sometimes. So ist das."
"And so where did you get all this wisdom about people, Schmidt?" Suzie asked.
Old Schmidt took out his pipe and looked at Suzie with bottomless eyes filled with all the sadness of the world. "My dear girl," he said softly. "Because I haff already made every mistake possible. All the schtoopid schtoopid mistakes. Including the most dangerous mistake of all -- ze Tango. Ja! I sink you know about the Tango now, ja? Me too. Long ago. Kostet 8 years of my life." The old man paused, remembering. Then smiled. "But what years those were!" And the deep wells of sadness there in his eyes fled from now an impish twinkle.
"But about dose luff sings, I know nothink! Nothink! Nothink!"
Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the dancing waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered windows and doors of the Jack London Waterfront as it headed on outward to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JUNE 6, 2010
Summer has arrived with warm days and muggy air. And the Golden State's official flower is now in bloom.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
In this wide world there is common sense, sports, making a living, TV, the stress and strain of modern urban life, and then there are taxes. In opposition to all of these, we have Golf, an activity that is less a game or a sport than an odd activity one does so as to avoid television. In Golf as in Baseball, there is no Time.
The Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation has offered $250,000 to save the Mif Albright Course.
The nine hole mini-course is a favorite among newbies and seniors looking to practice their skills. The existing management company will likely continue to provide maintenance and upkeep of the course, which was named after a popular mayor who ran on the single item ticket of preserving the golf course.
On the eve before voters here decide on a split-roll property tax designed to rescue the cash-strapped school district, a judge has ruled in favor of the challenged Measure H parcel tax, passed by voters in 2008, but contested on the grounds of constitutionality by business owners here.
In more signs of the times with regard to the persistent Great Recession, the local Civic Light Opera is set to close its doors after a 13 year run. Despite being staffed substantially by volunteers, insurance and royalty copyright costs put the company into the hole. The company tended to produce top marquee Broadway shows like South Pacific, Oklahoma, Ragtime, and My Fair Lady, which typically require fees upwards to $9,000. Even though attendence has been excellent, ticket sales account for only one half of a small company's revenue. . . .
We have bad news for mental health in Alameda County as the most recent budget slashes funding by one third of its already stretched to the limit finances. This resulted in Telecare holding emergency meetings at several of its County-funded clinics, which featured draconian downsizing and job losses. We were informed by insiders that Sausal Creek Crisis Center will move from a 24x7 facility to a strict 9-5 weekday care unit; the entire nighttime staff has been laid off. This almost certainly will cause an uptick in 5150 cases showing up at John George Psychiatric Hospital.
The Fruitvale bridge will be closing during daytime (10AM to 4PM) from June 18 to June 28, with intermittent closures to the end of August. The bridge is closing for repair work to wooden support pilings, some of which are over 100 years old.
We got informal word about posted warnings at the Crown Beach about tar balls washing up. No, its not the Gulf spill, but probably remnants of the earlier bunker fuel spill that happened down in the South Bay area six months ago.
Oil spills, virulent new cancer diseases, PCB and an host of new chemical contaminants, global warming, smog, and now we are fighting wars over this stuff. Time to rethink this "resource" which is becoming more and more a liability.
THE SPACE BETWEEN
By now everybody knows what is happening down in the Gulf right now.
The worst environmental disaster in US history has effectively destroyed
the world's largest seafood industry, impacting directly the economies
and livelihoods of citizens in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
Besides the direct impact upon people, the stupendously heartbreaking
and cruel damage to Gulf wildlife of all kinds, all sizes, all genuses
will probably not be remediated within the lifetime of any person walking
around and breathing today.
Tuesday, primary election day, the 50th day since the spill began, there will be a vigil for the Gulf Coast at 7:00 PM. Here are the details:
Host: Mika C MoveOn member
Its been a warm and muggy week on the Island, our hometown set here
on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
This really upsets the pole beans and all the leafy's out there, causing much distress in the veggie kingdom.
This weekend was the occasion for Javier's undesired and unwanted birthday celebration again. The poor fellow tried hiding in the wisteria, which turned out to be far more prickly than first imagined although the thicket of branches and unruly growth must have seemed attractive at first.
It was from this momentary refuge that he observed Denby highstepping it down the way with several staff members pursuing him with cake and streamers, for the Subeditor of the Music Desk shared the jour de naissance with Javier.
Somewhere out of sight he heard screaming, indicating the sometime musician had been tackled by Sandra of the Typiing Pool.
O this would not end well; it would likely be a wretched day of disappointments for Denby, strapped to a straightback chair while "well wishers" drank up the man's scotch, sang songs out of key, and told embarrassing stories about Denby's childhood in St. Cloud.
This was a fate Javier determined to avoid, especially after the incendiary 50th and the morosely sodden 51st of last year. The bandages had only just come off after the terrible Incident of the Steam Kettles and he was loth to revisit the Highland Trauma Unit so soon. If everything went well, he would slip out unawares and share a jug with Snuffles down by the beach in the most painless fashion and just get by the god damned day without any disasters.
That's when Sue came along and spied him not so well hidden there in the foliage.
"Dude, watterya doin' in the wisteria, man?"
"Shhhhhsh!," said Javier. "I'm takin' a leak. Look away."
"Dude that is awesome! I so need some more piss for my indigo; hang in there until I get a flask . . .".
Sue was a dear sort, at least for a Virgo, but she had this thing about natural dyes for her textile artworks. All up and down the coast she was known for the intensity of her indigo dyes which she made the "old fashioned way" -- which featured fermented and distilled urine. Her pillows were to die for as far as looks, but a few weeks of airing really needed to take the aromatic flavor out of them. She sold her pillows for about a grand a piece and many were the well-endowed dowager who had laid her head to a night's rest on a bed colorized by the yellow streams of old bums.
Such is art.
And such was Sue that she scampered off to fetch a flask right then, which caused Javier to howl and claw his way out of the suddenly very involved treetrap that held him in.
This, of course, alerted the staff members who had been searching for him all over.
Leaving his shirt in bloody tatters, Javier fell out of the wisteria, pulling down a portion of the house trellis, which clipped Mr. Stitches on the ear, knocking the schoolteacher flat so that he looked quite dead. Javier took off running toward Crown Beach with the entire International Desk plus the California Report and the Weather Desk in hot pursuit. Ignoring the warning signs, Javier plunged into the high tide waters at the Strand, intending to swim completely around the breakwater to the Cove, but got entangled in a gooey sort of mass of tarballs.
Seems we have had our own oil spills to deal with locally, from the Cosco Busan to the bunker oil spill and any number of illicit dumpings besides.
The Coast Guard sent out a longboat to fetch up the bemired Javier, who looked a little like the Michelin Man with his coating of seaweed and tar.
The navvies speculated as to the best method for scrubbing the scum off of the scum, and elected to blast Javier with high pressure hoses, alternated with sprays of concentrated degreaser. To make this happen, they tied him spreadeagled to a rope lattice used for exercises.
"Dude! Hold your breath now! Now, dude!" Psshshshshshshshshs!
By the end of it, Javier was battered, bruised, sodden, and relatively free from tarballs. The Coast Guard summarily discharged him on the Strand and ordered him never to be seen swimming in oil spills in the Bay ever again.
So there Javier was, spent and mostly shirtless and somewhat pantless with no more shoes to speak of when along came Occasional Quentin and Snuffles Johnson. They had with them a jug.
"Dude, you look in seriously bad shape," said Quentin. "Have some wine."
The offering was freely accepted. And right there on the beach the three old friends settled in for a good old fashioned drunk, a sort of drunk that Javier had earned. For after all, it was his birthday.
"Feliz cumpleanos," said Snuffles.
"Eff you," said Javier.
Right then, wouldn't you know it, but the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the stark birthday candle gantries of the Port past the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London Square as the little train headed off to parts unknown.
MAY 30, 2010
ITS ALL TOO MUCH
This week's photo pretty much sums up everybody's feelings right about now. North Korea sinks a South Korean warship -- and neither side seriously does not know how it happened for weeks. The worst environmental disaster since Chernobyl is unstoppably wrecking the entire Gulf Coast, leading to the complete annihilation of the world's largest seafood industry as well as, quite possibly, the dissolution of the world's largest petroleum producing company. The Great Recession is in full swing. The entire Mideast is nuts, including now the Isrealis who appear to be trying on fascist jackboots for the sheer novelty of it. Two bloody and nonsensical wars are gulping trillions of dollars while solving nothing. Don't get me started on the ozone and Global Warming. Oh, and factions of the once Conservative GOP have also taken to brownshirts and jackboots as well.
Island-lifers got some bad news this morning. A Minesotta compatriot and long time associate has died as a result of injuries sustained from an accident on his beloved BMW motorcycle. His name was Roger Miller. We heard he had been found lying in a ditch filled with muddy water by a trucker, apparently shortly after the experienced rider had lost control of his machine under wet conditions and while traveling at a high rate of speed a few days ago, but despite airlift to the Minneapolis Trauma Center from the crash site in Ohio, and the dedicated care of the best medical teams in the world, he succumbed.
A well-beloved professor of Urban Geography at the University of Minesotta in Minneapolis, Roger had lived a zestful life from an early age, running away from home to life with his girlfriend of the time, traveling the world, and generally attacking Life at full throttle at all times, taking virtually every enterprise into which he entered to the maximum level possible and then some.
His enthusiastic students at the University invariably voted him as the one human being whose life they wished to emulate.
The former Californian often returned to visit old friends by piloting one of his five BMW motorcycles across the country.
His light will be sorely missed.
O SAY CAN YOU SEE
This week's video is of the incomparable Frank Zappa performing "Welcome to the United States" January 18, 2008 with the Ensemble Modern, Peter Rundel conducting, and Hermann Kretzschmar providing vocals along with ensemble participation.
WHAT'S GOING ON
The Measure E ballots for the special Mail-in Election with regard to the split-roll property tax intended to save the schools have all been mailed out. Due date is June 22, NOT JUNE 8, which is the date of the Primary Election. All right, look up, eyes front, pay attention . . . .
Also in the news regarding the schools is a lawsuit being pursued by 9 Unified Districts, including the Island, regarding how the State pays out -- or does not pay out -- funding for education. Also joining as plaintiffs in Robles-Wong vs. State of California are 60 students, the California School Board Association, and the state PTA. The suit aims to have the seriously dysfunctional funding system restructured . . . .
Change in command at Coast Guard Island, where Manson Brown replaces Vice Adml. Jody Breckenridge who is retiring after 31 years of service. Brown will have oversight over 73 million square miles of Pacific Ocean from his base here. That's hella water, dude . . . .
The Island PD also will see a change of guard as Chief Walt Tibbet is stepping down from the position he has held since 2006 to assume the helm of the Fairfield Department. Assistant Chief Noonan will take the helm pro tem until a replacement is found. . .
In another sign of the times, Rosenblum winery is downsizing and moving operations to Napa, keeping a tasting room here but letting go 34 employees as part of a cost-cutting measure. Rosenblum is owned by Diageo, a global wine and spirits company and report has it that Mr. Rosenblum is none too happy about this decision he feels was made by "beancounters running the company" . . . .
City planners are looking at the redevelopment proposal for the Boatworks area at Oak and Clement where property owner Francis Collins wants to put in 242 housing units. Attempts to develop the blighted area extend back 20 years, but density limits have always put the kibosh on plans . . . .
WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE? WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW . . .
Jerry at Autobody lets us know of a new exhibit opening June 11th with a evening reception 7 10:00pm. The exhibit is titled Medium Rare and featuring: T. Joseph Enos and Tony Hoang. The artists share an intense fascination with the humble, both in terms of material and concept. Through their investigation they manage to elevate the ordinary into objects and images that are both sublime and frequently ridiculous. Sound interesting and refreshingly non-pretentious . . . .
SLATE gallery will have an Opening Reception Friday June 4th 6-9pm for their latest artist, Carol Carol Lefkowitz. SLATE is located at 4770 Telegraph Ave in the suddenly very trendy Temescal district in Oakland. SLATE events are always fun to attend and well worth checking out.
Art lovers please remember during the first two weekends in June, June 5-6 and June 12-13, ProArts will host the annual East Bay Open Studios, which connects the public with over 400 artists in 14 cities in the East Bay. Since 1979, this event remains the largest art event in the region and draws an annual audience over 50,000 . . . .
It's been a suddenly sunny week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay after that little dockwalloper came in to stir things up earlier in the week. Jeff from downstairs took off for the South Fork of the San Joaquin, armed with stoves, fishing poles and an ax big enough to clobber a steelhead of the size that used to throng the streams all around here. Jeff says there is snow down to 6,000 feet still so there oughta be a little elbow room this Memorial Day up by Bear Lake.
Saturday turned out pretty fine and all the grills were stoked up all along the Strand while Islanders split out in all directions to take advantage of the decent weather. As the weather cleared up the chevrons of Canadian geese, those who still make the long trip, flew overhead on their ageold passage north.
Of course a few of them hang out here year round, finding the well-kept lawns of Washington Middle School to be more palatable than spending endless hours winging it from Rio to Banff and back each year.
This is, of course, the long Memorial Day weekend, last bit of breather before July 4th and the long haul to November.
The Almeida family held a get-together that brought in folks from all over the country as well as fourth and fifth generation San Franciscans. Denby went as a guest of old friends. And there was a grand gathering of the generations there, of all kinds of people from all walks of life, of folks who remembered Sam Gompers as a young man, Playland at the Beach and the young kids living now in New York City and of those who remembered Juarez and the barrios of Brazil and those who had just returned from the Cannes Film Festival and it was California, pure and simple, a mixture of all the world.
Wars happening all over the place and soldiers dieing the way they do. As ordered. Maybe shouldn't be that way but that is the way it is. And every Decoration Day the flags come out and the marches begin. Walking slowly, jump into my bed.
After all the BBQ and the talk and the beer, Denby stood out on the corner with an armful of fruit salad and the bags to take away waiting for the goodbyes after a long day of talk and catch up.
A small fleet of motorcycles cruised by, BMWs from a club going home after a day out at the Park.
Reminded him with a pang of a man named Roger. Memorial Day; a day to commemorate those who have passed on. In defense of our lives. Many ways to do that, and not always to take up arms and a stupid uniform. Sometimes better to live by example.
Ah Roger, salute.
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the poppy-starred estuary as the locomotive wended its way through the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London Waterfront as it headed on out to places unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 23, 2010
In honor of our in-house guitar-learning group we pull the weekly photo from the archives as supplied by Chad. This sandwich board stood outside of a trendy spot over in Babylon.
FOR EVERY SEASON THERE IS A TERN
In honor of National Poetry Month we feature here a genuine poem of the week, this time focussing upon our own local environmental crisis. Yes, we do know that the Gulf oil derrick-platform disaster is rather large, but here on the Island we do have our own concerns which seem big enough at Island-level status. In fact, many of us are secretly gratified and consoled that it is here the Least Tern calls home. If a tern of any type would call the Island home, of course it would be the self-deprecatory and humble Least Tern.
For let it be remembered, a feller once said, "The Least shall be First and the First shall be Least in the Kingdom of Heaven." That feller was a feller worth paying heed to, so say some.
The Least Tern's Turn
A poem by A M Fonda
There are migrating stars in opaque night skies,
Such slender, graceful acrobat,
If we ever locate the center of the Universe
HERE'S HOW IT WORKS
For this week's video we have something pretty ugly; an interrogation of Canadian citizens trying to go shopping in the US at a mall. Most of us who have travelled know that border guards are an unusual species that considers itself to be God, with a flavoring and bent largely the product of whimsey, locality, or the spirit of the times.
American has long been seen as something other than, say, Bulgaria, or Hungary, in terms of its nature, however times change, as do nations, but the Border Guard remains God. Here these Canadians learn a thing or two about the undercurrent of facism that is now running through this country's veins.
I COULD HAVE TOLD YOU, VINCENT
There has been a big hoodoo about this drawin' Mohammed stuff. Seems a lot a folks take offence. Seems a lotta folks wanna take offence and be offensive. Its all pretty dumb. See, nobody thought about asking Mohammed what he feels about this sort of hoodoo.
In fact, Mohammed is a friend of ours and we got his phone number. Yeah! We gots a pipeline to the Big Man hisself. See Mohammed is a guy from Morrocco we know from way back from rocky socky karate days. So we called him up and asked him if it was ok to do a pitcher of him.
"Yo Mohammed, wussup dawg?"
"That Denby? How ya doin' bro'?"
"Mohammed, we wanna do this spread with pitchers of you and stuff but we be hearing that folks gettin' stabbed riding their bicycles in Holland and shit like that over it. All over making pitchers of you! Makin' some kinda mack daddy case or something . . . ".
"Bro, lissen up. Word! That Mohammed aint me, that be the holy prophet they be jonesin' over. You can't make the Prophet cause then the man got his image for real. And He owns it. Dig?"
"O man I am so glad you straightened me out on this one, 'cause I really like having my head attached to the rest of me. I don't think I could survive being decaptitated!"
"Glad to oblige homie!"
"How's that kid doing in school?"
"Evian? O he gets into scrapes. Usual stuff. Oaklandish ya know . . .".
So that is how we got all the problems resolved. The Mohammed we know is not the fierce Mohammed who cuts off people's heads and stuff. But just so you know, the Mohammed we know is pretty fierce. He useta be bodyguard to the Saudi Arabian princes and knew how to oust an unruly fan or two in his day and he sure knew how to handle his Mac 10.
So here is a pitcher of Mohammed.
Now one thing we gotta say is that Mohammed really likes Moroccan food and French cuisine, on account of having lived in Paris, so you gotta imagine a guy about 300 hundert pounds and standing about five ten, so the real Mohammed is actually a bit rounder than in the pitcher. Which may be be problem for the Prophet as well, cause if he really liked his couscous, then of course he wouldn't be so photogenic either.
Any case, we hope this solves all of your Mohammed pitcher problems for you. Still aint no way you can draw the Prophet and ever get it right.
MARLON BRANDO, POCAHONTAS AND ME
That old trapper may have wished to sleep with Pocahontas, but it would be mighty hard to do, given that of the original Powhatan Confederacy and the Potowomeck tribes numbering well over 15,000 souls at one time, not a single individual survives. Of the southern branch of the Lenape in Virginia, just three tribes remain intact on federal lands, the Mattaponi, the Monacan and the Chickahominy and even these people have a lot of trouble getting recognition for existing to this day.
Even though the Na'avi beat back the soldiers on Pandora (with the help of a White ex-marine) and a Jewish boy cut down that evil madman Yellow Hair in Dances with Wolves, the condition of America's First Peoples has not risen much except in the eyes of trendsetters and fashionable Hollywood.
So we are happy to report with pleasure some vindication of justice in a long story of many injustices which have been a collective blot of shame on this country since its inception. Elouise Cobell (Blackfeet, Montana Reservation) filed a class-action lawsuit against the federal government some 14 years ago, and only recently has learned that her long battle on behalf of the trustees of the federal government will finally come out favorably on behalf of her people.
"I want us to win for once, you know? Indians are always losing," Cobell said. "This is the people's own money. This is not the government's money, this is their own money that we're fighting for."
Cobell's class-action lawsuit represents at least 300,000 and maybe as many as 500,000 Indians who own property that the government holds in trust for them. The Department of Interior leases that land to others to farm or develop resources, and by agreement is supposed to pay the Indians the money generated by the land into Individual Indian Money trust accounts, or IIMs.
Cobell grew up hearing stories of the Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs shortchanging these IIM account holders. She saw how non-Indians who leased the land were making money off the oil or timber or crops it produced while its Indian owners remained poor.
She became an accountant, and then the Blackfeet tribe's treasurer. Tribal elders asked Cobell to write letters to the government asking why they weren't getting their trust money. Those who got the occasional green government check never received an explanation or a statement of what was in their IIM accounts. Visits to the Bureau of Indian Affairs offices could be bewildering.
"The government would tell people when they came in, 'You can't really do that' there were just all kinds of can'ts and can'ts and can'ts," she said.
In fact, there was no real accounting of how much money was in the trust pool of IIM accounts, she discovered. And as she dug deeper, she realized there was nobody standing up for the individuals landowners, not even the tribes.
"By the time I got more and more into this, I knew the abuse was horrible. So how can you walk away from it? How could you feel like a person and walk away from the corruption?"
Cobell filed her lawsuit in 1996. She thought it would take three years, tops, to convince the government to settle.
"But I was wrong. They dug in really hard on this one, the hardest I've ever seen them dig into anything. So I knew there was a lot of money (involved)," Cobell said.
The government does not admit wrongdoing in the settlement, but has called it "both honorable and responsible."
Cobell's lead attorney in the case is Dennis Gingold, a top banking attorney she met in a 1992 meeting called by the first Bush administration in an attempt to sort out the Indian trust money dispute. He thought then that the government was lucky it hadn't been sued.
Gingold joined Cobell in bringing suit, and promised he would stick with her, even if there was no money to pay him.
"Nobody in his right mind would want to do this," he told The
Associated Press in a recent telephone interview. "I thought it was
important for my kids to understand that there are things worth fighting
A few are trying to shunt the decision aside, based on the quibble of lawyer's fees (the attorneys are requesting 3% of the settlement), however this argument is not likely to pause the momentum in the slightest.
"He has really uncovered the entire behavior of the United States government when it comes to managing Indian Trust assets," Cobell said of Gingold.
Gingold can tick off a whopping list of numbers that highlights the 14-year fight: more than 3,600 court filings; 220 days of trial; 80 published court decisions; 10 interlocutory appeals.
The district court ruled in 1999 that the government had breached its trust duties, a ruling that held up on appeal in 2001. The fight went on over whether the government had to provide an accounting to the IIM holders the district court ruled in 2008 that it did, which the appeals court reaffirmed last year.
The plaintiffs had originally asked for $47 billion, but under a proposed settlement signed in December, $1.4 billion would go to individual Indian account holders. Some $2 billion would be used by the government to buy up fractionated Indian lands from individual owners willing to sell, and then turn those lands over to tribes. Another $60 million would be used for a scholarship fund for young Indians.
The Interior Department largely has been silent on the case. But Deputy Secretary of the Interior David Hayes acknowledged in an April 8 status conference before Robertson that the government has not lived up to its duties.
"We believe it is a historic settlement, an opportunity to turn the page on a period of history where the trustee has not performed as the trustee needs to," Hayes told the judge.
Reaching the settlement has been a major milestone in the case, but selling it has been complicated. Cobell has had to travel across Indian country the past couple of months in an attempt to clear up rumors and misconceptions.
Some wanted to know why was the settlement for so much less than what
they thought had been lost. Others wanted to know whether it was true
that she would be getting rich.
In fact, Cobell has gone over $300,000 in debt to pursue this case and is trying to reclaim some of that from grants and donations, not the main award.
The deadline for Congress to authorize the settlement and allocate the funds has been extended twice by the court. Cobell and Gingold are hopeful the settlement will be approved this time, but they say if the May 28 deadline passes without a vote, the deal could be terminated and years of additional litigation could ensue.
If that happens, Cobell said, her worst fears would be affirmed. Despite her 14-year fight, attitudes will not have changed.
Cobell said that she feels that she and the other Native Americans are still invisible to the rest of America.
"I get the feeling a lot that nobody really cares about Native Americans, that it's OK for them to live in poverty," she said. "They don't have a lot of money and they don't have a lot of votes, so who cares?"
Well, we at Island-Life do care. We have Native Americans on our staff and we stand collectively with the Blackfeet Nation in pursuing this case, which is likely to have broad ramifications for other Nations in this Country to recovering lost revenues.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
A local fellow has been arrested for stealing his own dog from the Island Shelter to prevent the dog, which had been deemed dangerous and uncontrollable, from being put down. The dog, which had injured two people on two seperate occasions was euthanized after seizure in Reno by authorities. The Owner remains in custody. . .
SunCal is playing Nicely-Nicely now in signing an agreement with labor unions here, probably realizing that the Developer had a serious image problem here after the last measure went down in flames at the polls. Mayor Beverly commented that this decision is a positive step to repairing community relations but a number of issues remain to be resolved as the revised proposal still features 4,800 new housing units at the Point and a term sheet still needs to be finalized with the Navy for land transfer. The troubled developer has until July 20 to finalize arrangements with the City and the Navy, and even though the deadline can be extended, this pushes some serious decisions into the N'th hour when it never should have come to this late period.
This Tuesday, Islanders will get the mailer for the Measure E (Support the Schools) which is due June 22, well after the Primary Election slated for June 8.
Voters looking at June 8 should be prepared for a welter of some 27 different ballot sheets that will be linked to party membership. To make this even more confusing, a measure on the ballot features a change that will wipe away all the seperate ballots -- but only in the future should, the measure pass. Please be patient if you go in person to the polls this June 8, as the pollworkers are typically volunteers working for a stipend and doing the best that they can to enforce the law.
ITS UP TO YOU NOT TO HEED THE CALLUP
Its been a cool and threatening week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
For the record, to this date we have no reports of anyone ever thanking anyone for forcing green lutefisk and eggs upon them anywhere in the world. Some things are just nauseating and repellent by nature and no amount of aquavit can fix the obnoxious nature of the situation.
This week a strange flu-bug has been circulating around the offices, causing raids upon the kleenex and pseudofed bottles and all sorts of misery. Had to miss out on this year's KABOOM, which folks tell us was a reall doozy of a concert out there at the 'Stick. Folks hauled down here from as far as Seattle to catch Grace Potter tear up the stage with Melissa Etheridge.
But most of us remained huddled down in blankies with thermoflu and brandy for comfort.
The more suspicious amongst us suspect the Army of having administered primitive germ warefare weapons against us clearly liberal radical types. Heck, we aint radical, not nearly as much as that Glenn Beck, the old Commie.
No, we just wanna reinstitute decent Stalinism so as to restore a sense of humanity to the world's divisions. Socialism was a GOOD IDEA! Just look at what this evil old Capitalism has done --wrecked your 401K and destroyed your IRA. Confused your SSA entirely. Given you bad breath, halitosis, a sense of inferiority, and generally messed up your hair. Y'all oughta write Michael Moore a check with a thank you note.
But seriously. Down at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie serves them up and Padriac runs a tight ship with no politicking involved. He and Dawn come from a place where politics is a deadly business. And knee surgery repair is very big business indeed.
America suits Padraic fine, for in America, it is unlikely that the wrong word at the wrong time will earn a roofslate on your head or set of broken legs. Although the members of MOVE in Philadelphia might argue otherwise, America does offer some advantages over the Old Country.
Within the Old Same Place Bar, a cheerfull chatter and clatter within and withal. The usual drinks and gamesmanship and cast eyes sidewise glance.
Then came a screaming against the sky. The gravity's rainbow of despair and evil.
Two jet fighters sped across the orbit, scarring the heavens with contrails. Leaving behind fear and worry.
Gradually conversation returned and the huddled hobbits of little Hobbiton resumed their lives. In burrows beneath the College, Don Erizo and Dame Erizo greeted one another, snout to snout, resumed cooking their meal of crepes.
The denizens of Marlene and Andre's Household gathered in the main room to share cups of hot cocoa.
At Mr. Howitzer's the assembled there toasted the Marines and the victory at Guadalcanal.
In the Old Same Place Bar, everyone had a Fat Tire on the House. "When oh when, will there be an end to war?" said Dawn.
Good question. Especially when so many earn a fat check from its consequence. This from Suzie.
From far across the way, the long ululation of the throughpassing train howled across the strife-ridden waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the bright gantries of the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, and headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 15, 2010
WHEN THE LAST ROSE OF SUMMER PRICKS MY FINGERS
This week's photo comes from the little pot that was given to Island-Lifer and grade school teacher Toby, otherwise known in some circles as "Miss Nish, Miss Nish" by a grateful student. Both pot and student are older now, but the Rose of Spring continues to bloom in all its saucy defiance.
PSA - MORE CALTRANS SERVICE CUTS PLANNED
Public Hearings set for May 26, 2010.
The Caltrans Board of Directors set the date for two public hearings to receive public comment for proposed service cuts and a declaration of a fiscal emergency. The hearings will take place on May 26th at 2pm and 6 pm in the Board Room, 1600 Franklin Street, Oakland. Information about the proposed service changes and how to submit public comment is available at http://www.actransit.org.
MUSIC MUSIC MUSIC!
Tripped on over to a new venue in Berzerkeley calling itself The Art House to catch the Girltalk jazz band in their latest incarnation, preceded by Choro Azul. The Art House is a kind of freewheeling trippy space on Shattuck which features glowlight posters of Janice Joplin, rows of lava lamps and scads of Oriental carpets to embroider the frame for tons of original wall-hung artwork and the occasional event. The whole venue exudes the kind of positive vibe that we thought had long be stomped into smithereens by the angry jackboots of fake Postmodern Hip.
Their next event is a Backyard BBQ Pot Luck & Benefit for Chile on Sunday May 23rd in response to the series of recent earthquakes which have devastated that part of the world. Look to the Calendar for more details and other events.
Girltalk consists of Valerie Bach on guitar, cavaquinho and vocals; Laura Boytz on cello; Leslie Thorne on upright bass; Katja Cooper on hand percussion instruments. They have been performing for several years now in the Bay Area. We were pleased to enjoy the benefits of hard rehearsal and improvements in balancing the overall sound. In style the band does Brazilian and Brazilian-inflected jazz with a firm nod to Chic Corea. Bach's highly accomplished playing on her f-hole archtop establishes the signature of the band, which she fills out with her use of the Brazilian cavaquinho, a sort of mini-guitar with a near-mandolin sound.
The band still possesses a nice informality, both in presentation and in stage patter and it is quite enjoyable to watch the faces of the performers as they watch each other in a manner quite unlike the head-down do your own thing approach.
In short we think Girltalk is a nice addition to NorCal culture, possessing a hint of undiminished and unapologetic 60's core values without the total mindblank of things like the Dead, continuing to perform disciplined as well as enjoyable jazz will a sense of humor about it all.
WHEN THE POWER OF LOVE OVERCOMES THE LOVE OF POWER
Then the world shall know Peace. We had a tough decision for this week's video, for we had a video of Zappa's rehearsal for his last performance and then this. Because this is a single video, as opposed to a series of 5, we are including this version of Pachebel's "Loose" Canon. And besides, it is soothing in troubled times.
This is one to remember whenever you budding beginners get your knuckles rapped by Ms. Grundy for not playing the piece "the way its supposed to be played." Ha!
THREE DOTS. THATS IT: JUST THREE DOTS
Forgot to include in our list of endorsements for this June's Primary, Wilma Chan for County Supervisor. Besides the fact that Chan is a long-term Islander, her list of accomplishments on behalf of East Bay folk is long and well directed. She rescued the Superior Courthouse from closure, brought in $15 million dollars to construct the new library, created the free flu clinics at Mastick, Waters Edge and the Island Hospital, rescued Highland Hospital from closure, opened a new Hazmat facility in Oaktown, protected funding to clinics like La Clinica and found time to fight for the San Lorenzo Creek restoration program. She is also the legislator who helped blow the whistle on Blue Cross's extraordinary price hikes. There's more but that oughta do it for now . . .
Further indicating that perhaps Mayor Beverly ought to take a long vacation and reexamine, she spearheaded the City Council decision to oust Medical Marijuana dispensaries from the Island, which we here in the Offices understand to be a foolhardy denial of large tax revenue sources in this time of severe cutbacks. If its drugs they are concerned about, perhaps dunking a few of those corrupt cops people have been talking about with increasing fervor ought to be a main thrust, for the plague of crystal meth on this Island is raging out of control and we are all getting really sick of it . . .
Everybody note that Officer O'Madhauen will be looking sharply at seatbelt usage from May 24 to the second week of June; the fine is now $142. We also noted that now that cameras are mounted on certain streetlight intersections so as to collect revenue from red-light runners, the boys in blue have been setting more informal speedtraps all over town. Time to start employing that bicycle for the more casual trips to the store . . .
Everybody note that Concerts at the Cove have started up again on Saturdays, while opera fans can enjoy the classics on Friday evenings. Get cozy with your Fan Tutti . . .
NOT GOING TO LET 'EM CATCH THE MIDNIGHT RIDER
It's been a cool and breezy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Spring has arrived, cool as it was last year with lots of overhead fog keeping the tomatoes from developing. Two Kenyans won men's division and women's division of the annual Bay to Breakers over in Babylon. Sammy Kipwara crossed the finish line in 34 minutes 15 seconds, making this his second win in a row. Second place for the men went to Peter Kirui, 22, also from Kenya, who completed the race a millisecond behind Kipwara.
The women's winner was Lineth Chepkurui, 22, from Kenya, coming in at a record-setting 38 minutes 7 seconds. Another Kenyan took second as well here. Emily Chebet, 24, ran the race in 38 minutes 41 seconds also won an award for reaching Hayes Hill before any other woman.
There were 60,000 runners and a few thousand more along just for the ride for the 99th iteration of this traditional event.
It's May and as early commencement ceremonies began kicking off all up and down the Golden State, the sap of Spring began running full force everywhere. Young girls bearing packets of doorknob hangers in support of Measure E (school funding parcel tax) have been bounding up apartment steps and ringing bells like, well, like the young things they are. Little Imbecilla Cupcake was out methodically destroying her fudgecicle as a covey of Measure E'ers scampered by. Imbecilla waited for the last in line before sticking out her foot to send the earnest lobbyist sprawling on the pavement and sending flyers flying.
"Waaaa! You tripped me," the aggrieved complained.
"No. You tripped yourself. You are clumsy and stupid!" Imbecilla said through braces that were attempting to correct a severe overbite.
