Island Life

Vol. 17 - No. 3Bay Area News and Views since 1998 Sunday January 18, 2015

Current Edition - Year 2015

Welcome to the 17th year of this weekly column that's updated fifty-two times a year, on Sunday nights or Monday mornings, depending on how well the booze holds out. If you've got any news, clues or rumors to share from around the Bay, or the world, feel free to send them to or use the envelope in the masthead. For previous issues, including 2014, visit the Archives.


The Editor

Denby -Reporter

Sharon -Events

Chad -Coding

Tammy -Fotos

Hilde -Europe

JANUARY 17, 2015


This week's photo comes from Tammy and is of a leaf during the recent downpours.

We have not seen much more weather since then, so we will need some might storms in the next few months to pull us out of a drought.


Development projects occupied people's attention during the second full week of the new year. The hurried last minute approval of the Cannery project passed by the lame duck administration in City Hall could not be easily overturned without risk of litigation although new council members did comment that the density bonus failed to incorporate affordable housing elements and that the City cannot afford to rubber-stamp these bonuses for every project.

Tim Lewis Communities will build 380 multifamily units on the five acre site as well as retail space, while preserving the historic brick facade. They also will pitch in $2 million for improving the Jean Sweeney Park on land that used to be part of the old Beltline.

In another project, Alameda Point Partners has submitted plans to build 800 condos on the 68 acre parcel between Main and Seaplane lagoon out at the Point. They also will be building a new ferry terminal at Seaplane Lagoon, which may possibly alleviate some of the traffic congestion as locals take the ferry to SF for the daily commute instead of driving. In answer to who will pay for habitation infrastructure improvements to land that had been used for military/industrial use, APP promised to run a sewer line in from the north side. APP will save on some construction costs by repurposing seven existing buildings for commercial space.

With the Coliseum gentrification `project about to launch across the estuary, this part of the world is set to change dramatically, and not necessarily for the better.

In broader area news, Barbara Boxer's announcement of retirement means that a prime Senatorial slot goes up for grabs. The GOP has glitter in its collective eyes in the possibility of seizing a senate slot in a key state of 35 million souls, but the chances of them placing a starchy conservative in place of Boxer are slim. It is far easier to shoehorn a movie celebrity into the governor's office than the Senate.

On the GOP side the best options appear to be Neel Kashkari, Kevin Faulconer and Kevin McCarthy, none of who are especially gifted with pizazz.

On the Democrats short list we have former Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Kamala Harris, former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a few curiosities who would be good picks, but don't have the media exposure, as in Jackie Spier.

There is another reason why the GOP is unlikely to capture the seat vacated by Boxer. KPCC, 89.3, said it best in a recent online article, "Jostling to replace Barbara Boxer in the Senate shows minority influence." (, January 17, 2015)

"When the California Democrat won her first term in 1992, 8 of 10 voters in that election were white. Far more Hispanics and Asian-Americans call the state home today compared to a generation ago, and her recently announced exit has revealed a diverse field of potential candidates.

The maneuvering showcases the growing influence of minority voters and a challenge for the Republican Party, which has struggled for years to make inroads with many of them.

Attorney General Kamala Harris, the first Democrat to enter the 2016 contest, is the daughter of a black father and an Indian mother. Her possible rivals include prominent Hispanics, such as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Reps. Loretta Sanchez and Xavier Becerra, and state Treasurer John Chiang, whose parents came to the U.S. from Taiwan.

"It's a huge sea change in the electorate," says Democratic consultant Bill Carrick, who notes that only 25 percent of California voters today were registered in 1992."

In other state matters, assemblyperson Kevin McCarty has introduced legislation that would establish and independent oversight review of all fatal shootings by police, which panel is likely to be housed in the state DOJ, pulling investigative decisions away from local DA offices. It is noted that the DA's and local police tend to be in bed together on many issues, making pressing charges difficult.

Governor Jerry Brown released the State $164.7 billion budget this past week, and presented therein few surprises, albeit many unpleasant features. Brown's focus is to build the rainy day fund and pay down the existing debts to the detriment of practically all other services save for the funding of prisons, which will enjoy a $160 million increase. From health care to human services to the universities, K-12 schools, and even the state parks, everyone will feel the pain.

Not included in these figures are the bond measures assigned to accomplish tasks, such as establish a water reservation system that is supposed to ease times of drought.

A bit late to take that one one, as it seems the horse has left the barn long ago, while we rank dead last nationally in school spending per pupil.

In the Live World, we see Rufus Wainwright is coming to Yoshi's for two nights February 10-11. The Wainwright family is so fabulously talented, their ova and semen should be banked and distributed around the world, just to raise the general IQ level of the population.


So anyway. The nights have been chill, with the fog wrapping itself around everything, seeping deep into the bones of things and people to make the overtly moderate temperature feel much more frigid than it is. By morning, everything is damp and the sky is pearl grey until before noon, when the sun cuts loose and all the birds go off like mad in a tremendous racket, as if preparing something to come next.

Some say California has no seasons and the people are as mellow as sloths indolently munching lotus leaves, and that may be true down there in SoCal, the LaLa Land of the West, but up here in NorCal we track the seasons by the pogonip, old Ohlone word for that dense bank of moisture that creeps over the hills like some kind of Tolkein dream. Oaktown hosts the nation's first bird sanctuary -- bet you did not know that -- and it is out there on a spit jutting into Lake Merritt. Each year thousands upon thousands of birds pause there on there journey to and from Canada, Sault St. Marie, Frontelac, and Bear Lake, Minnesota.

As for the people, NorCal has its snobbery and its intense Bear Flaggers driving ancient pickup trucks with angry gleams in their eyes, upset about how they rammed that I580 through the neighborhoods and Manhattanized Babylon and built the Pink Palace Filmore (Do Dee Do Dee Oh) and pampered the schoolkids until they can't do their sums or recite the list of Golden State counties anymore, turning them into lazy day trippers who can't work without a foo-foo latte in hand and never strung wire or used a posthole spade, ripped up the railway tracks on the Bay Bridge, and as for that Golden Gate, they never should have built that bridge. Turned Marin from a decent blue collar place into some well matriculated yuppified section of pallid gentry who couldn't tell the difference between a sawsall and a Peterbilt truck.

No, those people are certainly not mellow. They've watched their world change from when a family trip to Brennans for cioppino hard by the waterfront was a big Night Out, a rare treat, to singles bopping into sushi joints any night of the week.

Martini remembered everyone getting into the Rambler, the car that had handstraps above the windows because seatbelts had not been mandated yet. And his father would drive down the winding Route 1 along the steep escarpments to the working fishing village named Princeton-by-the-Sea. And his mom and dad would get down to the wharves and they would bargain for a fish caught that morning. One time his dad bought an entire baby tuna, which was so large it had to be cut and folded in half to fit in the freezer.

Those fishermen were sturdy men working boats that were barely thirty to forty feet long, if that, and coming back from beyond the Golden Gate where a six foot well was considered calm. By the time Martini's family met up with them at ten am, they were ending up a long ten hour day that had begun before the dawn.

Martini drove down there on the back of Pahrump's scooter, which took them hours to do as the little engine could barely labor up to 55 miles per hour with two people on board. Princeton had turned from a working village into a place with a Visitor Center and a little mall that hosted seawrack and t-shirt shops and Taco Bell style restaurants. A friend of his named Gillespie ran a sort of arty greasy spoon kind of place that served up battered fish and chips come from the freezer, popcorn shrimp and the usual breaded calimari, all delivered in cardboard boxes by the Safeway truck. It had the look and feel of the way it used to be, but not the soul. There were framed paintings of fishermen on the walls that looked like they were made to grace the walls of a motel room or a bank.

"Gillespie, what happened here," Martini asked.

"Had to go with the flow, man. Move with the times. And they done changed." Gillespie said. "Gotta pay the rent that keeps goin' up and up."

There was still a single wharf where boats that catered to the fine restaurants in Babylon moored up after a day of fishing that pretty much had not changed for the fishermen involved, but gone were the fleets of schooners and dorys that had once congregated in this place. And the younger ones looked at Martini sort of odd when he asked about buying a fish for the Household.

The older guys understood and so the pair came away at last with a couple rockfish and flounder. And so the two made their way back up the peninsula and over to Oaktown and then again to the Island as night dropped its curtains of mercy and promise for overnight renewal. But Martini resolved never to return to Princeton-by-the-Sea. The fish in Chinatown were cheaper anyway.

Winter here in NorCal has something of a sluggish quality that makes some transplants briefly long for the sharp bite of cold and snow and the nostalgia of central heating. They only have to hear about the latest freeze and the latest blizzard in Newton or Buffalo to put aside all those crafted feelings. In the Old Same Place Bar, the Man from Minot is talking about walking through minus forty degree temperatures and the terrible anxiety of those who consider placing their tongues upon the iron pump handle. God knows why someone would ever want to lick an iron pump handle at any time of the year, let alone dead winter, but apparently someone did in the distant past, which story sends shivers down the spines of many a young child to this day.

One can imagine the terrible helplessness of that curious boy, stuck on that pump handle until he either expired or, god forbid the thought, someone found him and the fire department all came and the entire school grade to watch as they cut him loose . . .


We have iron pump handles in the Sierra and no one has any recollection of anyone having a pump handle fetish, so we have to wonder if different localities possess different bugbears of a unique type. There may be something about Midwesterners that causes a fascination with licking dirty old pump handles. Heavens to Betsy, Californians pay big bucks to dine on raw fish and call it a delicacy, and nobody else features things in great numbers like Aromatherapy, so go figure. Everyone enjoys their peculiar madness.

"Now I want to tell you about the time the horses broke loose from the stable and ran into the river, which was so cold that every single horse froze in place before getting over to the other side," the Man from Minot said. "This took place only a few miles north of Minot, and the horses remained frozen there in place all winter long and people took winter picnics out there among the herd just to see them. It is all true, I swear."

And all who sat there in that bar were amazed at the extraordinary tale of a cold so cold it froze an entire herd of horses.

"I know one thing," Eugene Gallipagus said. "I aint puttin' my tongue on no iron pump handle. Not now and not ever. Earthquakes are a better bet by far."

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 11, 2015


This week we welcome the New Year with a shot by Tammy of the Island Marina looking toward Oaktown.

The sea is calm, the way is clear to depart and so lets go on a voyage!


We won't go into detail but here's a handful of beloved -- and detested -- and simply odd people who passed away in 2014.

Phil Everly - singer, musician
Ariel Sharon - Israeli soldier, politician
Hiroo Hinoda - soldier, die-hard
Pete Seeger - musician, activist, humanitarian
Maxmillian Schell - actor
Philip Seymour Hoffman - actor
Amiri baraka - poet
Fred Phelps - religious demigogue, hatemonger
Gabo Marquez - seminal author
Rubin Carter - heavyweight boxer contender, wrongfully convicted of murder
Bobby Womack - R&B singer, songwriter, R&R Hall of Fame
Eli Wallach - Actor
Paul Mazursky - scriptwriter
Johnny Winter - blues musician
Baby Doc Duvalier - hated dictator
Ian Paisley - peace worker for ireland
Joan Rivers - comedian
Ben Bradley - Editor, Washington Post
Galway Kinnell - poet
Jimmy Ruffin - soul singer
Mike Nichols - film director
Mario Cuomo - NY governor
Shirley Temple - Beloved child star and diplomat
Joe Cocker - 1960's folk singer, song writer
Robin Williams - great-hearted and beloved comedian and actor
Ruby Dee - actress, screenwriter, poet, playwright, civil rights activist
Louis Zamperini - Writer, Track and Field Athlete, WWII POW survivor

Most people know of Ariel Sharon as "the bulldozer" for his tough, inflexible political and military service to the state of Israel over a span of fifty years.

The Israeli statesman was a national war hero to many Israelis for his leadership, both in uniform or as a civilian, during every Israeli war.

Many in the Arab world called Sharon "the Butcher of Beirut" after he oversaw Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon while serving as defense minister.

He was a major figure in many defining events in the Middle East for decades, including his decision to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.

During the Lebanon war in 1982, Sharon, a former army general then serving as Israeli defense minister, was held indirectly responsible by an Israeli inquiry in 1983 for the massacre of hundreds of Palestinians at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. He was forced to resign.

Sharon, who lived on a ranch in the Negev Desert, became Israel's 11th prime minister on March 7, 2001.

He was the man who encouraged Israelis to establish settlements on occupied Palestinian land, but he also was the leader who pushed for Israel's historic 2005 withdrawal from 25 settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, which was turned over to Palestinian rule for the first time in 38 years.

Sharon formed the centrist Kadima in an effort to build political support for his controversial plan to turn over Gaza and parts of the West Bank to Palestinian control.

As waves of suicide bombings by militants rocked Israel, Sharon sent tanks and troops into Palestinian towns, ordering assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders.

Sharon ordered construction of the barrier through the West Bank and confined then-Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat, whom he called "a terrorist," to his compound in Ramallah, accusing him of encouraging attacks on Israel.

This veteran of all of Israel's wars was a national hero to many.

In 1953, after a wave of terrorist attacks from Jordan, Sharon the military leader led the infamous Unit 101 on a raid into the border town of Kibya, blowing up 45 houses and killing 69 Arab villagers. Sharon said he thought the houses were empty.

In June 1967, as a general, Sharon led his tank battalion to a crushing victory over the Egyptians in the Sinai during the Six Day War.

But what he considered his greatest military success came in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War. He surrounded Egypt's Third Army and, defying orders, led 200 tanks and 5,000 men over the Suez Canal, a turning point in the war.

As defense minister, Sharon was the architect of Israel's invasion of Lebanon, an occupation meant to stop the Palestine Liberation Organization from using Lebanon as a base for attacks on Israel. The attack was disastrous.

After the Sabra and Shatila massacre, he allowed Israeli families to settle in occupied Palestinian land, the same land Palestinians claimed as a future state.

As a result of the inquiry, however, Sharon was forced to stand down and was banned from ever being defense minister again.

His political comeback in the 1990s when he became party leader, came to an abrupt end when he visited the holiest site for Jews, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem -- known to Muslims as Haram al Sharif, "The Noble Sanctuary." The stop sparked violent protests. The incident prompted the second Intifada -- the Palestinian uprising against Israeli rule -- that began in September of that year.

The name Hiroo Onoda is likely to pass into the obscurity of history books. Few know the name of this fascinating individual even today, but his official surrender effectively ended the last hostile activities of WWII.

In 1974.

In 1944, Onoda was sent to the small island of Lubang in the western Philippines to spy on U.S. forces in the area. Allied forces defeated the Japanese imperial army in the Philippines in the latter stages of the war, but Onoda, a lieutenant, evaded capture. While most of the Japanese troops on the island withdrew or surrendered in the face of oncoming American forces, Onoda and a few fellow holdouts hid in the jungles, dismissing messages saying the war was over.

For 29 years, he survived on food gathered from the jungle or stolen from local farmers.

After losing his comrades to various circumstances, Onoda was eventually persuaded to come out of hiding in 1974.

His former commanding officer traveled to Lubang to see him and tell him he was released from his military duties.

In his battered old army uniform, Onoda handed over his sword, nearly 30 years after Japan surrendered..

"Every Japanese soldier was prepared for death, but as an intelligence officer I was ordered to conduct guerrilla warfare and not to die," Onoda told CNN affiliate, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "I had to follow my orders as I was a soldier."