This resulted in a mini-brawl between the two, which had the consequence of ruining the remains of the fudgecicle. When separated finally by a Responsible Adult (Mr. Howitzer), Imbecilla responded to the command for "make up and be nice" by trying to strangle the other girl with her Catholic School cross chain and when prevented in this effort promised to murder the girl at the first opportunity before stalking off, ignoring Mr. Howitzer entirely, who then lectured the trippee on ladylike behavior.
Its Spring. These sorts of things happen.
Denby has observed the calendar, the weather, the birds and the bees and, along with the Editor, has started stocking up on Mikey's Lean Gourmet Easy Dinners, getting his HDTV in tune, and checking his Netflix with an eye to keeping a low profile. Both have started letting their chin stubble go a couple extra days and stopped using scented detergent. In fact, Denby has stopped using detergent entirely, with the aim of producing a capsule of hermetic aroma around his Reporter style, for nothing puts off the wrong sort of woman than a strong odor. For Spring. he tends to wear a slouch hat and a particular raincoat which have not been washed in over twenty years.
As mentioned during a recent popular radio show, what a Reporter wants is one night stands and the easy association of dancehall floozies. The Wrong Sort of Woman wants to know what you are doing the next day and the day after that and then starts talking about the direction of the Relationship. Dangerous words like Commitment and Feelings start to get bandied about. Denby, a man who has been burned more often than an Oaktown Fireman, makes plans each Spring for the trench warfare that is Romance by preparing chemical weapons in advance. Denby knows that once the Wrong Sort of Woman has her big C, she may just decide, often as not, "Well that was so easy. And fun! Might as well hop on over to something else. Good-bye!"
Yes, its Spring, the most dangerous Season. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and IV. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.
Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayoneting the lavender throwing out punches this way and that and sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while raccoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.
Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked blindfolded fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs).
Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels.
Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies. Right in the heart, poor lad. A goner for sure.
Its Spring. These sorts of things happen.
Over at Marlene and Andre's Household a visitor came rapping, ungently rapping upon their door. It was Mr. Howitzer's new Property Manager, who revealed himself to be Mr. Terse, part-time renta-cop and ex-Marine.
Mr. Terse called a general House meeting on Sunday and on that day of usual rest, Mr. Terse set up a podium for his papers in the backyard and a little stand for his glass of water for he was to deliver Orders. Mr. Terse had been in the Marines for over 25 years, remaining at the rank of Lieutenant for the great majority of the time while so employed. Sometimes the Marines know what they have, and the level of its usefulness. Sometimes not, but often they do. He would have remained at the rank of Lieutenant for another fifteen years save that one day a woman Marine took the record for most consecutive pushups and no man could get it back. When he attempted to retract his symbolic resignation of disgust, his CO refused to allow the emendation.
Mr. Terse stood up there and promptly drained 3/4 of his water glass before announcing that everyone was summarily evicted. But the good news was that a few select individuals would be rehired as tenants at the rental rate of some three thousand dollars per individual.
Pahrump inquired as to whether the Owner knew anything about this.
"Any information will be provided on a strict Need to Know Basis," said Mr. Terse. "Besides, this new Program will undoubtedly please the Owners whose names shall remain secure."
"Dude we know who the Owner is; he's the one who collects all the checks from Andre," said Javier.
"I shall collect the single check from now on. From the Appointee. Failure to provide in a timely fashion the remittance with required NCR form D/6 shall be punished by 10% per day and forty lashes. I am the Property Manager here. I am the Decider." Here he slapped his black leather gloves against the side of his blue serge pants. He commanded Occasional Quentin to fetch him another glass of water and then began to read the Orders of Dispersal and Orders of Containment.
"This here is the Tenant Manual D-506, the FAQ sheet P-541, and your Tenant Timesheet (T-308b) on which you are to record your time spent within the Dwelling as listed on Form C-334. Failure to file T-308b, together with the requisite C-334, in a timely fashion will result in a negative writeup on form E-981. Subtenants are to be listed on form S-994. All entries are to be printed in caps as per the supplied 'How to Complete Forms' Help-Aid. Do not use pencil!" . . .
Mr. Terse spoke emphatically with sharp military precision in a loud commanding voice and all the household there were huddled on the benches with their supplied pencils which they had been commanded not to use under any circumstances whatsoever except for the E-Canoodler Form Stroke 9
"Mr. Quentin, what do you find so funny here?"
In truth, Occasional Quentin was giggling fits next to Javier, who had gone out with him and returned with the waterglass. Mr. Terse drained his waterglass and demanded that Quentin fetch him another. And be quick about it.
Quentin came up and took the glass and went off, still enjoying what appeared to be a very private joke. Except Javier was grinning as well, albeit more controlled.
"Mr. Javier, what is so funny? I am installing order here!"
Javier stood up. "Mr. Terse a thousand snakes are slithering towards you and the trees are moving strangely."
This statement seemed somewhat odd to all present as the trees moved only as the breeze kicked up and there were no reptiles in immediate sight. Mr. Terse's forehead started sweating, however, and his jaw dropped open. He stared in horror at the ground in front of him where scattered scrap metal parts lay strewn in the grass.
"Mr. Terse, don't you find the flowers really funny?"
To everyone's astonishment, Mr. Terse began giggling like a little girl.
Jose tugged on Javier's sleeve. "What did you dose him with?"
"About a hundert hits of Micky Mouse and Purple Windowpane," said Javier easily.
Jose stood up. "Yo dude! You can't do nothing about those snakes. Y'know why? 'Cause NAVY KICKS MARINE JARHEAD ASS!"
Mr. Terse's eyes grew very wide, then he picked up his podium and ran screaming at Jose, with the clear intention of killing him.
He chased Jose around the hydrangeas for several circles until Jose ducked to the side while the ex-Marine kept up running in circles until the drug began to affect his sense of balance as well as sense of purpose and he fell over.
"Y'know, that Marvin Stiffstik was a lot more fun. And not nearly as warlike," said Jose.
Mr. Terse jumped up and shouted, "War is good! War is fun for Marines!" With that comment, he hinted at what mindset may have kept him in the rank of lieutenant for 25 years.
"You are out of uniform", said Javier. "But as Platoon comrades, we are here to help you."
"Better get that off before the, um, the CO sees you. We got the right one in the, um Official Distribution Dispensary Thing Locker."
"It's NGO." said, Javier, who had no idea what that meant.
Mr. Terse took off all of his clothes. His boxers were USMC issue so he kept those on.
"Okay now, get on over to Mr. Howitzer's HQ. The storage locker is over there. Hup to it!"
"I dunno about this . . .".
"We got special Cloak Protection for you. Special Issue. Hi Tech. Nobody see you without Need to Know Clearance," said Jose. "Better hustle afore you get a demerit."
"Okay now. I need to get to HQ. See the CO."
"Good. Keep that in your head. Write nothing down. Officer Terse, you are on LRP assignment. You tell nobody but Mr. Howitzer wazzup. Capeche?" This came from Pahrump who had actually served in some or other branch of the military at one time.
"You destroy all order papers? I see you got none on you. Excellent Officer! You be sure to tell the CO all about the snakes and how you fought off the Insurgents. Okay?"
"Okay get going! Grand Street! Watch for them SUVs. Look for the stone lions in front. Let them know you are there; pound on that door, 'cause being invisible cloaked and all, they might think it the wind or somewhat."
"Officer, you are a US Marine. What's a couple of pussycats to you?"
Mr. Terse then ran off highstepping in LSD madness, startling a bevy of Measure E supporters. But they consoled themselves with the knowledge that it was Spring and such things happen.
That night the regulars all lined up at the rail inside the Old Same Place Bar. There was much to talk about. Politics and Mrs. Almeida's poultry, ships and sealing wax, cabbages and kings. Why the sea is boiling hot and whether pigs have wings. Seems Mr. Howitzer had run into a bit of trouble with the man he had hired to manage his property, and so now that position was now open as long as Mr. Howitzer thought it was worth the trouble to get help like that again.
Padraic, who knew something of Mr. Terse's prior history, opined that it was impossible that order could ever be imposed upon chaos by one long practiced in systemic imbecility.
Mr. Sanchez dropped by with his new wife (nee Ms. Morales) for a post-exams aperitif, and there was a special glow about her, as commented by everyone after the couple had left. Yes, it is Spring and, regardless of the school calendar, things do happen.
As the night lengthened and the horses that drew night's chariot slowed to an easy walk ("Festina lente . . . noctis equui!") a long fuselage broke the still surface waters of the estuary and the hatch of the AIS Chadoor, the Iranian spy submarine, popped open to allow the Captain to poke his head out and sniff the air. This was a dangerous and rare event for usually the sub remained submerged all the while within the boundaries of the Bay.
"Do you smell that scent, Achmed?" said the Captain. "It smells familiar."
"I think that is the rare and seldom perceived California Colitus." Said the First Mate, who dared not place even one foot on the rung during this highly unusual exercise. To surface in the harbor of the Infidel! Well, that is something unusual! Was the Captain gone mad?
"It is the scent of the courtyards of Qom!" said the Captain. "It comes only once a year about this time."
All of the crew down below inhaled deep and remembered those green-draped courtyards with their stone walls. For it was Spring. And such things happen. And within the heart of Spring there is no Unbeliever. There is no Enemy.
The Captain hurriedly closed the hatch and the ship dived down to glide out through the Golden Gate, running silent, running deep, leaving at first a little chop, a little foam, and then only the gently lapping seasalt waves on the riprap.
Over the now calm waters of the estuary the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated as the locomotive wended its way from the sharply lit gantries of the Port through the dark and shuttered streets of the Jack London Waterfront, making its way to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 9, 2010
LIKE THE WIND AND THE WATER WILL I BE
This week's photo comes from Lifer Beth, who sent this image along with several others, of the Island during the recent rainstorms.
FOUR DEAD IN OHIO
This week's video is of Alan Grayson speaking in the Congress on the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of one of America's most tragic and heinous days. Forty years ago soldiers shot down defenseless students at Kent State University, and then did it again a couple days later in Alabama. In the end six civilian people were dead and all due to the reflexive, authoritarian and inhuman response to the necessary outrage against a stupid, unsanctioned, and immoral set of wars in Southeast Asia, conducted at the time by a cruel, unsavory, and criminal leadership of this country which considered our Constitutional values to be worth nothing more than a shitrag.
We have a few leaders today who still hold those unsavory attitudes however, today we also have Alan Grayson, an honorable man and a credit to his district.
GIMMEE AN "F"! GIMMEE A "U"! GIMMEE A "C"! GIMMEE A "K"! WHATS IT SPELL?
Folks oughta know that the midterm elections are coming up and we have staff working the precincts again. Testify for the Island and Precinct 302400! Yo. We got news brother Tom York is down there working hard on the computer systems to get this right for all of the County, so you dudes be ready and cast your vote because as of this date it does matter. Meanwhile that Dave MacDonald is running around like a monkey with all his butthairs singed trying to make this chaotic event look somehow organized and fix the mistakes of others while he does two jobs as Registry of Voters head and head of County IT.
So here we put in our endorsements. Usually we just clip the Bay Guard list and bring it to the booth, but here you get our 2 cents. Bruce, who stands as Honorable Editorial Curmudgeon of the Bay, and who just bitch-slapped that out-of-town SF Weakly with a lawsuit costing megabucks, tends to get it right most times. But we gotta stand here on our own cause we got some serious Issues in the East Bay.
First, we tell y'all the word, then we tell you why.
U.S. SENATE, DEMOCRAT
CONGRESS, 9TH DISTRICT, DEMOCRAT
CONGRESS, 13TH DISTRICT, DEMOCRAT
SECRETARY OF STATE, DEMOCRAT
ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEMOCRAT
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER, DEMOCRAT
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 16, DEMOCRAT
PROPOSITION 13 - YES
This requires a bit of explaination. The author and prime sponsor of the bill is GOP, and heavily scandal-tainted at that. In addition, we feel tax breaks for property owners probably have topped out because of the original Prop 13, however, we do feel that removing the 15 year cap on seismic work is a good idea and in the public's best interest for safety.
This one is also out of the GOP camp from Rep. Maldonado who insisted on this bill in exchange for helping get by the budget impasse of last June. Problem here is that the ROV already allows independents to request either party's ballot for each election. What this does is allow Republicans to vote in Democratic primaries, a concept that does not sit well with us. It does not take half a brain to figure out how this scenario will play out, and it also inhibits the "minority" parties, like the Greens from placing candidates at all. This one smells pretty bad.
This is an experimental program which has worked well in Arizona and Maine. What we really like about this is the funding portion will come from fees levied against lobbyists, who now pay just $12.50 per year. Fees will go up to over $350. The money will go to candidates who remain independent of private financing. Sounds like a reform worth trying out.
This bill was dreamed up and financed by PiGGiE, which sees municipalities looking at what the Island already does -- run their own municipal utilities. Piggie wants to limit this ability so as to maintain an octopus grip over the state and that is the entire purpose of this very bad Prop.
We just have to quote the Bay Guardian on this one" "Mercury Insurance sponsored this measure and is campaigning for it with tens of millions of dollars, betting it can fool voters and make hundreds of millions of dollars in profits by doing so. And if the company is right, insurance rates will skyrocket for new drivers and those who haven't had continuous insurance coverage, which experts say will increase the number of uninsured drivers on the roadways and end up increasing insurance rates for everyone."
We have personal knowledge of Mercury's methods of business and we can say emphatically that anything this corporate giant has something to do with is probably tainted, unethical, ruthless, self-aggrandizing, and just plain rotten.
U.S. SENATE, DEMOCRAT - BARBARA BOXER
We still cannot speak for any GOP candidates this time around, even though the intelligence factor has risen significantly in the GOP pool this time around. Problem with the GOP in the Golden State has always been the candidates were always so lousy stupid. Well, look at the Governor. Best they could marshal was a B movie actor/body builder with a terrible accent. Tom Campbell? Well, that recall election was a blowoff for the man who expected to capture top spot on a cakewalk. Enter Meg Whitman, who seems hell bent on torching the GOP cause once again. Too shrill and too laden with baggage to help out the Golden State. We need someone who can talk to Washington, not waste efforts on posturing.
Barbara Boxer, on the other hand, remains one of the most truely progressive members of the the rather milqtoast Senate. She has had her faults, but her assets, voting history and experience are credits to California. We really like her early opposition to the Iraq war and her Wall Street accountability focus. She could teach that Pelosi a lesson or two in moral backbone as well.
CONGRESS, 9TH DISTRICT, DEMOCRAT - BARBARA LEE
This district includes Oakland and Berkeley and Ms. Lee ably represents both cities. She was the only member of either house to oppose the Bush administration's Use of Force resolution following the 9/11 attacks, and she's never let up on her opposition to foolish military entanglements. We have heard her speak in person and we find her to be an admirable example of what a politician should be in all respects.
CONGRESS, 13TH DISTRICT, DEMOCRAT - PETE STARK
This district includes the main Island proper. He may not be long for this office he has held for many years -- his age is 78 -- but he represents us well here, both honorably and capably. He announced a couple of years ago that he's an atheist (the only one in Congress), opposed the Iraq war early, called one of his colleagues a whore for the insurance industry, and insulted President Bush and refused to apologize, saying: "I may have dishonored the commander-in-chief, but I think he's done pretty well to dishonor himself without any help from me." He served as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee for exactly one day March 3 before the Democratic membership overruled Speaker Pelosi and chucked him out on the grounds that he was too inflammatory.
In short, he is a likeable guy and a hard worker for the People and a thourough-going Californian of the best stripe.
Across the Estuary the admirable Barbara Lee is running again for the 9th District -- about her we have no complaints whatsoever.
GOVERNOR, DEMOCRAT - EDMUND G. BROWN
Ah, Jerry. He did passing well as Mayor of Oakland, reducing crime and touching up downtown before the Great Recession hit. As former Governor, he had a lot of credits during a lost time of budget surpluses, but then there was that failed bid for President against Clinton and a sort of mushy approach to the State's budget problems. We kinda sorta pitch for Brown largely because he is the lesser of evils available. It hardly seems likely a Green candidate will win this one, which is what we would prefer. Even the Communist Party of the USA has better candidates than Brown and Whitman, but be real; no way a Red Diaper is gonna swing this one.
SECRETARY OF STATE, DEMOCRAT - DEBRA BOWEN
Having seen what happens in other states when a partisan SOS sits in office, we now can say that Bowen has done a good job, remained honorable in executing the duties of her office and stayed above the fray by running a clean office. No reason to change, indeed.
ATTORNEY GENERAL, DEMOCRAT - KAMALA HARRIS
Like the Bay Gaurd, we have a few reservations about Ms. Harris. She is running against Rocky Delgadillo for the Primary. As the BG noted, he has significant political baggage trailing after him which inhibits his ability to win decisively in a time when people are getting concerned about personal malfeasance in government. Mainly we like her because of her opposition to the death penalty, which looks to be heading for at least a momentary stay in the courts until certain issues get resolved regarding fair application and potential wrong convictions.
In general, we at Island-life remain opposed to the death penalty in 99.9% of the cases involved.
INSURANCE COMMISSIONER, DEMOCRAT - DAVE JONES
When the BG states flatly that theCalifornia insurance industry is "massively corrupt" you know the situation is pretty bad. It is true that insurance in this part of the world is pretty much akin to the Sopranos running your trash compactor; bodies just wind up in the landfill all the time, as if by accident. Jones has more experience than his competitor, but then again, we only hope that will help us all out some in the long run.
When Garamendi, former Insurance Commissioner, ran for Governor the year of the Recall, Californians just sat back and laughed.
STATE ASSEMBLY, DISTRICT 16, DEMOCRAT - SANDRE SWANSON
We were shocked to learn that one uniformed officer in SF could not master spelling of the most rudimentary words. These folks are out there carrying guns and charged with protecting us, the citizenry, and Swanson needed to pursue this matter far more diligently than he has. We endorse him for another term largely on the strength of his voting record, but we really wish Wilma Chan were there instead. Swanson needs to get tougher on the BART police.
PSA -- THE EYEBALL KID
Islanders should be aware that the discussions about possibly putting up cop cameras at certain traffic-light intersections here have ended with the real implemenation of those plans, most notably on Webster, Constitution Way and Grand Streets. Drivers should know that the enforcement of the fines has been rather nasty in other municipalities. The cameras record the license-plate and the light condition -- they do not record the light condition on ENTERING the intersection. In other words, if you enter on a yellow, and the light turns red before you clear the intersection, you will be forced to pay a fine.
Sorry Charley. Its all revenue.
YOU MUST NOT HEED THE CALL UP
Its been a cool and sunny week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Most folks are aware that Sunday mothers endured burnt toast with runny eggs in bed and total messy chaos in the kitchen as little ones everywhere tried to impose gratitude on dear old ma.
Just in time for Mother's Day, all the poppies burst simultaneously into bloom all over the Island.
The Almeida family did an endrun around this problem with the help of suddenly sunny weather that pushed away the stormclouds to allow for a yard BBQ. This had the double benefit of allowing Mrs. Almeida to sleep late and for the kids to play with fire in a supervised manner. It was all good.
Stores everywhere tried to beat the Recession heat with special deals on Mother's Day everywhere, a phenomenon that so irked the founder of the holiday, that she attempted to revoke it entirely, however she failed and roses went half-off on Sunday.
Here on the Island, the gals took their respective moms out to brunch at places like Momma's Royal Cafe and El Pescadore at the Waterfront. Jose took his mom to Juanita's on Park where Mrs. Cortiz proceeded to get quite tipsy on the margaritas there.
"Your father was such a philanderer I hardly know where you came from," she said at one point.
"Okay mom,"Jose said. He was used to it. As well as her idiosyncratic understanding of biology.
"He is still such a West Ender," she continued. "Those people."
Mrs. Cortiz grew up in the more affluent East End of the Island, while Mr. Cortiz had been Navy, and so grew up on the West End where the Projects were. There is still an odd disdain between the two halves of an Island that is so small that the spray of a sneeze on one side will fly completely over to land on the beach on the other side. Much could be determined about you if you were West End or East End. Such are people. Such is the Island.
Perhaps the Island is the only place in the world like that. Or maybe not.
"My boy, have you been getting enough to eat?"
"O mom . . .".
She wanted to know why he had not found a girl yet. Or maybe he had and was maybe ashamed to bring her home for her mother to look at her.
"Su abuelta must approve," she said. "That is simply the way it is. I don't want you running off to some tacky place like Los Vegas. Our people don't do that kind of thing."
How to explain that there was a Recession going on, he slept on the floor with twelve other people at Marlene and Andre's because of the gouging landlord, pushing a broom and gathering signatures for petitions does not pay much and as the old saying goes, "No money, no Honey".
Sometimes it was hard as the devil to know just what was going through the old woman's head. As in right now, her looking at him. What could she be possibly thinking, what kind of failure or critique was she reviewing right there in Juanita's. She might have an outburst at any moment, deeply embarrassing everyone.
"My boy," said Mrs. Cortiz. "I am so proud of you."
He didn't tell her he had been fired from his job working for the Census for messing up his timesheet forms. Let her go on thinking he had gotten a Government job.
Some whose moms have passed on also paid dutiful obesiance to the day. Mr. Cribbage folded himself into his truck with a bouquet of flowers so as to ride across the Bridge and down the 101 to Colma, City of the Dead and there lay his annual contribution on the headstone there.
Mr. Cribbage stood there in the bright California sunshine on the hillside that looked over the sprawl of what had become Daly City to the Pacific Ocean, trying to remember if he had paid the water bill for the troublesome unit on Otis Street.
A rough caw interrupted his thoughts. A few markers away a crow stood on a memorial to a fallen child and looked at him as if to say, "What are you doing, man? Shouldnt you be strolling under the magnolias with a wife at least ten years younger than yourself?"
Well, he may have imagined that last part, the meaning of that look but he bent down to hunt for a stone to throw. This bird only served to remind him of the terrible bridge club meeting that ended so badly with the madeira and the cheeselog all ruined.
Ah! A piece of gravel! This he hurled with ferocity at the black bird, which only rose up, fluttered a few feet away and settled with a sense of proprietorship that Mr. Cribbage felt was entirely undeserved.
We shall not dwell in this place any longer than necessary. For the good part of the morning Mr. Cribbage chased the bird about the grounds of Colma with increasingly murderous intent, and a good part of the afternoon was spent with Colma officials and groundskeepers in an attempt to secure a more organized approach against his personal enemy.
For the record, Bertha Cribbage's last words were, "Well, I meant to tell you all . . . oh nevermind."
Percy Worthington Boughsplatt took his mother for a ride in his immaculate two-toned 1939 Mandeville-Brot coupe, along with his consort, the lovely Miss Hinckle, who wore a fetching riding cap, her usual feather boa and, in deference to the temperature, thigh-high suede boots and a waiscoat.
And, to the scandal of Mrs. Boughsplatt, not a stitch else.
They had a lovely picnic down the 101 where the orchards used to roll out endlessly back in the day when Mrs. Boughsplatt would go for a ride in the Rambler into the country.
Which is now something other than country.
"How horrid is Foster City and all that it pertains," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Lets go to Monterey."
And so they did and had Orange Blossom Specials looking out over the twisted beach pines. Mrs. Boughsplatt got quite giddy and almost took off all her clothes before the lovely Miss Hinckle, who sometimes did maintain a surprising level of common sense and decency, enjoined her to visit the Monterey Aquarium.
"Percy," said Mrs. Boughsplatt. "Whenever are you two going to get married?"
Over at the Squat on Otis, folks celebrated moms and motherhood each to each in their respective manners and customs.
Marlene and Andre took Marlene's mom over to Momma's cafe in Berkeley and Marlene's mom only punched one guy in the face during the entire affair and that was after they all had eaten and stepped outside, quite unlike the year before when they had all been bounced from Kincaids after a riot over the piano player, who had ignored the elder Marlene's repeated request to play "Saturday's Alright for Fighting."
Marlene's mom had been a steelworker at the Port and many were the Teamsters who had learned to reckon with the woman's formidible right cross.
The altercation in front of Mommas happened because some yuppie walking by with a cell phone tumor glowing on his ear happened to mutter something about the "damn unions." Probably to incite the crowd gathered at Mommas as he headed toward a more chic eatery.
Wherever the boy had been headed, he never got there. At least not that day.
"Hell, boy, I remember the cable car strike of 1916 like it was yesterday when we fought with blood for our rights! You pansy-assed stool-warmers are all a bunch of milk-sap pussies! I'll teach you!"
Then came the punch. Shortly after that, then came the cops. That Mom of Marlene's sure had a short fuse.
Bear rode out with his mom on the back of his 1958 Ironhead Harley to Martinez for the Momday BBQ. Sophia followed along behind in the Geo in case either one of them got into trouble and they had to leave the bike in storage.
Even though the beer flowed freely and the band really cooked with all the usual biker favorites from Lynrd Skynrd and Van Halen, the two remained fairly sedate and so Sophia sat their watching them.
Mrs. Bear got a little teary and started working on some of that "reverse guilt trip" thing.
She really regretted the lack of stability during Bear's growing up. And the night his favorite plushtoy, Tinky-Winky-Ralph got thrown into a bonfire down at the beach.
Yeah, Bear had never forgot that one.
Mrs. Bear sat back and started to cry. There was so much she wanted to give him, but somehow things didn't work out. Husbands. Guys. Jobs. All the drugs and jail . . . Always a screwup somewhere. The time the kids beat him up at the high school because of his friend Elroy. "Wiggers, they called us. 'Wiggers!"
She never wanted . . . she never wanted THIS.
Oh this kind of life. She wanted him to be really something and show them all. But the ugliness of everything around threatened to overwhelm like an immense tidal wave. Hatred. Racism. Contempt. Superiority. All that drags down.
Sophia saw the moment to step in.
"Bear is just fine by me. I love him. And you oughta be proud at what you accomplished, because Bear is honest and true and there is no better man. He might have some rough edges, but I can live with that and more for all the good that is in him. He aint hooked on smack. He aint a thief. And he aint a wussy. And he aint doing the round trip to the slammer. There is so many who grew up the same way who cant claim that. So something you did worked out all right. Mom you did your best and you did good and that is that."
This brought out another burst of tears from Mrs. Bear. And the speech stunned the little crowd there in the park in Martinez, the hardest of the one percenters, the toughest of the tough, for nothing is more sentimental than an honest Biker in his cups.
The others out paying for their ride with credit cards are just buying imaginary "freedom". These guys were the real deal.
Pretty soon the band resumed with REM covers and the three of them returned to the Island, with Mrs. Bear feeling a little better about herself.
Which is really all the best one can ask of Mother's Day, isn't it? After all, she gave so much. Or at least all that she could, given the circumstances.
As per Tradition here in the Offices, Denby was delegated to pull a name from the Editor's hat and call a Famous Somebody's mother to conduct an interview. Two years ago it was Mrs. Hilton, mother of Paris. Before that it was Mrs. Zappa, mother to the head of the Mother's of Invention. Then there was the call to Mrs. Van Halen.
Denby went to visit Mrs. Brugmann, the mother of Bruce who edits the Bay Guardian, but when asked for a comment about her son she just took her cigar out of her mouth to shout "He's my son, dammit!" before slamming the door.
Next up Denby went to visit with Mrs. Cynthia Germanotta, who is the mother of the personality known as Lady Gaga. That woman lives in New York but was here in the Bay Area for a Gaga concert as part of her persistent quest to try to get Lady Gaga to put on more clothes when in public. For this reason, the woman always carries an extra raincoat and a spare housedress when she travels.
"We raised Stefani to be a a good Catholic girl, Mrs. Germanotta said. "She got good grades all through Sacred Heart Convent. She is a smart literary girl."
"Lady Gaga is literary?"
"If she hadn't become so famous she would be attending Tisch (School for the Arts) right now. She got early acceptance! Me and Joe were so proud! I think he still holds out hope for Tisch." She put her hand on Denby's arm. "She's got a line from Rilke tattooed on her arm. That oughta show you."
"How did she get her stage name?"
"She is so smart, but if you must know she is a really lousy typist. She mispelled the word 'radio'. That's what happened."
"Um . . . okay."
The rest of the interview went fairly well except when the very devout Mrs. Gaga tried to get Denby to pray for the souls of David Bowie and all the members of Motley Crue. He told the woman that he was a Bhuddist and needed to go get his prayer mat for that sort of thing.
Denby left shaking his head while her mother tried to get Lady Gaga to switch her roadkill hat for a nice sunbonnet with flowers.
"Oh that looks so dreadful, dear! What will all the boys out here think?"
First Madonna. Then Pink. And Brittany Spears. Now Lady Gaga. They must be putting something in the water in all those East Coast convents, Denby mumbled to the Editor during his report at the Island-Life offices on Union Street.
Madonna is from Michigan, said the Editor. And Pink is from Pennsylvania. Brittany is from a Mississippi Baptist family.
Same diff. They're all east of Chicago, said Denby.
Denby, go to your desk. Talk to Chad about doing the Headline.
The Editor put his head in his hands and sighed. What a staff he had. Half of them living on SDI with little intellectual capacity among them. Lady Gaga was an effing genius by comparison. He got up to put on a CD by Wynton Marsalis and to the sounds of jazz he continued to work through the evening.
His two girls, Shelly and Melinda, had been into Brittany during that whole period, but Melinda had thankfully shifted to the likes of Ani DiFranco. Shelly probably was into Lady Gaga, knowing her and her mother.
He scanned over the AP wire sheets. The past week had been notable for chaos and situation FUBAR around the world. Arizona had goose-stepped over the line of government intrusion over immigrant and non-white paranoia. A big oil derrick in the Gulf had exploded into flames, causing an immense environmental catastrophe -- which even so was not as big as disasters which had occured in China and in Russia. A radical group of nutcases calling themselves by the unwittingly hyper-sexual term "Teabaggers" was upsetting the electoral process just at the moment when things had started to settle down and some in the GOP had learned a modicum of self-respect.
The Mideast remained in a perpetual state of wacky animosity with Isreal building more settlements just as a State Department official arrived to discuss halting them entirely. Iraq continued to be a mess, just more of a mess on its own terms while Afganistan danced with itself in violent circles fueled by tons of opium poppies. Nobody seemed to possess a shred of sanity, especially the vast majority of the pea-brained shriekers of distortion over at FOX news/entertainment, and then there was Sarah Palin making tons of bucks by spouting the most unreasonable nonsense that made the Cookie Monster sound like an French intellectual by comparison.
Then there was Wall Street where the normally cool heads that used to govern High Finance all seemed to have gone on a peyote holiday.
In short, it was morning in America all over. Not really much had changed since the Bay of Pigs and the Berlin Airlift. Not to worry -- Mutually Assured Destruction and Shiny Pebbles will solve all the problems.
By god, the Editor felt good; there was likely to be News for a good long while with plenty of reporting to do! He had been half afraid for a while Obama would really resolve everything into a bland yogurt of resolved crisis that would fix dependence on foreign oil, the Middle East with all its own problems, radical fundamentalism, the health care debacle, the stock market collapse, the housing bubble bust, the credit default swap issue, the bank failures, the Great Recession, the massive unemployment and the badly broken GOP.
He poured himself a double scotch from the cooler and put on a Pharoah Sanders CD. Skwonk.
Yes, it would take a Democrat to fix the GOP as well. The Democrats had always been the charladies of America going back to early times, coming in to clean up the mess and fix all the broken stuff. Not always effectively, but somebody has to do it.
Somewhere a door slammed and the Editor looked up from finishing his Editorial to see that most of the staff had left for the evening. And right on cue, Mrs. Dumont Dupont came around with her big bin on wheels emptying the trash from each desk.
"Mrs. Dupont, do you have any kids?"
"Yassuh. Six and Nine."
He looked at her work-hardened hands. Hers was a life that had never been an easy one.
"It's Mother's Day, Mrs. Dupont. Why aren't you with the kids now?"
"I gotta finish up with the trash. Done all the other floors in this here buildin'. Then I be off from both ma jobs."
"Mrs. Dupont, leave this off; I will finish up for you and leave the bin out back. Go home and be with your family."
She looked at him with tired surprise. "Thank you Mr. Editor." Then she left.
The Editor hummed to the saxophone playing over the speakers as he systematically emptied all the trashcans. He wheeled the big bin out to the back and stowed it safely behind the dumpster and then returned to his desk. As he did so the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the compassionate waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way through the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London Waterfront, headed from the Port of Oakland to parts unknown.
The Editor's remaining white hairs flew about his head in a white corona as he bent to work over his desk where a single pool of light from the desklamp illuminated his desk, the little glass of Scotch and the ashtray for his cigar. It was good to show some amount of kindness, no matter how small, for kindness is a strange brooch in this all hating world.
Its a dark night in a City that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Offices of the Island-Life Newsroom sits one man still puzzling over Life's Persistent Questions.
And that's just the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MAY 5, 2010
MAY, MAY, THE LUSTY MONTH OF MAY
This week's photo comes from Javier's garden where things are really starting to happen. Seems the quiet digitalis that remained silent and unseen last year has returned with great zest.
MAY DAY MAY DAY!
And from our CPUSA contacts we have a poster image in recognition of International Worker's Day.
May 1st fell on Saturday this year, so finally after all these years, our Red Diaper kids could enjoy both a BBQ and stirring speeches. Nothing like good Everett and Jones on hot ribs to go with that video of T-34's taking Berlin and the most glorious make benefit film of highly praised tractor production output.
SOMETHING FROM THE PAST HAS RETURNED / SISTER MARY WHISPERS TRUST ME
The weekly video comes from Chad who has the Marketplace answer to a critical social problem.
Just a spritz under each arm will do ya.