He returned to Japan, where he received a hero's welcome, a figure from a different era emerging into postwar modernity.

But anger remained in the Philippines, where he was blamed for multiple killings.

The Philippines government pardoned him. But when he returned to Lubang in 1996, relatives of people he was accused of killing gathered to demand compensation.

After his return to Japan, he moved to Brazil in 1975 and set up a cattle ranch.

"Japan's philosophy and ideas changed dramatically after World War II," Onoda told ABC. "That philosophy clashed with mine so I went to live in Brazil."

In 1984, he set up an organization, Onoda Shizenjyuku, to train young Japanese in the survival and camping skills he had acquired during his decades in Lubang's jungles.

His adventures are detailed in his book "No Surrender: My Thirty-year War." The Japan Times excerpted some of the book's highlights in 2007.

Here is a sample:

-- "Men should never compete with women. If they do, the guys will always lose. That is because women have a lot more endurance. My mother said that, and she was so right."

-- "Life is not fair and people are not equal. Some people eat better than others."

-- "Once you have burned your tongue on hot miso soup, you even blow on the cold sushi. This is how the Japanese government now behaves toward the U.S. and other nations."

Pete Seeger belongs to the category of man they just do not make any more, and it is highly unlikely we will ever see his like again. With his lanky frame, use-worn banjo and full white beard, Seeger was an iconic figure in folk music who outlived his peers. He performed with the great minstrel Woody Guthrie in his younger days and wrote or co-wrote "If I Had a Hammer," ''Turn, Turn, Turn," ''Where Have All the Flowers Gone" and "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine." He lent his voice against Hitler and nuclear power. A cheerful warrior, he typically delivered his broadsides with an affable air and his fingers poised over the strings of his banjo.

In 2011, he walked nearly 2 miles with hundreds of protesters swirling around him holding signs and guitars, later admitting the attention embarrassed him. But with a simple gesture — extending his friendship — Seeger gave the protesters and even their opponents a moment of brotherhood the short-lived Occupy movement sorely needed.

When a policeman approached, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger said at the time he feared his grandfather would be hassled.

"He reached out and shook my hand and said, 'Thank you, thank you, this is beautiful,'" Rodriguez-Seeger said. "That really did it for me. The cops recognized what we were about. They wanted to help our march. They actually wanted to protect our march because they saw something beautiful. It's very hard to be anti-something beautiful."

That was a message Seeger spread his entire life.

With The Weavers, a quartet organized in 1948, Seeger helped set the stage for a national folk revival. The group — Seeger, Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman — churned out hit recordings of "Goodnight Irene," ''Tzena, Tzena" and "On Top of Old Smokey."

Seeger also was credited with popularizing "We Shall Overcome," which he printed in his publication "People's Song" in 1948. He later said his only contribution to the anthem of the civil rights movement was changing the second word from "will" to "shall," which he said "opens up the mouth better."

"Every kid who ever sat around a campfire singing an old song is indebted in some way to Pete Seeger," Arlo Guthrie once said.

His musical career was always braided tightly with his political activism, in which he advocated for causes ranging from civil rights to the cleanup of his beloved Hudson River. Seeger said he left the Communist Party around 1950 and later renounced it. But the association dogged him for years.

He was kept off commercial television for more than a decade after tangling with the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1955. Repeatedly pressed by the committee to reveal whether he had sung for Communists, Seeger responded sharply: "I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American."

He was charged with contempt of Congress, but the sentence was overturned on appeal.

Seeger called the 1950s, years when he was denied broadcast exposure, the high point of his career. He was on the road touring college campuses, spreading the music he, Guthrie, Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and others had created or preserved.

"The most important job I did was go from college to college to college to college, one after the other, usually small ones," he told The Associated Press in 2006. " ... And I showed the kids there's a lot of great music in this country they never played on the radio."

His scheduled return to commercial network television on the highly rated Smothers Brothers variety show in 1967 was hailed as a nail in the coffin of the blacklist. But CBS cut out his Vietnam protest song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy," and Seeger accused the network of censorship.

He finally got to sing it five months later in a stirring return appearance, although one station, in Detroit, cut the song's last stanza: "Now every time I read the papers/That old feelin' comes on/We're waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool says to push on."

Seeger's output included dozens of albums and single records for adults and children.

He appeared in the movies "To Hear My Banjo Play" in 1946 and "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon" in 1970. A reunion concert of the original Weavers in 1980 was filmed as a documentary titled "Wasn't That a Time."

By the 1990s, no longer a party member but still styling himself a communist with a small C, Seeger was heaped with national honors.

Official Washington sang along — the audience must sing was the rule at a Seeger concert — when it lionized him at the Kennedy Center in 1994. President Bill Clinton hailed him as "an inconvenient artist who dared to sing things as he saw them."

President Barack Obama on Tuesday said Seeger used his voice to strike blows for worker's and civil rights, world peace, and environmental conservation.

Seeger was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 as an early influence. Ten years later, Bruce Springsteen honored him with "We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions," a rollicking reinterpretation of songs sung by Seeger. While pleased with the album, Seeger said he wished it was "more serious." A 2009 concert at Madison Square Garden to mark Seeger's 90th birthday featured Springsteen, Dave Matthews, Eddie Vedder and Emmylou Harris among the performers.

Seeger was a 2014 Grammy Awards nominee in the Best Spoken Word category, which Stephen Colbert won.

Seeger's sometimes ambivalent relationship with rock was most famously on display when Dylan "went electric" at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.

Witnesses say Seeger became furious backstage as the amped-up band played, though just how furious is debated. Seeger dismissed the legendary tale that he looked for an ax to cut Dylan's sound cable, and said his objection was not to the type of music but only that the guitar mix was so loud you couldn't hear Dylan's words.

Seeger maintained his reedy 6-foot-2 frame into old age, though he wore a hearing aid and conceded that his voice was pretty much shot. He relied on his audiences to make up for his diminished voice, feeding his listeners the lines and letting them sing out.

"I can't sing much," he said. "I used to sing high and low. Now I have a growl somewhere in between."

Nonetheless, in 1997 he won a Grammy for best traditional folk album, "Pete."

Seeger was born in New York City on May 3, 1919, into an artistic family whose roots traced to religious dissenters of colonial America. His mother, Constance, played violin and taught; his father, Charles, a musicologist, was a consultant to the Resettlement Administration, which gave artists work during the Depression. His uncle Alan Seeger, the poet, wrote "I Have a Rendezvous With Death."

Pete Seeger said he fell in love with folk music when he was 16, at a music festival in North Carolina in 1935. His half brother, Mike Seeger, and half sister, Peggy Seeger, also became noted performers.

He learned the five-string banjo, an instrument he rescued from obscurity and played the rest of his life in a long-necked version of his own design. On the skin of Seeger's banjo was the phrase, "This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender" — a nod to his old pal Guthrie, who emblazoned his guitar with "This machine kills fascists."

Dropping out of Harvard in 1938 after two years as a disillusioned sociology major, he hit the road, picking up folk tunes as he hitchhiked or hopped freights.

"The sociology professor said, 'Don't think that you can change the world. The only thing you can do is study it,'" Seeger said in October 2011.

In 1940, with Guthrie and others, he was part of the Almanac Singers and performed benefits for disaster relief and other causes.

He and Guthrie also toured migrant camps and union halls. He sang on overseas radio broadcasts for the Office of War Information early in World War II. In the Army, he spent 3½ years in Special Services, entertaining soldiers in the South Pacific, and made corporal.

He married Toshi Seeger on July 20, 1943. The couple built their cabin in Beacon after World War II and stayed on the high spot of land by the Hudson River for the rest of their lives together. The couple raised three children. Toshi Seeger died in July at age 91.

The Hudson River was a particular concern of Seeger's. He took the sloop Clearwater, built by volunteers in 1969, up and down the Hudson, singing to raise money to clean the water and fight polluters.