HAPPY HAPPY JOY JOY
April 30th marked an esteemed day for some, and a rather bleak reminder for some others. It was 35 years ago that the first NVA tank rolled into the soon re-named Ho Chih Minh City, ending the long agony that was the Vietnam Conflict. Over three million Vietnamese and well over 55,000 Americans lost their lives in a largely insane enterprise that never included enemy order of battle or defined measures of success on the part of the US, and which featured extraordinary military inanities that perfectly equaled all of the USA nonsense, and never possessed a reasonable offensive strategy on the part of the NVA, such that the infamous "Tet offensive" is largely regarded by most historians to have been a total failure.
As one NVA commander commented, "We never knew why you considered Ap Ba important. To us it was just another hill. But because you kept on trying to hold it, we thought we should also fight for that position. As it turned out, Ap Ba was always meaningless as a strategic goal."
Nevertheless, as one conversation between a former NVA commander and a visiting US commander went:
US Commander: "You know we won just about all of the battles we fought against you."
NVA Commander:"That is true. But it does not matter."
After the North took Saigon and all the southern cities, the regime's initial response was harsh with many executions and many more people sent to "reconditioning camps" meant to indoctrinate them into the New Order and train them to behave appropriately. Hundreds of thousands of people connected with the old regime in Vietnam fled during the succeeding months to the United States, where they have become significant additions to American multicultural society and a logical consequence of the American Global Imperium.
Eventually, the united Vietnam softened its approach in the face of pragmatic realities that included its obligations to restore order to that part of the world which had been de-stabilized by the Nixonian "secret bombing" campaigns, so today the most bitter enemy is now a main trading partner of the US. Which has in the interim established its own "reconditioning camps" to serve various purposes.
Some of these American "rendition camps" have been closed by the Obama Administration.
Green eggs and ham, dudes.
We mourned the loss of the logical and well-priced Ross from Southshore Mall, but Hearken!
Ross announced it will return and that is who will occupy the former site of the old Safeway building now being reworked by construction guys. We at Island-Life welcome the returnee as well as the new Pagano's outlet for hardware. Orchard Supply Hardware backed out of the deal when the Great Recession hit, so its a win-win situation for all.
We always knew those dirty landlords were up to no good, and now we have proof. Christopher Wright, who owns property on Webster, has been arrested for the crime of child pornography and it looks like the evidence and file on him is rather extensive. Police found substantial evidence during a raid on the man's home in Oakland. Do the Crime, do the Time, guy.
Hey! Wake up! The ever delightful Amy at Autobody wants us to remind you of a silent auction benefit with details as follows:
Featuring a silent auction of artworks by Autobody Fine Art artists
As part of the benefit they will be featuring a limited edition print portfolio that will be offered for sale. The print portfolio will feature five of Autobody's favorite artists!
Autobody has asked the artists whose exhibitions have defined the programming at the gallery to donate work for our silent auction. Throughout the evening you will be able to bid on a wide variety of artwork and add to your collection by purchasing a favorite piece. In addition to the silent auction a special edition print portfolio featuring Autobody Fine Art artists will be printed as a limited, numbered edition of 20 folios. Each edition will be printed on high quality archival paper and offered at $100.00 for the series of five prints. Autobody Fine Art members will receive a $25.00 discount on the purchase price, - a further incentive to become a member right now! Reserve your edition early as these are certain to sell out quickly.
To help you get in the mood for the evening they will be serving cocktails and finger food and listening to live music. Throughout the evening, staff will be there to discuss future programs, events, and ideas for the coming year, and your input and comments are welcome. All proceeds from the benefit will go to support the continued programming and community outreach offered by Autobody Fine Art, and your purchases (as donations) will be fully tax deductible for the tax year 2010.
We at Island-Life see this effort as a significant one on behalf of the Island's art community at large. Don't put your money into sports teams franchises and Monster Truck Rallies. Give to Art and Art will give to you.
The NRFU portion of the Decennial Census is underway. Islanders will note temporary employees out and about canvassing for those surveys which folks forgot to mail in by the Official Count Day, which is April 1, 2010.
Okay dudes, this census thing is mandated by the Constitution to take place every ten years. So we gotta do this thing regardless. Basically, the Bureau needs to count all the Americans living in their districts so that the congressional legislature can be apportioned appropriately. Since California has been losing population each year for the past eight years (go figure who is responsible for that one) we stand to lose a congressperson seat if we do not get on the ball.
Some of you may have noticed the City has some budget problems going on. Well the census determines how much the City gets for programs going forward. Care about the Island? Stand and be counted.
So in other words, be kind to those folks working hard for temporary bucks to get those questionaires done. Answer the door, offer info when folks refuse to open up and for gosh sakes, be the decent Islanders you are and help these workers get their job done. Thanks a lot for that. Maybe you may meet one of our House Staffers along the way. Say Hi.
It's been a sunny week and cool on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The clear skies speak well for localities east of here now battling rising waters from the recent dockwallopers that passed out of here. We expect that Bear Lake up in Minnesotta is like to experience some chill temps but with warming trends that ought to persuade folks up there to start pulling in those ice houses over the lake.
Leave now the last walleye of winter to swim off, to be taken in another season.
The ice has been creaking all around the old Monte Carlo dragged out there for the annual bet as to when it falls through. Time now to pull back, as more than one person has noted its May, not April anymore.
As for around here, the fava beans have erupted and already yielded fruit. The digitalis has spiked out gloriously, and the jasmine bushes are surrendering their early scent with reluctance. The sun beats down through the suddenly clear skies but the shadows remain breezy and chill. Tomato seedlings are available from CVS over in Mariner Square Village for 1.99 to 2.29, depending on variety.
Mike has assaulted the yard with his short-cut mower and destructive weedwacker, but tiny purple flowers can still be seen distributed all through the sward in defiance of Control and Severity. All hail the saucy insouciance of flowers!
All across the Island, the natural abundance that is given to the Golden State erupts. In the neighboring yard, a wild patch now waves a proud sea of bright red Burbank poppies. On the edge of the Pagano's Parking Lot, an irreverent border of irises thumbs their noses at passersby, calling out to bumbling sailor bees with slutty colors, come to me boy and multiply your options. Any perceptive person ought to be concerned. This vegetative revolution could get out of hand. Upset the guaranteed order. Oh dear. A revolution of flowers! Down with Authoritarian Winter and rules! Yes!
Darkness falls and eases the Bay breezes into and among the vines of Spring. An handful of peas struggle upwards. Peas are always optimistic. In the garden, the tendrils of the pogonip twine with eternal persistence.
In the Old Same Place Bar Suzie puts on "War Crime Blues" by Chris Whitely. Its the mood she is in.
"You must not heed the way you were brought up
We live in desperate times and times that lend themselves entirely to easily to fascist dogamtism which cloaks itself as national sentiment. Do not heed the Call-Up.
Everyone is staring rigidly into their Manhattans and into their gimlets with far too much ernestness.
Until the silence breaks with the long howl of the throughpassing train as it makes its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront as it heads off to parts unknown. Everyone relaxes. The eternal Train. The recurring Spring. Dawn rearranges a spray of jasmine in a vase at the bar and the heady scent wafts over the Congregation, like prayers for Freedom in wartime. The Flower Revolution -- the flowers will prevail over the Marines and the Armies. Even in Kandahar and Anbar and other strange places of cracked concrete and guns and rough boots of soldiers, a poppy bursts the hard surface amid the broken ruins. As the long howl of the train dies away into the far distance.
That is the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 25, 2010
APRIL IS THE CRUELEST MONTH
This week's headline photo comes from Tommy of Miami, Florida, who sent us a series entitled "Real Endings to Fairytales."
This one is titled "Cinderella".
This is really what happened to Cindy after the Ball is over and the fairy godmother has skipped town.
Once again we had a plethora of good videos for this week, all from Paul Simon performing with Hugh Masekela to various other things of good taste.
But we did good taste last week.
This week, we bring the Innovation of the Month, expressly designed for folks who live in the Marina District, and guaranteed to please or your money back.
Its the New and Improved as seen on TV, the Genuine Pooptrap.
We know of at least one Census Bureau Supervisor who could really use one of these things for her desperate little sausage Hund who remains cooped up all day.
Video courtesy of the inimitable Chad.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The mellifluously appelled Lisa Bulwinkel informs us that July 4th will be a date to mark on your calendars for events and fireworks at the Berkeley Marina. Which might be a place to get to after the Island Mayor's Parade, the Best Little Town Big Parade in America.
Also, Lisa lets us know about the CHOCOLATE & CHALK ART FESTIVAL on June 5th in the Gourmet Ghetto in Berkeley. Look at the Calendar for details.
The G-folks at the Census Bureau let us know that May 1, Mayday, will kick off their effort to round out the 2010 Census, so expect to see folks wearing orange vests clambering all over the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and buttonholing folks so as to complete their forms.
With the declining population of California over the last eight years, we do stand to lose a legaslative seat in Congress, something we really do not want to have happen in favor of godforsaken places like Texas and Virginia.
The exact details are unclear, but the official word is that SunCal is no longer in default of its exclusive negociating agreement with the Island. SunCal has submitted a revised proposal over the defeated Measure A initiative and "deliberations are in progress."
The recent County mailer on State Propositions does not include local initiatives, which are to follow.
Speaking of Initiatives, the Camps are forming over the
contentious Measure E. We have a press release over the wire from The
Academy of Alameda Middle School Board of Directors which unanimously
voted on a resolution to support Alameda Unified School
Measure E is a split roll tax on property area that is meant to replace the previous court-challenged measures created to support ongoing school activities.
Generally, the pro folks can be found at APLUS (ALAMEDASCHOOLS.ORG).
Meanwhile Ed Hirschberg announced a PAC to fight this same iniative. He is also a plaintiff in the suit against Measure H, which attempted a similar tax scheme. His group can be found at VoteNoOnMeasureE on Youtube.
Sort of local, we have news from Berkeley Rep's Terence that opening night on Broadway for American Idiot scortched the floorboards to wildly positive reviews.
"The show, and the wild after-party at Roseland, attracted a host of celebrities. As Playbill reported, Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump wound up under the same roof on opening night without incident. Also: Whoopi Goldberg, Paul Rudd, Tony Kushner and Mark Harris, Edie Falco, T. R. Knight, Michael Urie, Jerry Dixon and Mario Cantone, Zachary Quinto, Camryn Manheim, Tamara Tunie, John Cameron Mitchell, Steven Pasquale, Steve Van Zandt, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ana Gasteyer, Marian Seldes, and Elizabeth Gilles. Also in attendance was Todd Almond, the creator of Berkeley Reps latest rock musical, Girlfriend, which is having its world premiere right now on the Thrust Stage.
Earthday came and went here with all sorts of joyful jumping up and down and grand weather and pennants flying over the booths. The Renamed AMP (nee AP&T) was there with their snub-nosed e-cars. All in all it was a grand affair and a fine time was had by all.
ONE NIGHT IN AMERICA
Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After last week's dockwalloper the temps have gradually warmed to their usual spring degrees. Spikes of incipient glads are spearing up from the drying earth. What look like future sunflowers are erupting, and this weekend avid gardeners attacked the long breeding host of weeds even as the seasonal garage sales sprouted all over. Javier's Peru fava beans are now about four feet in height, studded with white and black beanflowers.
First Ensign and U-Boot Navy Oberkommandant Marvin Stiffstik delivered a speech to the Native Sons at the clubhouse this weekend. It was supposed to be a part of the Doolittle Raid commemoration as well as a remembrance of California's personal sacrefices in times of war.
Unfortunately, because it turned out to be such a nice weekend, nobody showed up, save for Xavier, Pahrump, Bonkers the dog, Snuffles Johnson, and Waddles -- the Abodanza kid with Down's Syndrome. All of them, including Bonkers, had come for the deli spread laid out on the side tables.
Marvin wore mirror aviator sunglasses during the entire speech, which meant he looked really sharp and cool, but could not see the paucity of the crowd or anything else for that matter.
In addition, Pahrump had shifted the projector and screen from the right to the left so as to ease passage to the restrooms, so Marvin kept guesturing with his pointer to a poster of an Hawaiian hula girl while the slide show displayed aircraft and destroyers on the screen to the other side.
"Here we see the awesome power of our native artillery," Marvin said, pointing directly at the girl's upper lei arrangements.
Waddles let loose a big smelly one which pushed Pahrump into giggle fits. Xavier covered by applauding vigorously and calling, "Bravo! Hoo-Rah! Hah-Yoo!"
At the end of the day, they managed to get themselves and Marvin really drunk on pineapple juice and grain alcohol Xavier had made in the back yard and while Bonkers ran down the beach wearing the sunglasses, Marvin bragged about running the Marines in Carpenteria around the track until they dropped.
"G'dam stoopid jarheads!" Marvin said. Then he fell backwards to stare at the ceiling. "I can see the stars through the roof!"
"We're not really any safer at the end of the day after all these wars, are we." said Pahrump.
"Course not," said Xavier. "Wars be politics by other name. Politics never made nothing safer or better."
"Hoo Ya." said Marvin.
"That one is the constellation Aldeborion," said Marvin.
"That's track lighting," said Xavier, who was similarly oriented to Marvin.
"Aldeborion?" queried Pahrump. "Is that the Specter which is striding across Europe?"
"That sounds vaguely familiar," Marvin puzzled.
"Screw politics," said Xavier. "Here's to Spring!" He raised his glass high.
"To Spring! To Life and eternal Chaos! Hoo Ya!" they all said. Bonkers barked a joyous bark as well.
Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the peaceful waters of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way past the dark and shuttered windows of the Jack London Waterfront from the Port of Oaktown, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 18, 2010
COME DOWN WITH THE SICKNESS BLUES
This week's photo is from the GOP promotional kit for their version of Health Care Reform.
Basically the Plan can be stated succinctly as "Poor people get sick and die. Tough."
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The Island School District (AUSD) approved the list of 21 books that will be used in the new anti-bullying lesson plan, which plan replaces the Lesson 9 plan that drew fire from ultra-conservative religious groups for being narrowly focussed on gay and lesbian issues. The new plan covers more groups, but still does not sit well with some members of some groups who dislike the idea of teaching kids to accept homosexuals and transgenders as equals in today's society.
In related news, the checkered effort to get a repeal of Measure 8 on the June ballot failed to gather sufficient signatures, largely due to an inablity of various anti Measure 8 groups to unify their efforts. Measure 8 basically limited the rights of certain persons to marry in the State of California and is now passing through various courts to determine its constitutionality.
Street repairs on Webster at Willie Stargell Ave. will start Monday and continue through the week. Expect delays due to lane closures in both directions.
The budgetary woes caused by the Great Recession have propelled the County to request the Coast Guard for permission to limit the hours for raising the drawbridges the 9AM-4:30PM time span, allowing for an off hours lift only with a four hour advance notice. This prospect has a number of boaters up in arms.
The Island will kick off the 40th Earth Day ecologically conscious celebration on Saturday at Washington Park (Central x Eighth Streets) with a day of films, info booths, kids activities and entertainment. Autobody Fine Art will also host its own event, listed in the Calendar, called Future/Tense.
SIGNALLING UFOS WITH MY LIGHTER
Its been a warm week on the Island our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After that bust of rain last week, things dried up for two gloriously sunny days on the weekend, but the news is that we are looking at rain and windy gusts for midweek.
Martini and Jose got temp jobs working for the Census, so they have been preparing for that gig, playing with the pencils and marking the forms and chatting with the folks on the bench about all kinds of census-taking, number crunching, governmental influence taxation representation irritation along with all the grumpus mulligan gallimaufry of acronyms devised by some sort of demented pigeonholer probably from the Army's reserve of demoted lieutenants.
Its a FUBAR situation for sure, with the economy the way it is.
Javier is still recovering from his burn injuries as is Festus, so those guys are still out of the picture.
Things are tight everywhere and petty theft is rising in numbers on the Island, displacing the usual news item favorites of dog bite, graffiti vandalism, and erratic driving. Officer O'Madhauen is at a loss to handle this issue for the perps insist on driving the legal speedlimit or take the bus to get here. "Sooner or later they'll run a stoplight or exceed the speedlimit and then . . . we'll have 'em!" he says.
Even in the Old Same Place Bar Padraic notes that the regulars are all having one fewer of whatever they have. A few he has not seen at all in months, as folks grab the more frugal bottle and paperbag from the local Waifsay or Plucky's grocery stores to ease their sorrows. He gazes ruefully at the scant till in the register, "Look at that -- meager as a thin rat on a dungheap in Darfur." Then, looking at Dawn and Suzie, "Me lads, at least we have each other."
Over in the Islandlife offices the Editor remains behind after all the staff have gone for the night. The hum of the machines. Planes landing at the airport on Bayfarm or passing overhead to land at SFO. Burble of the old waterpipes and the steam radiator clunking its archaic valves. The teletype spits out an article about an April 19th gathering of private militia members in a Washington DC park; they plan to all arrive with sidearms and rifles. There is another article about the Teabaggers and their wildly racist signs. The Editor sits at his desk, his remaining white hair flying about his head in an aureole lit by the single desklamp, a man trying to make sense of things while all around there is darkness. Then, right on time, the long howl of the train passing from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered warehouses and stores of the Jack London Waterfront comes ululating across the meditative waters of the estuary as the locomotive heads off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
APRIL 11, 2010
I JUST WANNA THANK YOU!
This week's photo comes from CREDO Action, the involved arm of the socially responsible wireless network. It's just a pic of a man about to retire from a demanding position he has held for a number of years, Supreme Court Justice Robert Stevens.
Rarely has a man been so well regarded simply for holding to non-partisan beliefs and common sense in the face of increasingly strident judicial activism.
This week we again enjoyed an embarrassment of riches in the form of submitted videos, from "stupid cops at a bank robbery", to the vid of a cracker trying to demo the good behavior of her dog, even as it ignores every command to fetch while pooping in the water and then rolling in it to the owner's disgust.
Since "social justice" is the evil by-phrase of the times, we will stick with that in providing a link to part 1 of Rachel Maddow's exposure of FOX news and the hoax video concocted by scam artists who wanted to destroy ACORN by means of false accusations.
ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was collection of community-based organizations in the United States that advocated for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, voter registration, health care, affordable housing, and other social issues. ACORN had over 400,000 members and more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S., as well as in Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Peru before the spurious and heavily edited video concocted by Right Wing activists Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, resulted in eventual shutdown of the entire set of operations, and the termination of thousands of employees.
Ensuing legal action exonerated all employees of wrong-doing, reinstated federal funding, and severely criticized FOX news and the video makers for fraudulent practices, however, the political damage had been carried out as intended by ACORN's enemies, the extreme Right Wing.
We anticipate a Kristalnacht any evening now. Only you can prevent it.
We have been looking at ways to get beyond the Great Info Firewall regarding crime on the Island, and have found numerous resources available, including a new service provided by Officer O'Madhauen's collegues in the IPD. That would be a GIS-based mapping tool that shows times and locations of various crimes within city limits. Oaktown has had one for a while (http://oakland.crimespotting.org/map) but now we have our own boys in blue offering their own version of (rather trimmed back and edited) crimes by the week at http://www.crimemapping.com/map/ca/alameda.
A better site calling itself "spotcrime" covers all municipalities across the continental US in far more detail. The site for us is http://spotcrime.com/ca/alameda, where folks can determine not only time frame but also crime type. Results are given in both map and tabular form with drill-down options to access precise details of each crime committed.
Here is an example of part of the Island in map form, with icons differentiating the different event types. A fist represents a battery assault, the blue walking man is a theft. Burgluries are shown by the fellow with shades.
Below the map, the reported crimes are listed chronologically, also with active drill-down links.
We think this is a valuable tool, and we already have subscribed to regular daily updates from the organization. In addition we checked out the real estate sections who compile neighborhood stats to find that this particular neighborhood ranks a "31" on the 91 point scale where 91 is "perfectly safe" and 10 is "don't go there without at least ten homies armed with studded pitbulls and 40 rounds each for a brace of Mac 10's." Buying property? Check the internet, my friends. It could be your life.
Officer O'Madhauen is disdainful. "Not a single traffic infraction listed." he says. "Therefore its no use at all."
THIS ISLAND LIFE
The school supporters have cobbled together their parcel tax proposal, which is now slated for a mail-in ballot possessing a deadline of June 22 and a requirement of a two-thirds majority to pass. The proposal calls for a $649 tax on homes and apartments with less than 4 units. Industrial property and 4+ unit holders would pay 15 cents per square foot according to the split-roll scheme. The tax would replace the approved, but legally challenged, Measures A and H to bring in about $14 million to the cash-strapped District. For the moment we are staying neutral on this issue.
It would be nice, however, to look at just how much is being spent per officer for fire and police at this time (typically about $100,000 per man in California) so as to better understand what is happening with City services. When officers issue scads of "nuisance tickets" so as to perserve their jobs, and such line items like canine patrol suffer shocking high internal mortality rates, perhaps we need to realistically look at where the money is being spent and if it is being spent wisely.
Readers will recall that activist Jean Sweeney found a clause in an old agreement which granted the City entitlement to the old Beltline property at the original 1924 property value. The City recently closed escrow on 39.4 acre property, which included the 1924 price of $30,000 plus $966,267 in "improvements" -- which improvements feature decayed structures and yards that most likely will be demolished. The Union Pacific had claimed the present value of the property at some $18 million as compensation for taking over the long defunct railway property, but lost in court after Sweeney found the stipulation clause in the old contract.
SUNCAL continues to endure yet more woes in other parts of the country, as the Alameda Sun reported (citing Reuters) the troubled developer faces bankruptcy in New Mexico over another failed project in the City of Albuquerque. Monday saw a Chapter 11 filing there and termination of a project that had originally planned to build 39,328 residential lots, with barely 100 seeing completion. Oh well.
The ash trees along Broadway are "in decline", according to a recent report, and a meeting will be held 4/22 in room 360 (7 pm) at City Hall to discuss plans for replacing the trees.
The Point is not the only parcel or set of parcels eyed by the avaricious and the Simon Legrees of California. We have the FISC area, the Ballena Cove and the Boatworks plots all under scrutiny for non-Measure A compliant projects, with the Cove seeing a potential skyscraper development of 20 story towers and the Boatworks area seeing another four or five thousand living units contemplated. Which has a number of Islanders in a snit, of course.
Bear in mind, these inhabitants would be added to whatever SUNCAL would shoehorn into the Point project. So we are not talking about adding 5,000 people. We are talking about adding some 15,000 people to a city with present population of circa 70,000.
This is something to think about in terms of the Big Picture.
SHE WAS JUST ANOTHER NOTCH ON MY GUITAR
Finally dropped into the SAGA open mike at Frank Bette Center and regretted the long delay. Frank Bette Center for the Arts is our continuing sanctuary for all things artistical, and First Fridays have come and gone with many dropped programs, whereas this open mike has remained. Boundless Gratitude and Sarah Dunham host this event with a featured performer each month. This month we enjoyed professional singer/songwriter James Byfield, (AKA Blind Lemon Pledge) as well as some tasty original numbers from local Islanders.
As his stage name might suggest, Blind Lemon presents a touch of the Blues (always near to Island-Lifer's hearts) and a bit of blue-collar soul. Sarah Dunham helped cap the session with some surprisingly upbeat songs, including a well appreciated original about the afternoon of her daughter's marriage called "Joy Joy Joy" and another with the refrain, "You do not walk alone;" certainly a message we find very welcome in these hard hard times.
We have been to several open mikes around the Bay and can say that this one is a particularly enjoyable, unstressed and unpressured way to spend an afternoon. Next time around the event will feature a round robin in the old style of passing the guitar and audience song participation. Should be fun. Stay tuned to this station for times and dates for the revised schedule.
HERE WE GO AGAIN: ANOTHER ROUND OF BLUES
It's been a coolish sort of week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After some sporadic sunshine, all the seagulls came screaming in with terror in their eyes, followed by the dockwalloper of all dockwallopers, as thrashing rain and whipping wind pummelled the life out of the few remaining crocus of Spring here, promising yet more misery to you folks somewhat East of here. This one was big enough that there is no doubt Fargo better stack its sandbags yet higher, St. Louis better keep stock of umbrellas, and Boston get set for another bought of late season snow. Chicago Illinois and Bear Lake Minnesota, you keep your Wellies and your galoshes in reach for this one is a thorough-going blaster of a storm with no questions asked. Get the children in and preserve the women, for the wrath of Winter is at hand.
The high winds advisory just terminated a few minutes ago and its getting mighty close to the witching hour here. The faint glow of planes taking off from the airport shine like the periodic bursts of rockets in a dystopian science fiction movie. Somewhere someone is going somewhere in a dense fog of buffeted cabins and uncertainty. They might not be who they are supposed to be, but they are going somewhere nontheless.
The long wretched misery of the Great Recession continues, even as the Stock Market crows about its own hermetic world with its minor triumphs. While the Wow or the Dow or the Now or the POW tops 11,000 of something, people still go hungry, homes still fail, and we all remain treated like mushrooms -- fed shit and kept in the dark.
Denby got work with the Census, which is supposed to be this century's eqivalent to the CCC projects of the 1930's, and Martini has got an extention on his unemployment from his termination from the NUMMI plant in Fremont. At the moment, the Household looks to be flush on paper, that darling of government measurements. No one has gotten any money as yet, but it looks good to bureaucrats. The human component can go take a hike and die. That's the way it always is.
Down at the Old Same Place Bar the regulars are all hunkered down for the change in Season about to occur. They know it happens every year and they know it cannot be avoided, but still they come out to water their dreams under the burning sky, flaming with gods and sungold as the winds whip the palms into some kind of pretended submission that will only erupt later on into extraordinary flowering birds of paradise, refusing to be dominated by any acts of nature or man. This is California, after all. This is the State that refused slavery in that darkest time.
Its the time of changes, of shifts in patterns of light and the post daylight-savings time reversal. Everybody wonders just when the season will allow short shorts and short sleeves and birkenstocks. Any day now. The new shoots are just now taking hold and Marybeth, who wanted to set in the tomato plantings, still keeps the sprouts on the kitchen table, waiting for that glorious moment of transplantation. Marybeth looks out at the glowering skies and checks to make sure the cats are all in for the storm's duration. Lightning crackels across the horizon. Not yet. Not yet.
It is approaching the witching hour in the Island Life Offices. The Local Desk has long gone home and the foreign desk sits burbling with various languages in the horn. Kondolencje dla naszych przyjaciól w Polska. Their national agony is our common suffering. We too, also understand immense loss. Moich znajomych, pociechy . . ., for we have also suffered much.
From far across the wind-whipped waves of the estuary
comes the long ululation of the throughpassing train as it wends its
way from the garishly lit gantries of the Port of Oaktown through the
dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 4, 2010
OF WHICH VERTU ENGENDRED IS THE FLOOR
This week Chaucer introduces a prize from Javier's garden back by the Old Fence where it seems things are happening.
The beginning of the Canturbury Tales goes thus:
Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote
Got a negative trip report from Florida, where it has been rainy and cold out that way, due to the ruction in the atmosphere caused by global warming which is now turning most of Alabama and Mississippi into vast kudzu-covered soggy sponges.
More bad news for Fargo and points East. We got hit by a dockwalloper again, which seems likely to head vigorously your way in about four days. We also are hearing that the moisture is likely to continue sporadically into May. Right now anyone who pokes their head out of the Island-life control booth will note dollops sluicing the rooftops right now as they have been since late afternoon.
CH, CH, CH, CHANGES
Some of you just returning to the Site may notice yet more changes. This is really what happens when a room full of unemployed engineers get together; they start building bridges. Nevermind the bridges go nowhere and connect nothing. Building stuff is what engineers simply DO.
Now that we have a Youtube channel, folks will be able to add that dimension to their Island experience as well as the new radio -- please note the default is "On", but there is an "Off" button for you folks who still possess jobs out there.
It didn't seem folks were using the Weekly Video all that much, but we will still present content links as things come up.
Also our Coding Hamster, Mr. Emmett, has put in a tab for you Farcebook fiends out there. Anyone who really cannot depart their keyboard for more than a short while for any reason can now share tidbits with their "E-friends".
All of this is meant to haul the decade-old Island-life by its pointy elvin ears into the 21st century and in opposition to the Chief Editor, who still works over those slippery galley sheets with a blue pencil. He is a curmudgeon, the Editor is.
It's been an overcast week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
Because of the questionable skies, the annual Easter Egg hunt at Our Lady of Incessant Complaint was moved mostly indoors, which meant that urchins of various sizes scampered like mad through the rectory, the schoolyard, the gymnasium and several outbuildings in perfect chaos with Sister Flagil and Sister Incontinence flapping about with their robes in the breeze and their habits astray, pausing periodically to complain to Father Pandybat about the unruliness of it all.
This chaos, of course, is the perfection of idyllic childhood and many were the shrieks of joy upon tiny discoveries. This being a Catholic enterprise, the colored plastic eggs were filled with coins. Over at the Lutheran Emmanuel church, their eggs contained healthy doses of jujubees or chocolate.
Opinions were divided as to which scheme presented the healthier lesson. On the one hand, certain contents rot the teeth. On the other hand, certain contents rot the soul. Go figure. The kids on both sides of the pastoral question had a good time with lots of healthy screaming and jumping up and down and that's a good thing. Anarchy is the paradise of childhood, and all attempts to organize life into neat little lines present yet more visions of that hell which removes itself further and further from the original Paradise.
Still, these affairs can be heartbreakers for some. There is the inevitable little tyke, named by particularly demonic or obtuse parents Edmund or Palin, who needs to be carefully guided to a particular prize, weeping at lack of success, by hand and guesture and innuendo. "I think I see something red under that bush over there. Don't think anybody has looked there yet . . .".
Then there is the kid who, approaching the teens now since his last birthday, arrives for his very last E-Hunt about 20 minutes late because the hotdish had not set in time.
In anguish and then sullen anger the fellow sits out on the iron railing in his plaid shirt and droopy jeans with the other kids, now factoring into the "too old for the Hunt" group a year early. No point looking now; he is screwed and its all unfair.
He never got a chance. Ever. And his little brother always got the best toys and never got into trouble to earn a decent licking with the belt. Its always unfair! Hey, that Suzie is really hot. D'ya think she goes, like "all the way"? Wit you? Naaaaah!
Well, all the Horatio Alger stories ended with a magical deus ex machina or some such wildly improbably burst of luck, so learning Life is unfair probably should happen as early as possible. Its not a bad thing -- Life really is not fair at all. Learning about Suzie, well there will be time enough for that and finding eggs of a different sort will be in order. And by then, Suzie will be long gone, replaced by a Valerie or a Joanna or whatever Farah Fawcett of her time.
Over at the Household run by Marlene and Andre the exceptional bounty provided by Suan -- who had managed to snag an entire lamb shank due to the munificence of an anonymous benefactor at the Crazy Horse who appreciated, um, tasty flesh -- helped provide the basis for a genuine Seder.
For this celebration, all the members of the house had gathered from near and far. Javier provided bags of walnuts and apples for the haroset from the Food Bank. Jose and Martini garnered eggs from the recent .59 cent sale at Rucky's. Celery came from the dollar store. Parsley came from the garden out back and folks assembled other ingredients from the far corners of the Recession universe. Freezer-kept soup bones helped fill out the feast. Pahrump and Occasional Quentin supplied the wine.
Pahrump helped get the house out of technical difficulties when a couple loaves of bread from the Mastic breadline were found in the larder. As this was hametz, the lot was sold temporarily to Pahrump as the token "gentile" for the price of one dollar.
Sundown arrived and everybody arrived on time, largely because the news that actual meat would be featured for dinner at the House was real big News.
Andre, as the token Jew orchestrated things while reading from a battered and dogeared Haggidah. Some of it he had to make up, as his Hebrew had lapsed much over the years.
"Hey, whats this stuff?" said Xavier. "It be green."
"That's horseradish. Um, in the form of wasabi. Don't stick your fingers in it or you surely will regret it later when you touch yourself." said Andre. Thus began the age-old classroom lessons of the Pesach.
Marlene came in to announce, "Lamb's done!"
"Okay now," said Andre. "Let all who are hungry come and eat. Now we gotta have a wine toast sort of thing. Um, lemme say this thing now. As the evening became the sixth day after creation. And the heavens and the earth and all that filled them were complete.
And on the seventh day God completed the labor He had performed, and He refrained on the seventh day from all the labor which He had performed. And God blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, for He then refrained from all his labor - from the act of creation which he had just did.
Permit me, distinguished ones, uh, tzazikis, no, um tadiks, oh shit, I mean tzadiks and colleagues:
Blessed are You, the Lord our God, Creator of the fruit of the vine. . .".
"Yo, Amen!' said Occasional Quentin, hoping to get to the wine drinking part sooner.
"Blessed are You, Lord our God, Who sanctified us with His commandments, and hoped for us, even though we are kinda hapless and stupid, and with love and intent invested us with His sacred Sabbath, as a memorial to the deed of Creation -- which wound up pretty much effed up by your handiworks of humanity -- a day preceding even those sacred occasions commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. For You chose us -- for what reason I have no idea -- and blessed us, we of all Peoples, and with love and intent You invested us with Your Holy Sabbath. It aint easy being Chosen all the time, lemmee tell ya.
Blessed are You, Sanctifier of the Sabbath."
"Can we drink now," asked Quentin.
"Down the hatch,"said Andre.
After this intro, Marlene brought out the food, which featured the lamb on a bed of taters and carrots from the Food Bank. After a while, Occasional Quentin began to ask questions.
"So Andre, why is this night so special?"
"You are asking why this night is unlike other nights, and as you are the most child-like imbecile of all of us, it is good you do so."
"Oh for Eff's sake," said Marlene. "Is the lamb any good?"
"I wanna tell ya all about the parable about the four stooges, Larry, Moe, Curly and Shem." said Andre. "Larry did not have shit for brains and so did not know enough to ask any damn questions any of the time. For this reason, he stood on the train tracks where the shunt happens to be and the OX express turned him into raspberry schmear. Moe was a stubborn jackass. Never could be shunted aside. He didn't know nothing and never copped to his ignorance and so he remained in Egypt where they made him stack the pyramids after cutting his balls off. That was Moe, a real stubborn jerk. Then there was Curly. He was a simple sort of guy. He asked questions all the time, but never the right ones and never remembered the answers anyhow. He is still there in Egypt standing on the pyramid of Cheops trying to find a left-handed smoke-shifter even though he is right handed by nature.
Now Shem was a wise ass. He asked the right questions and got the right answers and on account of him the Hoover dam was built right the first time they tried. And the Aswan dam. And a buncha damn other things besides. Where's my damn hillel sandwich anyway? Nevermind. This night we celebrate bein' slaves for a while. Some of us still are that way."
"Oh," said Quentin. "What's with this goddamn sandwich and sticking the celery and leaves in that bowl and why the dry tortillas?"
"Duh tortillas be matzo, and we eat that 'cause it was on sale and the real matzo outta the budget for the House and we had no time to bake decent tortillas when fleeing the Pharoah's army. It's a kinda commemoration. Sticking the herbs in salt water reminds us of, um, something similar but I forget what. Tears or something. Anyway, I remember us doing it when I was little."
"How come we be lying around like this on cushions?" insisted Quentin.
"Cause we can't afford no decent furniture," interjected Marlene.
"We are bein' happy about being more or less free from being slaves," said Andre. "God damn it Quentin, did you wash your hands or not before coming out here? You know you gotta wash your hands!"
Quentin hung his head and shuffled off to the bathroom.
"Hey," said Pahrump. "Anybody belong to that cup of wine at the end over there? And what about closing the door!"
"It is getting cold in here, Andre." Marlene commented. "I am going to close that door and keep in the heat."
"The wine is for Elijah when he comes strolling in." said Andre. "But maybe this household be too low down for the Prophet. So okay, close the door."
They eventually all got through dinner, as Andre's family memories of a proper seder were sparse and marred by overwhelming memories of violence in which his father had alternatively beat either his mother or himself and his dead brother. His had not been an happy childhood.
At the end of it, they all lay around and Andre said, culling his fractured memories, "L'shana haba-ab'Yerushalayim."
"Wuz dat mean," said Pahrump.
"Uh, means next year we do this in Frisco."
"Hey," said Martini. "I found this tortilla under my cushion!"
"That's the afikomen," said Andre. "I hid it there for somebody to find but I forgot all about it. Pass it around. And gimmee another swig of that wine."
The afikomen was passed around and everyone took a solemn bite.
"Sure is dry", someone commented. "Problem with slavery is that it never goes out of fashion. So there is no end to Passovers."
Passover had passed on or over as the case may be. From far across the Island the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the enslaved waters of the estuary as the engine wound its way from the Pharoah's gantries of the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London Waterfront as it wended its way to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 28, 2010
WON'T GET FOOLED AGAIN
This week's photo is of the creative storefront window of Pagano's Hardware where it appears a little poker game is underway between folks from both sides of the aisle.
As with any political game, there is always a bit of sexy spice hanging around, which is what we take to mean by the brassiere hanging from the chandalier.
Seems like a genial enough sort of gathering. Until we focus a little closer to see exactly what is on the table. Besides Billy Beer.
Now how many aces are in a deck of cards again?
CH, CH, CH, CHANGES - and WHAT'S GOING ON
What's Going On has shifted to a semi-permanent section of its own, a running Calendar of interesting events. Look to the sidebar for updates, which will be occuring all during the week, as we noticed we were missing the late press releases, such as for the school tax measure rally.
You also will note changes in the camping sections, which should load much faster now, and in the reviews sections, where the revisions are expected to continue extensively, featuring both PDF and regular web content.
The backpain section needs some substantial revision so as to make the highly desired information more accessible and we have staffer hamsters busily chewing away on that one.
Island Life now owns an entire Youtube channel. We are adding to that throughout the week as we find resources to convert the multimedia to Youtube's dicatates. Expect to find lots of stuff provided by Island-lifers as the year progresses. Sidebar links to multimedia content, including podcasts, will now be diverted to the Youtube channel to make for a faster, more seamless experience on the Island.
All of this effort is made to make your visit to the Island that much more enjoyable.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
We would have been remiss to indicate that former councilperson Tony Daysog has thrown his hat into the ring for the position of chief brick-bat recipient in the form of Mayor. Tony indicates "City Officials Should Accept SunCal's Revised Plan.
I encourage city officials to take a significant step forward with respect to redeveloping the former military base by accepting SunCal's revised plan for Alameda Point."
His press material indicates also "I prefer a greater mix of stylish housing types at Alameda Point, not just a repeat of the Bayport-style development that I championed when on City Council, but for now it is more important that we move forward by getting the developer, city officials, and residents back on the same page, so to speak."
All right, Tony, best of luck come June.
In other news, Oaktown held its first marathon event in 25 years by way of the weekend "Runner's Festival".
A half and full marathon kicked off in cool temperatures and mostly sunny skies early this morning, after a 5-kilometer twilight run on Saturday.
More than 6,500 people who registered for the races were given a tour of Oakland's cultural and scenic gems - from its growing downtown to Temescal, Lake Merritt and Jak London Square. Marathoners ascended into Montclair, took in sweeping views and also flowed through the industrial west side on Mandela Parkway.
The winner of the men's marathon was Tony Torres, 40, of Cedar Glen, who finished in 2 hours, 31 minutes, 38 seconds. He said the race featured a lot of hills, which made for hard running, but great views.
"It was beautiful," said Torres.
Local Michelle Meyer, 22, beat out a national field of women marathoners at 2:59:25. The Mills College student said neighbors cheered her and others on throughout the morning.I WAS DREAMING IN MY DREAMIN
Its been a quiet week on the Island, our Hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
March came in roaring, as it is wont to do, and although
the days have been mild, an approaching dockwalloper indicates it may
go out just as noisily. Hopefully those folks stacking sandbags in Fargo
and along various streams in Minnesotta will see the waters go down
a bit before the thing hits them.
In honor of the Season the Native Sons of the Golden West held their Spring Fling in the Clubhouse down by the Marina. Everyone was invited. Everyone came.
Little Imbecilla Cupcake carried trays of tapas prepared by Marlene around to all the guests during the entertainment, which had all been put together by Harry (Hoot) Buttkins, who traced his lineage way back to members of the Mariposa Battalion. Hoot had arranged for Andre's punk band "No Future in Real Estate" to play Beatles covers between main acts. So Andre had grabbed several dubious tab sheets off the Internet before quickly running the band through Sgt. Pepper, Revolver, and White Album.
"This don't sound like the right key," complained Denby. "You sure 'Got to Hide Your Love Away' is in F#?"
"Just tune your instrument, dude." said Andre.
"I don't care about the rest of you. I am doing G major. You can do F# all you want."
Andre told him the key didn't matter. Nor the right notes. "Those old farts heard this crap a thousand times by now; heck, they all hear what's in their heads anyway and half of them was wack on acid the first time they heard it."
Andre had great fun doing "Imagine" with all downstrokes at 200 bpm adorned by screaming and snarls. "Hey," he said. "We be artists. Just wait til they get a load of our Australian walkabout sing-a-long version of "Stairway to Heaven."
Fortunately for all concerned Hoot had provided other distractions. "And now, live from Winnepeg, the pride of Canada, Wootee Kanootee!
Wootee Kanootee, an immensely bearded man, wearing a checked shirt that would have done well by size and design for a table cloth, and topped by a beaver-skin cap, lumbered up to the stage.
"Fine groupa folks," he said into the mike. "What say we form a hockey team, eh?" Silence greeted this intro, and then he called in his animals by name. "Donner and Blitzen and Prancer and Alice, you come now, ja."
The back door opened and four very large animals with antler spreads of at least three feet each -- save for Alice -- clattered up to the stage."
"Oh!" said Latreena Brown to Mrs. Blather. "I thought they said "Famous Mouse tamer! Those aren't mice at all!"
While this was going on, Malice Green was out front of the Clubhouse trying to interest the leggy Joanne and a couple developers in a development project to redo the entire Marina into a massive waterfront housing project. The first step, of course, would be to brick up and cement all of the shoreline to get rid of the nasty sedge and mud. Provide a concrete Promenade with potted palms. Maybe put up a rail for liability purposes. Then, the highrise condos. Think of it!
Mr. Howitzer thought it a capital idea as did Mr. Cribbage, but Joanne, gazing at the trees and grass, women pushing strollers along the little path, and the gentle water lapping against the rip-rap said, "I think it looks fine the way it is. Leave it alone."
The rest of the developers there were shocked into an acre of silence and Mr. Howitzer's dog, Eisenhower started barking at a couple moose standing there on the lawn.
Inside the Clubhouse things got chaotic. Prancer had stopped trying to answer the question about what makes the border between the US and Canada. The correct answer is "40th parallel" -- at least according to Wootee -- but Prancer had given up tapping his hoof around the number 24 and had gotten up to place his forelegs to either side of Alice's trunk there and so begin doing to Alice pretty much what moose do in the Spring each year, and no amount of persuasion in Canadian French or any other language could get him to stop this in front of the children.
Wootee hustled the others out to the yard where he provided them with oats and Eisenhower barked at them, while Andre was commanded to distract the audience from the increasingly erotic display on stage. Prancer pretty much finished his business according to his own desires and so to the tune of "Hey! You've Got to Hide Your Love Away", the amorous couple was led outside.
A man wearing an opera cloak, a red bowtie and a Machavellian moustache came up to the developers to say, "I am Sympatho Mimetslovic, clairvoyant from of the Prague. Yes! I will now read everything that is in your mind! Yes!"
With that the man dramatically placed one hand over his eyes as if shading them from the sun, and his other palm on the forehead of Malice Green.
The Czchec man yanked his palm away from Green. "Ugh!" he said in disgust. "Worms!"
Joanne laughed. She then went inside where Andre was writhing on his back up on the stage. "Number 9! Number 9! Ahhhhhhhhh!"
She went into the Golden Poppy room where Angus McMayhem had set up the no host bar. Several people were standing around talking and sipping from glasses that contained liquids of shocking neon brilliance. A woman with short spikey hair was chatting with Eugene Gallipagus. She had a shi tzu on a silver leash which kept trying to mount Eugene's leg and her crimson blouse was bright enough to guide ships through the harbor on a foggy day.
"Cancer!" barked the woman sharply. "Sit!" The little dog plopped down his rear end and looked terribly disappointed.
"His name is what . . .?!" Eugene began.
"My name is Pimenta Strife," said the woman, offering her hand. Not knowing what else to do, Eugene shook it vigorously. "I do management. And you?"
"Uh, I do construction. I am a painter mostly these days."
"Cool. A painter. Representational or abstract?"
Eugene looked confused. He often does.
"Nevermind. Show me later. All artists are cool." She said, then abruptly, "Got any tats?"
"Um one. Um, a bird."
"Cool," said Pimenta. "Where?"
"Its, uh back . . .um there. Actually it wasn't my idea. I was in the Navy and these guys thought it would be a joke . . .".
"I got one," said Pimenta. "It says LUST 2.0. Its on my left lip."
Eugene looked carefully at her face. "I don't see it."
Pimenta smirked. "I don't think you ever will." With that she turned on her heel and walked away. "Cancer! Come along!"
She walked up to a guy with very large biceps emerging from a black t-shirt. You could see his tattoos very clearly and most of them involved serpents.
Pimenta introduced herself.
"Dey call me da Kid Viper."
A very platinum blonde standing next to him said, "He's Golden Gloves 2006. Just went pro. Knocked La Hoya right outta da ring last night." she said.
"You his girl?" asked Pimenta.
"Nah. I be his manager."
Pimenta put her hand on a writhing asp. "Now you are my kind of style."
The rejected Eugene left the bar area and went in to see Javier doing a rap version of another Beatle's song.
"Word! Words be flyin out like endless rain!
Jai guru deva Om!
Yeah. Images of da broken streetlight . . ."
Christopher Brian Bridges and Snoop Dogg would have had tears in their eyes at the sounds emitted.
The Fling went on into the late hours of the night with Andre's band managing to mangle and destroy every single Beatles song from Rocky Racoon to Get Back, with only a brief interlude during which the Amazing Anatolia Enigma performed various magic tricks in a performance that enthralled until Mr. Almeida's dog chased down one of the escaped rabbits and killed it.
"Tugboat!" admonished Mr. Almeida. "Put that back!" The black lab sadly walked up and dropped the lifeless bunny into the silk top hat before returning to Mr. Almeida, where he plopped down and sighed. This ended that performance.
At the end of the night Hoot Buttkins proudly handed over payment to the five members of the band to Andre.
"We decided to include something a little extra," the beaming Hoot said before walking away. "See you next year!"
Andre looked at the seventy-five dollar check, meant to be split five ways among the band members for about eight hours of work.
"Better than a kick in the face," said Pahrump, the drummer. "Oh the glamorous life of the professional musician." As they all packed up their equipment the cleaning crew started picking up the broken bottles and mopping the floors. The crew consisted of Martini, Jose, Tipitina, Xavier, Chad, and Marcus the dog, all from the Household.
When they had finished up they went out to the front and sat on the porch before the long walk home. Tipitina lit up a cigarette and the flash of the match revealed a small herd of moose. All the males had taken turns with Alice that day, and she stood there with a dreamy look on her moose face in the temporary corral.
A light rain began to fall under the full moon. Ship masts clinkered in the little marina that the developers contemplated destroying.
Its Spring again, said Jose. This may be the last rain for a while.
Rain is good, said Martini. 'Cept walking home in it.
Think the developers will ever get around to wrecking Ballena Bay? Tipitina said contemplatively, looking at the moon over the palm trees across the cove.
Something sure gotta replace greed as a prime motivator in this country, Chad said.
No idea what that could be, Xavier said. Seems thats all people go by and it don't work no good no more.
What's good for GM sucks for the rest of us, said Martini.
Compassion, said Chad. Compassion really can get people to do things. And everyone benefits.
There was silence except for the rain. Marcus barked, breaking the reverie.
They all got up to go.
"Right Marcus!" said Jose. "For I am a rain dog too . . .", he sang.
Sure nice to hear something besides the Beatles for a while, said Tipitina.
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the moon-dappled waters of the estuary as the engine wound its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a compassionate
MARCH 21, 2010
SO SAYS THE WHIPPOORWILL
This image is meant to hearten those facing the final blasts of winter and the people now stacking sandbags up in Fargo. Any day now the change of seasons will come and end the misery.
This is from Javier's garden out back which survives drug dealers climbing the fence and maniacal ignorant managers who cannot discern a weed from a flower bashing the seedlings from their perches from year to year, but which continues to thrive with the hands of care.
Patience, my friends. The change could happen any day.
CONCERNING STRANGE DEVICES FROM THE DISTANT WEST
In 1834 the first photographic camera arrived in Japan. But until a Dutch man wrote a pamphlet describing the process of taking pictures and developing the plates, no one knew how to operate the strange machine for some fifteen years.
In 1853, Commodore Matthew Perry arrived on a gunboat in typically American heavy-handed style to demand trade agreements between the US and Japan under threat of invasion. This event ended a 200 year period of cultural, social and economic isolation for Japan. Thus began the "Enlightened Rule", or Meiji period.
These events form the basis of Naomi Iizuka's world premiere, Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West, now showing on the Roda stage at the Berkeley Rep. The title of the play shares provenance with the Dutch man's pamphlet.
(l to r) Kate Eastwood Norris, Bruce McKenzie and Johnny
Wu star in the world premiere of a
The play opens with a woman named Isabel Hewlett, wearing Victorian dress entering the photographic shop of Andrew Farsari (based on an actual historical figure and played by Bruce McKenzie) in a disreputable district of Yokohama. A half-naked man, covered in tattoos, sits on a stool as the photographic subject.
The tattooed man, dressed only in a loincloth, is a good example of the duplicitous nature of photographs, for tattoos had been outlawed by the government since the end of the Edo period as a relic of "barbarism" and few remnants of pastoral Japan remained in the post-industrial Meiji era of modernisation. Just about all of the photographs from the period are fake, produced by hucksters like Farsari, who posed his subjects with props in front of painted backdrops, recording a time and way of life that no longer existed to sell as product to a credulous Western market for things "exotic".
Mackenzie portrays his Farsari as a bilious, cynical and jaded man who knows exactly what he is doing, who believes that life carries no more surprise. "I know exactly who you are," he says to Mrs. Hewlett. "You are one of those ladies."
(l to r) Bruce McKenzie and Kate Eastwood
Norris star in the world premiere of a sexy
Japan took to photography with zest, putting aside its Hiroshiga woodblocks in favor of the new science, while the gaijin, the Western visitors, loved having themselves posed in clearly artificial tableaux as travel mementos.
But Hewlett, who has arrived in Japan with her businessman husband, played by a stolid Danny Wolohan, does not want the usual sort of treatment. She is looking for something else.
"Well what on earth is it you want?" says the exhasperated Farsari.
"I don't know," says Isabelle. "But I will know it when I see it."
(l to r) Bruce McKenzie and Teresa Avia
Lim star in the world premiere of a sexy and intriguing new show:
Thus begins a story in which several generations span the Pacific ocean from the Meiji period to ultra-modern neon-lit Japan of today, with the little girl who is the product of Mr. Hewlett's infidelity running like a ghost across the expanse of the projection drops. That little girl becomes herself a mother to a child who endures her own story of bad luck and association with a gaijin, producing the Kiku who brokers a shady deal for fraudulently concocted "period photos" between her lover and a talkative, bilious university professor (played again by Bruce McKenzie) who seems to be drunk during his first scene, and who seems to be defrauded by scammers. Or is he?
(l to r) Johnny Wu and Danny Wolohan star
in the world premiere of a sexy and intriguing new show:
It is a surprisingly tightly written play, and its 90 minutes zip by with no end of surprises and revelations as actors construct tableaux that vanish in dazzling flashes meant to evoke memory, realization, moments in time. In fact the editing appears to have caused our Mrs. Hewlett to get lost in the play, which is unfortunate as she is the most interesting and personal of all the characters. She does reappear in the end as a talking ghost speaking from the small corner of a photo of Mount Fuji.
This evasive splintering of lives, which run off the stage like the projection of the laughing girl, where people disappear, do things and reappear in other forms makes for a very intellectually stimulating and intriguing presentation. What is the essence of things, of people, if you cannot trust what you are looking at directly? And with our great welter of James Bond spy cameras and McLuanesque photo-documentation we still miss the essence of things, for every static image is free for any interpretation or no interpretation or any distortion of truth without a frame of reference. Like the tattoo images on the bodies of two lovers, the full image is only comprehensible when the two are joined.
Concerning Strange Devices from the Distant West
Cast (in order of appearance)
WHAT'S GOING ON
It's Spring and the Severe Weather has left for other zones for now. You may have noticed that we have a new Calendar in the Sidebar. Look to that for your weekly updates on things going on from now on.
Note that next weekend sees the Oakland Marathon returning to to the East Bay with eagerly anticipated traffic havoc and disruption for two days of fun and jumping up and down.
The run of political issues, locally and nationally, are far too numerous to track for this issue. By Monday morning the dust will have settled on the Health Care Big Horn and flies will feast on those foolish enough to have stood in the way of change. As for the Island, we have a Special mail-in election to decide the parcel tax on behalf of the schools, followed hard by the primaries.
Sticking to the Unified District's issues, shortly after the new contract was approved, a slew of teachers got the Recession Message, the dreaded Pink Slip which is meant, as it seems, as a threat to get folks to push the parcel tax Or Else.
Mayor Beverly is looking to keep her hat in the ring by pursuing Councilperson election even as Lena Tam announced she would not run, preferring to spend her remaining time as a public employee actually doing her job, rather than campaigning.
Um, don't we actually want to retain such people rather than let them go?
In the meantime, expect an hiatus in stuff happening until the Summer Season really kicks into gear.
Over at the troubled St. Charles block where apartment managers regularly administer savage beatings to tenants and visitors to tenants, where said managers vent their spleens by vandalizing personal property with all the whim and precosity of six-year olds, and where the folks enjoy armed stickups and drug dealers hopping over their backyard fences, somebody did a number on number 1538 behind Paganos when their SUV collided with another SUV, causing one of the behomeths to ram the building, taking out a big recycle bin and the entire garage door. Fortunately no one was hurt, but it does show what happens when two of those antisocial mini-trucks hit one another instead of one of the smaller vehicles the owners hope to destroy.
Both vehicles were totalled.
DIAVOLO IN ME
It's been a briskly blowing and cloud-scudded week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
It's good that the weather has been moody, for the majority of our staff has been recouperating from their burn experiences for the past month or so.
Both Martini and Festus had preceeded Jose to the Trauma Unit by a couple days and they urged him as well. All three had been scalded when the steam kettle at the house blew up some weeks ago. Jose had taken the worst of it on his legs. Being of sturdy Catholic stock, Jose resisted going to the hospital as such activity should be reserved for those truely in need.
That Glenn Beck and sundry Teabaggers out there were hardly competent to perform triage on anyone made little difference to Jose, and it was not until his abuelta, Sharon, said that avoiding the ER in such times only served to assist and aid the enemies of Health Care Reform, so finally it was good old fashioned guilt that got Jose into the ER where the nurse looked down and prodded his limb to announce, "That damn foot looks like gallimfaury stew; its three times the size of the other, has a pepperoni pizza look to it without it being the slightest bit appetizing, and that is not natural!"
Jose had to wonder about what the fellow considered appetizing when it came to feet, but there being two other folks in the ER, he had to wait on the others. Being a good Catholic boy, he lay there and waited his turn.
The one lady had managed to get into a fight for her life in Oaktown and had taken a 2x4 over her skull, which had caused a sort of migraine but she was really concerned about the hole in her leg when she fell down on a nail about three inches long that drove into her thigh. That hole kept bleeding and this made the entire escapade worrisome.
The other lady had a bookcase fall on her, about twenty feet high and now she could not move her left arm. At all. Or her head to left or right. And there were a few spasms besides and she wondered if she could get back to work in a couple of days doing construction.
At the end of the day, the lady with a hole in her leg got let loose with some patches and an xray of her skull and the lady with the busted arm got taken off for an MRI and better muscle relaxant than valium and Jose sat there for four hours until the Wound Specialist came around and prodded him after the morphine wore off and found out, HELL! YEAH! He sure could feel it, and so he was let go with a 2nd Degree burn diagnosis and some advice about hot fluids. The Wound Specialist, the only one for all of Highland Hospital, then went out into the corridor where she wheeled off a big steel cart loaded with severed arms and legs -- they were demo limbs for a lecture she was to deliver that day -- which had an unnerving effect upon all of them.
Denby drove him back with Martini and Festus to the House and got them all good and drunk which was hella better than anything that Highland did for each of them, save for the momentary relief of the morphine until the Wound Specialist got her mits on them.
Its good that Highland has only one Wound Specialist for all three buildings for she is an holy terror on wheels and Jose dreamed about that cart being pushed through the ER for many nights afterwards.
Jose tried offering up his pain while he was in the ER to the Virgin, but the Virgin must have been busy or wanting something more pragmatic at the time, such as a new vacuum cleaner or a box of chocolates, so not much of it got anything done. So it was that Jose and Martini, who was not much of a Catholic, and Festus, who was not even Christian, got any benefit out of the entire ordeal.
Suffering is good, said Martini, who took another Vicodin. It prepares you for more suffering.
Suffering is fucked up, said Festus coarsely. That's the end of it. His hair was growing back in patches, making the hamster look like a rodent with leprosy.
Jose was at a loss as to how to help out his friends by means of his religion. The recent events regarding Cardinal Rattenfaenger and the whole Irish miasma of abuse in the Church hardly helped matters.
Suffering, and time spent contrained in a swath of bandages does bring the soul to contemplation, and each fellow came to his own determination in this time. Naturally, thoughts trend to the End of Days, Revelations, and so on. What shall we do after we shed this mortal coil and how best to spend the time remaining before that hour.
Because one cannot trip the light fantastic, doped with opiates and swathed in gauze, one naturally thinks about what one is going to do once one is "free" of nurses and daily swabbings.
First thing: never go into the kitchen ever again.
Second thing: call your friends and annoy the piss out of them so that they will have something recent to talk about after you are gone and you never know when the conversation you have will be the last one.
Third thing: schtupp as many human objects of desire as one can find amenable for the day is short and the night is long.
Festus was all for that even though his entire body could fit comfortably within any average-sized vagina without any trouble at all. His contention was that finding the mythical "G-spot" would be all that easier for the likes of him. Oh there it is! Right up there! Scratch, scratch!
An der Freude.
Martini trended to the more philosphical. All this was fine for a perfect animal like Festus, but hardly met the deeper needs of thinking persons.
Martini got himself trundled into a car to go attend a birthday party up in Marin for an old dear friend, who happens to be a physicist. The man had just completed the work of over 35 years in the form of a monograph. He is now 70 years old.
Imagine a wire hanging in space. The one end dangles out beyond the edge of galaxies, untouched by any radiation, embedded in the deep freeze beyond absolute zero where no thermal radiation occurs, not even the stray neutron.
Now imagine that the far end of the wire rests in the deep heart of collapsing suns, heated to the maximum temperature any one thing can ever sustain, the hot heat of our own sun multiplied millions of times. Much hotter than an exploding steam kettle.
Now imagine the gradation to the middle of the wire of that intense temperature extreme, from one theoretical infinite to another. In the next few weeks the entire world of physics will absorb the mathematical consequences of going from one pole to the next on this entirely imaginary wire.
No one has ever before been able to describe mathematically the gradation of thermodynamics from absolute zero to temperature. Until now. A man's life work is done.
A man lives, loves, begets and raises a child up to something fairly presentable, marries and marries again. Builds a life on top of all the unstable welter of the world. And added to this comes up with a law of physics that is likely to stand for all the rest of time. Not a bad achievement. Not too shabby.
But then life continues. You have done your best, shot your wad, done everything possible. What then? What then is the meaning of life?
Is it not in this space precisely all of the rest of us dwell? We're all scattered along that wire in space, all heated to various degrees, each with varying perceptions and abilities along the continuum.
"Martini," said Suan. "Its amazing someone as hapless as you can think so deeply."
It was a moderate night and all of them were lounging out on the porch of Marlene and Andre's.
"The stars. What is the stars?" said Martini.
"Je ne sais pas, mais les étoiles savent comment rire." said Rolf, quoting the Petit Prince, but nobody understood him.
"The Native Sons are throwing a big party at the lodge." said Andre. "We got a gig for the Golden Poppy Spring Fling."
"Oh yeah?" said Denby.
"They're bringing in Wootee Kanootee, the famous moose tamer from Canada."
"That oughta be something," Denby said.
"A punk band and a moose tamer." said Suan. "Hmm. . .".
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the estuary under the laughing stars as the engine wended its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered doors and windows of the Jack London Waterfront, headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
MARCH 14, 2010
LIGHTHOUSE MAN GUIDE THIS SAILOR BACK TO LAND
This week's photo comes from the coast near Hannover, Germany and is of the conditions that prevailed their during their spout of Severe Weather a couple weeks ago.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS
We had a sudden wealth of videos for this week, ranging Jon Stewart's mock acceptance speech by a figure claiming to be a representative of the NeoCon Rightists for the rather bogus Iraqi elections (which only had some 80 bombings and the assassination of "a few candidates) to a character calling himself Mr. Chi-City on Youtube. Mr. Chi-City is just so cool we have to get back to him later as he fights the lonely fight of an honest man against all the injustice of the world with humor and hella pizzaz.
Instead we picked up on the latest offering by the indie band OK Go, which earned itself internet notoriety for what has been called with some justification the "best music video ever made" by means of shooting with a low-tech static frame camera four band members dancing on four treadmills during the overplay of "Here It Goes Again". Some viewers repeat the same assertion some four years later.
With props like that, no decent post-punk band can rest on its laurels, and so here we provide the official video for the song "This Too Shall Pass", certainly a song for the times as we normal folks live them. As a side note, the video was filmed in a two story warehouse, in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA. The "machine" was designed and built by the band, along with members of Syyn Labs ( http://syynlabs.com) over the course of several months. All of it was filmed in real time with no CGI special effects, and knowing this makes the whole thing even that more incredible.
If you never saw the original "Here it Goes Again", the URL is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaRfxjcpYvM.
It helps that the band is actually pretty good and a great listen. Various staffers have tried to get the band to come to the East Bay during its current world tour, but no takers yet even though Paris and New York are totally sold out months in advance.
We have sad news over the wire from our AC Transit contact who informs us "AC Transit Deputy General Manager, Jim Gleich, a dedicated transit official with a dry sense of humor and a get-the-job-done style, died suddenly Sunday from undisclosed causes. Mr. Gleich was 66 years old.
With an already long and impressive background in community affairs, Mr. Gleich joined AC Transit in 1994, as an Employment/Accessibility Specialist. He rose quickly through the ranks, becoming an Assistant General Manger in 1997 before being promoted again in 1999 to Deputy General Manager for External Affairs. During much of his tenure at AC Transit, Mr. Gleich was the Districts representative to the California Transit Association and was currently serving as a member of the its executive committee."
IF YOU EVER COME THROUGH LATE AT NIGHT,
It's been a blustery, rainy, wind-tossed, roiling sky, drenching umbrella and yellow slicker sort of week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
Hear that the East Coast is digging out from the consequences of the latest dockwalloper out that way and Minnesotta is digging in for the Most Dangerous Season.
Spring is the most dangerous season in Northern California. Maybe it is different in other places, but here, wise men remain indoors and order pizza for dinner, hunker down by the TV to watch endless reruns of Monster Truck Destruction and Terminator I, II, III and Iv. Its safer cuddled there in the dark lit only by the blackout curtain blocked TV set glow.
Bees dive-bombing the clover, hummingbirds bayonetting the lavendar throwing out punches this way and that and sending wafts of chemical weapons of mass disruption. Army ants on the march and squirrels conducting reconnaissance forays add to the mayhem, while racoons begin nightly raids. The daisy bush bursts with yellow ack-ack blooms while the poppies are erupting with tiny explosions across the fields. Squadrons of swallows and Canadian geese streak overhead and then, worst of all, there are the girls in their summer dresses.
Meanwhile, somewhere overhead, flying in stealth mode -- that naked fat boy keeps firing off at random his erring arrows of wanton mishap, those IEDs (Improvised Erotic Designs).
Observe Johnnie, happy and carefree as a lark, striding with ruddy cheeks and full confidence. But after him comes Jane, armed with those sharpshooter eyes, that flippy short skirt, and strappy high heels.
Now Johnnie is down! His face wan and his appetite poor, his breath coming out in ragged gasps as Jane cradles his head among the wildly blooming daisies. Hit right in the heart, poor lad.
Yes, Spring is the most dangerous Season.
Javier has especial reasons to remain scarce during this dangerous period of the year. Valerie, his first love, tried to bash out his brains with a brick. Diane ran over his legs with a car. Roberta set him on fire with a propane torch with eucalyptus stacked about his feet. Marina, a charming Russian girl, pushed him down two flights of stairs with an armload of lumber, continuing a theme. Amy went psychotic and began stalking him after paying a Chinese Tong to put a hit out on him, which resulted in several narrow escapades as well as several more injuries due to gunshot and knife.
When asked by staff at Highland ER just why their most popular visitor insisted on choosing such women of questionable stability, Javier would say, "Las mujeres apasionadas son las más interesantes." Passionate women are the most interesting.
The most useful advice, never taken, was offered by the lady who cleaned the floors at three AM as Javier lay there one time hooked up to morphine and saline drips. Her name was Juanita and she was an old warhorse well acquainted with all that takes place in the early hours of the public hospital and just about a hundred years more of experience besides.
"Pero señor, usted debería elegir uno más doméstico próxima vez. Y un poco menos violento." But Senor, next time you should choose someone more domestic. And a little less violent.
The end result is that Javier avoids romantic entanglements entirely until the sheer force of his Latin machismo temperament drives him into the arms of someone with spiked arm bracelets and purple hair every time.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie watches the old mating games of the Season ramp up again for yet another go around, even while those haggard few who never seem to win at this sort of crap shoot take the brass rail for consolation, each a weary sinner searching for the next Best Western like truckers on the Road of Disappointment. All looking for just a place to rest for a while.
Suzie, no stranger to sharp disappointment herself, puts a Richard Shindell CD on the PA. Music will get us through this thing somehow.
Its the middle of the night
Denby is in there, Eugene as well. Plus a few others. Its that kind of night in the bar when the season is just in the middle of shaking off Winter and gathering its Spring buds, the rains are slacking off, and the concert season has yet to begin, when the entire world is bending over after a long cold sprint to catch its breath. Its the in-between time when the cold stars hang over the empty parking lot passageways between places rimed with soft frost before everything changes.
Denby daydreams into a memory of travel during Winter along the East Coast while the song plays over the System. That had been a long, dreary trip, just after Julie had died by jumping through a window.
Whoever watches over all these truckers
We hear the Man with the Red Shoes is doing well after his nasty surprise of a stroke. Nevertheless, we know full well, such things come with a sort of re-evaluation of continuing enterprises. How temporal it all becomes. And how eternal. Oh yes, Denby has been there and he knows. How brain wounds can scar miles deep. Old friends vanish into the maelstrom of prisons or the swamps of foreign wars. Bandages and Fentanyl are simply surface appearances.