He also offered his voice in opposition to racism and the death penalty. He got himself jailed for five days for blocking traffic in Albany in 1988 in support of Tawana Brawley, a black teenager whose claim of having been raped by white men was later discredited. He continued to take part in peace protests during the war in Iraq, and he continued to lend his name to causes.

"Can't prove a damn thing, but I look upon myself as old grandpa," Seeger told the AP in 2008 when asked to reflect on his legacy. "There's not dozens of people now doing what I try to do, not hundreds, but literally thousands. ... The idea of using music to try to get the world together is now all over the place."

At the height of his career, boxer Rubin Carter was twice wrongly convicted of a triple murder and was imprisoned for nearly two decades. He was exonerated in 1985 and became an activist for the wrongly convicted.

In 1957, Carter was arrested, this time for purse snatching; he spent four years in Trenton State, a maximum-security prison, for that crime. After his release, he channeled his considerable anger, towards his situation and that of Paterson's African-American community, into his boxing -- he turned pro in 1961 and began a startling four-fight winning streak, including two knockouts.

For his lightning-fast fists, Carter soon earned the nickname "Hurricane" and became one of the top contenders for the world middleweight crown. In December 1963, in a non-title bout, he beat then-welterweight world champion Emile Griffith in a first round KO. Although he lost his one shot at the title, in a 15-round split decision to reigning champion Joey Giardello in December 1964, he was widely regarded as a good bet to win his next title bout.

Carter was training for his next shot at the world middleweight title (against champion Dick Tiger) in October 1966 when he was arrested for the June 17 triple murder of three patrons at the Lafayette Bar & Grill in Paterson. Carter and John Artis had been arrested on the night of the crime because they fit an eyewitness description of the killers ("two Negroes in a white car"), but they had been cleared by a grand jury when the one surviving victim failed to identify them as the gunmen.

Now, the state had produced two eyewitnesses, Alfred Bello and Arthur D. Bradley, who had made positive identifications. During the trial that followed, the prosecution produced little to no evidence linking Carter and Artis to the crime, a shaky motive (racially-motivated retaliation for the murder of a black tavern owner by a white man in Paterson hours before), and the only two eyewitnesses were petty criminals involved in a burglary (who were later revealed to have received money and reduced sentences in exchange for their testimony). Nevertheless, on June 29, 1967, Carter and Artis were convicted of triple murder and sentenced to three life prison terms.

While incarcerated at Trenton State and Rahway State prisons, Carter continued to maintain his innocence by defying the authority of the prison guards, refusing to wear an inmate's uniform, and becoming a recluse in his cell. He read and studied extensively, and in 1974 published his autobiography, The 16th Round: From Number 1 Contender to Number 45472, to widespread acclaim.

The story of his plight attracted the attention and support of many luminaries, including Bob Dylan, who visited Carter in prison, wrote the song "Hurricane" (included on his 1976 album, Desire), and played it at every stop of his Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Prizefighter Muhammad Ali also joined the fight to free Carter, along with leading figures in liberal politics, civil rights and entertainment.

In late 1974, Bello and Bradley both separately recanted their testimony, revealing that they had lied in order to receive sympathetic treatment from the police. Two years later, after an incriminating tape of a police interview with Bello and Bradley surfaced and The New York Times ran an exposé about the case, the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled 7-0 to overturn Carter's and Artis's convictions. The two men were released on bail, but remained free for only six months -- they were convicted once more at a second trial in the fall of 1976, during which Bello again reversed his testimony.

Artis (who had refused a 1974 offer by police to release him if he fingered Carter as the gunman) was a model prisoner who was released on parole in 1981. Although lawyers for Carter continued the struggle, the New Jersey State Supreme Court rejected their appeal for a third trial in the fall of 1982, affirming the convictions by a 4-3 decision.

Inside the prison walls, Carter had long since recognized his need to resign himself to the reality of his situation. He spent his time reading and studying, and had little contact with others. During his first 10 years in prison, his wife, Mae Thelma, stopped coming to see him at his own insistence; the couple, who had a son and a daughter, divorced in 1984.

Beginning in 1980, Carter developed a relationship with Lesra Martin, a teenager from a Brooklyn ghetto who had read his autobiography and initiated a correspondence. Martin was living with a group of Canadians who had formed an entrepreneurial commune and had taken on the responsibilities for his education. Before long, Martin's benefactors, most notably Sam Chaiton, Terry Swinton, and Lisa Peters, developed a strong bond with Carter and began to work for his release.

Their efforts intensified after the summer of 1983, when they began to work in New York with Carter's legal defense team, including lawyers Myron Beldock and Lewis Steel and constitutional scholar Leon Friedman, to seek a writ of habeas corpus from U.S. District Court Judge H. Lee Sarokin.
Life After Prison

On November 7, 1985, Sarokin handed down his decision to free Carter, stating that "The extensive record clearly demonstrates that [the] petitioners' convictions were predicated upon an appeal to racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure." The state continued to appeal Sarokin's decision -- all the way to the United States Supreme Court -- until February 1988, when a Passaic County (NJ) state judge formally dismissed the 1966 indictments of Carter and Artis and finally ended the 22-year long saga.

The former prizefighter, who was given an honorary championship title belt in 1993 by the World Boxing Council, served as director of the Association in Defense of the Wrongfully Convicted, headquartered in his house in Toronto. He also served as a member of the board of directors of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta and the Alliance for Prison Justice in Boston.

In 2004, Carter founded the advocacy group Innocence International, and often lectured about seeking justice for the wrongly convicted. In February 2014, while battling prostate cancer, Carter called for the exoneration of David McCallum, a Brooklyn man who was convicted of kidnapping and murder and had been imprisoned since 1985. In an op-ed article in the The Daily News, published on February 21, 2014 and entitled Hurricane Carter's Dying Wish, Carter wrote about McCallum's case and his own life : “If I find a heaven after this life, I’ll be quite surprised. In my own years on this planet, though, I lived in hell for the first 49 years, and have been in heaven for the past 28 years. . .To live in a world where truth matters and justice, however late, really happens, that world would be heaven enough for us all.”

Ruby Dee was an American actress, playwright, screenwriter, activist, poet and journalist, perhaps best known for starring in the 1961 film A Raisin in the Sun. She's also known for her civic work with husband Ossie Davis.

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within: strength, courage, dignity.”
—Ruby Dee

Born in Ohio in 1922, actress Ruby Dee grew up in Harlem and joined the American Negro Theatre in 1941. She is well known for collaborations with her husband, actor Ossie Davis. Dee's film career spans a generation and includes 1950's The Jackie Robinson Story, 1961's A Raisin in the Sun and 1988's Do the Right Thing. In 2008, Dee received her first Oscar nomination for playing Mama Lucas in the hit film American Gangster.

Dee and Davis were well-known civil rights activists.[19] Dee was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1963, Dee emceed the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Dee and Davis were both personal friends of both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X, with Davis giving the eulogy at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965. In 1970, she won the Frederick Douglass Award from the New York Urban League.

In 1999, Dee and Davis were arrested at 1 Police Plaza, the headquarters of the New York Police Department, protesting the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.

In early 2003, The Nation published "Not In My Name", an open proclamation vowing opposition to the impending US invasion of Iraq. Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were among the signatories, along with Robert Altman, Noam Chomsky, Susan Sarandon and Howard Zinn, among others.

In November 2005 Dee was awarded – along with her late husband – the Lifetime Achievement Freedom Award, presented by the National Civil Rights Museum located in Memphis. Dee, a long-time resident of New Rochelle, New York, was inducted into the New Rochelle Walk of Fame which honors the most notable residents from throughout the community's 325 year history. She was also inducted into the Westchester County Women's Hall of Fame on March 30, 2007, joining such other honorees as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nita Lowey. In 2009 she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.