Did he who made the lamb
Time erodes and once again he is bucketing along in the Peterbuilt cab along I95, or any such eastcoast Interstate, with the World catching its breath before big changes foretold by folksinger prophets chanting poems spraypainted on subway walls. But this time there is no hope from Revelations and Julie singing Dyland songs to the radio. Now,there is no Revolution towards which we may aspire, even as lost and hopeless cause.
Instead, we have the empty snarling of Fox News demanding that we put aside the foolish and dangerous notions of the man once named Jesus. Put aside Social Justice.
At four a.m. on 80 East
Suzie pauses before the man who has his head in his hands. It gets that way sometimes in the Old Same Place Bar. Where if you can wade through the teardrops, you are welcome in the Home of the Blues.
Lovely woman reaches out and slender fingers touch the head of the man there at the bar. There, there. There, there.
Whoever watches over all these truckers
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the troubled water of the estuary as the locomotive wended its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront as it headed off to parts unknown during this Great Recession.
MARCH 7, 2010
FIRST WE TAKE MANHATTAN, THEN WE TAKE BERLIN
Direct from the catwalks of Paris and the cutting edge of Fashion we have an example of what women are expected to wear this Spring. Somehow, we doubt this look will take hold on the Island. Notwithstanding the clear advantages to castaway location devices.CH, CH, CH, CHANGES
Long time lifers will note the new look that our coding hamsters have been slaving over for the past few months under the sharp whip of Chad down in the Basement.
We hope the new look is easier for all of you to read, especially those of who have approached a certain time of life and the necessity of bifocals. We also noted that there are a range of browsers and OSes coming to town, and for those needing amplification or reduction, we have the text resizer in the sidebar, where the broken links have been patched up and given new images.
The floating radio has been tamed into a corner and does possess useable buttons to silence or advance the tunes in the selection of about 60 songs. We'll see if we can slip some indie stuff past our Music Director, who has the unfortunate penchant of clicking his bootheels together while making a Sieg Heil guesture every time he passes the flower-bedecked portrait of Paul McCartney that hangs in his office.
Herr Direktor does not believe that anyone knows how to write good songs today. Not since 1975.
Even, like, Wilco?
Death Cab for Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, Goo Goo Dolls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Raconteurs, Bloc Party, Gomez, Offspring, String Cheese Incident, Johnny Lang, Susan Tedeschi, Modest Mouse, Incubus, Ani Di Franco, Linkin Park . . .
"Alles Dreck. Unmenschen!"
I suppose you don't like Iggy Pop either.
"Der ist schtoopid. Schtoopid! Schtoopid! Schtoopid!"
He might agree with that himself. How did you ever get this job anyway?
"Der Wille zur Macht. Und my sister-in-law is VP for Ticketmaster. Ja! So ist das."
Well, when you can't afford to pay anybody, you must make do with what you get for volunteers around here.
The 2009 event reviews are all posted now. Next up we will be looking at the Backpain and Camping sections.VIDEO OF THE WEEK
If you are like any of us, you too are trying to make sense of what is going on. Wierd things in the supermarket. The stuff some people buy. Plates of shrimp. Missing persons. Not to mention the entire Republican Party and what happened to it.
Here, Miller explains it all in the cult movie "Repo Man". Hint: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you are."
WHAT'S GOING ON
The folks at Autobody on Park Street kindly let us know
about a few upcoming events there for the Spring Season. Friday, March
12th the mercurial gallery will host an opening titled "Seeing
The exhibition "Seeing is Forgetting," makes direct reference to the 1982 Robert Irwin autobiography/conversation with art critic Laurence Weschler. In particular, the artists in "Seeing is Forgetting," make work that is memorable for its elliptical nature. The images and forms in this exhibition are presented on the canvas, screen and pictorial plane in a manner that suggests that action is either prescient or suspended, having occurred before or after the viewer arrived at the artwork.
Brett Amory's finely tuned paintings hover between abstraction
and representation, setting up a conversation about the way in which
reality and emotion might be afforded equal opportunity within a painting.
Figures emerge and are then subsumed beneath broad, seductive swashes
of paint, flailing amongst brush strokes to get them noticed. Appropriately
titled "Waiting," the series is devoid of "on-screen"
drama but is made all the more urgent as the viewer identifies with
the loss of self made palpable when agency is not an option.
This event on the 26th, a Special Evening of Performance Art, will be gated, both for admission at the bargain price of $5, and for age requirements, as nudity, strong language, and "implied violence" will be a part of the evening presentation, which will consist of both set pieces and "durational" works. A durational work lasts the entire course of an evening. Please note: This event is 18 years and over ONLY.
For more information, biographies and images, please contact:
We hear that the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir will
be holding a gala fundraiser here on the Island March 19 at the Officer's
Club on the Point. Tickets are $125, available through the PEBCC office
The Annual Gala Celebration and Fundraising Auction is an evening of gourmet treats, fine wines, and live choral music - all to raise money for a fantastic cause: kids growing with music. Music will be performed by the Choirs top performing group, Ancora, plus faculty members, alumni and others. The cuisine will feature gourmet hors doeuvres, an international salad bar and wines from Cakebread Cellars, Verite, Green & Red, Rosenblum and more. The auction will feature one-of-a-kind items, elegant gifts, tickets to cultural and sporting events, and enticing vacation getaways.
Silent auction begins at 6:30 followed by entertainment and a live auction at 8:15 PM.
And, we might add, nothing you do for children is ever wasted.
Islandlife just got some scuttlebutt over the wire about a new arts collective in East Oaktown called NIMBY. The NIMBY fellers have taken the Crucible paradigm and expanded that idea to include all physical arts, including performance and computer geek. Micheal Snook is the Founder/Birthman of the space, assisted by Rachel Norman and Dave Pedroli.
They've gotten into a bit of hot water from the Man who does not want artist types moving into the 'Hood and messing up all his fine kickbacks, bribes and blind-eye palm-greasing deals. The OPD has said, as an excuse for the heat, they don't want to be answerable to a bunch of Ofays dancing in the middle of Criptown, but just let one of those blokes fire up a propane jet at 900 PSI and you try and tangle, dude. We suspect the NIMBY folks can fully well handle their own turf on their own terms.
Here's a pic of the Business Manager at work on a project.
Yes, this we like!
On the music scene, we really see no main headliners arriving until April, when Train arrives on the warmer side of the Bay to do the Fox April 10th. Marianne Faithful just completed a two day set at Yoshi's East, while Yoshi's West has been sending us freebies and half-price tix at a suspicious rate, making us wonder how the venue is doing over there. Reports have it that the venue has some really bad spots with execrable acoustics that depend upon the luck of the draw on arrival. Other seats report perfectly fine sound, but this spotty quality is not something to hang your hat on when tickets are conservatively $25, plus parking, plus drinks, plus meal before the show, plus extras. One can expect an even century note per person before the night is over, and a craps shoot for quality tickets in an increasingly chilly City does not cut the mustard. Sorry.
LOVELY RITA, METER MAID!
Its interesting to note how the dailies are all reporting on the new aggressive parking enforcement: "Parking became a hot-button issue in Oakland again last week . . .". It seems the parking issue is something the town just cannot get right, due to all the political shenanigans and budgetary flip-flops. Both of the weeklies and all of the dailies have reported on the extremes of parking enforcement as the local municipalities have given the go-ahead to vigorously pursue the most arcane statutes in an effort to balance the cash-strapped budgets by means of fines.
Its no secret that the once warning-only fixit ticket is now accompanied by an "administrative fee" of $25. It is still codified into the CVC that the ticket can be issued "at officer's disgression", however you all know how that really pans out.
The officers want to keep their jobs, so they keep the money flowing by issuing ever more tickets, sometimes for the most outlandish and questionable of infractions, such as parking with any wheel more than 18 inches from the curb, possessing crooked license plates, or not canting the wheels to the curb on a flat stretch of road.
Nevertheless, one rule remains operant in which the ticket will NOT be issued. You must be one of means and dwelling among the well-to-do. In such cases, you do not get issued the usual nuisance ticket, but a written warning instead.
Recently, the Tribune reported that the City attorney for Oaktown, John Russo, recommended that all tickets issued in the toney Montclair and upper Oakland areas be refunded, "to avoid a class-action lawsuit." (03/03/2010, Kelly Rayburn).
The brough-haha was in response to a memo which a senior parking enforcement supervisor e-mailed as a directive to other supervisors July 24 telling them to issue courtesy notices not tickets on cars parked the wrong way or with their tires on the sidewalk in Montclair and North Oakland.
Really, the supervisor was only stating what had been defacto policy for years; treat the well-heeled different from the hoi polloi. The man was simply being honest about the "way of the world". You live in Montclair, you get a pass. You live in the flats, you get fucked. Simple as that.
Embarrassment at this brief display of honesty and Bulworthism, resulting in Parking Director Noel Pinto claiming he remedied the situation within weeks, telling his staff members verbally Aug. 7 that warning notices should be given on all narrow streets for the types of violations in question, not only in the two zones.
Members of the Service Employees International Union unit
that represents Oakland employees have disputed that time frame, and
it appears a reversal of the July 24 memo was not put in writing until
Lindheim said he and his staff have been investigating why the memo was written in the first place and whether unequal enforcement ever went into practice.
Oh Lindheim, are you really such a child? Preferential treatment for rich folk? Who determine elections based on their dollars? Oh perish the thought!
Truth is, so long as 33% of each and every ticket fine flows back to local coffers with no strictures as to assignment of funds, we will continue to see these outrageous displays over and over again. It is not fair, it is not right, it is not equitable, and the system of balancing the budgets by means of fines needs to be abolished.LAST FARE OF THE DAY
Its been a cloudy, stormcast week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay.
At Marlene and Andre's household, Javier, Martini and Festus stumped out to the tangle of weeds and ironmongery in the backyard to enjoy a few hours of sunshine with their gauze swaddles and their plaster of paris boots and the air scented with jasmine and freesia for once, instead of sulfadide, meurochrome, denatured alcohol and swabbings, which have been the lot of each of them since the steam accident a few weeks ago put them all into a bandaged funk.
After a brief discussion on the availability of telfa pads (no longer available at Longs, now CVS), the discussion turned to the weather and the upcoming Academ y Awards.
"You notice there is a bird (Up), a fox (Mr. Fox), a house carried by balloons (Up, again), blue people with tails, and mountain banshees (which look like blue jays with teeth, Avatar), but not one hamster in the lot of them. Its unfair." This comment came from Festus.
"Didn't they have a rat in the hat in the story about the restaurant cooks . . ." Martini began.
"Rats are rodents, pure and simple," Festus
said. "But an Hamster is not a rat by any stretch of the imagination.
We possess dignity and are beloved by the Peruvians. I beg to differ."
Over at the Old Same Place Dawn has been handling a smooth-talking marketing specialist who wants to revamp the bar into a trendy nightspot with strobe lights and disco-style musak spun by professional DJ's
"I could turn you into the Diamond Queen of Lincoln Street, ma'am", the huckster said to Dawn. "You could knock that tiki bar down the way into the ashpit."
Padraic was not so sure of that proposition. The tiki bar pulled off all of the sexual dreck and filth that otherwise would have dropped into his place. Of this process, he was very much glad.
The huckster was impassioned. "That Dreck and filth carries filthy lucer, dollars in the pocket my man! Haul them in and let them spend! Its a bonanza waiting for you!"
At the end of the day, despite the clear attraction of more dollars, both Padraic and Dawn nixed the idea. They liked the bar the way it was with its tawdry hangings of Ireland's 39, its pickles in a jar at the end of the way, its torn bar seats, its solid redwood bartop, and its neon signs in the windows. For at the end of the day, the same old folks totter in to the same old place bar at the end of the same old street, expecting to find the same old place.
"You need to know," Padraic said to the marketing specialist. "If you are going to buck against the trend, defend the common folk, and fight the Power, you need to do it smart. You, my friend, are not very smart. Your thinking outside the box is not boxing very clever, for you have boxed yourself into a corner, and so we have no use for you and your boxed-in ways. And so good day."
Right then the long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the strife-ridden waters of the estuary as the locomotive wound its way through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
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 pondering Life's Persistent Questions.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 28, 2010
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'
After that last dockwalloper we had, we expected yet another bout of snowy misery for parts northeast of here and we hear that the reports came true. Minnesota put off Spring just as black ice began to form on the lakes and the industrial Northeast found itself socked in with the Mother of All Snow Storms forcing closures and widespread outages even in hardy Boston.
After the storm (we expect another in a few days) people poked out of their burrows to examine the damage. Trees got knocked down on St. Charles and other places in the Gold Coast on the Island, but fortunately nobody happened to be standing underneath them. James Joyce's Michael Fury (The Dead) would have done well to pay heed.
Despite the weather, the crocuses are croaking, the freesias are freely freeing, and the tulips are kissing the sky to their own Jimi Hendrix rhythms, and the pogonip is pogoing across the Bay, indicating that not even Congress can stop what is about to happen.
LIKE THE WEATHER
As mentioned, we just had a fine dockwalloper come in to drench the saturated sponges of our lives. We've got a few days respite before another storm comes in Tuesday, and again on the weekend.
Drought over now?
WHATS THE BUZZ? TELL ME WHAT'S A HAPPENIN'
SLATE is celebrating spring with an exhibition of contemporary botanical photography by four Bay Area artists Friday, March 5th, 6-9 PM. The show celebrates the exquisite designs that nature offers us, grappling with art's capacity to represent it while also reflecting on the fleeting nature of perfection and beauty, an age-old metaphor for our own mortality. At once beautiful and dark, the exhibition also makes clear what is at stake when man's drive for technological, urban, and economic development threatens nature's delicate balance.
SLATE is located in the suddenly thriving Temescal district on 4770 Telegraph Avenue in Oaktown.
Richard Thompson sold out both of his shows at the GAMH, and we hear that the Certified Guitar Player rocked out both nights. But you can still get tix for Allen Toussaint, one of America's greatest musical treasures. The New Orleans native has been making hit records for over 40 years. He'll be gracing the Hall March 3rd.
Another old war-horse who has produced more Grammy-winning disks than anybody else, working with Ornette Coleman, Elvis Costello, Allen Toussaint, T-Bone Burnett, Don
Byron, Solomon Burke, Brad Mehldau, Madonna, and Ani DiFranco, Joe Henry will follow up on March 5th.
The day after that show, former Soul Coughing frontman Mike Doughty will do an acoustic set at Slims that should be rather exciting. Doughty has shown some serious legs in his music after setting out on his own with an armload of intelligently wrought lyrics and catchy tunes to go with them.
For a more raucous time at Slims, catch The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club on the 9th and 10th. Three chords, solid rhythms, loud and fast -- it don't get better than that.
Considerably softer and moodier, the production of Matthew Sweet's musical Girlfriend, directed by Les Waters, opens with previews at the Berkeley Rep May 9th and following.
Who should be sliding quietly into Yoshi's East midweek but our very own Brechtian darling, Marianne Faithful for two dates 3/3 and 3/4. Doug Pettibone will provide guitar accompaniment for the shy chanteuse.
Of course you do know that if you want to see and hear Dave Matthews with his band at the Shoreline on August 25th you better hustle as tickets just went on sale.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Will those Bible-thumpers never learn. After the AUSD bent over backwards to accommodate protesters over the new anti-bullying curriculum, the radical right-wingers still want to sue the District any-who, claiming violations of the Brown Act. As if the beleaguered District did not already have its hands full with the suits over the tax measures H and D which were to levy taxes based on square footage to raise funds to keep the schools running. Those measures got held up in court by local businessmen who objected to the manner in which the tax was to be calculated.
Golf is rather a silly activity, which hardly can be termed a sport in any real sense; it is far more of a pastime in which participants rarely break a sweat than an athletic contest. Nevertheless, it is an activity which has a long history, an elaborate set of rituals and a well-beloved set of traditions that are cherished by those aficionados who certainly should not be prevented from living out their favorite game. That's the thing about golf -- one does not merely play it; one lives it to the max.
Our own golf course, the Mif Albright, has attracted national attention for all the commotion it has caused. At first, about two years ago, the course was endangered in that it earned too much money by way of greens fees, which apparently is against some kind of traditional golf statute. The resolution was, at that time, to privatize the municipally-owned and operated course.
Then the Recession hit and many folks found better things to do with their money -- if they still had any -- than spending it on wacking little balls around a manicured lawn. The course started to lose money, which of course is not a good thing at all for a City in financial trouble. So the solution was to privatize the course.
It's all so simple. The two solutions to all the problems in the world come down to Free Market and Downsizing. The Free Market always will Downsize because that's good for the Bottom Line.
You don't need Maynard Keynes to figure out the basis for all of this. Somebody around here wants that course for their very own and they plan to chop the number of holes and a number of other things besides. Remove a few holes to save maintenance costs? Hell no! Where those holes used to be will make quite a fine real estate development for a condo project.
Oh. Now I see.
Except the People (remember "We the People"?) do not want to downsize the Albright Course. They do not want to privatize. They want to play golf as they always have and they have a better solution. If the issue is costs and keeping the beloved course, just assign a nonprofit to handle the job. There, all problems resolved. In fact the Island Junior Golf Club is poised right now to leap in like proverbial Superman to save the day.
This actually makes a lot of sense, as this resolution unloads Silly Hall with what they say is an albatross around their necks, it keeps the ownership and operation local, and it keeps the course essentially unchanged when there is no pressing need for it to change. The Silly Council will consider the issue this Tuesday and it will be very very interesting to see how this comes out. The mayor's seat is up for grabs next election is it not?
Those fellows working on train tracks on the other side of the Fruitvale bridge are not preparing to reactivate the bridge for train passage any time soon. No, they are fixing up a spur line so as to shunt freight traffic during the Caltrans retrofitting of the Nimitz Fifth Avenue overcrossing. This work requires Union Pacific to abandon the current track, the "Hanlon Lead", which runs along the Embarcadero. The net effect of this retrofitting work and the rerouting to the Glasscock spur means that very long freights will be passing on this track which runs along Fruitvale Avenue to Lancaster Street and onto Glasscock Avenue to 23rd Street at the foot of the Park Street bridge.
REMEMBER O THOU MAN
It's been a stormy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. One of the few words we have handed down from the First Peoples of the Bay Area is their word for fog -- Pogonip. They knew all about it. For when that great wall comes in, that means the seasons are about to change in their long-held inscrutable ways.
On the porch of Marlene and Andre's household, Snuffles Johnson pulls his ragged blanket closer around his shoulders, glad enough that he had the porch overhang to shield him from the rain. With the Great Recession in full fury across the land, the members of the little household there all knew about loss and suffering for each had seen his and her share of troubles in this time. So they all let the tramp stay there as a sort of adornment of sorts, for kindness is a strange brooch in this all hating world, as King Richard once said.
These days Pedro Almeida needed to go out the Golden Gate each morning before dawn, piloting by the instruments through the thick wrap. Ever since the Costco Busan had spoiled the Bay with tons of fuel oil, the herring catch had vanished, so all the privateers had to make their way out beyond the Gate to the Pacific shelf for whatever still swam or scuttled for the taking.
The life of a private fisherman is a hard one by any standard and Pedro hoped that with a little put by the kids would not have to work like this in all kinds of weather, counting on luck and a St. Christopher around his neck to come home each day. Still, they say the man called Jesus was a sailor who spent a long time watching from his lonely wooden tower. Until only drowning men could see him. Or was that how the song went? Pedro went about his business on the boat, El Borracho Perdido with the black lab named Tugboat paddling after him. And so the two of them puttered off into the fog.
Over at the Island Offices the Editor has been trying to get Javier back on the art gallery beat. Javier, stooping about in gauze bandages and mildly doped on Vicodin merely groaned. Javier, Martini and Festus (the messenger hamster) had all been severely scalded during a disastrous incident at the House last week.
"Come one now, Javier!" said the Editor. "Its not really Spring yet, so there's no real danger and nobody will recognize you and besides," he added. "You might work the sympathy angle for some juicy info!"
Festus snickered in what seemed to be a sardonic and disbelieving manner.
"As you, dear rodent," soon as the ice melts its up to the Great White North for you!"
The Editor still had not given up his pipedream of brokering a sister city status with the Mayor of Lake Wobegon and his methodology of communication scarcely made the enterprise any more realistic. He did know that Spring is Nature's most dangerous Season, however the rime was still on the shore for now. As for the dangers of Spring, especially for boys like Javier, more on that next week after the snows have had a chance to soften.
"Listen, I can hardly put you on the ambulance chasing / house fire beat looking like that, now can I?" The Editor gestured at Javier's swaddles.
The eyes in the swaddle rolled back and another groan emitted.
The trapdoor popped open at that moment and a terrible reek arose from the chasm revealed amid ghostly vapors. The tousled head of Chad, erstwhile mad scientist and HTML coder popped up. "Hey boss! Got some great effects I wanna show ya!"
Chad was waving a vial of some greasy yellowish liquid that sloshed sluggishly inside the container. A copyboy rushing past caused him to clasp the vial to his chest and shout at the retreating back of the copyboy, "Idiot! Be careful!"
"What the hell is that in your hands?" asked the Editor.
"Oh this? Do we have a blast-proof bunker lined with reinforced concrete around here?"
"Now Chad . . .", began the Editor.
Meanwhile over at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie was locking up for the night. It being still mid-season, and the Great Recession, there were few tourists tonight, making for a thin wallet of tips and a narrow margin for the bar. And come Monday, tomorrow, the rent was due all around. Suzie put her head down on her crossed arms on the table. Dawn sat there running over the receipts and Padraic came out to say he was closing up the kitchen. "Want anything?" he said.
"Toasted, all in," said Dawn. "And you me dear?" she addressed Suzie, who just shook her head.
"Well its how a girl keeps her figure," Dawn commented. "But do let us know if you be wantin' anything."
She propped her chin on her fists, an oval face perched on a column of knuckles like a museum exhibit. Earlier a man had been posting For Sale notes on the corkboard among the tax services and the rental notices. Turned out he was selling everything he had and moving to Houston in Texas. He was not from Houston or even from Texas -- he originally came from Minot, North Dakota, but Texas is where all the money is right now, or so it seemed to the man. And nobody in their right mind ever returned to North Dakota, let alone a place as godforsaken as Minot.
He fell into talking with a man who hailed from Caldwell, Nebraska and a lady from Nis, which is in present day Croatia.
"Actually I am from a town west of Nis, but that town does not exist anymore," the lady said. The last time she had visited back there all the streets and houses had been bombed out and no one lived there any more. She was interested in the man going to Texas because she was thinking about investing in a property development there. She had come a long way from a Croatian waif to someone of means in America.
The man from Caldwell was interested in buying the Fender guitar and amp being sold. It was a tube amp and the guitar was made in the USA. The man selling his stuff had been an investment banker in Babylon before the Crash. Now he had nothing except his toys, which meant little to him anymore. He sold the guitar and amp for five hundred dollars and seemed glad to get it.
As for the man from Caldwell, he and his family had been paid by the government to leave their town and never come back. The local mining concern had tunneled right underneath Main Street such that now all the houses and streets were falling into the Pit. It was a kind of ironic Town Going to Hell situation, the man said. So he and the townspeople took the money, which was not much, and left. He thinks they put a fence around the town so nobody could get in, but he couldn't be sure about that.
The two of them, the man from Caldwell and the man from Minot left together to finalize their deal. Later on the man from Caldwell returned with a troubled look and ordered a Fat Tire and a shot. The trouble was not the guitar or the amp, both in hardly played pristine condition despite being well over thirty years old. No, that was not the trouble.
"His flat," said the man from Caldwell, "Is one of those chic places down by the water. You know: outdoor hottub, gated parking garage, elevators, landscaping. The whole bit. But his place looked like a tornado had hit. Stuff everywhere on the floor, like the aftermath of some disaster. It was . . .", he hesitated, searching for words. "It was like the wreckage of an entire life. I paid him the money, took the stuff and left. Now I need a drink."
That had been hours ago, but Suzie still dwelled upon these things. 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.
Padraic brought in Dawn's sandwich then went back to turn out the lights there.
The long howl of the throughpassing train ululated across the storied waters of the estuary from Oaktown to the Island as the engine wended its way from the brightly lit gantries of the Port through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront, heading off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 21, 2010
IN THE GREEN FUSE DRIVES THE FLOWER
This week we return to Javier's garden to see what might be going on down there. Looks like something is happening. While the guys up around Bear Lake are all making bets on when the old Monte Carlo dragged out onto the ice breaks through and Washington DC digs out from its own "Snowmageddon" and ski parties are still trundling up to Tahoe for downhill and crosscountry activities, strange and wonderful things are happening beneath the snowcrust my friends. As our favorite blues singer says, "Like a boulder rolling slow or the seed beneath the snow, it has a way of slow surprises all its own."
AND THE DEVIL LAUGHED WITH DELIGHT
Was disappointed during a visit to a local shoeshop to find the only pair of dress boots for sale there were made in China. Had a look and tried them on anyway. The shoes were made in China of what is called in the trade "patch leather", which is the lowest quality of leather stitched from discarded pieces on the shop floor. Also this particular style, according to the salesman, normally left about two inches of empty space in front of the forward toes, making a size 10 look like a size 12. The salesman also informed me that he knew of no current shoemaker who now made variable widths, which we used to understand as sizes E, double E, or EEE (among other things) and that all shoes now came from China. He said the problem is that people want to buy things at the best possible price.
Needless to say, we departed without buying the gunboats that the fellow wanted to install on our feet. But then we tend to walk by those $18 "deals" at Kragen's for the 184 piece Chinese toolset, knowing that the potmetal used to make that junk would do disservice to a child melting them down for use as tin soldiers as even then they would break before a single use.
Apropo this topic we have this little gem from Chad and performed by The Capitol Steps.
Here is an expression you can use the next time you are in Chinatown: "Zhong-guó huò-wù (or zhì pin) goushi (or wúyì in front of delicate company)". That's Mandarin for "Chinese manufactured goods are dogshit."
There's a new smell in town and its called Initiative Signature Gathering. The following items are recent additions to the menu in front of the Post Office and the grocery: revisions to the Redistricting Initiative already passed a couple elections ago, the move to create a Constitutional Congress so as to revamp the state constitution, an initiative to demand that both parties allow independents to vote during Primaries, and, of course, a new edition of the SunCal plan. Expect more on the way.
Keep your heads up folks, as the signature gatherers are NOT being forthcoming about these items, and appear to be largely uninformed as to the really meaning of any of the issues. The initiatives might be good, might be bad, but you need to check your facts before signing anything.
Redistricting is already in progress with the committee members being solicited for resumes. This thing is in the works already, so investigate just who is wanting to shunt the course and why.
HEY BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME?
It's been a cloudy, overcast week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Over in Babylon, they seem to have all gone under cover with the weather threatening as it is, and little of note has happened there by rumor and report. The artists are all fleeing in caravans and wagons from the high price of rent and Yoshi's West has been offering tickets at $0 to next to nothing just to fill the hall with warm bodies.
Sad to say "I told you so," but you really should not have evicted those 5,000 musicians from SOMA during your pang of pure greed a few years ago. Last we heard, that warehouse is still vacant.
A one bedroom is really worth about $800 in this area and that is the truth, for if you can't get by on that something is seriously wrong with you. All else is overcharge and usury.
The issue this week is shorter than usual due to the consequences of an unfortunate accident in the Offices. During the nightly dinner production at Marlene and Andre's, Marlene had to to los necessitas and so put Javier in charge of the stove for the time being. Javier, seeing the splatter of the red sauce and the rising of the noodle water coming to boil clapped lids on both pots without thinking to turn down the heat. He cranked down those lids quite nice and tight.
Unfortunately for all concerned, the pots employed were defective steam pressure kettles with faulty seals. Heck, in hard times, one gets what one can to get the job done. Marlene had never intended for the lids to be actually used. As Marlene returned from the toilet, both kettles blew their seals with tremendous BOOM!, sending Wickiwup and Bonkers to the safety of the far corners of the place while jetting a scalding flood of sauce and water onto Javier and Martini who -- naturally enough -- howled in pain.
Martini was hustled into the cold shower while Javier was pitched headfirst into the Bay down on the Strand where the sand and salt water did a lot to his severe third degree burns.
Even Festus, the messenger hamster who had been bench pressing piles of nutshells all winter in preparation for his spring foray up to Lake Woebegon did not escape unscathed for a plop of bubbling water landed square on the rodent's back, causing the most extreme agony and loss of fur. Festus was dropped unceremoniously into the sink under a cascade of cold water. "Haaaaay!"
A lot of chaos, more than usually random chaos, ensued that night and the next as the victims were bound up, salved and gauzed into immobility. Mobility is a bad thing for anybody who has gotten burned, as those who have experienced will attest. You do not want to move. Needs being dire, when supplies were required, Jose and Andre simply looked for open windows and opportunities to crawl in and scavange medicine cabinets of unwitting donors. Heck, this is America pre-healthcare reform. People who want medicine pay for it. People who need medicine, steal it. Its all the morality the Republican Party wants.
As for mobility, Festus, weighing about a pound at the most, was easy to handle. The others, being full-sized human beings, were more difficult to address.
Hydrogel, cloth tape, Sulfadiazide, gauze pads, illicit painkillers, and saline solution cluttered the place like Tolkein's Houses of the Healing. Except it was Marlene and Andre's household, where things always manage to tilt just enough left of center to keep balance. If Tolkein had live long enough, his hobbits would have sported mohawks, tattoos and piercings and Iggy Pop would have carried the Ring.
You cannot imagine Iggy as an Elf and certainly not as a Dwarve. Iggy Pop as hobbit. Because we love Iggy.
In any case, with a couple of staffers out of commission, this week's issue needed to rest a bit. There is a wonderful documentary featuring Kenneth Branagh speaking lines quoted from Joseph Goebbels that is more scary than any flying skull monster movie with globs and aliens ever made, but we will have to get into that a bit later.
A long delayed dockwalloper finally set in to drench the place and prepare for crossing the Sierra to make the Easterners a bit more miserable. This one will not be as severe as "Snowmageddon" but you all may recall that little Philly, PA rodent did observe his shadow when hauled out of his burrow a while ago.
Festus had sent a message to Phil, saying "Stay in your goddamn hole, ya moron!" but the message was not heeded.
Down at the Old Same Place Bar the regulars huddled there along the rail or at the tables, each according to their wont. Everyone was sitting there, with the smells of the heavy rain coming through the sometimes opened door and drips on the stones and a bit of chill, but also a sense of something about to happen. In the darkness of the window-well, Dawn's potted freesia had developed buds all arrayed along a mini-lightpost of purest green, the yellow lamps barely peaking out of there. Yes, something great was about to happen and they all sat there patiently, waiting for what was surely to come. Not disaster nor earthquake nor political winds, but something far more reassuring and far more natural.
Just then, each sitting over his or her hot toddy or beer, nodding with sleepiness after the long weekend, the long wail of the throughpassing train came ululating across the commotion of the estuary water changing tides from the port of Oaktown as its wound its way past the dripping and dank shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront as the engine headed off to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 14, 2010
THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'
Headline photo this week comes from the patch of sod out by the Old Fence. Seems the seasons have plans to do their annual thing this year, right on time. For those of you still digging out from the misplaced Minnesotta blizzard that decided to head south and east, hang in their. Slow surprises are getting ready beneath the snow.
RADICAL BOTANICAL OPENS AT SLATE
The talented and intelligent Danielle Fox lets us know that Slate Art and Design gallery will be hosting a timely opening in keeping with the seasonal adjustments anticipated with an art exhibition titled: Radical Botanical: Contemporary Botanical Photography.
SLATE is celebrating spring with an exhibition of contemporary botanical photography by four Bay Area artists. The show celebrates the exquisite designs that nature offers us, grappling with art’s capacity to represent it, while also reflecting on the fleeting nature of perfection and beauty, an age-old metaphor for our own mortality. At once beautiful and dark, the exhibition also makes clear what is at stake when man’s drive for technological, urban, and economic development threatens nature’s delicate balance.
WHERE: SLATE art & design gallery 4770 Telegraph Ave, Temescal, Oakland CA 94610 (510) 652-4085 www.slateartanddesign.com
WHEN: Opening Friday March 5, 6–9pm, free and open to the public. Show runs through Saturday April 3. Regular gallery open hours are Thur–Sat 12–5pm.
WHO: Artists: Hiroko To (Oakland & Japan), Hagit Cohen (Berkeley), Michele Hofherr (Piedmont), and Chi Fang (San Francisco). Curated by gallery director Danielle Fox.
Hiroko To’s work is probably the most formal of the four artists shown. Her interest is largely about surface, composition, and color, and what happens when real forms are translated to an artistic medium. While all four photographers play with the contrast between passages that are in and out of focus, it is the space between these that comes forward in Hiroko’s work, creating unusual and subtle textures that read more like an abstract painting than a photograph.
Michele Hofherr’s work is as often about the negative space that surrounds the subject, as the subject itself. Much as a sculptor can shape something as elusive as space and air by introducing a physical shape into it, so Michele articulates the edge of the flower as it meets the dark–and somehow solid–void around it. The black backgrounds also refer to the dark spaces holding brightly lit flowers in Dutch still-life painting of the 17th century, a time when paintings of flowers were honored as reminders of the fragile nature of our own lives.
Chi Fang’s work, by contrast, is all about delicacy and light, articulating how miraculously exquisite and fresh nature’s forms can be. Yet the fact that two of them were photographed at the conservatory of flowers, reminds us of the unfortunate need to conserve nature and its forms.
Hagit Cohen hand-makes her quotidian flower chains before floating them in East Bay creeks, giving her photographs a ritualistic and performative aspect. This practice brings home the fragility of nature’s delicate balance in the face of human intervention. And this, of course, rather than the flowers themselves, is the real subject of Hagit’s work.