You will not find the name of Fred Phelps on any media lists of people who died, and for good reason. Mr. Phelps was arguably one of the most detested Americans to have afflicted our country since Benedict Arnold, for he was a self-styled preacher and he preached only one thing: hatred.

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014) was an American pastor who headed the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), an independent Baptist church based in Topeka, Kansas. Phelps attained notoriety primarily from his vehemently anti-gay activism and his picketing of funerals of homosexuals and soldiers.

Phelps' claim to ministry stems from a 1954 appointment as Assistant Pastor to Eastside Baptist Church. Phelps promptly established the Westboro Church and broke all ties with any formalized Baptist organization in 1955.

Phelps was a disbarred lawyer, founder of the Phelps Chartered law firm, and a former civil rights activist. He sought public office four times as a member of the Democratic Party. In the election for United States Senator for Kansas in 1992, he received 49,416 votes (30.8%), coming in second after Gloria O'Dell (who subsequently lost to later presidential candidate Bob Dole).

Phelps and his followers frequently picketed various events, such as military funerals, gay pride gatherings, high-profile political gatherings, university commencement ceremonies, performances of The Laramie Project, and mainstream Christian gatherings and concerts with which he had no affiliation, arguing it was their sacred duty to warn others of God's anger. This led a group of motorcycle riders to form the Patriot Guard Riders to provide a nonviolent, volunteer buffer between the protesters and mourners.

An examination of his behavior, starting with the actions that led to his disbarrment prior to this obnoxious picketing presents a portrait of horrid man who truly remained unredeemable in all facets of life.

A formal complaint was filed against Phelps on November 8, 1977, by the Kansas State Board of Law Examiners for his conduct during a lawsuit against a court reporter named Carolene Brady. Brady had failed to have a court transcript ready for Phelps on the day he asked for it; though it did not affect the outcome of the case for which Phelps had requested the transcript, Phelps still requested $22,000 in damages from her. In the ensuing trial, Phelps called Brady to the stand, declared her a hostile witness, and then cross-examined her for nearly a week, during which he accused her of being a "slut", tried to introduce testimony from former boyfriends whom Phelps wanted to subpoena, and accused her of a variety of perverse sexual acts, ultimately reducing her to tears on the stand. Phelps lost the case.

According to the Kansas Supreme Court:

"The trial became an exhibition of a personal vendetta by Phelps against Carolene Brady. His examination was replete with repetition, badgering, innuendo, belligerence, irrelevant and immaterial matter, evidencing only a desire to hurt and destroy the defendant. The jury verdict didn't stop the onslaught of Phelps. He was not satisfied with the hurt, pain, and damage he had visited on Carolene Brady."

In an appeal, Phelps prepared affidavits swearing to the court that he had eight witnesses whose testimony would convince the court to rule in his favor. Brady, in turn, obtained sworn, signed affidavits from the eight people in question, all of whom said that Phelps had never contacted them and that they had no reason to testify against Brady. Phelps was found to have made "false statements in violation of DR 7–102(A)(5)".

On July 20, 1979, Phelps was permanently disbarred from practicing law in the state of Kansas, though he continued to practice in Federal courts.

In 1985, nine Federal judges filed a disciplinary complaint against Phelps and five of his children, alleging false accusations against the judges. In 1989, the complaint was settled; Phelps agreed to stop practicing law in Federal court permanently, and two of his children were suspended for periods of six months, and one year, respectively.

Nathan Phelps, Fred Phelps' estranged son, claims he never had a relationship with his abusive father when he was growing up, and that the Westboro Baptist Church is an organization for his father to "vent his rage and anger." He alleges that, in addition to hurting others, his father used to physically abuse his wife and children by beating them with his fists and with the handle of a mattock to the point of bleeding. Phelps' brother Mark has supported and repeated Nathan's claims of physical abuse by their father. Since 2004, over 20 members of the church, mostly family members, have left the church and his family.

Although claiming to be religious and once an associate of Billy Graham, Phelps considered Billy Graham the greatest false prophet since Balaam, and also condemned large church leaders such as Robert Schuller and Jerry Falwell, in addition to all current Catholics.

In 1997 Phelps wrote a letter to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, praising his regime for being "the only Muslim state that allows the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ to be freely and openly preached on the streets."[80] Furthermore, he stated that he would like to send a delegation to Baghdad to "preach the Gospel" for one week. Saddam granted permission, and a group of WBC congregants traveled to Iraq to protest against the U.S. The WBC members stood on the streets of Baghdad holding signs condemning both Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as anal sex.

The habit of upsetting mourners at military funerals with signs like "Your son deserved to die!" has resulted in the federal government and several states enacting legislation to protect funeral services. On May 24, 2006, the United States House and Senate passed the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, which President George W. Bush signed five days later. The act bans protests within 300 feet (91 m) of national cemeteries – which numbered 122 when the bill was signed – from an hour before a funeral to an hour after it. Violators face up to a $100,000 fine and up to a year in prison.

On August 6, 2012, President Obama signed Pub.L. 112–154, the Honoring America's Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act of 2012 which, among other things, requires a 300-foot (91 m) and 2-hour buffer zone around military funerals.

As of April 2006, nine states had passed laws regarding protests near funeral sites immediately before and after ceremonies

Ironically, as Phelps lay dying, his own church reportedly excommunicated him because he spoke with the members of Equality House across the road from the church, which was regarded as "rank blasphemy" by the WBC.

Because the Calvinist WBC does not engage in any sort of celebration of any kind, there was no funeral.

Maya Angelou - born Marguerite Ann Johnson; April 4, 1928 – May 28, 2014) was an American author and poet. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of seven autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen, and brought her international recognition and acclaim.

She became a poet and writer after a series of occupations as a young adult, including fry cook, prostitute, nightclub dancer and performer, cast-member of the opera Porgy and Bess, coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and journalist in Egypt and Ghana during the days of decolonization. She was an actor, writer, director, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. Since 1982, she taught at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where she held the first lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, and worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Since the 1990s she made around eighty appearances a year on the lecture circuit, something she continued into her eighties. In 1993, Angelou recited her poem "On the Pulse of Morning" at President Bill Clinton's inauguration, the first poet to make an inaugural recitation since Robert Frost at John F. Kennedy's inauguration in 1961.

Her early life includes a Bay Area connection, but hardly proved auspicious for someone who would later charm Presidents and the World.

At the age of eight, while living with her mother, Angelou was sexually abused and raped by her mother's boyfriend, a man named Freeman. She told her brother, who told the rest of their family. Freeman was found guilty but was jailed for only one day. Four days after his release, he was murdered, probably by Angelou's uncles. Angelou became mute for almost five years, believing, as she stated, "I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone ..." According to Marcia Ann Gillespie and her colleagues, who wrote a biography about Angelou, it was during this period of silence when Angelou developed her extraordinary memory, her love for books and literature, and her ability to listen and observe the world around her.

Shortly after Freeman's murder, Angelou and her brother were sent back to their grandmother. Angelou credits a teacher and friend of her family, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, with helping her speak again. Flowers introduced her to authors such as Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Douglas Johnson, and James Weldon Johnson, authors that would affect her life and career, as well as black female artists like Frances Harper, Anne Spencer, and Jessie Fauset. When Angelou was 14, she and her brother moved in with their mother once again; she had since moved to Oakland, California. During World War II, she attended George Washington High School while studying dance and drama on a scholarship at the California Labor School. Before graduating, she worked as the first black female streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Three weeks after completing school, at the age of 17, she gave birth to her son, Clyde (who later changed his name to Guy Johnson).

She experienced a great number of personal adventures in the Bay Area, but it was not until novelist James O. Killens recommended in 1959 she move to New York to focus on her writing career that her life began to take shape on an upwards momentum. After hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak, and meeting him personally in 1960, she and Killens organized "the legendary" Cabaret for Freedom to benefit the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and she was named SCLC's Northern Coordinator.

After meeting South African freedom fighter Vusumzi Make, she moved to Cairo, and then to Accra in Ghana, where she lived until 1965, returning to the US to help Malcolm X build a new civil rights organization, the Organization of Afro-American Unity; he was assassinated shortly afterward. She returned to New York in 1967 and there renewed her friendship with James Baldwin.

Martin Luther King asked Angelou to organize a march, but circumstances intervened and the great man was assassinated on her 40th birthday (April 4).

In 1968, inspired at a dinner party she attended with Baldwin, cartoonist Jules Feiffer, and his wife Judy, and challenged by Random House editor Robert Loomis, she wrote her first autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, published in 1969, which brought her international recognition and acclaim. This lead to an extraordinary 10 year prolific output of original composed music, articles, short stories, TV scripts, autobiographies, poetry, plays, acting jobs that garnered at least one Tony Award (1973, Look Away), and a supporting role in the television mini-series Roots.

She was given a multitude of awards during this period, including over thirty honorary degrees from colleges and universities from all over the world.

I make writing as much a part of my life as I do eating or listening to music.
Maya Angelou, 1999

I also wear a hat or a very tightly pulled head tie when I write. I suppose I hope by doing that I will keep my brains from seeping out of my scalp and running in great gray blobs down my neck, into my ears, and over my face.
Maya Angelou, 1984

Nothing so frightens me as writing, but nothing so satisfies me. It's like a swimmer in the [English] Channel: you face the stingrays and waves and cold and grease, and finally you reach the other shore, and you put your foot on the ground—Aaaahhhh!
Maya Angelou, 1989

All my work, my life, everything I do is about survival, not just bare, awful, plodding survival, but survival with grace and faith. While one may encounter many defeats, one must not be defeated.
Maya Angelou


Crews are still cleaning up after the big windstorm that knocked down dozens of trees all over the Island. The golf course alone lost some 31 stand of timber and some yards are filled with ten foot high stacks of cut logs that once had been proud shadetrees.

The new Council is in office and already there is bickering about the new development projects, with attention on the proposed Boatworks area and the old brick Cannery, which some want to repeal. There is also a curious event going on at 1207 Union where the owner wants to build out the duplex into a fourplex, which has the neighbors hopping mad.

As for what's going on in the living world, check out the year's updated Calendar in the sidebar. KPFA has some sweet stuff lined up. So does KQED.


So anyway, its been chilly but not cold, not cold in the way some of you may have experienced.

We had a storm, a really big one that knocked the oranges from the tree, but we don't have schooldays when all the schools are closed. Relatives up in Winnipeg say the school never closes, not even when temps drop to 40 below and stay there. When it snows the kids just use the tunnels. We don't have Bad Weather School Days. Save we did have one about two weeks ago due to the rain. People couldn't drive around in their cars for all the flooding, especially here on the Island. All these people in SUV's nosed around carefully through the puddles, a little like newborn hippos or something just trying to figure out the world and not knowing this sort of weather is made for them.

What on earth is the reason people buy these monstrous things? SUV's we mean, not hippos. The things are designed to plow up steep hills carrying loads of concrete and railroad ties, but you see people creeping around in them afraid to get a scratch or dent in their truck.

Speaking of driving it appears a meeting of Floyd's Non Compos Mentis Chapter of the National Association of the Directionally Confused and Traffic Enfeebled is once again taking place. This one day seminar is typically scheduled for eight or nine days -- sometimes a month -- both for its great popularity, but because the members are so hapless that it takes about a month for all of them to have arrived at the same place at the same time for anything.

Again, the main topic is the Stealth Turn, the secretive maneauver practiced by those seeking to attain the height of style in Deceptive Driving. This maneuver involves abruptly changing direction without providing the slightest clue as to the driver's intentions. There is the four lane power shift on the freeway from the fast lane to the right hand exit. Then there is the mid-intersection revision of decision, which is followed by the highly sophisticated left turn at a stoplight from the right turn arrow lane and signal going like mad first one way then, after completion, on the other side.

Some say the drivers of Milan, Italy first originated this technique. Others say this esprit is particularly French or Spanish. All can agree Northern California has perfected the Stealth Turn to such an high degree, Washington is known to send CIA and Secret Service operatives to study the methods honed by Floyd Bender and his group of radical Rotarians.

In an interview by the Examiner, Floyd was asked why and how he came to perfect this technique.

"I realized that if I don't use my turn signal, they'll NEVER know where I am going. Ha ha!"

Floyd comes from stock that traces its lineage to the earliest days of Alta California. It was a Bender, actually Ignacio Behar, who rode with the problematic explorer Vizcaino as the man sailed up the coast, attempting to find a perfect bay for the galleons crossing the Pacific to moor and retro fit before heading south to lower California.

Vizcaino, not an especially talented or capable man, was also charged with finding gold in California for the Archduke of Monterrey. He had failed on behalf of the Duke in a number of other enterprises, and he really wanted a royal merchant ship so as to conduct trading, so he was hell bent on setting things right this time, taking on Behar, who presented himself as an expert navigator. He was not, but he needed a job, and so the ship sailed up the coast for weeks without finding any decent port north of Long Beach.

In desperation, Vizcaino sent back packets on a ship, claiming he had found a perfect, well sheltered bay ideally suited for the massive galleons to make port. This deep water port he named Monterrey Bay with some fictional license before heading north, sure he could find something better than that shallow crescent of water. Along the way, he renamed all the previously christened spots on such maps as he did have with the eye of covering himself once he did find this perfect port with the claim that the Monterrey Bay lay actually far north of where it really is and what map are you looking at anyway?

So it was the Behar, expert navigator that he was, spied the rocks of the Farralones, assumed they were shoals off a dangerous area and so directed the ship to pass far to the west of them, in so doing completely missing the mouth of the Golden Gate as well as what would come to be known as Drake's estero.

Naturally Vizcaino never did find that perfect port for he ran out of provisions before attaining the longitude of Oregon, and so he turned back with his spurious maps and not the slightest indication that gold resided anywhere in California.

When the Duke of Monterrey heard there was no gold in Alta California to be had, his eyes fell.

"O but there's buckets of priceless pearls to be had. Would have brought some back but they fell overboard in a storm", Vizcaino said. "Near that perfect bay I named after your highness. Might I not have a merchant ship as a reward to go shopping in Japan now?"

Vizcaino was sent on his way to thoroughly irk the Japanese to such a degree they closed the entire East until Admiral Perry arrived three hundred years later.

Meanwhile the Behar clan continued to affect the history of California by acting as guides to territory of which they had no knowledge, leading the early explorers with those maps Vizcaino had concocted out of wishes and angel dust.

When the United States pretty much seized Alta California after the Mexican-American War, the Behars anglicized their name, seeing how things were playing out for the old Hispanic Californios, who were getting robbed left and right.

But not before a Behar attempted to guide an emigrant expedition one year over what became known as the Donner Pass with unfortunate consequences. That Behar wound up in a soup pot at the pass during the winter, but other Behars survived elsewhere, continuing to guide would-be explorers and setting up guide agencies that were the prime agents for getting the Oakies out of the Dustbowl and into California.

From the Lusitania to the Titanic to the Andrea Dorea, there was not a famous ship in which the Benders did not have a hand in guiding them to their fates.

Benders served on both sides during WWII. A Polish Benderinski misdirected the Wehrmacht as to the shortest path to Moscow being through Stalingrad when the Field Marshall stopped to get directions, with of course the results we have seen. It was a Von Bender that guided the Germans around in circles during the Battle of the Bulge, which is the main reason the Nazi's lost that one.