WE'RE NEVER GONNA SURVIVE UNLESS WE GET A LITTLE CRAZY
From contacts in Der Vaterland, we have news of the annual Karnival festival in Cologne, Germany.
This period of cutting loose is shared across national borders -- we have our own Mardi Gras -- but in Germany, the normally staid Burger lets it all hang out, especially for the parade. Germans will tell you there are two kinds of people that live in the land of bier und Wurst -- Northern Prussians and Southern Bavarians -- before correcting themselves with the addition "Ach ja. Und die Kölnische. Die sind etwas . . . anders." Oh yeah, the people of Cologne. They are a bit different.
Here the current pope shakes hands with the infamous holocaust-denier Bishop Williamson.
The economic crisis due to the credit default-swap debacle is world-wide. Here we see a taxpayer taking a hit of bad credit from the mouth of a bank.
More economic woes. Angela Merkel and the Finance Minister throw lifelines to banks and Opel.
Obama's troubles are depicted fairly graphically in several floats in which he is generally seen as trying to rescue a bad situation. Here he is propping up the Statue of Liberty.
This is pretty much the American situation as seen by Europeans. They are not overly optimistic.
HOME, HOME IS WHERE I WANNA BE
All the local papers are reporting on the bath SunCal took at the polls with 85% of the turnout trashing the misguided initiative. SunCal is already devising a new initiative but the letters to the editor and much of City Hall's recent actions indicate that the going is likely to get tougher for this gang which does not seem to have much of a clue as to how things operate here. The additional news is that this special election, featuring just one item, cost $300,000 to the City, and this bit of trivia really has folks steamed.
It is inexplicable why SunCal tried to do an endrun around the already decided upon plan to develop the Point, and then did it in such an hamhanded way, but folks are not smiling anymore about the issue. In an effort to forestall yet another bit of foolishness, City Hall has sent a default notice to SunCal, giving it just 30 days to come up with a plan that fits within Measure A's limits. Measure A was pushed through in the 70's to shunt aside a massive development project for the East End that would have added some 70,000 living spaces there -- a bit of an extreme, one has to admit as the total population of the Island is just that much to begin with.
Giving more signs that SunCal wants all of the pie with toppings or none of it, reps have challenged the default notice requiring the new plan meet Measure A, effectively stating they want to build up and they want to build high and they want to do it their way or not at all.
Jeez, just try and be good neighbors, people.
The election scheduled for June 8 will also likely hold measures to raise money via parcel taxes to keep all of the schools open. The District may close Encinal High if the measures do not pass.
PSA - KALIFORNIA, UEBER ALLES
Its no secret that Officer O'Madhauen has always performed traffic enforcement here on the Island with idiosyncratic zeal, however the situation here and in other local municipalities has worsened severely as the Great Recession drags on and local budgets cry out for more lucre. The word is out to the Departments in all cities: Officers, go get the money.
We have stories of truely absurd tickets being issued right and left for things like crooked license plates and red light running when the victim clearly was entering on the yellow. We even have a report of someone who was issued a ticket for STOPPING at the yellow, which does create a sort of can't win no matter what situation. Another person was issued a parking ticket in the Fruitvale district for exceeding the one hour time limit -- trouble was, the man had been there only five minutes on a return visit from earlier in the day. In a truly devious move, Oakland is leaving broken parking meters out there while still enforcing the Expired message, claiming the driver is still liable even if the meter is inoperable.
With everyone hurting during this time, not just the municipalities, it hardly makes sense to put the screws to unfortunate citizens, but that is just what the different city Departments are doing. And in preparation for this heightened revenue-gathering, all of the fines have been increased and fixit tickets now must be paid a "handling fee".
As a consequence, many of us are parking the car to use mass transit, walk or bike to get around so as to reduce "exposure." Clearly, if revenue tickets will be written no matter what you do or not do in a car, best thing is just avoid driving entirely for now. Heck, its good for your health and better for the planet.
KQED PRESS RELEASE
Friday's wire brought news from KQED, the local public radio station affiliated with NPR. Friday the Board of Directors of Northern California Public Broadcasting, KQED's parent company, announced the selection of a new president and chief executive officer.
"Please join us in welcoming back John L. Boland, who served in several executive roles at KQED for more than a decade before joining the Public Broadcasting Service as its very first chief content officer. Boland succeeds Jeff Clarke, who is retiring after nearly 45 years in public media and broadcast journalism. Clarke's leadership and vision over the past eight years will be missed as he joins his family in Texas."
PHEDRA AT ACT
Neoclassical theatre arose in continental Europe in response to Louis XIV's taste in theatre, which had up to his time suffered a sad decline in quality. Shakespeare was no longer performed, but instead the public was catered to with course comedies that featured exaggerated codpieces as main props, juggling, dancing bears and circus acts. Henri II had banned the Church morality plays -- due probably to the violent religious warfare that had been plagueing France. His marriage to one of the Medicis opened the door for theatre, which entered France via the farcical Commédia dell'Arte.
The acts were generally adult-themed and most of the actors supplemented their income by way of thievery, prostitution, fixed gambling and drugs. The Sun King, of course, wished for finer sorts of entertainment, hence the birth of neo-classicism dramas that sought to purge everything unsavory from the stage and render all action by way of verse so as to present things appropriate for the Court and Palace. As offending a King like Looey could have potentially fatal consequences, these dramas typically banned all physical action of every kind and pulled storylines from the safest material possible -- the ancient Greek myths and legends.
For a time, gone were the swordfights, the duels, the intemperate language of Macbeth and the unruly passions of Faustus. No more tragedies of fallen kings, not for Louis, who was actively engaged in putting all of the regional aristocracy under his firm control by means of Versailles, which became a sort of compulsory Summer Camp for nobles.
At Versailles, keeping those nobles in check involved entertainments, so dramas were encouraged, and that nasty bit of ugly and debased dance known as "ballet" got a good scrubbing and proper wardrobe. Music got a shot in the arm as did perspective painting, but as for drama, our main man and subject of endless Monty Python ridicule, Cardinal Richelieu, was appointed official approver (and censor) of the stage.
The unfortunate result for theatre was the production of plays which are substantially unplayable in the modern age. At least if one stays true to the original aesthetic. Into this period of staid, dessicated drama waltzed dear Racine, whose personal life was everything this form of theatre was not. He drank, he womanized, he probably murdered at least one mistress and he made the Mozart depicted by Tom Hanks look like a choirboy. Yep, he was one heck of a badboy.
But rules are rules and the King would have decorum on the stage. Hence, we have Phedra, a sort of Oedipus in minor key. Racine's resolution to the dreadfully dull genre limits was to inject costume and stage sets while exhalting virtually every aspect that could be presented into gargantuan forms. One does not just weep in Racine, one's heart tears open and the heavens rend themselves into gigantic bits, cliffs fall into the sea (discretely off stage) and chariots plunge into the foam with sweeping passions.
Of the three giants of the time, including Moliere and Pierre Corneille, Racine was ironically the best at toeing the official line of the government, while the other two are most known for being successful at breaking the rules. And being better for it.
Why ACT would choose to put on Phedre is a bit of a mystery. It may be that in searching to pad its older subscriber base with thisheavily Jansenist, portentious and bottom-heavy play ACT wants to gather in all the folks who see going to the theatre as a serious obligation freighted with tremendous seriousness about serious things. As one reviewer commented "Classical theater is tough on many levels. It's tough on actors, who have to allude and emote using words that are often much more heady and complicated than they're used to; and it's tough on audiences, who need to bone up on their mythology and history and get in the right frame of mind to experience a piece of theater that is often more of a museum piece." (sfist.com)
True enough for the critics who don't want to be seen as poo-pooing some drama of serious significance. Racine is still performed in Europe, but seldom in the US, largely because Racine's sensibility is uniquely European. But still, we really do not need to have a local reperatory company employing its resources to revive what cannot succeed as living breathing theatre even if translated from French well, acted well, staged well, and packaged well. As Seana McKenna astutely asked during early rehearsals for the Canadian production, "I'm curious to know where we are in this play. Our characters pray to Greek gods, but we're wearing 17th-century French costumes while speaking the text in a modern translation underscored with music by an experimental American composer."
The one thing allowed and exhalted by intention of the author is grand passion and this one thing is supposed to carry the audience through the unbroken hour and forty-five minutes to the end.
Unfortunately, without that element, the play is interminably dull.
Neo-classicism ended in France ironically as playwrights sought to liven things up with contemporary political commentary just as France moved toward a strictly conservative period which put the kibosh pretty much on all theatre during a particularly joyless era that would end quite abruptly with the invention of a new and more humane execution device by Dr. Guillotine.
Predictably, the stodgy English then took it up briefly as a consequence of their own religious squabbles, boring Londoners for nearly half a century when it yielded in the 1800's to Realism.
After the most recent cloudburst here the skies remained heavy and dark, like the roiling clouds above Mordor. The fogs have come creeping in to indicate the change of seasons. We expect another bust of bad weather further to the East, but not as bad as what has gone before.
A dockwalloper is slated to pound in here about the weekend.
The recent days have featured the signatory tipoff that the seasons are about to change in that the tule fogs have hung about the Bay cutting visibility to about the length of a car wreck.
The dreaded V-day arrived on Sunday, and its observance was marked by each according to their wonts. Mr. and Mrs. Almeida went off to Kincaids for the steak and lobster dinner there after shipping off the kids to the Abodanza family for popcorn, pajama parties and Willy Wonka's peculiar cruelties. The lights in the house went dark rather quickly and it did not appear that Pedro Almeida would be setting sail on President's Day this year to go fishing. Some other kind of fishing was going on at the Almeida household.
The Editor holed up in his glassed cubicle with the blinds drawn and three days worth of Weight Watcher meals in the fridge along with a stack of DVD's from Blockbuster, including Jessica Lynch's "Surveillance", and "Repo Man". The Editor is a classicist.
Javier got intensely drunk and remained that way for a solid three day bender.
Denby secured himself with his Tacoma D-9 in his apartment to run through the Tom Waits canon, especially his "Blue Valentines" which began to drive his cat to howl and his upstairs neighbor thoroughly mad until he shifted into Richard Shindell's Halloween song about the breakup from hell. A fifth of Jack Daniels helped this process along immensely. His upstairs neighbor, a person who actually knows something about music, put on a record of salsa music.
Suan pulled a double shift at the Crazy Horse, for V-Day is primetime for a gentlemen's establishment, for all the expectations engendered and seldom fulfilled. Except precisely at such an venue as the Crazy Horse, where all needs are fulfilled, regardless. So long as you got the money. Suan did the Pole and even the private room lapdance thing, for it was expected that Mr. Howitzer would be boosting the rent once again, right on clockwork, in complete disregard of the current Great Recession. Her return to the house that night was one of one tuckered worker straight from the front lines of gainful employment, feeling tired, sore, filthy and worn out. Suan, the girl who served up all the fantasies and services of Eros at the Crazy Horse got no Valentine that night except for a card from Tipitina, who appreciated her contribution to the house rent. It was a gray cardboard card cut from a shirt stiffener with a crayon heart and the words, "We love U" and the signatures of all the house folks in the household maintained by Marlene and Andre. She propped up that card at the head of her sofa and fell immediately asleep. For sweet sleep is the great gift to those who labor.
After Andre's band, No Future in Real Estate, finished their practice that ended with a rousing and exhilerating version of "Lets Lynch the Landlord!" Andre and Marlene went to bed and made violent love that forced the pigeons in the attic and the raccoons hibernating under the ruined porch to flee in all directions. Sometime around midnight, a little bit afterwards, Marlene looked up at the ceiling and said, "I think something happened."
Martini, Pahrump, Jose, and Occasional Quentin all went down to the Strand with a box of wine got with the proceeds of Martini's temp job blowing leaves. Martini, Pahrump and Jose had fortified themselves with pint bottles of Old Crow previously, as 5 liters of wine clearly will not go far enough to sate the appetites of four hearty Californians. A car of valleygirls disgorged its contents who giggled and cooed on the beach before scampering back to the safety of lights and rum bars.
Jose commented, "They aint gonna have nothing to do with the likes of us."
"Old Indian saying. No money, no honey." Pahrump said. This was something he had said before. Its universal truth was undeniable.
Martini, who had a girl in the War, remained silent. His situation was a little different from the others. An offensive was on and his girl, Amanda, had signed up with the Marines when such a thing seemed a sensible act to do. Now an offensive was on and all communications shut down from that sector. In classic military pattern, Martini's position was that of hurry up and wait. For whatever news may come until the offensive was over with whatever results this action may bring. And so that was Martini's V-Day.
Further down along the Strand, near Crab Cove and the little lagoon there Rolph, who had no personal association with V-day because of his upbringing in East Germany before the Wall came down, was walking Bonkers and Wickiwup for their constitutionals after dinner when he came across a man sitting in a wheelchair looking out across the water. Rolph, as bouncer and gofer at the Centerfolds Club in Babylon was beat after a long shift working the same kind of clientel Suan had serviced in various forms.
It surprised him that anyone would be there at that hour and so of course he broke into the man's reverie with an inquiry.
"Are you alright?"
The man sat there with a knapsack in his lap, heavy with contents by the looks of it.
"I am fine." The man said. But the look of him said otherwise. The light of life had gone from his eyes.
Rolph, no stranger to extremes, sat down on the far corner of the bench there. "My name is Rolf," he said. "I come from far away."
"I am Adam," said the figure in the wheelchair. "I went to school at Polytech in the City. I have lived here my entire life."
"I see. That must be a grand thing. I do not have a hometown myself exactly."
"I used to run and jump. Just like you. Then I went to the Wars and so now you see me as I am. I wasn't always like this."
"As for running and jumping I think I am getting too old for that," Rolf said. "Heya!" And he threw a stick far out so that Wickiwup and Bonkers both ran after it, running and jumping. Bonkers returned, offering his offering first to the man there, who grasped the stick to throw it out again so that Wickiwup could bring it back for yet more repetition.
Repetitions are characteristic of the postmodern condition, let us dutifully note. Everything is postmodernism now, you know. Bonkers woofed. Bonkers had not a goddamn care for any sort of ism. A cereal box contained all the truth Bonkers needed. But Bonkers was Bonkers.
Rolf and the stranger in the wheelchair threw the stick alternatively out to the Strand where either Bonkers or Wickiwup would gamefully fetch it back. Eventually the heavy knapsack travelled from the stranger's lap to the side of his wheelchair. But there is nothing like good healthy dogs to restore the heart in a man's chest.
"How is it you have no hometown? Where is your family? Where did you grow up?" Asked the man.
"My family is all gone," said Rolph. "As for growing up, if there ever was such a thing, I passed that time in the cities of man. And one city is pretty much like another. We escaped the Iron Curtain, only to find that there was no difference. Then everyone died along the way."
"If I could simply go away, I would do so. This place is become hell." The man said. "And everyplace is just the same." He paused. "Sorry to hear about your people. It must be terrible."
The two spent a few moments throwing the stick.
"Es ist einfach so." said Rolf. "Nothing to do about it. Bad things happen and you must go on. No choice in the matter. Ja?"
"Ja, Ja, Ja." said the man. "And all the Jews march off to the gas chambers and nothing changes. Everything just gets worse."
"About the Jews, that was before I was born and I would have done something against all that. Certainly not much changes but we have no more Auschwitz. And I myself am barely holding on here." Rolf's exhaustion flooded through his body.
"What can you do? You are nothing. Nothing at all. And me. Nothing at all. We are meaningless and stupid."
"That is true." Rolf said sadly. "We are nothing. And we have no choice. Except to live. Not for ourselves, you see, because that is clearly stupid. For other people."
"What do you mean?" said the man.
Choosing his words carefully, Rolf said, "Is there anyone, anyone at all who might say, 'I did not see him today. Wonder where he has gone.'"
The man looked at him. "You know don't you. You know, you bastard."
"Give me the sack," said Rolf.
"You fucker." said Adam. But the light had returned to the man's eyes.
"I have been here before," said Rolf. "Please give me the sack. For my mother's sake. She killed herself on the Spee Bridge. In front of me. Give me the sack."
"I see," said Adam. And he handed the sack to Rolf who marched stiff-legged to the pond. The sack weighed about three and one half pounds but he did not open it before he hurled it far out into the middle of the water and returned to the bench.
"I used to be a whole man," sobbed Adam. "I could run and jump and do anything. Before the Wars."
"I know," said Rolf. "Me too. Me too. Then everything changed. Because of a little explosion. No reason to add even more complexity." Bonkers and Wickiwup returned to nestle at their feet. "It will be good to see the sun rise tomorrow," said Rolf. "Good dog!" And he patted their heads.
"Yes," said Adam. "The sun most certainly will rise again. Whether we want it to or not."
From far across the way, the long ululation of the throughpassing train wavered across the Island to that solitary spot as the locomotive wound its way from the Port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
FEBRUARY 7, 2010
NO MEANS NO -- EXCEPT SOMETIMES
The piece about the popes a few weeks ago brought in some commentary. Here is photo of a product devised by one successful entrepreneur. The product is called the "I said No Condom", and seems to be selling rather well.
This week we present a talk by Naomi Wolf , author of "The End of America: Letter of Warning To A Young Patriot" given October 11, 2007 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus.
MEASURE B DOWN IN FLAMES
Once again Staff volunteered at the polls for an election, this one the Special Election instigated by SunCal's attempt to flagrantly hijack plans for the Point.
Nearly 85 percent of them said "no" Tuesday to what SunCal Companies suggested as the future of the former base.
SunCal proposed to build about 4,500 new housing units and 3,182,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a new ferry terminal, library and school at the site. The developer's plan also called for 150 acres of open space but also limited its own dollar amount to amenities like the proposed parkland.
Alameda residents overwhelmingly rejected the proposal, which was on the ballot Tuesday as Measure B.
Results show that 11,947 voters rejected the measure. Yes votes totaled 2,120, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
Cost of the election will be about a cool one half a million dollars to the City.
Next up, June 8 Primary elections.
AVATAR - THE MOVIE
Crossing the country one year, an affair that used to happen with distressing regularity by land and road, we happened upon a performance of an outdoor play outside of Bismarck, ND. The play concerned the preparations of Col. Armstrong Custer, who departed on his ill-fated expedition from that city.
The middle of the country is not like you and me -- it is far more uninformed, and sometimes willfully so. That play extolled Custer's merits, turning old "Yellowhair" into an archetypal hero of great courage and integrity. Not all the persuasion in the world could convince anyone there that most of the world justly regards Custer as a murderous madman and dishonest thug who was only shunted from horrific deeds by sheer force of numbers. Instead, the people there insisted they were planning to take their work on the road in a matter of months to none other than San Francisco, and they absolutely refused to believe that they would be laughed off of the stage within days of opening.
Which is pretty much what did happen.
We had Custer and that play much on our minds during our jaunt during the Superbowl to watch the James Cameron movie, Avatar, at the Island Multiplex, where its current popularity is ensuring dual screenings in the recently refurbished theatre.
This is the first time staff have entered the controversial venue, the restoration of which was hotly contested for quite a while, and which has resulted in a basically old-time environment with period ornate architecture dating from the 20's. Its interior fits in with the Island olde tyme atmosphere, but basically, all that blacks out once the film rolls, so not much more needs to be said about it other than we noticed numerous technical glitches on which others have commented. The house lights inexplicably came up midway, the screen was periodically as jumpy as the old-fashioned film reels and so on.
As for Avatar, we would give the 2.5 hour film a thumbs up as a solidly engaging movie which completes all it sets out to do and more. That said, the movie does not try all that hard or aim that high intellectually.
It is true its basically a "Dances with Wolves" with high-tech and seven-foot aliens standing in for the Indians. Old storyline: bad guys get their butts kicked in the shoot-out. As a sci-fi vehicle, its WOW factor does not disappoint, and there is a refreshing sense of wonder that was absent in the final 2 Matrix movies.
That would be all to report except for a couple disturbing comments circulating around the film. One concerns the supposed "anti-military" feel of the movie, and the other is a bit more complex requiring a fairly lengthy answer, and which basically boils down to the overheard comment, "I don't think there really are such evil people in large numbers", essentially referring to the hired mercenary army that is a deadringer for the Blackhawk folks in Iraq, but also a carbon copy of previous entities.
Stephen Lang puts in a fairly solid performance of an ex-Marine who has moved into the private sector as a "security consultant", which pretty much equals the experience of the Blackhawk folks. All of the security personnel seem to stem from the same background, including our main man, played by Sam Worthington. None of the armed forces are presented in any way as current members of the US armed forces, and great pains are taken to illustrate this. The chain of command is limited to the field commander and there it stops, save for a minor role in their employer, represented by Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Pvt Ryan).
The US Marines are generally treated with respect, and at least two characters portray ex-Marines with integrity and honor, so the charge that the movie impugns the Marines in any way is entirely bogus.
And, let us point out, Lang does not portray even a very good commander, because a good commander would never have committed the lives of personnel past the point when casualties started to accrue. Lang's Colonel Miles Quaritch needs to be seen as a bad leader responding emotionally, instead of intelligently.
The second comment requires some attention, for as in any space-opera/space western you are going to have exaggerated presentations of good guys versus bad guys. The problem we have here is that the situation of a people sitting on something desirable only to have a stronger power seize that thing destructively has historically involved just the sort of folks portrayed in the movie Avatar.
One would like to think, we are beyond all that. We have matured ourselves and we no longer do that sort of thing. But history indicates that belief is simply not true. It does keep happening. The great hope is that films like this and District 9 will continue to highlight these situations which unfortunately have become all too typical towards the end of making them atypical.
Towards this end, we are including a chapter from our own in-house Work in Progress. This chapter is a conflation of two real events which took place at Gunther's Island and at Clearlake in the 1850's and is drawn from firsthand reports. It is strong stuff -- some of the lines are pulled verbatim from eyewitness accounts, and it is not something to read any time around dinner. No detail has been invented. Yep, it all happened.
CHAPTER 58 - THE CLEARLAKE MASSACRE
Tiburcio rode up to the place on the Peralta estate where he and Isabelle had settled in a shack beside Temescal Creek and encountered the shock of his life upon coming in the door. Isabelle ran to greet him, exclaiming there was someone there to see him - which was not such a shock in itself. The shock was in seeing his old friend Runakason laid out on a cot, emaciated, bloody and near death.
Tiburcio went to him and in broken whispers Runakason told such a tale as to make the blood of any man who would distinguish himself by the name to run cold as the ice water that skirts the snowfields of the Glacial Divide.
Like many of the former neophytes in the Mission system, he had secured some land after secularization. And just like almost all of these people, he had no way to effectively run the land productively. Their education had usually been religious, barring the exception of the especially driving individual such as Estanislao, and their work had been physical labor. Then came the whites in large numbers and almost all of the native Americans had lost their land to squatters and thieves. One day, Runakason came out to find a prarie schooner parked in the yard and a fellow with a piece of paper which claimed, or so the fellow said, that the property on which Runakason stood had been sold by trustee of the Mission. To him, the holder of the paper. There was nothing for Runakason to do but pack up and leave. This sort of thing happened frequently as the Mission valuables and lands were looted by the secular so-called protectors, leaving the native Americans with nothing after all their years of trouble and service. They were left to shift as best as they could and try to form villages again.
So Runakason crossed over the water to find the old village only to discover that only the two people -- Eneeka and Hayuusa Joe -- were left scrabbling for survival among the ruins. There was no more village and that's when they headed north to where they had heard some people were living.
That's how Runakason had fallen in with the Clearlake Pomo only a few miles north. Those people had lived there for generations, and had managed to get along with the old Californio, Salvador Vallejo, who had set up a small ranch there south of the lake, but two whites had come, one by the name of Andrew Kelsey, the other named Charles Stone. Andrew Kelsey was the brother to the same Sam Kelsey who had been part of Los Osos a few years previously.
As for Stone, Stone was a good name for this man, for that is what the man had in place of a heart and as for a soul, he never had possessed any such article and would have sold it cheap to the Devil if ever he did. The men set up a big cattle ranch and, finding few to man the business, purchased several Pomo as slaves. Finding that insufficient, they went to the villages that ringed all around the lake and seized men to come work for the wage of four cups of wheat per week, and any that refused were tied by the wrists to an oak and flogged solidly until the blood ran down and the last breath ran out. The man would be cut down then and thrown into a ditch that was by the counting house.
The slaves were made to build a grand adobe house, the first of its kind up there, with two floors and many rooms. While this was going on, Stone felt the urges of a man with large appetites and so when he happened to hear of or see a particular woman he would send for her to use to satisfy his desires. One day Stone called to Tsiaiaruka Ka Ruk to send his woman, Da-Pi-Tauno. The man refused, of course, as any man of the name would. Stone sent some men to grab Tsiaiaruka Ka Ruk and hang him by the wrists from the oak next to the adobe. There Stone flogged the man all day and took a rest in the afternoon for some food and a little nap, leaving the man to hang there for hours. He came back and to flog him a couple hours more but by then the man hung there without breathing.
Stone left him hanging there and took the maiden Silent Creek into his place for a time. She was from the eastern shore of Clearlake. One day he came out angry that she had not cooked the meal to his liking and was talking about going back to the eastern shore which he did not like, so he took his pistol and shot her in front of the house. Shot her three or four times and she lay there dying while the people stood around not able to do anything. "Take that you damn Indian, take that!" he said.
After that he would pick and choose any woman he wished, whether married or not, and use them for a little while. If another man had her and refused to send her up to the house, Stone treated him the same way he had treated Tsiaiaruka Ka Ruk.
He was a bad man that Stone, but Kelsey was not much better. He took several men, including QraNas, Bodum, and Juluh, tied them together with thick ropes and drove them like cattle to the Sierra mountains, where he had them dig for gold, where Kelsey got some out of their efforts and brought it back with great pride, but the diggers were called only that and earned nothing for their pains.
The two of them captured people from villages around Clearlake and some they bought as slaves from merchants in that trade. Although Black slavery was forbidden, these two helped keep that institution alive on a technicality for these people were not Black. Runakason knew nothing of technicalities or what, but he did know all of this was not right.
The slaves were put to work finishing the building of that immense adobe house two stories high with winding stairs and a big stone fireplace. They hauled timber, sawed planks, lifted rock and many other things and for all of this each was given nothing, not even food. For food they had to depend on the boiled wheat that was paid to the cattleherdsmen and those men were paid only four cups per week for themselves and their families.
The winter of '49 was hard with snow and ice such that well over twenty men and women died of starvation and the conditions. Chamis, and Vjute, and Saweeka died in this time. Runakason had settled with Eneeka and Hayuusa Joe with a few Pomo in the village called Badonnapoti on Wakkaley Island, called by gringos "Rattlesnake Island". This island lay in the northern part of Clearlake, but a horse could ride through the shallows and get there easily. Kelsey and Stone kept their ranch on the south end, so these people had little to do with the ranch as it was known as a bad place.
One day, as Runakason was out fishing when Ge-We-Lih and MaLaq-Qe-Tou came round saying the people on the ranch had killed the two white men and were now living well on the cattle there. Runakason went to the ranch and found Kelsey's body on the side of the creek where they had left him. He heard from Ragnal all about what had happened. Shuk and Xasis, seeing the people starving, determined to hunt down some beef, kill it and so feed the people, who were forbidden by the whites to hunt or fish. They planned to do this at night so they would not get caught and furthermore they would use ranch horses to hunt and carry back the meat.
Things did not go well as planned for on the night they went for the meat, it started raining and turned the ground all around into a mud slick. While Xasis was lassoing a good sized beeve, the horse Shuk was riding slipped and fell, throwing its rider. Xasis had to let go of the beeve and try to use his riata to recapture the horse, for the horse Shuk had taken belonged to Stone and that horse was Stone's personal favorite. All the other horses lived outside as the Californios had always done with them, but these two came from the barn where the white men doted on them and fed them far better than the people.
Xasis got his horse back to the barn, but he could not catch Stone's horse which joined the wild herd. As for the meat, it all stampeded away when this all started.
There then was a big conference where Xasis and Shuk told the people there what had happened. You must imagine what they were all thinking, for things were bad enough. If anyone admitted what had happened that man would be flogged to death with his wrists tied to a tree branch. If anyone did not admit what happened there would be flogging, death, and trouble for everybody. Someone suggested paying Stone for the loss of his horse, but everybody knew he would take the money - then Stone would kill the man who took it to him.
The committee decided there was nothing they could do, for no matter what they did, things would be very bad for everybody and somebody would die over this whole fiasco of trying to get something to eat. So it was that Shuk and Xasis decided that if anyone would die, it would be Kelsey and Stone. They set out then for the house at daylight. The conference then conferred, seeing that nothing could be done to persuade Shuk and Xasis one way or another, but they did make one request of the house-help there, all of them boys and girls who had been or were being abused by both Kelsey and Stone, and these boys and girls removed all of the guns and knives from the house early that morning.
QraNas and Batus went with the other two, and as these people were not especially fierce and never warlike, when the whites were confronted, there was to be a great fight. In fact, nothing would have happened that morning except for Juluh who had come up with the others just to watch. They all stood around the big kettle used for boiling the wheat until Stone came out and there were Xasis and Shuk having a conversation with the man about food and so on until Juluh lost his temper, seeing that these men did not want to kill anybody, nothwithstanding that this man would soon kill them both for taking the horse.
Juluh grabbed the bow and arrows from Xasis and shot the very surprised Stone in the stomach who swung an iron pot on MaLaq-Qe-Tou, breaking the man's arm and there was a great fight then but Stone managed to fight his way back into the house and lock the door.
So there they all were, knowing that no weapons lay in the house, but not being able to enter. Batus went away with MaLaq-Qe-Tou to bind up his arm away from there. Kelsey came to the door not knowing what had happened, for he looked puzzled at the blood on the doorstep. The white men had commanded such a large house to be built that apparently Stone had gone in to some other place without ever meeting Kelsey or telling him what had happened. As it turned out later, he had gone upstairs to die in his bed.
Kelsey saw the people advancing on him and tried to cajole them, but these people were starving, had just committed violence on his partner and they meant business. QraNas got between him and the door, so Kelsey took off running. There was a running fight from the house to the creek where JuLuh shot him in the back with an arrow, but this failed to stop Kelsey who jumped in and swam to the other shore where Jim Seifis and his wife stood waiting among others. Kelsey begged for his life then, using what words we do not know for he had nothing to offer except the memory of the infrequent act of kindness to this or that person. Jim Seifis said, "Do you remember how you shot down my boy from your horse for the sake of a cup of wheat?" He turned then to his wife, DaPiTauo, and said, "This man killed our son. What do you think?" DaPiTauo took a spear and rammed it then full force into Kelsey's chest so that the heart stopped and the man died by the running creek. They left him there until Runakason found him, partially eaten by coyotes.
Runakason returned to the island and told them all what had happened. Some went to see for themselves and found these things to be true. Everybody on the ranch was quite happy for now they had enough to eat for everybody, but more than a few people felt anxious about what was to happen next for the story quickly traveled to all the villages about Clearlake. Many of the people left the ranch and came to the island village, for they wanted no part of murder, not even of the likes of Stone and Kelsey. Some of the ranch people had lookouts posted on Emmerson Hill and in other places. Runakason conferred with the people on the island and they determined that although they had done nothing wrong and would take no part of this affair, they would send a party to greet the whites when they came so as to explain their innocence and all about the slavery and the impossible conditions. For Stone and Kelsey had set a regional curfew over the entire area beyond the borders of their ranch and would punish any violators from any village with the usual flogging. They had their slaves build high walls around the two biggest villages on the east and west side to help with this.
Bodom and KraoLah had a more personal and pragmatic approach as they found out later, for the two went down to the river and dug out a cave there, which they stocked with provisions before covering it over with reeds and laurel so that it looked like a thicket instead of a hiding place.
The inevitable day came when the lookouts gave notice that the soldiers were coming up the river in many boats and there were armed volunteers among them. When the soldiers got to the ranch, they found it entirely empty of life. All the people had fled into the hills except for Bodom and KraoLah hiding by the river.
The soldiers then got into their boats and rowed up along the west shore. When they landed on the island and the closer shore, the village sent out its little group of emissaries including Runakason, Ga-We-Lih and Mule to parley with the soldiers. Runakason recognized Nathanial Lyon as the young Lieutenant as Ga-We-Lih raised his hands in token surrender and began to speak. For answer, indeed, before the man had finished speaking, the soldiers opened fire hitting Ga-we-lih, the man next to him named Mule, and Runakason, whom they winged in the shoulder. Mule fell to the ground, shot in the chest twice and in the head and so he died right away. The others ran into the water and hid in the tules, and the water soon turned red all around from the wounds of those who had been hit. Others ran back to the village, but the unmistakable boom of cannonfire soon shook the air. The US Army was using cannon against women and children and defenseless men who were only trying desperately to surrender.
Soldiers then stepped forward with bayonets. Runakason slid into the water after the soldiers had passed and there watched what happened and Ragnal was there also a little ways off, but they dared not say a word to one another.
Screams filled the air and the sound of cannon and gunfire ceased. The screaming continued. Through the reeds, Runakason watched as a soldier stabbed Hinke Neppe in the side with his bayonet and then again in the chest. When she fell down he stabbed her again. Just beyond him another soldier stabbed EneeKah, a young woman, who was holding her baby, named Mech, and as she fell, the soldier speared the wailing Mech through the back and went on running with the impaled child just like that. A splash startled Runakason and he though he had been discovered and was about to die, but it was the body of a woman thrown into the water by civilian volunteers who stood on the banks as three other woman stood out up to their waists pleading for mercy. He couldn't see who the woman was, for she floated face down, almost near enough to touch in a cloud of red and brown water. The volunteers shouldered their rifles and shot all three woman down with many bullets.
Other women and some men among them ran into the water and swam out into the lake. If they landed on the near shore, the soldiers there shot them down or stabbed them to death with bayonets. Most of these got away however, for they drifted south to thickets there. One woman, named Ah-See-Nah, running between the center roasting pit and the main hall, was brought down by a volunteer with an ax. He pitched it into her shoulder and stopped her running, then grabbing her hair to throw her down, he drove the ax into the top of her head as she struggled to arise. He then smote the hatchet into her face, three times so that blood and brain spattered all about. White chips of her skull flew out to island on pools of blood and viscous grey and yellow matter on the ground until her flailing arms went still. He then ran off to sink his ax into another woman. Ah-See-Nah had been a woman who always sought to broker the peace among squabbling families, for such is the need on a close place like an island, but she was dead now.
Another soldier came running up with a dead baby speared on his bayonet and he flung the dead child out into the lake. For a long time the killing went on, until the men wore themselves out chasing the people for sport, the soldiers being ordered back into lines while the volunteers continued to hunt down old women and children and stab them to death. Soon, of the village of 400 people there, nothing but soldiers and armed volunteers and a few children inexplicably saved - perhaps by a few volunteers who had sickened of the whole business - remained alive on the island. Everywhere the air stank of death and the water all along the shore was polluted.
The last thing Runakason saw before closing his eyes and keeping them shut while wishing for death was the worst. Worse than all he had just described. Bidameh, a girl of about thirteen of whom Runakason was a bit fond was thrown down on the bank there when a soldier caught her running for the water. The man then unhooked his bayonet from his rifle while standing over her before plunging the knife into her chest. He worked the knife in his fist along her chest for a long six inches, opening her up. Runakason could see the brilliant white of her sternum, almost as one might see a bright orchid amid a nest of red roses arranged by an artist, as the man pulled it free and then cut loose her still beating heart which he held only for a moment before tossing that into the lake, to kill and kill again, leaving the young girl there to stare forever wide eyed at the improbable and open universe framed delicately by buckeye branches twirling their yellow seedpods in a moderate breeze.
Before night fell, the armed forces marched off and the survivors crept back to shiver through the hell-wrought night, although not from cold. To the south they could see fires and by daybreak the smoke of burning villages along the Russian River rose as black pillars. One man told of how the volunteers had siezed a man walking along the path and tied him to a tree. This man was named James Tatou, because he had learned some French from a frigate that had come by there years ago. The volunteers then gathered deadwood about Jim's feet, poured pitch upon it and then set it ablaze. Where the people had once set carefully tended fires to roast acorns and let the pinon nuts fall, these whites were setting fires to kill. And so they burned the man alive.
When Runakason crawled out of the water finally, with Ragnal they found Ga-We-Lih still alive, for he had only been shot in the shoulder but had played dead so they would not finish the job on him. Ragnal was just a boy then, but he helped get Ga-We-Lih back to what remained of the village.
After a while Hayuusa Joe showed up with some of the others who had escaped by swimming over to the shore.
It took them days to gather the bodies together and then they could not treat them properly according to custom, there were so many, so they buried them all together. Runakason's wound got infected and he began to have fevers accompanied by horrible dreams. Again and again he saw the soldier tear the heart out of a still living human girl.
Now, he was in Contra Costa, having gotten there god knows how, grabbing the arm of Tiburcio his eyes big with horror.
"How can these people be? They are savages!"
With that, his old friend lay back on his cot and there he died.
SOME PEOPLE SAY GOD TAKES CARE OF OLD FOLKS AND FOOLS
It's been a stormy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The Special Election came and went pretty much as everyone expected and the rains performed their usual dances to sodden the Southlands and send more misery East. That old Pennsylvania groundhog came out to see his shadow and then scamper on back in side for another three to four weeks of winter. For now we have a few more showers forcast for the upcoming week, which means no good for the rest of you out in the Heartlands. Wouldn't bet on that Monte Carlo falling through the lake ice just yet.
Javier skipped out on covering First Fridays and the Oakland Art Murmur on rumors that the lovely Leslie of San Leandro was out looking for him in advance of that annual debacle of a holiday known as Valentine's Day. Instead of going up to Trestle Glen, he hid out with a bucket of chicken wings and a case of beer in his apartment to watch an old road-movie starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino called Scarecrow.
Leslie found some striking Italian with suave good looks so Javier is off the hook for now.
In any case, the sky boils with Michelangelo clouds, muscular with gods and sungold each day, while in other parts of the country George Winston plays etudes across the sifting snow crystals that sweep over the hummocky drifts.
Over at Marlene and Andre's household the place is packed to the gills with humanity, as the weather enforces all who supposedly live there to actually sleep there physically, for there is no other place to go. Jose forgot to go fetch his load of food from the monthly CFS distribution at the foodbank, so now they are all digging into the freezer for last year's production of fava bean chili. Times are tough and in such times, fava beans are the staple of the survivors. It's Winter and the Great Recession is still in full swing. Everyone is out of work and there is no money for anything. Out back, they've started the crops all around the ironmongery left by Mr. Howitzer but it will be a while before the greens fill out. Sprigs of adolescent bean plants stick up between the garlic shoots promising greater things in a few months.
Night arrives like a tired man returning home to hang up his raincoat by the door, scattering a few drops here and there before turning out the lights. Around the little cottage the swaddled bulks shift and snore in their sleeping bags. Occasional Quentin reposes again under the coffee table while Mancini, Xavier, and Pahrump occupy the floor with Bonkers and Johnny Cash. Suan has the couch again. The hallway bunks are all filled with Marsha, Tipitina, Alexis and Piedro. Jose has the closet and of course, Andre and Marlene use the one bed with Wickiwup.
Martini, who used to work at the NUMMI automobile factory in Fremont, mentions that he got some work this weekend blowing leaves.
That's good, said Xavier. Then everyone is quiet for a while.
Do you think these hard times will ever end, asked Martini.
No, said Pahrump. Get used to it.
Okay, said Martini.
From far across the way the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the waters of the estuary as the engine wended its way past the dark and shuttered storefronts of Jack London waterfront, heading from the Port of Oaktown to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 31, 2010
CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY
This week's somber headline photo is the cover of last week's Der Spiegel, the rough equivalent in Germany to Time/Newsweek. The headline translates roughly to "An Entire Nation Dies".
Long time Islandlifers know that we read the news from around the world in five languages so you don't have to. Our precis of world news was last week.
A couple weeks ago Garrison Keillor brought his roadshow into Babylon's Opera House across the water, but kindly allowed a couple locals to perform there, including Marinite and Bluesbreaker Evin Bishop and our own Islandgirl, Frederika von Stade. The lovely Frederika performed a little song about our Dear Island, with just a bit of tongue in cheek at the time and some enterprising Islandlifer has posted the entire performance (with Chanticleer doing backup vox) on youtube. Heavens, we shall soon get such a head from all the attention!
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Practically the entire world knows that we are holding a special election this Tuesday, an election which features but a single item, and if you do not know what that issue is, you might as well go home to bed right now. Measure B is the SunCal initiative, of course, a rather bitterly contested issue for all of its merits and admittedly bad faith work on the part of SunCal, who didn't help things much by botching the entire process from the gathering of signatures to the miswriting of many parts of the initiative and the misdirection about just what the plan was all about, altering the plan over which hundreds of people had negotiated over the course of fifteen years since the Navy left the old base at the Point.
For the last time -- until the next time -- here are the points of view. Go to the Homes project which is staunchly pro-SunCal to get that point of view in relatively unbiased terms.
For the anti-Initiative view, which trends to be largely anti-SunCal Developer in toto, go to Save our City (SOCA) Notable names here feature Pat Payne and Pat Bail, both of whom have run for mayor here as Independents.
We are split down the middle in the offices, with some of us seeing the SunCal project the only hope of building affordable housing out there, and some of us just disgusted with all that SunCal is about.
One does need to know that whenever Developers are concerned, there is bottom feeder dreck and scum attached -- always was and always will be -- so no matter what happens, a fair amount of nose-holding will be necessary just keep down one's lunch for all the filth that will arise. Its really a matter of finding the best bad deal and working with that to get at least something for the people out of all the feeding frenzy, so one might as well go with SunCal as with anyone else. Nobody builds parks and "affordable housing" out of pure altruism after all.
After practically all of City Hall turned against the Initiative, which appears to be heading for a flaming defeat, SunCal has already devised another Initiative for the 2012 Election and is in "talks" between its reps and City Hall.
We got more bad news across the wire here, as it appears that the person who drowned recently in the estuary during an as yet unexplained incident was known to one of us here in the Offices. Ryan Divine was found clinging to a post in the estuary January 20th and was extracted from there by Coast Guard who delivered him to the Island Hospital where he unfortunately passed away, apparently due to exposure and hypothermia. He was 24. A young girl in the offices reports that she "grew up with him" and so knew him for many years. We extend our sorrowful regrets to this person and to the family. This makes Ryan the fourth person within our circle to pass away within as many months. A memorial service was held at St. Phillip Neri on the 25th.
Took in Berkeley Rep's production of Coming Home by Athol Fugard thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Incidentally, Island-Life thanks all who contribute tickets towards promoting East Bay Culture and Arts with no thought of self-promotion.
(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Roslyn Ruff
and Kohle Thomas Bolton star
Athol Fugard remains a giant of dramatic literature long after his courageous stand against his country's official position of apart-hate, known as apartheid has been set aside. Besides his stand against an official policy of racial discrimination, his plays have long been studied as prime examples of how theatre can be a vehicle of political and social immanence, fully engaged with social change and active in motivating positive revolution.
His is not the dead and dessicated drama of neo-classicism which is experienced by comfortable people who have just departed a nice dinner in an expensive restaurant to enjoy high tone and "elevated thoughts" devoid of currency, but a real depiction of real people engaging with present issues. This is not Racine, with his ultra-polite descriminations and avoidances of ugliness but Gorki thrust in the face.
The play begins quietly, with a softly spoken monologue by the girl returning to the place of her youth to her child. All of the language is subdued, even the sung parts. By the end of the long first act, however, the language has become raw and shouted and the emotions ragged and enflamed with passions. The young girl who entered with such calm assertion and quiet promise has become a banshee howling "fuck you!" at the one person she must depend upon to save her child.
(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Jaden Malik
Wiggins, Thomas Silcott and Roslyn Ruff star
This is not a comfortable play to sit well with after dinner apertifs, but engaged theatre that grapples with some very serious issues.
It has been the position of the Berkeley Rep in recent years to present theatre that is engaged with social issues, and not be detached or removed, and to Les Waters we must grant a significant amount of credit for this artistic direction.
Post-aparteid South Africa remains a land torn by the issues of its past and the heritage of an unruly present. The AIDS pandemic has been widely reported and the issues come out forcefully during the course of this play. As the principal character lays dying of this plague, from which so many of our best and brightest have died, there is a hope offered in the figure of the young Mannetjie, who remains "after the frost, the one plant still green and living."
It was interesting taking in this play after watching the DVD version of District 9, which was filmed substantially in the Soweto district of Jo'burg in South Africa, and which references a real population displacement effort that took place during the apartheid era.
We suggest going to this kind of theatre, which remains engaged, difficult and provocational over any other which seeks to present distant and detached high-mindedness that is lacking in real attachment to present day concerns.
(l to r) At Berkeley Rep, Lou Ferguson
and Jaden Malik Wiggins
Coming Home - who’s who
WHAT'S GOING ON
The kind folks at Slate inform us that a new exhibit will open in Oaktown's Temescal District February 5th, when there will be wine, sparkling conversation, beautiful people and "Modernism:Expressionism new work by Lisa Barker and Cheryl Rabin."
This show celebrates two artists' passionate engagement with painting as both a formal and expressive medium.
Lisa Barker's abstract paintings are inspired by northern California landscapes. Barker loves to travel and explore what she calls "special places," returning to the studio to build up sturdy, almost architecturally-structured compositions using colors remembered from the locations she has visited (e.g Alpine Meadows, Obexer's Market, Castanoa).
While her focus is on balancing color and form in layered blocks of paint in a manner reminiscent of Bay Area Abstract Expressionist Hans Hoffman, her references to nature and the outside world add a topical and personal aspect to the content.
Cheryl Rabin studied fashion design in London in the 1970s before becoming a painter. Her love of the human form-its shape, weight, and movement-comes through in these loose gestural paintings, which are artfully sketched in front of a live model. Restricted to 20-minute poses, Rabin captures the figure quickly but deftly, only later coming back to rework certain areas and build up to a finished, but still essential, composition.
Check out Slate Art & Design for more info.
HUMAN KINDNESS IS OVERFLOWING / THINK ITS GOING TO RAIN TODAY
Its been a gloomy and overcast week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The dark waves mutter "winter, winter, winter" as they clash against the riprap along the shore and the sky has been wracked by the unruly ropes of savage weather, bound all in felted greys and blues and torment. Down by the iron waters a splash reverberates against the hard stones and a young life is swept away.
In Babylon every corner sprouts anouther insistent panhandler and the BART stations are thronged with buskers and dime-gatherers, all calling "Spare change! Spare change!" If you have trouble, go to Sausal Creek. That's for East Bay. If you are Babylon, you are on your own during the Great Recession.
It's the dark time of Winter when there is no mercy and all that Christmas would have taught only a short while ago is long forgotten. Savage! Savage is the sjambok, the whip, the asp in this time.
Down by the Strand the folks huddle in their squat on Otis, Mr. Howitzer's one bedroom cottage that houses some fifteen people during the Great Recession and the rental pressures as the demonic Developers seek to convert the Island into the Place of Pleasant Living by the Bay, even as that dream evaporates in the face of realities.
The heat has been turned off but everyone is gathered around the fire of driftwood to get some brief warmth before crawling into sleeping bags around the hearth. Such is life down along the Strand as Occasional Quentin looks up through the torn porch roof to examine the encroaching clouds of the next storm.
Down in the Garden Javier has been pacing under his rainhat, staring at the soil and the anti-rodent netting spread out across the loam. In other parts of the country, the wind blows snow crystals across the crusted surface of deep drifts. Here, Javier is pacing the brick borders of his garden. In other parts of the country, they are all laying wagers on when the station-wagon will break through the ice during spring and plunge then into the lake.
But down there, Javier is staring at the soil, commenting on the uprising. Nobody plants in the Spring, because the wise farmer lays down the seed during the harshest and coldest of times, while others are asleep. Spring is the time to enjoy the results of what one has already done. Javier, who stems from old stock, knows this well. That is why he planted his seed during the cold November days. Now, even while Winter holds sway and the Earth keeps her face turned away, come the quiet eruptions.
You just get down there and you dig down and you sure enough are going to find these green whorls firing up -- something is going on down there. And it happens pretty much every year.
Now we have to tell you people to the East of here that a couple more storms are coming your way out there, you who have the deep blue world of white ice and snow to deal with for a time. But be patient. The change will come soon enough.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar Suzie is serving out hot toddies and Gaelic Coffees to the rude and uninitiated and those simply looking for shelter during the storm. In the corner a band of gypsies sits at the table, playing cards among one another. One of them, a woman wearing a shawl goes from table to table offering to tell fortunes by the tarot or by the palm for a fee.
No one knows from where gypsies originally came. They have no home but their caravans, so there is no returning to any place one can name in their language or any other. So people keep a wary eye upon them, although they mean no more or less harm than anyone else. Sometimes they get rounded up and put in places like District 9 until people tire of them there or desire that place and then they get evicted to some other place. But for now, they are safe in the Old Same Place Bar. Here on this Island. For now.
The old woman tells Eugene that he is a great hunter and by the end of November of this year, he surely will experience great luck. This makes him feel a little better and forget a little bit about how badly things are going, for the economy is bad, no one has any money, it is winter, winter, winter. And its going to rain today.
From far across the way, the long howl of the throughpassing train comes ululating across the muttering waters of the estuary as the locomotive hauls its heavy load from the Port through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront, heading off to places unknown.
JANUARY 24, 2010
MURDER IN THE TRAILER PARK
This week's headline photo is a shocking display of animalistic savagery upon the mean streets of the Big City. It was a switchblade night and a hot rain on 42nd Street -- the umbrellas? nah, they aint got a chance.
Its a jungle out there, boys and girls and only those with the sharpest claws will survive.
CH, CH, CH, CHANGES
Returning visitors will note the floating jukebox created by Chad. The control buttons do work, so you can change songs, replay, or just mute the thing entirely. We are looking at other controls for the feller, and we'll be changing the content periodically. The first addition will probably be Denby's rendition of "Hamsterdamn? I don't wanna go to no New Hamsterdamn!" which was planned for the aborted 2009 Holiday CD; its a thorough violation of Lawrence Juber guaranteed to cause the hackles to raise to raise of anyone who desires such trivial things as harmony, timing, melody and the right notes. .
Also, we are busy working on code behind the scenes to make things load quicker for you folks as content gets added. And the Sidebar will have some changes, as certain members of our Staff appear to have a Crush on a certain entertainer named "Carmen" (no woman ever wore Produce with such elan, we must admit), that gal will make a recorded appearance. And since no Californian should be without a solid underpinning of that most sibilant of languages, Spanish, we provide a little Spanish lesson as well, courtesy of Firesign Theatre.
We also fixed up some of the broken hyperlinks in our ever vigilant quest to improve the lives of Island-Lifers.
HARD TIMES COME AGAIN NO MORE
As many of you probably know, one of the music world's dearest voices passed away at the young age of 63, when Kate McGarrigle succumbed to cancer recently. The McGarrigle sisters became world famous in the early sixties with their extraordinary voices, earning a joint Order of Canada award, the highest honor bestowed by that country. They toured all over the world, performed with and for virtually everyone, and wrote countless songs that garnered dozens of Grammy awards for the folks that covered them. Not content with that, Kate married Loudon Wainright and produced a pair of Grammy award winning progeny, Rufus and Martha.
Their family enjoyed performing songs by Stephen C. Foster, he of Civil War fame, so here we provide a black and white video of the young sisters with their kids performing the timely Foster song, "Hard Times," from the PBS Special, "Songs from the Civil War."
LIKE THE WEATHER
The series of dockwallopers shows no signs of ending, albeit we have enjoyed a slight pause through the weekend with only gloomy skies above and some sprinkles, however the forecast is for more of the same series lining up to march from West to East, causing mudslide dangers in SoCal, snow closures along 395 and Route 80 and yet more misery for you folks East of here. Rain is expected to build through tonight, getting heavy tomorrow and through Tuesday with a midweek pause of moderate clouds but pretty nippy temps in the thirties, followed by more of the same precipitation on Friday. Expect some more drenchers in about a week and yet more feet of powder on the East Coast while Old Man Winter puts in one last brough-haha for the Season..
Some of the Old Timers are reporting go-aheads with plans for fishing trips on the Eastern Sierra in February "pending weather conditions", so we would expect the Greybeards to have some insight here and perhaps some hope of relief.
IMAGINE A BRIGHT BLUE BALL IN SPACE SPINNING, SPINNING FREE
Its time for a look at the World and what everybody else outside the Provinces might be talking about.
The headlines in most papers concern the same subject that has been dominating ours for a couple of weeks: the ongoing disaster that is Haiti.
From Der Spiegel, the loud message is jarring: "Haiti entwickelt sich wieder zur Kolonie". This article, and others, make the assumption that the total collapse of social order and infrastructure in the poverty-striken nation means that the only real resolution will be colonization of the territory which has no functioning government, no functioning social system, no functioning utility system, and nobody really to put these things together. The article notes that it took two days for Obama to contact Rene Preval, the Haitian president, because the telephone system was entirely destroyed. Brasil has controlled the national telephone system, as it does in several South American and Caribbean nations, and that country has not yielded over its purview.
France has sent a police presence to assist with maintaining order in the increasingly unruly cities, while the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is mentioned as a floating airport provided by the US.
With so many countries having a sayso in what goes on now, the Haitian president has effectively thrown his hands in the air to declare that, although the country is "nominally a Democracy", it really needs to keep cool and let the various powers handle things as the government has no real ability to handle the crisis. In fact, since 2004, the country has been a UN "protectorate" anyway, and the earthquake solidifies this status into that of a "colony", but of UNO, instead of any single nation. Really, what is implied is that the player with the biggest muscle takes control -- and responsiblity -- over the entire future of 9 million people.
Not much is reported here about Haiti's neighbor, the relatively more well-off Dominican Republic and its response to the crisis occuring to its neighbor. The DR has always regarded its neighbors as inherently "dirty, anarchic, and violent", according to the German report, but some help is forthcoming in the form of individuals contributing heavy equipment, such as bulldozers, and the Jimani hospital taking in thousands of the severely injured.
Also in the BRD news, the recent terrorist attack in Kabul which killed dozens of people after an extended firefight.
The internal news concerns the political crisis happening to the SPD, which is the more middle-liberal of the four German political parties that share power there.
The Google affair in China was reported in several German newspapers, with warnings that the hacker attacks are likely to continue no matter what Google decides to do.
A curious report did a follow-up on the Öltanker "Exxon Valdez", which spilled a massive oil leak off of Alaska 21 years ago. Appears the consequences of that disaster continue to plague the region, a story that is not pursued very much around here.
Move over Matisyahu, now we have a Zen Monk rapper described under the headline: "Yeah, the Buddha, that's what I am talkin' about, yo!"
The Haitian story concerns itself with "logistical problems" and the "serial precipitation of castastrophe", while trying to maintain a sense of distant cool about the former French colony. France still smarts from the problems engendered by the persistence into the 20th century of its colonial issues, and there is scant desire for deeper involvement with foreign places that do not bear fond memories of colonialization.
On the same page are articles about the "foreigner problems", with one article focussing on the "right to vote" for non-native French.
Most of Le Monde concerned itself with local national issues, with the government contemplating a tax on internet usage -- a theme we have heard before -- and with the loss of unemployment benefits, which the French consistently list as a set of "rights". Unemployment is far higher in Europe during the Recession than here, so the loss of benefits is seen as a serious ratcheting up of the poverty level nationwide. It is estimated that about 38-40% of the unemployed will lose benefits this year due to time limits.
Some argue that the catastrophe of so many unemployed losing benefits far outweighs the cost of finding a way to continue them as a function of the total national economy during this Recession.
A couple issues dominated the Spanish papers, besides football and Haiti. The election of Sebastián Piñera in Chile is seen as a opening a new era in that country, and indeed, the relatively rightist new president makes local business there feel better and his annoucement of a new "era" in relations with long time rival Peru is also seen as a major change.
Spain, for those who have paid attention, secured the EU presidency and the consequences of that were speculated upon, with the upshot being that it probably will make little difference to Spain except a bit of prestige.
Various Mexican papers talked about the Bicentennial "Bicentenario de La Independencia, Mexico, 2010". The 1810 liberation from Spain also is bolstered by the 1910 Revolution that toppled Porfirio Diaz.
The Haitian crisis brought back painful memories of the 1985 Mexican earthquake, which registered an 8.1 on the Richter scale. The quake caused an incredible toll of death and destruction in Mexico City.
PAN launched a survey on n Mexico City on same-sex marriage and the right to adopt children by same-sex couples. The survey would last all week said Mexico City PAN leader Marian Gómez del Campo.
The Pinera election cited his "fecund and ambitious" agenda for ties between Peru and Chile.
There was a fairly long article speculating on China's putative relaxation of controls on the value of its currency, which turned out to be entirely speculation when other international sources were consulted. Nevertheless, the article did indicate Mexico's high interest in the Asian-Pacific Rim and its eagerness to become a major player there.
Not a single country showed the slightest interest in our own fulminations over health care. The Recession is seen as ongoing with no sign of change in the offing, so just deal. A few countries had the usual People-style fluff pieces on what Mrs. Obama was wearing on so and so occasion.
So that's it, that's the news of the world from Island-Life. We read newspapers in five languages so that you don't have to.ON AN ISLAND
A while ago we reported some jerk had robbed the household of Islander and world-famous opera chanteuse Frederika von Stade in October. We are pleased to report that the thief was apprehended and that it appears that most of the stolen property may be recovered.
The thief apparently tried to sell items at Michaan's Auctions, which is located here on the Island. Not only that, the thief returned a second time, at which time police say they arrested 47-year-old Kelly Lee Baslee on suspicion of possessing stolen property.
This is especially pleasing in that it does appear no traffic ordinances were violated at any time during the crime or the apprehension of the suspect. Way to go!
If you follow the police blotter with any sort of regularity, you will appreciate a neat web-based tool for pinpointing trouble-spots.
The City of Alameda Police Department is providing a Crime Mapping tool to show reported incidents of crime in Alameda. You can view an overall snapshot of the City, or drill down to certain neighborhood. You can search by time period or by incident type to see, say, how many DUIs occurred on St Patrick's Day.
You can use a tool to view trend reports, so, for example from October 8, 2009 until January 13, 2010, 27.4% of crimes were Theft/Larceny.
There is also a "cluster" option where crimes within a certain radius of one another get flagged with a number so you can see where crimes are concentrated.
The Frank Bette Center for the Arts has a call out and deadline of February 1 for Island photographers to apply to the Alameda on Camera competition. Generally this means that registered photogs get a specific section of the Island to document within a stated period of time in February. Work will be exhibited and juried in April. Go to http://frankbettecenter.org/aoc-exhibit.html for more details and application.
LIFE IS A CABARET MY FRIEND
Island-Lifer Sue reported on the memorial for Norton Buffalo held at the Fox, where the Doobie Brothers, Steve Miller, Maria Muldaur, Roy Rogers, and Bonnie Raitt tore it up for the blues harpist who died of cancer at the end of last year. Word was the entire affair, which raised money to help out Buffalo's family, was fantastic, with each performer yanking the energy level up a notch, starting with Bonnie Raitt's searing opener; that little red-headed girl sure can rock.
A gaggle of people attended the sold out "gypsy music" festival starring Dorado Schmidt and Dave Grisman at Yoshi's East here on the Warmer Side of the Bay. Schmidt interacted with Grisman with his customary sense of humor and playfulness to put in a full evening of solid music influenced by Django Reinhart.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Its been a soggy week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The series of dockwallopers remains with yet another to drench the place on Monday, which will certainly lead to fairly cool weather.
Jose has been out in his garden, puttering under an umbrella while prodding the ground, looking for some signs of life. Does appear the freesias are starting to bud out and there are green shoots that look suspiciously like randy tulips, which always can cause some explosive energy when the season gets its mind around to change later on. The early favas are starting to erupt, which they will tend to do when planted in November. Yes, things are going on down there. You up there in snowbound Minnesota, just hang in there a bit. There will be mosquitos as big as sparrows bounding against the screens before long, just you wait.
Father Duran continues to make his daily revolution around the block that holds the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, turning smartly to the right as he proceeds clockwise on his regular course with his umbrella held stiff against the elements. Just as regularly, Pastor Nyquist of the Lutheran Church of Emmanuel proceeds as is his natural bent, anti-clockwise around the same block and the two nod at one another every day in passing the bus stop on Santa Clara.
Its night now, and all the regulars in the Old Same Place Bar are talking about the upcoming Special Election which is to determine the future of the Island, as some see it. Word has it that SunCal has already put up another Initiative for the 2012 mid-term elections, in anticipation this rather silly one will be sure to fail, so it probably will not be such a big determination after all.
Still it makes for a lot of grand talk and the place is hopping with Dawn and Suzie serving up those "Gaelic Coffees", so called because Padraic insists no Irishman would ever devise an insult to the Water of Life that would mix base materials like coffee and cream with "daycent wishkey".
The more simple among us opt for a Fat Tire, which comes with its own assortment of ribs and puns. "You say you have a Fat Tire? Well I've got a pump and a spare in the back . . .". It does work better when the talk is between the coarse and the fair sex.
Jose heard that The Man with the Red Shoes was in town across the water for a full two weeks, but impecunious circumstances prohibited a visit by the Editor, who has long admired the successful Radioman. An effort was made, an honest effort. The Island-Life jalopy was hauled out from the shed and was made ready to go when the gendarmes pulled the thing over for a broken headlight, so back it was to the shed. The crew went over to Frederika's to try to hitch a ride over to the opera house, as we knew she had a date there, but the imperious doorkeeper held us at bay.
"Frau von Stade, hier sind Gammler und alles unanstaendiges dazu. Was wollen Sie damit? Ah . . . du . . . weg! Einfach abhauen."
Ah yes, to be compared to trash and dismissed in the same sentence. Few enjoy the privilege. Or perhaps many.
Next, the plan was to obtain BART passage and perhaps entrance as embassadors in a side entrance. BART was amenable, albeit late. So rare for a regime which has made the trains finally run on time.
So the editor arrived at the Opera House in pelting rain and proceeded promptly to the stage entrance. To his great suprise, a burly man, entirely worthy of Dickens in apparel and demeanor, refused entry with many Anglo-Saxon attachments to his language, although his accent betrayed Eritrean ancestry. But if sufficient "drink money" were located, a position somewhere left of the lighting engineer might be found in the third etage . . .
In a steaming welter of rainwater the Editor fumed. Leon Spinks, Mohammed Ali and George Foreman have stood as geniuses of that Sweet Science, yet Anglo Saxon remains the language of refusal! Damn it!, he said. And still, it is Spanish that determines all that happens in California, for it is lack of Dolores that I now fail! Not enough dollars!
Jose stood there with a dripping umbrella, waiting for his boss to calm the fuck down and get real. "Why don't you just call your gabacho friend on the telephone when you get back. He is here two weeks already."
The Editor screamed, which caused several tourista to stop and stare, expecting a street performance, and the boys dragged him away as the SFPD began arriving with paddy wagons.
It was a dismal return on the sodding ferry, the last one of the night to the Island from the City, on which the Editor fretted and fumed on the deck above where on clear and sunny days the passengers admired the jewelry-draped skyline of Babylon, but which now swept rain and wind and all sorts of wind-born wrack and ruin against any who would dare stand up there on the bare metal planks. Back to the sadly middle-class and frumpy Island we all returned, with nothing to show for all our efforts.
In the Island offices, with their beat-up windowshades and broken slats and our humble fax machines, dusty shelves and tawdry cubicles our Editor damped and steamed his frustrations. A bottle of single-malt scotch was brought out to ease the pain.
Later that night the Editor told a story to Jose about how once as a child he had run to a camp of gypsies to warn them of how a group of men were planning to come and destroy them, for he had heard all about it in the barber shop. He was really deep in his cups.
The gypsies knew of what he spoke, for this kind of thing they knew well, and as they broke their camp the captain there asked the boy if he wanted to come with them, become a gypsy. Of course, such a thing would mean never returning to his former life.
The Editor did not know exactly why he did not go with the gypsies then. It may have been something as trivial as not wanting to be late for dinner that particular night.
The gypsies left and continue to wander the earth to this day.
The Editor became a sort of gypsy to whom no place is counted home.
The Man with Red Shoes returned to Minnesota.
Jose went to the Old Same Place Bar, where the regulars sought Oblivion from the Economy and all things Sour. After after twenty years of Altzheimer Ronnie Raygun and violently idiotic Bushes, the long train wreck that is Current Events shall not shunt aside easily, not by Brakeman Obama and not by any ineffectual Congress of Wack Engineers either. It occured to Suzie, somewhere in midshift, that there is really no final decision in anything. Its all process along the way and what matters is the sum total of everything decided. So the Sister City Status and all of that does not matter. What matters is what you have done and whether you have been kind or not in the process.
Jose palmed Eugene's keys as the man fumbled for the door and drove the weaving and wobbling man home past the dark and watchful front of Officer O'Madhauen's Crown Vic.
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the rain-spattered waters of the estuary as it steamed its way from the port of Oaktown through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront to parts unknown.
Its a dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets, but in the Old Same Place Bar sits one bartender still pondering Life's Persistent Questions.
JANUARY 18, 2010
This week's image is a rather conflicted one that does require some background. The painting is a study of a Pope but not of Benedict or Pope Pius the XII, although the image has often been associated with that pontiff because of the work from which it comes, entitled by critics "the screaming pope series," and because of the time period in which it appeared -- immediately post WWII -- and by the known anti-religious bent of the painter, Francis Bacon. The work is actually entitled "Study after Velazquez's Portrait of Pope Innocent X", a work originally done in 1650. That pope reigned during the Renaissance and was neither better nor worse than other popes.
References to the work, which reflects the high anxiety and paranoia of the Postwar period, have resurfaced as a partial response to the current Pope's initialization of the process that typically leads to sainthood for the controversial Pius XII. At least one artist has painted a "Screaming Pope Benedict" as a result of this decision and of other questionable deeds by the former Cardinal Ratzinger.
Generally the current brough-haha is over Pius XII's complete silence prior to and during WWII over the Holocaust.
As it stands, if you are a Catholic, the fact he was a Pope means he was a Good Guy, and those folks go cherry picking the facts in his favor. If you are not, then you are either anti-cleric or standing with your arms crossed, saying WTF. There's plenty in all three camps.
Cursory research indicates that Pius XII maintained official neutrality and complete public silence until 1944, when Allied Powers informed him of their intention for total victory and their good likelihood of achieving just that and that he better speak up or face fairly severe consequences.
The threat was not idle. By 1944 the Allies stood excellent chances of achieving their aims. Subsequent to victory, such notables as Reza Pahlavi went straight to prison for their collaboration with the Nazis. In prison Pahlavi remained until the British decided a man of his talents would be more useful heading up a puppet government in the newly created state of Iran.
That Pius XII knew of all of the anti-Semitism and the resultant extermination camps is beyond a shadow of a doubt, for his own Berlin nuncio informed him of such after Kristalnacht and the provost of the Berlin cathedral, Bernhard Lichtenberg, after offering prayers for the Jewish victims, was sent to Dachau, where he perished.