So it was that Floyd hung on as one of the last of the Benders -- and barely arrived at that distinction -- for the obstetrician who had delivered him was also a Bender, a man with a serious kinesthesia problem in which he sometimes confused his left hand with his right, and so little Floyd got dropped on his head right at birth when the doctor tried to spank him with the same hand that held him up.

Floyd ran a small travel agency of Kearny Street in San Francisco called Barefoot and Begone Travel. From there he sent people off on vacations to Kazakhstan and Albania and guided tours of the decommissioned Pripyat nuclear reactor in Byelorussia.

Some people have noted that we just experienced a full moon. Hemmed in by the light pollution of the Metropolis, and further limited by the uneven construction that closes in everything here to a claustrophobic binder view, it is difficult to experience the moon and other celestial events the way more open places, like the prairie people do. For wide open vistas one has to go out to the edge of the continent and look out over the lampless vast Pacific. It is there you can actually see the broad band of cloudy stuff that is the Milky Way. Only then do the old sky-myths make sense.

Otherwise we make do with Orion doing his cartwheels past the pale lunar light while the urban skyline glows like Troy on fire.

The moderate weather along the coast sometimes creates the illusion that our resignation in the face of Life's disappoints means that we as a people are mellow, laid back,

One who does have a modest open view and who takes advantage is Senior Don Luis de Guadeloupe Erizo, who has the habit of observing the moon outside his burrow under the hedges of the Jean Sweeney Open Space Preserve, nee Beltline Railroad tracks. Out towards the West End, beyond the assembly of densely packed clapboard and stucco houses where the savage arm of the Developer has yet to reach, the Island opens out to the Buena vista flats through which ghosts of the old donkey trains still chug the Beltline when the moon swells above the nostalgic mists out to the old airfield that is now the nesting ground for the least tern.

Proof enough that open space is worth preserving.

Which is just like the Island to get instead of an imposing Great Auk, or eagles or condors, we got instead the modest Tern, and of the terns, the Least of all of them. It is said that it is as hard as to pass a camel through the eye of a needle, and for all of that, up there if it turns out there is a Heaven, at the gates you certainly will find the Least Tern -- should that be your final destination -- for it is also said that the Least shall be first.

Reverend Freethought of the Unity Church put down her pen after composing these lines for next Sunday's sermon. She then went out to the deck, which was a bit wobbly after the recent violent storm, and removed her clothes before getting into the hot tub so as to look up through the branches of the box elder at the stars and the full moon and consider how to work in the parable of the lilies of the field, they that sow not nor reap.

She was so silent and engrossed that she did not notice the raccoon that came along the fence from the back, nor the self-absorbed opossum that came along the fence from the front. The opossum apprehended the raccoon about the same time as the other noticed it and the two of them shrieked, each in their respective languages, causing Toby and Stella, two terriers that lived on the other side of the far fence, to launch a tremendous confab of barking. Rev. Freethought leapt up out of the water in alarm as the raccoon bounded up onto the outstretched arm of the box elder so as to get the advantage while the opossum leapt upon the fence.

The box elder branch, made heavy by the heavy rains and weakened by the powerful winds, abruptly cracked and came down with the raccoon onto the fence, which tottered, swayed, and all of which gave way with a crash into the street. The raccoon ran off to such refuge as raccoons find at such times and the opossum vanished amid a hullabaloo of terrier barking that was answered by dogs for several blocks in all directions.

Lionel, who had just closed up the Pampered Pup Hotdog Shoppe came around the corner at this moment to see Reverend Freethought standing there naked and knee deep in the hot tub, a new Venus silvered by the light of the bright moon.

"Are you all right," he asked.

"I wonder if you could hand me my robe," said Reverend Freethought, somewhat hoarsely.

Lionel obliged, then stepping back, reached into his shirt pocket, thinking of something to say that would be most appropriate for the situation. He half pulled out his reading glasses to display them, glinting in the moonlight, then said, "Good evening, Sir." And with that he left.

A little distance from that place, Dame Herrisson poked her head out of the burrow and said to the Don, "Les gens disent que les gens agissent fou pendant une pleine lune."

Which, of course, is quite true as it ever was. People say that people act crazy during a full moon.

"Es cierto, pero siempre estoy loco". Responded the Don, confirming both that he was always crazy and that males and females often seem to speak different languages at one another.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their moonlit towers, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to parts unknown.

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


JANUARY 4, 2014


This first image of the new year comes from Tammy and displays the bright full moon this past weekend.

It's not like "Full Moon over Alamagordo", but hey! We are good enough for a moody shot just as much.


Hope everyone got what was coming to you this past Xmas and that your New Year was raunchy and safe. Don't go firing your pistol in all directions -- not without adequate protection. You never know what is going to come down nine months later.

All the discussion in re Silly Hall is about Development and possible repeal of the hastily voted Del Monte Cannery project. It probably is okay, given that some kind of real estate vulture is needed to turn the place from a warehouse into something else, still, the idea it needs to be something else is up for debate.

Still again there are other massive development schemes underway and any visitor out to the new Target will get an eyeful of what to expect. We are glad Tim Lewis wisely refrained from continuing with the entanglement out on McKay Avenue, which likely would have spelled many delaying lawsuits and bad feelings.

The new Mayor, Trish Spencer, along with the slate of development moderate Councilmembers are now sworn in on a slim mandate to curb the reckless building and zoning variances that threaten to destroy this little place possessed of firm and inflexible borders.

It has been the pleasure for a couple decades to watch the relatives of Andy Pagano gather on St. Charles Street under the massive oak tree for a children's birthday celebration, featuring the traditional pinata bashing. Those kids rode their bikes and skated their boards up and down the street as they got older. They walked to the bustop on Lincoln and waited patiently for the 51 to take them to school and they graduated and they got jobs in town or in the City and in many cases moved out to the Valley as things got expensive here.

This is our town. We fussed and fought and got into trouble and fixed things up again. This is our home. We all grew up here; let's take care of it.

If you thought the house was a rockin' during the Holidays, you must know it was not due to hard partying. Two earthquakes have struck north of Los Angeles, shaking parts of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, but fire officials say no significant damage took place.

The U.S. Geological Survey says a magnitude-4.3 quake hit at about 7:18 PST on Saturday and was centered close to 50 miles north of Los Angeles near the town of Castaic.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a magnitude-3.0 quake occurred near the same place about 20 minutes earlier.

The Times says there have been three earthquakes of magnitude-3.0 or greater centered in the area over the last 10 days.

On the drought. Reports from the High Country say that all streams and waterfalls are flowing with vigor after the recent rains, but that disturbingly, there is no snow at all in Yosemite Valley and the daytime temperatures are warm enough to go around without a jacket. Photographs indicated sparse snowpack at elevation, which means despite the recent storms we are by no means clear of drought conditions as of this date.


The annual Island-Life CD is in Studio, still, and the last track needs to be recorded while everything else wants mastering and multi-track overlays. The Monologue is 22 minutes of insufferable tedium -- we do hope you enjoy that with stoicism when it finally comes out.

We are proud to say that this is the first year in which all material is original stuff created in-house by our hapless staff.


So anyway, a brand new full moon arose over the Island as we all sailed into another year. Now is the time to put aside the past year's disappointments and make a few resolutions. Denby resolved to drink a little less. The Editor resolved to drink a little more. Larry resolved to eat more cheese. Rev. Howler of Adelphian Iglesia del Luz de los Cajóns de Estacionamiento del Mundo resolved to make more money out of this cash cow he had going with the entertainment club he passed off as a "church".

Sabine, the Buddhist nun, resolved to be more mindful. And forgive and try to understand hapless people like Eugene who had fallen in love with her. Fe Corpuz resolved to be a little more devout. Her friend Mona resolved to help her be a bit more earthly.

Mr. Howitzer resolved to get more money and pay less in taxes -- same resolution for him as last year.