Pius XII was besieged by countless entreaties from many public officials in several countries to say something, however other than a few private efforts, which did manage to rescue a few thousand Jews, he wrote and said nothing other than a bare handful of rather vague and general messages.
Some speculate that his hatred of Communism or fear of reprisals against individual church officials prevented him from denouncing Fascism, however his exact motives remain unknown. Some of his actions actually hindered the escape of Jews to Brazil, a place that entertained an internal ecclesiastical dispute with the Vatican.
Generally, independent researchers -- without access to the Vatican's sealed records -- all agree that while not entirely indifferent, Pius XII's actions during WWII were contradictory, inconsistent and perplexing.
A joint Jewish/Catholic workshop opened at Yad Vashem to investigate the matters more fully. It does seem likely that whatever comes of this affair will be a product of Politics with a capital P, which already has been the hallmark of the current Pontiff, rather than of the Spirit.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Okay, that was a bit much for "Image of the Week". How about this one, submitted by Chad, which purports to be that of a Wall Street Banker.
THERE'S NO SEX IN VIOLENCE
Staff members witnessed a shocking and savage assault and battery on St. Charles Street this past Tuesday. No joke, it was real.
Staff came out on hearing a woman screaming for help from 1551 St. Charles Street on the Island to see one Andre Pastre, the burly apartment manager of that building, straddling a woman while beating her with his fists while she screamed and fought back by clawing at the assailant's face. Her boyfriend, a Sean O'Connell, was attempting to pull the attacker off of the woman with little success.
A passerby had already called the police, who arrived within ten minutes.
By then Mr. Pastre had separated himself from the couple to walk to his car parked just in front of the building where he stowed away some personal effects while the couple huddled on the porch of the building.
The woman victim's name is presently being withheld by Staff pending investigation.
Mr. Pastore claimed that the two had attacked him and that they were under the influence of drugs.
We later interviewed Mr. O'Connell and the woman. Mr. O'Connell, a slightly-built musician who is raising a child of about eight years in that building as a single parent said that Mr. Pastre had been "baiting" him in a challenging manner for some time. He also expressed dismay about the drug activity that had taken place in the building during the managership of Mr. Pastore, as he felt the environment was not safe for his child. Mr. O'Connell had clear evidence of having been hit in the face some three days later, as one eye was entirely swollen shut. He alleged that Mr. Pastore had pinned him against the wall inside the building and punched him, causing the injury.
O'Connell stands about five nine in height and appears to weigh about 130 pounds at the most. Mr. Pastore works as a hauler and handyman, and is listed with the County as a Small Business and appears to weigh about 180 pounds.
The woman declined to comment and no explanation for the cause of the incident was offered.
We could not make further inquiries as Mr. O'Connell was taking his child on a field trip to a California Mission as part of a school project.
Mr. Pastore has been observed by various Staffers and patrons of nearby businesses to have a temper, to be extremely inflexible, and to be verbally abusive to people on the street and to tenants in his building. We have also observed other apartment managers in this block, who appear to stem from an earlier era when the Navy was here, to be assaultive and verbally confrontational. We are not sure why property owners retain problem individuals like this, but as the Island trends to a more upscale environment, the need to remove them becomes more and more pressing. Nobody wants to be screamed at by some maniac who has the veins bulging in his thick neck, and certainly the kind of folks the landlords would like to attract here will make short legal shrift of such people.
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Other folks live by the sword. Islanders live by the golf club. And Silly Council got an earful all about the revisions and anticipated closures regarding the Island MIF golfcourse. When we first heard about this issue, the Course had been raking in bucks for the City for quite a while, when some errant group suggested we farm out the management of the course to private interests because we were making too much money off of the enterprise.
WTF as the kids like to say.
Next, we hear that the MIF golfcourse, named after a nickname for Chuck Corica who ran successfully for the Mayor position three times in the 1960's on a single issue ticket -- preserve the golf course -- is losing money and must be farmed out to private interests. Who all seem to want to reduce the number of holes by about half. And oh! What to do with the remaining acreage! Why build on it of course! Why waste perfectly decent wooded land on golf!
Do I smell "Developer" in this mix somewhere? I think I do.
Well, they ruined their City across the Bay, now they want to come here and ruin ours. They've done it before and they'll do it again. Except this time the old guys with rusty carts and saggy bags all converged on the Silly Council to raise a royal ruckus convincing Lena Tam to delay votes on what happens to the long contended land for which Chuck Corica fought so long ago.
Alice Lai Bitker has announced she is not running for reelection to the Board of Supervisors this next time around, but did not state what she would be doing instead. We fondly remember the girl as she served as aide to the Board some fifteen years ago, working her way up through the ranks to elected office, and so wish her well in whatever she now pursues.
We do welcome Councilperson Frank Matarrese to the unenviable race for the Mayorship. Frank was among the first to indicate budgetary problems some four years ago, was the author of the initiative against the Iraq deployments of local Coast Guard and was an early doubter of the SunCal Initiative. He is a devoted longtime Islander, has served the community well in a responsive manner as member of the Council and we think he would act well as Mayor of this little town.
Besides, we like the sound of "Mayor Frank". Has the proper ring to it.
ONE IN THE NAME OF LOVE
Monday some of us will celebrate the birth of Great American. He was a simple preacherman who wanted only to make things a little better for members of his flock. He spoke the Truth and he spoke it plainly and forthrightly. He was a man entirely without pretense and he did not seek fame nor notoriety. He simply desired justice. He was not a stupid man and although he did not want contention or strife or violence, he knew that someone would try to kill him. In fact the last speech he made referred to his own anticipated murderer, and was one he had delivered many times.
We do not celebrate his death, but the things he accomplished for all Americans this Monday for this Monday we celebrate the vivid and life-affirming legacy of Martin Luther King.
This Monday we will connect with old friends and informal associations going back many years in memory of truly great American Statesman, the like of which few can match these days. Save, perhaps, the present President of the United States, who is our hope. And the realization of our Dreams.
ON AN ISLAND
Its been a damp week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. The roiling boiler clouds finally tromped on in with a dockwalloper that looks to be settling in for spell of real weather, giving some relief to the reservoirs and the snow-bare mountains up higher, although we expect this means yet more misery for folks East of here.
Local Islander Mike Rettie indicated that his gauge showed a good October but a poor November and December as far as averages went, so we shall see what we shall see as far as the drought.
Garrison remained with his roadshow for an unexpectedly pleasurable second week over there in the Opera House across the water. Local faves bluesman Elvin Bishop and our very own Fredericka von Stade gifted the airwaves with the Man in Red Shoes putting in yet another enjoyable and grammatically correct show. Have to concur with Mrs. Sundberg: Listened to this week's show and must say, it was not bad.
To our great surprise the lovely Frederika sang a song about the Island, which moved many of us to tears -- we hadn't thought we were worth that much consideration.
Soon as that one hit, the transom overflowed with a deluge of messages from folks, all saying, "Didja hear that?!"
Oh dear. We are so Midwest that when anyone pays the slightest attention, we get all confused. Surely they meant some other island. Hawaii perhaps.
For those of you who do not know, the name "Alameda" is a Spanish word meaning "woody promenade" or "avenue of trees". Its also the name of the County.
At one time the largest natural grove of oak trees in the world grew here, extending from the Island up to the crestline of the hills.
As a last trivia tidbit, the song Garrison sings about walking in Golden Gate Park was based on "Down by the Salley Gardens", which goes to show you; you can't leave the Bay Area without a touch of the Irish.
Okay now, before we get all fluttery, we need to get down to the Old Same Place Bar.
Okay now, before we get all fluttery, we need to get down to the Old Same Place Bar. Along the way we pause in the windy and rainy dark and look out over the Bay to the lights of Babylon across the water. Its a fairly sheltered place, with a lagoon behind and a smattering of trees clustered around picnic tables.
Its a place that could be sculpted into the imaginations of everyone who lived. It could have been the broad palm of God holding all of us up above an abyss. It was only a group of dirty wooden tables swept by rain.
Passing the Rettie place, a group of old friends sit around the table and a bowl of paella while gypsy music plays from the radio and the rain sifts down through the lamplit trees. Reminiscences and conversation.
Inside the Old Same Place Suzie set up the drinks and Dawn took the orders and Padraic worked the kitchen. It was business as usual. And the sweating workers were diamonds in the rough.
In other parts of the country snow lay deep on the hillocks and passion lay buried beneath layers of guilt and oppression. It was deep winter and heaviness rested on the land. A crust of ice and snow layered the land in Minnesota; in Virginia, the rime encrusted all of the emotions of the moment, chilling desire, and in Massachusetts people actually contemplated electing a dastardly Republican to fill Ted Kennedy's seat. In Mississippi, the trout beneath the freeze. In Haiti, utter disaster prevails.
The Deep Recession continues.
But deep beneath the blanket of snows the deep green shoots are already firing up. Tulips preparing for sudden glory. Freesias are getting themselves ready for an explosive eruption. Sudden change is about to happen and you had better get yourselves ready for this change will be extraordinary in its flowering. There is something going on down there and there is no stopping what is about to happen.
Closing time and Last Call. Folks spill out of the Old Same place and scatter beneath the falling rain to all directions.
Old friends under the Rettie porchlight saying good-bye. Water pouring from the eaves
Years from now someone will ask, "Where were you and what did you do during the Great Recession?" Did you keep your job? Did you lose it with flailing fists, like some angry handyman loses his cool? Were you stingy or were you kind? Somewhere someone is writing a book about you that will be remembered. This Island is not a grandiose place of tall towers and alabaster; its a place of Hobbits who do not want any adventures, only to prop our furry feet up on the hob. Across the water we can see the Shining City of Possibilities, and there that place should stay, always distant yet always possible. Always in view.
Like the end of Hard Times and the coming of Peace. We are not there yet, but perhaps someday.
As the old friends walk away their separate ways beneath the rain, the long wail of the throughpassing train comes ululating across the dimpled waters of the estuary as the locomotive wends its way with its fiery eye past the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront, heading from the Port of Oaktown to parts unknown along its dripping tracks of iron.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 10, 2010
BABY DONE A BAD BAD THING
One of our staff returned from the frigid East recently, where temps in NYC dropped to an even 0 degrees, resulting in a devotion to indoor activities during the visit there. Chief among them was a trip to the Museum of Modern Art where our attended an exhibit of work by Tim Burton. One particular piece attracted his attention, compelling our off-duty reporter to knips this photo of a drawing entitled, "Never shoot a constipated poodle."
Kinda says it all.
PARADISE BY THE DASHBOARD LIGHTS
Boys and girls, its come around to the time when we must learn you all proper all about the birds and the bees. This came to our attention only recently and by degrees. Oh, we know. You would rather be out popping squirrels with your new Xmas present popgun, or snuggling there with your Auntie and a cup of nice warm cocoa. If the neighbor girl or boy comes to mind, well, we know you would rather play the booger game or see who can climb the highest without getting into trouble in the madrones.
Its a terribly tedious thing, if taught properly by your Elders, and such instruction is meant to guide you into healthy pursuits like getting drunk at Frat keggers or wrecking the family car. Cold showers and vigorous excercise on steroids. Things like that.
But recently we have noticed some curious tendencies popping up around here among the members of our staff. No pun intended.
Chad has taken to submitting rather salacious material for inclusion here, material we feel is fraught with potential for damage of the most erotic kind. We mean things like that reading of James Joyce's "Araby", a work of notorious inclination written by an equally notorious writer whose magnum opus, Ulysses, once faced the probity of the Supreme Court of the United States.
We have scanned that book fairly thoroughly in search of certain passages, which we are happy to say, contain references that are rather stimulating to say the least.
Then there was the coverage of the Berkeley Poetry Slam (see below) during which famous poet Denise Jolly began one reading with "I like dick."
Boys and girls, she was not speaking of anyone named Richard. No, she was not.
We were shocked. Simply shocked.
So as a benefit to our less worldly readers we offer this two fer video special, featuring a government training video created for the U.S. Airforce, meant we imagine to teach those randy flyboys what its all about. In 1968.
To bring us all up to date, we have a contemporary expert, Madonna, and a reading from her own magnum opus on the subject.
Yes, you all can now claim with perfect truth that Island-Life has posted not one, but two sex videos.
Learn and enjoy.
And in Madonna's own words, ...
THEY REACH FOR THEIR MOMENT / AND MAKE AN HONEST STAND
Its been some time since any of us dropped in on the poetry scene, having experienced such a thoroughly stinging rejection the last time around. A couple of us on the staff here bear the distinction of once having attained sufficient notoriety in Babylon so as to have been booed off the stage -- prior to reading a single word.
So it was that with an army of some sixteen friendlies we marched up to Berkeley's Starry Plough to make sure that did not happen to one of us for Berkeley's Poetry Slam emceed that night by Ekabhumi and Tatyama. Jazz music was supplied by Three Blind Mice. We are happy to say that the rough and tumble poetry slam thing now runs with some rules to it and a sense of openness that was absent for a while on the other side of the Bay.
Money prizes are involved now, which is perhaps not a good thing, but we will table the final decision on that pending further review.
Out of sixteen plus signups, a lottery culled about eleven to read for the first round. Five random unaffiliated judges were selected and the sum of point tallies for each read was recorded by a secretary. Four poets made it to the second round for the first place try. Audience was encouraged to particpate with "good natured heckling" and solid boos for any use of the published "anti-word" of the day. Each reading was limited to 3.5 minutes with points deducted for overtime.
The emphasis that night was placed solidly on drinking beer and having fun. As for the poems, the better reads featured the neo-beat free form rap style declaimed with lots of emphasis. What has not changed from the eighties and nineties is the traditional subject matter of graphic sex, racism, sexual identity, and rape.
Visting dignitary was Denise Jolly, third place finisher in the National Poetry Slam contest. Denise, a large and lovely lady, was dropping by on the first step of a national tour in which she would be living entirely off of performance proceeds. As a national luminary, she clearly provided the best work that night in terms of musicality, presence, delivery, and construction. Playing to a crowd of adoring fans, she drew from a grab bag of works that featured a piece about Michael Jackson that segued into Ed McMahon, and a randy number that began "I like dick." Her best read, however, was probably a lyric about her mother singing "Amazing Grace," which Jolly sang affectingly with a powerful voice.
If you have never been to a Slam or even to a regular poetry reading, we recommend this one for starters. Be prepared for a fairly raucous, good-natured evening and get your lungs in shape to cheer for the poets you like best like it is a sporting event.
The weekly slam happens each Wednesday at the old Starry Plough on 3101 Shattuck. Show starts at 8:30pm and admission is $8. Its possible to work around the admission fee for subsequent events, depending on need for volunteer help.
This Wednesday, the World Poetry Champ of 2008, Joaquin Zihuatanejo, will be the featured guest, so expect a crowd.
WHAT'S HE BUILDING IN THERE?
For a quite a while we have been meaning to drop into a a couple of highly interesting venues that started up more than a year ago here on the Island. Saturday night we finally managed to slip on over to Autobody on Park Street to catch the opening of a solo show by an artist who calls himself Matt136. Autobody is the brainchild of Jacqueline Cooper and Colin Herrick, who converted an old mortgage brokerage firm above an auto body shop on Park Street into a chic display and performance space that would be well at home in either London's Soho or Berkeley's new Temescal Art District.
Their gallery is a hop-skip over the Park Street Bridge right into the "Jingletown" area of Oakland, yet another sign that the Warmer Side of the Bay is developing talent that is escaping the high rents of other locations around the metro area.
Matt136 does work that looks like someone fell asleep watching Tim Burton movies while high on mescaline. Skull forms and the stitched mouth face of Jack from The Nightmare before Xmas flock around Peanuts characters while the Indian god Ganush floats above an old fashioned gramophone while holding domestic tools.
There is a sense of humor as well as a sense of frustration and ominous decay; in all of his images there is the impression of movement, of a story happening. His sensibility is similar to that of certain graphic novel artists, and it is no surprise that he does have at least one book of drawings. His mordant humor is one that appreciates Tom Waits -- there is an ink drawing of Waits with a reference to his Black Rider theatre piece, which we reviewed here a couple years ago.
According to Amy George of Autobody, "Matt136 is meticulous in his craft. Old vinyl records are sawn into landscapes across which people and animals march and a simple ball point pen is used to produce highly detailed images through repetitive cross hatching. As a skateboarder, Matt136 has produced a number of skate decks and also deconstructs the boards themselves to act as environments for his characters. The work is obsessive and extremely focused but retains a playful, almost cartoon-like quality that allows Matt136 to address complicated personal and social issues while still seducing his audience. Drowning drunks, insecure parents and a variety of levels of frustration are all mirrored in his characters, as is a celebration of the diversity of emotions and challenges that face both the artist and his audience."
As for the gallery, they have space available for special events, and periodically host events of their own, including music and performance. Check out their website at WWW.autobodyfineart.com.
We've got a couple new sites for those of you East Bay boosters out there, especially lovers of Oaktown across the water there. These suggestions come from Tom York.
Make Oakland Better Now! is a grass-roots civic organization dedicated to improving the City of Oakland. Make Oakland Better Now! strives to use issue research, education, advocacy, outreach and candidate vetting to empower Oakland’s independent voters.
Make Oakland Better Now! is an unincorporated association, with membership open to all residents of and businesses in the City of Oakland with plans to become a fully recognized social welfare organization under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. For more info, go to http://www.makeoaklandbetternow.org.
And for a site on local events happening in Oaktown, especially with focus upon the African-American Community, folks should drop in to visit http://oaklandlocal.com.
NIGHTHAWKS AT THE DINER
Its been a quiet week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. Heard Garrison's roadshow blew through here for a stint at the War Memorial Opera House over there in Babylon this weekend. Heard also that he compared the infamous Babylon weather to "eternal Spring", which it may very well be in comparison to present-moment Minnesota now enjoying average noon-day temps of about minus twenty degrees.
Due to the impecunious nature of the Office coffers, we had to forgo attendence there, and so we never got to tell the Man with the Red Shoes how we always had wanted to grow older, dispensing wisdom and witticisms to adoring multitudes with ravishing Scandanavian women hung on the arms and legions of readers begging for autographed copies of any one or all of the several dozen published books, while inbetween runon sentences we would host all sorts of brilliantly talented folks coming in from all over the world to be our friends on a wildly successful radio show. And furthermore, to go to work wearing red shoes.
Well, instead of any of that, we just got old. That part we managed all right.
Javier is back on the Artbeat desk again, taking care to shield himself appropriately after last year's heart bruising by the lovely Leona of San Leandro.
Jose tells him that Javier is lucky his heart was the only organ damaged in that fiasco, but then Jose is an earthy fellow from Sinaloa, and does not share Javier's finer feelings about such matters. "Hey, Javier, forget that gabacha and lets go have margaritas at La Pinata!"
The food at La Pinata is not very authentic nor very good, but because they make the best margaritas, nobody complains very much.
We do have Lutherans here, indeed we have pretty much a sampling of everything here, but our Lutheran pastor, Reverend Bauer rides about on a Harley Davidson, which probably would not go over well in Lake Wobegon.
Indeed the once dominant religion used to be Catholicism hereabouts, but not even Jose or Javier pay much attention to it anymore.
It may be because of this, or any other laissez faire attitude, that resulted in Father Guimon being called away and replaced by Father Riccio at the Basilica. Nobody knows exactly why Fr. Guimon was replaced, whether due to illness, incapacity, or ill favor. He certainly strenuously objected to performing rites in the grotto of the Church of the Sanctified Elvis vigorously enough, but the new pope is a German and Germans are known to be highly inflexible.
As mi abuelta often said, "is always something."
Probably the old Cardinal Rattenfanger would not approve of the New Year's Convocation in which Pastor Inquist of the Lutheran Church of Grand Street, Rev. Freethought of the Unitarian Church, Rebbe Mendelnusse, Father Duran of the Church of Our Lady of Incessant Complaint, and a few others all gather at the Home of Truth Unity church to ring in the new year.
Unlike Lutherans, Catholics tend to wack each other's emotions like so many pinatas, using any kind of verbal kendo stick handy until everything erupts in screams and sobbing. For all of that Father Duran tends to rely on Pastor Inquist to supply choral arrangements for special occasions because the Lutherans tend to possess the more talented singers.
This sort of thing is probably also something of which the pope would no approve, but until the doctrine of infallibility gets called up -- something that happens only every eight hundred years or so -- hey, let it ride.
Catholics tend to be adaptable to circumstances. In the diocese of New Mexico and Arizona, the priests tended to have multiple wives and large families with many children. In New Mexico you never saw such happy people and such happy priests. Que sera sera.
When Easterners come here they become astounded by what they perceive as a total lack of rules. Of course we have rules: don't be a jerk and would you please relax.
We have been trying to teach our Gobernador, Herr Arnold, how to relax for several years now. But because he is Austrian, which is very much like a a German or a New Yorker, it is difficult. But Austrians are also very much like Italians who like to feel up the womens under their short little skirts also, so there is some hope for him. We shall see.
Over at the Old Same Place Bar, Suzie lines up the Gaelic coffees on the bar there to warm up the clientel. Since it is always Spring here, many native Californians go about wearing flip-flops and shorts no matter what the temperature. That's because it is always Spring. Pahrump, a Native of yet another kind, comes in wearing mukluks, an heavy fur overcoat and mittens. He looks at the guy sitting there in shorts like the man is insane and then orders a hot toddy.
Right then, the long wail of the throughpassing train ululates across the unsettled waters of the estuary as the locomotive wends its way through the dark and shuttered storefronts of the Jack London Waterfront to settlements on the edge of town, the windswept hillocks of the desert lands, and the high cold steppes of distant Siberia, to places further off and unknown where poor and unwanted Gypsies huddle about their campfires, casting spells in the old Roma language against yet another forced resettlement.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
JANUARY 3, 2010
WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS
We start off the year with a little impulsive savoire vivre from Chad. When Life is divided essentially between the Horrible and the Miserable, why be serious?
WELCOME TO THE MACHINE
We'll promise to try to be less pessimistic -- at least at the start. For those of you needing a shot in the arm for inspiration, here is one little fellow who has quite a performing career ahead of him. Here is the famous "Ukulele Kid" doing an original song.
Don't forget to see the one where he covers the Beatles' "Obladi Oblada". On last count, over 10 million people have seen him perform "I'm Yours".
ITS THE STRANGEST FREAK SHOW OF ALL
Our Cultural Attache and Island-Life Event Coordinator juggled tix while working Xmas, Xmas Eve, NYE, and New Years Day at the Crisis Clinic, but managed to get us over to see Berkeley Rep's latest offering on the Roda stage, Aurelia's Oratorio. (All photography by Richard Haughton).
The lights go down, an ostensible telephone conversation in French is heard, the subtext of which is a dispute between a man and a woman. Lights come up and a basic chest of drawers occupies center stage. A drawer opens, a hand emerges, then retreats. For the next ten minutes, various drawers open and close, arms and legs appear, a woman appears to be getting dressed in a black dress and red shoes inside the chest, while also noshing on a plate of pastry, lighting a candle with matches by feel, and drinking a glass of red wine.
Not for a good eight minutes does the head of the charming Victoria Thierree Chaplin emerge and it takes another five minutes for her to pop up, and toss first one leg, then another leg, then improbably yet another leg over the edge of the bureau and finally step out on stage.
For the next sixty minutes, the natural world as we know it upends itself as kites fly people through the air, draperies chase one another and embrace, occasionally swallowing up performers as they climb, taxi's arrive and depart with their fares upside down and a man dances with empty garments that flirt, cavort and -- on one memorable moment -- beat him up before carrying him off stage.
A woman asks the time of a shadow that is casting out the form of a live person on the stage, sets her alarm, and when it goes off, goes to sleep.
She dreams of flying and of hanging out her clothes to be watered and of a man who runs this way and that (performed by an impish Jaime Martinez) calling out the name "Aurelia!" It seems he wants to own and control this woman, leading a wild jerky dance at first, then trying to dress her in costumes after finding only empty dresses and cloaks to dance with. She cannot be controlled or owned; she is elusive, aquatic, arboreal, aerial, and magical.
She also wishes for some maintenance over this world, but as she swings high above the stage, the entire structure shakes, falls to pieces. The very structure of the world falls apart as the curtain frames collapse, forcing her back to the earth.
She tries to control Time in the end, by manipulating clocks to play a tune, but she is turned herself into the symbol of time's passage, when she finds herself dissolving through an hourglass into a pile of sand.
Anguished, the man sweeps up the sand and pours it into an empty dress, but lacking magic, he tosses the dress into a pile of clothes.
From which the woman magically emerges, startling the man, who runs off.
The final piece of this largely wordless "Oratorio" shows the man carrying a lantern and a timepiece, beckoning the woman to follow. She refuses and he exits. She then enters an oval train track, opening a door in her midsection, relays a section of the track so that it seems to pass through her body, and so becomes a portal for the train as it circles about the track and the lights fade.
An "Oratorio" was a piece of music for orchestra, choir and solo singers. It usually told a story from the Old Testament and stems from about the 18th Century in Europe. Unlike conventional opera, an oratorio was sung, not acted, performed usually in the religious setting of a church or a concert hall, and always done in the common language of the composer, instead of high Italian. The most famous oratorio, probably, is Handel's Messiah.
There is quite a lot of music in Chaplin's piece here, which was performed by Aurelia Thierree and directed and concieved by her mother, who is herself quite a piece of work.
Briefly, Victoria Thierree Chaplin is the daughter of actor/comedian Charlie Chaplin and Oona O'Neill Chaplin, and the granddaughter of playwright Eugene O'Neill. Although born in Santa Monica California, the family moved soon after her birth to Switzerland. Together with her husband, Jean Baptiste Thierree, she created a new style of theatre which is generally credited with being the inspiration, if not the very foundation for Cirque du Soleil.
What American audiences see here is an heavily European-inflected set of performances with evocations of circus, vaudeville and the commedia del'arte physicality that Rep audiences have come to experience more and more by way of Les Waters' creative direction. This is very physically demanding theatre requiring split-second timing and the willingness and training to dangle head-down thirty feet above the stage -- among other things -- while making it all appear simply delightful.
It is theatre as Magical World, a world which we are invited to view, but not allowed entirely to enter, for this kind of thing specifies Fourth Wall distance. There is an almost Brechtian detachment of foreign regard in this kind of theatre, which can only be executed by properly trained individuals who,quite frankly, are not like you and me. For all that, the creation of this virtual world of magical upside-down is charming and heartening in that the understanding impossiblity has its limits has a way of setting us free.
One could spend endless hours and words analyzing what it all means, which is a great strength of the production, which Victoria claims is only meant to entertain. Well, one can be entertained by a strip show, a football game, or something engaging like this.
Besides, long time Island-lifers know we have a thing about trains, which provide the evocative closing images and sounds to the Oratorio. "Einsteigen! Tueren schliessen! Vorsicht beim Abfahrt!"
Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, Director / Conception
Gerd Walter, Technical Direction / Stage Manager
Roberto Riegert, Lighting Technician
Nicholas Lazzaro, Sound Technician
Tamara Prieto Arroyo, Backstage Support
Antonia Paradiso, Backstage Support
Monika Schwarzl, Backstage Support / Costumes
Laura de Bernadis, Lighting Design
Philippe Lacombe, Lighting Design
Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, Sound Design / Stage Design / Costumes
Jacques Perdiguez, Costumes
Veronique Grand, Costumes
Didier Bendel, Company Management / Administration
Richard Haughton, Photography
La Compagnie du Hanneton, Collaborator
Théâtre L’Avant-Scène, Co-Producer
La Ferme du Buisson Cognac / René Marion, Co-Producer
ArKtype / Thomas O. Kriegsmann, Executive Producer–US Tour
(The two "Chinese Conveyors" are not credited)
THIS ISLAND LIFE
Folks will have noted the February Special Election Sample Ballot features only the one item, the notorious Measure B which seems very likely to go down in flames. A recent canvas of the blocks immediately surrounding the Offices here revealed not one supporter of this questionable initiative, which features a modified version of the original SunCal plan for developing the Point. For unbiased information on this measure, go to www.smartvoter.org or contact email@example.com. She is with the League of Women Voters, who will be conducting an information forum at the Library this Thursday.
Notably absent from the Ballot is the recall of the three school Board members, which has been called off after the Board looked into expanding -- not contracting -- the anti-bully curriculum, to include as many representative groups as possible, which effectively defused the claimed reasons for the out-of-state group's reasons for objection.
We await official response to the Island-Life submission for the new curriculum, which goes as follows: No hitting. No name calling. Be nice.
That's it. Short and sweet. For High School our expanded program adds the following: No bullets, man. No bullets.
A man armed with a rifle carjacked a couple in front of the Big 5 Sports at the Southshore Mall on Xmas eve, taking their 2000 Toyota Camry after getting out of a white 4-door sedan. How rude. But because no traffic infractions took place during the theft, the perps got clean away.
Police did a positive ID on remains found in an abandoned warehouse at the Point. The skeletal remains belonged to John Paul Garcia, 26, who has been missing for about three years. A transient hunting for scrap metal discovered the body. There is no suspicion of foul play, but it does appear that Garcia had been living off and on in the warehouse, which has not been used for five years, for some time. No traffic violations are associated with the issue, so the police are treating the case casually. "We'll probably never know how he died," department detective Rod Rummel said.
About 160 DUI people failed to "Avoid the 21" this holiday season, and so although they each one spent a cold night in the drunk tank, an experience that tends to toss a wet blanket on seasonal joviality, at least that many more lived to see another Xmas. Think about it.
SEE YOU NEXT CELTIC NEW YEAR
It's been a moody week on the Island, our hometown set here on the edge of the San Francisco Bay. After a spat of rain over the weekend, looks like we are headed with overcast skies and moderately cool temps while the moisture left by the Holiday storms settles into the soil. Up in the Sierra, we hear that mid teens and decent snowpack have brought back the schussers on the slopes there about Tahoe, which can use the lift fees right about now.
Our friends in Minnesota report rather chill temps of about 20 below, minus wind chill factor, which means you had better wear your mittens out there young fella. And don't stay out too long either.
Further East, they are all shoveling snow drifts like mad -- perhaps because they like to. Down the pike we have reports of the weather front pushing storms up into Canada, where they belong, and down South, where they know how to handle this sort of thing, so its all good for the next week or so.
Precip around the drought-striken Golden State this mid-season is hovering around 100%, so that is yet more good news, even though the budget does not look all that healthy.
The Holidays are over, thank goodness, and we hope you all got what was coming to you. Right now its the depths of Winter, even though the Solstice has passed, and gone unnoticed in many parts of the world mentioned above, even now, the Old Earth is slowly turning her face as she sits in her rocking chair, back towards the light, for the longest night of the year has already passed. The days are getting longer again, and pretty soon things happening beneath that silent snow will make their presence known.
A few problems developed here surrounding the annual Island flyover, so our technician hamsters have been working on the Island Walkabout, which ought to be ready by the end of the month.
Javier has been stumping around in the garden out back, peering down at the raked earth there and the anti-squirrel devices that make sure the little diggers do not go uprooting the glads or the tulips. Every once in a while he gets into a real stare-down with Mr. Peepers who perches up there on the Old Fence with a glare at Javier, who dares shield the delightfully tossable soil where surely something must be there somewhere worth eating.
Mr. Peepers has not forgiven Javier for failing to plant his favorite corn, so wonderfully theft-able. And so delicious. And for spraying the sunflowers with peppermint oil. Like biting into raw habanero, those seedheads!
Mr. Peepers scolds Javier for these and other crimes before scampering along the fence to the redwood tree.
Meanwhile, over at the Old Same Place, Suzie is serving up Fat Tires and doubles as the regular crowd resumes its serious drinking. Usually, during the Holidays, the regulars all vanish in favor of newbies who get seriously drunk only once a year. Its the insult of rank amateurism that does it. So they all buy cases of cheap whiskey from BevMo and retire to their dens of iniquity to wait out the foolishness before returning to the old haunts and their accustomed rails at the bar.
There is a scene in the movie Barfly, where Mickey Roarke turns to Faye Dunaway and asks, "What do you do?" in a classic bar line.
"I drink." The woman responds with perfect surliness.
From then on, it was a match made in such heaven as exists.
So it was, these sorts of folks who crept out from their dens to return to the Old Same Place Bar, somewhat wan and ennervated from lack of alcohol. Things are getting back to normal.
Over at Marlene and Andre's, they are running low on provisions, as the house has been fully populated on account of the bad weather and even Food Bank volunteers need a few days off during the Holiday time.
Yesterday they were all out back burning an old tire and some boards along with the Xmas tree and the tire was melting perfectly over the cinder blocks there and the festive lights Martini had powered by jacking into the Municipal power supply winked merrily all around the yard. This year Martini had built proper converters so that there would be no repetition of blowing out the substation for the entire block as he had done last year, and Jose had made some kind of lemon liquor with rinds and sugar and grain alcohol that had been sitting under the porch for a month, and so a fine time was had by all there around the Yule tire.
As the fire died down, and folks sorta dropped and lay where they fell, the fogs rolled in over the Bay, draping the Golden Gate before hiding it entirely, leaving the Island entirely isolated from any other part of the world.
"Andre," said Marlene, somewhat slurring her words. "D'ya think 2010 will be nearly as f---d up as 2009?"
"It is what it is." Andre said. "Que sera, etc."
Right then the long wail of the throughpassing train ululated across the estuary and the width of the Island as the locomotive wended its way from the bright gantries of the Port through the dark and shuttered Jack London Waterfront to parts unknown.
That's the way it is on the Island. Have a great week.
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