The Native Sons of the Golden West held their annual New Year's Eve Ball at the Parlor hall again. David rigged up a glowing discoball and set it to fall from the top of the main mast to Wally's schooner. Actually Wally's 20 footer had no masts to speak of, so he rented the restored 18th century brigantine that people could charter for excursions and for use as a privateer during pirate festivals. One would think pirate festivals were a thin way to make a living, but ever since Jack Sparrow appeared pirates of a certain type have developed cachet. Not real pirates like they have in the Malaysian islands or off the coast of Somalia. Those pirates have no pizzazz. They don't carry parrots around and go, "Arrgh, me maties!" or say colorful expressions like, "Heave ahoy and blow yer lubbards to windward! Avast abeam and starboard ya luffin' gunwale davit!"

Indeed now that pirates of the Spanish Main have got game, everybody is looking into the family tree in hopes there was a Bluebeard snatching the petticoats off of proper French ladies, when in the past, this sort of thing was kept under wraps and never told to the children.

Kids, of course, love the idea of pirates, because pirates get to swear a lot and go late to bed without brushing their teeth. Furthermore nobody ever demands that a pirate each all of the brussel sprouts on the plate. In fact, pirates don't eat vegetables at all. Pirates eat massive turkey legs and poltroons, which is probably a kind of candy, and hamburgers.

Try as he would, Mr. Howitzer could find no evidence of any English pirates in his family tree. There were a few robber barons who formed part of the railroad octopus, but nobody had ever gone to sea that he could find.

As it turned out both Mr. Larch and Ms. Light had pirate ancestors. So to did Luther, however his family was presently decent and law-abiding and they did not respect this distant relative who had plagued the Mediterranean Barbary Coast. That man, known as "Lashing Leroy", wielded a bullwhip ten feet long in battle and was known to be a rake and a scoundrel to the all the ladies between the south of France and North Africa. He was something of a black sheep, but Luther felt secretly a little pleased that one of his family had terrorized the same people who had enslaved so many others.

Unlike many pirates, Lashing Leroy got out of the piracy game in good time with his neck still attached to his shoulders, for he captured a woman from Ethiopia who proved to be such an excellent cook that the ship's crew persuaded the captain to retain her services instead of tossing her overboard for fishbait. It wasn't long before she was sleeping in the captain's cabin and not long after that she became the First Mate to succeed Old Firepants who got blown right off the ship during a nasty run-in with a British man of war. Once she became First Mate, she made the men start taking baths, dressing in something other than rags -- which meant that many of them started wearing uniforms taken from officers of captured ships. Then she had them pay heed to keeping the ship so tidy and well swept that when a French man of war on the lookout for pirates examined them via spyglass, they were taken for an English military vessel, and so were left entirely in peace.

It was while moored near Tunis that she rechristened the ship's name from Tsunami to Poesy Bucket.

So it was the ship sailed around the West African point to stop at Lagos, where Betty forced Leroy to marry here in an English missionary chapel. Shamed by these outrageous acts of propriety, as well as the crinoline-draped gunwales and all the lace doilies, and especially the toy poodle named Wow Wow picked up in Tunis, the crew mutinied and departed the harbor without the First Mate or the Captain who stood with his bullwhip drooping on the wharf as his ship left the harbor to return to its old ways. There was a little splash and sure enough a white head could be seen dogpaddling to the wharf, where the rather sodden Wow Wow pulled her self up by her front paws. The crew had simply tossed her overboard.

Leroy wanted to get another ship, but Betty would have nothing to do with this kind of nautical life. The last voyage Lashing Leroy made was aboard an emigrant ship that brought them to free state Boston Harbor, and from there the three traveled via many adventures until they came to the new Zion of Utah Territory where they had many, many children on the frontier, who dispersed themselves like flower seeds across the country. Leroy eventually died an old man in his bed, which is unusual for a pirate.

As for the crew of the Bloody Outhouse, formerly Poesy Bucket, nee' Tsunami, that ship was set upon off the coast of Libya by Portuguese warships and overwhelmed. The new officers were hanged, while the remainder were transported to serve hard labor on the then rocky Azores and the ship was sunk.

In the Old Same Place Bar, someone asked Padraic why there were no famous Irish pirates. The rest of the crew there were intent on the horse races starting up out at Golden Gate Fields in Berkeley.

Padraic and Dawn both had to exclaim that quite to the contrary, there had been several notorious Irish pirates, starting with Edward Seagar, who changed his name to Edward England, because nothing to an Irishman was so vicious and bloodthirsty sounding as the sound of that hated name.

Then it was Dawn who referenced the Bonny Anne Cormac, who like many wild Irish girls simply could not stay quiet and demur on the plantation. Her mother had been a servant to Bill Cormac and when their affair came out, they fled County Cork for the American city of Charleston, where Anne got bored. So she married James Bonny, a basic ne'er do well and occasional pirate. Once again Anne fled, this time to the Bahamas after burning down her father's plantation. Here, again, Anne got bored of her husband who had turned to rather humdrum business of con jobs and narcing.

She then fell for a guy because of his pants, a certain Calico Jack. They ran off together after a bit of trouble with the husband, and the romantic duo turned to privateering. During one foray Anne desired to "have her way" with a fair-looking sailor but discovered in her room that the sailor was a woman named Mary Reade.

The two became great friends and they robbed and plundered with zest until, as with all pirate ships, they were captured by an English warship when the male crew hid below decks to avoid the withering cannonfire, leaving the two women to fight alone.

The survivors were all hanged, save for the two women. Mary Reade died in prison and Anne was released to sign a contract with Walt Disney Studios in 1721. Not many people know this.

Then of course, there was the most fabulous Irish pirate of all time, The Sea Queen of Connacht, Gráinne O'Malley. She inherited the large sea trading business started by her father, but soon turned her resources to other means. It seemed logical to here that since Galway collected taxes on ships that traded there, she as chieftain of the O'Malley clan had perfect right to do so as well. Naturally some captains refused this taxation, to which O'Malley responded with what may be termed "excessive force."

She lived quite a long time, exacted terrible punitive revenge on land and sea for offenses against her and her lovers, and in a moment rare for a pirate, after some relatives of her were captured, she sailed to England and was brought in audience to meet Queen Elizabeth, before whom she refused to bow as she felt the Queen had no lawful jurisdiction over Ireland. She did, however, surrender the dagger found under her bodice during the meeting with the Queen. There O'Malley negotiated with the Queen for the release of her relatives, the removal of a particularly odious English governor of Connacht, and the return of property she considered to have been stolen from her lands in exchange for ceasing all rebellious activities.

Her relatives were released, but the property retained and so was the English Governor, and so she returned to supporting the rebellious Irish Lords. She passed away of natural causes about the same time as Elizabeth, having caused about as much trouble as she could during her time. For which the Irish are very proud to have had her as one of their own.

"So you see," Dawn said. "The best of Ireland has always been the women in it. Ain't it right, Padraic?"

Padraic paused a bit, thinking hard, before saying, "It would be fatal to disagree."

"Righ'," Dawn said.

Just then the horn blew and the horses launched from the gate for the last of the trifecta at Golden Gate Fields. They were off on the first set of races for the New Year and the full moon hung overhead to gleam on it all, the dew and the sweat and the challenge.

Then came the ululation of the throughpassing train from far across the water as it trundled from the gantries of the Port of Oaktown with their towers bedecked with holiday lights, letting its cry keen across the waves of the estuary, the riprap embankments, the grasses of the Buena Vista flats and the open spaces of the former Beltline, through the cracked brick of the former Cannery with its leaf-scattered loading dock, its weedy railbed, its chainlink fence interstices until the locomotive click-clacked past the shuttered doors of the Jack London Waterfront, trundling out of shadows on the edge of town past the old Ohlone shellmounds to the unknown future.

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















































Another Week Passed


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